Friday, 28 November 2008

"Blue Christmas" - Elvis Presley, 1957

In honor of the upcoming Christmas season - which has begun in the States, as it's Thanksgiving weekend - here's what I have eaten for my lunch today here in Oxford...

(Click on the photo for a full-sized version.)

I'm not sure I would describe eating it as being "the ultimate gastropub experience", but it was very tasty.


Thursday, 27 November 2008

"Give Thanks" - Ports of Call Ensemble, 2001

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to my American friends and family!

Here's a little Thanksgiving cartoon that my Aunt Blanche sent me this morning. (I'm running the risk that the artist objects to my posting it, I know, but I'll remove it if need be.)


PS And here was our Thanksgiving dinner in North Oxfordshire - one of my favorite "American" treats, BBQ Beef Baked Potatoes, made in the style of the Sweet Mesquite restaurants in Houston! YUM! (Mine was the smaller one.)

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

"Upon the High View" - Neshama, 2002

I've been quiet for a few days because I went off to London again on Sunday afternoon. And I got back home last night just in time to head to sleep.

On Monday and Tuesday, I taught two days of classes in London for a company based in Canary Wharf. I enjoy going there but don't stay in a Canary Wharf hotel. I've found it better - both for my employer's budget and for personal reasons - to stay at a hotel across the Thames in historic Greenwich. It's only about 6 stops on the Docklands Light Railway to Canary Wharf from Greenwich, and at least there are interesting things to see and do in Greenwich during any free time I have.

As much as I enjoy the interaction with the students, training is a physically and mentally draining occupation. So I'm still pretty tired this evening.

I'm going to therefore keep this blog entry a little short. But I thought you might enjoy seeing a couple of views I've seen during the past couple of days. You can click on either photo for a full-sized version.

Here was my view down Greenwich High Road, from my hotel room.

And here's the view west, up the Thames, from one of the towers in Canary Wharf. Pretty incredible, isn't it?


Friday, 21 November 2008

"That's Amore" - Dean Martin, 1953

To celebrate the fact that it's Friday, how about a really off-the-wall news item.

I've read some strange news stories before. But few are stranger than the one about the man who was pleasuring himself in a jar of pasta, in his car, when caught by police.

Note the following items that police found in the man's car (besides the jar of pasta): pornography, women's stockings and a homemade sex aid. They also found a Jack Russell terrier.

I just hope the poor doggie isn't being charged as an accomplice.

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Thursday, 20 November 2008

"Drift Away" - Dobie Gray, 1973

It's all I can do today to stop myself from blogging about "Sergeant-gate", but I'll try to suppress my amazement at the amount of press coverage it is getting here. There are enough other people writing about that particular topic!

I'd rather talk about being clumsy.

As one of the world's greatest klutzes, I had to commiserate with what has happened to NASA astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper during a spacewalk - when she accidentally let a valuable tool bag float off into space!

I especially chuckled at the understatement of what she exclaimed when she realized what had happened. She apparently simply said, "Oh great!"

I know the feeling. The difference is that my mishaps don't make the international news. Nor do they generally cost $100,000.


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"Ritzy Mambo" - Salsoul Orchestra, 1976

I've been eating Ritz Crackers most of my life. (Do my American readers remember the "Everything's better when it sits on a Ritz" campaign?) So when I moved to the UK almost 6 years ago, I was very happy to see that they were easy to buy here.

But something happened at lunchtime today that has never happened to me before.

There was a mutant Ritz in my box of crackers. Gasp! Horror!

Take a look at the photo below. The abnormal Ritz - cracked through the middle - is in the foreground, while there's a normal Ritz in the background. You'll see that the mutant was oval rather than round...

(Click on any of the images for a full-sized version.)

And it was about 3x the thickness of a normal Ritz...

And a little pale...

Did I eat it? Of course - if nothing else, out of curiosity. How did it taste? A little bland...and too "puffy" for a Ritz, like something with too much soda or yeast in it.

What do you think? Maybe I should send a link to this blog post to Kraft UK...


20th November addendum to this post:
Yesterday afternoon, I decided to send a quick email to the Ritz Cracker people - not to complain but simply to direct them to Lord Celery to read about the mutant cracker. Here's the response that just hit my inbox. Personally, it's the possibility of getting an explanation that excites me the most! (What a geekette, huh?) I promise I'll share what they tell me.

Dear Janet,

Thank you for your email and I am sorry that you have experienced a problem with Ritz crackers.

I will be back in touch via letter with an explanation for this issue and a voucher to reimburse you for this product.

Kind regards,
Angela Araujo
Consumer Relations Team
Kraft Foods UK Ltd.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

"A Pirate Says Arrr" - Backyardigans, 2005

Well, now they've done it - pirates have taken over a Saudi VLCC-sized tanker full of crude oil. Given that I was an international crude oil trader in my previous life, this story has a particular fascination to me. Although I had some weird things happen to cargoes I was dealing with (a crew mutiny being one of the strangest), never did I have a problem with pirates.

