Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Starting all over

I have decided to go ahead and start my new baseball blog, Baseball Over Here, and have started posting new material on it.

I was going to wait until the new year, but I had enough stuff, so I decided there was no point in waiting. Hopefully, you'll come check it out. Let me know what you think. Any and all comments and suggestions are welcome. Whether you continue to come back or not is dependent on whether or not I'm doing anything that you find interesting. Lets hope so.

This site will continue, and I will be posting new items on it on a weekly basis, but probably not everyday. I'll continue to put updates about Neeve and how things are going with her. I'm also going to continue to write somethings about what its like to live here, how I'm adapting, and whatever else I find. So, if you've been coming, please keep coming back. There is more to come.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A crazy idea

I kind of like the stuff I'm doing now, as far as looking at baseball from an international view. I know its nothing very exciting, but some of it is interesting, some of it is off the wall, and some of it its entertaining.

Mostly, it gives me something to do while I'm not working, lets me practice my writing (which always needs work), and gives me a chance to spout off about whatever the hell I feel like spouting off about.

So I'm thinking of branching out and starting a new blog covering baseball from an international side. I'm not 100% yet, because I don't want to get started and then find I don't have the time to do it, or can't really find enough to make it worthwhile. So I'll give it to the end of the year and see what happens. If I do start working, that will obviously weigh in on the decision.

I will still keep this going however, with the personal stuff I've written about in the past. That's for me, because its good therapy to write it down, and a good record of events right now. And some people are interested.

But first things first. If I'm actually going to do this, I'll need a new title for the new blog. Or keep this title and move the personal stuff to something else. Here are a few suggestions. Much like in Chicago, you can vote for more than one, and more than once. If anyone has any good write-in suggestions, please let me know, and full credit will be given.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Life in the U.K. - 5

It seems that there is a sperm shortage in the United Kingdom. But they've taken it in stride and given the US a great compliment.

“The only countries that seem to have enough sperm are those that pay — like the U.S. and Spain"
At least I think it is.

The UK changed the law in 2005 that removed the anonymity of sperm donors, in order to allow children to find their biological father. Due to this, the number of donors has fallen dramatically. In addition, the law limits the number of women who can use one donor to 10.
The United States does not cap sperm donations at all.

There are just too many items in the article to comment on. I'll leave it to the individual to read it and come up with their own jokes.

Needless to say, I do my part and try to volunteer every Saturday night at the pub.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Top 15 Greatest Sports Moments Of All Time

At least this is one list:

15. Dwight Clark The Catch

I remember this. I hate the Cowboys. This was a great day.

14 Diego Maradona’s goals for Argentina against England in the 1986 FIFA World Cup

Maradona was just in the UK two weeks ago, coaching the Argentinian team against Scotland. Bin Laden would be better received over here. But I do like to bring this up from time to time, when the Brits get on my ass about American sports. I might get us pulled out of NATO yet.

13 Rocky Marciano Retires As Heavyweight Champ Undefeated at 49-0

I used to be a big boxing fan, about 25 years ago. When it meant something. This is one of the great, under-rated sports achievements of all time.

12 Kerri Strug’s one footed Vault

This wasn't quite the great victory it's been made out to be, as the US had already clinched the gold, and this vault didn't matter. But spirit like this is what made our country. And what a moment on our soil. The second greatest in the history of American international competition.

11 Jackie Robinson Signs a Major League Contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers

I'm not any kind of activist, and I do get tired of all the first-this, first-that of race, creed, color, religion, etc. Continually naming our differences doesn't do anything to bring us together. But somehow, shouldn't this be a top-5 event, at the least. This changed the face of America in a way that very few events ever have.

10 Bob Beamon long jumps 29′ 2 1/2 inches to shatter the world record by more than two feet

Somehow, I just can't get excited about this one, and don't see how this is top-10 event. If not for the clenched fist controversy, the Mexico City Olympics might go down as the most forgotten games in history. I mean, seriously, name one other thing you can remember about the '68 Olympics.

9 Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech

I think this one transcends sports, and is one of the great moments of mankind.

8 Mark McGwire over Sammy Sosa, 70-66, for the new home-run crown

I'm about to commit a sacrilegious offense here, but this doesn't belong on this list. Its a great moment, but it's really not that great. And not to be listed above Jackie Robinson and Lou Gehrig.

7 Bobby Thompson’s shot heard round the world

Not sure about this one here. A little New York bias, perhaps. This is 7, but Mazeroski is nowhere on the list?

6 Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100 Points in a Single Game

I'll even forgive Wilt for going to KU and say this is one of the greatest individual achievements in the history of sports. And if Kobe Bryant ever does it, it won't be the same.

Have you head the story about the immigrant from Eastern Europe, who lived in New Jersey. He attended one major-league baseball game in his life, and one NBA game.

Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the '56 series, and Wilt scored 100 points. Good timing, dude.

5 Cal-Stanford Play

Somewhere there is a Zapruder-like film showing an official picking up a flag. But for his safety, lets hope we never find out.

4 Jesse Owens Debunks Aryan Myth

Was this really that big of a deal? Did anyone really even care back then? I'm not knocking Jesse. Hey, 4 golds in one Olympics. Great moment. But that's not what this is about? Hell, we depicted blacks as inferior. What did we care what Hitler thought?

3 Michael Phelps wins 8 Gold Medals at the Olympics

I remember the '72 Olympics, because I had been to Munich as a kid. The only three things I remember about this (at the age of 7) was the hostage situation, the basketball game, and Mark Spitz. I'll take Spitz. Not to take anything away from Phelps, but it all seemed to manufactured.

2 Michael Jordan’s Final Shot

This would deserve to be 2 if he hadn't come back. But he did. Still a great moment. But not 2. Popular doesn't mean great.

1 US Hockey Team 1980 USA Hockey Team Defeats Soviet

Rag tag bunch of mostly teen aged amateurs, barely together a few months and playing a sport invented and perfected elsewhere, take on the most polished, professional and unbeatable team in the history of international hockey, and win it. In exhibitions that year, Soviet club teams had gone 5–3–1 against National Hockey League teams, and a year earlier the Soviet national team had defeated the NHL All-Stars 6–0 to win the Challenge Cup. The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War. In the final seconds of the game the crowd began to count down the seconds left. Sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC along with former Montreal Canadians goalie Ken Dryden, picked up on the countdown in his broadcast, and delivered his famous call “…Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk…five seconds left in the game…Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” US won the game 4-3. This victory was voted the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated.
Nothing to add on this one.

This is not my list, just one I found on-line, and I though I would comment on it. There are other great moments. What's great is every person would have a different list. It's not a bad list. It has some truly great moments, some popular choices and a few baffling ones. But 4 baseball picks out of 15. I guess that's okay.

Personally, I would have picked Ryan's 7th no-no, Barry Sanders resetting the record books, Doug Fluties Hail Mary, Edwin Moses and Michael Johnson, 'Nova over the Hoya's, and some of the ones I've listed above.

This would never make any one's list for obvious reasons, it its my top 10 of all time personal favorites. See the picture at the top. What a summer!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Life in the U.K. - 4

Political correctness is alive and well in the U.K.

And getting completely ridiculous and out-of-hand.

I'm going to leave my comments at that, as my Welsh - Dutch - English - French - American Indian ancestry probably doesn't allow me to have an opinion.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Life in the U.K. - 3

Here's an article I find about the oldest pubs in the U.K. And it's getting serious.

Earlier this year, an online row over which pub was the oldest in south Buckinghamshire alone became so furious that Wikipedia was forced to remove the offending articles.
They take their pubs seriously over here. And there is a lot of competition in the four countries to determine which is the oldest in each. Of course, once they figure out the number 1 in each country, they'll start arguing about which is the oldest in the Kingdom.

There is one in Wales that can produce a paper trail back to 1110. Yeah, 1110. 382 years before Columbus sailed for India. And around the time the Vikings supposedly were exploring New Jersey. New Jersey. Is it any wonder they didn't stay.

But the writer does have his priorities in order here:
When all is said and done, though, there is little definitive proof of which pub is Britain’s oldest. But after a pint or three in these character-rich watering holes, you may well ask – does it really matter?
Not to me. But I haven't been here that long.

I don't need this kind of thing in my life

So I'm out there looking for post on baseball in Europe and Africa, and I come across this site.

In other words, be careful what you wish for, because you never know what you will get. And since I wasn't paying attention, I went ahead and registered.

But its a dating site. Nothing to do with baseball at all. The assholes.

Of course, there was a link to this site.

Like I need this in my life.

My super special 104th post of all time

Hey, I made it to 100 posts. Actually a couple of more. I wasn't really paying attention. The way things were going, there were longs stretches of time when I didn't write anything at all, and other periods when I was getting 2 or 3 a day. But I saw today that I had 103 posts, which works out to about 1 every other day since I started this.

I think that's good for me. I like doing this, and was worried that when I couldn't write, I would just stop all together, but I did keep coming back to it.

