Friday, December 31, 2004

Various Pictures from 2004


Saga gets potted...

New Year's Greetings!

It has been a great year for me and my family! I hope it has been so for you as well.

New Year's Greetings from Don and Saga!
The year started in a great rush of activity. I was working on projects for my company and having project after project cancelled from under me. It was frustrating, busy but frustrating. Around the end of January, as I was beginning to wonder if my job was secure with all my projects being cancelled, I was offered a position on a new development project that we had started the year before. I had been involved tangentially - mainly because my boss was involved and I had offered some support research and development - but this was a more direct involvement.

February was fairly quiet. I continued to work on developing my new projects and went to a couple client sites for sales pitches on clients we were in danger of losing. It would be the last trip I would take for my old product line. I believe that we saved both of the accounts. I know that one extended their contract and the last I heard, they were planning on installing one of the sister-stations of the other.

March came in like a lion. I was moved to a new office and worked with a new team on development of the new project. It was fun and exciting as well as occasionally frustrating. There is so much that we are doing on this project that is completely outside the confines of my comfort zone. I love it! I have needed to do something new, to save my sanity if nothing else.

In April I was assigned my own piece of the project to be completed. It was a trip! I got to completely step outside my comfort zone and work on something that I had no preconceived notions about. The fact that it was reengineered when they decided to change the underlying technology does not change the fact that my team and I turned out some great code!

May came along and my Dad celebrated his seventieth birthday. It was fun. I showed-up at the party having time to go to Minnesota at the last minute because we had a lull that I could take advantage of. The drive was lovely and the party was great. My brothers and I made it to the party, my sister was not able to make it. On my way back, I made a record trip. Thirteen hours, forty-five minutes door -to-door. (I have about an eight hundred mile drive to my parents' place.) My brother made it in 13:15 on his way back from Christmas, but there were two of them (dad was with him) and he was going to Minneapolis, not to Kensington, which has less off-interstate driving.

My annual pilgrimage to the beach, in June, was great. I brought Saga, she surprised me by running out to Chip when she saw him on the beach. My old roommate and his family have been renting a beach house for years just a few miles up the beach from the MacKinnon-Karrer house in South Carolina. This year, his family and my group made it to the beach the same week so I got to see Chip and his family when I was out there. Saga hates water, but apparently not as much as she likes Chip!

Chip & Saga at Pawley's Island
In July, my company had a picnic where I took first prize in the desert contest. I submitted a summer berry trifle as my entry. I received a gift certificate to Williams Sonoma where I got myself a nice food processor. Later in the month, my brother, Denis and his family came out and with Dad and Flo and I we all went to Mesa Verde in the Southwest corner of the state. It was fun.

August was hot and uncomfortable. Especially so since I started it in the hospital. I got bit by a spider and had a really bad reaction to it. At the worst, I was in a fever of 106.5-degrees. I was back at work a week later, and have no lingering affects.

September was at all exciting. Good thing! I was given the task of writing the interface guidelines for the project I was assigned. This means that I worked with a technical designer who was prototyping the software while I put down the expected behavior. It was, again, something I have never done before. It was interesting and challenging.

For the first time ever, I was able to get the trip I have wanted since I started traveling. I started November getting ready to go to the United Kingdom. It was great! I worked for four weeks with a group of people from my company's Thames Ditton office. It was also in November that my company was sold to a competitive company. For the first time since I worked for that television station in Tampa, I am working for a publicly traded company.

Finally, there is December. My trip being extended meant that I had very little time to get ready for my family who were coming to visit for the holidays. I had a wonderful visit with my Sister, her husband and friends, and my brother, nephew and father. It was great!

The year has been a great one for me, I hope it was great for you and I wish you a happy new year!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 31, December, 2004

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Solitude

The house is too quiet!

I took a walk in the park yesterday with the dog. We went all the way up to the Damn on Bear Creek. Saga wanted to go to for a walk and I really needed to do so after the holidays.

I have almost got my home back into the normal routine. I have got to get the rest of holiday decorations down and away, but that can wait a few days. I did not really send the entire day watching DVD's. I did watch one movie, but it was more like Dad "watching" TV. I fell asleep half way through the movie.

Today I am going to go through the park with the dog again. Then I have to go by my friend Chip's place to check on his cat. I will be then cleaning and organizing my home so that I am ready to go back to work on Monday.

I hope your holidays are going well.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 30, December, 2004

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Relaxation

It is nice to have some solitude! I may do nothing but watch DVD's and pet the dog all day!

My sister and her group left for South Florida yesterday and my brother and his family took off for Minnesota this morning.

I have run my dishwasher more times this week than I had for most of the previous month. Strike that - more than in an average month. Of course I ran it more than last month, I was gone all month.

I cannot wait until I have company again. Yes, I love my family dearly, but it will be nice after the hectic month of travel, the holiday, and then having company, to be able to do nothing today. I hope your day is as restful.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 29, December, 2004

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pike's Peak

The Manitou Springs and Pike's Peak Cog Railway is a great day trip for anyone who is visiting the Denver/Colorado Springs area. It takes about four hours but is really a fun way to get to the top of the mountain. Yesterday morning, We all trundled into two cars and headed south to Manitou Springs to take the train up to the summit of Pike's Peak.


Mary, Corey, Eric
My brother and his son, Eric were here for Christmas. It was Eric's first trip to Colorado, let alone Pike's Peak. Chip, had been here before.


Corey, Eric, Chip
Mary's friends, Mickey and Barbara joined us for the ascent. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and even the Miami contingent found the weather pleasant. The views were like nothing available in Florida.

Mickey, Barbara, Mary
Corey, the master of Fart Putty, entertained the masses by making rude noises with the present he gave my nephew for Christmas! Fart putty is a thick, viscous liquid, about the consistency grape jelly might get if you thickened it with some corn starch. You pull your fingers through it and it makes rude noises. (hence the name)


Barbara and Mary

We were kept in stitches most of the trip. (I guess it doesn't take much!) I cannot say what the rest of the people in the train thought about us. My apologies if we offended anyone.

(Oh, Dad and I were on the trip too, but nobody offered to take our picture... we were on the opposite side of the aisle.)



Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 28, December, 2004

Monday, December 27, 2004

Housekeeping

For the first morning since my return from the United Kingdom, I have had no problem sleeping to a normal hour! Last night's party was a great opportunity for me to mingle with a number of friends that I do not get to see often enough.

As is my usual party mode, I put out way more food and alcohol than I needed to. I am left with platters of meat and cheese - no problem there, I'll just have to make omelets and sandwiches out of the remains; there are bags of Chips and crackers left - again, no problem… my brother, nephew and dad are driving back to Minnesota soon so I can pack them car snacks and I can pack a bag of snacks for my sister and her party who are going to fly back to Miami today. The alcohol and unopened pop will keep, the dips are really the only thing that will probably go bad before they are consumed.

Oh, well.

