Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Closing Down Shop

Just had a meeting with my boss here and he wrote me an effusive letter of recommendation. So lovely and completely unexpected. The team here is really fabulous and I will miss working with them. Tonight anyone that would like to join us for my leaving do can join us at All Bar One around the corner and then at 7:00PM (or 19:00 as they would say here) my team is off to The Lowlander because I have an urge to drink beer made by Trappist Monks. I told Bill that under no circumstances are they to have one of the company leaving do speeches things they do here. They send out an e-mail, the company gathers around, someone says a speech about how great the person was and how much they will miss them and they give the person a gift. Then the person that is leaving gives a speech about how great everyone is and how much they will miss everyone. Then everyone shuffles back to their desk muttering, "Who was that?" I begged him to not do that to me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Possible Gig

Sent my CV in for the Product Management job I want. . . (Fancy way of saying resume. It is the abbreviation of the Latin curriculum vitae) Guy who would be my boss told Janelle he thought I would be a good fit and wondered when I would be available to start. Have a meeting with him Thursday, so we shall see. . . Even if I don’t get it- kinda nice someone seeing me outside the little box I have put myself in the last six years.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Deeply Embarrassed and Ashamed

I did something this weekend that I never thought I would do. Something that troubles me to my very core. Saturday I danced. I danced to Pour Some Sugar On Me, without a hint of irony. . . It all started innocently enough. After the bottle of red and helping Janelle finish her pitcher of sangria at the Spanish restaurant, we decided we wanted to go dancing. We tried to get into Barcelona, a postage stamp sized club that plays Spanish dance music but after twenty minutes in the queue we couldn’t be bothered. Janelle knew of a place and that is how we ended up dancing until 3:00 AM to AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Mötley Crüe. It was a complete blast and I now know where all the big haired 1980’s nostalgia fans hang out in London on a Saturday night. We hopped on a night bus and stumbled into the flat where Stuart, bless him had made up the sofa cushions for Janelle to crash. I’m really not sure how he managed that since he had taken a small hit of some hallucinogenic something or other and was babbling about the Pink Panther following him home. Then I woke up in the bathtub. I haven’t slept walked since I was a kid (that I know of). One moment I was happily tucked into bed, the next Stuart was standing in the doorway asking me what I was doing in the bathtub. “I have no idea.” Odd thing was I wasn’t slumped against the side of the porcelain—I was sitting up holding on to my knees. Stuart thought that I did it to freak him out. I am no where near that diabolical. I will never mix copious amounts of sangria with Def Leppard ever again. It makes strange things happen. Sunday Avi had us over for a dinner and we completely stuffed ourselves. Very odd that this is my last week here. I’m already rather booked up. . .Tonight I need to work on my CV for a job I want here. Tuesday Jen wants to have some sort of leaving do for me. Wednesday is my work leaving do. Thursday Stuart and I are dropping off some things at his parents house to keep it safe until we have our flat. Friday, we leave.