I would like to thank all of those of you who have read any of this, and particularly those who made comments. Every one of them was read and appreciated, even if there was no answer.

Through this site, I have managed to make some new friends that, while not communicating with them every day, have managed to become a relationship of sorts. That's as good as any thing I've achieved so far by doing this.

I will continue on with this, although when I start working again, I might slow down again. I will continue to write about Neeve and how things are going. I think that's why most people come here to read my posts. That's mainly for me, as it provides a record of how I see things, and well as being good therapy for me to sit down and put it into words.

I also continue to write about other things, such as what its like being an American in the UK, my life and the things I've done (again for the record for Neeve) and what ever I can find on baseball over here. I don't expect people to come here every day to read anything and I don't think a lot would. This isn't really a baseball site, and what I write about isn't everyone's cup of tea. But its what I like to do and will continue to do, as long as I feel the desire to do it.

Almost half the posts have been commented on, so some one is stopping by. Many thanks to all of you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The international league

Now, this was funny.

So, anyone reading, lets see how you do.

You can pick Europe, Asia, South America, the States. Hell, you can pick Antarctica for all I care.

I'm working on a list right now. Lets see how you all do.


This is off the top of my head and what I can think of right now:

United States:

Hershey Chocolates


London Blitz
Dresden Firebombers
Paris White Flags
Den Hauge Justices
Berlin Brown Shirts
Stockholm Syndromes
Rome Gladiators
Hamburg Lers
Bonn Fire
Augsburg Bankers
Seville Barbers
Limerick Poets


Durban Turbans
Pretoria Marchers

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life in the U.K. - 2

Its great to live in a democracy, because our politicians make the best decisions.

It's nice to know that there is no economic crisis, no poverty, no problem with kids killing each other in knife attacks, and the UK won't be sending troops to the DROC to stop the killing.

So obviously they have plenty of time to worry about the important issues in life.

Its really nice to know that someone else's political system is just as fucked as our is.

Life in the U.K. - 1

Chad Johnson and all the other hotdogs playing professional sports should be so glad they are American and not English, because this proves their antics would never be accepted here in the U.K.

He has received a fine and a warning. In the states, his gesture would have been on Sports Center at least 100,000 times by now. Can you imagine the hissy fit Joe Buck would have with this one.

And for some reason, the club will donate to charity. Can you imagine Jerry Jones making a donation to any charity for the actions of Terrell Owens? I doubt it.

It wasn't really a good thing to do, but the guy was trying to show support for his friend. Since when has that ever been wrong?

And as Jeremy Schockey has proven many times, freedom of speech means freedom to be an idiot.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lessons in the English language - 1

Redundancy - Chiefly British. Removed or laid off from a job.

Yep, I've been laid off. So I'm back to writing again, at least for awhile. It was funny. For the last 3 years, when I had the time to do this, I didn't. Then I decided to start writing a blog when I didn't have the time. But I'll try to get some posts done, and maybe a few to save for the future, if I ever get another job.

I'm not really all that concerned about it. I was looking for something else, and would have left as soon as I found something. I would have preferred to wait until I had another job, but I'm not stressing. I got to the point where I really didn't like going to work anymore (at this particular place) and when you get to that point, its time to move on.

But I'm not completely destitute just yet. I have my military retirement, and my disability check every month. I can pay my rent, and I can buy food, and provide some money for Neeve. I'm probably going to have to file bankruptcy because of the amount of bills I have, but that was a problem with the job. Even if I have to do that, all creditors will get repaid eventually. But they might have to take one for the cause for right now. There are more important things.

I also have a friend here who can get me a job tomorrow in telesales, if I want it. I don't. I was an Army recruiter. If you know anything about that, then you know I don't want to do telesales. But it is a job, with bonuses that could actually allow me to make more than I was. So its a fallback. There's also the day labor place in town I can check out. So I'll give it a week and see what happens.

In the meantime, between dropping my resume different places, I'll be able to do some writing. So for those of you who do come and read, and have come back, please return. There will be a post about the court issue tomorrow.

If I can get a job closer to home, and not spend 3 hours a day on the bus, I'll be able to keep going even after I start back to work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't judge a Brit by the color of his kit

Kit being a uniform, gear, outfit used to play sports. There have been some post recently on Shysterball and It Is About The Money, Stupid, about the Brits recently claiming they actually invented the game.

There were accusations, justifications and all manner of comments from the Brits trying to assert their influence over anything American, and Americans telling them what we thought of their attempt to claim our game.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that not all Brits have these issues about Americans and our sports. I hear it almost every day, at work, at the pub, or just out and about at the store, or wherever I am.

It gets a little old, and I have a post I'm working on about that subject. Its just too long for me to finish in one evening.

But at the local pub I go to, only occasionally of course, I have gotten to know a lot of people, and count many of them as friends already. The people who own the pub have been great to me. They know I'm in a tight financial situation right now, but will let me run a tab through the end of the month until payday. If they wouldn't, I would find myself sitting at home much more than I do.

But what is really great about them, is they understand the situation I'm in. A stranger in a strange land, for away from my comfort zone and all alone really. So, on a Saturday or Sunday evening, if there isn't too much of a a crowd or a soccer match on that people have specifically come to watch, they will put on a baseball or football game for me. I don't know if they know how important that is to me. Its my little slice of home when I'm feeling homesick and alone. It's fantastic on their part.

There have been some complaints at times, and a lot of negative comments, but they don't' listen. If they turn it on, they let me watch until I'm ready to go home. So while there are still some issues out there that we need to watch, not every Brit takes the opportunity to rag on Americans.

In fact, some of them go out of their way to make us feel welcome. And its making my life a lot better.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Scenes from a charmed life # 1

I’ve been pretty lucky in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to go places, and live places, that most people never get a chance to see. It doesn’t make me anything special, I’ve just has some unique opportunities and I’ve tried to take advantage of them. For a guy from a small town in Missouri, I’ve been around. I know a lot of people who have been many more places than I have, but I also know a lot of people who have never left the state of Missouri. As much as I love Missouri, that’s a little sad that it defines the boundaries of so many people’s world.

One of the things I’ve always loved is being around water. I like swimming, I like being out on boats, I like walking on the beach. Some of it is the sun and the sand and the warm weather. Some of it is the beautiful women in skimpy bikinis, or less in places. Hey, I am who I am. Sometimes it’s just the peace and solitude. I’ve spent lots of nights out fishing, just drifting in the boat or sitting along the river. It’s quiet, it’s serene, and it’s peaceful. Sometimes it’s a bonfire and a party on the beach. Sometimes it’s sitting on a rock during a grey, stormy day and watching the waves break. There are a hundred reasons why I like being around water.

In my life, I’ve been lucky to be around many different and types of bodies of water. I’ve lived near the east coast of the US several times. Close enough to get to the shore without much effort. I’ve lived on the west coast in LA. I’ve lived on the west coast of England and Angola. I’ve lived near the east coast of Asia. I’ve swam in the Pacific and Atlantic from both sides. I’ve been in the South Atlantic. I’ve lived less than a mile from the Puget Sound and grew up in the Lake of the Ozarks. I’ve swam in the Persian Gulf and seen the Indian Ocean. I swam in the English Channel and taken the ferry from Dover to Calais. Yes, the cliffs are amazing to see. I’ve waded in the Baltic Sea (too cold to swim) and spent summers swimming in the Ohio River while visiting family in Kentucky. I’ve swam in the Mediterranean and lost count of the lakes, ponds, streams and creeks any kid from the country or a small town gets to experience.

Some of the best. For the women: Venice in LA; for the water: Angola (its bathwater warm in the summer), for the challenge: the Ohio River (a strong current); for the beauty: the Lewis and Clark River west of US93 in Montana; for the unique experience: the Persian Gulf on a break from Desert Storm (swimming around while watching the oil tankers and warships moving around; for the good memories: any day on the Lake of the Ozarks as a kid growing up; best sunset: a beach in Angola with a woman you love; best sunrise: over the English Channel in Bournemouth, because it made me understand why I was there and that I was doing the right thing.

I think one of the great pleasures of life is watching a sunset or a sunrise. Whatever you’re location, just stopping and taking the time to watch is well worth it. To me, however, there is something different about watching a sunrise or sunset over the water. Maybe it’s the reflection of light, maybe it’s the unbroken horizon that lets you focus, or maybe it’s usually the distance from any distraction because of the location. If you’ve never had the chance to experience it, you really should. It’s an experience that you will never forget. While I was in Angola, we couldn’t really watch a sunset from the beach. The security situation was bad, and it was too far from town. We had to be back to a certain point by sunset. But we could go out to the Ilha and sit at a restaurant and watch a sunset.

