Tuesday, 29 April 2008


So, the luggage arrived at the Residence Inn in White Plains (highly recommend -- excellent decor and very clean, except for the shady elevators), and the weekend was over too quickly but was relaxing. Sometimes it is nice not to do anything earth-shatteringly fanatastic :)

It has come to my attention that my site is not actually New York and New Jersey, but Neuvo Mexico without the cacti. I have never seen so many signs everywhere with the big words in Spanish and the little subtext in English. This is interesting and fun for my brain, since I can practice my espanol, but it is just bizarre.

Sunday, went to Grace Episcopal downtown, just a few block from my temp abode (and the opposite direction from Macy's), and the service was a bilingual service since they have reached some outreach funding goal. It was actually the coolest service, and I still feel ashamed for having the fleeting thought that maybe it was not the church I should go to as I turned the corner and saw a non-Anglo going in the front door (you kind of learn your place and not to cross out of it in the South, although I have always been one for not staying in the lines). I was definitely in the minority (probably 85% black and hispanic), but it was truly an amazing experience and more welcoming than many other places of 'worship' I have been in.

It is kind of comforting in an odd sort of way to be where your accent doesn't make people do a double-take. If you continue a conversation with them, you can see them being oh-so-polite and waiting an appropriate length of time before they ask it -- 'Where are you from?' -- even though it is the onliest thing they want to know about you (they do not really care what you think about the weather or your opinion of Gordon Brown). It is kind of funny, because you can actually see the question festering behind their facade of normal conversation in a sort of telepathic subtext. If I pre-empt the question with the answer (as in, 'When I was growing up in Louisiana, we used to raise rodeo chickens...'), they look all alarmed and try to pretend like they had no query of any sort in that conversational direction (I learnt to enjoy messing with people's brains from my mama, although she is MUCH better at it. There is so much to learn!). Of course, sometimes people DO do a double-take when I am working and don't respond to initial queries in a British accent, but I mean in everyday normal stuff (like shopping at Macy's).

New Things that also make me happy in the US:
* trains clang (as in, 'Clang, clang, clang went the trolley' kind of clanging)
* there are PLUGS in the bathroom! (I am so sick of having to do my hair in the bleeding kitchen -- I mean, there is water THERE, too.... it is my hypothesis that the entire UK's fire sensibility has been formed by 1666, but honestly, most people have learnt by now that it is not a smart move to dry your hair or iron whilst in the bath or shower. We should move on!)
* hotels have Jolly Ranchers in the little welcome bowl on the front desk!

New Things that vex me in the US:
* NY metro 'signs'
* cell phone companies. They are evil b-----ds. Calling your own voicemail costs YOU minutes. Calling THEIR customer service costs YOU minutes. Receiving calls costs EVERYONE minutes.
* taking street walking directions from Americans. Do not do this. Americans do not walk, therefore there is apparently no difference between 'the next traffic light' and 'the fourth traffic light down the road' (those three in between are particularly tricksy and sometimes invisible). You will probably become lost. People are also going to look at you funny if your destination is more than 2 minutes walk away.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Port of Entry

In all actuality, I did make it home from the five pubs (despite vicious rumours to the contrary) and have been unable to blog due to: a) a severe time shortage, b) a few idiot computer problemos, c) a loss of will and d) a lack of mental balance for getting everything done that needed doing. It is sad, though, because several blogs were stifled (and have now suffocated) during that time; you see, I do compose in my head when something absurd happens, so I am kind of telepathically communicating with my glorious readers all the time :) It is a shame that one cannot telepathically blog, as it would get the stuff out of my head. But the chastisement has worked, so here ya go!

Things that have occurred over the past 20 days:
* My hair has been cut slightly;
* went to a wedding in a castle (Caerphilly Castle, to be precise);
* E has obtained an electric organ for £8;
* it actually fit through his front door (he told it to breathe in as they went through apparently);
* it does not appear to make sound;
* have said, 'Hasta la vista' to my friend, Liz (I think she will get her own blog);
* have planned trips for myself, one colleague, and a bosses boss;
* have skinned my knee;
* have fitted one suitcase inside another for transit to the US (sneaky Bruner);
* and a bunch of other things that I cannot remember because my memory seems to be taking a 5 year sabbatical.

Anyhoo, it has been a manic month (it is too bad it wasn't March, because the alliteration would have been much more effective).

However 10% (almost) of it was spent getting across the pond, so maybe that can be an excuse. This does not include 'getting ready time'. This was actual travel time. And KLM should be beaten. Well, maybe not...

