Category Archives: president

Oh to be in England now that April’s here!

Well, I am, actually. I am in England and it’s April. But that’s a recent update. I was in the US for the first ten days of this month, and I could not wait to get back.

Apparently 5.5 years in England are enough to make a girl sufficiently European that three weeks in the US was just a bit too much. Or maybe this year’s presidential election really IS nastier than in previous years. And perhaps partisan politics HAS reached a new low.

Things that became too much for me, in no particular order:

  • Irrationally blaming Obama for fuel prices (which are, of course, elevated all over the globe due to crude prices)
  • Unbelievable sexism.
    Santorum may be out of the race, but he succeeded at making it cool to riff on 1950s Leave it to Beaver stereotypes.

  • People thinking that universal healthcare was evil, and that they somehow had a RIGHT to NOT have access to affordable health care (link should be to USA Today article but I read it on my iPad and can’t find the link in the millions of articles I read on healthcare reform in the last month…)
  • People using the whole “how to lie with statistics” thing in shameful ways
  • Every time I tried to point any of these things out to a Republican, they responded with something along the lines of “OH Yeah, well, Obama did x in the 2008 campaign” as though it was a playground battle and deflection from the issues was the real game.

I am clearly no longer as American as I once was. Because these things really bother me and I can’t seem to let them go. And I would consider myself to be not terribly political, but the politics in the US right now pits left vs right in a way that I don’t really understand.

Schoolgirl Excitement

I have had a most amazing week, and I am sorry that I have not been better at sharing the excitement. But it is in part about my job, about which I choose not to blog. This week has been amazing, and please–Twitter-folk who know about my secret identity, please don’t share it. But the bottom line is that my work life has been a big social media experiment gone good. I’m about to celebrate 50,000 YouTube hits for my work video in just over three days. And that’s amazing. But even better, tomorrow morning I head to Heathrow to fly to Baltimore for a weekend with my sister, and then we fly together to Minneapolis for a long week of celebrations for my father’s x0th birthday. I have more fun things planned for Minneapolis than I have in a while, and for once I am feeling excited about being back “home” and not conflicted in any way. Have I mentioned that my grandmother is now 95 and still kicking arse at Scrabble? It should be fun. I am ready for this trip in a way that I was not ready for trips to Minneapolis in the past. And now I must finish cleaning out my fridge and finish packing. But I’m happy in my British shoes, and happy to be going home to America. Even the inevitable and unfortunate discussions about American politics have not dampened my spirits. Expat life, 2000, former life, 0. Here we go.

Videos (with apologies to those who have seen them already)

There are several, dare we say “viral videos,” that have given me a good laugh this week and although I thought everyone in the world must have seen them, thanks to multiple facebook appearances, I ended up showing one of these to people twice today so I thought I’d add them here… if nothing else, to make it easier for me to find them to keep showing people!

Everything is amazing right now and nobody’s happy

This one was particularly good for an engineer. One of my team was complaining this week about a piece of equipment not working reliably, and I had to shake her and say “this thing makes measurements with nanometer-scale accuracy… this is amazing!”

Sell the Vatican, Feed the World (NSFW since it’s Sarah Silverman, duh!)

I love Sarah Silverman. Love her. And I’m not a huge fan of the Vatican (just a mention of Catholics and contraception in Africa in the same sentence gets my blood boiling…)

Rachel Maddow on the Obama Nobel Peace Prize

I was originally not so keen on this award but I find Rachel Maddow’s analysis quite compelling. I particularly liked the clips of the Republican media types saying outrageous things near the beginning of the clip. Oh Rush Limbaugh, you manage to make a complete arse of yourself every time you open your mouth!

Tiny children who must come from a circus family, on Ukraine’s Got Talent

I wish my Russian was better so I could catch more then the little performers saying hello and what their names were. But they’ve either been in ballet school or gymnastics school from a tender age with the level of skill (and balance!) that they’ve got. Thanks for this one to my favorite professional friend blogger.

Update: Commercial. Too good to miss.

Thanks to a relatively random facebook friend.

I like to be in America

It’s amazing that I have been here more than a week and a half already, and have been through three main stages of the trip. Part of the nature of my whirlwind start to this trip was due to the fact that I was traveling with a junior colleague. I wanted to show her an awesome and multi-faceted technical experience as well as a bit of my country, as long as we were here. So after working solidly all weekend, Tuesday was the day for a bit of fun, and we went to pay tribute to a few of my favorites in the Nation’s capital. Almost first was Einstein, but I was so busy taking photos of my colleague in his lap that I forgot to take a photo myself. On to Lincoln.

DC monuments - 1

DC monuments - 4


DC monuments - 3

And my personal favorite, Jefferson.

DC monuments - 6

DC monuments - 7

DC monuments - 8

Inspiring stuff. I was never quite so patriotic before I moved to England.

From there it was over to Georgetown for lunch and shopping on M street. I think I showed my colleague a nice day in DC, and for me it was nostalgic to be back in my old haunts.

