Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding has no Amazon Gift Registry

Make your own Royal Wedding paper dolls.
Does this crap never end?
Kate and Will don't have an Amazon Wedding Gift Registry.  (I just checked.)

What kind of people are they?  I'd have liked to send them a toaster.  How will I know if Prince Philip has beaten me to it? 

Apparently the royal couple have pledged to donate all gifts to charity.  As one hilarious American friend, Tom, pointed out last night; they are a charity!  

At 07:43am I've not yet watched the DVR'd wedding but, I confess, I just sneaked a peek at Kate Middleton's dress online.  She looked stunning.  May just be enough to save the future Monarchy from Prince Charles's ears. 

Seeing photos of Westminster has made me a tiny bit homesick.   I used to work just across the road from Westminster Abbey and I know that, in reality, the throngs of people camping out overnight, eating in my favourite lunch spots and clogging up the Underground station would've annoyed the heck out of me.  Why did these people not take the Government up on its kind offer of three days of Annual Leave for 11 days off over Easter, the wedding and May Day holidays?  I'd be in the Caribbean by now!

Back to reality with a bump: immigration paperwork and two siblings' weddings call me home to London for a month and half.  I will miss my handsome Prince and faithful wolf hound so much but it will be worth it to be able to marry Hank lawfully when I return- at last!  That'll truly be a Dream Wedding.   Just me and the man I love getting hitched at the Courthouse at lunchtime.  Awesome.  

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Off the hook

Thanks to my generous friend, I'm no longer going to have to pretend to care enough about Wills and Kate to get up at 04:30. NICE!

My biggest issue with the wedding is the devious way in which Middleton's mother allegedly orchestrated the relationship. She reportedly placed her daughter in the same University as William, on the same course as William, in the hope of her daughter one day becoming Queen of England. Well, if that is the case, at least it worked out for her.  Failure would have been a bit like fattening up to become a Sumo player, only to find you suck at wrestling.

The future Queen of England faces many challenges, not least of all releasing (inevitably) a line of clothes for Top Shop whilst avoiding the Beckhams at social occasions. Good luck to Kate.  She seems like a nice enough lady.  And at least future Monarchs of Britain shall not be ugly.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Royal wedding

image of Union JackIn what I can only describe as a school girl error, I've just agreed to go over to a friend's house to watch the Royal Wedding at 4.30 on Friday.  I did not realise that this was in fact 4.30am; Wills and Kate have most unhelpfully scheduled their wedding for the middle of the day in their time zone.  Would it be rude to confess to this generous spirited friend that I in fact don't love the Royal Family enough to get up at 4am, don a lacy hat and floral frock and saunter over for a 4.30am start?  Hmmmm.

What would be wrong with watching the wedding in slow time? It could surely wait until 6am, no?  Does that make me unpatriotic?  How about 8am, then?  Treason?  

4.30 then.  Jeez. At least this amusing link from Laura in London (thanks Laura!) made me chuckle. If the Royal Wedding really were the way T-Mobile envisaged it, now THAT would be worth getting out of bed for!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

What does a bored housewife do when her husband is away?

Hank recently attended a three-day conference in Tampa and I was left home alone.  What did I do with myself?  Ah.... I wish it was something sordid but instead I may have developed a nasty habit of spending money faster than Hank earns it.  No, I take that back, I definitely have.  After a trip to Costco, I came out reeling from the shock of a $364 bill for toilet roll ....  Well, you know how addictive Costco is.  The end result of this financial carelessness on a single income can only be heartache, though, so I have either to change my middle class spending habits, or earn some money myself.

So I'm thinking about ways to earn money.  But there is, in the meantime, just so much quirky stuff to buy online here in the USA - and I should take advantage of that, no?  How about a Williams Sonoma knife sharpener which will sharpen your German knives at a 20 degree angle and your Asian knives at a 15 degree angle.  Presumably that difference is because we Asians are shorter.  Perhaps my diminutive stature is to blame for my knives being so blunt they are capable of cutting nothing but my fingers when their dull, stubby tips slip around on wet potatoes.  It strikes me that such a bourgeois knife sharpener belongs on the infamous website which lists, well... stuff white people like.  At first that website' made no sense to me until I realised that the writer is offering what we in the UK would call "class-based" commentary.  Substitute the words "white people" for "middle class people" and it starts to make sense in my lingo, although that does not really explain why in the USA, only white peeps would be interested in this stuff.  Anyway, let's go beyond that and I can count plenty of middle classisms on the list (link below).  May I do a little transliteration for our British readers:

