Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gone on long enough

This was a bad idea. I admit it. Here are the "answers".

Winners are A. and Soubriquet. Kudos to Mike for at least having an interest. Honorable mention to Adullamite for his abiding love of things English. God bless Frostygirl - I will do South Africa next.

No I won't.

1. Southampton. Titanic Engineers Memorial. (A large number of the crew for the Titanic were from Southampton, so the city was hit hard when she sank in 1912.)

2. Winchester. "Winchester Round Table" in the Great Hall, Winchester Castle. Dating to about 1275.

3. Leeds. One of four golden owl sculptures outside Leeds Civic Hall.

4. Leicester. The Leicester War Memorial Arch in Victoria Park.

5. Birmingham. Statue of Lord Nelson on the Portland plinth. I don't know what that is. I mean I know what a plinth is, but not what the Portland plinth is. Portland cement? Portland, Oregon? What?

6. Coventry. 'Nuff said.

7. Plymouth. The gorgeous interior of the Guild Hall. I think A. said something about being embarrassed. Well, Plymouth is not really that close. Still...

8. Sheffield. The Sheffield Winter Gardens. A major tourist attraction I'm told. At least as told by the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce (or whatever your equivalent of that is.) Obviously not so major as I thought...

9. Newcastle upon Tyne. (I didn't know that was it's official name. I always just called it Newcastle.) The arch to Chinatown, opposite St. James' Park.

10. Liverpool. The turd-like thing on Albert dock. Thank you Soubriquet. Charming. But also known, less informally, as: SuperLambBanana, a well-known sculpture in the Albert Dock area, recently relocated to Tithebarn Street. And the sculptures ARE well known. I think this one has something to do with that sheep (Dolly?) that you evil people cloned. This one is supposed to be crossed with a banana I think. I am not quite up to snuff on Liverpool sculpture, although the Beatles sculptures are nearby. Even Olga the Traveling Bra visited that sculpture area by the docks recently. You can see that here on my friend Claire's blog.

11. Truro. (Cornwall's city). Celtic cross near the Cathedral. A very old Celtic cross I would guess. This is the hardest one of all. But I wanted to include Sage. She never showed up though. Truro is also the home (unless they have moved again) of the Cornwall Pirates (rugby), formerly of Penzance. (Honest to god.) "The Pirates of Truro" somehow doesn't have the same ring to it in these tone-deaf American ears. Sigh. Wake up A. - I'm talking Gilbert and Sullivan here. QED.

12. Bristol. The Nails in Corn Street, "over which trading deals were made." Tea? Slaves? I don't know. The second-hardest one. Now that these have been exposed, I'm sure there will be a run on Bristol. They have a bridge there too, you know. Named after Clifton Chenier. Like you know who Clifton Chenier was. Maybe I will do a post on Famous Bridges of Scotland. Probably not, though.

I am moving on. I have learned my lesson.

Trivia: did you know that the official website for the HMS Victory in Portsmouth gushes on for it's entire home page without telling seekers where the ship is located? Such a job your tourist department is doing for visiting Americans. I am guessing that outsiders (tourists) must not be welcome. Prove me wrong by going to their site and looking for yourself. Maybe they have printed the name of the city too large and I just missed it.

Where are you: phase two

You people are amazing.

Okay, I'll admit that these are not superstar national landmarks like, say, Big Ben or Tower Bridge. But sheesh! They are quite famous. And, if you don't mind a neutral observation, it wouldn't hurt if you would stop feuding North and South and visit each other occasionally. Just sayin'. Like it would KILL a Yorkshire man to be caught after sundown in Cornwall. Anyway.

So here is what I'll do for phase two. I will tell you all the 12 cities. But I still won't match them with the numbers. Or maybe I will. No I won't. At least you can narrow it down. And, frankly (hint #2 here btw) they are 12 of your largest cities and I just looked up some of the famous landmarks in those cities.

And... some of the guesses so far may have been right, maybe not. Okay, Lady Godiva was pretty obvious - an American could've gotten that one for Pete's sake. But I am not telling you the others that may have been right.