There is something of a mess left, but that will wait 'til another day to be cleaned-up. This afternoon my family and I are going to take the cog railroad to the top of Pike's Peak. I have never driven to the top, but I have taken this train a number of times. It is a great trip and I highly recommend it to anyone who comes to this area of the country and wants something fun to do.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 27, December, 2004

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas, the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is better known as Boxing Day. The term may come from the opening of church poor boxes that day; maybe from the earthenware boxes with which boy apprentices collected money at the doors of their masters' clients.

When I first heard of Boxing Day, on a business trip to Canada that kept me there over the holidays, I had no idea what the heck they were talking about. It still, even now that I know what it is, conjures up images of Mohammed Ali and George Forman… I used to think that it was called Boxing Day because you gave your relatives boxes to take their gifts home in. I guess I was wrong.

My family and I had a wonderful Christmas. I hope you did as well!

I am having a party this afternoon so that my friends from Denver can meet my family from all over the country. I will, therefore, have to make this a short entry. (Mercifully short, some of you may be thinking after yesterday's missive.) Well, I am off to the supermarket to get the food for the party.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 26, December, 2004

Saturday, December 25, 2004

A Christmas Story

The following Christmas Story is true; and none of this namby-pamby changing the names to protect the innocent! I am telling this tale bare, unvarnished, and exactly as it happened. Sort of...

It was Christmas Eve 1969 and the entire brood; my sister, Mary, my brothers, Denis and Chip, and I were all lined up against the kitchen wall a police line-up in miniature. Dad was doing his best Colombo impersonation as he strode back and forth before us. It seems that my parents had just discovered that someone had carved two small (practically invisible, really) notches into the top drawer of one of the cabinets. Mom was off in another room somewhere. She was "so mad she could spit tacks" as she used to say. (Something all of us would have loved to see if she could really do... but none of us ever had the nerve to ask her to demonstrate.)

"Now, here, you see," he said, "we have a dulled knife. And over there you see the notches in the kitchen drawer." Dad displayed the evidence as he explained it to us and then looked at us expectantly. We'd all seen the TV show. We knew he was waiting for one of us to crack, but we just stood there looking at him. Well... Mary, Denis and I looked at him. Chip just kind of fidgeted. The weight of the evidence was clear. There was the notched drawer. There was the newly dulled knife. The implication? One of us little people had used the knife to notch the drawer. Open and shut case. But who? Who would do such a thing?

Now, about this time, I expect that you are asking yourself "But, Don..." which is strange, because unless your name is "Don" and you are in the habit of talking to yourself, but I digress. You're asking yourself "Didn't your parent's see your name written all over this one? Weren't you the trouble maker in the group? Shouldn't they have know that they should at least suspect you? Have I asked enough rhetorical questions for you to resume the narrative yet?" to which I say

"You sure ask a lot of questions. Whose story is this anyway?"

No, seriously! My point is that you are right. They should have known that I was guilty! They should have just naturally assumed their troubled middle son did this. But no! When we were children, our parents were idiots! My siblings and I could not believe excruciatingly dim our parents could be! We kept fearing that the men from the government would some day arrive at our door and inform our parents that they were just to nitwitted to have children and we would never see them again! But that is another story. Back to Christmas Eve - 1969.

So there we are, all cool as cucumbers, the little kind that they make sweet pickles out of, standing against the kitchen wall and none of us willing to speak up and claim responsibility. Dad was livid. "Okay, then" he decreed "we'll just let you sit here and think about it. When one of you wants to tell us what happened, your mother and I will be in the living room." You see, the idea was to let us think about the ways that they might punish us and have us turn against each other so that the guilty party would turn themselves in.

Dad's plan was devious enough for me to appreciate, but not good enough to trap me into confessing. (Assuming that I was in fact guilty. Please note, all that I have admitted to at this point is that they should have suspected me.) We sat there. My brothers and sister probably wondering who had done it, how they would be punished, if whoever had done it would go free, or what was on TV that we were missing.

My thoughts were on Santa Claus. I knew that he was on his way and that he wouldn't be stopping at our house if the Bergquist children were still in the kitchen when he made it to Miami! I had to think of some way to get us out of the kitchen so that we could all enjoy Christmas. A selfless act, if I must say so myself.

"Look," I said to Chip, eyeing my elder siblings conspicuously and lowering my voice to a conspiratorial tone, "Chip, we've got to get out of this Kitchen before Santa makes it to Florida of there will be no Christmas here. Now, I would go out there now and tell Mom and Dad that I did it, just to get us out to the kitchen, but you see the laws in the state of Florida say that any kid over the age of six can be legally killed by their parents for acting this bad." I looked to my elder siblings for support. I think they just wanted to see what was going on. Or perhaps they were still thinking about what was on TV. The result is the same... not a word of back-up!

"Now, which ever of them," I continued jerking my thumb at Mary and Denis, "did this horrible thing to Dad's kitchen is in for it! They're old enough that they are goners for sure! You don't want Mom and Dad to kill which ever one of them did this, now do you?" Mary and Denis eyed each other. I think that they were following my impeccable logic and thinking that I may have hit on something. Or perhaps they were thinking that my parents' idiocy had passed down to at least one of the members of our generation.

"As I said, I'd tell them that I did this, but I can be legally killed." I said again. "Now, who do we know who is under six years old who could save Mary or Denis..."

"I'm three." Chip said.

"That's right! You are only three! You're too young to be killed and since you're the youngest and the cutest they would let you get away with anything. You could tell them you did it and save Mary or Denis. Whoever did this horrible thing!"

It was a lovely plan. It was also only seconds after Chip left the kitchen that Dad came back with Chip in tow. He explained exactly how unlikely it was that Chip was actually guilty. He was way too short to reach the knives. Wasn't able to reach the drawer. And could produce no reason he would want to do what he had claimed to have done. No, Dad, for all his lack of mental capacity had seen right through my beautiful plan. Chip was allowed to leave the kitchen and the time passed.

And I'll tell you. Coming up with a Plan B wasn't easy what with the miniscule half life of my Plan A, with the prospect of Santa bypassing our little house on 122nd Avenue, and with Chip dancing around outside the kitchen door as if to say "Ha ha! I don't have to stay in the kitchen because I'm young, cute, and they love me!" I had to have a Plan B and I needed it now! (If for no other reason than to get out of the kitchen so I could thump my brother for so horribly spoiling my beautiful Plan A!)

I looked at my siblings, I looked at the drawer, I looked at the dog... nope, nothing there I could use. I looked at the clock. I couldn't actually tell time yet, but it seemed that it was getting late. And then I had it! It was a lovely plan. It was simple, it was elegant, and best of all it would work! There was no way that Plan B could fail. It was, the best performance of my six-year career of being a trouble maker.

I cried! I flopped apoplectic against the kitchen wall. I threw a full-blown class a tantrum. I screamed and pointed at the general area of a point midway between my elder siblings and shouted that which ever of them had done that horrible thing to the cabinet drawer should just admit it and get it over with. Midnight mass was coming up soon and it was my favorite mass of the year and I wanted to go to midnight mass right away. If we didn't get out of the kitchen we would miss mass and it would be all their fault.