So, I left my clever LUSH bag at my tiny abode at about 9.57am on Thursday (in the fruit basket if not mistaken -- it was supposed to be put in my pocket and taken out post-security for my book and knitting since the 'safety' fascists think it is in some way making you safer to not let you carry a personal item AND a carry-on, regardless of the size of the single item -- WHO sits around and thinks of these arbitrary rules? 100ml, 1 bag, 1 brain. Soon, they will probably decide that only one kidney is allowed for travel, as it might disturb other passengers -- both lung are okay, since they are just full of hot air. But I digress...). Anyhoo, I was early outside and beat the taxi (woo hoo!); and then the tootle towards the States, or maybe it should be saunter towards the States, began.

Firstly, the taxi driver rather had me do a tuck-and-roll out the car since Norwich Airport now charges for any stay over 5 minutes in their car park (since the Edinburgh bombing, there is supremely logically no curbside anymore...). Money grubbing eediots.

Check-in went okay, except for the part where she couldn't check me in for the Amsterdam to Newark flight. Full significance of this became apparent as the flight backed away from the gate without me a few hours later. As I watched bemused (but at the same time happy not to be on the crap Northwest Airlines plane).

My flight arrived in Amsterdam with an hour to get to my next flight, but THEY had oversold the flight and at the end 11 of us were left in the red-headed step-child waiting area, pretty much SOL. As the only non-Dutch speaker (I must learn that language, because you get words like nixt), I was a little behind in figuring out what was being sorted for all of us, although was pretty fairly happy about it all since I ended up a) one of the 5 lucky ones who actually travelled that day, b) with a cash remuneration (!), and c) in Business Class on the Paris to JFK leg! (I heart Business Class).

To careful readers, two discrepancies may have been noted:
* a mention of Paris, which is not a suburb of Amsterdam
* the naming of the WRONG airport in NYC

But, no. Neither of these things are due to the fogging of my brain.

Myself and the two lucky couples made it onto the AirFranch Amsterdam to Paris flight, which then decided to depart 15 minutes late. This was tricksy since there was a 50 minute gap between landing at Charles de Gaulle and departing therefrom. We did however, get a marvelous little snack of smoked salmon on brown bread and a tiny roll with Boursin-type cheese in it -- the French really do know how to feed you.

Upon arrival, and once the slowcoaches started moving off the plane in Paris, about half the people made it from the gangway into the terminal, before the glass doors at the terminal locked. So, there was a solid glassed (except for the floor; don't be daft) gangway of people trying to get into the terminal and people inside the terminal all staring from other floors -- must have been so entertaining for them.

Finally a nice Air France man came and let the cattle out, at which point my sprint began (with 30 minutes and counting). Fortunately, one of the couples caught up with me, so the three of us flailed about Terminals F and E trying to figure out how to read French signage (it is really interesting how even the patterns of directional placement are completely indecipherable in a foreign country -- and just wait til I get to NY metro stations...). We were laughed at by soldiers, we sat on a stationary train for 3 minutes, I was told that I was late as I panted up to the final securite (Vrrrrrrrraiment? I had no idea, but was just running for my vascular health before such a long flight. Putan.).

Upon arriving to the gate about7 minutes before scheduled departure, I discovered a queue of about 250 people. But at least that gave my sweat glands the chance to slow down before getting onto the plane.

Have I mentioned that I heart Business Class? Well, Bear does as well. It gives him room to stretch his tiny legs and not have such bad cramps in his lower back muscles. Of course, I could go on and on, but it is un-Christian to make people envious. Bienvenue a bord!

After a magnificently pleasant flight, we took a lovely driving tour of JFK airport. I swear we drove around the whole airport and crossed several major highways before getting to the gate. Customs and baggage clearance was Super Speedy, due not only to the efficiency of the nice ICE official but also to the welcoming presence of my name in red eraseable marker on a nice big board, which meant that my bag seemed 'unfortunately to still be in Amsterdam'. Or Paris... does it matter?

The good thing was that I didn't have to drag my suitcase onto a train (or four) or to a Rutgers university visit yesterday.

The negative thing was that I had to wear the same clothes and no makeup.

Another good thing is that I now am the Proud Owner of my very own SkyTeam t-shirt made in China (as part of the consolation prize from the Air France baggage desk). Permission was also given for me to spend 100 euros on stuff (I wonder if that includes yarn).

Next (although some of you may have nodded off by now), my skill at estimating accurate cab fare was proven by the $150 + tolls + tip to go from JFK to Iselin, NJ [which I had specifically selected as it was between Newark (that place to which I was supposed to arrive 5 hours earlier) and New Brunswick (where my Friday a.m. appointment was)]. This took about an hour, and the cab driver was terribly nice although he was a total Low Talker made even worse by the fact that the windows were down (meaning that I had to say, 'Eh?' everytime he said anything), and I had to buy a $7.00 turkey sandwich snack bag when I arrived at the Hilton.