And if you try to google I will know it and you will be disqualified.

Here are the cities, but not in correct order by number:

Truro (Cornwall)

Repeat, if you google, you are nothing but slime.

Why do I think you aren't going to do any better?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do you know where you are?

Where in England are you? That's the name of this "game."

A while back I did a post with pictures of well-known American landmarks. It was a bust. A few of you were able to identify things like the U.S. Capitol, Niagara Falls, stuff like that. None of you knew them all. Not even the Americans, as I recall.

This time it will be your turf. All the following pictures are in England. But they are hard. At least I think they are hard. Some are harder than others, of course. If you don't travel much, you are probably not going to get them all. And they are not super famous ones like I used in the American version of this game.

All you have to do is name the city that the object in the picture is located in. You don't even have to name the object itself to get credit.

Look at the numbered pictures below and give you answers in a comment. If you can't get them, I will come up with an easier version. Americans can play too, but I'm pretty sure you won't get any. Unless you've not only lived in England but also traveled a lot. Let's see what you know. Who can name all 12 cities?

Friday, November 28, 2008

QE2 to begin new life as floating hotel

(AP) Britain's most famous luxury cruise ship, the Queen Elizabeth 2, arrived to Dubai on Wednesday to begin a new life as a floating hotel moored off an artificial island.

More than 60 naval vessels and private boats, led by a mega-yacht owned by Dubai's ruler, met the 70,000 ton ship in the Persian Gulf on Wednesday.

In the city's Rashid port, the legendary cruise ship was greeted by Dubai Police's marching band and fireworks.

In 40 years at sea, the luxury liner traveled 6 million miles, carried 2.5 million passengers and crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times.

"For QE2, we believe that life really does begin at 40," said Manfred Ursprunger, the chief executive of Nakheel's QE2 Enterprises, in charge of the ship's transformation.

Ursprunger said it will take two to three years to redesign the ship and make it into a hotel with dozens of rooms, several restaurants, a performance theater and a spa.

Some of the cruiser's famous quarters, like The Queen's Room, The Captain's Quarters and The Bridge will be preserved in its original form.

The ship's owner, Cunard, sold QE2 last year to a state-run conglomerate Dubai World for about $100 million.

Nakheel, a Dubai-based developer and part of Dubai World, plans to dock QE2 along Dubai's artificial, palm-shaped island.

Queen Elizabeth II, herself, launched the QE2 in 1967. Since it went into service in 1969, the QE2 has made at least 26 round-the-world voyages and weathered a 95-foot wave during an Atlantic hurricane.

In 1982, it was requisitioned as a troop carrier for the Falklands War that Britain fought against Argentina.

QE2 left Southampton, U.K. on Nov. 11 for her last journey to Dubai. It sailed for 16 days to its retirement spot in the Gulf via Lisbon, Rome and the Egyptian port of Alexandria.

On Thursday, Cunard will formally handover the ship's ownership to Nakheel, an arm of the Dubai World conglomerate.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

From our family to yours, we wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bosque del Apache

Some photographs of migratory bird habitat, Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve, Near Socorro, New Mexico. Click on any photo to enlarge.

(Above) Cranes (click to enlarge)

(Above) Marshland, ducks in water in background (click to enlarge)
(Above) Snow Geese. The darker ones are Canada Geese. (Click to enlarge)

(Above) Lagoon/Marshland. Ducks in left background (click to enlarge)
All photos by Tom Osburn (Relax Max). 22 November, 2008.

Before and after

Does the job of President of the USA take it's toll? Judge for yourself. Why would anyone want this job?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Love Can Build A Bridge

Beggars Bridge, Glaisdale, Yorkshire. Click to enlarge.

A good friend of this blog
once wrote the story of how his parents came to be married. His father was a working man, a miner, below the station of his mother and her father intimated it wouldn't be wise to ask for her hand in marriage until he had made something of himself financially. Working in the mines just wouldn't do. The story of how he traveled the world and found his fortune was very interesting to read. In the end, he won the fair maiden and our friend was one of the results of this happy ending.

