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Thursday, 30 November 2006

Thursday Thirteen (V34)

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The secular Christmas season is really approaching now:
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1) The blue lights are up in Sloane Square
2) Woolworth's have television advertisements featuring snow
3) The Star Wars LP containing "Christmas in The Stars" and "R2D2 we wish you a merry Christmas" is getting blogged.
4) The car park at Marks and Spencer was completely full on Wednesday, mid afternoon.
5) I attend my first Christmas Party tomorrow.
6) Sky was showing Santa Claus films on four channels yesterday
7) I've eaten my first mince pie of the season
8) There were hot cross buns in Sainsbury's last weekend
9) There's a robin in the garden
11) Some blogs have already had a Christmas makeover
12) I should make a list for the chimney
13) I saw a car with a Christmas Tree in it tonight
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Wednesday, 29 November 2006

NaNoKeepGoing

nano_2006_winner_small.gifI just updated my wordcount on NaNoWriMo and discovered I'd gone over the 50,000 mark, which was the objective within November. The last two or three times I've run the updater, the little counter didn't go up, so I was surprised this time when it jumped several thousand words.

Last year, when I did this, I'd also pretty much finished the story as well, so I'd sort of guessed how to land at the desired point. This time, I'm still in mid plot, so I really have quite a lot more writing to just get to a finished rough draft. I shall continue for another few days, to try to get the ending resolved. I know what I want to happen but need several more stages before I can get there.

And this time, I've left some areas where I intended to go back and add further characterisations and contextualisations to the storyline. Hmm. Maybe I've been a little too ambitious. My best wishes and encouragement to anyone else battling to break through the 50,000 word mark before midnight on Thursday.

Check out my opening chapter here

OTA Wordless Wednesday

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milan, too much time on the runway

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Tuesday, 28 November 2006

word flood

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Landing this evening at Heathrow, I noticed the news about new flood warnings around London.

We've moved from a drought alert to flood warnings in a matter of days, yet there's still a hosepipe ban in quite a few areas. I suppose, in typical British tradition it will be 'the wrong type of rain'.

On the way back from Italy, we flew round in circles a few times before landing, which did give me some extended typing time so I've managed to catch up somewhat on my Nano musings, although it will still be rather squeaky about whether I managed to hit the full 50,000 by the end of Thursday. Compared with the last time, I seem to have developed a more divergent plot which I don't think really fits the 50,000 word format, so I suspect I will need to keep going for another couple of weeks if I expect to round it off.

Monday, 27 November 2006

mellow yellow

milanese risotto
I've been sitting enjoying company with friends in a restaurant in central Milan this evening. Five of us bundled into an impossibly small taxi on the way to the restaurant and then met two more at the venue.
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We talked about politics in Italy, and their wish to somehow increase the number of women in Italian political parties. I couldn't help thinking of Ilona Staller (Cicciolina), who made her name in another way before moving into politics.

Then at some point we moved onto James Bond, and like most people I feel as if I've seen the film, although its still on my 'to do' list.

The Saffron risotto and local red wine were both excellent.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Magician

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I was in Babylon at the Kensington Roof Gardens today and suitably impressed by a table magician who converted one of my banknotes (A Scottish £20 note) into 100 Euros. Then he moved a ring from a pocket to a packet of cigarettes and then he mind-read correctly the card I was thinking. All great fun and delivered in an amusing way.

Always good to have a little magic.
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Saturday, 25 November 2006

polonium

nick's
So Alexander Litvinenko, ex-KGB agent is alleged to have been poisoned in a London sushi restaurant with ingested powdered radioactive Polonium 210. The former spy blamed Putin in his death-bed statement.

Litvinenko had two meetings in central London on 1 November, in Piccadilly at the sushi bar and also in Mayfair. Scotland Yard is now investigating.

There appear to be several possible trails. It is thought that Litvinenko made an enemy of the Russian security service (FSB), accusing it of many abuses, including the bombing of a block of Chechen flats in 1999, killing 300 people. He also said he was also told to kidnap a prominent Chechen businessman based in Moscow to trade for Russian intelligence officers taken hostage by Chechens.