Focus: Secret memos fuel US doubt on Iraq

And more from The London Times. . . BY ANDREW SULLIVAN He’s vowed to complete his mission in Iraq, but President Bush faces growing disillusion as leaked documents reveal the hidden path to war and the mood changes in America You can sometimes tell when a political conversation is at a turning point because the rhetoric goes nuclear. With respect to the Iraq war, that is what is beginning to happen in America. Last week saw Dick Durbin, a leading Democratic senator, compare an account of detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay with prisoner abuse in totalitarian regimes. It also saw Karl Rove, the president’s most powerful political aide, essentially call all “liberals” a danger to their country for their response to 9/11 and the Iraq war. Chuck Hagel, a leading Republican senator, called the White House “completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along”. The internet blogs and the op-eds were full of similarly calm discourse. It’s not that the Bush administration policy is likely to change any time soon. It’s that the American people have reached a point of no return with the president and his constant and unpersuasive assertions that everything is just peachy in Mesopotamia. A poll that showed 60% of Americans want to start removing troops from Iraq merely confirmed the obvious: Bush’s war policy can no longer be sustained by the kind of “trust us” condescension that he has previously employed. The doubts have increased markedly since America woke up to the secret Downing Street memos that shatter illusions about the build-up to war. The memos — first revealed in The Sunday Times by Michael Smith on May 1 — have since stormed through American websites and made headlines in the mainstream US media. Last weekend the Associated Press agency moved a special package of six articles on the memos to its media subscribers throughout America. The memos reveal that Tony Blair agreed to support President George W Bush’s plans for regime change as early as April 2002 — a year before the war started. They also show that the head of MI6 reported back from America to Blair that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. They describe American efforts to find a cause for war as “frankly unconvincing”. And, perhaps most damningly in US eyes, the memos reveal that little effort was made to plan for the aftermath of invasion — which is still costing hundreds of American and Iraqi lives — despite warnings that it could be messy. “A post-war occupation of Iraq could lead to a protracted and costly nation-building exercise,” warned one memo in July 2002. “The US military plans are virtually silent on this point.” THE debate on the war has polarised yet again — and the poles are further apart than ever. On the one extreme are those in the Bush camp who argue that the war is all but over and that we have already won. On the other are those who opposed the war in the first place and seem to take a perverse pleasure in every discouraging news report. In between are various shades of hope and disappointment, despair and grim resolution. In all of these positions there is a new intensity. That intensity suggests that the long period of acquiescence in a policy barely explained and riddled with inconsistency is coming to a close. Some kind of tipping point is approaching — either for or against the entire venture. The Bush boosters engage in several arguments. The first is that the mainstream media have deliberately ignored the good news from the country. Much of Iraq, they argue, is peaceful; the economy, after a nosedive, is recovering; the elections proved that the Iraqis want democracy; there are signs that the Sunni minority is beginning to accept a bigger role in the constitutional and political process. Instead of focusing on the daily suicide bombings, the Bush defenders point to shards of evidence that there is a split within the insurgency between the Sunni nationalists and foreign jihadists. They say that they have gained good intelligence from the detainees “interrogated” under the new exceptions to bans on “cruel and inhumane” treatment approved by Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary. They cite slowly growing numbers of trained Iraqi military units fighting alongside and sometimes even independently of US forces. They argue that this is a long process, that setting up a democracy in a country recovering from dictatorship and war requires patience. In an innovative logical move, Dick Cheney, the vice-president, has argued that the increased intensity of insurgent attacks is a sign that they are losing, not evidence that they have not been marginalised or contained. How? Because the desperation of the attacks on Iraqi civilians, the brutal mass murders of Iraqi recruits and the deployment of suicide bombers are the last resorts of the militarily defeated. Last month Cheney said that the insurgency was in its “last throes”. He did not, however, say how long those last throes might last. Even the fact that large numbers of jihadist terrorists seem to be pouring over the unsecured Syrian border has not fazed many Bush supporters. David Warren, a columnist, recently wrote: “All ground indications are that large numbers of Islamist terrorists who would otherwise remain dangerously under cover, not only across the region but elsewhere, are irresistibly drawn towards these theatres of action, where they sooner or later get themselves killed.” As for the poor or non-existent post-war planning, easily the most damning aspect of the Downing Street memos, Bush’s supporters argue that it was all deliberate. Too many troops would have alienated the Iraqis by appearing to be an occupation force. By allowing mayhem, murder and looting, the Americans were able to show the malign motives of the Ba’athists and jihadists, and avoid the taint of imperialism. It was a deft ploy to expose the insurgents as murderous extremists, force the Iraqis themselves to oppose them and so build a consensus for a new democratic government. The only problem with this defence of the conduct of the war is that an alternative scenario is just as plausible. It is worth recalling that the war plans anticipated only about 30,000 US troops remaining in Iraq by now. I knew of nobody in the pro-war camp before the invasion who anticipated a full-scale guerrilla war being waged for the duration of two presidential terms, as now seems likely. Internal Bush administration assessments of the war have been nothing like as optimistic as the White House’s public arguments. The CIA’s recent report on the insurgency argued that, just as American forces have learnt a great deal from fighting the terrorists and insurgents in a difficult urban terrain, so have the jihadists. THERE has been a major influx of Islamo-fascists into Iraq, especially from Saudi Arabia, through the porous Syrian border. Their training in urban warfare, the CIA worries, could soon spill over into other Arab states. The under-manned occupation of Iraq, in other words, might have created another version of Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, a training ground for terror. The insurgents are also adapting fast in a terrain they know better than any foreign army and have developed lethality against US armed convoys and Humvees. The rate of American casualties has spiked this month and the toll on Iraqi civilians continues to climb. Last week the top commander in Iraq said the insurgents’ “overall strength is about the same” as it was six months ago. This requires an indefinite retention of the 130,000 or so American troops, a level that has already strained the US military to its limits. Many of the soldiers over there are reservists who never expected to be sent into a war zone, let alone for lengthy consecutive stays. Retention has become difficult and recruitment has shown signs of collapse. The Bush administration always doubted that it could carry the public into a war as long and as difficult as Iraq was bound to be, so it fatally understated the risks and minimised the troop commitment. It never believed in nation-building, so it walked backwards into the task with insufficient resources. Forgivable early mistakes, such as disbanding the Iraqi army, made matters much worse. By these early errors and half-measures, it actually made the war harder and longer. And because it never fully levelled with the public in the first place, it cannot ramp up commitment now. I received a telling e-mail from a military official in Baghdad last week who explained his worries in very stark terms: “The lack of US troops in Iraq has been a disconcerting topic for many of us here. I still believe that we can defeat the insurgency with the current troop level . . . yet at what costs?” What if the American public balks at those costs? Last week Lindsey Graham, the always thoughtful Republican senator, told Rumsfeld: “We will lose this war if we leave too soon, and what is likely to make us leave too soon? The public going south. That is happening and it worries me greatly.” The signs are all there that the administration now realises this and is also deeply worried. The president will, we are told, be launching a series of speeches to rally the country. His less scrupulous allies are preparing to accuse all critics of undermining the troops and aiding the enemy. Hence Rove’s attack on Durbin for his comments about interrogation tactics at Guantanamo. “Let me put this in fairly simple terms,” he said. “Al-Jazeera now broadcasts to the region the words of Senator Durbin, certainly putting America’s men and women in uniform in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals.” When the most influential man in the administration is dealing cards that low in the deck, you know he’s rattled. Which scenario is the most persuasive: has the Iraq war been a brilliant piece of tactical planning or a screw-up of massive proportions? Are we still “misunderestimating” Bush? Or have we overestimated his capacity for strategic judgment and political skill? I tend to share the assessment of David Brooks, the New York Times columnist: “Since we don’t have the evidence upon which to pass judgment on the overall trajectory of this war, it’s important we don’t pass judgment prematurely. It’s too soon to accept the defeatism that seems to have gripped so many. “If governments surrendered to insurgencies after just a couple of years, then insurgents would win every time. But they don’t because insurgencies have weaknesses, exposed over time, especially when they oppose the will of the majority.” The key is the capacity of the Iraqis to construct a national army capable of defending a genuinely sovereign state. No serious observer believes that they can defeat the insurgency on their own over the next two years, which is the only foreseeable political schedule for the Bush presidency. Does the American public have the stomach to lose another couple of thousand troops for such an uncertain goal over such an extended period of time? Before this war started, the Bush administration apparently did not believe so. Moreover, the president has yet to demonstrate the ability to confess to great difficulty, to explain mistakes, to take responsibility for error, to ask for help. His strength can be both brutal and brittle. He is much better at declaring “mission accomplished” than at actually accomplishing the mission. THE signals from the White House suggest that Bush will not attempt to level with the public and try to unite the country around persevering. He will instead insist that everything is on track and more time and resources are all that are necessary. He will rightly argue that American security depends on winning the war in Iraq and that democracy can prevail. He will say that we have no choice but to carry on. He will attack much criticism as unpatriotic and disloyal to the troops. He will press ahead because it is all he knows. This may not be stupid, although the toxic effect on America’s national identity and unity will linger for a long time. Part of winning wars is projecting complete determination and obstinacy. The fact that the insurgents have no real alternative to offer the Iraqi people except mayhem and tyranny will count in Bush’s favour. His strategic case for the democratisation of the Middle East is the only real solution to the threat exposed by 9/11. Maybe the political process in Iraq will speed up and lead to some kind of breakthrough. Maybe the split between the jihadists and nationalists will deepen and provide the opportunity for a lasting victory against the Islamists in the Arab world. Maybe it will prove an inspired decision to launch a war for the future of democracy in the cradle of civilisation. That is certainly the scenario I wish for. Criticising this administration’s arrogance and intermittent incompetence does not mean hoping that it fails. For the security of all of us, it has to succeed. The process of disillusionment has been a brutal one for me and many others. But it does not bar us from having hope, even as it prevents us having much confidence. That, at least, is the nagging sense of things in America today where so much, for all of us, still hangs precariously in the balance.