A similar story unfolded four hundred years ago, in Yorkshire instead of Wales. Poor man loves girl in wealthier family and her father is not keen on her lover. Lover makes good and comes back and marries her.

Like Relax Max's puppeteer, this young man's name was also Tom, so there is a secondary interest here. There is a legend that the poor boy, on the eve of his departure to seek his fortune, went to tell the young lady he was going, but was unable to do so because the river Esk was at flood stage and he couldn't cross. Well, this legend neglects to mention there was a bridge not far from the spot, Duck's bridge, but legends of love sometimes require the suspension of mere facts; so let's forget the other bridge and just say the unfortunate suitor couldn't get across the raging river that night.

Later, when he returned to Glaisdale a much wealthier man, he not only married the fair maiden, but also built a bridge across the Esk at the spot he had been unable to cross that night. So goes the legend.

This was in 1619. The young man's name was Tom Ferris, his love's name was Agnes Richardson, and the name of the bridge he built (some say rebuilt) was (and is) called Beggars Bridge (or Beggar's Bridge, depending on which story you read.) It is not far from Whitby, of earlier post fame on this blog.

Whitby, Glaisdale, Beggars Bridge, Yorkshire. And our friend's blog name, whose true story at the beginning of this post inspired this little account, is Soubriquet. His very interesting blog is highly recommended reading.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Today in Dallas, 45 years ago.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, descendent of Irish immigrants, son of a U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, war hero, Pulitzer Prize winner, 35th president of the United States of America, youngest person to be elected to the office of President, one of only two people ever to ascend to the presidency directly from the U.S. Senate. (There has since been a third, Obama.)

Assassinated on this date in Dallas, Texas, 1963.

JFK Museum, Hyannis, MA, July 2008, Photo: Tom Osburn. Click to enlarge.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Back in the USSR. You don't know how lucky you are... (Beatles. Sorry.)

The last time I made a post about the European Union, trying to find out a few basic facts, I mostly got comments, instead, about your irritation with the thing. Something about bent bananas and cucumbers. I took that to mean you felt the bureaucracy was a bit top-heavy. To say the least. And other things.

So this time I won't bother you with questions of its structure. Instead, tell me why it is a bad idea for the UK to be a part of the thing.

For example, you have to use Euros instead of pounds sterling now, right?

Just kidding. (But I did think you did a lot of business in Euros before I got set straight last time.) Only internationally on the Euros, right?

The system, like some other things in life, is one of those things that seems good on paper, on the surface, but isn't really that great in real life. Tell me what else besides bent bananas (and other misshapen fruit) that irritates you. Or that you like, for that matter.

Then I will tell you how much Americans love NAFTA. You've probably never heard of it. Not the same thing. But kind of.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Special loyalty award to A.

Britishspeak has never given an award before, for reasons that should probably be kept to ourselves. So this first one is special.

We give this award to A. for her long-term work in helping to preserve and advance the respect of the royal family. As has been stated before, A. shows no outward preferences, but those close to her know of her secret admiration for prince Harry, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, his brother Wills.

A., as many of you know, is the founder and life president of the "I Love Our Royals" fan club, Hampshire chapter. In addition, she is also selfless in placing flowers at the palace gates every second month, on behalf of the fan club.

Congratulations, A. This award is special because it was overseen and approved by her majesty (a long-time admirer of this blog) in person.* We are happy to present it to you and trust you will display it with the pride you so richly deserve.

Please click on the picture of this award, top, in order to properly marvel at it in its life-size magnificence. 

*This statement should not be construed to mean that the queen has actually overseen, approved, or even heard of this award.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Americana. Last of the red hot hoochie mamas. Or not. Read this anyway.

This blog seems to go in cycles. Right now I am on an American gig I guess. I will soon return to trying to inform myself (and perhaps other Americans) about things British, instead of vice versa. But please try to endure one more American-to-British post. Thank you.