Miraculously (and who said there are no miracles any more... it was Christmas Eve after all) I was right... it was getting late. Mom and Dad came into the kitchen, herded us into the bath, then into our Christmas Eve finery, and then off to church. The incident was never mentioned again. Santa came and stopped at the Bergquist household that night and all was, if not actually forgotten or forgiven, at least not discussed in polite company again.

And I want to go on the record once again. I didn't admit to it then, I haven't admitted to it now. I just can't imagine who did this horrible thing. Not on Christmas Eve, at least!

Merry Cristmas all!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Lakewood, Colorado - 25, December, 2004

*Editor's Note:

The author would welcome comments from anyone out there who might have enough legal expertise to be able to tell what the statue of limitations on this kind of thing would be. Say someone, me for instance, were to have done such a thing thirty-five years ago in, say Miami, and then moved to somewhere out west, does that change the culpability? I am not admitting to anything, mind you, just interest. And a little fearful. I am still over the age of six!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Visions of Sugarplums?


My nephew was nestled snug on my couch
and Saga just lay there and didn't say "Ouch!"

The rush and worry is over. My family arrived last night at about 19:00 and we had a toast to the holiday season. (My thanks to the Publican at The King's Arms back in East Molesey for the recipe for mulled wine. It turned out great!) Everyone recounted their trips here, Mary and Corey came in from South Florida; Chip, Dad, and Eric drove in from Minnesota. Everyone arrived Safe and Sound!

Mary called from the concourse. She said that everyone was ribbing her about getting her heavy coat and sweatshirt on before she walked off the plane, but they quit chuckling when they stepped onto the jet way. Mary said that the temperature that they had been given was 2 Degrees (Fahrenheit - that's -16.666 to those of you on the metric system!) outside and she was, apparently, the only one that knew the jet way was not sealed and insulated. I hated to point this out to her, but according to the register of the actual ambient temperature (available by looking at the national weather service site on the web, which I happened to have up to check weather for my Dad and Brother who were driving) was -4 Fahrenheit (-20 Celsius). Pair that with directions that, living here, I would not have been able to follow to get to her hotel, it was just like most of my business trips to Canada!

My brother, Chip, drove here from Minnesota yesterday with his son, Eric and my dad. They made amazing time. I have made that trip a number of times, and he did start from Minneapolis. But when I leave at what I affectionately call "Butt-Ugly-Early O'clock," I generally arrive around seven. Chip called me from the lounge at his hotel while the 06:00 news was still on to tell me that they had just arrived. It is no wonder that my nephew saw Saga and thought: "Hmmm… She looks like a pillow!" Good thing that Saga is such a good sport!

Mary's friends, Barbara and Mickey made it out as well. So there will be eight for dinner at this evening. The menu is:
Starter:
Tomato Bisque
Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Main Course:
Barbecued Brisket
Or
Lemon-Dill Salmon (I'm serving both because some of my guests do not eat red meat)

With:
Dauphinoise Potatoes
Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Pesto

I've also got a Plumb/Spice cake for desert.

Well, I guess I had better get cooking! Merry Christmas!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 24, December, 2004

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Preparations

It is Thursday morning in Lakewood. I have had a wild two days getting ready for guests. The mulled cider is on to simmer; the mulled wine will soon join it. I have had a whirlwind of activity trying to get the house ready for company. I am now enjoying a cup of coffee and

Soon enough I’ll have to get the laundry done and get to cooking so I best make this a short entry. Merry Christmas!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 23, December, 2004

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Snow!

After a month of my living with ambiguous or ill-defined precipitation in the UK, it is nice getting back to a place where the precipitation is noticeable.


Frosted Decorations!

I know that it will never be here on Christmas day, the snow is supposed to taper off by the end of the day and then get gone by the weekend because it is supposed to warm up.

Well, this has to be a short one. I have holiday preparations to make and very little time.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Lakewood, Colorado - 22, December, 2004

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Jetlag

jet lag also jet·lag (jet' lag)

n. A temporary disruption of body’s circadian rhythms caused by high-speed travel across several time zones typically in a jet aircraft.

jet-lagged adj.

Okay, so I have never really thought of it, but then I have never really traveled across more than four or five time zones at a time. It is not so much the going east that gets you, it is the returning west.

I guess, looking back, I have always had trouble sleeping later than by body thought I aught to, regardless of when I go to bed. When I started traveling for a living back in the dark ages, I remember my first trip to the west coast was accompanied by early morning soirées of the hotel and the town. And the time I went to Honolulu I was out at the east shore for sunrise shots nearly every morning.

So I guess it should be no surprise that I had no problem getting to the right time when I went to London a month ago. But now I am working my way back to Mountain Daylight Time. Suffice it to say that I was up at 03:00 yesterday and was up at 04:00 this morning.

Close but no cigar! I am hoping that since it is vacation time I can get myself to the point that I can sleep until at least six tomorrow. Oh well. I hope you are having a great day and that your holiday season (which ever holiday you celebrate) is going well.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 21, December, 2004

Monday, December 20, 2004

Pictures of Saga

Saga Chilling Out at Home

Aftermath

The trip went well! I had a great time and am certainly happy to be home. Saga wanted to know why her daddy had gone and left her for so long.

Saga demonstrates exactly why she’s happy I am home!

Of course I have a theory that she is only happy that I am home so that she can luxuriate in the nest of pillows she makes of my bed the moment I leave the room!

It was a fairly uneventful flight home. I wish I could say that about my week here. I have Christmas shopping to do now so this will be a really short blog entry, Happy Holidays!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Lakewood, Colorado – 20, December, 2004
Recumbent

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Flying Home

Well, that’s it! My first trip to the UK is complete. All that is left is the fligh and the expense report. I have seen and done so many cool things that I cannot believe how great a trip it was. Sure, I put in long hours at the office, but I was more than fairly compensated for my work not only in salary but in the experiences that have gone along with it.

I’ve met some great people here, done some things I have never even thought of doing, and really thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I have learned to say “cheers” to people in the context of something other than just tipping a glass. And, speaking of tipping a glass, I have tried more beers and ales on this trip than I even given any thought to ever before. Between that and all those full English breakfasts, what can I say, travel really broadens one!

I have made some good business acquaintances that I know will last – I have another ten weeks on this project alone and hope to be doing others in the future. I have made the start at some great friendships that I hope will carry forward. You know I am talking about you when you read this. It applies to many of you with whom I chose to tip a pint or two regularly in the cold and wet evenings in Surrey.

I have not done everything I wanted to do while over here. I would love to get up to Scotland and Ireland on some future trip. I would also love to see more of Europe and, perhaps Scandinavia, and this seems as good a jumping off point as any! I did not eat anything with kidney in it… and although I never actually saw it on the menu and have the feeling I would hate it, I should at least try black pudding. (I have tried everything else that I confes to not liking… )

That is about it for my predictions. As for the predictions of others; well, they are incomplete as well… There were those of you reading this now (and yes, you know who you are as well) who were certain that when I got over here I would:
1) Fall in love with the place and the people
2) Find a bird and settle down
3) Refuse to ever come back home.

All I can say to you people is this:

Two out of Three Ain’t Bad!

