Sunday, 28 October 2007

In which I take a stand on foreign trade

There are many good things to be said about immigration and the positive effect of imports of both human and industrial capital on the British economy. But we must draw the line when someone, almost certainly Rupert Murdoch, attempts to introduce the barbaric practices of other lands upon this green and pleasant isle.

Yes, I am talking about the insidious temptation of American football, epitomized today by the first ever normal season NFL game to be played on English soil (and no run-of-the-mill soil, either, but the newly hallowed ground of New Wembley Stadium), covered live in full on Sky Sports, and in pseudo-canonical Match of the Day highlight form by BBC 2.

Murdoch, clearly sensing that the American economy is on the downturn, must be desperately seeking new markets to keep his 16-Sunday revenue stream alive. Newspaper articles have been planted, sowing the seeds of the International Question -- would it work for an NFL franchise to operate out of the U.K. (never mind the N standing for National)? And strangely, far from being scoffed at, the answer has been a polite maybe, as if the time zones were getting shorter all the time (placing the game on the first day after the Daylight Savings change is a good start, but it's hard to see where to go from there). Then again, the British are rather fond of polite, and extremely fond of maybe, particularly when it comes to appeasing foreign dictatorships.

Meanwhile, the British public, many of whom consider American football to be a wimp's version of rugby (why else would you need that much padding?) may take more convincing. The top sports here are, of course, soccer, cricket and rugby. None of this funny stuff they dreamt up in the Colonies.

Anyway, I encourage you all to write your M.P. (and/or P.M.) to protest this incursion of foreign goods, for the sake of mighty Britannia. We must fight the spread of this evil before it is too late.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Pet peeves: Business edition

I've spent the last week or so on the West Coast for work. The West Coast of the U.S., that is -- I suppose the term is relative to whatever land mass you happen to be on, except perhaps Antarctica, but there just aren't the same number of cellular telecommunications industry conferences happening there (though things are just about as colourful, and the suits look similar). "The West Coast" is like "The City" -- when I was growing up, that meant San Francisco, which was the only city of note within striking range. Now, in London, "The City" means the square mile City of London within central London where all the banks (and the tube station named, creatively, Bank) are located.

The worst part about business is the businesspeople. Of which, as things happen, I am one, occasionally, more or less. But at least I try to follow some basic rules, like the following:

1. While peeing in the men's room, do not talk on your mobile phone. This is true whether you're talking to a man or a woman. Let's face it, you shouldn't even be checking your voicemail. Even on your Bluetooth headset. In fact, especially on your Bluetooth headset.
2. The stalls are no better. Just let it go, man.
3. In the same vein, answering your phone in the crowd in the middle of a session or presentation with "Hey, hold on a minute," then pushing your way out with the phone held to your era, is actually not a polite way of being unobtrusive and respectful of the event.
4. If you're going to bring product literature to give away at your booth, make sure that somewhere along the long production process, from concept to design to implementation to the final printing, someone with half a brain proofreads your brochure. If your primary product information, after this process, is a pamphlet describing your "Software Develpoment Kit", do not expect my pity, or business.
5. Consistency, consistnecy, consestincy. Proofreading applies not only to your printed material, but to your lame-ass powerpoint presentations as well. For example, while it's true that "behavioral" is a complex word that has stumped many a fourth-grader on their spelling test, fortunately, modern innovations in computing technology have made entire dictionaries available to us at the touch of a button. Thus, you have no excuse to have the same word on the slide twice, spelled "behaviorial" on top and "behavorial" below.
6. If you're trying to create the impression of being a polished, extemporaneous speaker, beginning your speech with "hold on, I can't see the prompter" is a dead giveaway.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

What I learned from my email today

I'm starting to see the overall narrative of my spam box. You just have to sequence it correctly:

1. If I have a phone, there's no reason I can't quit my job.
2. Given a phone, there are many nice girls waiting to talk to me.
3. For example, Clarissa is bored. She is cute girl in Russia waiting for my call.
4. I can —— her with driving force if I enlarge my ——.
5. In fact, she might stay with me if my —— gets bigger.
6. Apropos of that, I can buy Viagra for as low as $1.53.
7. Poor credit is not a problem!
8. In order to transfer out 15000000.00 (fifteen millions pounds sterling), I should provide my bank details. (Think of all the Viagra that would buy!)
9. And if that doesn't work, there's a revolutionary new system for selling used cars.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Unfinished poem of the day

Too many stories start with once upon a time;
Too many love songs try too hard to make a rhyme;
Too many dreamers never finish waking up;
And too many lines get said
  before I get the chance to interrupt.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Books I haven't finished reading

By some happy twist of fate, the bedside tables we ordered for the flat arrived less than a month later than initially intended (believe me, this is a major accomplishment for any kind of English furniture order) and we've been able to enjoy the comparative luxury of having a place to put books and sundry reading material, conveniently within arm's reach, versus the previous method, which involved either precarious piles or haphazard discardment of half-read novellae.