Pea Coat = Double breasted, reefer jacket
Girls with bangs = girls with a fringe
Asian = East Asian (ie not Indian subcontinental)

Now off you go, white and/or middle class readers, and have fun.  Don't forget to feign middle class disinterest in the Royal Wedding next week.  Royalty should earn a living and are a blight on the face of democracy etc etc :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


Had some great shouts from other bloggers recently and thought you might like to know who your fellow readers are and how they find their way to these pages:

The Washington Post picked up my entry on the Japanese earthquake:

Anthony, a British ex-Pat in Atlanta:

And a number of other exPats continue to find their way to my blog from:

This week, my humble blog has been visited 64 times by people in the USA, 46 times by Brits, twice by Germans, once each by a Brazilian, a Finn, an Israeli, an Indian, a Kiwi and someone in Vietnam.  To think that you people is such remote places are reading my blog is awesome!  Although I'll never know who you all are,  I'd love for you to be more interactive.   Send me amusing articles, links, YouTube stuff that made you laugh.  Comment on my entries.  Become a Follower or sign up for the e-notifications on the right of this article.  You're always welcome to tweet my links and publish entries on Facebook.  I'm as new to the world of blogging as you may be to reading it, so get in touch if you have any questions, requests, comments, feedback.

Thanks for your support!

PS In response to one bit of feedback I have received from Elise on my blog entry Warning: Don't try this at work!

We're getting quite good at this now, so here's a more challenging video for you!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The white Apple

The iPhone 4 was yesterday rumored still to be due for imminent release in (gasp!) WHITE.  This is as unexciting to me as the fall of Justin Bieber from YouTube's Most Watched.  Now, I have a regular iPhone 4 - ok, yes, Hank has one but I've "borrowed" it on a semi-permanent basis - and it astonishes me that the new release can cause so much excitement.  If you ask i-aficionados if The Four is a good phone, you'll be met with comments like "yeah, the camera is awesome... so great to have my ipod in my phone... love the apps" but nobody seems to have noticed that it's a terrible PHONE;  for example, you can't make a call to someone who has just texted you without writing down their number and re-entering it manually into your phone.   Or, if you already have the texter's name saved as a contact you can exit the messaging app, go into the contacts section of the"phone" app (really, is "phone" an app on a phone, Apple people?) and dial the contact up there.  Meanwhile, calls continue to drop out and my phone regularly self-silences its ringer while just hanging out in my pocket.  

The iPhone used to be really fast - until everyone got one.  Now, I guess, air traffic is an issue because I sense the phone fighting to own its bandwidth from time to time.  The GPS is, however, superbly accurate and generally fast - except when it is really, really slow (usually when we are late and really, really lost).  I do like how well the GPS interacts with the app and tells me where the nearest bus stop is to my current location for any given route, and even knows how long I'd have to wait for the bus.  Great for rainy days.  I also like the voice activated searching on Google.  It amuses me how literal, almost Germanic, your pronunciation has to be to get certain words understood:

Me speaking to Google app: "Urban Spoon"
Google app: Results for How to Stain
Me: What?! Ok, "Urrrban Spoon"
Google app: Results for Urban City
Me:  Urban Spoon, damn you! "Urrrrban Spoooooona"
Google app: Results for Urban Spoon
Hank (laughing):  Why don't you just use the actual Urban Spoon app?
Me: Oh right, it has that?

In addition to the joy of not being able to talk to people easily on your black iPhone, the white plastic apparently could further interfere with the phone's antenna.  So to those people who are no doubt going to camp out overnight for a white slice of the Apple the minute the phone becomes available, folks I wish you every happiness.  May your new phone gain you many admiring glances.  Just don't bother asking anyone for their number.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Toad the Wet Sprocket: not really All I Want from a reunion gig

The 9:30 Club
Over the weekend, Hank and I splashed out on tickets to see old-school rocksters, Toad The Wet Sprocket at the 9:30 Club; you remember Toad from the early 90s, right?