It is uncanny how close to accurate you came to be! But c’mon seriously! Me live here? Please read my article on Cost of Living! Well, I guess I will order a drink and open a book now. I wonder if they have any Badger’s Best Bitter. Hmmm.

In seven hours I’ll be in Minneapolis, ten hours to home. I’ll write to you all from the states next week on how it is getting ready for the holidays in the 48-hours I have before my family starts arriving!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Somewhere over the Atlantic – 19, December, 2004

Bird

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Farewell to Arms

I am writing this entry on my last night in the United Kingdom.

I have just returned from a visit to the Hampton Court Palace. A friend of mine from The King’s Arms pub works there and graciously offered to give me the guided tour. Wow! What a great day! I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit here and it is because of people like this who have gone out of their ways to make me feel welcome. I’ve brewed myself a cup of herbal tea and am writing my lat blog entry from the United Kingdom.


The King's Arms Try the Festive Pheasant Ale!

The morning started with a bit of a shaky start. I mean that quite literally! Last night, as has become my Friday night norm, I went to the King’s Arms. The group of people that I have been hanging out with there threw me an impromptu going away party. It was great fun! I bought a couple rounds to celebrate the friendships I have made here; I was bought a few rounds by my friends who wanted to toast my speedy return to their fair country; I lost a round to tequila shots because I could not eat three cream crackers in a minute.

Apparently, this is a bar bet that is directed primarily at foreigners. Cream crackers are about two-and-a-half inches square and look very similar to a saltine. That is where the similarity ends. The problem with eating three in a minute is that the bet usually depends upon the restriction that you cannot drink anything while doing it. Cream crackers seem to be dimensionally transcendental. They are made of more completely dry flour than can possibly fit into a cracker that size. It is amazing! They taste something like matzoh. You bight into it and your mouth (from the smallest nibble) is filled with flour. The more you chew, the more there seems to be in your mouth. I got through two of them but could not get the third one into my mouth before the time elapsed. I had to buy the round. Unfortunately, the bet was "nothing to drink" I realized that it may have broken the spirit but not the letter of the bet to cover them in the chopped tomato & olive oil from my bruschetta. Oh well! Live and learn...

I am not quite sure if it was the all those pints of bitter or the four shots of tequila, but for some reason I was slightly more unsteady than usual when it came time to leave. I accepted Brian’s offer to call me a taxi. (Yes, Brian, I know: "Okay, you're a taxi.") I probably could have walked, but it was nice to not have to.

This morning, as I said, I went to the Hampton Court Palace and met one of my friends from the pub. He gave me the better part of his afternoon. I highly recommend getting a guided tour from someone who knows as much as my guide for the day did and one who is a guide. Especially one with a vast knowledge of his subject who so obviously loves talking about the history of the place.

After touring the castle for nearly five hours, we popped over to the pub for a quick ale before going back to the hotel to pack. I leave tomorrow morning. I guess that now that I am all packed I should close-down the computer, pack it up, and head down to the restaurant for a quick dinner. I'll post this when I return to the States tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom - 18, December, 2004

* Editor's Note:

My entries from the UK seem to have been well received. I plan to continue this journal after I have returned to the States. I hope you are enjoying it and that you will continue to write me with your ideas and input.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Last night we had the big Christmas party for the office I am visiting here in the UK. It was quite fun. Of course there was beer, ale and gin for all. The food was okay but nothing to write home about. So I won’t waste any more space on that topic.

The group evening started at the Hampton Court Ice Rink for a round of Ice Skating. I was asked if I’d like to attend, but as I explained to my coworkers out here, being a native Floridian, I understand that ice is something you use to keep your Cuba Libra cold. If God had meant us to ice skate we’d have been born with much more padding… of course some of us were, I guess. The receptionist here suggested I could go Ass Skating like the rest would, no doubt. I demurred. I understand that the Russian in the group was the only one to actually fall at the rink. He claims, of course that he was demonstrating Ice Safety. Uh-huh!

The party was held across the street from the palace at the Carlton Mitre Hotel. It was a nice to-do. The opening game was a round of name the baby. People kept asking me to play but I cannot name eleven people in this office by walking into their offices, I certainly can’t do it from baby photos! At work I am really busy and have business only working with the four-or-five people I deal with on this floor. There are three-or-four floors here so I haven’t actually met everyone here.

There was plenty of fun to be had. My table got into a joke telling competition. Little did I know that the Santa for the evening was at my table and was chosen for his extensive range of jokes at hand. He easily won. He then went up and distributed the “Secret Santa” gifts. Everyone who came up to collect a present was greeted with some pun, jibe, joke or witticism. It was a riot. Of course, being only an American, some of the humor was lost on me because I did not make the connections that the rest of the people in the room had. Others I could simply not hear.

Once again, I was at the bar at closing. This is not, I suppose, as hard to do here in this country since all the bars close well before midnight. But when I left the hotel it was well after midnight and it was nearly one before I returned home to the hotel.

Tonight I am going to spend one last night at the King’s Arms and chat with my friends there before I head home on Sunday. I guess I am just trying to squeeze as much as I can into the last couple days I have of this trip. I cannot wait to get home to my dog and my home and my friends, but I also am looking forward to coming back here in the spring.

Well, that is all for this morning, I am going downstairs to have breakfast and then head into the office. One last day in the office here this trip and I have about three days’ work to do. Oh well…

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 17, December, 2004

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Elbow Room

As I have observed to you before, The United Kingdom is incredibly old. It is also (as many of you may already know) an island nation. It is either the fact that they have nowhere to spread out to, or the fact that the villages have always been fairly close knit. I am not sure which is true, but as was observed to me by a coworker that was here before I came, everything seems smaller here. The houses have doors that I would knock myself out on constantly; I have hit my head going into stores on more than one occasion here.

The streets are narrow and much more often than you see in the states, they are often one lane (but still carry traffic going in two directions). As you would expect, this also carries over to cars. The car I rented over here was small by American standards but…


…c’mon! I have boots that are bigger than this!

I assume that the vehicles I wrote about in the entry on the Brighton Pier (the little two-seater BMW vehicles) are driven more for sport and fun than for practicality. But this is a primary transportation vehicle. I would hate to have to make a trip to the Home Depot in this but I’ll bet it gets great gas mileage! It’s probably really easy to fit into the parking spaces that they have here which, on average, are about the size of the twin beds that we had in our bedroom as kids.

“Free shoehorn with every test drive” would be my guess as to what the marketing campaign must be. All I can say is it certainly makes no less sense than the Hummers you see clogging our roads with a tiny little five-foot-six woman at the wheel. (No slight meant to women or people who are of average-to-small stature – I’m trying to slam Hummers and their drivers in general!)

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 16, December, 2004

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Pictures from Long Ditton

Christmas Party in Hampton Court

Precipitation

There is an old joke that goes…

Question: Why do Eskimos have ninety words for “snow” in their language?
Answer: Because they need them.

(I said the joke was old. I never said it was a particularly good joke!)

