Category Archives: video

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.

Walk on…

I live North and a bit East of London. Today I had a work thing in Southampton, which is South and West of London (for the uninitiated). I looked at the train details last week, all looked sensible: 45 minute train into London, cross London on the Tube, 70 minutes from London on the train to Southampton. A perfect day trip. Except there was a little warning sign on the details on the National Rail website. I clicked on it. “Notice of possible industrial action affecting tube service on November 2-3” Oh Crap. I normally don’t have to go through London central all that often, especially since I take a car service to Heathrow these days. So maybe I go into London or cross it every month or two. And this time, I was going to get to witness a totally European public services strike.

Not a thing I could do; this meeting had been planned back at the beginning of the year, more than six months ago. I spoke to one of my colleagues who insisted that it wouldn’t be too bad to catch a taxi across town, especially mid-day when most people were at work. For the record, she was wrong. I made it into north London and went to stand in the taxi queue. Where I was still standing, 35 minutes later, chatting with the nice bloke in front of me who was in the same predicament–we both needed to get to other rail stations in the city. When it was finally my turn, I got into the taxi… where the traffic then caused the trip to be almost another 25 minutes. I made a train heading south, texted my meeting person to say I was indeed on the way, if a little later than I had hoped. And I took out my trusty iPhone and checked how far it actually had been between the two stations.

It was only 2.4 miles. I was gutted. I don’t know central London all that well, and it hadn’t really occurred to me until then that it would have been much faster for me to walk. Lesson learned for the return trip. So after my 3.5 lovely and hopefully useful hours in Southampton, it was back on the train to London. I arrived just before 7 pm, and the place was absolutely teeming with pedestrians. Apparently we all had the same idea. Fortunately it was neither raining nor freezing, and further fortunately I just had my small computer bag with my light-weight laptop in it so it was not too much extra effort to carry. Fortunately also, I walk to work most of the time and so I was wearing, as I normally am, flat shoes with rubber soles even though I was dressed up for the meeting.

In the end it was not a bad walk, and in fact was about the distance between my flat and work so I’m quite happy to travel that far by foot. I am gradually learning that if I need to get somewhere within England and it’s less than 3 or 4 miles, the only way to guarantee you will actually arrive on time is to walk. (I called for a taxi from my flat one morning, after moving to my lovely place 2.3 miles from work, and ended up getting out half-way and walking.) Important lesson. Buses get stuck in traffic. Taxis get stuck in traffic. I am not in London, but the vagaries of the public transport and Tube systems mean that you cannot guarantee an arrival time no matter where in England you are unless you have total control of the situation.

In the midst of my cross-London hike this evening, I got to witness some European-style pedestrian “road rage”, once when a man was beating the side of an empty, out of service, bus and screaming profanities, and once when a man was beating the side of an empty, out of service, taxi cab who was blocking the road at the pedestrian crossing. Good times.

I made it home. Today. A mere 12 hours after I left. Four and a bit hours to travel what Google tells me is 150 miles (so in an American Interstate mindset 2.5 hours), 3.5 hours at my meetings in Southampton and another four and a bit hours to get home. It was a long day. And I’ve learned an important lesson.

Proud to be an American

I had a very strange day today. I was supposed to be hosting another American friend, who lives in Paris, for the weekend but she got sick and had to cancel. So my plans for the last few weeks (all of which were about getting my flat ready for her visit) went a bit awry, and I was left with an unusual three days of a completely blank calendar. This led, as it normally does, to my doing lots of cooking and eating. (My sister and I have just started a cooking blog, visit it here!) This also led to my spending three hours transfixed by the live broadcast of the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert “Rally to Resore Sanity and/or Fear” which was actually and amazingly available to view from the UK. (I say amazingly because the Comedy Central site is one where I normally get the “This video is not available in your country” message on rather frequent occasions.) It was full of American flags and American patriotic songs and hilarious jokes and stunts and lots of good music. No one really knew what the point of the whole thing was, but the Jon Stewart speech at the end of it was amazing and made me really happy.

