Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Life of a Princess

This might make me sound like an old grouch (like you, Ocean!), but I just don't get the life of a prince and princess.

Everybody here is "so proud" of the young prince, his lovely bride, they are discreet and elegant and kind and I don't know what else. And from this day hence nothing they do will have any impact at all other than creating photo ops for the press.

Actually I gather Prince William will continue with the Search&Rescue team he has joined for a few more years. Good. But after that?

The UK Royalty, while a huge part of the local culture, is still only ceremonial. You have a busy schedule on which you get very little if any say at all. You travel around the world meeting foreign dignitaries for lunch. You adhere to a strict protocol of what you can and can not say.
You don't have any decision making power. You are not producing. Your opinions are never expressed.

I get that you live in great comfort, of course, but the perks seem to end there.

Having said all of this: recall that I grew up in Switzerland, where not only is there not a monarchy, there isn't really even a head of state in the sense of a prime minister or president. Switzerland is a rare country where you grow up with no focus at all and ever on a major political figure, we just don't have that.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine

The name Matt Shepard may ring a bell. He was a lovely young man, best known for having been brutally beaten and left to die one night in 1998. He went from being somebody I had met a couple of times, a friend of my brother who always smiled and seemed to take a genuine interest in me and my life, to being a headline; a cause; a terrible, haunting story.

My friend Michele (@michelejosue) is now making a documentary about the young man behind the headlines. In her own words:
I feel it's so important, especially in this day and age, to share with the world the story of our Matt, as not just a symbol, but as a real person who had the love and respect of his family and his many friends
See more about the project Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine on kickstarter. You can donate to the film project, and find the project on Facebook as well.

Monday, 25 April 2011

TWiST

Catching up on old TWiST episodes.

Today is work day. Catching up on some emails (not done yet if you are waiting on me), reading and research, and preparing my weekly agenda (it's a busy week).

If I want to know more about Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC: where can I look? Who could I talk to?

A good Easter Monday to all.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I'm still here

Just been a manic week. But this is my first post from the Blogger app for Droid. Hurrah.

More tomorrow I presume. Now: colomba.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, 16 April 2011

TurboTax Nightmare

Enter Kafka:

I am trying to file my US taxes using TurboTax. There is a god of paperwork somewhere laughing at me with great joy.

Where to even start?

It demands a telephone number, but will not allow a foreign number to be used.

It demands a social security number for my husband, who is not American and does not have one.

It requires that I upgrade in order to add foreign-earned. Then, when I try to pay for the upgrade, it demands a US billing address. Really people: the clue was in the "foreign-earned income" part.

I have now paid but can not print the documents or complete my filing because it still wants a SSN for my Italian husband.

TurboTax might work great in the US, but if you are filing from abroad it's one nightmare after another. Not to mention a huge waste of time!

I would try HRBlock instead but they promised me a call back I never received.

Ooh there's a wall, excuse me while I bang my head against it.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The End of Shopping

Is part of the subtitle of the book The Great Disruption, by Paul Gilding.

I went to see him present his book at The Hub King's Cross last night: how climate change is the new WWII (his comparison) and how it will disrupt the world as we know it. Fair enough. Notwithstanding the fact that he is on a global tour (plane exhaust anyone?) to present and flog a book (printed on paper, indeed), a few points remain unclear to me.

For one thing: his points about markets appeared confused to me. He said he is a great fan of markets - although each time he used the word he felt the need to explain he doesn't mean the Goldman Sachs, large finance "markets"; is his assumption that his audience does not know what "markets" actually means? In any case he said - and I agree wholeheartedly - that markets will be the solution. People, entrepreneurs, with ideas and energy and a strong belief in their success, will be creating the tools we need to survive in the new world order.

However: he continuously spoke of the need for a "designed economy". This sounded very close to a planned economy, his repeated example was how during WWII people were told what they would produce and how and to what volume. You wanted to make something different? Tough. But people were willing to do that to serve a common good. What he did not make clear was what is that in between he envisions, that is not an unfettered open market, but is not (I presume given the point above) a fully planned economy.
Is he referring to the current model of "capitalist societies" where we have free markets with some regulation to keep checks? Or, as the example he uses, an economy that is directed from above? And if the latter, how does that allow for the entrepreneurial solution he envisions?