How the leaked documents questioning war emerged from 'Britain's Deep Throat

It started with a phone call and has now swept across America: Michael Smith tells the tale of his ‘Downing Street memo’ scoop It began with a phone call from a friend nearly 10 months ago — somebody well-placed who had given me a few stories before. But he wasn’t really a journalistic source, though he has now been dubbed “the British Deep Throat” by some of the US press. He was just a friend. So I had no great expectations of the meeting we arranged in a quiet West End bar. I was just expecting a convivial drink, with the usual exchange of gossip, the catching-up on how our lives were going. Almost immediately it was clear that this time it would be something more. The place was empty, but my friend chose the most secluded spot he could find. He was clearly nervous. He wasn’t sure if I’d be interested in what he had, he said. It was about the run-up to the war. “All the Butler stuff,” he said, referring to Lord Butler, who had reported on the failures of intelligence over Iraq. He thrust two sheets of paper into my hand. It was a “Secret — Strictly Personal” letter from Jack Straw to the prime minister written in March 2002, a year before the invasion. In the letter the foreign secretary said there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any weapons of mass destruction worth talking about and that, in part as a result of a lack of US preparation, post-war Iraq was likely to become a very nasty place. It was, in short, remarkably prescient and would make a pretty good story, I said, with some understatement. Well, I’ve got five others just like it from the same period, said my source. “Most say stuff just like that, or worse.” The documents covered the period running up to a summit between George W Bush and Tony Blair at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, in early April 2002. At that time the swift victory against the Taliban in Afghanistan had left hawks in the US administration openly briefing that Iraq was next. Most of the leaked documents were designed to brief ministers or Blair on whether backing the US plans to get rid of Saddam would be sensible and legal. They set out the merits and dangers of taking part. Their gist was that there weren’t many merits. The documents made it pretty clear that it wasn’t sensible, it wasn’t legal and it was very risky. The document that seemed to encapsulate the problems was another “Secret — Strictly Personal” letter to Blair. It was written by his foreign policy adviser, Sir David Manning. “I think there is a real risk that the (US) administration underestimates the difficulties,” Manning wrote. “They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.” When I reported these documents I was surprised to find that there was no real interest in them in America. The story swiftly died away. Then eight months later, in the run-up to Britain’s general election, with the focus on the attorney-general’s advice to Blair on the legality of war, somebody else gave me further, even more startling documents. They concerned a meeting in Downing Street on July 23, 2002, eight months before the invasion, when Blair was insisting to the public that all options on Iraq were still open. One leaked document was a Cabinet Office briefing paper for a crucial Downing Street meeting held on the day in question. It said the prime minister had promised Bush at the Crawford summit that he would “back military action to bring about regime change”. It added that ministers had no choice but to “create the conditions” that would make military action legal. The other document was the minutes of the actual meeting, chaired by Blair and attended by Straw; Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary; Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general; Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6; John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee; and Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of defence staff. Dearlove, who had just returned from Washington, said “military action was now seen as inevitable . . . the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action”. Straw agreed with Dearlove. He said Bush had “made up his mind to take military action. But the case was thin”. After reporting these secret memos, which revealed the dubious manoeuvrings of government, I expected the US press to react. Surely there would be a storm of anger over the way in which the American public had been deceived into going to war? But still there was no interest. Then slowly something astonishing happened. People power took over. The Sunday Times website was inundated with ordinary US citizens wanting to read the minutes of the July meeting. Bloggers set to work passing the word. Six ordinary, patriotic citizens with no political axe to grind were so outraged to discover the truth about the path to war that they set up their own website, naming it after the minutes, which had become known as the Downing Street memo. Another website called AfterDowningStreet followed. People got together to lobby their local newspapers and radio and television stations to demand to know why they weren’t being told about the memo. There were even T-shirts made with the slogan: “Have you read the memo?” With anger over the war growing, Washington politicians finally acted. More than 120 congressmen wrote to Bush, demanding to know whether the memo was true. They held their own hearings to try to draw attention to it. The issue was forced into the mainstream media. The focus turned to what may ultimately be the most important part of the memo: the point where Hoon said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime”. Ministry of Defence figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that virtually none were used in March and April; but between May and August an average of 10 tons were dropped each month, with the RAF taking just as big a role in the “spikes of activity” as their US colleagues. Then in September the figure shot up again, with allied aircraft dropping 54.6 tons. If this was a covert air war, both Bush and Blair may face searching questions. In America only Congress can declare war, and it did not give the US president permission to take military action against Iraq until October 11, 2002. Blair’s legal justification is said to come from UN Resolution 1441, which was not passed until November 8, 2002. Last week one US blogger, Larisa Alexandrovna of RawStory.com, unearthed more unsettling evidence. It was an overlooked interview with Lieutenant-General T Michael Moseley, the allied air commander in Iraq, in which he appears to admit that the “spikes of activity” were part of a covert air war. From June 2002 until March 20, when the ground war began, the allies flew 21,736 sorties over southern Iraq, attacking 349 carefully selected targets. The attacks, Moseley said, “laid the foundations” for the invasion, allowing allied commanders to begin the ground war. The bloggers may have found their own smoking gun.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Rigoddamndiculous

Day Five of no air con in the office. Walked in the office and there was a murder of fans in the hallway and I knew it for us. Richard the Sales Director again game to the rescue and said that we can leave at 1 if we complete any necessary pre-weekend tasks. Not sure if that will apply to my team yet since we have a phone queue. Seems that no one here knows how to set the out going message. I volunteered to stay behind if we can't sort it out. Our manager is at Glastonbury so I am the In Charge Responsible Girl. I really hate being In Charge Responsible Girl.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What's on your iPod?

iPod Queen
iPod Queen,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
According to the "venerable" rag The Sun, Her Royal Majesty, The Queen has an iPod.

This completely tickles me if it is true.

What are The Queen's guilty music pleasures I wonder? Does she bob around to ABBA's Dancing Queen? The Complete Works of Twisted Sister?

Personally, I think she really digs DJ Z-Trip.

What do you think is on Elizabeth II’s iPod? Add a comment- let's get a music list going for her.

It’s Bloody Hot

Arrrrrrr ye Matey!
Arrrrrrr ye Matey!,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Going into my last weekend here and I am melting- MELTING! It was been so warm and humid. Gasp. I guess I got what I asked for a few weeks ago when I was whining about wearing my winter coat.

To make it worse, the aircon has been out all week at work. They have been bribing us with ice cream hoping that we won’t revolt. (The ice cream names are different here too. Popsicles are ice lollies and cones are cornets)

Apparently there are laws on the books to protect workers from adverse temperatures in the workplace. Problem is those rules apply to cold weather. Nobody thought it would get hot enough here for it to be an issue.

Today Richard, Head honcho of the Department stood up and said, “It’s too fucking hot to work. Let’s go to the pub.”

Last weekend we hung out in Hyde Park for a few hours and flew a kite that I bought at the kite store. Amazing how parks explode with people when the weather gets nice.

I’m rather booked up this weekend. Tomorrow I am watching Moulin Rouge at a outdoor screening with Janelle. Saturday we are taking a river cruise up to Greenwich to look at the time then in the evening dinner at a Spanish restaurant that has a flamenco show. Sunday, Avi is having a dinner party.