It’s exactly what you see in the movies about islands in the Pacific. You’re sitting at a cafĂ© with friends or someone close. A drink or dinner. Some good conversation. And it reaches a point where sunset is near. It’s not defined. There’s no line in the sky. It doesn’t follow a clock. It isn’t, then it is. And time slows. I swear it really does. And people slow. Conversations lag. There’s less movement. Suddenly you can hear the waves breaking against the rocks. The calls of the birds are clearer. You can see the intricate patterns left in the sand by the waves as the tide changes. Colors in the sky change. The color of the sun changes. Shadows lose their shape and you can hear the flames in the tiki torches. The sun drops, and then it hits the horizon. And suddenly it’s gone. That quickly. And life resumes again. Movement starts. The hands on the clock turn. The shadows are gone. The birds are asleep. And people move on with their lives. Just a brief interlude that we too often forget about after it happens. But life is mostly a series of brief interludes that we don’t pay enough attention to. We just string them together and forget they are usually more important and a lot more fun that the events that come in between.

One of the great things about where I’m living now, in Bournemouth, is that it’s on the English Channel. I live about 3 miles from the beach. And because of where’s it at, on the southern coast, you can actually watch a sunset and sunrise over open water from the same spot. There are only a few places in the world where you can really do that. Patagonia. The tip of Florida. Gibraltar. The Cape of Good Hope. Southern England. Some ocean islands or maybe in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed, but not a lot of places really.

So here in Bournemouth, you can watch the sun set over the ocean and rise over the channel. If you’re having a good enough time, you can do both in the same night. Sometimes, before I moved over here, when I was still traveling over to see my daughter, I would go sit at the beach. I would come over for about 5 days, and didn’t have anything to do. I didn’t really know anyone outside of the hotel staff. I didn’t go out to the pubs or clubs because it just really isn’t any fun by yourself. So on the weekends here, I would just roam around town and end up finding myself down at the beach in time to watch the sunset. And some morning, when I couldn’t sleep because of jet lag, I would walk down and watch it rise. Even though I was seeing my daughter, these weren’t really good trips for me because of all stress and issues involved.

But going down to the beach to watch a sunset always helped. Some people do yoga. Some mediate. Some pray. Some just drink. But to me, watching a sunset or sunrise, whether alone or with someone, is the best medicine in the world. It makes me think more clearly. It makes me see the things I was blocking out for some reason. It gives me time to work out issues I have. Or it gives me an opportunity to just sit and forget about everything for a short while. When I come back to the word, I’ve usually forgotten what it was that got me thinking in the first place.

I just received an e-mail about a friend from Angola who has been hospitalized for depression. I’m not making light of it. It’s a serious situation. There are doctors and medication that can help her.

But I wonder if watching a sunset over the Praia de Sol would help. I know it would help me.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A day to remember

For those of you who don't read Jason at It Is About The Money, Stupid (sorry, not getting the link to work), you should go over and check out his blog about 9/11.

I'm embarrassed to say, I forgot completely about it. I knew today was the 11th, but I just never associated today with THAT day. It isn't a big day here, for the general public. There was nothing I heard on the radio, or saw on the Internet. People weren't talking about it. I'm sure it was out there, but I just didn't hear it. Which is strange, because it had a profound impact on me.
I was in the Army at the time, stationed in DC. My apartment was about 1 1/2 miles from the Pentagon. I was at the Pentagon that morning, about 2 hours before anything happened, so I was never in any danger. But they did lock us down on Bolling AFB and we couldn't leave until late afternoon.

There are some things I remember from that day. Everyone in my family and my friends knew I was in DC and lived near the Pentagon. I didn't have my address book with me, and I couldn't remember anyone's number. I just never could. I still don't know my own phone number without looking it up. I knew I needed to call someone, so I tried to dial my brother's number from memory. I was off by two digits. But I come from a small town, and I explained to the girl who I was, what was going on, and what I needed. We knew each other's family, and she looked up the number in the phone book, and I was able to get hold of my sister-in-law to let her know what was going on.

Think about that. On 9/11 of all days, some strangers calls you and asks you to look up a number in the phone book for them. How many people do you know who might be willing to do that. Things like that happen, but it still seems to be the exception more than the rule in today's world.

Another very vivid memory I have is sitting out on my front steps for the next few nights and the smell coming from the Pentagon. And it wasn't just jet fuel. Not to be too graphic, but there are some things that never leave you. That's why the rescue workers deserve more credit than anyone could ever give them. I've never see Ground Zero, but I have seen the damage to the Pentagon up close. I don't need pictures. I can see it right here in front of me right now.

One thing I would like people to remember is the fact that over 300 people died in DC. I know the numbers pale in comparison, but it doesn't change the fact that it happened. Everyone knows about the Twin Towers. Almost everyone knows about United 93. But lets remember everyone who died that day. As retired military, it might mean a lot more to me than most other people.

But regardless of where and how, and regardless of politics and the events that have happened since, we should always remember that day. And that includes me. Its important.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Those who refuse to support the state deserve no support from the state

Anyone who has read this should be able to tell by now how much of a spots fan I am. A huge one. And while I think baseball is the greatest of them, I have played/coached/officiated in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, and tennis. I'm a huge sports guy.

For those of you who might be reading this and haven't read many of my posts or my profile, I also spent 20 years in the Army, am retired, am a combat veteran of Desert Storm, and have done and seen shit that most people can't even begin to imagine.

My father is retired Air Force. My older brother spent some time in the Army. My sister tried to join the Air Force but was medically disqualified. My younger brother spent 4 years in the Air Force. My father had a uncle killed in World War I, and a cousin who jumped into St. Mere Eglise and was wounded. I have an uncle who spent a year as an Infantryman in Vietnam. And many other family members who have served.

I am proud of my service, but I don't put it in peoples faces. A lot of people I know (especially here) don't have any clue. I don't shy away from it, but I don't volunteer it either. I have immense respect for anyone who has ever served. And I have very strong opinions about the subject. So a lot of people won't like my opinion on this. I don't care.

I found this posting at Spolitical's site. And I have a problem with what I read.

Because it seems this guy is exempt, and doesn't need to do his duty because he has 'unique skills' that other soldiers don't have. How's that again, I missed something? Its funny that a flute player for the West Point band won't ever get released to play for the New York Philharmonic, but someone with 4.3 speed in the '40 gets out? A nuclear physics major at the Point won't ever get released from doing their duty to be able to take a job for the Department of Energy. But a sweet jumper from 15' gets you an exemption? A singer in the Academy chorus won't get released for a chance at American Idol. But a 12 - 6 curve ball gets you out of harms way?

What's more, this guy is commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. A leader of solders? A future general? I don't think so. This guy went to a service academy to learn how to be a leader and he's running away while normal grunts are doing their 5th tour in Iraq or Afghanistan? I'm glad this guy won't actually be leading troops, because he doesn't deserve the privilege. Make him a supply guy, or let him run the mess hall. But he doesn't deserve to lead real soldiers.

I knew a lot of guys in the Army that had a lot of athletic ability. Guys, and some women, who were offered college scholarships to play basketball, or football, or the chance to box professionally. They were all allowed to do so. After they finished their current enlistment and were discharged from the Army. But 'officers' have 'unique skills' that other soldiers don't have?

Seriously, I'm missing something here. This isn't the British Army. Officers are supposed to set the example and lead from the front, not run away and hide. Considering the number of soldiers who are under Stop-Loss and can't get out, and this guy gets to play sports instead heading into a combat zone. Its ridiculous. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating he go into harm's way and be killed or injured. But I know a bunch of 19-year old soldiers (on food stamps) with 18-year old wives and 6-month old babies who would like the same opportunity.

This is wrong. And the fact that more people will support this 'right' to play football than will agree that he needs to do his duty is exactly why its wrong. And why its allowed to happen.

I don't know Caleb Campbell. I don't know if he's a good person or a bad person. It doesn't matter. I hope he has a great career and goes to the Hall of Fame. I also hope in his induction speech he remembers to mention those that fell so he could play a game.

Because when you get right down to it, it is still just a game.

Being a soldier isn't.

Pat Tillman understood that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Not the Messiah

One of the great comedy troupes/shows of all time was Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was complete insanity and a brand of humor that hadn't really been witnessed before. I remember watching it on PBS on Sunday nights at 9 or 10. I was only about 9 or 10, and I didn't really understand a lot of it. It wasn't until years later that I began to appreciate it.

I'll be the first one to admit that 75% of what they did was complete crap. You could say the same thing about Saturday Night Live (with the Not Ready For Primetime Players). But the 25% that wasn't crap is some of the funniest stuff that's ever been seen anywhere. You could say the same thing about Saturday Night Live (with the Not Ready For Primetime Players). I mean, c'mon. The Ministry of Silly Walks. Absolutely brilliant.

And the two funniest things they ever did were Monty Python and the Holy Grail (oh, those knights who say Ni!) and the The Life of Brian. But it seems not every one appreciated the humor of Python, as the Life of Brian was banned in Aberystwyth, West Wales. No, I don't know how to pronounce it. Welsh is a strange language consisting of L's, W's, and Y's. Considering my family heritage is Welsh (amongst many others), is it any wonder that my writing isn't always up to snuff. Oddly, Wales looks much like the Ozark mountains, with the valley farms and coal mining. I''m not suggesting anything, but it is something that strikes me as familiar.