Incidentally, I guess I should warn you that this is going to be a very long post indeed. But you don't have to read it all. :)

If you are watching your TV news from outside the USA (or inside it for that matter, I suppose) you will be left with the impression that what Native Americans do mostly is protest their terrible treatment and stage marches to protest the Columbus Day holiday.

To be sure, there are many protests and reasons to protest, and many, many historical examples of terrible things that happened, but to assume that all Native Americans are constantly being mistreated and protesting that mistreatment would not really be a true picture of how things are in the USA today at all.

This post is not about the vocal protesters, but about the average Joe Indian living on the Rez today. And, I hope, a little bit of how highly I hold the average hard-working Native American in esteem.

I live in what we locals call "Indian Country." In fact, for longer than most can remember, my little border town where I live has been known as "The Indian Capital of the World." By us at least. Heh. People living in India would probably differ.

Having said that, I suppose I should pause a moment and tell new readers that this blogger doesn't live in India. He (I am a "he") lives in a place called Gallup, in the USA's 47th state, New Mexico, in a region called "The Four Corners." Our license plates say "New Mexico USA" and we are probably the only state that has to put the "USA" part there. Even our neighboring states of Arizona and Texas often call us Mexico, leaving off the "new" part. Go figure. If we weren't here holding them apart, they would be smack up against each other. But I will admit that "New Mexico" is rather an oxymoron, being neither new nor Mexico.

Our license plates also say "Land Of Enchantment." Because we are, that's why. Much better than "Grand Canyon State" or "Lone Star State" don't you think? Of course you do. Not that we don't get along with our neighbors. But it would be nice to be able to order merchandise from California on the computer without them trying to add foreign postage to our order.

Please note that there are several zillion variations available in each state, depending on what cause you support, what university you attended, whether you have been awarded the Purple Heart and ad infinitum. I just chose these for quick examples. Enjoy. Marvel. The only thing all states seem to have in common, I think, is that politicians seem to always get them for free. And to assure you we don't have a national license plate. Or spell it with 2 Cs.

New Mexicans love Texans, too. Or at least we love their tourist money. Don't laugh — if you lived in Texas, you'd spend your vacation in New Mexico, too, right? Of course. Texans love to ski. Or at least they like to dress up in designer sunglasses and thousand-dollar ski-bunny suits and come bleed all over our mountains. Some cynics have even speculated that "If God had intended Texans to ski, he would have given them a decent mountain."

The wind blows a lot in New Mexico. At least visitors think so. Natives know the truth: Texas sucks. Ta DUM da. How good it is to write mainly to a British and South African audience: Americans groan at these old jokes, but you, the chronically uninformed on most things Texan, think they are new and fresh, and that I am a very sharp wit indeed. Even the few Canadians who stumble by are for the most part impressed. Not hard to impress though, that lot.

I am not quite sure how I have drifted this far afield from my intended subject ("Average everyday Native Americans", for those of you just now joining us) but those of you who follow this blog on a regular basis know (or think you know; you are mostly crazy) that I start out by making up a title for my post and then start writing. If I find that I do not really know anything about the title subject, as is often the case, I will continue writing anyway. It would be a shame to waste a good post title, after all.

Chapter Two.

The "Four Corners" region of the USA is so-called because it has four corners. By God. Which is to say it is the only place in the USA where 4 states come together, so neatly in fact, that you can stand on one foot and be in four states at the same time. I don't mean YOU personally, it was just a manner of speaking.

Like most things around here, the actual Four Corners is located where the Native Americans can charge you to see it if they want. Usually they want. I am not quite sure why tourists like to drive so far out into the desert just have their pictures taken standing in 4 states at once, but I'm sure the Indians do thank you for your interest (read: "stupidity") and so do we in little border towns who thrive on tourist dollars and Uncle Sam's welfare checks.

Europeans (Germans especially, for some reason) seem drawn to Indian Country, and (Germans again) seem to also like to have their pictures taken standing on one foot on the concrete 4 corners "monument". They also like to dress up like fake Indians with white faces in "authentic", heh, made-in-China costumes, and have their pictures taken again. Which is fine with the real Indians watching the Germans from their pickup trucks, wearing (made in the USA) Stetsons (or Resistols) and Wrangler jeans and Roper boots. As long as that bogus Chinese stuff is purchased from them, then it is okay.