An audience member asked if he saw the solution for the future coming out of China or America. He said as of right now: China, hands down. But: America and Americans have a way of doing a lot very quickly when they realise that is the way the world is going, and so he sees them coming up from behind at the last minute and ultimately setting the example.

Do you share my confusion as to his exact point of view?

There is another point about which I would like to know more, and this is not one of disagreement with his argument, rather one of a genuine need for better understanding. Working on the premise that "The earth is full", Gilding said that when things get to their worst, the poorest part of the global population will die and the rest of us, in rich countries, will pull through and come out the other end.
On the other hand: the areas with the world's poor are often the areas most rich in natural resources. China has been buying up huge swathes of land on the African continent for a very good reason, after all. So my question is: is not the poverty and malnourishment in these countries due to mismanagement, rather than a lack of resources? How will this be affected by the envisioned break down of civilisation as we know it? And of course we fall in to the tragedy of the commons area here: is not private ownership of this land for the long term purpose of cultivation a good thing? Is that not the best solution available now?

Overall in his speech I learned quite a lot, if with the remaining question marks. Alas, I confess, I did not buy the book (I am on a Kindle, you see, and live in a paperless world).

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

With Friends Like These...

You learn a lot about friends when things change.

Obviously when they change for the worse, we all know how that works. But also when things just change, period.

It is interesting at that point to see who can change with you, follow you into a new situation and who suddenly has nothing to share with you any more. Question: why are we friends? Is it because the factual details of our lives are the same, and once I am no longer "the same", our friendship has nothing left to hang on? Is it because everything I do, you would do as well? So the moment I do something that you would NOT do, you cease to understand? You can not imagine or accept a world where people - friends - do things you would not do?
And if so: is that friendship?

That's an honest question by the way, I'm not being rhetorical. Is it friendship? Is it a valid friendship? Can it have even been a deep friendship until the point of change?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Alonzo Edward "Ed" Cady

Ed Cady was a relative of mine; more precisely my father's cousin's wife. He passed away a week ago. I never knew him well - my father's family is huge and spread out across the US, while I grew up in distant Switzerland - but amongst the many names and faces from my hundred + relatives at family reunions, Ed and Carolyn's were two I could always place. Not least of all because they were always, constantly and without fail smiling.

I just read Ed's obituary and it made me realise how little I knew about him and his wife. Or rather: that I knew nothing about them and their life. This reminded me of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with a friend of my parents' about the importance of sharing family history. There was quite a backdrop to his particular story, but it did resonate with me.

As mentioned I grew up a fair distance from both of my parents' families, and I knew both my mother and father in a context foreign to that in which they themselves grew up. When my grandmother Anita passed it was the first time I realised how much about her life I would never truly know. I don't feel completely detached from her history, rather I like to think that I am a product of it, mixed with many others. But it's another world I will never truly enter.

Would more stories have made up for that? I don't know, possibly not. I guess there is always a sense of lacking at a time of death, no matter what. On the other hand everything I can learn about her makes me smile. It all fascinates me as something I have only known from fictional stories, and yet here it is real, here it is part of me.

This post has ended up being more depressing that I had meant it to be. Look at it the other way: how wonderful is man's life. How full of joy the every day life we ignore while we live it. How beautiful the life of this man, Ed Cady, as he passed through life day by day, ending each sunset with something more than he had at sunrise.

On April 27th friends and family in Fort Collins, CO, will gather together to celebrate Ed's life. An exercise that should take place every day during life, at the time of death and still every day thereafter.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Brain Re-wiring

In a few hours I will be seeing a neurologist. Not because I am neurotic- actually, perhaps yes I am. But if I am then I have yet to discover it.

In any case, this visit is because of headaches which have been plaguing me for the last few months. I know: headaches? Really? Like that is an illness? I agree, if I am to see a specialist medic I would also rather it was for real damage, like a severed leg or brain trauma. However these headaches have been strong enough that, deny them as I may, I am still pretty much locked in bed whenever they hit.

I have seen a doctor, a physio and a dentist (the teeth-grinding saga) so far, and all have told me to deal with my stress (really, people: what stress?!). Acupuncture, massages, meditation (with the last suggestion I almost fell out of my dentist's chair). As my colleague says: it's a bit like in the middle ages and whatever ailment you had, you were bled; now it's dealing with stress, "take a holiday" and all your problems will disappear.