Sue Jones-Davies, who played Judith Iscariot (check out her full frontal nudity, oh yeah), is now the Mayor of Aberystwyth, and is now trying to bring West Wales into the 21st century. I don't know if she'll be successful. Knowing how my grandpa's Cousin Earl, who was a "SOUTHERN BAPTIST PREACHERMAN" (oh yeah, you know what I mean), would have reacted to this movie playing back home when he was in 'charge', I don't see that she'll have a lot of luck. Because Cousin Earl is a lot like all the Welshmen I've met in my time.

I wish Mayor Jones-Davis luck, as I think it is important for an entire new generation of children to be exposed to the truth, I mean the humor, of Monty and the boys.

Because The Life of Brian features the second greatest line in the history of movies. (Adult content only)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 7

Seems like they are serious about campaign reform here in the UK. They're even arresting people.

Again, I'd like them to try something like this in the states. I just don't see it happening. And how much fun would we have during election season if we actually had to deal with issues and what someone can do for the country. And not what the other person hasn't accomplished.

Its a good thing John and Obama are playing nice, isn't it.

Differences between the US and the UK # 6

There's a call from the government here to ban happy hours. I have a hard time believing it will happen, but this is a strange country when it come to those types of situations.

I would like to see someone try something like that in the states. It might work in some of the cities, but I want the goverment to tell my family and friends they can't drink cheap beer after work. They tried something like that once, and it didn't go over well.

They can have my beer when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A taste of freedom

I wanted to expand a little on what I wrote about in the last post. About talking to people from other countries when you get a chance. I've led an extremely lucky life and have traveled to 40 countries and lived in 9 of them. I've been out and about with people in Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. As well as living on the both the Mexican and Canadian border.

As a result I've been around people from many different kinds of backgrounds. And political environments. And political philosophies. I've seen rich people and poor people, and rabble rousers and activists and people who just want to be left alone. I've met people who fought for their country against aggressors and people who collaborated with the enemy.

One of the main things I remember from my time in the Baltics (not the Balkans) and other countries was how much people reveled in their freedom. How the idea of freedom and liberty was something to be cherished and thankful for every day. And how, we as Americans, take those same things for granted.

I'm not being rude or disrespectful about that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that we truly are free is a great thing, and we don't have to think about it on a daily basis. But we do take it for granted. We're so busy telling other people what to do and how to think that we've forgotten that most people don't have the same rights that we abuse. We take our freedom so much for granted that constantly enact laws to take freedom away from ourselves.

Anti-smoking bans, whether or not an establishment can sell alcohol based on its location (school, church, etc) and not on the willingness of people to buy it, and the dumbest one of all is "hate" crime. How do you legislate thought? Maybe George Orwell wasn’t so far off. We claim to be the freest country in the world, but do everything we can to deny ourselves the right to freedom of choice. It’s gotten crazy.

And while things like this are happening in Europe, it is a result of Germany and France trying to run the EU. The reason the eastern European countries have joined the EU are easy to understand. Freedom of movement, more money in hand, and protection from (oh yeah, here it comes) Big Brother.

I love the way writing can flow without even making an effort at it.

But anyhow, most of Eastern Europe wouldn't be in the EU if it wasn't for those reasons. Because it has become as politically correct and stupid as anything we do.

But I can tell you, in the east, they do cherish their freedom. Every day. Anyone over the age of 20 can remember the Soviet occupation and domination. Anyone over 30 can remember the secret police, and massed deportations, and denial of their cultural existence. People in those countries don't look strangers in the eye, and won't talk to people they don't know. Try getting directions somewhere. The reason being, if they were seen talking to a westerner, the secret police would show up at their door and question them about who the person was and why they were speaking to them. They’re not unfriendly. They’re just overly cautious.

The mother of the woman who worked with me was a telephone operator. They were required to listen into conversations and report suspicious ones. Or to record them. In 2004 (2004, not 1974) during the presidential elections in Russia, the government was calling the superintendents of apartment buildings and telling them which residents hadn't voted yet, and to go knock on their doors and tell them to do their duty. What do you think would happen in the states if something like that happened.

You should go meet some of this people and talk to them. About living in slums worse than anything you could see in American cities. About a family of 4 living in a 12' x 9' room, and sharing a bathroom and kitchen with 3 other families. About not having enough to eat. One girl told me how she came home one day and her pet rabbit had disappeared. Her mother told her it ran away. She didn't put it together for years that they had meat for the first time in a month that night. Yeah, it’s funny. But not to her.

Or they people who had families split in two when the Russians chased the Germans back to Berlin. Those caught on the Russian side stayed. Those on the German side made it to refugee camps and emigrated out. Couples split. Siblings split. Parents and child on different sides of the line. National monuments torn down. Children forced to learn the language of a conquering country.

It’s like having a beautiful wife. You don't spend every day thinking about how beautiful she is, you just know. So you don't tell her every day. Or somehow make her understand that you know it. It probably isn't a big deal, and she probably won't ever leave you because of it. But you have taken it for granted and don't realize how lucky you are to really have such a beautiful life. (hope that's not too sexist, Sarah)

Do you know that right now there are over 200 countries, territories, and trusts as recognized by the United Nations. Some of the truly free ones are the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom (see the common connection in speaking the English language - I refuse to push button # 1), western Europe, the Baltics, Slovenia, and other assorted places. If you count them up, it’s less than 50.

Less than 50 countries that are truly free and have civil liberty for its citizen. Even all of those countries practice some form of banning books, denying sex education to teenagers to prevent (OMG) teenage pregnancy, and other archaic laws (US - drive legally as young as 14 in some places, drink at 21 or Europe - drink at 16 and drive at 18). We are still the exception and not the rule.

You might agree with me. You might disagree with me. It doesn't matter. What does is that the people in those countries that have recently become free regard it every day as a gift from the heavens. They haven't become immune to the pleasures of it yet. They still celebrate it every day. We don't. We take it for granted.

And actually, I like that we can take our freedom for granted.

And I like that they still recognize it as a gift.

Maybe as they move closer to us, we can move closer to them. And meet somewhere in the middle.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A dinner at home

I live in a shared house, and it truly is an international setting. There are 3 Bulgarian couples, and the son of one of the couples. There is a South African with his Hungarian girlfriend. There is an Englishman that I haven't met yet. And of course, there is me.

On Saturday night, one of the Bulgarian girls was having a birthday party at the house. I didn't care. I mean, its a shared house and you have to learn to let people have some fun. I had just finished moving in, and wasn't really up for much. But she insisted that I come down for a drink and meet everyone.

So around 9 PM, I went down to say hello, and was going to head out to the local (that's what people call the neighborhood pub they frequent), have a beer or two, and then come back home. After all, its only 187 steps from the bar to the door of my room. Yes, I counted. I'm a guy, that's what we do.

I was going to say hello, have a quick drink, and get on out and let them have their party. Before I could say "Bob's your uncle", I was pushed down in a chair, given a beer, and a plate of food that could feed Ethiopia. Good food, too. All Bulgarian delicacies. I had been in Bulgaria in 2004, and was somewhat familiar with the food, but they just kept piling food higher and higher.

I wasn't trying to intrude, but they did make me feel very welcome. Almost all of them spoke English, at least to some degree, to include the best looking woman there, who kept serving me food and beer. Unfortunately, her boyfriend arrived later, so no joy on that. I ended up staying for almost 3 hours, and had a great time.

I've done things like that before in other countries I've lived in. Been the only foreigner in a group of people and having a great time. Regardless of what the media says, most people do not actually dislike Americans. They might not like our government or our policies, but they do like us.

Sidenote --- I actually heard a Brit today telling me he thought we were doing the right thing in Guantanamo, and we should continue doing it. This isn't too start a political discussion about the right or wrong of it, just curious to hear a Brit support it.

Its amazing the amount of people in the states who are afraid to travel, and would go pale at the thought of being the only American among a group of people who don't speak English as a first language. I'm lucky. It doesn't faze me at all, and I enjoy it. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend it. You'll have more fun than you'll ever know. And learn things about your country that you never realized. (There will be more on that theme in an upcoming post).

I've been lucky in my life, and have been places and done things that most people can't imagine, let alone consider doing. Of course, there is a down side to everything also. It was called Desert Storm. And Kansas. Man, I really hated living in Kansas. And Los Angeles. But Angola was kind of cool.

Anyhow, now that I'm done rambling, my point is this. If you ever find yourself in the situation where you are the only American in a group of people, don't be afraid. Embrace it. Go have fun. You'll be surprised in finding out what other cultures are like.

And more importantly, I think you'll be surprised at finding out what you're really like.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 5

One of the girls that works with me rides the same bus in every morning. So we usually walk to work together. Gossip about the company and the employers (I'm a listener, not a talker) and just general things going on.

Friday morning, on the way to work, she decided to stop and get something to eat. She said she had gotten up late and hadn't had breakfast yet. That didn't sound like a bad idea, so I went along. Its the last time I will do that.