I am really looking forward to getting home and being back in my space. I am also looking forward to going on a major diet and getting back into working out. I have easily gained 15 pounds since I have been here. Not good! It’s been a three month vacation really in that I have given myself permission to eat and drink what I want.

I suppose I should be pleased I still fit in any of my clothes!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Still In Denial About Global Warming

By Sunny Lewis - Editor-in-chief of Environment News Service, an independently owned, real-time wire service covering the environment. The G8 plan to combat climate change has been "watered down" to satisfy the United States, an environmental group said last week after viewing a leaked draft prepared in advance of next month's G8 Summit at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Friends of the Earth reacted "with anger" at the content of the draft communique on climate change entitled "Gleneagles Plan of Action," and dated June 14. Compared to an earlier draft leaked on May 2, which itself had no specific targets or timetables for action, this version appears to be even weaker. The latest draft "worryingly even calls into question scientists' warnings that global climate change is already under way," Friends of the Earth said. On June 7, the national science academies of all the G8 countries -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- plus the three largest developing countries, Brazil, China and India, issued joint statement declaring "there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring." "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities," the scientific academies said, adding, "The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action." Friends of the Earth International's climate campaigner Catherine Pearce said, "Every reference to the urgency of action or the need for real cuts in emissions has been deleted or challenged. Nothing in this text recognizes the scale or urgency of the crisis of climate change." G8 Summit host, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has vowed to put action to limit climate change at the top of the G8 agenda, but with just 17 days to go before the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest nations meet at the Gleneagles Hotel, it appears that the draft action plan is being weakened so that little action will result. Enclosed in square brackets, which mean that unanimous agreement has not been reached, are the statements, "[Our world is warming.]" and "[The statement issued by the science academies in June 2005 said that there is now 'strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring' and that 'this warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate.]" Other bracketed statements include, "[The world's developed economies have a responsibility to show leadership.]" and the phrase "[and reduce greenhouse gas emissions]" "[Those of us who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol welcome its entry into force and will work to make it a success.]" was enclosed in brackets. Also bracketed was a much longer statement about the Kyoto Protocol that would strengthen its greenhouse gas emissions trading system and flexible market mechanisms that facilitate investment in carbon neutral projects. The environmentalists believe the changes were made at the insistence of the Bush administration, which has declined to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, although the United States signed the accord under the Clinton administration. All of the other G8 nations have ratified the protocol that requires an average 5.2 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2012. After listening to U.S. chief climate negotiator Harlan Watson speaking on the BBC's Today Programme on May 13, Pearce said, "The G8 meeting provides an unprecedented opportunity for the richest nations to address the biggest threat facing our planet, but this opportunity will be missed due to the disgraceful, outdated and downright dangerous behavior of the U.S." In the "Gleneagles Plan of Action," square brackets were also inserted into a commitment to work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) to provide an assessment of the climate impact of aviation. The words [the IPCC] are bracketed, indicating less than unanimous agreement to work with the panel of more than 2,500 scientists established by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environment Programme to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information about climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. At a minimum Friends of the Earth says the G8 must state "agreement on the compelling scientific evidence showing that climate change is already happening and that urgent action is now required to substantially reduce emissions." The group urges an agreement by G8 nations for "specific, substantial and timetabled cuts in their domestic emissions of greenhouse gases." "If they can't do better than this," said Pearce, "the outcome of G8 summit will be worse that hot air -- it will be a backward step in international climate change policy, simply adding to climate injustice." Also bracketed is a a proposal to launch "[a Global Bioenergy Partnership to support wider cost effective biomass and biofuels deployment, particularly in developing countries where biomass use is prevalent...]" Friends of the Earth Scotland's Chief Executive Duncan McLaren, said, "Any suggestion that G8's visit to Scotland would produce anything meaningful on tackling climate change is rapidly evaporating." "The first draft of this document was bad, this update is even worse," said McLaren. All reference to funding for climate change research was deleted from the latest version of the communique. "G8 countries represent just 13 per cent of the world's population, but account for 45 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions," McLaren said. "A climate plan of action, by the world's richest nations that does not include targets, timetables and extra funding is of no use to future climate victims." Speaking to Channel 4 News former British Environment Minister Michael Meacher said it is "extraordinary" that doubt is being cast on the simple assertion that the world is getting warmer. "Presumably it was taken out because of the Americans," he said. Other British officials said there are drafts and drafts in the days before any international summit, and the only draft that matters is the one signed at Gleneagles.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Evening Standard article

Why The US Is Now Our Great Enemy By Peter Oborne Like many people, I was brought up to love, almost worship the United States. We were taught that it was the one sure protector of order, security, freedom and civilization across the world. There was much justice in this. In the Second World War, the US had joined us in the great fight against fascism, and afterwards she led the way against the menace of Soviet communism. But today new threats have emerged. One is Islamic terrorism, while the other—more terrifying by far—is global warming and environmental degradation. Both are just as menacing as fascism or communism, but more complex. It is as urgent that we confront these dangers. But it is no longer clear that America is on our side as we fight them. The meeting of G8 leaders in Gleneagles next month is a reminder that the US has turned from a friend and valued ally into the biggest threat the world had faced in half a century. As The Observer revealed yesterday, the White House is blocking any discussion of global warming at Gleneagles. It has hijacked the summit agenda to make talk on the subject meaningless. The White House has removed all reference to the fact that climate change is “a serious threat to human health and to eco systems”, while banning even the suggestion that global warming has already started. The reason for this is simple. President Bush takes his orders from the giant oil corporations which finance him. Three years ago they insisted that he did not even attend the earth summit in Johannesburg. This month, Bush is still dancing to their tune by blocking discussion of Climate change in Gleneagles. It’s blindingly obvious that global warming is a reality. Anyone who has lived through British winters over the past 25 years has seen it happen. But America, the largest economy in the world, won’t admit we have a problem. The US is destroying the planet that we live on, yet refuses even to discuss the matter. There are some interesting comparisons between this tragic intransigence and the way the US is conducting the so-called war on terror. It regards with contempt the international organizations, above all the United Nations, which should be used to combat the terrorist threat. Instead it has embarked on a series of illegal operations of its own. Rather than hunt down al Qaeda, it embarked on a misguided and tragic adventure in Iraq. There has been no more effective recruiting sergeant for Osama bin Laden over the past three years than George Bush. Those of us who grew up loving America must come to terms with the fact that she is no longer a benign force. There are still some wonderful things about the US. She is still the home of free speech and still has a democracy of sorts. And yet she has now become a rogue state which needs to be tamed.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Gordon back in

At least my apartment manager told Joe that he was. . . Joe went over there and the guy (Joe called him Mr. Mc No Toothness) tried to say that is okay that he wasn't in because he was coming around his apartment and he was feeding him. Joe got in his face and later that day my wonder of an apartment manager (that I am flipping paying to take care of the cats by the way) left a message that he was back in. I can't rip the guy a new one-- but oh I would love to give him a little piece of my mind. I know what happened. He is a lonely guy. He's an older Hispanic gay man with no money and no teeth. Every time you run into him he talks you to death. This was his way to have a kitty. If he pulls something like this on me again, I will knock out the rest of teeth.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

13 Conversations About One Thing

13 Conversations About One Thing
13 Conversations About One Thing,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
I saw this film in the movie theatre back in 2001 and I really loved it. They play it a good bit on cable if you ever get a chance to watch. Stellar performances all the way around.