Personally, I wouldn't mess with the Saudis.

And when I heard the story this morning, I couldn't help but think that this should have happened back in September, during Talk Like a Pirate Day.

We'll see how this story ends...


Thursday, 13 November 2008

"Rise" - Herb Alpert, 1979

For my North American readers who might not know, what's pictured to the left are Yorkshire puddings.

Only in Britain would a scientific society get involved in determining the best recipe for the perfect Yorkshire pudding! Here's the story, from the Yorkshire Evening Post's online edition!


Wednesday, 12 November 2008

"Tell Me Why" - Beatles, 1964

We have these squirty deodorizer contraptions up on the wall in our toilets in our Oxford office...

I think the one in the "Ladies" has it in for me. Tell me why I get blasted with that foul-smelling deodorizer almost once every day? Argh...

Surely I don't smell that awful?


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

"A Sinking Ship Full of Optimists" - Transistor Transistor, 2005

Do you remember that, just last week, I wrote about how I am an optimist while John is a pessimist?

Just listen to what happened in our living room, a few minutes ago. It's another example.

We were watching the BBC's coverage of the final voyage of the QE2 tonight. One of the BBC reporters commented that the QE2 is the most famous ship in the world.

I agreed - saying that if somebody asked me to name a famous ship, I would definitely think of the QE2 first.

When I asked John to name a famous ship, he quickly replied, "The Titanic".

Need I say more?


"Another Old Soldier" - Mark Collie, 1990

Today is Armistice Day.

Here in the UK, three of the last surviving British World War I veterans attended today's ceremony in London at the Cenotaph. Isn't it remarkable that these gentlemen are 108, 110, and 112? Incredible. The three men represent the RAF, the Army, and the Navy.

Can any of my American readers tell me how many living WWI veterans there are in the US?

Thanks to all those veterans, all around the world, who have served their countries so bravely.


Monday, 10 November 2008

"Off the Ground" - Paul McCartney, 1993

Just a quickie post today...

I've seen a very amusing story about Queen Elizabeth's childhood on the BBC's website.

Take a look at "Queen Learns of Childhood 'Scrum'", and you'll see why I picked McCartney's "Off the Ground" as the title of today's post!

But as amusing as the idea of the toddler Elizabeth being tossed into the air by an Australian rugby player is the following paragraph, found near the end of the article - having to do with the Australian rugby team members she has just met:

Before meeting her, the players were reminded not to shake her hand too vigorously and could be seen carefully practising suitably gentle handshakes among themselves.


Sunday, 9 November 2008

"There's No One As Irish As Barack OBama" - Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys, 2008

Thank you, BBC One, for telling us about it this morning!


Saturday, 8 November 2008

"Don't Dream It's Over" - Crowded House, 1986

I had a very weird dream last night.

I dreamed that Sarah and Todd Palin had requested a meeting with John and me to discuss what a funny couple we are - because they wanted to leave Alaska and start a career in the "Lower 48" as a comedy duo! They wanted to get tips from us about how to be funny.

There are several things to say about this.

One is that I wonder why I thought, in my dreams, that John and I are that funny..although we do have our moments.! And...

While I truly hope it's all over for Sarah Palin in the spotlight of American mainstream life, obviously my subconscience disagrees!

So I guess I did not dream it's over, did I?


Friday, 7 November 2008

"Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" - Eric Idle, 1979

Although John and I have a multitude of ideas and feelings and values in common, there is one area of life in which we differ greatly. John's a natural pessimist, while I'm a natural optimist.

How much of that difference is due to our nationalities is a matter of debate. Perhaps our friends and family could help with that issue. There's no doubt that Britons tend to look more negatively at the world, while Americans are generally more positive. But in my personal opinion, the differences in attitude between us form part of each of our personalities - they are the way we "are wired up", as my astute Arkansas grandmother would have said. I've always thought that was one of the things that attracted us to each other in the first place.

But why am I writing about this today? Because of the condition of the vase of flowers on our kitchen table.

John brought home some bright yellow flowers a few weeks ago. We have been amazed at how long they have lasted. But this morning, they looked like this...

(Click on either photo for a full-sized version.)

Something about the condition of the flowers caught my eye. About half of them are still standing, while the other half aren't faring so well. Just like us, as a couple - half optimistic and half pessimistic - I thought!

Years before I moved to the UK, I found some drinking glasses at a little shop in Houston. They were just perfect for us. I bought a set of 4 and gave two of them to John, for his home in Hertfordshire. When I moved to Britain and John and I got married, the 4 glasses were finally reunited.

Here is one of the Optimista/Pessimista glasses...

