Category Archives: Personal

The World of More

TV is a great thing, isn’t it? Anyone who’s babysat a toddler for more than four hours knows the life saving value of Television. And there’s a great deal of high quality educational fare available for the little ones. I’m convinced my daughter learned to read early by watching Sesame Street and other shows. But as my daughter has grown into tweendom, the quality and range of educational TV shows has rapidly diminished. At the same time, her taste has turned a corner – “Jonas” and “Wizards of Waverly Place” are now in (way in), while “Arthur”, “Reading Rainbow” and “Nova” are out. Seemingly overnight, my daughter has acquired an addiction to the televised equivalent of junk food.

It was with this thought in mind that I recently received a letter from my cable provider (Comcast) telling me that our “expanded basic” cable service, which we’ve had for the past five years, is being phased out and going all digital. What this means in practical terms is that if I want to continue receiving the channels my daughter craves most, I need to upgrade to “Digital Expanded Basic” service, which requires a new set top box for each TV and yet another remote control.

Here are some choice excerpts:

“We at Comcast are enhancing our network…” – and by “enhancing” they mean, of course, taking away our existing service.

“…exclusively in digital format starting on the date listed below, to bring Washington the World of More” – the World of More what?

“You’ll also have access to over 10,000 On Demand titles…” – the real reason surfaces: it’s the World of More Money for Comcast.

The letter goes on to say that if you don’t take action soon, your existing service will disappear and, more urgently, you’ll miss out on the World of More.

My wife and I had already been comtemplating scaling back on our TV service. We’ve reached the conclusion that, when it comes to television, what my daughter really needs is the World of Less. And, amazingly enough, the World of Less is less expensive than the World of More. So it’s a win/win!

And, at no additional cost, we get a free subscription to the World of More Reading.

The Road to Alaska

Yesterday my co-workers kindly threw me a little going away party (or a “leaving do” as the Brits call them). Below is the text of a poem I wrote to mark the occasion. Caveat: it’s chock full of inside jokes and references (e.g. the name of the project is “Alaska”).

The Road to Alaska

I took a trip to Alaska, one February day
But I didn’t have directions to help me find my way.
I checked into the Holiday Inn, from there to Voyager Place
Which sounds like a name for something that comes from outer space.

I spent my first morning there with a guy named Jason Beard
And when we finished talking, things were worse than I had feared.
Jason summarized the job, software geek to geek
Then he gave me a year of work to finish in one week.

“I’ll have to think on that”, I said, “but let’s be very clear:
Usually a year of work takes me about…a year.”
“But you don’t have a year”, he said, his eyes all a-flicker,
“With our British bank holidays, we have to work much quicker”.

So get to work and start a’ codin’ and don’t stop till you’re done.
And if you’re still here in June you might even see the sun.
So off I went to find a desk and chair to call my own.
Thano took some pity on me and offered me a phone.

An Irish guy named Jim stopped by, to help with IN-VIEW
He liked to debug Javascript and drink a beer or two.
He took me under his wing, and became my friend as well.
Since then I’ve moved on, but he’s still in IN-hell.

Simon helped me learn the ropes, with mediator lore.
But he had a knack for vanishing when things went wrong with core.
He’s always up for taking an hour break for tea
He’ll even answers questions while performing surgery.

My sometime desk mate Nigel taught new words to this here yank,
Sophisticated English terms, like “bugger me” and “wank”.
But I got the last laugh on him, which is why today I’m all smiles,
‘cause when he wasn’t looking, I deleted all his files.

One day a big door opened, and Turkish people came
Ersan, Borga, Erdem, and some I still can’t name.
Serdar, Serkan, Deniz, Fatih and Dilek too,
Huzeyfe, Guvenc and Sumeyra, just to name a few.

It’s not easy coming here, they’ve traveled very far,
And one who shall remain unnamed, can’t seem to start a car.
These guys are fun to hang out with, and always on the go.
And they’re easier to understand than most of the Brits I know.

So now my trip is over, my adventure nearly done.
Now I’ll take a little time for playing in the sun.
I’m excited to see two girls I haven’t seen in quite a spell.
But I’m also a little sad to have to say farewell.

I never really made it to Alaska all the way,
I don’t know if we ever will, though I’m hopeful on this day.
With Paul and Ian at the helm, I think we’re on our way,
But remember: the game’s not over till we get the customer to pay!

Twenty Great Songs

A friend recently made me a CD with a sampling of her favorite songs. In attempting to reciprocate, I faced the daunting task of distilling my favorite music into 20 or so tracks. I started by acknowledging there is no such thing as “best” in music or art, which is why I’m calling this list “Twenty Great Songs” and not “The Twenty Greatest Songs” (I’m pompous, but not that pompous).