I mention it because it is only being released in London theatres now. Sure there must have been a delay with foreign rights or something.

I know I am a spoiled film addict. I have been living in the center of it all for nearly a decade.

Big movies won't be a big deal-- seeing Batman tonight which I am very excited about because I love the director, Christopher Nolen (Memento, Insomnia) and I have liked Christian Bale ever since I saw him in Empire of the Sun (which I think is a seriously under rated flick).

Anyway. I will be cutting down on my some of indy film consummation when I move here.

On the cat front, Garbo and George are in the apartment. Gordon is still MIA. Joe is going to try and find him.

I feel terrible. I think he pushed open the screen because he thought I had abandoned him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Deep Sigh

Gordon
Gordon,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
My cats are very shy, sweet creatures. One of my stresses about coming over here for such a long time period was that they be taken care of. Not just food and litter but a little love too.

I am paying my apartment manager to take care of the food and litter and I have asked friends to pop in once a week and just say hello to them.

I don't care if you think I am a freak. They are sentient creatures and I love them.

Paul initially was popping in and checking on them but I wanted someone to take it over when he went on vacation and then when things became what they are with Stuart, I couldn't very well ask him to continue.

So I had Joe's girlfriend take over cat attention duty. Then a few weeks ago, they went through a break-up. I had her give my keys to Joe.

I haven't asked my friend how the cats are because he is dealing with his own drama with the break-up.

Stuart kept asking me how they were, so today I asked and just as I expected he hadn't had a chance to go over there. No biggie, but then he lays on me that his ex had lied to me when she said she had been going over and that no one has been checking in on them since late April.

I am beyond pissed. I could have had any number of people do this for me.

I figure that the kitties are okay because my apartment manager hasn't called to tell me that there are any problems, but I give him a call.

"Hey Ed! I just wanted to touch base and see how the cats are."

"They're fine. They're fine. How many cats do you have?"

"Three." (Yes, I know I am in scary lesbian cat-lady territory.)

"That's what I thought. I've seen the one that hides behind the fridge and the gray one. What does the other one look like?"

"George. He's an orange tabby. He's the one that hides behind the sofa."

"Right. So Friday I noticed your screen fell out of your window and that weekend I saw a gray cat hanging around the apartment."

"What!"

"And I thought, I wonder if that is Nicole's cat! I fed him some chicken."

Why the man didn't call me immediately and get some sort of confirmation about the new grey cat that suddenly appeared in the neighborhood the same day that the screen fell out of my window, I can't begin to guess.

There should be a law that if you are really, really stupid and you mess with something I love, I get to beat you with a stick.

I am trying to be positive. Joe is going to go by tonight and check to see if George is in the apartment and if Ed can't get Gordon in he is going to try and help with that. He's also going to confirm that the grey cat is actually Gordon.

I am fine. I cried, got a massage and am about to eat some food that is really, really bad for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

empirical evidence there is no god

Jackson Acquitted on All 10 Counts You have to be flippen kidding me.

Don't see that everyday do you?

IMG_1583
IMG_1583,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
This weekend Stuart and I were in the bookshop Foyles and we heard a commotion out on the street.

The World Naked Bike Ride protest was passing the shop. . .

You don't often see 300 naked people go past you on a bicycle.

Ed Harcourt and Patty Smith

IMG_1587
IMG_1587,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Saw Ed Harcourt and The Brian Jonestown Massacre Saturday night with Janelle at the opening night of the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall.

Ed Harcourt put on a fan-flippen-tastic show and I was sad that he was only opening. For those of you that are KCRW fans, yes he is Nick Harcourt's brother.

Brian Jonestown I didn't dig as much. Was fun, watching the drummer was a religious experience but every song sounded the same to me. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for it. . .and I think the lead singer is a bit of a wanker.

Ton of amazing things happening in the music series. Bummed that I already have plans this Friday so I will miss Rachid Tacha. Tékitoi is one of my favorite albums this year.

But the thing that I am pissed off that I don't have tickets for is the night Patty Smith will be performing Horses-- The whole flippen thing. . . AND performing with John Cale, Flea, members of The Ex and Nick Franglen of Lemon Jelly.

I'm not into that kind of music as much as some of my friends are, but even I am gnashing my teeth at missing that concert.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Salon.com article on Memogate

