Category Archives: US government

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.

Some days…

…it feels really difficult to be a proud American. No matter what your political views, a gunman targeting a politician is a tragedy. It’s been difficult watching from afar as the rhetoric in American politics has gotten more violent, and it’s really unclear why this is the case and what supposed good it is meant to do.

I was a student in Michigan when the link between Timothy McVeigh and the Michigan Militia was being probed after the Oklahoma City bombing. What I heard then sounds an awful lot like what I’ve been reading this morning in the quotes from “right-to-bear-arms” types speaking of forming independent militias to rise up against the government. It’s scary stuff. And unnecessary in a democracy. Our right to vote should take care of that, as it just did with the changeover in House leadership with the last election.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I don’t see how the American obsession with guns is not a big part of the problem. It is just way too easy to kill lots of people in a very short period of time. But now I have a second plank in my platform to reform America: enough with the violent rhetoric. I’m over the complete right to free speech and favor a more European-style approach that allows persecution for speech inciting violence. I like this quote on the subject:

Mr Miliband also said: “We have profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land.”

This was uttered in the context of anti-Muslim extremism, but it works equally well if you replace “religious and racial hatred” with “political party and anti-government hatred”. So my overall view on this sunny Sunday afternoon is very well articulated in this video from Keith Olbermann last night: it’s time to both put the guns away and stop with the gun and other violent metaphors in politics.

Dear So-and-So, About to be a weary traveller edition

Dear person who was pounding on my door this morning and kept trying to enter my flat with the master key even though the chain lock was clearly engaged,

Seriously. You did that to deliver a cardboard recycling bin. You so could have left the $%£*^& thing outside the door.

Needing my beauty sleep, NFAH

Dear UK tax authorities,

This thing where you randomly assigned the start of the year to start some time mid-April is remarkably inconvenient for expats from sensible countries where the year starts on 1 Jan. And of course, I should not expect that there is anything so modern as an online system for me to sort through my pay stubs for the past year, it’s paper and my calculator all the way.

Tax time is the most annoying and time-consuming time of year, NFAH

Dear Car Service,

I promise I will not sleep through my alarm tomorrow, and thus not waste your driver’s time and efforts like I did on the aborted first attempt at the Germany trip two weeks ago. And fortunately for me you’re picking me up tomorrow at 10:30, not 6 am!

Gettting giddy to get to America, even though it’s work all the way and followed by the China adventure with no time to deal with jet lag, NFAH

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.

Bits and bobs revisited

I’ve done this before when I had a bunch of random US-UK tabs open in my browser window. In the spirit of the game, I will leave them in the random order they’re in, and not edit the order to group things on common topics, hopefully creating an interesting non-pattern.

There we have it, bits and bobs for a crazy Thursday. I took my team to the pub tonight to introduce a few new recruits, and it turns out that if you count passports, birthplaces, long-time residence locations and birthplaces of parents, we are a mini-United Nations with all 6 inhabited continents represented, most more than once, and a remarkably complicated set of allegiances. This I love about my line of work. Although it just reinforces my relatively new prejudice that I get along best with people who have also been expats or closely allied with expats…

Whew, time flies!

I thought I would be blogging practically daily after coming back from the states, but of course instead I’ve been busy and not spending much time online in a non-work capacity. My week, which started out looking quite blank and productive, got increasingly packed with meetings, including three really high-level things today that required a great deal of concentration. But generally I’m not sure where the hours have gone. Although I do know that I’ve been pretty productive lately, albeit in non-technical aspects of trying to regain control over my life, and more directly, the cluttered mess that is my closet-less flat. I had a massive re-organization of my wardrobes on Saturday (needed to be able to unpack and put away my recent acquisitions from Anthropologie!) and then on Sunday I decided to attack one of those projects that had been sitting staring at me for literally years, six crates full of files and papers from my grad school days that I had moved over here without sorting, due to the relatively fast circumstances of my relocation. Five of the crates are now gone, only one remains, plus a stack of papers that need to go into the office. I’m really on quite a kick at the moment, need to do my office next–booked time at work for next week and I’m hoping this time it will stick (I’ve tried twice before but things came up…) I even managed to go to the gym on Tuesday, and I plan to go again soon (although not tonight as I have a social outing with my new Minnesota friend planned… the perfect antidote to a day of high-level meetings!)

I’m annoyed at the American press at the moment, who are becoming as shrill as the locals. What part of this:

Half of all personal bankruptcies in the US are at least partially the result of medical expenses.

do people not understand? I have a short-list going of people who run on the Republican fringe and may not be my facebook friends for very much longer 😉 And yes, as people keep asking me, I am indeed a fan of universal healthcare. I’ve tried both systems and believe me, the stress of finding bridging health insurance when you have a month between jobs AND you have a pre-existing medical condition is something no person should have to go through. No battered woman should be worrying about losing her insurance if she leaves her abusive husband. Health insurance should not be a preoccupation should you want to switch jobs or move locations or generally change your life circumstances. The system is broken, Americans spend too much on healthcare because it’s too much run for profit, so let’s stop complaining and do something about it.

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.

And so it ends

There is finally a result in the Minnesota senate race. The elections were in November, and today is (well, over here in Southeast Asia when I got the news) the 1st of July. A senate term is 6 years, so more than 1/12 of the term elapsed while the politicians wrangled, the judges judged, the counters re-counted, and Minnesota sat with a single senator. Am I happy with the result? Yes, I grew increasingly disrespectful of Coleman as the charade wore on. Was I a huge primary fan of Franken? No, and I think the MN Dems could have fielded a stronger candidate in the first place. But at least this morning I wake to the news that the whole danged charade is over. It’s been a blight on American politics and a symptom of the modern era that a simple vote is no longer so simple. Now can we just get on with some actual law-making?

The Daily Show on British Tyrrany

See the British Daily show correspondent explain British Tyrrany to the American teabag protesters on Tax Day this week.

Death and Taxes

As one certain B. Franklin said, “Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Today was tax day for many of us Americans including those of us who are expats and subject to the rules of foreign living. Slate covered this issue as though we expats were all living a cushy life abroad; after paying British tax all year, the fact that I manage a zero balance in the US is only due to the fact that I am a scientist (and thus not a banker earning real money) and so my US tax return falls under the level of the not-quite-poverty-stricken. Of course, it took 30 pages (prepared at a cost in pounds that I don’t want to admit, due to my lack of understanding of legal- and tax-speak) to demonstrate my lack of taxable US income this year, as opposed to 23 last year, and I’m mystified by this in light of the fact that the fall in the pound against the dollar means that I’m earning about 1/2 of what my compatriots in the US are earning for my same job (when the pound was worth something my salary was not embarrassing in dollars). What can I say, it’s the hard-knock life for us American expats in the UK. Perhaps I’m lucky to still be under the US tax limit and not starving to death in England.