One interesting thing: The cab driver said that when he visited England, he was struck by the fact that there are so few trees... and you know, he is right! It is something I haven't really consciously missed, but now that I look around here, there are really sooooooo many trees.

After recounting this, I am now tired and shall have to take a nap. I mean, I WAS up at 6.10am this morning... The tale shall be resumed after my afternoon shopping expedition (depending on the state of the little toe which I think I have broken by slamming it into a sneaky wall).

Saturday, 5 April 2008

First Friday Five

Fortuitously, NOT held in Terminal 5...

(in case this news has not made it into the headlines of the ArkLaTex -- perhaps not being as unusual as a shooting in Shreveport, as shocking as a drug deal in Doyline, or as thrilling as the Poke Salad Festival in Blanchard [hey, guess what we're gonna do for Daddy's birthday this year! yeeeee haw!] -- there has been a little kerfuffle in UK air transport since the dramatic opening of Heathrow's new terminal. The one called '5'. It had nothing to do with Naomi, but that child needs to get her temper under control.

On the first day of opening, Thursday 28 March , something happened with employees not being able to get to their work stations from the car parks -- dozens of flights were cancelled. Baggage systems, computer systems, common sense have been failing at a rapid pace ever since. Flights have been cancelled every day subsequent, leading to more than 15,000 lost bags by Sunday 31 March, in addition to the 54 + 12 = 66 flights scheduled for that day cancelled as well. By 2 April, there were 19,000 lost bags.

The extremely humourous thing that follows here is that some bright spark decided that the solution to this mammoth baggage problem was... to... wait for it -- FLY all the unsorted luggage to MILAN to sort it out and then return to the owners. Pardonez moi? Now [and this is going to be extremely nationalistically prejudiced], I love the Milanese persons whom I have met and lived with; I have no problem with them being in charge of assisting the world with attire, shoes, or coffee. But organising things? For the country whose people's perfected contribution is looking supreme whilst zipping around on their Vespas and casually 'Ciao!'-ing everyone they need to impress... Personally, I think this would have been much better hired out to the Germans :)

Just 42 minutes ago, The Press Association reports more computerised baggage system problems today, although only 7 BA flights have been cancelled for today.)

... Anyhoo, that was a tangent and a half. Much more than my usual singular tangent.

Last night was the First Friday Five, which is the Norwich and Norfolk CAMRA group's investigation of 5 'real ale' pubs at the beginning of each month. The group stays at each pub for approximately 40 minutes. It is quite important to keep up with these things, you know. Life is nothing if not a learning experience.

The walk started at The Coach and Horses, on Bethel Street. This is a lovely place, with loads more room than many other pubs. It is also a restaurant and appears to cater to the theatre crowd. It was clean and tidy, with a fairly stocked games area for kids and easily amused adults; however, one might think that if you, as the owner or manager of a pub, expected a significant turnout from the Real Ale Geek Squad, you might attempt to have more than 2 of your 4 handpumps actually have something to pull from (the route is published in a magazine ahead of time, so... duh). Since the purpose of the 'real ale' club is not to drink beers dispensed on gas (of which they had rather a larger selection), I had Old Speckled Hen.

Since E and i are relatively new to the group, we don't have the buddy build-up at the beginning yet, so we stood off in a doorway and talked amongst ourselves, until it was almost time to move on. Then a nice guy came over to us and said, 'Are you here to be with us?' to which the reply was affirmative, and we all moved on in a sociable group.

E says the actual subtext was kind of like this:

Guy: 'Hi. Are you two wierd?'

E: 'Yes. Yes, we are.'

Guy: 'Okay! Let's be friends!'

Our next stop was Bar Marzano, in the Forum. This is where I go to knitting a) when I go to knitting and b) when the people from knitting actually sit with me if I am there early instead of going off and making a whole 'nother group, which ever so slightly rankles... This was not terribly exciting and there are no pictures. I had an Aspall's Cider -- this is looovely!

Next, there was a bit o' confusion, since the next pub on the list hasn't actually re-opened yet (see, the windows are still shoe-polished out). The Vine is reportedly the smallest pub in Norwich and vies for 'Smallest Pub in Britain' with The Nutshell in Bury-St-Edmunds.

Some people went to The Garnet Wolsey, but the afficionados we were with refused to go in as pints were £3.25 (an outrage). So, this motely crew went to The Walnut Shades. When I walked in, I swore I was in either Austin or Kilgore.