In 1997, Litvinenko said his FSB department had become responsible for so-called 'extralegal executions' of unsuitable businessmen, politicians and other public figures and there were also blackmail suggestions linked with this.

In 1998, he publicly accused his superiors of ordering him to kill Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was living in exile in London. Litvinenko spent nine months in jail from 1999 on charges of abuse of office. He was later acquitted and moved to Britain, which granted him asylum in 2000.

The most recent connection of Litvinenko is with Anna Politkovskaya who was herself recently killed in the process of searching for murderers within the Russian bank system. There is speculation she had discovered ex KGB people involved in contract killings and told Livinenko what was happening.

This story is top news in Britain at the moment, although the above storylines suggest its a more commonplace situation within Moscow circles.
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I wanted to know where one gets hold of the rare alpha particle emitting Polonium-210.

Easy, if you are an American It costs $69 from a store on the internet.

Need corroboration? check this out

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Time sink

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My remaining PC tower system is behaving erratically. I don't use it so much nowadays and do most of my 'non work' computing on a Mac. So I hevn't been making many (any) software changes to the PC for ages except for the automatic updates, yet it seems to be slowly deteriorating of its own accord. It has all the fancy firewalls, virus checkers and so forth, yet now it seems very slow to do anything, has long periods of disk access for no apparent reason and some of the dialogue boxes are popping up without any messages inside.

I think the technical term is broken.

I do also run Windows on a laptop and also on my iMac. The iMac actually runs Windows Vista, in a 'window' in the main Mac session, much like starting a browser when I want to use Windows. I do this with some software called Parallels, which I mentioned here some months ago.

Anyway I suspect it will take me a whole day if I want to re-install everything, which is, I suppose, the looming task.

UPDATE: Just after I posted this, I visited debra's site and she has posted the Blue Screen of Death Screensaver for Windows, which simulates a disasterous Windows failure of varying types. Its here

orphans

orphans tom waits
Orphans is described by Tom Waits as a dead end kid driving a coffin with big tires across the Ohio River whilst wearing welding goggles. Wait's unmistakable voice is used to chug, stomp, weep, whisper, moan, wheeze, scat, blurt, rage, whine, and seduce. Ribot's guitar and the clanking, jangling, grooved accompaniment evoke smokey bars and the wrong part of town. The brawling, bawling, bastard words are straining to leave the pages of the accompanying song book.

Waits wanted the record to be like emptying pockets on the table after an evening of gambling, burglary, and cow tipping. A homemade doll with tinsel for hair and seashells for ears stuffed with candy and money. Or a good woman’s purse containing a Swiss army knife and a snake bite kit.

On Orphans there's a mambo about a convict who breaks out of jail with a fishbone, a gospel train song, a delta blues about a disturbing neighbor, a spoken piece about being struck by lightning, a Scottish madrigal about murderous sibling rivalry and an American backwoods a cappella about a hanging.

Thats just a grimy nailed, diesel oil stained handful of the 54 tracks.

I will be singing and dancing to this strange cacophony.

Friday, 24 November 2006

duh bells, duh bells

big ben
For reasons I shall not attempt to explain, the doorbell isn't working at the moment. It was, however, slightly irritating to pick up the mail this morning and to also see a little card from a delivery firm who had tiptoed to deliver something but claim didn't get an answer.