Bush lied about war? Nope, no news there! Why did it take more than a month for the U.S. press to report on the serious revelations in the Downing Street memo? - - - - - - - - - - - - By Eric Boehlert June 9, 2005 | Halfway through Sunday's "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert, interviewing Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, asked about a secret, top-level British government memorandum. Consisting of minutes from a July 23, 2002, meeting attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and his closest advisors, the memo revealed their impression that the Bush administration, eight months before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, had already decided to invade and that Washington seemed more concerned with justifying a war than preventing one. The memo was leaked this year to the Times of London, which printed it on May 1. The story, coming on the eve of Blair's reelection, generated extensive press coverage in Britain. In setting up his question to Mehlman on Sunday, Russert said, "Let me turn to the now famous Downing Street memo" (emphasis added). Famous? It would be famous in America if the D.C. press corps functioned the way it's supposed to. Russert's June 5 reference, five weeks after the story broke, represented the first time NBC News had even mentioned the document or the controversy surrounding it. In fact, Russert's query was the first time any of the network news divisions addressed the issue seriously. In an age of instant communications, the American mainstream media has taken an exceedingly long time -- as if news of the memo had traveled by vessel across the Atlantic Ocean -- to report on the leaked document. Nor has it considered its grave implications -- namely, that President Bush lied to the American people and Congress during the run-up to the war with Iraq when he insisted over and over again that war was his administration's last option. And yet, as Russert's weeks-late inquiry illustrates, the Downing Street memo story has also refused to simply fade away. Championed by progressive activists, media advocates, nearly 100 Democratic members of Congress, liberal radio hosts and bloggers, ombudsmen, a handful of columnists and an army of newspaper readers -- who have flooded editors with letters demanding that the story be reported -- the British memo continues to enjoy a peculiar afterlife. A small band of protesters, led by a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, even held a sidewalk vigil outside a Tampa, Fla., television station over the weekend, demanding that it "Air the truth!" about the memo. At Tuesday's joint White House press briefing, Bush and Blair were finally asked about the memo in public, an event that the press dutifully chronicled. But the two leaders, not accepting follow-up questions, simply denied the accuracy of the memo's contents, while circumventing the central question of why Blair's most senior intelligence officer believed the White House had already decided on war in the summer of 2002. (Bush finished his response to the memo question with his well-worn catchphrase, "The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.") The fact that it took five weeks for more than a handful of Washington reporters to focus on the memo highlights a striking disconnect between some news consumers and mainstream news producers. The memo story epitomizes a mainstream press corps that is genuinely afraid to ask tough questions and write tough stories about the Bush administration. Worse, in the case of the Downing Street memo, it simply refuses to report on the existence of a plainly newsworthy document. "This is where all the work conservatives and the administration have done in terms of bullying the press, making it less willing to write confrontational pieces -- this is where it's paid off," says David Brock, CEO of Media Matters for America, a liberal media advocacy group. "It's a glaring example of omission." "I think it exacerbates the sense among some [of our] listeners that NPR is not taking on the Bush administration," notes Jeffrey Dvorkin, ombudsman for National Public Radio, who continues to receive listener complaints about the missing memo story. As of Tuesday, NPR had aired just two references to the Downing Street memo, and both occurred in passing conversation, without giving listeners the full context or the details of the memo. Asked about the network's slim coverage, Dvorkin says, "I was surprised. It's a bigger story than we've given it. It deserves more attention." Slowly, the Downing Street memo is getting that attention. "Stories are starting to trickle in now only because so many ordinary people are raising hell about it," says David Swanson, co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, which launched on May 26. This week, thanks to constant exposure on the Air America radio network, the site is receiving 1.7 million hits a day, according to Swanson. "My colleagues are doing more radio shows than we can fit in during a day." The memo provides plenty to talk about -- particularly the passage (no doubt memorized by agitated war critics) that refers to Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (referred to only as "C" in the memo), and his impressions from a visit to the United States: "C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the U.N. route ... There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." That more reporters, editors and producers didn't grasp the obvious significance of the memo remains baffling. As Mark Danner spelled out in the June 9 issue of the New York Review of Books, the memo helps establish five key facts in understanding how the still-deadly war in Iraq unfolded: "1. By mid-July 2002, eight months before the war began, President Bush had decided to invade and occupy Iraq. "2. Bush had decided to 'justify' the war 'by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.' "3. Already, 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' "4. Many at the top of the [U.S.] administration did not want to seek approval from the United Nations (going 'the U.N. route'). "5. Few in Washington seemed much interested in the aftermath of the war. " Yet despite the news peg, the mainstream media demonstrated a breathtaking lack of interest. According to TVEyes, an around-the-clock monitoring service, between May 1 and June 6 the story received approximately 20 mentions on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS combined. (With Blair's arrival in Washington Tuesday, there was a slight spike in mentions but still very little reporting of substance.) By contrast, during the same five-week period, the same outlets found time to mention 263 times the tabloid controversy that erupted when a photograph showing Saddam Hussein in his underwear was leaked to the British press. Since the Times of London published the memo on May 1, White House spokesman Scott McClellan has held 19 daily briefings, at which he has fielded approximately 940 questions from reporters, according to the White House's online archives. Exactly two of those questions have been about the Downing Street memo and the White House's reported effort to fix prewar intelligence. (Three weeks after the memo was leaked in Britain, McClellan prefaced a response to a question about it by telling White House reporters he was not familiar with "the specific memo.") Until Tuesday, the number of U.S. newspaper articles reporting on the Downing Street memo could be counted on two hands, including two articles in the New York Times, two in the Washington Post (print edition), and one each in Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Chicago Tribune. Only the Chicago Tribune article ran on Page 1, and it focused on how little commotion the memo had caused in the United States, noting, "The White House has denied the premise of the memo, the American media have reacted slowly to it and the public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war." Additionally, Knight Ridder's Washington bureau covered the story for its chain of newspapers. Looking back, Jim Cox, USA Today's senior assignment editor for foreign news, says not reporting on the memo was a mistake. "I wish we'd had something in early on, and I wish we'd been able to move the memo story forward. I feel like we missed an opportunity, and that's my fault," he tells Salon. But Cox takes issue with readers who complain that Americans have been kept in the dark about the memo's revelation that Bush had made up his mind on going to war long before he approached the United Nations and asked for a coalition to be formed. "The memo doesn't say something we haven't heard in one way or another over the last two and a half years," Cox says. If the mainstream media showed little interest in the memo and its ramifications, those outside elite newsrooms did. On Tuesday, a query on the blog search engine Technorati retrieved 3,039 sites on which the Downing Street memo was being discussed. "It's something that's struck a chord among NPR listeners and newspaper readers," Dvorkin says. "It may have been blog-induced in the beginning, but now it has legs of its own." Across the country readers have been badgering their local newspapers to examine the memo story. None of the published correspondence appears to be form letters or so-called Astroturf letters designed to mimic grass-roots support for a particular issue. The letters have appeared in the Sunday Oregonian (Portland), Los Angeles Times, Raleigh News and Observer, Arizona Republic, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Anchorage Daily News, Ithaca (N.Y.) Journal, Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record, Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle, Newport (Va.) News Daily Press, Allentown (Pa.) Morning Call, Dubuque (Iowa) Telegraph Herald, Bangor (Maine) Daily News, Springfield (Ill.) State Journal-Register, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Modesto (Calif.) Bee and Tulsa World, among others. With the exception of the Los Angeles Times, at the time the letters were published not one of the newspapers, according to the LexisNexis database, had reported on the memo. Meanwhile, ombudsmen for the New York Times, the Washington Post and National Public Radio have all gone on record admonishing their own news organizations for slow-footed responses to the memo. The Post's Michael Getler, siding with upset readers, gave the paper a thumbs-down for its handling of the story. He noted that readers' "reaction to the failure to cover it, even with the hyperbole and worst assumptions about journalistic motives by some of the e-mailers, is understandable." At the Times, public editor Byron Calame noted that the paper was quick with a memo story from London on May 2, "but the news coverage languished until this morning [May 20] when a Times article from Washington focused on the reaction to the memo there. This has left Times readers pretty much in the dark until today -- and left critics of the paper's news columns to suspect the worst about its motives." Responding to a query by Calame regarding the paper's lack of coverage, Times Washington bureau chief Phil Taubman suggested the Downing memo was old news: "Given what has been reported about war planning in Washington, the revelations about the Downing Street meeting did not seem like a bolt from the blue." What's more, the reporting that was done in May was often less than stellar. The New York Times' belated follow-up on May 20 was less than 800 words long, and despite a headline that read "British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics," Times reporter did not interview a single war critic about the memo or its implications. The issue was barely discussed on television, and when it did pop up, hosts appeared to have no interest. For example, here's the May 25 exchange between actor and activist Tim Robbins and Chris Matthews on MSNBC's "Hardball." Robbins: I think there should be more discussion about the Downing Street memo and less about Newsweek. I think that that story seemed to be buried. And there seems to be a lot of questions that the Downing Street memo raises. Matthews: Tell me about that. Robbins: Well, it suggests that the administration knew full well they were being duplicitous and were operating with weak intelligence. Matthews: Well, they -- well, they did tell us at the time, Tim, that the best argument for getting the Europeans to join us in the war was using the WMD argument, but it wasn't their primary purpose. The primary purpose apparently was democratization in the Middle East, nation building. Robbins: And I think they didn't mention that until much later, Chris. I think that the original -- original reason was that [Saddam] was an imminent threat. Matthews: Let me ask you about Hollywood. Do you think Hollywood, in its critique of this president, has been effective? Somebody put up a sign recently to Hollywood: "Thank you, Hollywood, for getting Bush reelected." Playing catch-up this week has produced some awkward moments for reporters, such as Russert's referring to the memo as "famous" even though nobody at NBC News had ever bothered to report on it. On Monday, Fox News' online site reported that the memo "has received little attention in the mainstream media, frustrating opponents of the Iraq war," while failing to mention that Fox itself had effectively boycotted the memo story for five weeks. On Tuesday, Fox News finally reported that "there's been a lot of controversy recently about a memo that suggests British officials warned well before the war in July of 2002 that the Bush administration felt war was inevitable." Again, Fox failed to explain why the news organization had ignored a controversial story for more than a month. That's just the latest press oddity surrounding the memo story, says Swanson at AfterDowningStreet.org. "It's very strange that when it now comes up in the media, it's described as well known. It's not well known. Most people don't know anything about the memo. It's very disturbing."