Can’t he just Skype like the rest of us?

The stories about Obama’s entourage for the G20 summit in London read like the anti-environmentalist diary: I had no idea they brought the presidential limo overseas. Apparently Obama travels with his medical staff, back-up blood, the helicopter, and the military guy that knows the nuclear codes. I have no idea if the process is typical–I’m not sure we all followed Bush’s movements around the planet with such thirst for knowledge. But aside from my joking comment about the environmental impact of all of this, my serious question concerns cost. The presidential election and now the presidential operations seem to be associated with a huge amount of expense. Now admittedly the London G20 summit is supposed to be associated with improving the economy, but it does make one wonder if the business of running a country in the modern era isn’t neglecting the usefulness of the technology we’ve developed in the last decades. Surely the Blackberry president would be safer (and spare taxpayers the expense of traveling with such an entourage) by using Skype sometimes???

John Stewart on yesterday

OK this made me laugh out loud, much needed! John Stewart deconstructs the inauguration. (Tried to embed but did not succeed…)


I was so wondering WTF when Warren said the Obama girls’ names, not least of which because I’ve had a friend Malia for about 20 years.

And our national anthem is?

I had a meeting with my boss at 4 pm today, and was delighted when he stopped the meeting at precisely 4:16, suggesting it was time to adjourn so we could go home and watch the inaugural festivities. I zipped home to catch the live feed streaming over the interwebs–thank goodness (I don’t have a TV)–and got to witness history, armed with a glass of M&S champers. The proceedings went along but I was mostly just watching as an interested observer until the point after the speech, when the military chorus came out to sing the national anthem and I inexplicably burst into tears!

Checking the BBC immediately post-festivities, I was terribly amused to find the following statement in the article linked here:

which reads, “Aretha Franklin then sang the US national anthem against a backdrop of clear blue skies and light wind.” Those who watched the proceedings might recall that Franklin sang “My Country Tis of Thee” which, although a lovely and patriotic song, is NOT the US national anthem. Although ironically of course it shares a tune with the UK anthem, apparently causing some confusion in the BBC newsroom! I logged a comment stating as much, and within an hour the article had been updated to this:


“Aretha Franklin then sang against a backdrop…” with no mention of the altered content nor my comment posted. Now I am not a big fan of changes to an article being made without it being noted that it was updated for factual inaccuracies; when I’ve come across similar issues on the Economist website they have both updated the article with a note at the end stating the correction, and left the comment in place to demonstrate the reason for the correction. Apparently the Beeb does not have an editorial policy which similarly acknowledges their own fallibility!

Regardless, the swearing in was lovely if slightly inarticulate, the speech was particularly interesting to this person who had not heard Obama deliver a speech previously, and America has a new president to rally behind even as the world economy (and the value of the British pound in particular) continues to crumble. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery…

It’s not all bad here

The early part of today was unpleasant, I admit. I had a very unpleasant start to the day. But I have to admit that the day ended on a very high note, and my optimism for my life here in Britain has not actually waned.

I had been asked several weeks ago to sit on a panel for a post-US election discussion. I had the opportunity to make a ten minute statement on the election, along with a distinguished international relations expert, plus answering questions from the crowd and it turned out to be great fun. Much to my relief, and somewhat dismay given that this was merely my opinion and not my area of technical expertise, the turnout was good and a lively group of people from all over the world appeared at the event. I had a great time. The forum itself was challenging and a great learning experience for me–I had the opportunity to glean significant new understanding as to the framework used by international policy experts in studying this significant field. And most important to me, given my frustrations earlier in the day, I did not burst into tears or otherwise embarrass myself.

Even better, the event resulted in my having dinner with a truly international couple–she’s from the American midwest (!) and he’s a Brit, and they have lived in both places and thus have a lot of experience with the cultural issues going both ways. I had a fantastic time and stopped to re-evaluate my feelings of “cut-and-run” that plague me whenever I find frustrations here. I hope to hang out with this couple more often–yes it follows my rule of “the most friendly Brits are those that are not truly entrenched here–living in the US and being involved with an American probably do affect perspectives–but it was a very soul-healing experience for me.

Perhaps more importantly, I have a shopping date tomorrow with another friend, a Brit, and my health-club buddy. And I ran into another friend, also a Brit, this evening at the store and made plans to catch up soon. Perhaps it is not as bad as I think in my darkest hours–I have had a reasonably slow start to making friends here, but perhaps at the same time I have really done better than I think in my dark moments. So I head to bed on a reasonably positive note. And for that I am extremely grateful!

I’m a bad citizen.

I’ve read all the expat blogs in the last few weeks, Americans sending off their overseas ballots for election day today. Well, I didn’t vote. I couldn’t work it out. The ever increasing and ever annoying emails and later phone calls and texts from Democrats Abroad UK did not actually help me to sort out what state I could legally vote in.