Well, what ever it was will be available from the depot 12 miles away from 18:30 this evening. I really need to get the door bell winched back into position.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Thanksgiving Thursday Thirteen at Alice's Restaurant

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We don't have Thanksgiving here in the U.K., but best wishes for those who do celebrate today's neighbourly and family occasion. Here's a relevant Thursday Thirteen:

1) We don't get any equivalent time off here in England, except at Christmas, with Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
2) The Macy's Parade is well known here, probably also because of its appearance in several films.
3) The whole Pilgrim celebration also probably originates back to the UK Harvest Festivals, but in England that is back in September
4) Washington seemed to get interested in making Thanksgiving a Holiday after trouncing the Brits at Saratoga.
5) How do they choose which of the three turkeys presented to the President will survive? Thats the one that gets all of the press.
red vw microbus6) Some people like to listen to Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant on Thanksgiving. I kinda know why. Oh okay, here's an interview with Arlo and the whole 18 minute song. Song from 14:30 in the realplayer stream.
7) The native Americans seemed to have a celebration already called Keepunumuk going back many many years.
8 ) Thanksgiving also seems nowadays to be major sporting occasion.
9) The day after Thanksgiving holiday (Black Friday) appears to be the largest shopping day in the American year
10) The original feast was crow. This later changed to turkey. When there wasn't enough turkey the saying was 'let them eat crow'.
11) The USDA say that America consumes around 260 million turkeys per year averaging around 14 lbs, of which a decent ptoportion is consumed during Thanksgiving. That's around one turkey for everyone in the United States.
12) Luckily the Puritans brought a drink to America in the Mayflower. Beer.
13) Every long standing successful American TV series has a Thanksgiving episode.
turkey

all i wanna do is have some yams

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Wednesday, 22 November 2006

London Town

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A new distraction for we Londoners, the new mapmylondon site to add stories and photos of London to a map. I can't resist this one and will find a few snaps and moments to add straight away!

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OTA Wordless Wednesday

night train
tonight, waiting for the train

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Tuesday, 21 November 2006

my other car is a pynchon novel

gravity's rainbowThe first Pynchon novel I ever read was Gravity's Rainbow, and I was hooked from the moment it came screaming across the sky. Pynchon had a way to describe a scene from the point of view of the people 'in their time' and to flick between narrative and acquired first person like an internal film camera shooting multiple points of view. This creates a strange other world sense in the reader who at some points is confounded and at other times seems to know much more than the characters about what is going on.

Pynchon's writing style is not for everyone though, using oblique references and distractions as well as a sometimes warped sense of humour. I'll admit that I just let some parts wash over me and don't get too hung up if I don't know exactly the doctrine of a narodnik, or the calculus of a cathedral dome, as long as I can keep the general flow going.

But the sense of place, people, perspective, debate, discourse and psychology in the London wartime novel was intense. I can still visualise the browns, the darkened windows, the nighttime and the sometimes almost claustrophobic interaction of some of the characters juxtaposed with arcs from mainland Europe to England as rockets traced their course through the sky. Yet it is an age since I read the book.

When I read Vineland years later, I had a sense of 'is this the same author?' based upon the different style and genre with set in a surfy hippy America. It seemed difficult to imagine the same person creating both of these works, although the style and clever ways to detach from what is happening seem to occur in both novels.

The tangential points within both novels are in some senses very realistic in the way that people who are very comfortable with one anothers' company will digress into all kinds of conversations or dive into their own subconscious and memories.
against the daySo with some delight today I heard that Pynchon has just released a new novel. Now I heard this in a discussion where one person was saying that Pynchon was difficult to read and the other person was saying that people only buy his books for show.

But I don't care, I will be adding the new one "Against the Day" to my Christmas List, and hope that Santa is kind.

Monday, 20 November 2006

rashbreのユーザーページ - last.fm

のためのLast.fm統計ページ Last.fm: あなたの音楽のセンスを調べ尽くして、似たセンスのユーザーを見つけ、おすすめの音楽を提供する無料のサービス。
Yes, rashbre is now also available in Japanese on last.fm here

Sunday, 19 November 2006

flash hug

pillow me
Well the British Flash Hug on Friday at 13:14pm in Trafalgar Square was then followed by the Flash Pillow Fight in Buenos Aires. For the British one you just needed a sheet of A4 paper with 'Free Hugs' written in bold.

For the Argentinian one, you needed to bring a pillow.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

appealing

apples
Some of my posts have been rather hasty (or even missing) over the last few days because of my other writing attempts. I've been adding a counter of the wordage in my NaNoNovel alongside the posts as I make progress. I'm around half way through and the plot needs some streamlining although I don't think I will be short of ideas for the second half.