If Douglas Adam’s observation was correct in The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul then humor can go a long way to revealing dark and hidden truths which underlie the collective psyche of the society that they develop in. This observation is actually made by a psychologist who is completely out of touch with his human side in the book and who, incidentally, doesn’t get the joke anyway. But it raises the question… what other languages should be padded a bit with words that mean different types of the same class of thing? The question is would the joke be as humorous as it presumably is if we made a couple substitutions. Let’s say we change the Eskimo language to some other language. Of course, having made the language substitution I would have to make a cultural substitution as well… but I will do that on the fly as I represent the joke in its new form.

Let’s consider English. I’ve a language close at hand – I assume that since you are reading this you have at least a passing familiarity with the language. I further hope that you have made the same assumption about me. Now that we’ve made the language substitution and we will make the corresponding cultural substitution, let’s make a substitution to the subject of the joke. The subject of the joke is the solid form of precipitation. Let’s substitute liquid in its place and the joke may now go something like this…

Question: Why do the British have ninety words for “rain” in their language?
Answer: Because they need them!

The problem with this is, of course, there aren’t ninety words for rain in English and that is too bad. It would make watching the weather forecast here a little less monotonous. Let’s see, there is the kind of rain that falls in great, gushing torrents, there is the light mist that falls and leaves sheen on the horizontal surfaces without really wetting the vertical ones. There is the stealth rain that a co-worker of mine who was out for two weeks noticed.

“You know” observed Tim as we drove to Stonehenge two weeks ago, “I’ve never seen it rain here but the streets always seem to be wet.”

There are the wonderful fogs that one would expect and the light drizzle. As a matter of fact, the only kind of liquid precipitation that I have not seen here is virga. Virga is a form of precipitation that I had never seen (at least never noticed) until I moved to Colorado. The conditions have to be just right for virga to occur (or so I am told) and to the best of my observation, that would never happen here. Virga is precipitation that evaporates faster than it can fall. It never reaches the ground. If you took a photograph of a rain shower and touched out the lower half of the rainfall so that you had rain obviously falling from the clouds but never hitting the ground, you’d have a picture of virga. The problem is the atmosphere between the ground and the storm needs to be pretty dry which is not something I have witnessed here.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the humidity. As long as it isn’t paired with 90° or better temperatures, I love humidity. Humidity gives us clouds, it gives us the great mosses that grow everywhere here, and it also gives us beautiful sunrises. Which, I believe is where I will leave you for the morning.



This is the Thames from my office.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 15, December, 2004

Editior's Note:

Those of you who have been kindly sending me email containing alternative words for precipitation, thanks! Some of them I have found quite interesting. Some I have never heard of, some I have. My favorite to date is "Mizzle." Although it sounds like something Snoop Doggy-Dog would say, it is apparently a kind of Misty-drizzle to heave to be fog, to light to really be distinguishible drops.

Keep that email coming! But, no matter how many of you send it, I refuse to accept the submission of "DRain" as a serious contender!

djb

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pictures from Thames Ditton

Ghosts in the Graveyard

The angel that almost did me in.

When we were kids, my siblings and I used to play a game called "ghost in the graveyard." The problem is that it never was all that scary and I have never (until this trip) been able to figure-out why.

Graveyards (the word is much more sinister sounding than the more pedestrian “cemetery”) in the states don’t have the right atmosphere. It is either the fog that you leave trails in as you walk through it, or it is the fact that you have much older church yard cemeteries here, I am not sure. It could also be that the graves here are all adorned with great gothic tombstones, towering Celtic crosses, or impressive statuary. All, of course, canted to odd angles by the weight of the years they have been standing sentinel over the dearly departed.

I think I now get the fear that people used to (and children still) feel in graveyards.

This morning, as I walked back to my hotel in the fog, the conditions were just right to summon a gothic novel to mind as I walked through the church yard. Now, let me tell you about St. Nicholas Church. Its sign proudly proclaims it as a 1200 year old church. It is not hard to picture it being so. The yard is a jumble of tombs, grave markers, grave covers, and plot dividers from all eras of the last twelve hundred years.

The plots in its yard are packed tightly and some of the stones are so worn by the weathering that it is unclear when – or if you are unfamiliar with the concept of a church graveyard, why – they were erected. There are stones of all shape and description. The stones are also in every state of decay; not from lack of care, mind you, they are just incredibly old! It isn't hard to imagine that some of them may well have been in place before Columbus left to find the westward passage to the east.

I made my way back to the hotel the fog was really thick. I was visibly leaving a wake in the fog behind me. (I know! I noticed that a car that passed me was leaving wake so I turned around and walked backwards and sure enough, so was I!) As I passed into the graveyard, the security lights on the small church were heavily diffused and weakened by the shroud of fog. It was just as I was passing this dear angel (nothing more than a looming, dark hulk in the fog) that a fox darted from where it had been hiding and bolted along the path not three feet in front of me. (Any further away and I would probably not have seen it.)

The combination of the sudden motion, the lack or range to my vision, the amorphous shape of the creature, and the flowing curls of fog that followed it as it ran made my mind race with possibilities. Ghosts and ghouls crawled out of one grave and into another in my mind. (I see way too many movies!) I jumped to get out of its way as it darted past me and almost conked myself out on what’s left of the angel’s down-turned arm. Which, of course my mind turned into the angel jumping at me.

I knew I was only ten-to-fifteen paces from the border of the church yard so I made for where I remembered the gate to the road being and walked smack into a Celtic cross that was canted over the path. (Okay, yes, I saw it as it approached and ducked under it at the last second.) It wasn’t so much that the ordeal frightened me… but the eerie silence of the streets as I made my way through the fog the rest of the way to the hotel was still not enough to still my heart and steady my breathing. Suffice it to say if I get no sleep tonight, I will know the cause of my insomnia!

Depending on when you are reading this I wish you either sweet dreams or a great day!

Don Bergquist – Awake again early in the early morning in Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 14, December, 2004

Monday, December 13, 2004

Insomnia

Today’s entry is being scribed at three o’clock in the morning. That would be 03:00 GMT! Yes, I am suffering insomnia this morning. Perhaps my mind is trying to tell me that I should be out spending my few remaining days wisely, perhaps it is because I went to bed a couple hours early last night because there was nothing better to do.

Things close down in this country early anyway, but on Sunday’s there is really nothing to do after sundown. I, of course, went for the obligatory walk, (followed by the obligatory pint of bitter at the pub) but is was heavily misty last night and before I made it up to Surbiton (about a mile away) I was thoroughly soaked so I turned around and headed back to the hotel.

Warm after a hot shower and dry and toasty by the radiator in bed under the duvet, I curled up with a book. Being very much my father’s son, I sometimes read the way my dad watches television and so was, almost immediately, fast asleep. Since I started “reading” around 20:30, I guess I got about five hours good hard sleep, but now I am up and have hours before anything will be open and five hours before the office opens for the day.

I’ve been trying to get back to sleep for over two hours now and have determined that the attempt is futile. I guess I will do finish-up this entry in the blog for the day, do a couple hours’ writing of documents I need to write for the project I am here doing, then get dressed and take a walk. I cannot see stars out so I know it is still overcast here but since I can see the newsagent’s up the road a way I can tell that at least the mist of last night has cleared.