See, before I moved to England, things were a bit complicated. I was living in non-Minnesota, working a job I hated, and since I knew I would go somewhere else at the end of my year contract (I even had one offer by the time I left, which was neither in Minnesota or where I had been living in not-Minnesota), I never switched over my driver’s license, car plates, and most importantly, voter registration. So my last voter registration was back in Minnesota, at the apartment where I lived in grad school. When I left the hideous job, I spent eight weeks in Europe, which included my job interview here (although the eight weeks had been planned before I landed the interview, strangely enough, and it just got tacked on to the trip) and then a few weeks at my parents’ place back in Minnesota on my return–knowing I had the job in the UK and waiting for my work permit and visa. Now my sister thinks that because I was there for around the month, I might be back to Minnesota voting status as long as I was there thirty days. That would certainly be easier, since my last voting activities were there. But every time I got to the drop down box for the “fill in the blanks application for overseas ballot” I would hesitate over the “state of last residence” and not know what to do. Had I switched my alliances over to not-Minnesota, where I last actually lived, it would have been easy. But it’s not. And I gave up trying to sort it out. My bad.

So here’s where I switch gears and slightly rant about America instead of the UK, for a change. Why the heck does it matter what state I last lived in? It’s a federal election. Of course I know the answer, it has to do with the Electoral College–another thing that really gets my blood pressure up. Kill all the nonsense of the electors and state-by-state results, have a popular vote across the country by simple majority, and stop asking me what state I last lived in. Because I don’t know.

Although as my sister pointed out, she worked hard to get her overseas ballot in China because she’s voted in every presidential election that she could. And here again, I duck and confess, I’m in my thirties and have only voted for president once for sure (2000; I honestly can’t remember about 2004). And in 2000 I protest-voted for Nader (a fact my sister pointed out to any Republican who would listen when we were at W’s inaugural ball in DC, but that’s a different story!)

I don’t know what has happened. I have been put off by the long lines, totally uninspired by the process, lacking confidence in party politics since I tend towards socially liberal but fiscally conservative, and somehow I’ve been generally apathetic about the role of president. Again, my bad. In my defense, I tried to vote in the other elections, the ones for governors, representatives, mayors and local council people, even judges.

But I know. I’m a bad citizen. Don’t yell at me or scold me any more than the people to whom I’ve confessed this in person already have. (Although this being England, they automatically assumed I would have voted for Obama, and I guess we’ll never know. As I told my sister earlier today, had a certain H. Clinton been in the running this might have been a very different post!) I couldn’t even stand to watch the election coverage on BBC at the gym. This is going to be a long night.

And not all Americans are the same either!

Consider this part two of the rant I started yesterday; it was purely coincidental that things would set me off today in this same direction of complaint. So let’s recap. From yesterday, America is a big country and it’s full of interesting places, some of which are NOT located on the coasts. And for today: America is a big country and full of interesting people, some of which do not share all the views of those living on the coasts. The two are related. If a Brit only knows of the NY-LA stereotype, then they are missing a large part of the country and characterizing a lot of places as dull and people as stupid without knowing the fine details. I am, of course, from Minnesota, the only state that voted for (democrats and first ever female VP candidate) Mondale-Ferraro over (Republican) Reagan in 1984. So this sort of gross generalization again does not sit well with me.

Ironically enough for this story, I am a card-carrying democrat but politically a bit of a libertarian, so actually my views on many things political fit in well with the locals here in the UK. But the thing that annoyed me today was the assumption that that had to be the case. That if I really was a whole-hearted McCain-Palin supporter it would not have even occurred to the locals.

I’m feeling a bit sensitive in general about the rest of the world thinking it has a voice in the US election. I mean, I had nothing to do with the choice of Gordon Brown and I LIVE HERE but recognize that I am but a stranger in a strange land, not a local with a voice in how the country is run. So this sort of thing, where Brits somehow get all political on-the-stump about the US election, really annoys me. And like I said, not because they’re in disagreement with me as a money-giving member of the democratic party!

Today I was in a meeting at work with around 15 people and one of them felt the need to start ranting about America and the election, and I have to admit I silently stewed. I did not respond or comment back at this Brit, but thought it odd that there was this assumption of tacit agreement that everyone in the room would automatically have the same views–including me as the token American. I have many, many relatives (including parents) who are Republicans, and there is nothing in that particular upbringing that would have prevented my moving to the UK for a job opportunity. So I COULD HAVE been sitting there silently stewing because I was offended by the ranting diatribe being issued at the intelligence of the populace of Americans in general, even though it turns out I was less offended by the political views than by the manner by which they were expressed. Hmmmm. This one is complicated.

I really appreciated the comment yesterday from Iota on how you have a crash course in your new country when you arrive there. I certainly feel the same, that the local subtleties of someone excusing a fellow Brit’s behavior by saying “they’re a northerner” is a similar subtlety in geography to being from someplace like Minneapolis. I guess you really do have to just move countries to get that experience, and so I guess for the general populace I would legislate a study abroad year for any college degree. A bold proposal, but one that I’d bet would reduce the level of text written on this blog in any given year!