Where was I?

Chapter Three

(Caution: the real post starts here.)

The "average" Native American (if there is such a thing) dresses like everybody else around here dresses and likes to do the same sorts of things everybody else likes to do. Sorry for that bit of culture shock.

In other words, American Indians dress like cowboys if they are ranchers, blue collar workers if they are that, office workers with suits and ties (usually bolo ties, though) if they are office workers or executives, anything they feel like wearing if they are silversmiths, and in polo shirts if they happen to be on the golf course.

Indians in my little part of the world like to go to fairs, eat junk food, ride bulls at rodeos, play and watch sports, sip Bud Light, disparage George Bush, watch hot air balloons, participate in community affairs, donate to charities, talk trash, go dancing, watch mud bogs, teach school, nurse the sick at hospitals, and disparage George Bush again.

They also enjoy Ceremonial events and Pow Wows, and traveling as a family to those events around the country. That is likely the only time you will see them dressed in any clothes that are accessorized with eagle feathers. But when they do have on their traditional dress, man, bring the camera 'cause they are feckin' gorgeous.

And, no offense, but they will NEVER like you as much as they love their incredibly beautiful appaloosa horses. Just a fact, so don't be hurt.

You will never have a better neighbor than a Native American. If you get your truck stuck in the red mud on the Rez, they will get out of bed and come pull you out. If you come upon them at mealtime, you will be fed. At least you will be fed if you don't mind eating mutton. Just kidding. If you are walking along the road, they will give you a ride. And they don't pay much attention to the color of your skin.

Again, I am not writing this to make you think all is well in America, and that there are no Native Americans who are marching and protesting about past and present abuses. There are plenty. And Native Americans do indeed suffer from alcoholism and diabetes and high unemployment and general poverty. But I am about to tell you something you may not have known, even Americans who don't interact with Native Americans don't know this:

American Indians are some of the most loyal and patriotic Americans who live in this broad country of ours. Bar none. When there is a war, they are among the first to sign up. Always have been. When there is a flag to be carried in a parade, they will carry it. When the colors are posted at the beginning of a rodeo, they are on their feet. When the national anthem is played, their cowboy hats are in their hands.

You see, Native Americans have a strong sense of place, of home, and loyalty to that place that is home, and to the mother earth that home sits on. Their home wasn't always called America. But it is now, and they w
ill kick your ass if you try to do something against that home called America. And if America needs them to fight for that home, then they go sign up. Case closed.

It was the Navajo and Hopi Codetalkers that baffled the Japanese in the Pacific in WWII with their codes consisting of their native languages coupled with a simple substitution encryption. Their code was never broken. And today, in my little town, we are lucky to still have a few of them to honor at our veteran celebrations each year, but they are growing old now, and their ranks are thinner each year. Read about our Native American Codetalkers.

With modern changes, American women now serve in combat rather than simply in support roles. The first American female soldier to die in combat, was a Native American mother, a Hopi named Lori Piestewa. This at the start of the Iraq war. That's Lori in the picture below this line. You can read more about Lori and her friend Jessica Lynch.
Why did Lori even join the army? Partly it goes to what I wrote above. Here is what Hopi Tribal Chairman Wayne Taylor, Jr. said at the opening of a new exhibit at the women's Memorial in Arlington, Virginia: "It should not be limited to this day, or times of conflict and war, but it should be recognized and observed in some fashion every day. We need to be daily reminded that it is the contribution of our veterans which gives us the opportunity to live freely."

Taylor said after Lori Piestewa was killed in action, the most frequently asked question on the Hopi reservation was: "Why did Lori join the Army?"

"Many have speculated and derived their own answers," Taylor noted. "Perhaps it was because she followed in the legacy of those before her – her father, a Vietnam veteran, and her grandfather, a World War II veteran.

"Maybe it was because of early ROTC involvement," he said. "Only Lori could give us the answer. Whatever the reason, the question should not be why did she, but rather, why is it strange for her to?"