I hope you’re having a great night’s sleep and that you will, indeed, have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 13, December, 2004

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Conversation Starter?

Granted that I am not yet fully conversant in the customs and etiquette of the country I am on an extended visit to, I still fail to see a non-insulting way to take this particular conversation starter. The man said it completely mater-of-factly and it was inflected such that even my US ears heard the interrogative, so what was I to think?

Oh, I guess I should give you some of the background and let you decide. I have a Christmas party to attend and need a nice jacket to wear. Since I didn't pack one (this office wears jeans or khakis every day) I decided to walk into Kingston upon Thames to look for one. (I found only one that I liked but that is another story.)

By UK standards (or at least what I take to be standard for this time of year) it is a fairly nice day. By which I mean that the temperatures are holding to mild (low-to-mid 50's) and it's overcast and a bit foggy but not actually raining. So I donned a pair of walking shoes, my jeans, and a warm sweatshirt and headed northeast along the Thames.

I wasn't really in any particular hurry or anything but, being six-four, I have a fairly long stride and tend (even at a stroll) to move at a fairly brisk clip. My casual attire could have been the impetus for his comment, I guess; being Sunday morning I perhaps should have (in his mind) been dressed for church. To which I say, "Ha! What if I'm Jewish and so my Sabbath was 'kept holy' the day before?" Perhaps it was because he thought I was rushing. Who knows?

Admittedly when I passed them, an elderly couple nicely dressed, they seemed to be in no hurry to get anywhere.

"Good morning." I said as I passed them. Partly I was being social; mostly I didn't wish to startle them as I stepped past. The couple were perhaps in their mid-sixties and nicely dressed; full leather coats, leather gloves, fur-trimmed hats, the works.

"Good morning." the man replied with a nod.

I had pulled ahead by perhaps five or six steps when the question was asked. Even now, half an hour later, as I sit on the train from Kingston upon Thames to London I cannot think of why he asked this particular question.

"Excuse me," he called after me, "but are you walking to lose weight?"

Now I'll grant that I do need to lose weight but this fine morning on the banks of the Thames is the last time and place I would have expected to have it pointed out to me! So my first instinct was to tell him and his wife to topple over into the Thames. But I suppose that there are planets where the comment might be considered the start of a pleasant conversation between complete strangers so I decided to choose from any of the other possibilities that were running through my head.

In the second I had to choose from the plethora of possible responses, I picked the least caustic one I could think of. Forcing all emotion out of my voice and affecting a look of good humor I replied that I was walking because I had somewhere to be and had left my car parked in Denver. I then smiled and walked on. I'm glad that I edited that down because when I started the sentence it had ended "...I'm dieting because I need to lose weight, smartass!"

On the whole, I think I made the right choice.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 12, December, 2004

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Surbiton Railway Station

Christmas Shopping

Well, my trip has been extended. This is a good thing in that I have not done everything that I want to do while I am here. It is an okay thing (not good, not bad) in that I haven’t really the time nor the money to do all the things that I could come up with to do. In that I will have very limited time to do my Christmas shopping when I return to the states, I had the brilliant idea to do some of my Christmas shopping here. This last is not a good thing. Some “Brilliant Ideas” should remain brilliant ideas and not be implemented.

I had the even more brilliant idea to do nothing more than shop here. No buying, just shopping. (See the entry on "Cost of Living.") This later and greater idea come to me as I was shopping. The uncanny ability I have to be able to immediately walk up to the single most expensive item in a store and immediately need to try it on, examine it, or decide what it is seems unaffected by the fact that I am now shopping in a foreign country.

I spent all day looking in shops and doing conversions in my head. Suffice it to say I still have a lot of shopping to do when I get home!

I did, however look at some very nice items for myself. And by “very nice” I of course meant “insanely expensive!” There was the (moderately reasonable) blazer, coming in at a mere £275.00. (That’s approximately $550.00 in today’s exchange rate.) Of course I could go for the same blazer in a nice fabric like wool for only another £100. I tried on a really nice jumper (what they call a sweater) but what they called the price was what I would call excessive tipping the scale at £190. But my favorite of all; this lovely leather blazer, it was like butter! So silky soft so warm and inviting, it even fit well! I have no idea how I resisted spending the £1,195 that they wanted for it. Oh wait, now I remember how I resisted… I’ve yet to have that lobotomy! My entire wardrobe isn’t worth $2,400; there is no way I am spending that much on one coat! It doesn’t matter how nice it is!

I did have a good time of it, though. I got to the stores everyone has heard of like Harvey Nichols. Harrods has great windows. All of them are based on fairy tales this year. The best one was of Snow White. There is an Evil Queen mannequin standing before a big mirror that is made of one way glass. The mirror slowly fades to opacity as a spot light is shone on the revese side where the Snow White mannequin is revealed, it’s a cool window!

I know what you're thinking: “Don, you’ve lost it!” That is unfair! Just because I enjoyed shopping there is no reason to question my sanity. Remember: I was shopping in London! It makes all the difference!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 11, December, 2004

Friday, December 10, 2004

Curry Favor

Last night a group of us from the office went out to an Indian restaurant for curry. It is the first time I have been to an Indian restaurant and the first time for Curry. It was a good night! We had a vast array of curries on the table, tried a number of different appetizers and drank Indian beer.

What can I say? I’ll be back!

Tim and Mark discuss the variety of Curry on the table.

I know this is a short entry. Suffice it to say there were a number of pubs between the curry house and our hotel and we decided to try a new variety of bitter at each! There are deadlines to be met and new curries to try at lunchtime so I guess I’ll sigh off and get back to work.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 10, December, 2004

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Curry in Surbiton

Cost of Living

My hosts here have been great for the nearly three weeks I have been living here but I must say they put of with so many things here that we would never abide in the states.

Now, before you accuse me of being the quintessential “Ugly American” let me explain myself. I’m not talking about the lack of the right to carry a gun. I am lukewarm on that topic at best. I think that in the US we covet that right too much and bend the constitutional intent and wording to justify it. I am really talking about the cost of things here, in time and in money.

I rented a car this past weekend to take my weekend excursions. I was given what passes for a great deal here. And yes, it was a good price compared to what I can get here. The problem is that it was a horrible price for what I am used to paying. The rental on the car was ₤60.00 for the weekend for a subcompact standard transmission car with no cruise control. That works out to about $60 per day. The same car in the US would rent for about that for a week.

And it is not just the cars, the gasoline for the cars is ungodly expensive too! At a whopping 84.9p for a litre of gasoline the equivalent cost is approximately (again at today’s exchange rate) something like $6.34 a gallon. I went to a Laundromat last night to do two loads of laundry. The wash was ₤3.00 per machine and another ₤1.2 to dry the two loads. Grand total over ₤7 (about $14.00) to do two loads of wash!