Which brings me to the apples. A great accompaniment to novel writing. Healthy, containing vitamin C, antioxidants, phenolics and a reasonable amount of fibre. So that little blob of goodness can help with all manner of healthy being from DNA damage prevention, through stress relief to cholesterol management.

And although the pips are mildly toxic, you'd have to eat a whole treeful before the cyanogenic glycosides had any discernable efferct.

But, you know what, I like the look of them on that plate, and you know something else, a few seconds after I took that picture there was one less to look at.

Yum.

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Friday, 17 November 2006

fall

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Strangely enough, Autumn seemed to arrive today, all in one go.

Yesterday, we still had quite a few leaves on the trees and there was a hint of sunshine.

Today, first all the leaves fell off of the trees in some heavy winds, and then it started raining like the sky was full.

My car was covered in leaves last night when I made my way home from our quiz. A little tree which was still fully leafy a few days ago was almost bare by this evening.
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Thursday, 16 November 2006

Thursday Thirteen (V32)

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I was at a pub quiz on Thursday evening. There were about 40 of us and we had three rounds. My team were called the Vikings for reasons that would become more apparent if you knew some of the other team names. Here's some of the questions I got wrong. You may notice quite a few of them are from "The American Round"

1) How many legs does a lobster have?
2) What are the three branches of the American government?
3) Where was Picasso born?
4) How many games in an American baseball season?
5) Whats a cornish rex?
6) Whats the name of the 'B' side of Silver Machine, by Hawkwind?
7) How many countries was Britain fighting during the American War of independence?
8 ) Whats the proper name of 'The Strip" in Las Vegas?
9) Where was Barbara Bush born?
10) Whats a knob thatcher?
11) What is the average life of a red blood cell?
12) What is the name of the woman in the Greek myth who disappeared all but her voice?
13) What name for the first company to manufacture motor cars (actually I got this right, but the others were music questions)

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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

OTA Wordless Wednesday

traffic
dark traffic

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Tuesday, 14 November 2006

giza

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No, I'm not at the Pyramids today, at least not in real life, but I'm using Cairo for a scene in my novel. Actually I'm using the desert and the city rather than the Pyramids, but I thought the pyamid and sphinx at Giza would make a fine picture for today. Its quite a long time since I was in Cairo, but the first time I was there a friend drove me over to take a look at the Pyramid in this picture. I'd expected the journey to be into the desert and needing a four wheel drive with lots of supplies of water, but we just jumped into his family saloon and drove all the way.
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If you havn't visited Giza, you may think it is right in the desert, but actually its just a few hundred metres from a housing estate and a couple of large hotels. We sat in the restaurant of one of the hotels eating mezze and looking at the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. At the time it was quite a surreal experience, as I'd only been off the plane for a few hours by the time we were standing by a Pyramid. I liked Cairo, and had a chance to explore along the Nile as well and even ordered a small silver cartouche from a jewellry trader which I was able to collect on a subsequent visit.

But now, I'd better get back to my epic plot.
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Sunday, 12 November 2006

Chelsea Bus

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Occasionally its good to just post something 'day to day' like this London Bus in Chelsea. Thats where I am today, in King's Road and other parts of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Its one of my favourite parts of London and there's always plenty happening.

Saturday, 11 November 2006

NaNoMagic

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The Nanomagic is starting to work now and my characters of James, Anya, Karen, Mohammad, Douglas and so forth are beginning to work out what they need to do to have a part in the novel. I'm writing it in a slightly non-linear style which is quite interesting (for me!) and it gives a chance to create little back-stories for characters whilst thinking of the next plot development.

Its already got quite a lot of action and I just know will make a great screenplay (!). I suppose I'd better start deciding which Hollywood stars to involve in the movie. But in the next few minutes I need to start getting ready to be taken out to be wined and dined and then tomorrow I gather I'm in Chelsea for the day.