I was reading my home town paper today and it occured to me that showing you a page of that paper would help you get a better feel for what I am talking about. On this page, there appeared the following:

1. A picture of some Native American (and non-Indian) children (first-graders, mainly aged 6) singing the National Anthem, practicing for a program they are putting on for area veterans on Veterans' Day a few days ago.

2. Some local news and announcement snippets.

3. Some obituaries, one of which I will show here.

4. The weather information for yesterday. Just because you wanted to know why I am freezing out here at night.

All of these are meant simply to show you the general flavor of the somewhat unusual place this bloggers lives. You can laugh if you want to, I don't mind. You will have to click on the pictures in order to get them large enough to read.

I love the below picture of the first graders practicing the National Anthem for the veterans. I fell in love with the little girl as soon as I saw her. I don't know who she is but I fell in love with her. [Apache Elementary School, Farmington, NM, 10 Nov. 2008] Click to enlarge.
There is some ink bleed-through on these pictures due to the thin paper. Sorry.

The illustration below is simply some local news bits, or announcements, that appeared in the paper yesterday. I show this simply to give you an idea of some of the things that are important to Native people (and the rest of us) in this area. We are perhaps different in our interests than city people. My favorite announcement is circled in red. Click to enlarge.
Below is an obituary that appeared on this same page. Note that it is often customary to list the deceased's mother and father's clans, if the deceased is Native American. Click on it to make it large enough to read.
The picture below just shows the local weather yesterday. Again, click on the picture if you want to see it larger.
You can learn a little more about where I live by clicking here.

Thank you for your attention, such as it was.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Tagged today by the almost inscrutable and always mysterious Candy for my week's thoughts. For almost indescribable delights, go Inside Candy and be prepared for something you really can't prepare for. I don't usually respond to meme tags but the mere flattery of having momentarily flitted across Candy's near unfathomable brain synapses rendered me incapable of resistance. But I think the following are actually my own thoughts.

Word for the week in my head: Ecclesiastes, "The Preacher" - Alias of King Solomon...

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to reap
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to weep and a time to laugh
 A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
A time to get and a time to lose
A time to keep and a time to cast away;
A time to rend and a time to sew
A time to keep silence and a time to speak
A time to love and a time to hate
A time of war and a time of peace.

Thought for the week in my head: By changing the inner attitudes of my mind, I can change the outer aspects of my life.

Thing for the week in my life: Self-control. To stop sweating the small stuff. And to remember in the larger scheme of things, it Is ALL small stuff.

Song for the week in my head: City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie

All along the southbound odyssey...the train pulls out of Kankakee...
Rolls along past houses, farms, and fields.
Passin’ trains that have no names, and graveyards full of old black men,
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good mornin’ America! How are you?
Say, don’t you know me? — I’m your Native Son!
I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans,
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games... with the old man in the club car...
Penny a point, ain't no one keepin' score.
There's the paper bag that holds the bottle...
Feel the wheels, rumblin' 'neath the floor.

Night time on the City of New Orleans,
Changin' cars in Memphis Tennessee.
Halfway home, we'll be there by mornin'.
Through the Mississippi darkness,
Rollin' down to the sea...

(Well, you know ... :)

Food for the week in my belly: Chimichangas. Made with loving hands by someone who cares about me.

Colour for the week in my life: Gray. Skies. Snow already. Gone now though. I do like autumn.

Smile for the week on my face is: Trying to imagine Obama handling wars, economy, and people yelling at him when he screws up. Will he retreat into his shell like Bush when the rotten tomatoes start flying? Time will tell. But the hopeless look on his face as his hair gets gray and he morphs into dubya II will be interesting. God help us, though.

Blessing for the week in my heart: A very special friend, very far away.
Tagging: is voluntary. YOU are invited.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome home to A.

There is no better friend to this blog than the lady who styles herself simply as "A". She noticed me the very first day I started this blog, I think, and has stuck by me ever since. There is no post I have made that is too baffling or asinine that she won't comment on it. Those of you who have (for whatever reason) been following this blog have come to know A., enjoyed her wit, and respected her intelligence.