Finally

One great thing about being in a different country for an extended time is seeing the difference news point of view. . . it goes without saying that European politics have a front page focus which you rarely see in America. Another difference is when there is a huge story that is ignored by the "American Liberal Media". May 1 The London Times printed the minutes of a meeting Tony Blair had with top officials and Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the UK foreign intelligency agency MI6. It's finaly getting play in America. So glad I live in a free country.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Last weekend

IMG_0471
IMG_0471,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Some pictures from last weekend. We went to a park in Brixton for lunch, then took Ollie to Gordon's for a little wine and a lot of cheese. . .

Change in the change in plans

My mother reminded me that as big a laugh as it would be to throw 13 people into a limo and to get fries with my wedding, that my 90+ year-old grandfather would probably flip. So we are going to do it at the Justice of the Peace. No tacky Vegas chapel. Just family and then off to my parents pad for food and drink. Did a search marketing thingy this afternoon and a woman I work with in the Marketing Department introduced me to a recruiter that she knows so if the few leads that I have at my company don't pan out, I have another contact. I've pretty much been told with my CV it would be a cake walk for me to get a gig in this country. Stuart talked to my Mom and stepfather Gary on the phone and it went really well. He actually got Gary to be chatty! When I take him home with me in July, Stuart is planning to go to Rachel, NV with him to look for aliens. While Fox Mulder is looking for the truth, I'll be floating in the pool. He has no idea what Vegas is like in the middle of the summer. . . How hot it is even in the middle of the night. . .lol. . .

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

McWedding

I told Stu about yesterday’s log and he said that he takes issue with it and that I ought to write a correction so he doesn’t look like quite as big an asshole. He said, “I don’t want to elope, I just don't want anyone else there.” I told him that he wasn’t helping his case. . . We are having a compromise. . . We were going to have Stu’s friend Ollie officiate the wedding (was my foolish suggestion) which was rather frightening given that they have been friends since they were kids. They both have a love of practical jokes and blowing things up. We are now going to get hitched at a Vegas Chapel and then go back to mom’s house for the reception/Nicole’s-leaving-the-country-on-a-jet-plane-doesn’t-know-when-she-will-be-back-again Party. The best part (and this was my idea) is we are going to do a Drive Thru Wedding. Complete riot. The limo will pick us up at our hotel so we can pile our family in and then go get hitched. If we pay extra we can get Elvis to serenade us. Stuart’s mother is going to hate this even more than the Krispy Kreme wedding cake.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Wedding Woes

Have had a bit of stress. . . Stu is still looking for a job, we have been looking for a two bedroom flat to share with Jen, and I came to the hard decision to adopt out my cats rather than bring them over here. (Have had more than a few tears about that one. Mom is taking Garbo. If there is anyone in the Los Angeles area that is willing to take one or two sweetheart adult boy house cats who have been fixed and have had their shots and are big cuddle-bugs. . . please let me know. George even fetches. Will post their photos later.) There are a few positions that may open up here at my company so the job thing will hopefully fall into place—but worse comes to worse I will get a gig at Foyles and live on £13,000 a year. My student loans are in dollars so the exchange rate would be in my favour. Stressing about moving what I can and contemplating putting everything else in storage. I have a ton of books and I have nice furniture. What is driving me nuts is there is nothing that I can do to move forward until I am back in LA. So, thinking about the wedding, (which will be a small affair at my mom’s house in October) has been fun because it allows me to make decisions and feel like I am moving forward. And I admit it. I love the idea of planning a party. I adore having people over so the idea of planning a WEDDING and that it is my wedding. . . well, it just seems too much fun. Christmas last year, I had a, “Let’s Watch It’s A Wonderful Life” party. I found a retro Christmas apron and I made fondue and devilled eggs. It was all very Donna Reed. Of course we ended up talking and drinking the entire night rather than watching the movie and Paul, bless him, barely looked up from downloading music onto my computer, but it was still fun. So my wedding. . . I’m not wearing a wedding dress. I found a cheap but cutsie retro white with red polka dots thing at a online shop that I give much too much money too. Found some fun retro invitations that I will be able to print the details on my computer. Rather than spending $500 to $800 on invitations I will be spending $90.00. I came up with the idea to have Krispy Kreme donuts instead of a wedding cake. It will be cheap AND it will be funny. Should be a fun party. Will have a lot of booze and food and will have music play lists set up on my Powerbook. Lots of friends some I haven't seen for a few years that are in Seattle and Boston plus Stuart's United Nations. Problem. Stuart really wants to just elope and every time I ask his opinion – he looks at me like I am growing hair out of my eyes. I just simply can’t get married without watching the people I love that are scattered all over the globe, get really drunk. There aren’t many chances in a girl’s life where it really is all about her. I would like one of those days. Stuart just wants us to be together and doesn’t want to deal with the drama of other people, which is completely understandable. We’ve had a couple of fun little arguments about it. He has come around and agreed to follow through on our initial plans so it is all good. (I did ask his permission to blog this as it is a bit of dirty laundry airing) What is hard is I am excited about planning a party because that is how I am and the person who is supposed to be sharing it with me acts as if I have suggested he get a back-ass & sack wax. It will be fine. . . I know it will be fine. It really isn't a big deal. We're mad about each other and want to be together and that is really what it is all about. (I just want to have a party too.)