Click here for a peek at the first few pages!
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sitting on top of the world

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Well, here's an impression from my flight back to UK on Thursday. As its also my birthday today, I though I should find something inspiring. The flight had a fairly clear sky and so the view of the French and Swiss Alps was pretty good until we got to Grenoble and the clouds started to bump the edges. In the distance, for quite a long part of the flight, I could see Matterhorn towering over the lesser peaks. It took me a while to find my camera to take a photo, however. And what was interesting was the number of other 'seasoned travellers' who were also taking in the view.
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Friday, 10 November 2006

NaNoWriSlow

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I was a trifle late out of the gates for the NaNoWriMo musings this year. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel between 1st and 3oth November. I did this last year and by around this point I was at 16,000 words. This time I'm at 5,500. I reckon by Sunday I need to be at around 16,000 to be anywhere near on track. That is quite a lot of writing. Hmmm. And it looks as if this weekend will be sunny...

UPDATE: Well now its Friday evening and I've decided to write some more to try to catch up. It may not be top quality, but I managed to get the Apache helicopter into the first scene. When it gets made into a big budget movie it will need a good opening sequence before the titles.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Casino Royale

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After yesterday's party, I feel as if I've just come back from Casino Royale, and so am pleased to see I will be able to re-live the experience in a few days when the film arrives.

In the meantime, I will have to make do with the strategy game which allows us to search for James Bond like artifacts and meet all kinds of villains.

I'm also pleased to see that 007 has reverted to a proper Aston Martin, from which to perform his various adventures.

croissant on the croisette

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Departing Cannes this afternoon, via Nice and then back to London. This morning I enjoyed petit dejeuner looking to the sea, before starting some work. Yesterday night was a bit of a party and today the calm makes a great contrast. Cafe au lait and croissant (but no Gitane).

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Rums felled

rumsfeldSo Rumsfeld is out. Its claimed that Bush had already decided a few days ago that a "fresh perspective" was needed at the Pentagon. With the level of criticism of Iraq, Bush pulled one of the instigators, but strangely he waited until after the mid terms and the Democrats made big gains.

Bushman ex short term CIA director Bob Gates takes over from Donny, though Republican chadman James Baker(he of the Florida re-count) is going to run the study about what to do next in Iraq, allegedly reporting by Christmas.

But now America has Democrats running the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate, it will be interesting to see whether theres the start of hearings related to US foreign policy.

Rumsfeld is purported to have said "We know they have weapons of mass destruction, we don't need any debate about it." But this uber-confidence overwhelmed him in the end. The Rummy way of describing "known unknowns" reinforced his view that Iraq was a little understood and unfamiliar war, complex for people to understand.

You bet.

OTA: Wordless Wednesday

cannes beach
cannes, by phone

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Monday, 6 November 2006

6

Here's a few 6 word novels wot I rote tonight...

WAR: government seductress; seditious downfall; army state.

LOVE: electric eyes; softly taken; eternal embrace

DEVASTATION: Do not press the big red...

SPIRAL: lonely glue high crushed car flames

KIDS : flopsy bunny shows giraffe skipping trick

and I tag:

Si, Debra, Struggling Author, Maximus Bobulos, Jo, roger of the plog and ANYONE from BlogAllStars. Please a) do it and b) tag it on...

excuse my lack of proper links: I'm on wet string linked thinkpad at the moment - I'll patch the links when I get some bandwidth.

Bon soir.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

canned

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Tonight I will make up for some sleep deficit over the last few days. Since last Thursday, I've had around five hours of sleep because of my rather compressed schedule.

I flew into Nice this morning after starting from home at 06:30 and have been in various scheduled events all day - it doesn't feel at all like a Sunday, which I believe is supposed to be lazy.

Tonight I was sitting with a small group in a pleasant hotel room where we decided to order from room service instead of hitting the town. We had some super food, in my case a 'make it yourself' spaghetti carbonara under the watchful eye of my Italian friend who said she would rate the final production.

