Friday, July 20, 2007

London Town

Ah, London town! It changes all the time and never changes. The trains run on time, the cabbies try to run you down and if you're not careful you'll run out of money faster than you can say "kidney pie."

On the flight over we were entertained by the brilliant, Academy Award nomination (no doubt), Blades of Glory staring some guys which was shown in color, dialogue in Spanish and subtitled in Greek. Hey, it's an international flight. Noting the difficulty with the sound system on our brand, spanking new Boeing 777, the plane in which we hoped the flight control systems worked better than the audio-visual systems, our Chief Flight Attendent, Brun Hilda, informed us that

a) there was a problem with the film. (No duh!) It would be shown in Spanish, subtitled in Greek.

b) it didn't matter because all the gags were sight gags and the dialogue was worthless. (Thank you, film critic Hilda.)

and c) if you think the a/v system is bad you should see the flight control system.

We all watched the film in silence.

Arriving in London it was bright and sunny. Not to last. By the next day a front had moved through the country dumping untold inches of rain everywhere. In a typical British understatement the BBC Weather channel reported that this much rain hadn't fallen on London in a single day since the reign of Flavius Octavius. Nothing like a little ancient Roman humour to brighten one's day. I always say that!

Later that evening we decided to go down to the pub to meet some friends. OK, that's not entirely accurate. It would be more accurate to say that we decided to go down to the pub to drink multiple pints of English ale and if we met anyone we knew, all the better. Or not. Whatever.

The slight flaw to our plan is that we decided to bicycle to the pub so we wouldn't have to drive back. Great plan, huh? The flaw to our plan was not considering how we were going to bicycle BACK from the pub. Slight miscalculation that went uncorrected later. For those of you who cycle for an obsession, er, hobby, did you know that there's a little balance gland thing in your brain that is highly affected by English ale, especially large quantities, that becomes totally disfunctional if bathed in said English ale? Well, it's there and it's quite annoying when this gland thing is not working and gravity is. Come to think of it, gravity always works.

Curse you, gravity!

Anyway, to make a long story short the National Health system in Britain is really good and there are Casualty Centres all over the place, especially near pubs and, well, that's all.

Tomorrow, rather, today in a few hours, the great train adventure to Essex.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Then and Now

Dateline July, 1967.

Skinny Boy Scout attends the 12th World Jamboree in Idaho.

The theme is "For Friendship."

Attended by 14,000 Scouts from 100 countries this is the second World Jamboree to be held in the United States. During this remarkable adventure the Skinny Scout makes friends with Scouts from a dozen countries, some of whom he would correspond with for nearly a decade.

Datelline July, 2007.

Not so skinny Adult Scout leader prepares to attend the 21st World Scout Jamboree in England, the 100th anniversary of Scouting as initiated by Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1907.

The theme is "One World, One Promise."

Going on staff, this adult will be one of 8,000 staff members supporting over 32,000 Scouts from 130 countries. I'm in "contingent support" which means I'll be involved in everything from translating (Je parle fran├žais?) to finding ice to locating the nearest ATM. Who knows? The only constant is to Be Prepared.

I've heard that phrase somewhere...

The adventure awaits. I leave tomorrow.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Paul Potts

This has to be the most inspirational story this year. Yes, he won the competiton and has a CD coming out in a few weeks. Good for him.

Devil's Backbone

I'll be on the Devil's Backbone for a week.

Summer camp in the hill country of Texas in July. You got your two options there: drenched in sweat or drenched in rain.

Builds character.


It were an akkident. I guard Kat Ch0w.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Father's Day Deux

My daughter skipped into the room beaming, obviously greatly pleased with herself. (This is never a good sign.) She waited impatiently for me to notice her and finally, in exasperation, cleared her throat with an


"Ahem? Is there someone there?"

"Oh, Dad, you are both funny and smart."

(OK, I made that part up but it could have happened. Really.)

Anyway, back to the story...

"I got you a cool Father's Day present. You're really going to like it. Wanna guess what it is?"

"An iPhone."


"A date with Paris Hilton."

"Dad, be serious, you are not Paris Hilton's type. She likes RICH old guys."

"A tie. Like the past 18 Father's Day."

"Not this year, Dad-0!" Claire was quite pleased with herself. "One word: NetFlix."

NetFlix. Hmmm, I had heard of the rent-a-movie service but since I don't watch TV, much less movies at home, and I can't imagine spending time watching a movie on an iPod, something like NetFlix was way low on my tech radar screen.

I decided to be Fatherly. "Oh, that's grand. You know, I had been thinking about NetFlix (for about a nanosecond) but you know me, slow to change."

Claire was unperturbed. "They're running a special so I signed you up and ordered some movies for you. You're really going to like them. They're a nature series on the migration of the snail darter, some kind of fish, whatever. Anyway, you'll be getting the entire 23 disc set of snail darter migration CD's."

I feigned appreciation wondering if I could make it through Disc 1 of a snail darter migration before I gouged out my eyeballs with a spoon. I smiled and replied, "How thoughtful. I. Can't. Wait."

Expecting the daughter to smile and leave, she stood there. I could feel the presence of the other shoe about to drop.

"And...?" I offered, hopefully.

"And...well, uh, I had to give them a credit card number to sign up for the free special."


"And...well, uh, since if you like NetFlix you'll want to keep paying the low monthly fee of *cough*something*cough* I, uh, sort of, uh, put it on, uh, your, uh, card."

She smiled.

"So, you put a free special on my card and I can cancel it if, heaven forbid, I grow weary, ever so weary, of snail darter antics?"

Daughter paused in thought, then spoke.

"Well, 'free' is such a subjective term. Maybe 'discounted' would be a better description."

In my best Father Knows Best I summarized the situation.

"You got me a subscription to a service I'm not likely to use, rather than a date with Paris Hilton during which I might have a chance to check out her iPhone, and you used my credit card to pay for it and for the next year or so I'll be getting fish spawning films."

Claire smiled and said, "I knew you'd like it. Happy Father's Day!" She gave me a kiss on the cheek and skipped out of the room.

As I opened up my laptop to look up recipes for snail darter I mused to myself, "Well, at least it wasn't a tie."

Nature Lesson

A caterpiller spent a few days munching on our parsley plant which was bolting, so we let him munch. He pretty much cleaned up several branches and one morning we discovered this.

A chrysalis. How cool! We decided to leave it alone hoping we could see what hatched out.

Several days later, having seen no apparent activity, I glanced out the window and this little guy was hanging on for dear life in the rain. The rain stopped after a few hours and before my very eyes he flapped his wings a bit then took off. He fluttered around the back yard for a minute or so, then got caught by a breeze and went up and over the house.

Happy mating, little buddy!