Most of the signs on the walls are from the US; there is a Florida license plate. There are neon beer signs. And there was jukebox-type music. There is some guy playing next week who calls himself Texas THUNDER. Hmmmmm.
I did not have a Coors, but a Straw Dog.

From here, it was the home stretch. Literally, since St. Andrew's is on the way to my cosy abode :)

St. Andrew's was where we got to talkin' 'bout guns and America and microbreweries in NYC, and why my CAMRA membership has not arrived yet (see entry a few days back to read whinge). We talked the most to Duncan, a Scotsman who lived in Rochester, NY for several years and hated to move back except for the fact that his wife was not allowed to work in the US (will not go on soapbox at this moment, but keep referring back for future RANT). It was most fun.

AND, he explained to me how American football is an evolution of rugby and how some of the rules hold over... such as how no one but the quarterback is allowed to pass forward. And the line of scrimmage is actually the scrum, just not all chaotic and bloodspattered, but one on one. This naturally raised the hairs on E's neck and he attempted to argue. But this ended in acquiescence. titter.

Duncan said that I would never guess what people used to say when he told them his name. I said, 'Like Dunkin' Donuts????' and he shuddered.

Much more to ramble about, but I must run now, as my ride will be here shortly to go to the Rotary Blackfriars Quiz Night!

There is a blackbird singing madly in competition with another blackbird outside my front window.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Guide to Hiring

So, since I am one of the only senior people in the office at the moment, and the only one there now who will still be there next week when it is time to interview for the post which I have been warning MUST be filled soon, I had the thrilling honor to attend a shortened version of the Training Guide to Interviewing course this morning. (It was actually not so bad, and the lady from HR -- who I have been terrified of since my own hiring -- was really down-to-earth and very funny with what can be a deadly dull topic of conversation.) And shockingly, I learnt some things (as one of the faculty members noted, 'It is about time she got some training' -- hmph).

Some of these things were common sensical:
* Try to open with some chit chat to make the person feel at ease -- they might be a little nervous (reeeeeally??? I LOVE having people stare me up and down and pick apart every misword I pronunciate.)
* Start the interview on time
* Don't make notes on the interview sheet (which is then a legally submissible document) such as, 'I don't really like her hair, but I'd still shag her'

Some of them were slightly less intuitive or transparent:
* The amount of compensation which can be awarded from a successful discrimination lawsuit is LIMITLESS! (some people apparently make a hobby of shopping around and applying for jobs so they can sue for discrimination)
* The word enthusiastic is an ageist adjective (and therefore inadvisable) to use in a job description or advert. This is because it indicates a preference towards youth. (I disagree, because one might be an old, fat, lazy but enthusiastic stamp collector, chocoholic, or gossip, for example.)

To aid others of my readers who may be responsible for hiring persons in the future, I offer a few tips from the July 1943 issue of Mass Transportation magazine (This was written for male supervisors of women in the work force during WWII, and was one of the funny handouts today.).

'Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees: There's no longer any question whether transit companies should hire women for jobs formerly held by men. The draft and manpower shortage has settled that point. The important things now are to select the most efficient women available and how to use them to the best advantage.

Here are eleven helpful tips on the subject from Western Properties:

1. Pick young married women. They usually have more of a sense of responsibility than their unmarried sisters, they're less likely to be flirtatious, they need the work or they wouldn't be doing it, they still have the pep and interest to work hard and to deal with the public efficiently.

2. When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time in their lives. Older women who have never contacted the public have a hard time adapting themselves and are inclined to be cantankerous and fussy. It's always well to impress upon older women the importance of friendliness and courtesy.

3. General experience indicates that 'husky' girls - those who are just a little on the heavy side - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters.

4. Retain a physician to give each woman you hire a special physical examination - one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibilities of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses which would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job.

5. Stress at the outset the importance of time, the fact that a minute or two lost here and there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this point is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up.'

6. Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that they'll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes. Numerous properties say that women make excellent workers when they have their jobs cut out for them, but that they lack initiative in finding work themselves.

7. Whenever possible, let the inside employee change from one job to another at some point during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change.

8. Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more efficient is she can keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick and wash her hands several times a day.

9. Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms. Women are more sensitive; they can't shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman - it breaks her spirit and cuts off her efficiency.

10. Be reasonably considerate about using strong language around women. Even though a girl's husband or father may swear vociferously, she'll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this.

11. Get enough size variety in operator's uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can't be stressed to much in keeping women happy.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


There are some missing marbles...

It is completely unbelievable that an entire cloth shopping bag full of vegetables has disapparate from within my house.

One cannot make stuffed peppers when one cannot find one's pretty peppers. The rice is going cold.

I need a nap.