In contrast to Sarah, who can get through a half dozen books in an evening from cover to cover, my habit is to continually switch books, not quite finishing any of them, as the mood suits me. Only the most compelling, or shortest, get read cover to cover.

Here's a few I'm working on (i.e., they're on the bedside shelf, bookmarks looking hopefully in my direction):

1. A Confederacy of Dunces. I do like this (and we did name one of our dwarf hamsters Ignatius), but have never actually read it all the way through, despite, or perhaps because of, the admonishments of several highly respected reviewers of my close acquaintance. I yield my backside to your flagellation.

2. Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. I have read lengthy excerpts of this in a number of Arthuriana collections, and it was the children's version of this in a series of hardback books from the '50s that first captivating me as a kid, but I'm not sure I've done the whole thing as a main course.

3. The Isles, by Norman Davies. I've made it through the first few chapters of this modern history of Britain, up to roughly the Bronze Age, or 118 of the 886 pages (excluding the notes and appendices).

4. The System of the World, by Neal Stephenson. I made it about halfway through this, which is the third book in a trilogy of very long books, and have had a hard time getting back to it, despite wanting to know how the story ends. There's just so many subplots -- which makes it hard to get back into, as well.

5. The Jeeves Omnibus, Volume 1. This one Sarah and I were reading out loud to each other, but fell out of the habit. So it's waiting for adequate attention to bedtime reading.

6. The Lost Colony of the Templars, which purports to describe how the Knights Templar founded a settlement in North America (Nova Scotia, naturally). I barely started it but the prose was, uh, turgid, and despite the salacious subject, it can wait for a rainy day. Also not the one I want to take with me to work lest I be thought any crazier than usual.

7. The Jesus Papers, by Michael Baigent. More secret-history-of-Jesus stuff from one the Holy Blood, Holy Grail dudes. Lots of good info, but as usual strung together with more than a hint of wishful thinking.

8. Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. This is the one I'm actually making progress on. Despite its length, I picked up a fat old trade paperback with almost no margins whatsoever from a used bookstore, and have been going through it in chapter-size chunks on my train commute. An amazing and amazingly funny book, even more so for the fact that it was published in 1749. If you agree that Richard Curtis (Blackadder, etc.) got his writing style from P.G. Wodehouse, I would posit that Wodehouse got his from Fielding (mind you, the social setting changed a bit in a century and three quarters, but the humour's much the same).

Undoubtedly there are a half-dozen more unfinished opi somewhere nearby begging for my attention to witness their narrative climaxes, and a good many more books on the shelves that I'm looking forward to reading. But what can I say: a man only has so many books he can not finish at once.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Quibbles and bits

I may have mentioned this before, but if so, it was only in passing, and surely I'm allowed more bloviation than that, aren't I?

Besides ending their statements with rhetorical questions, the English are also extremely fond of shortening names, and particularly, sticking an 'S' at the end of them. Initially I assumed I was just reading too many tabloids (no less than three free ones vie for my attention during the daily commute -- between them I manage to get a vague understanding of what's going on in the real world, and a precise, detailed understanding of what Amy Winehouse wore last night. Has anyone noted that her name is an aptronym, with her reputation as an alcoholic? As usual I digress), but the name-'S'-ing is commonplace at work as well, though there is a pronunciation affinity required for it to work (you can make Hilary "Hils", but you can't make Wesley "Wess"; certain borderline cases like Sarah becoming "Sars" -- rhymes with corsairs -- I'm not sure about, though I suspect certain regions would embrace that appalling appellation). It's especially prominent with beloved sports figures -- God forbid you're a first division footballer born with a multisyllabic surname: you're destined to be known as Becks, not Beckham, Lamps, not Lampard, or perhaps Roo instead of Rooney. Americans, I think, would be content with simple short forms, like Beck or Lamp, but what do I know. They'd probably end up being called D-Bex and F-Lamp.

