26 July 2005


AmericanaI think this (courtesy nytimes.com) is what Europeans envisage when they think of Americans...

25 July 2005


I have been recommended several times to read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, a set of "young adult fiction" books set in part in Oxford. Being without anything to read lately I wandered down to the local library on Saturday to see if I could get a copy. The Headington branch of the Oxfordshire Library System is typical of small-town sub-branches: two or three rooms in an old brick building, big kids section, lots of crappy romance novels.

The only available copy of the first book in the series, Northern Lights, was a large-print edition in the children's fiction section. I tracked it down and then stood sheepishly in line behind a guy taking out about 400 books about Billy the Big Red Fire Engine for his two 4 year old daughters. I must've been showing my discomfort because the librarian behind the desk which came up to my knees (presumably so little kids could see over it) gave me a smile and said conspiratorily, "This one's well worth venturing into the children's section."

22 July 2005


My boy Tom Friedman backs me up today, while trotting out one of his favorite horses:

We also need to spotlight the "excuse makers," the former State
Department spokesman James Rubin said. After every major terrorist
incident, the excuse makers come out to tell us why imperialism,
Zionism, colonialism or Iraq explains why the terrorists acted. These
excuse makers are just one notch less despicable than the terrorists
and also deserve to be exposed. When you live in an open society like
London, where anyone with a grievance can publish an article, run for
office or start a political movement, the notion that blowing up a
busload of innocent civilians in response to Iraq is somehow
"understandable" is outrageous. "It erases the distinction between
legitimate dissent and terrorism," Mr. Rubin said, "and an open society
needs to maintain a clear wall between them."


Pictures of Am & Scott's visit are now online. Scott's photos are travelling across the ocean as we speak. Once he receives them you should expect maybe a half dozen scanned and posted to the interwang some time in 2007.

If you're in the mood to laugh at me, start with this one.

21 July 2005


Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, is a retard. In a BBC interview this week he said,

"Under foreign occupation and denied the right to vote, denied the
right to run your own affairs, often denied the right to work for three
generations, I suspect that if it had happened here in
England we would have produced a lot of suicide bombers ourselves."

When asked if he denounced the London bombers (what kind of lame-ass question is that?) he also denounced:

"those governments which use indiscriminate slaughter to advance their
foreign policy, as we have occasionally seen with the Israeli
government bombing areas from which a terrorist group will have come,
irrespective of the casualties it inflicts, women, children and men."

What is wrong with him? It isn't three generations of repression by white guys that's fueling this culture war. It's 50 generations of repressive Sultans followed by 3 generations of repressive white guys, followed by 2 generations of repressive monomaniacal dictators and religious fanatics. How can someone get elected to public office if he relies so heavily on trite anti-establishment repartee?

18 July 2005

Visitation Rights

Scott and Amrys visited this week and now they've both departed. We had a good time taking our leisure (walking tour of Oxford, punting, barbecue and college ball) and the weather cooperated to an unbelievable extent with sunshine and temps in the 80's all week. Pictures will be up once I send them back to Amrys and Scott (hers in digital form beause her CF card filled, his in developed film form because he didn't want to expose his rolls to the x-ray machine at LHR).

Today at work I'm hosed and trying to catch up since I haven't got much done in a while. Group presentation on Thursday which will be an interesting waypoint in the development of my work so far.

12 July 2005


Today while playing the wikipedia link-following game I discovered two interesting facts about my hometown:

  • Buckminster Fuller was born there.

  • At 43%, it has the highest fraction of residents of Irish descent of any town or city in the US.

11 July 2005


The weather in the UK has been really nice so far. I was thinking about this unexpected observation while cycling to work on a beautiful blue-sky morning with temperatures comfortably in the 70's. It's actually more to my liking than summer in Boston, where it's often oppressively hot and muggy. I've been lucky so far in that it has rained a ton (don't get me wrong, it rains a lot, but it's been tolerable so far). Of course, I'm warned all the time that the winter is dark and rainy and suicide-inducing, so I should wait until I've made it through that before passing judgment.

The weather certainly cooperated this weekend for our housewarming barbecue on Saturday. Living with 4 brits meant that I was in charge of the grill for the entirety of the party. At first blush one might think it a bit shackling to cook all evening, but grilling is different than being stuck in the kitchen making Chicken Kiev. For one thing the party ebbs and flows around the food in general, so there's always a scene in the vicinitas of the grill. For another thing, I'm fairly adept at wielding tongz in one hand and a Stella in the other.

I had originally intended to buy the Instant Lite (i.e. doused in gasoline) variety of charcoal, just because I knew I'd have other stuff to deal with besides trying to coax the coals into ignition. Unfortunately I grabbed a 10kg sack from the wrong pile and had to get some "lighter gel" at the last minute. Yes, for some reason they sell lighter fluid as a goopy gel here instead of just raw accelerant in a can. Now, my partner in grilling from A-Side can attest that above all else the key to grilling is patience. People think you just touch a match to the coals and they explode into flames, ready for grilling. The proper technique, of course, is to build a pyramid of coal, goad it into ashing slightly at the edges and building a hot red center that begins to burn the rest of the coals. This requires careful knowledge, occasional reapplication of lighter goo and about 5 beers while sitting around waiting for the coals to heat.

The limeys all assumed we were going to have to get a flamethrower to get the coals going, but I managed to keep them distracted and soon enough I had two grills going with an ideal layer of hot coal for cooking. The only trouble we had was that the grills were the right height for foods which require high heat and fast cooking, such as burgers and sausages. We also, however, had some really money marinaded chicken which is hard to cook on the same grill, since it requires longer cooking on a lower heat. In the end the outside of the chicken was burned crispy and black by the time the inside was cooked, so that was a slight defeat.

Finally, the best part of being the chef during the party is that I can then excuse myself from my most hated of all chores: cleaning up afterwards.

07 July 2005

Safe & Sound

Just in case anybody's wondering, I'm safely in Oxford with Londoners in my thoughts.

06 July 2005

Weekend Update

Pics are up from my punting excursion on Sunday. We managed to get a little sunshine that day, and after two attempts now, I think I'm ready to call myself a Master Punter (a title I already had once, back in college). On Monday I took a 1/2 day at work and rolled down to London to go to a Yank party chez Vicki and Allison (Huggins). A bunch of Americans they knew (plus the occasional Scot) were there and it was pretty Claude; we played Kings and drank a lot of really grim San Miguel.

No fireworks, but not a bad weekend all told.

02 July 2005

Somerfield Strikes Again

The latest deal at Somerfield? Two cases of 20 of Stella for £14. Also note that a 6-pack of Stella at the same store costs £6.38. This means you get 2 cases for roughly the same price as 2 six packs. It's 35p a beer! They advertise it as "Our Best Beer Deal Ever!" which I can believe, but why does this make any sense for them?! 

01 July 2005

You can be my wingman any time.

Bullshit, you can be mine.

When did Tom Cruise become such a maniac? Doesn't he have PR people who tell him that he instantaneously changed from a slightly washed-up actor to a raving-mad Scientologist pedophile? First it was the whole Katie Holmes thing with him jumping around during interviews like a lovesick 15 year old, then he started pushing his whole Scientologist schtick too. Evidently the "history of psychology" culminated in L. Ron Hubbard. Yeesh.

Man I could really go for an engram right now.