I lived in the greater Washington D.C. area as a kid, and as a post-doc I was at the University of Virginia while my sister was a grad student at Georgetown and thus I’ve spent a great deal of time in the DC area. I consider that region to be one of my homes in the US, a complementary city/region to my actual home town of Minneapolis. Seeing the rally streaming over my iPad (hooray, the video worked! Must not have been flash…) while I was cleaning, cooking, and otherwise hanging around my flat, was actually a bit tough. I kept getting choked up about the whole thing, which is remarkably silly given how completely silly and apparently (tho’ probably not actually) pointless the whole thing was. It was not a major American patriotic holiday. It was the several-days-eve of a mid-term election, when voter turnout is usually poor. It did come in response to the whole crazy Tea Bagger thing that has caused America much consternation (not to mention dirty jokes–link NSFW!) over the last few months.

The thing that seems to get me the most, as a long-term expat, are the songs. The patriotic songs of America have become a real tear-tipping point for me in the last few years. I don’t know what it is about living away from “home” and never hearing the songs that makes this such an emotional experience. I guess when you’re around things all the time, you get used to them. And when you’re away, you miss them. (Like me and my obsessions with orange cheese-flavored crackers, for instance.) But I ended up watching the “rally” in tears due both to location and to music, and then to just polish myself off as useless for the night, I started perusing you-tube videos of my favorite American song that always makes me sob. Enjoy.

Hollywood

I cannot get this out of my head, and I fully blame Kat (she sent me the link yesterday). What a commentary on America by a Brit (she’s Welsh, for the record)!

Ahh winter

There was a massive winter storm in Minnesota this week, and people are just starting to dig out. Funny that, it makes me nostalgic. I don’t miss the realities of Minnesota winters, but I do miss the romance! I lived most of my pre-England life in really snowy places (Minnesota and Michigan) and when the Christmas songs start playing, I start dreaming of a white Christmas. Even though I am almost never in a white Christmas kind of place these days. Last year in Australia I was definitely not in that place, and I quite enjoyed the cognitive dissonance of being in a sunny clime over the holidays. And seeing a gigantic Christmas Pelican with presents in its beak. And eating Christmas dinner outside by the pool, with freshly grilled fish as the centerpiece.

Now I’m heading for Florida, and I’m guessing there will not be a white Christmas there. I don’t miss the realities of it all, and I quite like that my window is open to air out my flat here in England where it’s been quite temperate. But Christmas really is the season of nostalgia, isn’t it? Dreaming of idyllic childhood holidays and happy times. Bing Crosby dreams and all of that. For this, I think the most appropriate thing I could say is in the lyrics of the Tori Amos song ‘Winter’ which was also my ex-husband’s favorite song of this season. He loved the part about putting hands into the father’s glove. I love this part:

When you gonna make up your mind

When you gonna love you as much as I do

When you gonna make up your mind

Cause things are gonna change so fast

Things do change, so fast. When I was with the ex whose song this was, I had never been to Europe. I’ve now been living in the UK for nearly 10% of my life, which is a scary thing to contemplate. And I’m relatively settled, I have plans for the future and they don’t involve much but continuing on with my current plans and existence. I will have to deal with an application for residency in the next 1.5 years, and I will have to continue to work hard and live up to my foreigner status as a net contributor to the UK economy.

But I’m sure I’ll always feel nostalgic for snow at this time of year, even when I know that a storm such as the one that hit Minnesota would bring my life here to a standstill. I don’t miss owning a house in Minnesota. I don’t miss shoveling the driveway. I don’t miss worrying about parking when Snow Emergencies are declared. What I do miss is the beauty of the snow, the break in time that takes place when things shut down because the weather really is that bad. So I guess I have to learn here in the UK to take a break and enjoy life, Christmas, and the whole thing.

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.

British is classy?