We'd been warned that Toad had not released anything for ages and might be a bit lame.  The truth is, when I go to rock gigs at this point in my life I want two things:

1.  A place to sit down because Lord knows I do not want to stand for three hours
2.  To hear the songs for which the band is well known, not some experimental "new songs".

I would even go so far as to say I HATE it when band reunion tours consists of the group trying out new material on the audience who have paid crazy money to stand all night.  Like a wrinkly Status Quo fan,  I want to know the words!  I want to sing along!  I want to be reminded of the 90s again! 

Toad are still an awesome band.  But I didn't get a seat all night and as the end of the set approached, they'd played just three songs from their legendary Pale album before my feet hurt so much I made Hank take me home.  The playlist included a disappointing rendition of All I Want, one of the most beautiful songs of all time.  Clearly they are bored of the song, from the album which propelled them to international success.  The performance was simultaneously uninspiring and overzealous - too much drum drowning out the lead singer's iconic baritone.  Why do bands become so resentful of the very thing which made their success possible?  Ah well.  Next time I will stay home and listen to the Pale CD while seated comfortably on my couch.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Convenience vs Conservation

Hank's former flat-mate from London ("room-mate" for the American reader) just posted an amusing article on Facebook.  Like me and Hank, she is back in DC after several years in the UK and is reflecting on the lifestyle changes.  The article (below) is a witty insight into the difference between European and American domestic appliances, and (important for those who don't subscribe to the First Amendment) it's pleasantly non-jingoistic.

European appliances, certainly those readily available in the UK, are not always built with convenience as the main priority.  The writer of the article comments that the inconvenience is probably government-sponsored, to discourage excessive use of high-energy appliances.  Well yes, but sceptically,  I'd point out that domestic appliances still tend primarily to affect a woman's workload, so I wonder if there isn't a gender agenda here.  During my time in Japan, where housework was almost always a woman's work, it was astonishingly labour-intensive: making a simple bento box for lunch could take nearly two hours in the morning,  Japanese washing machines still ran on cold water and in a country where everyone had an electric pencil sharpener, I knew ONE person with a dishwasher (an American).  Women were so disempowered that until 2001 it was illegal to have contraceptive pills in the country.  I don't want to make Japan out to be a place where women were ill-treated - the lady of the house usually received a lot from her husband in return for her efforts - but I did feel strongly that such a high-tech country would have made greater advancements in technology if the appliances primarily serviced salaried men.

Gender issues aside, there is a broader issue of convenience vs conservation.  A tumble dryer eats electricity and gradually attrites your clothes.  I discovered recently that my black running tights, now tumble dried five or six times, have slowly become almost entirely transparent.  To think that I'd been wearing them running with the dog, and - horror!- for weeding the front garden. 

Despite these occasional minor glitches,  I truly love the convenience of US culture.  I adore the easy-open, easy-reseal bags for groceries which keep food so fresh.  My kitchen sink has a handy hose for spraying the dishes.  There are cup holders everywhere in cars.  The GPS in buses tells my iPhone app exactly how many minutes away the bus is before I even leave home.  AMAZING.   

There are of course things which the conservationist struggles with.  I'm still not sure that garbage disposal via sinks doesn't bring rats into city sewers.  And of course, driving everywhere in really big cars...  I know you have less traffic, petrol is cheaper and it really is a joy to drive in the USA but ....

It would be a terrible shame if American the Beautiful were sacrificed for America the Convenient.

But telling Americans to buy smaller cars would be like telling Londoners not to use the Underground.   Until cheap, reliable alternatives exist, people will default to what they know.


Two of my neighbours recently petitioned the local Council to cut down three diseased trees in our  street.  The same couple polled the remaining neighbours and generously bought the most popular replacement: plum saplings.  The pair were clearly happy to have had the chance to choose which trees are on our street and they hope to replace all the other trees in the future.  To me, though, tiny saplings look a bit odd on a street of Victorian townhouses.  A part of what I value is heritage and to the British eye,  old homes are part of an establishment, naturally complemented by imposing old trees.   A young tree not only looks oddly small but also deprives the street of some of its old charm.  This is a classic cultural difference in viewpoint.  My neighbours value the convenience of designing their environment, I value conserving what was already there. 