She ordered what I can only term as the most horrendous concoction ever known to mankind. A coleslaw and cheese sandwich. Now I'm a live and let live kind of guy. You do your thing, I'll do my thing, and we don't agree, we just avoid the subject.

But I was thoroughly disgusted by this. How can anyone eat something like that. I've been in Asia, where seafood consists of anything that comes from the sea, and its not always a Red Lobster platter. I've lived in Africa, where I've told people "don't tell me what it is, I'll eat it anyhow. If you tell me what it is, I won't eat for a week". During Desert Storm, I ate 5 MRE's a day (and unless you've done it, you can't imagine the horror of it).

In other words, the things I've put into my body, to include beer from around 60 different countries, Tequila, Ouzo (Greek), Racki (Turkish), SoJu (Korean), Saki (Japanese), Balzams (Latvian) and good ole' American moonshine, mean to me that I'm not a particular person. I've put a lot of disgusting looking and tasting things into my body. But the sight of a coleslaw and cheese sandwiches just turned my stomach.

And when I mentioned that I felt it was a disgusting combination to put between two slices of bread, she immediately began to criticise the fact that Americans eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Houston, we might have a problem.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A little literary help

As previously mentioned, where I work, everyone drinks tea. A lot of tea. So we have a machine in the break area that heats the water. Something like the coffee machine in McDonald's, but without the million dollar lawsuits. Pull the lever, you get instant boiling water.

The other day, the machine broke, and we had no hot water for tea. Mostly because no one could find the kettle that was supposed to be in the cupboard. So, no hot water.

I work for a company that installs solar panels that are used to interface with the hot water heating system in homes, in order to provide hot water at low cost and be environmentally correct. We sit above a warehouse filled with panels and boilers.

Is this an example of irony, or am I lost in translation?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 4

I've done some commuting in the states, mostly in L.A. and D.C. Oh, the land of the initials. You have to love it. In L.A., it was the bus, even though they actually do have a subway. Its not real big, but its there. I've seen it. Its as real as the Hollywood Hills. Trust me on this one. In D.C., it was bus and mostly on the Metro (subway/tram).

But they have something unique here in the U.K., (oh, those initials again, I'm really starting to feel at home) which are the double-decker buses. If you ever get yourself to a place where they have, get up on top and enjoy the ride.

Its the same thing as why I like driving a pick-up (I will get one here). Its because you sit up high, over the top of everyone else. You can see the world from a different perspective. Plus the feeling while you're riding up there is great. Like your going to tip over on ever sharp curve or corner. It kinds of puts a charge into your system and gets you going for the day. I'm sure to the people who do it everyday, it becomes common place. But I still enjoy it.

If you're ever here, give it a try.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 3

The Brits drink tea. A lot of tea. All the time. Its like a mania. Its a little excessive really. And they have tea breaks instead of coffee breaks. Nothing really strange about that, except that it isn't really a break. Its just an accepted thing that every couple of hours someone in the office will go downstairs and make tea for everyone.

And if you drink tea (or coffee for a few people), then you're expected to take your turn. And of course, everyone drinks it differently. Milk, or no milk. Or some milk, or a lot of milk. Or no sugar. Or two sugars, or one. Or black. We wrote up a list. So I can keep it straight.

And it really is little different. I think back to my army days. We all drank coffee. A lot of it. You wouldn't believe how much coffee is drunk by the Army. If the Army ever banned coffee, Columbia would go out of business. At least the legal business. But never in 20 years did I ever, at any rank, offer to get coffee for everyone in the office. They could get their own damn cup if they wanted it, especially if they were going to bitch about the amount of milk and sugar.

Things like that just aren't done in the States. At meetings, yes, but this is different. Everyone expects that. But not just sitting in the office working. We don't do that. But nothing like this. And don't screw and do something stupid like forgetting and getting a cup for yourself and not bringing one for everyone. IT JUST ISN'T DONE. AND AMERICANS ARE UNCVILIZED FOR NOT DOING THIS. I've been hearing about that for a week.

So I either have to stop drinking tea and coffee, or learn to go with the flow. Its not hard, just strange.

But to prove my point that I'm not a selfish person, and I'm willing to be a team player, I did something that I thought was funny. I had forgotten and got myself a cup, and didn't for everyone else. And they let me hear about it. So when I went to the water cooler to get a drink of water, I brought everyone else a cup also. It didn't go over well.

But I thought it was funny.

Now I'm workin' for a livin'

I got hired. I think. They waited until late Friday afternoon to talk to us. There was a woman who was temping also, and we were both wanting to get hired on full-time. Originally, we thought we were both going to get hired on, but then we found out they were only going to keep one of us, and it was actually a competition. I kind of felt bad about it, because we were riding the bus together and had gotten to know each other, and she's a nice lady.

We knew Friday was the day they would let us know, but neither one of us was sure about anything, or how it would work out. I wasn't stressing about it too much, because there just wasn't a reason to. I couldn't do anything about their decision, except just work hard and show them what I could do.

They called her down first at around 3:30 to talk to her. When she came back upstairs, I could tell she wasn't happy. But I couldn't talk to her because of the amount of people around. And I still didn't know my status. But I had a good idea. That morning, the manager came to me and asked me to make a phone call. There had been some problems on the job, and he wanted me to do a courtesy call to see if everything was satisfactory. And to see if they had sent in the payment for their system.

Now that's not really the job I was hired on for. They have people to do that. So I figured I was being tested. I didn't really want to do it, and I won't do it as a normal part of the job. I was a recruiter in the Army, against my will. For those of you who have been in, you know what I'm talking about. For those who haven't, its hard to explain. But I won't do that kind of work, where I have to call people and ask them to buy things, or try to collect money.

I was getting tested. So I said I would. Fortunately, they were at work all day and I never did get hold of them. But that told me I pretty much had the job. Why else would they ask a temp on his last day to do something like that. The manager finally got my resume, and told he was impressed by it. That's a good thing, I guess, but its just what I've done. I work hard, I work well, and I put in a full days work for a full days pay. So I've been successful. Nothing special about that. We're all supposed to do that, right.

Technically, I'm still a temp for another week, but he was already talking about grooming me for more responsibility and bigger things. Right now, we have two scheduling manager and two scheduling assistants. But because of the volume of business we're getting, they're talking about splitting London into a separate team. So I think he's talking about me being a Scheduling Manager when it happens. It would be a promotion, and a raise, but I'm not sure if I want it.

They have to meet a target each week of £250,000 right now. Another manager would increase it close to £400,00. I could use the money, but I have an aversion to doing any job based on sales, or a quota, or a target. I don't want to do it. I might tell them no. But at this point, I'm not sure. Money is at a premium right now.

Which is why I feel bad for the woman who didn't get kept on. My performance was what kept her from getting a job. I have enough chivalry in me to think I should have not accepted the position, because she didn't get it. But that's kind of stupid, really. I need the job. I need the money. I don't owe anyone any loyalty or charity. We all have to make our way. But I do feel bad.

But the main thing is that I have a job. Now I need a place to stay.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A new job

I finally got hired on last week. Its a temp job, for two weeks, working towards permanent if they like what I'm doing. Its for a company that installs solar panels for hot water heaters in houses. Its a boom business, making over $26 million a year. Growing really fast. Look at me, being green. When I don't even believe in global warming.

My job is the assistant scheduling manager. Once a salesman gets a buy, we arrange for the roofers to do the installation of the panel(s), a plumber for that, scaffolding, electricians, etc. And provide basic customer service for service calls and minor problems. Not bad. Busy, which I like. A little hectic, at times, but nothing impossible.

The only problem I have right now is actually learning the job. Or putting it all together, actually. The girl I'm replacing is a little scatter-brained, and kind of lazy. She's all over the place, and keeps taking the phone away to talk to customers herself, or taking over the computer. I'm trying to be polite, and not say much, but that can't last. If I can't get the specifics down, they won't want to keep me on. And I really need the job. I'm going to have talk to the boss tomorrow. We're going to have to do something different.

The only other problem is the distance. Its not hear in town where I'm at. Its about 15 miles out, so that means 2 buses. Only problem is that only one runs from where I am at in time to get me to the 2nd one. And that only has a 5-minute leeway. I'm looking for a new route, but there really aren't. What I'm doing is walking about 30 minutes to get to the bus I need without relying on the first one. Which I don't mind, because its good exercise. But the problem is, again, when I get to where I'm going, its another 20 minute walk.

The office is in an industrial park at the edge of town, and no buses right there on the schedule. And the bus I need at night leaves at 5:50, and I get off of work at 5:30. So I'm hoofing it to get there. And spending almost 13 hours a day at work, or traveling. Looks like I'm buying a car a lot sooner than I had planned. Assuming I keep this job.

But its a start, and the agency I'm with said they can get me more work if that doesn't work out.
So, here's hoping. But its a start.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Working for a livin'

Or not, as the case would be. I know this is a lot of me pissin' and moanin', just like the previous post. But I'm actually getting a little irritated. I've been here 4 weeks now, and I still don't have a job. I understand the UK is going through a recession, just like the US either is, or isn't, depending on who you believe.