So this morning I rummaged around my CD collection and iTunes, trying to come up with just the right blend of new and old, mainstream and indie, classic and cutting edge. Each artist is limited to one place on the list. Here’s the result, in no particular order:

  1. “Three County Highway”, Indigo Girls, Despite Our Differences
  2. “In the End”, Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory
  3. “Crazy Mary”, Pearl Jam, Sweet Relief
  4. “Phantom Limb”, The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
  5. “Hurt”, Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around
  6. “Let’s Get It Started”, Black Eyed Peas, Let’s Get it Started
  7. “Karma Police”, Radiohead, Amnesiac
  8. “Hey Ya”, Outcast, Speakerboxxx
  9. “Old Pigweed”, Mark Knopfler, The Ragpicker’s Dream
  10. “When You Were Young”, The Killers, Sam’s Town
  11. “Stratford-on-Guy”, Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
  12. “Reelin In the Years”, Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill
  13. “For the Widowers in Paradise”, Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan
  14. “Meanwhile, Rick James”, Cake, Comfort Eagle
  15. “Weightless”, Nada Surf, Lucky
  16. “When Your Mind’s Made Up”, Glen Hansard, “Once” Soundtrack
  17. “Careful”, Guster, Keep It Together
  18. “Where to Now St. Peter”, Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection
  19. “Passing Afternoon”, Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
  20. “Box of Rain”, Grateful Dead, American Beauty

Scanning this list, I see that I’m a sucker for ballads and I have a decided preference for indie artists. Some readers may wonder where, in god’s name, are the Beatles? All I can say in my defense is a) you try picking just one Beatles song, and b) if you ask me tomorrow, you’ll probably get a completely different list.

Please feel free to add your favorite songs in the comment section below. Now I have go burn a disk or three…

My Mystery Neighbor

This month I’m staying in a flat (that’s an apartment for you yanks) in the upper crusty town of Windsor. I’m quite pleased to be living less than a mile from Her Royal Highness the Queen, although for some reason she hasn’t invited me over yet.  Not to worry, today a co-worker informed me that, in addition to my royal neighbor, there’s another very famous celebrity living a mere 3.5 miles from my front door.

Here’s a satellite image of the estate in question:

Can you guess the name of my famous neighbor? The first one to correctly identify my mystery neighbor in the comments below gets a free subscription to my blog, which is worth, exactly…nothing.

I can’t wait for the next block party.

Learning to Speak English – The Seven Strangest British Sayings

You’ve probably heard the famous George Bernard Shaw quote about America and Britain being “two nations divided by a common language”. Everyone knows the common terminology differences like trunk/boot, elevator/lift, truck/lorry, etc. But after working in the UK for four months, I’ve collected some that you probably haven’t heard – sayings that are commonplace over here but sound genuinely bizarre to my unrefined American ears. 

So, without further ado, here’s my list of the seven strangest things I’ve actually heard people say while living in England:

  1. cock-a-hoop – overjoyed, ecstatic, as in “She’s all cock-a-hoop about that new car”.
  2. faff – fool around, waste time, as in “Stop your faffing about!”.
  3. Bob’s Your Uncle – there you go, there you have it, as in “Take exit 4, turn left and Bob’s Your Uncle!”
  4. donkey’s years – a long time, as in “I haven’t played cricket in donkey’s years”
  5. having kittens – feeling nervous or concerned
  6. trundle – to ride a bicycle
  7. teaching your granny to suck eggs – telling you something you already know

In the interest of cultural exchange, feel free to suggest your favorite Britism (or Americanism) in the blog comments below. But enough faffing about – I’m all cock-a-hoop over today’s weather and it’s been donkey’s years since I’ve had a trundle. Cheerio!

The Hand on My Arm

My daughter, Maya, is growing up too quickly. At some point the little girl who used to love to jump into my arms turned into a sophisticated pre-teen with an aversion to displays of affection, especially toward her father. That’s why the hand on my arm took me by surprise.

It was one of those perfect spring days in Seattle: 70 degrees, sunny and breezy. Maya and I rode the log flume at Seattle Center and played some carnival games. As we walked around the fair grounds together, I felt the little hand on my arm and a brilliant day got even brighter.

The next day, Maya and I walked to the supermarket together and there it was again. Maya knew I was about to leave on a business trip so I imagine that might have had something to do with it. But whatever the reason, once again I felt the indescribable joy of that soft tug on my sleeve. It says to me: “I’m still your little girl”.

As we walked along, I thought about how my father probably felt the same way about me when I was ten and how quickly life passes us by. Someday, that hand will again be on my arm but for a different reason. It will say to me, “Don’t worry Dad, I’ll take care of you”.