I've paid the price for this preference to conserve; the Victorian windows I refused to replace in my London flat were draughty and noisy and drove my heating bills through the roof.  I, of course, wore more clothes to keep warm (THAT is the British way!) but my flatmates probably found it inconvenient sleeping in long johns under mountains of hot water bottles and quilts.   I recall also being intermittently boiling hot and freezing cold when staying at Hank's; he never found out how to operate his central heating.  I fear the instructions were thrown out with the recycling.

As I write this, I'm looking out of my window at the new plum saplings bending in the wind, their tiny boughs heavy with beautiful plum blossom and deep red leaves.  Perhaps I am being a grumpy old woman.  The trees are a perfect fit in the New World.  I guess a part of me still clings to the Old.

Read the original article here.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Budget breakdown: a week (or four) off work with no pay? Thanks, GOP!

Hank faces the uncomfortable prospect of being forced to take a week or even a month off work with no pay, unless a Government budget is agreed by Friday.  I agree that cuts in the right places and in the right ways are overdue and necessary, particularly given the excessive bureaucracy I have seen on the immigration side.  But I'm very angry with the Republican Party (GOP) for aggressively leveraging its new Congress majority to intentionally (in my opinion) delay the budget.  Yesterday President Obama said the level of cuts requested by the GOP ($33 billion) had been met.  GOP House Speaker John Boehner immediately called a Press Conference to deny that a figure had ever been agreed and that the $33 billion cuts were not enough, holding out for "all of the spending cuts that we can get."  That's great but how will the Republicans know when they have got all they can get?  To paraphrase Lethal Weapon 2, will they count up from "one" then go for a compromise at "three" - or after "three"? 

-"l thought you meant, ''three'' then go! "

-"No! We always go on ''three''!" 

-"Sometimes we go, ''one, two, three,'' then go!" 

Meantime, Hank will be sitting at home wondering why the heck he can't just get on with his job.  Even if he gets classified as an "essential employee" and called to work next week, I have this sneaking feeling that the pay which essential workers should later receive for their efforts will not be honoured, unlike during the 90s government shutdown.  Afterall, the GOP is after all the cuts they can get.  So what does it matter to them if Hank cannot pay the mortgage?

Don't worry, we will eat our savings to pay the bills, if we have to.  Thank goodness we have no children.  But with me not permitted to work, and coming hot on the heels of our wedding, and two siblings getting married* this summer in the UK, this couldn't have come at a worse time for us.  

*Not to each other

To me it seems that the GOP is not setting its own target for public spending cuts because a) it's at the mercy of the Tea Party which cannot count that high and b) there's a risk that any target may actually be reached without disrupting and undermining the President.  If you're sceptical about whether the GOP is intentionally moving the goal posts on the budget, keep an eye out during this Jon Stewart video for GOP Senator for Alabama, Senate Budget Committee ranking minority member Jefferson "Jeff" Beauregard Sessions III.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

April in DC. Just like home!


It was 79F (26 degrees C) on Monday when I took the photo on the left in Tock's favourite squirrel-chasing park, blue sky shining through abundant cherry blossoms.  On Tuesday, it was 40F (4 degrees C) and abysmal when I took the second picture.   In fact it rained so hard the "7.30am-run-please-yes-EVERY-day-you-lazy-humans!" husky did not emerge from his crate until 11am.  [Rain does have some perks]

Imagine my joy as a Londoner to find there is something very familiar about DC, and it's the unpredictability of April weather.  Rain is good for my garden so you won't catch me complaining (yet).  As long as it's just an April thing!  

Friday, 1 April 2011


The dog has gone back to the breeder for the weekend and my life is my own again.  This is the kind of freedom I usually only get when I'm in the shower.  Parents of young children, you know what I mean. 

So what do I do with this liberty?  Shop for a new dress for Danny and Chris's wedding tomorrow?  Nope, I have loads already.  New shoes?  Pah! 

Only one thing, baby:

Make sure your volume is turned up and don't you dare close the screen until the first 15 seconds have passed.  Something wonderful may happen to you.  Just don't fight the feeling, now! 

PS I don't expect you to return to this screen.  You'll shortly be endlessly navigating YouTube seeking your own favourites.  It's all cool.  Friends, it's just fine.

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