The end. For now.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

scooters, vacation, fall

That's the example blogger gives for Labels for this post. So in the spirit of life imitating art, or something like that, here's a post about scooters, vacation and fall.

Scooters. Ever since I first saw "Quadrophenia", I've wanted a scooter. I even went so far as to get a promissory scooter as a Christmas gift, but obtaining a satisfactory example of the real thing proved difficult in Los Angeles (not impossible -- there are established Vespa communities and similar -- but over my threshold of involvement). Now that I'm in London the availability of your standard '60s-era GS is much improved, but I don't really have a scooter-friendly commute. I'll keep holding out for the company to move to a proper location. It doesn't help that a neighbour has recently acquired a gorgeous green scooter (with tan leather seat) that's parked right where I have to walk past it every day. The nerve.

Vacation. We finally had a real vacation, just the two of us. What fantastic, tropical, romantic setting did we pick? If you said Belgium, you're right, and possibly as crazy as us. Actually, we
had a blast, holing up in a great room in a manor house in the Mosan Valley, eating loads of steak and chocolate waffles (not necessarily at the same time, but how bad could that be, really?) washed down by national ales, checking out medieval treasures in Aachen (highly recommended), Liege (not) and Brussels, and even doing some right-side-of-the-road driving for a change (despite our proficiency in this regard, we still accidentally managed to end up in three sovereign states within the space of 45 minutes). And the sun even came out for the last hour or two. Perfect!

Fall. I wonder if the Google/Blogger folks realise that "fall" doesn't have the same meaning to their British users? The British are more likely, I suspect, to associate it with falling down (someone said something about a bridge around here?), having a fall (whether or not from grace), or one's downfall, none of which is probably typical blog material. Not, I suppose, that an Autumn Almanac (possibly my favourite Kinks song, by the by) is top of the list for most bloggeristas. But anyway, speaking of fall, i.e. autumn, it's certainly here now. Days: getting shorter. Nights: getting longer. Rain: getting heavier. I was a little worried that England, having decided to have its summer in Spring (and rain for most of the Summer), would go ahead and just skip on through to Winter without much warning, but this seems pretty typical, all told. I suppose I just haven't lived here long enough to become enured to it, but I still appreciate the fact that there are seasons here, albeit out of order sometimes. I'll actually need to start wearing scarves again soon now, and long-time readers will know how exciting that prospect is for me (I'm really not kidding, little bestirs my heart more than the whole scarf-clad nation on a chill and windy eve).

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Things I'm Not Good At (An occasional series)

1. Buttering bread. My secret shame. My Achilles' heel. I can't butter a piece of bread worth a piccadilly. A stoned chimp using a raccoon as a knife would mangle a slice of bread less than I do in the simple act of attempting to slather butter and butter substitute products upon one.
It is a technique I have never mastered, nor do I believe I ever shall. I must make myself content to eat my bread with butter as a pastiche of marbleized butter and bread segments, never evenly applied.

Thank goodness for toast.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Sex, violence, clothes hangers (pick one)

I do my best mental blogging in the bath. Which is unfortunate, because while I'm in the bath is probably the worst possible time to be able to post anything, and, like today, I usually forget all the interesting (and by interesting, I mean, inane but occasionally entertaining) things I want to write about. So we're left with domestic diaries, I'm afraid.

In that vein, today my major accomplishment was organising my clothes in the closet. In some respects, my wardrobe has had to shrink dramatically since moving to England. I mean, in quantity, not size. If anything, I've put on a little weight in the last few years, taking me from almost-invisible-sideways to just-barely-legal-for-blood-donation (I'm not thin, I'm just small-boned... who am I kidding, I'm thin). There are multiple reasons for the wardrobe downsizing, but chiefly it's been motivated by the practical limits of London closet space. That, coupled with the higher replacement costs of most clothing, means I'm focusing more on quality over quantity these days. But the closet had become cluttered with all the leftover hangers from this process, so I ended up binning a good three or four dozen of the cheapest ones, mostly the simple metal kind that had been collected from various multi-continental dry cleaning binges over the last decade (would I be showing my impoverished roots by admitting that I never had an item of clothing dry-cleaned once before I was a married man? Or is dry-cleaning just one of those things that happens to men when they start spending too much time with those of the fairer sex?).