So, well, wish me luck. If all goes as I hope it does, the neurologist will poke inside my brain and say "Ah, here, it is just that you have been drinking too much French wine. Substitute with Italian reds and you will be fine".

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Geekiness

In case you doubted my geekiness, I actually read through all of this:

The New Guy's Computer
http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2855-the-new-guys-computer

Tiger Farms

Yesterday was the second meetup for our International Professional Women in London group. It was a stunning day and warm straight through to sun-down, so a double thanks to those of you who made it indoors to join us.

And to those who didn't: you missed learning about tiger farms. And other fascinating tiger conservation facts. One of the problems with tiger conservation is when these cuddly animals wander in to towns and villages, and the local population, of course, kill them (to protect themselves and their livestock).

I was thinking about how the most dangerous animal you risk meeting in a Swiss village is a depressed cow. Actually there are of deer but otherwise you mainly encounter farm animals. And boom: we are told about tiger farms. Yes, they are real: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703455804575057101418533006.html
Not to mention tiger corridors (they are civilised animals aren't they).


Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Geek: It's the New Black

About a week ago I was at a dinner party, getting to know my neighbours at the table. Well, some of them: I was at the children's table and I confess the only other person I knew at the party (other than the host) was a 19 year old across from me. But that's a different story.

After explaining that his wife is a part-time writer, the long-haired, soft-spoken orchestra-conductor-looking man on my left smiles timidly and confesses - as his tone of voice suggested - that he is a Geek.

You can imagine my joy. I had thought this party would be mainly art curators, reporters and authors, and here I was: seated next to one of my own. My eyes brightened, I smiled and with great warmth and pride exclaimed "So am I!", as Giuseppe remarked enthusiastically "My wife is one of those!"

We soon came to discussing who first made Geek cool (Giuseppe says Bill Gates, I say Mark Zuckerberg). Our dinner-mate says neither: we hate Gates for his anti-open-source practices and Zuckerberg is too showy. Ok clearly he was a Purist Geek. Those are good too.

In any case I stand in the Zuckerberg camp (and hats off to JT for his part in this social shift). What do you think? With all his fame Gates still never quite made it main-stream cool to be a Geek. I won't say Zuckerberg single-handedly did that either, but it is what he represents: the small, almost presumptuous, online startup.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Man, I Feel Like a Woman

Yesterday I both washed my make up brushes and made tiramisu. If this all made me feel unnaturally feminine, does it mean I am sexist?

I used my mother's recipe for tiramisu, which some of you know: makes the best tiramisu in the world. Hands down.

In fact I inherit from my mother all my best traits: an over-sized Roman nose, a complete lack of patience and a sweet tooth that knows no boundaries. Not to mention my kitchen-boredom. Cooking requires great will power for me, and I can only cook recipes that require constant action. As soon as I have to wait, stir, watch, the dish is pretty much doomed. The only exception is sweets. And not faux-healthy sorbet or fruit pudding. I am talking ice cream, brownies, cakes and, we now discover: tiramisu. If I know I get desert at the end of it, I can cook and cook and cook.

In case you are wondering: the tiramisu was delicious! Yes. even exclamation-point-worthy.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Dubious Pleasures

Thanks to Giuseppe watching American Idol I got to see Jaime Fox and Will I Am go on stage and lament their stomach cramps. It's too bad they both felt so ill just when they had to sing, butchery is the only word for the performance.

In my humble and all of that.

In other news I have had my last (for now) session of physio. For the knots in my shoulders and neck. Caused by my stressful lifestyle. Of course I have neither a stressful lifestyle, nor big rusty knots in my shoulders and neck, but doctors will have no telling.

The dentist was my next stop and I have been told to brush my teeth less:
From 3 times a day go down to two
From 3 minutes each time go down to 2 minutes
Don't brush so actively
Oh and try this Thai toothbrush I'll flog you for 3 quid.

Sure, OK.

Oh well. To anyone scheduled to come to our IPWL drinks on Wednesday: I look forward to seeing you. Anybody else: let me know if you are interested in attending. Back to the website now.