I understand that no one owes me anything, particularly a job. But I haven't even had an interview yet. That's a little ridiculous. Seems there is no law here in the UK, like the US, that says they have to tell someone why they weren't accepted. A simple, "You were unsuccessful", is all that is required. So I've put in over 200 applications at different jobs, in different areas. I've worked HR and admin, logistics, purchasing, finance, bookkeeping, maintenance, telecommunications, and senior management. I am willing to work in a warehouse, clean things, do grounds work, work in a concession stand, sell pizza, pretty much anything. The only two things I won't do are telemarketing and sales. I was forced to be a recruiter in the Army, and I would rather go back to Iraq than ever do that again.

I've only actually had one company tell me that my American experience didn't match up with what they were looking for. I don't believe it, but I give them credit for trying. My last job in the states was managing a bowling alley. It seem I'm not even qualified to work the counter in one here. I don't get it. I understand the difficulties of being in a foreign country, and that no one will just give me a job, because I want it and need it. But I haven't had a single interview yet. I find that hard to believe. That no on is even willing to sit down and talk to me about what I might do to them.

I don't want to think its an anti-American thing, because I don't really believe it is. But much like the housing situation, I think it confuses them. They wouldn't get a Pakistani or a Nigerian applying for the jobs I'm looking at. But I am, and they don't know how to deal with. A foreigner, but one who has applicable experience and speaks and reads and writes the language fluently.
Okay, I'm from Missouri, so adequately. They don't know who to deal with it, so they just tell me no.

I have to go to a laundromat to dry my clothes. They provide a service also. For over 3 weeks, since I've been here, there's been a sign on the door advertising for weekend help. Less than 20 hours a week. So I called today, and was asked what kind of experience I had working in a laundromat. I asked what kind of experience I needed. The replay was, "working in a laundry mat". My question again was, "what kind of experience do I need. I can use a washing machine. I can use a dryer. I can fold, I can fluff. I can iron. I can even put it all back in the bag. What kind of experience do you need."

The guy then proceeds to get a rude, snotty attitude, and tell me I don't have the experience necessary. I mention to him that the sign has been up for almost a month and they don't' have any experienced people. That's why they're still looking. They need someone. I'm willing to work. I can do the job. I fail to understand the problem, as stated. He then proceeds to tell me that they have "interviewed" several qualified candidates for the post, but if I wanted to call back in two weeks and talk them again, assuming the position was still open, I could. If anyone is confused by this, good. Because I am.

This is what I'm dealing with. I did have one interview, I thought. An agency called me and had me come down and fill out all the paperwork, and told me there was a job I was a fit for, and they would set up an interview for me. A temp job for 5 weeks, but a start. So I waited all day Monday and got no call. Fair enough. I waited all day today, and got no call. Now I'm pissed. If they don't want me, its fine. But don't leave me sitting all day waiting, then not call. Very unprofessional, in my opinion.

As I said, this might be all null and void by tomorrow. I do have an interview for one job. But its nights and weekends, and I don't really want it, because of the time issue when I start getting my daughter. But its a job, so I'll take it if offered, and worry about the details later. I did get a call late this afternoon that I'll have to call back on in the morning. Should be another interview. I might get one of them. All for 7 an hour. And if those don't work out, I'll start the day labor thing by next Monday. I can do that six days a week, and make 300 - 400 a week. Maybe.

Unless I can get paid to do this, but I find that highly unlikely. Time to start the manuscript, and see if it sells.

Living on a prayer

I have to get a 2-bedroom place, for when my daughter starts to come stay with me. Since I haven't worked for almost 2 months now, money's getting tight. And the system here, first and last months rent, and a deposit. So I'm looking at almost 2,000 just to get into a place. And I'm not working. If I can get in, I'll be alright. Between my Army retirement and my disability and what I can make over here, I'll be able to pay the rent, the utilities, buy groceries, and pay my child support. And not much else.

I have another problem, when it comes to living conditions however. I might have to move out of where I am right now. It seems I was misinformed. I found this place on-line. Its a shared student house, which is common, because there is a university here. 4 bedrooms, and shared kitchen, bathroom and living spaces. A guy from Ghana, a guy from Spain, a girl from the Congo, and a couple from the UK.

The girl from the Congo moved out and went back to the Congo. I guess people do that. The guy from Spain is off somewhere making a movie. So the let me move into the room the Congolese girl had been living in. I was in to replace the couple downstairs. Seems they were moving out early, and had to find someone to replace them so they could have their deposit back. Which I wasn't aware of until after the fact.

They also told me the rent was 300. Come to find out, its actually 340. When I asked about it, they told me they would pay the extra 40 a month, and put it in the landlords account. Then they disappeared, and no one knows where they moved to. Add on top of that, here in the UK they have something called a council tax. I'm still trying to figure out what that is. But their exemption for students ran out, so now I am supposed to pay it. Another 78 a month.

To add to all of that, they had told me that Internet and cable TV was provided, along with a washer/dryer. Which it was, until they moved out and took it all. Now I'm a little pissed. Mainly because they left the place a pigsty, and I've cleaned it up. So the landlord says if I want to stay, I need to pay the extra cost and the council tax. But I still have to be out by the 1st of August, so she can rent it to a new group of students. She's only charging me by the week right now, and giving me a chance to look for another place to live.

So I've spent all day on line, and looking through the paper, and going to all the convenience stores where they let people post notices. I've called at least a dozen places, and have gotten nothing. I don't know if its because I'm American or not, but I'm starting to wonder. I don't think its because they dislike Americans here. They just don't understand us as immigrants. In the 4+ years I've been coming here, I've heard exactly 3 Americans speaking. And its possible some of them were Canadians and I didn't catch the accent.

Here's my main dilemma, however. What kind of place do I look for. Eventually, my daughter will be staying with on the weekends, but when? So do I look for a room to stay in until I get back on my feet (working) and then look for something later, when she is ready? Or do I go ahead and try to get a place of my own, hoping maybe she'll be able to stay even sooner? And if I do that, will I be able to afford it, with the deposit and all?

Do I stay where I am, and pay the extra, and try to move into a place in August, when I'm short of money, on the hopes my daughter might stay with me? Or do I try to find a temp place for a few months until I can afford something? I want to move into a house/apartment once, not several times. Where ever I find, I'm staying for at least 3 years. Until I'm ready to think about buying something.

The problem might be solved for me if I can't find a room. The only answer I received back was from someone wanting a 6-month commitment. I can't do that. Or more appropriately, I don't want to. I have enough issues in life without worrying about this one. And I just have the nagging feeling that I'll make the wrong one, whichever one it is. But that's okay too.

Because I've already made the only one that really matters, and it was the right one.

The cost of living

Its expensive over here. Worse than New York, DC, or LA. To be fair, I've only lived in LA and DC, and not New York. But people are always telling me how expensive it is there. I think I've figured out the correlation, however.

The pound (I've got to find the symbol for that and get it on my keyboard somewhere) is going for $1.97. Basically, 2 - 1. So I figured out how to do the conversion in my head so that its a little easier to deal with. I'm trying to keep track of how much money I'm spending, and what things are costing, and the like. Here are some examples:

a beer here: £2.80
a beer at home: $2.25

rent for a 2-bedroom place: £600
rent for a 2-bedroom place: $350

KFC: £4.19 for the 3-piece, but no biscuit
KFC: $4.50 with a biscuit and an extra side

utilities: £200 a month utilities: $225 a month

Pepsi: 95p for the small one
Pepsi: $1.35 for the big one

minimum wage: £5.62
minimum wage: $6.50?

So, all in all, its more expensive over here, but if I just look at it as a 1-1 exchange, its pretty simple. Its seems the best way to do it. If I spend 10 pounds ($19.70) on dinner and a couple of beers, its like spending $19.70 on dinner a couple of beers.

The most important thing, however, that I've been able to figure is this. Its expensive as hell over here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A little bit about why I suck at relationships

I suck at relationships. I always have. I probably always will. I've only been in a couple of long-term relationships in my life, and none of them have worked out. Partly because of me, partly because of the woman involved, and partly due to the demands of the Army. Especially when I was moving on an average of every 10 months, for quite awhile. Add in deployments, field problems of 30 - 45 days, all the duty time, and its hard sometimes.

The one thing I've found out is that long distance relationships don't work. It amazes me that people try to do it, but I just don't get it. I'm not talking about married guys deployed to a war zone, or going to Korea for a year. Those are commitments that are much deeper. I never got that far into a relationship for those kind of feelings to matter.

The reasons why relations start are exactly the reason they don't work long distance. If its sex, you can't do that. So you'll find it somewhere else. Or not, and the frustration mounts, and it only becomes about the sex when you're together. Why travel 3000 miles to get laid, when its at the nearest bar. If its for companionship, you don't get that on a phone call once a week. If its for money, eventually one of you will do something that screws it up. So they don't work.