But A. is a mystery to most of us. Perhaps even an enigma. What do you really know of her, other than she IS a "her" and that she is obviously well-traveled and pretty smart? Nothing, that's what. And that's the way she wants to keep it. You see, A. has been running from the law for almost 15 years now.

Stop. If I am going to do a tribute to my friend A., I must learn to stop lying. Obviously, she has not been, is not, running from the law. She is just a very private person. But I have learned a thing or two about her - after all, I have been stalking her just as long as she has been following this blog. Frankly, I have learned a hell of a lot more about her than I am going to share with YOU in this post, but I will share a few things you may not know, just to tease you. Here are a few of those juicy facts.

A. grew up in Africa during her formative years. Ha! Bet you didn't know that! In fact, A. is the only friend in the world I have who has ever had malaria. I cherish that. (Her father was a doctor, and luckily for us she recovered.)

A. makes her home in the South of England, but has lived quite a few places in the United Kingdom, including Scotland. But - and here I spill the beans a bit - A. is NOT English. No. A. is an Irish lass, born and bred. Irish as in... um... Ireland. But still British. A story for another day.

A spends a good part of the year in France, where she has a home by a very pretty river, and from where she sends us gorgeous photographs. She is a good enough photographer to make money at it, although she would probably poo-poo that idea.

A. attended university in Liverpool. Biology. She's very smart. But now she earns her living translating things from French into English.

I'm not going to tell you any more than that right now. If you know her at all, you know how good she is at presenting photo essays. So I will try to do one here, just to make myself look inept. Which I am, compared to her.

Those of you who live in the UK probably noticed how extra sunny and fresh it was when you woke up this morning.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief that our dear friend has survived yet another incursion into the enemy camp.

As an American, I assure you I have nothing against the French. May God strike me down if... if... if... ARRRRGHHHH!!!

I take that back! I swear I will tell the truth from now on! Oh, God! Henceforth I will treat the French with.... and respe...ack ack ack...respect. Yes! I see the light!

Such an intelligent people! Even the five year olds are running around speaking perfect French! ack ack...

In almost all other respects... save her constant disrupting of this blog... A. is an intelligent, well-traveled and considerate individual.

But she lives in Fr..Fr..France half the year! Holy Hornswoggler!

She even has a home there! Please help me pray for her! (A. is very religious - a vicar once married her in fact, though she is not married to a vicar now.) Pray that she will find the strength to overcome this sickness, this addiction, to all things French. Most things French. Some things French. Ok, wine and bread.

But she is home in England again as I write this. Although no telling how long she will stay this time.

France is well-known for.... what?... world-class cuisine and backwards-running soldiers? But what fine food does our little A. eat as she departs? Some sort of French imitation of American moose chili. Peeeeeyuck! And then she boards the ferry for a cool 6+ hour trip across the channel in choppy seas - and spends the entire time hanging over the rail puking out her French-subverted guts.

Of course she won't admit to anything of the sort, because spending so much of her life in France has turned her into quite the little liar. But I think we all know the truth: Puke puke puke all the way home to England, leaving a trail of Franco-American chili chum in her wake.

Ah well.

But at least she is back, living in the shadow of Winchester Cathedral (more or less) where she belongs. Far from good food and fine wine, back in the land of gourmet fish and chips. Urp.

Welcome home. For a few weeks anyway. Until the wanderlust spirits you away again to some far corner of the world. Or France again. Sigh.

Thank God for the internet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Secret Service code names

The U.S. Secret Service, the agency charged with protecting the President and his family (and other important government officials) has chosen the code names for the new first family, we are told. The code names all will start with the letter "R".

The new president will be referred to as "Renegade" by the Secret Service.

The new first lady (a woman of many talents) will be called "renaissance."

Daughter Malia Obama will be code-named "Radiance."

And little sister Sasha Obama will be "Rosebud."


Vice President Biden will continue to be known simply as "That asshole from Delaware."


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