A Good Cause

One of my colleagues at work is organizing an event to benefit the Leukemia Research Fund in the name of one of his uni mates that passed away a year ago. If you are in London tomorrow, come by the South London Pacific between 7pm to 1AM for some cheap tiki drinks and groovy music. Pay what you can to get in. If you are not in London or would like to donate a few quid online, you can do that here.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Floating along with no news

I am a huge news junkie. Every morning I listen to NPR, I read the paper, I get all the jokes on The Daily Show. I take a perverse pleasure in knowing what is going on and having an opinion about it. I'm not as big a junkie as most of my friends, but I can name the justices on the Supreme Court, which most Americans can't. (I have zero patience for people who don't vote, who fail to take any pleasure in the democratic process who don't see their responsibility. People have died so you can vote. I think that is worth getting up a few hours early before work, don't you?) I blame the 2000 election results on one person. It was late afternoon in California and they had given Florida to Gore. One idiot that I worked with (who has since been fired for looking at porn on the job) said, "Do you really think your vote counts?" I could have happily murdered him later. True story. Before the Anita Hill scandal broke I was home from college and I asked my father (the yutz) what he thought of Clarence Thomas. I need to set this up slightly. . . My family was never very political and what they are political about leans/tilts/crashes to the right. I never thought about politics much until college and I became a bit like Beneatha in Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun If you don't know the play go read it or rent one of the film versions. And, you should be deeply ashamed that you don't know it. (That's a hint into what I mean btw.) So I ask dad, (the yutz) "What do you think about Thomas." He said, "Nicole I have this and this and that going on. I don't have time to think about that." I remember thinking, you don't care who is on the Supreme Court? You don't care? How is this possible? (Ultimately this is what is wrong in America is that people do not see the correlation between their lives and something that feels so far away like The Supreme Court or the President or your Congressman. Even School Superintendent feels removed. It's like not seeing that smoking can give you cancer.) So with being over here, being taken out of my rhythm of the morning NPR, not having Internet access in the flat (which Stew just fixed for me btw!) I have been floating along and haven't been paying attention to the news at all. I am deeply ashamed to admit this, but in a way. . . it has been so nice. I can almost understand what my father (the yutz) meant. I will get back into knowing what is going on. But I am sure when I peek my head up, not too much will have changed. Suicide bombings in Iraq, landslides in California, Michael Jackson showing up in his PJs. Not as if Deep Throat is going to come forward or anything. . .

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bloody Weather

Before Aaron came to visit he asked me what the weather would be like and I told him, "I have no idea". In the week that they were here, we went from rain, wind and being bundled up in winter coats and scarves to shorts and tank tops. Today it is raining. One of my colleagues Ali just looked at the window at the office here. Ali: It still raining? Jim: Yeah. Ali: Heavily? Jim: Nah, just annoyingly. I just looked at the forcast for the next five days and it is rain, rain rain. I like it here but I am sooooooooo ready to not be in winter wear. I'm going to go home July 1 and then go to Vegas to see my mom and I am going to have weather culture shock.

sleepy lamb in london

sleepy lamb and big ben 3
sleepy lamb and big ben 3,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
click to view the pictures

The week of absinthe, shopping carts and Springtime for Hitler

Before the Jazz Club
Before the Jazz Club,
originally uploaded by nicdthomas.
Crazy week. Had a fabulous time hanging out with Aaron and Gina but in a way it is a relief that they are gone so that I will stop spending money and my liver can recover. If they stayed they would need to hook me up to a dialysis machine.

The day they arrived we took the tube to Westminster and then walked along the south bank. I dragged them into The Clink a prison museum which is great place to go if you want to throw away five quid.

They forgave me when a short while later we found The George London’s only surviving galleried inn.

Sunday was Camden Market and I am never, ever, ever, even upon threat of my toenails being ripped out of my feet by little yappy dogs going there on a Sunday ever bloody again.

I can deal okay with crowds but that place on a weekend will turn even the most callous city person agoraphobic. We escaped and walked through Regents Park and then caught the tube to Covent Garden then walked to Trafalgar Square and then I introduced them to Gordon’s, my favorite wine bar in the world.

We collected Stuart and went to another bar where Aaron became even more drunk or, as Jen would say, “completely off his tits.” On the way home Stuart tried to persuade me to hop into a shopping cart and he would push it. I wasn’t drunk enough to do anything anywhere near that stupid, but Aaron was more than happy to take my place. Cut to Aaron lying in the road. “London Blood” became a catch phrase.

It all became a huge blur. Westminster Abby, St. Paul’s, The Tate Modern, The British Museum, London Eye. . .pubs, restaurants, more pubs.

Stu just said that my blog is like an alcoholics downfall. . .

The Producers was an absolute blast. The original film is one of my favorite flicks, so I was looking forward to seeing it and the play totally lived up to what I had hoped. It is being performed at the Theatre Royal which I believe is the oldest existing functional theatre in the world.

Friday a big group went back to jazz in the crypt at the church in Camberwell Green. Late in the evening after a good bit of wine, Stuart encouraged Aaron to buy shots of absinthe . I didn’t see the preparation but they said that a bit of absinthe was poured into a glass, a teaspoon of sugar with a few drops of absinthe drizzled on it balanced on the rim of the glass. They set the sugar on fire, then stirred it into the absinthe then added equal parts of water to the mixture.

It’s fucking vile.

I abhor black licorice. If I liked the taste I might be encouraged to do it again but I really see no need.

Later that night/morning I had my first late night kebab which is the best food ever to have when you are drunk. It even beats Tommy Burger and Pinks.

Sunday they went home and Stu and I walked around in Hyde Park. Very quiet and calm.

Monday we went to Stu’s parents house and then his sister’s for dinner. It was really nice although I am starting to appreciate and understand the beauty of eloping.

This weekend Ollie, Stu’s partner in crime in many pranks will be coming to visit, It was my bright idea that he officiate our ceremony. It is rather likely that he will exorcize us rather than marry us. I am afraid. Very afraid. . .