So what would happen in my case is, something always happened. I've met a lot of great women. Probably more than my fair share of them. I would have been happy marrying any one of a dozen of them. But it always seemed to happen right as I was getting ready to leave for another country. To me, 2 months of dating isn't enough time to build a relationship that will involve separation.

Sidenote*** I did work with one guy who made it work somehow. He got out of training, went home for the weekend, got married to his highschool sweetheart, and left on Monday for Korea. He spent a year over there, came home for a weekend, and reported to duty at our company. He wanted to save money for a place to live and get her to where we were as soon as possible, so he saved his leave. Common thing. He arrived in the states on Friday, arrived at our unit on Monday, and on Wednesday, he deployed to Saudi Arabia with us for 8 months. Last I heard, they were still together. But I don't how. That must be what true love is.

As I said, I would always end up leaving, or the woman would end up leaving. Or, like the girl Michelle I knew, who chased after me for a year, and I wasn't smart enough to release she was the right one, because I was chasing some other girl. Who I dumped when I found out she was out banging other guys while I was gone. Or the two women I met who were perfect. I really thought I had something going with both of them, but it wasn't to be. They both decided to go back to their husbands. The fact that they both told me they were divorced, and not separated probably makes them less than perfect. For some reason, married women have always chased after me. Its a double-edged sword, however. Sex, with no complications. Woo hoo!!!!! Angry husbands with guns. Not so woo hoo.

Another good reason why I suck at relationships, and probably the best, is because of my family. We are so dysfunctional we make the Bundy's look like the Brady Bunch. Two parents who never loved each other. Thank god for the 50's and "doing the right thing". Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. And they had 3 more kids on top of it. And when you're a kid and you realize you are an inconvenience in your parent's life, it makes you think about the future. When they finally got divorced, we were actually happy, because then we didn't have to deal with the arguing and fighting.

In my extended family, of 8 aunts and uncles and 27 cousins, there are 7 that haven't either been divorced or married someone who had previously been divorced. I'm a child of the 70's, but it wasn't always good, the new way. So growing up, marriage wasn't something that worked. In my family, if you weren't divorced, you were going to be. I have lots of great examples of the "perfect marriage" to choose from. So one of the main reasons I never worried about relationships and trying to build was, "why?" It doesn't work. It will all end up badly. I don't want to do that.

Which is also a lot of denial. There have been women I should have had long relationships with, or married, but I always talked myself out of it. I convinced myself she wasn't the right one, or it just wouldn't work. I can blame my family, and the Army, or anyone else that I want. They didn't make it easy. In fact, at times it was damn near impossible. But in the end, its still on me. Sometimes you just have to suck it up, slap yourself around, and get on with life. Making excuses is not the way to go through life.

We all have the ability to be better than what we were taught. That's what makes us intelligent beings. That's why I have a hard time labeling addiction a disease. It takes away personal responsibility. If we can always blame someone or something else, then it can't be our fault. But until we can admit its our fault, we'll never get over it.

I've met the perfect woman. Three times. Could've, should've, would've, its still on me, regardless of the reason. And even if I know all of this now, as opposed to pretending I didn't know it for 20 years, I'll still suck at relationships. But one thing I know. Somewhere out there is a woman who'll convince me otherwise.

And I'll probably screw it up.

Or maybe I won't.

My second experience

My second attempt at driving a car here went much better than my first one. Mainly being, I didn't hit anything. Its not really all that difficult, if you take your time, go slow, and pay a lot of attention to what's happening around you.

The only problems this morning was timing. It was 8:00 am rush hour traffic, it was raining, and I was following the girl, who likes to drive fast. And went a completely different direction than I was expecting.

I'm pretty good with directions, and have only been lost twice in my life driving, that I can remember. So I knew how to get to the place, but I was following her and she went down a road I wasn't familiar with, so I lost my bearings immediately. I would have figured it out eventually. Its a small city, and everything is close together. But she kept driving away from me, then having to stop and wait.

She also decieded to go on the dual carriageway, which is 4-lane divided highway. I wasn't expecting that. Everyone merges from the wrong side. But I made it, and didn't kill anyone. So I guess it was okay. With a little practice, I think I can probably do this.

Monday, June 2, 2008

My first experience

I'm staying in a shared house, with a bunch of students, at the moment. Two of them are living together, and have found their own house, as they both just gradutated. They are moving today, and had to rent a van in order to move everything they have. It was that, or hire a company to do it, which they can't really afford.

The problem, however, is they are both 23. And to rent a vehicle in the UK, you have to be 26. So they needed someone with a driver's license to go down and actually rent the vehicle for them. I didn't think too much of it. They have been nice to me since I've been here, and actually let me stay for the first 2 weeks free. The landlord was in Thailand and didn't know anything about it.

The trouble began when we got to the rental place. We drove down in their car. She was going to drive their car back, and I was going to ride back in the van. Until they informed me that the guy didn't drive. I was expected to. I had thought we would get around the corner, and then switch places. But he's only had 3 driving lessons, and doesn't know how. So I got volunteered. Oh, just like in the Army.

And it went fine, for about the first 10 feet, when I hit the mirror on a parked truck and broke the mirror on the rental van. It scared the hell out of me, because I heard this big bang, and did'nt know what it was. I've never done that before.

Sidenote*** Always get the insureance on a rental. Its worth the $10.

But we continued on down the road, because it was a 1/4 mile before I could find a place to pull over and fix it. By then, it was too late to go back. The rest of the trip, about 5 miles, was fine. No serious issues. The roads are narrow, and when people are parked, it becomes one-lane in many places. So you have to figure out the right away.

It was defintely different. The gear shift is on the opposite side, the mirror thing (for the ones that work) are backasswards, and the roads are too narrow. There are alos a lot of roundabouts.

But for only my second time doing, I guess it was okay. With the one minor hiccup. The only other time was in South Africa, 5 years ago. Going down the highway, I reached over to shift, opened the door, and almost fell out of the car.

Sidenote*** Wear seatbelts in this situation.

It also helped having a passenger who can navigate and remind me of things not to do. Once I get a car, I'll get out early Sunday mornings, when there isn't much traffic. Its still a little nerve-racking, but I think I can get used to it. Eventually.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Doing the Daddy duty

I saw my daughter last weekend, and it was a good visit. She's getting more used to me all of the time. Good things will happen. But at the end of the visit, I was hit with my first taste of "Daddy Duty".

Some charity did a book project at her school. Basically, they had a form poem, and talked to each child, and had them fill in the blanks. My best friend is --------. My favorite food is -------.
That sort of thing. Then it was published in book format, as "My Child's First Poem", with their name listed below the poem. To prove it is theirs, obviously.

When my daughter and her mother were getting into the car, my ex called my daughter to the trunk and had her give me the books. Its a pretty neat idea. I found my daughters, and read it to her. I really enjoyed it, and I think she did also. She's not into a lot of affection just yet, but she leaned against me while I was reading, which was great. I think sometimes she forgets.

She had two books left. I guess there was a quota for each child. So I offered to buy both of them. As I found out after I offered, at $25 each. Did I tell you its expensive over here. So I got my real first taste of what the future will hold. Lessons, dresses, parties, all the good stuff that will end up costing me a fortune.

And I don't care. It will be worth every penny I spend. She can have it all. Daddy Duty is going to be great.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I can't talk bad about the Brits

I made a vow not to talk bad about Britain, the Brits, or most things associated with Britain. David Beckham doesn't count. He thinks he international, so I can say bad things about him.

The reason for doing so lies mostly with my daughter. She was born in the UK, is being raised here, and barring some unforeseen circumstance, will be a Brit throughout her life. Having a British mother and an American father will be enough strain on her, especially considering the situation between her mother and myself. So I made a vow to never be negative about Great Britain.

It wouldn't be appropriate for me, as her father, to talk bad about her country. And while I will do everything I can to make sure she knows she is half-American, having an American father doesn't make you an American, anymore than Obama's father being African makes him an (word that has replaced black to refer to a certain segment of society in America, but that I refuse to use as long as I am referred to as a white person). And I'm not talking about the bad word.

So I have to be very sensitive about saying the wrong thing. Even though I'm sure she'll grow up hearing negative comments about Americans and the US most of her life. Most of it isn't actual insults. Its kind of how we talk about the French, but without the hostility. And not nearly as bad as the Missouri-Kansas border war.

Another reason is because of something stupid I did before she was even born. One day, at the beach in Angola, sitting with a bunch of people I knew, and some others I didn't, I got a little hot under the collar. I'm not sure how the situation came up, but we started talking about September 11, and the attacks on America. A British guy, that I didn't know, made the comment, "that it was all our fault and we got what we deserved". Now, this isn't about politics, but when considering I was in the Army, lived 3/4 of a mile from the Pentagon that day, and have seen the aftermath of it, that's not really a good thing to say to me.