Anyway, that rearranging process (which included a little dessert course of shoe organising), and watching a good deal of television, constituted my Saturday. Or in other words, you didn't miss much. Maybe next time I'll take a notepad into the bath. Until then, stay tuned, because I can't wait to tell you what I had for lunch.

Color commentary

When I was a kid I remember it being really important to know what my favorite color was. Why exactly this consumed me as it did is somewhat puzzling, looking back. I guess it was the 6-year-old version of "how's the weather", the icebreaker one uses before hitting the swing set.

Anyway, I remember going through several phases:

  • Red. Probably because of fire trucks.
  • Orange. I'm not sure I ever really liked orange that much, but red was soooo 1981.
  • Blue. This was my brother's favorite for a long time, so it couldn't be mine until he switched.
  • White. I made that one up just to annoy people who asked. Then they'd say, "white's not a color." And I'd said, "is so." And they'd say, "is not." And I'd say, "Black's not a color, but white is all colors." Those were the days.
  • Mauve. Because very few people, in my limited sampling group, had the faintest idea what that was. And if they did, all the better. (Only in adult life did I learn that mauve had historical homosexual overtones.)
So now what's my favorite color? I really haven't given it sufficient thought recently. I wouldn't want to commit to just one -- I feel some empathy for the Monty Python knight who was cast into the chasm. I wonder what that part of my brain that, as a child, was responsible for always knowing what my favorite color was, is being used for now (assuming it hasn't been killed off or atrophied, which is equally likely).

While I'm on the colour topic -- there aren't really that many songs about rainbows. That's always bothered me, from a logical standpoint.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Y R U such a nerd?


Josh showed me his, so naturally I had to show mine to all the world. Yes, it's the nerd test, version 2.0.

I'll try not to let it go to my head. But just once I'd like to say: Bow before me, ye nerd minions! (But will they bow? No. No social graces. It's lonely at the top.)

Thursday, 4 October 2007

The glorious dead (but are they grateful?)

It was only tonight passing by the massive monolith on the Westminster thoroughfare on the bus at a quarter to midnight that I was struck by the very Britishness of a monument to "The Glorious Dead". It's not that American dead aren't glorious, but they're definitely not celebrated in the same way. Perhaps in Washington, D.C., with a few austere monuments -- but that's a space that America allows to be dedicated to sentiment in a way that is segregated from the rest of the country. In England there are monuments to glorious dead soldiers in almost every village. Westminster is one thing, but even the tiny towns in Suffolk I visited last year have WW1 and/or WW2 memorials. The small church in Northamptonshire displays its list in a special book under glass. A winged angel guards the names of war casualties in spitting distance from the bank machine where I get cash for lunch on workdays. The glorious dead are everywhere. A far cry, I guess, from a country that won't allow video footage of soldiers' coffins or body bags.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Let's start all over again

Hey, I'm Wesley, and this my blog. I used to have a lot of posts here, but I got tired of my server software malfunctioning and decided to switch to Blogger. So consider this a fresh start.

Here are some things about me, to refresh your memory:
  1. I live in London. Before that, I lived in Santa Monica, California.
  2. The English think I'm nuts to move from California to... here?
  3. The weather's not as bad as they say.
  4. Except today. Today is really quite crap.
  5. I have a lovely wife named Sarah.
  6. And we have two very nice cats. Their names are Pig and Brak.
  7. For work, I do computery type things. Programming. Enterprise architecture. Lots of little diagrams in Microsoft Visio and PowerPoint.
  8. The best diagrams are the symmetrical ones.
  9. I don't have a British accent.
  10. I'm not sure I ever will. I'm a little bit disappointed about that. I just don't do accents.
  11. I have hobbies, you know.
  12. Books. Genealogy. Punk rock. Medieval history.
  13. Since coming to England, I've developed a freakish enthusiasm for following football.
  14. That's soccer to you Americans. And no, I don't think David Beckham is worth that much.
  15. I'm 32 years old. Which is puzzling to me.
  16. It's not that I feel particularly old. But neither do I feel particularly young.
  17. I've been really poor at keeping up this blog lately.
  18. Sometimes I wish I had more of a blog persona. You know, attitude.
  19. I'm going to try to keep writing, even if it's just in the form of these stupid lists.
  20. I can certainly bloviate when given the chance.