I was asked by some of my cohorts at the office if I was buying Christmas gifts over here. The truth is I cannot afford it! And there is the cost of time. It takes forever to get anywhere here because there is such a problem with traffic. Once you are there, there is the problem of parking. I spent a sum total of about four hours this weekend looking for parking at three different destinations.

Lovely place to visit, I do not think I could ever live here.

Well, I guess today’s entry is a bit of a bummer. I’ll try and be more upbeat tomorrow.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 09, December, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Marmite


Yes, Marmite Yeast Extract, doesn’t the name just make you want to run out and try it? If not… then the appearance will. It is a black sludge that comes out of the jar looking like used axle grease. As if that were not bad enough, it tastes like salted salt.

Now, being Scandinavian, I guess I should not really bake fun of other cultures’ cuisines, They can quickly enough throw Lutefisk back at me. Of course, once the Lutefisk starts flying I am going to be leaving!

I was in the pub the other night and the barmaid said that I had to try Marmite. I had heard from some friends back home in the states that it is similar to Vegemite. (It is, but only in the sense that they are both thoroughly disgusting foodstuffs. – I know, I promised, but really!) There is an Australian I know who assured me that Marmite was nothing like Vegemite. So I figured that being fair, I had tried Vegemite, I should at least try Marmite.

At the restaurant this morning eating breakfast I finally worked up the nerve to open the packet of Marmite that came with my toast. My friend at the pub had said that Marmite was “an acquired taste.” My question is “Why would anyone want to acquire a taste for it?”

It does have an unusual smell that is not at all identifiable. It doesn’t really smell like yeast or anything. It just smells… strange. (I know, I know! “Lutefisk!”) But to be fair, I guess that I should say that the only identifiable taste to Marmite is that of Salt.

I have long said that there is no implicit meaning to the phrase “too much salt.” Heck, I salt my bacon. (If there is nobody looking I do.) But that was clearly before I tasted Marmite.

So having tried it a couple times I can say that I guess if I spread it thinly enough it might be okay. I just wish it didn’t Look so horribly sludge-like. Here are a few notes from the official Marmite website:

1) Marmite is good for you. (It is high in B-vitamins and low in fat.)
2) Marmite is easy to store. (An open jar has a shelf life of 18 months. – Due to the salt content perhaps?)
3) Marmite is good on Toast.

Well, I’ll have to give it another shot and try and acquire a taste for it. If nothing else, I’ll put a little on my eggs tomorrow in lieu of salt.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 08, December, 2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Holidays

The festive spirit has taken me. It is either the fact that I have done literally no Christmas shopping this year (which can always make one festive) or the fact that the holidays are fast approaching.

It could also be that the whole place here is decked out in the holiday style. There are Christmas hangings in the pubs and in the businesses. Even the streets are decked out.

The only thing is that it isn’t snowing. I may have grown-up in Florida but having lived for so long in a snowy locale, I have gotten used to seeing snow around the holidays. Bummer! Well, I’ll be home in just twelve days so I can get the Christmas spirit just in time for the actual holiday.

Busy day today so I do not have time for the usual and prolonged rant so this is it.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 07, December, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004

Driving in Brittain

In the interest of public safety, that is to say my safety whilst I am in public, I have done a bit of research into road signs in Brittain.

In the US, when you rent a car, the rental agency will often give you a map. This map usually is not helpful in the sense that it seems to be entirely occupied with how to get from the car rental agency’s airport location to the agency’s fifteen other conveniently located locations. This is fine, if you happen to want to be at either the car rental agency counter or the airport for your entire trip (rather than it just seeming that way).

Some will also provide you with a pamphlet of some sort telling you the local driving regulations that you need to know to drive successfully in their locale. These can include the practical; such as if you are drunk and completely out of it and you are in eastern Tennessee it is okay for you to let your cousin and wife drive your car home provided she makes you lie in the back (so nobody can see you being driven home by a woman) and she doesn’t let you puke into your good boots. You may also learn the public safety laws like in the southern parts of Georgia, it is mandated by law that all pickup trucks be equipped with a huge slobbering bloodhound who allows his spit to be carried by the slipstream onto the windshields of any car following too closely.

So, since nobody told me what the laws were here, I have taken it upon myself to make sure that you know them when you visit. I have done exhaustive research* and will now present the meaning of all those obscure and strange (well to us foreigners) signs that you will see on the roads here.

So here goes.

In some parts of England there is a problem with young and inexperienced drivers so they want to make sure that anyone who gets behind the is at least forty years old.

Now, this one took me a while to suss. As it only seems to appear shortly before you reach a pub, I have figured-out that this means “Pints Ahead.”
So, by extension, I presume this one advises you of liters.


Ah, now this is a warning that you are following someone who has had too many pints and liters.

This is a friendly reminder to visitors from countries where they are not directly under British rule that they drive on the wrong side of the road here. I believe the name for this sign is the “Drive to the left you idiot” sign.

I have no idea! I assume this is warning you that there are French Fries on the road ahead…
…so by extension this must be warning you that there are McDonald’s French Fries on the road ahead.


This is one you will see all over the place. They appear right before you come upon a roundabout. A roundabout is a strange street configuration that pushes all the roads in the city (and a few that are visiting from other towns) into a confused junction in the hopes that they will trap foreighners like flies in a pitcher plant. The sign is an instructionas to the proper way to progress through the roundabout. Here is how you do that.

Rule number 1. Always go Clockwise around the roundabout. This is key.
Rule number 2. Always Yeild (or as the British say "give way") to cars that are coming at you really fast through the roundabout.
Rule number 3. Always progress through the roundabout as fast as you can. (You'll need to to be missed by all the other cars tat are also progressing though at breakneck speed.
Rule number 4. (This is the most important rule.) It is absolutely manditory that you go all the way around the roundabout at least twice (preferably shouting “Wee!” out the window as you go) before exiting the roundabout. (Try it! It's Fun!)
Don’t even try!

As foreigners, you and I have no more chance of deciphering this type of sign than we do of being elected King in the next election here. These are what I have come to know as the “Abandon Hope” signs.

Glance at it, and then pray that you exit at the right point. (But if you make it, it is probably just dumb luck.)
Oh, and for all their world famous manners here, this is, I am convinced what the British public works department are really trying to convey to you and me, the foreigners, by the use of all these signs:

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 06, December, 2004

* Editor’s Note:

By the use of the phrase “Exhaustive Research” in the above paragraph, I do not mean to imply in any way that said research was actually on the topic at hand. As the notes have made plain to anybody but the most dimwitted, the research in question was exhaustive on some other topic. Perhaps I will present that topic in some future blog entry. (Though I seriously doubt it. That would blow my entire fact-to-fiction ration that I endeavor to keep as low as possible.)

Any accidents you have whilst reading this blog or as a result of taking any of the content seriously are solely a result of your own woefully misguided trust in this as a purveyor of factual content. This blog is meant solely as a source of entertainment – mine… if you enjoy it too, that’s just a happy coincidence.

djb

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pictures from Brighton Pier

Brighton Pier

Today I drove to the southern English shore. It was a gray day. (so what’s new in Great Brittain, eh?)