I got a little pissed. So I cussed him. Loudly, and quite well, I might add. I let him know what I thought of him, and his opinion, and what he could do with it, and how we could never be friends. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. I don't regret calling him a piece of shit. Or an SOB. Or anyone of the dozen other names I called him. What I do regret is calling him a British piece of shit. And a British SOB. And British other things. That was completely wrong, and out of line. And I regretted it immediately. I almost got fired for that one. But that wasn't what I regretted.

What I regretted was referring to him as a "British" anything. Because it was said in the context of two people having a discussion, not a UN summit. Add to the fact that my fiance (now my daughter's mother) is British, and my best friends mostly British, and most of the people I associated with were all British. And it was completely unfair of me to say what I said, considering that it wasn't official British policy to say anything like that.

Side note*** I didn't hang around Americans when I worked at embassies, and neither did anyone else. The State Department people are the biggest bunch of snobs you could ever meet in your life. They looked down their noses at me because I was military, and then because I refuse to sit in the ivory tower, and actually went out and had a life. They can't stand it, because it makes them less special.

The next day, and for several days after that, I apologized to my fiance and all of my British friends for what I had said. They all instantly forgave me and told me not to worry about it. They understood the context in which it happened, and weren't angry. In fact, a couple of them were more pissed off than I had been, and I actually had to stop one from going and finding the asshole.

But as soon as my finance got pregnant, I realized I was forever tied to Britain, and had to change the way I think about things. So, no UK bashing. No jokes about the British. Peace and harmony and good will. The problem I have, however, is some of the American-bashing that goes on by Brits. Not the majority, but a few. I've been sitting places (bar, restaurant, train station) and someone will hear my accent, and ask if I'm American. When I say yes, the next phrase is usually, "You know what I think about your country/Americans/your government/etc."

So, while I've made the vow to be the better person, I still have to listen to the flip-side, on more occasions than I care to hear. But that's the price you pay for living in a foreign county. Unless its foreigners living in the US, then we're supposed to sit and be the better people. But this is our life. And I don't regret being here, and if I have to listen to some of that from time to time, so be it. I'll survive. And I can do it without saying negative things about the UK.

The exception to this is any international match involving the US, and then I get to be a flag-waver all I want. Just not be rude. Unless my daughter is in another room. And can't hear me.

We really sucked

I watched the US-England friendly last night at the pub I've been hanging out in, and I was completely embarrassed. Not because we lost. Because of the way we played. I thought it would be a good match, and we could give them a game. I didn't know about winning, but thought a tie might be possible. The English automatically assumed the win, and got it. Isn't that what we used to do in international competition, regardless of the sport.

Side note*** In the United Kingdom (Great Britain), England, Wales, Scotland, and the Republic of Northern Ireland (no, I'm not making that up) play as individual nations in their traditional sports. Such as soccer, cricket, rugby, etc. Sports where they are traditional powerhouses. But in sports where they need a large population base to pull from to compete, such as the Olympics, basketball, track and field, they compete as Great Britain.

The final score was 2-0, and in soccer that's a virtual blowout. Think the Red Sox playing the Royals. The score might seem close, but there was no actual competition. The US was outplayed. And here's why. They weren't aggressive. I'll say that again. The US wasn't aggressive. What will all the foreign newspapers have to say about that. I'm sure the Washington Post will be able to find some secret government conspiracy involved, even if they have to make it up.

The English players pushed us around all night long. The US didn't want to make contact, avoided contact, and I swear, never got close enough to "see the whites of their eyes". Or is that over the top. According to the English (British) media, the victory over the US was "not a major achievement".

Now for reasons I will go into later, I can't talk smack about the UK or the people or anything associated with any of this. I just can't. But England pushed us around and is now talking smack about us. We're letting a European country push us around and talk smack. That's the problem with soccer. American soccer fans are the touch-feely type, and will just accept it as a matter of course. Think about a European basketball team pushing around the Pistons, then talking smack. I want front row seats for that one. I'm glad they're our best buddies and allies, because what would the people who don't like us say. You know, like the Mexicans. If they could actually beat us anymore.

There was another major problem. A lot of us (me) complain about the Europeanization of basketball, and the flopping that goes on, brought on by the influx of European players. Its true, it happens, and I don't like it. But the reverse is going on. Lets call it the Hip-hopizaton of European soccer, and the "one-on-one: I'm better than you; teammates, I doan need no stinkin' teammates" attitude that prevails in the NBA. It now happens in soccer as well. Because the stars don't want to pass to anyone. They want to score themselves. In a game where 3 goals or less is average, you might be able to justify it. Except you can't. And it helped lose the match last night.

Because instead of driving inside to try to score, the US (think Adu) was willing to sit back and take long kicks that had no hope of going in, and no help when it didn't. Think of an NBA game with 5 Kobe Bryant's standing around the 3-point line. They're all going to shoot all game long, and not actually make very many. But because no one is under the basket to rebound, there are no rebounds, and the other team gets the ball after every shot. If you know the game of soccer, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't know the game, you probably don't care, and I'm not going to give a clinic.

England did the maximum substitutions (6) and never was worried about it at all. Think Ortiz, Manny being pinch hit for in the 3rd inning, and Paplebon being told to take the weekend off and go fishing, because he wasn't needed. It was a terrible performance. I don't follow US soccer at all. So I don't know if there are issues with the players or the coaching, or what. But they have got to get tougher and actually attack the goal if they want to win. It just never happened at all.

Another side note*** Wayne Rooney, from England, picked up a yellow card at about the 75', for a hard tackle. Could have gone either way, but it was nice to see the biggest name on England's roster still playing hard and trying in what was essentially a blowout. Kind of like Kobe playing garbage minutes in a blowout loss, but playing defense and rebounding instead of trying to score. If the US would have played with that type of effort, it might have been a completely different game.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Not a good sign

I was supposed to have some temporary work this week, for a couple of days, at a local hospital. But they called me this morning and told me it had been filled internally, and I wouldn't be needed. I don't have any reason not to believe them, but its not a good sign.

I can still give it a couple of weeks of looking for something permanent, but all the agencies I've spoken to think I will have a hard time finding something. They all suggest I work a series of temp jobs until I can get established and better known in the area.

I really want something permanent, because it will help when it comes to renting a place. But I guess I might have to go for the temp stuff if nothing comes up. Problem is, none of it really pays very well. And its expensive over here.

I was hoping for around $4000 a month. Now that might seem like a lot, but consider a decent 2-bedroom, furnished apartment will cost at least $1500 a month. And I'm not talking about the Ritz. Add another $300 a month for utilities. $300 a month for food. I don't know how much insurance is yet. I'm afraid to ask. And eventually buying a car, and insurance for that. And gas at $9 a gallon. And another $600 or so for child support. It all adds up in a hurry. So I don't think I was being unreasonable. And I've seen plenty of jobs listed for that salary.

And I had to sell everything, so I've got to buy all new stuff. Pots, pans, linens, towels, dishes, TV, glassess, everything. And as I said, its expensive, so it won't come cheap.

But according to the agencies, they're having a hard time finding something because of my age (43) and because my experience doesn't translate well from the American military to something useful in the UK.

I'll find something. I know I will. And I'll end up with a second job. I've done that a good portion of my adult life. I was expecting that, regardless. And except for the times I have my daughter, it doesn't really matter to me how I fill the time. I've got my military retirement, so that will help. But I've got bills from the states that have to be paid off. Mostly the credit cards from all the trips over here. And I had to sell my truck at a loss, so I'm still paying on that. If I can make it a year, and get those taken care of, I'll be fine.

I'll be fine, no matter what. And I've only been at this a week. I'm just impatient to get something. The main issue is having enough money for me to find a suitable place for my daughter to come stay with me. I'm fine in a shared house, going cheap. But I won't bring her here, and her mother wouldn't let me, anyhow. But I'm getting to know a few people who live in the neighborhood. Local people always know about places, so I'm listening to anything and everyone.

But its out there. Something will come along. I'm not really a religious person, and the praying thing doesn't seem to work with me. I'm not a big believer in fate, or destiny, or predetermination either. No rolls of the dice for me. But I can't believe that I would get over here and be this close to having what I've worked at for so long, and then fail. Somehow, someway, whatever system works, will provide.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Differences between the US and the UK # 2

I guess I never paid attention before, but people here are a lot more polite than I would have thought. They actually say Thank You to the bus drivers, and conductors on trains, and taxi drivers. Don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking it. Politeness and good manners are always in order.

But I would have never thought of that particular group of people as someone you would thank, as a rule. Its the same thing with flight attendants and the pilots after a plane trip. I know they come and say thank you to all the passengers, but it seems more a forced issue (from the company) than something really genuine. A part of the job. So I never really notice them. I'm usually ready to get off the plane and get to where I'm headed.

I feel that I'm a polite person, myself. I say Please, and Thank You, and all the right stuff. Not because I have to, but because I feel we should. But there are groups of people you just don't seem to think fit in the category of saying Thank You to. Such as drivers, conductors, etc. The Brits, however, make it a point to make sure they say Thank You to these people.

So I'll have to work on it, and get with the program. If I can remember.