By the time we finished it was very late and I then wandered back through the Mediterranean air to my own hotel.

Guy Fawkes in Battersea

fireworksToday consisted of a tiny amount of sleep before helping with an apartment move to Chelsea - which went very much to plan!

Afterwards, the group of us decided to grab a bite to eat and found an excellent Italian restaurant in Lower Sloane Street. Tonight happens to be one of the main Guy Fawkes Night party evenings so the streets in the area were filled with people on their way to the big fireworks party in Battersea Park.

bonfireWe crossed the twinkling Chelsea bridge on the Thames and noticed many fireworks in the sky.

Much later, as we left the restaurant, the air was laden with the smell of gunpowder.

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November...

Friday, 3 November 2006

JFK-LHR

queensboro bridge
I drove us back to JFK this afternoon along the I95. This, along with the Queensboro Bridge and the van Wyke Expressway were mercifully uncongested so we had a speedy journey through the brilliant fall leaves of Connecticut, New York State and Long Island. Jennifer used to live around the White Plains area but is so Californian now that the route and even the shopping malls of of the area were probably better known to me.

On the journey, Jennifer was talking about this weekend when she'll be acting as a volunteer to a Los Angeles high school group who help give urban teenagers from less well-off homes a chance to develop positive self esteem. She's a member of the board of the charity and also a counsellor. This week she is taking her assigned pupil and they are going to another charity to volunteer for some other work. Characteristically, Jennifer has also persuaded her gym coach to give the same girl some free sessions to develop good health and eating awareness.

After dropping Jennifer at Jetblue at Terminal Six it was back to the Hertz lot and then airtrain back to Terminal Seven for my BA flight. Amazingly short lines to get airside and I decided to take refuge in the Terraces lounge, which was also quite empty and chilled. Thats where I'm sitting right now, with a gin and tonic with too much gin, waiting for the call for the flight.

Around me sit a few zeks but by now most of them have hung up their bluetooths for the weekend and instead are reading English newspapers, a book about Ceasar and I can count about a dozen stretched out on the loungers, flopped until the plane is called.

I also know tomorrow will be mad for me, helping a move into a new central London apartment and then prepping myself for a week in France.

c'est la vie!

Thursday, 2 November 2006

connected in connecticut

Tonight we were in a Thai restaurant in South Norwalk. We sat down to eat at an almost European 8pm, rather than the often 6.30pm type American times (see I'm using am and pm instead of twenty four hour clock, too). The fire rice was pretty hot and I can still taste it on my tongue.

I have had a fair few European meetings this week as well as my American ones. This means that I've been having phone conferences at 0530 in the morning and indeed today had to figure out how to get showered and ready to leave the hotel whilst still being on a phone call. I made it to the lobby for 0700 successfully, but didn't managed to get any breakfast, although once I was in meetings a steady supply of food and drink ensued.

Tomorrow I start at a slightly more civilised 0645 with a meeting in the hotel and then a day which ends quite early before I drive with Jennifer back to JFK. I go to London and she will return to West Hollywood.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

weather to go or together

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Oops, I forgot to notice that today is the first day of NaNoWriMo. I fully intend to do this, but as I'm travelling at the moment, its rather difficult, what with day and evening meetings. However, I have a long flight on Friday night, so maybe that will give me a chance to get stuck in.

Needless to say, I havn't got a plot, characters or anything else yet. I suppose there will have to be a lot of weather in the first chapter. Chris Baty from NaNoWriMo says "Surge early" to be on par for the month, knowing the daily average needs to be 1667 words. Oh dear. He adds that 70,000 people have registered this year, so I suppose I won't be alone. And Chris makes a third point to embrace the fear. Hey, I've only just got over Halloween.

The sky cracked with more orange lightning, gods were past debating and fighting with chairs now as they decided whether to let rain fall across the sparsely featured plain. It was supposed to be daytime, but there was a purple darkness across the landscape as Jed sheltered behind the broken wall. He'd done something very bad... (55 words)

Nah.