I can't help but recall a joke that was always a favorite of my father's. We probably heard it back in the 1960s. To make a long story short, the joke is about two children, a pessimistic boy and an optimistic girl, who participate in an experiment. The pessimistic boy is put in a room full of books and toys, but he is still unhappy with the items available to entertain him. In contrast, the optimistic little girl is put into a room full of horse poop (to use a polite term), and the only other available item in the room is a shovel. Expecting to find the little girl disappointed with the lack of books and toys, the researchers are astonished to see that the child is laughing and smiling...and shoveling with great enthusiasm. When the surprised researchers ask her what she is doing, she says with a big smile, "Well, with all this sh*t piled up in here, there must be a pony under there somewhere."

My father always told me that the little girl could have been me.


Thursday, 6 November 2008

"Torture" - Jacksons, 1984

To me, a potentially terrifying form of torture was seeing a headline on Yahoo News this morning which read "Can Palin resurrect the GOP? Does she want to?" Good Lord, folks. Haven't we Americans already been subjected to enough embarrassment from McCain's running mate?

And to add to my view was hearing - from an American work colleague visiting the Oxford office this week - that no less than conservative Fox News have released some information today which was carefully withheld until after the election was over.

Apparently, besides many reports of frustration coming from Palin staffers, two other important reasons that she was not qualified to be the Vice President of the US have emerged...

1. Sarah Palin didn't know that Africa is a continent.

2. Sarah Palin didn't know which countries make up NAFTA. For my non-American readers, the members are the US, Canada, and Mexico. And Canada is, of course, Alaska's neighbor. Oh - but remember that Palin tended to forget Canada when she talked about her foreign policy "experience", as she went on and on about how her state shares a border with Russia. But what about Canada? We never heard a word about Canada.

I'm sure the Republicans are conducting their post-mortem on the election as I write. I'm also sure they have come to realize that Sarah Palin's choice as VP was one of the reasons for their failure on Tuesday. If they were trying to lure the former "Hillary Democrats" by selecting Palin, I'm highly offended by their judgement. Or should I say lack of judgement.

I would be delighted to have a female VP. It just shouldn't be a token position for someone as unqualified as Sarah Palin.

British wit Tom Baker (and a former "Doctor") said it best recently when he quipped: "She puts the 'alas' in Alaska."


PS After posting this item, John has found something very interesting from a Wasilla, Alaska resident named Anne Kilkenny. It's worth a read.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"A Change is Gonna Come" - Sam Cooke, 1964

Little did Sam Cooke know, in 1964, what an historic event would occur here in the year 2008...and that an American blogger would use this song as the subject for a post about the election of a very special President of the United States!

I am very excited about the results of yesterday's US Presidential election. I am fully aware that not all of my friends, family members, or blog readers will share my enthusiasm. I hope that what transpires in the coming days will prove that their fears have no justification whatsoever.

John and I both lost a lot of sleep last night, as we were awake and following the election coverage on the BBC. I'm so grateful for their wall-to-wall television coverage, beginning around 6pm Eastern Standard Time in the US. For me, it made being so far from my birth home much easier to bear.

There are, as would be expected, many many articles to read today about what yesterday's election results mean for America. I'll steer you to one from my favorite political writer, Joe Klein, from "Time" magazine.

Meanwhile, now it's time for Obama to begin the process of helping American heal itself. I think the photo which follows - from the Obama campaign - really represents what's about to happen...when the candidate comes out from behind the curtain and faces his future as the 44th President of the United States.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

"I'm So Excited" - Pointer Sisters, 1982

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on winning the F1 championship for this season!

What a race! Hamilton could beat his rival for the championship - Brazilian Felipe Massa - as long as he finished in 5th place or higher in this afternoon's Brazilian Grand Prix. Massa eventually won today's race. Hamilton was only in 6th place during the last lap until the final segment of the lap, when he passed Timo Glock and took over the precious 5th place. It was one of the most exciting finishes to an F1 season ever!

There are a couple of other items to note from today...

1. It was the final season of his F1 career for Britain's David Coulthard. Sadly, he didn't even complete the first lap today before getting hit. It wasn't the most impressive way to finish a distinguished career, was it?

2. And there was another "final" today - the final broadcast of an F1 racing season for ITV after 12 years. The F1 coverage shifts back over to the BBC next year. That's really good news as far as we're concerned.

Oh please, BBC, do not recruit Martin Brundle to your F1 coverage team for next year! Please, please, please!!!


Saturday, 1 November 2008

"Lost in Translation" - Roger Eno, 1995

One of our favorite news stories of the week related to problems translating English into Welsh. The latest example has to do with this bilingual road sign, which was recently erected (and quickly taken down again) in Wales...

Why has this sign been removed? Well, because the Welsh translation apparently reads: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated".

You can read the full story on the BBC News website.

As you might imagine, it's not the first time this sort of thing has happened. Another amusing example is this sign...

Apparently a computer translation program mistook the word "cyclists" for "cystitis" and came up with this translation into Welsh: "Bladder Inflamation Upset"