It was a nice day for a drive, though; no sunshine to blind me as I drive, no rain to make the roads slick. It was a nice hour-long drive to the own of Brighton and then a couple hours at the pier.

The Helter Skelter is a ride from Rollercoaster Tycoon!

Crazy Mouse


The pier was cool! It has a little amusement park on it with a couple roller coasters, a “whirl-n-puke” type ride, a Ghost Train, and a carousel. I took pictures of a couple of the rides that I had never seen before except as a part of the Rollercoaster Tycoon. They had a Crazy Mouse rollercoaster and it was a riot! The cars are mounted on swivels that allow them to spin free as they roll along the track. The car is fixed at the forward-looking until you start your decent from the top of the coaster. As you descend, the car spins at each turn. It is a riot!

Mini Coopers on Parade


This place is a Mini Cooper paradise.
One guy even had a collection of Minis on the dashboard of his mini!


Cool Vehicles

And I have no idea what this was, but it looked cool! It was parked in a row of about three or four of these vehicles. I know that they are BMW’s and that they seem to have the BMW Motorcycle back tire, the front, however is another matter.

I thought they looked cool, so I posed myself by one for a picture.

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 05, December, 2004

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Pictures from Stonehenge

Pictures from Stonehenge

Pictures from Stonehenge

Driving on the Left

The hard part of successfully driving in the UK may not be what you expect. It isn’t the problem of problem of remembering to drive on the left, it isn’t the problem of dealing with the roundabouts, it isn’t the problem of trying to work out the roadmaps or even trying to figure-out what all those damn symbols mean. You may be thinking it is all the time having the car to the left and you’d be close. It is hard to remember that you have your entire car to your left instead of to your right. This can be a problem with making left turns. Today I drove from Thames Ditton to Stonehenge. (More on this later…) I had a tendency to drift to the position (personally) in the lane I’d be occupying if I were on the left side of the car… but when you drive on the left this is the wrong place to be.

I did keep in mind to adjust and only a few times did I hit the curb when turning left. Fore the most part, I believe that I kept the car in the lane. And I had no major problem with the roundabout. So, what did I have a problem with? Remembering to reach to the left for the gear shift lever. The first time I got into my rental I nearly broke a finger trying to use my right-hand to reach for the shifter and try to shift. (It is not on the right in a British car, it is in the center – the driver’s left!)

Then there is the thing… you have trained your eye to look up and to the right to see the rear-view mirror, further to the right and lower to see outside the passenger side, and then low and to the left to see your side. The problem is that it is an inverse of this triangle you need to be making in a British car… We’ll see if tomorrow I do better. I am going to Brighton.

Stonehenge


Stonehenge was great! I really enjoyed my visit. The people here kept telling me to not expect too much. I have no idea why not. It was a very powerful place. I have no idea what the builders intended but if you look at it you cannot help but marvel at it. If for no other reason than the shear age of the thing, this is an impressive structure. I shot two cards of pictures there.
Stonehenge

Sarsins and Lintel

Here is a close-up of a pair of the sarsins with a lintel across the top.


After visiting stonehenge, we drove the countryside and tried to visit Bath. By which I mean we then went onto Bath. A lovely town. Needs more parking, but it is a lovely town. According to the news that I heard tonight on BBC1, parking in many parts of Great Brittain is so bad that 29% of all people who take trips get to their destination and never get out of the car because they cannot find parking. They give up and drive home. This is what I did. After two hours of looking I gave up and headed back to Thames Ditton.
Sarsins and Lintel

Chalk Horse


I also stopped to see the white horses that are scratched into the Salisbury plain. They are impressive, their stark whiteness of the chalk against the deep greens of the hillsides. A must, if you can handle the winding and narrow roads of the English countryside!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 04, December, 2004

Friday, December 03, 2004

All better now! - Writer's Block Cleared

Who knew that Thames Ditton was going to prove to be the night life capitol of the United Kingdom?

The hotel I am staying at is a little Bed and Breakfast above a pub. It is really quite a nice pub. I don't believe one person in the pub has yet to tell me that the president is a wanker. They have made it know that they personally believe so in much more discrete ways than just coming right out and stating flatly that George W. Bush is a wanker. Mostly they make the statement by asking a question.

"Do you believe that your president can be any more of a wanker?" is one of the sly ways they have of introducing the subject.

Last night after returning to the hotel, I did a bit of paperwork in my room and then popped downstairs for a beer and a quick bite. There was a group of guys watching soccer and one of the guys started in on explaining that it was football and that football in the states is not really football. When he asked if I watched football on television I had to admit that I didn’t, but not for the reason that he immediately suspected. When I finally admitted that although I had a television in every major room in my home but the sum total of the television I actually watched in a week was probably less than ten hours, he just shook his head.

It's not that I don't like television. The truth is that it is too much like taking work home with me. I work for a company that automates the broadcast industry. I turn on the television and the first thing I do is start analyzing whatever channel I am watching, determining what types of things they are doing, and what kind of equipment I would need to control to make the picture look like it does. I watch news (a very transition and effects intensive programming) on two-to-three stations a night and that is about it. I'd watch less, but I am a political and news junkie.

By the way, I hear that Tom Ridge (Homeland Security chief) resigned. Has anyone heard if there is a replacement? Also, any big news from home? We get very little US news over here for some reason.

Well, I'd best get this posted and then get to the office. I've got to get my mind back to working so I can get home. Santa may not be able to find me if I am still in the UK when Christmas rolls around!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom - 03 December, 2004

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ailments

writer's block n. A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.

Well, it could also be temporal frustration - too few hours in the day to do the things that must be done. I am nearly two-thirds the way through my trip and I see the airplane pulling up to the ramp and know I will never do all the things I need to (professionally) or want to (socially) while here. Sorry that there is no more deep and fascinating insight today than the fact that I still have lots that I need and want to do here. To quote Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

Better entry tomorrow. I promise!

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 02 December, 2004

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Busy Day!

Where does the time go? Perhaps I am not really acclimated to this time zone as I thought I was! I am finding myself looking up and thinking “Now, why is it dark outside already?” only to realize that it is after five and the sun sets at 4:15 here at this time of year.

Either I am not fully acclimated, or I spend my entire day in meetings. Yes, I find the later to be more likely. That is only right because, after all, I am here on business. The one thing that I did do that I am excited about is that I made a reservation to hire a car for the weekend. I will be driving to Stonehenge this weekend so look for new pictures next on Monday!

About the new hotel, it is obvious that the bathroom was designed by a woman who prefers baths to showers. How do I know? Well there is a shower enclosure but it is, at best, perfunctory. It takes a concerted effort to take a shower and have the water run down the drain and not all over the floor. So, that explains the bath versus shower preference. The gender? Well there is no under the only mirror in the room, which happens to be a full length mirror. So, the person who designed the room is obviously more interest in how they look than in not dripping shaving lather all over the floor.

Other than that, it is a really nice place, the owner is fun to chat with and the food in the bar downstairs is quite nice.

Well, it is getting rather dark out and I have a walk to the hotel so I guess I will post this and get home. Have a great day!

Don Bergquist – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom – 01 December, 2004