Sunday, July 31, 2005

...famous last words...

Uh, okay. Plan B.

I think I will take a shower and a get to bed at the normal time.

In all fairness, I did leave the pub before it closed tonight. No! Really! Closing on Sunday night is 22:30. It is, according to my clock now 22:35 and it has taken me about five minutes to get back to my room, a couple minutes to get my laptop connected, and a minute or so to write this entry.

By these calculations I had to have left at least two minutes before closing time.

I hope your plans today go better!

Don Bergquist - 31-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom.


I got to go sightseeing today courtesy of my friend and coworker, Ian. A few weeks ago, while he was in Colorado, I made the offer of being chauffeur on a tour of my area of the country. This trip, Ian returned the favor. It has been a full day and quite the adventure.

We met at the hotel this morning for the Full English Breakfast and then set-out toward the northwest. Our first stop was Thame in Oxfordshire. Thame is a lovely little picture-postcard town that has some quaint architecture. The town hall was quite nice as was the art gallery. The art gallery was, in fact, a re-purposed church.

We parked the car in a short term lot and walked around a bit. It was quite nice even if the skies threatened rain the entire morning.

Our second stop was Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace is the estate home of the line of the Duke of Marlborough. The Duke was awarded his title and the estate for meritorious combat against the French. Notable events to take place on the estate include the birth of Sir Winston Churchill and the proposal of Sir Winston to his (then future) wife. The thing that struck me most about the place was the amount of conspicuous consumption the place embodies. There are tapestries in one room alone that (in terms of today's money) could have purchased my whole home a dozen times over. The sum total of that one room's contents could have bought the entire development I live in! I guess it is like they say: "If you've got it, flaunt it!"

Our next stop was in Oxford. Here we parked, walked around in the town a bit and had Cornish Pasties for lunch. Walking around Oxford was pretty interesting. We went around through a couple of the college campuses and wanted to go through the public market square, but it was closed and locked on Sundays so we didn't get the opportunity. I may have to try to spend some more time in Oxford the next time that I am in the United Kingdom. It seems the kind of place that one could spend days exploring. The picture of me to the left was taken at Christ Church College. I could not understand why there were so many small children touring the grounds of the college and was musing on it with Ian; saying how the kids must be bored to tears being brought here by their parents on holiday. Turns-out some of the buildings on this campus were used as locations in the Harry Potter films. Now the presence of children makes perfect sense.

The next place we stopped was Didcot. This was a late addition to today's list of ports of call. Ian mentioned that we would be passing by a rail museum and that is run by a bunch of rail enthusiasts and is dedicated to the heyday of the Great Western Railway. We got the idea to visit the Didcot Railway Centre while visiting Blenheim Palace. There was a miniature railway that ran from the house to the remote gardens and while looking at the train, we saw a cute little towheaded kid pulling his father along. The kid was in a state of extreme excitement at the thought of seeing a choo-choo.

As the pair bounded past us, I said to the father that you just never grow out of it. The man looked at me and agreed. It was clear that it was only British decorum that was keeping him from showing every bit as much excitement as his son was displaying. When I heard that there was a train museum right on the path we were taking, the decision was made.

Our final stop of the day was Windsor. Of all of our stops today, this was the most tourist-laden venue. The streets were packed with tourists and the shops were tackier and pricier than any we had seen elsewhere.

Ironically, the best view of the castle is actually afforded from the motorway approaching the town of Windsor. The castle is so big and imposing that it can truly only be seen from a distance. Once in the town, the massive walls of the castle are all you can see. You really can only take in its scale from afar. Thus I was surprised at the number of tourists taking pictures up the massive walls of the castle. I asked Ian about this and he told me to wait. It was a strange juxtaposition! The castle is right on the flight path for Heathrow. The pictures that they were taking was of planes barely (or at least appearing to be barely) clearing the tops of the towers.

Having seen so much and been so many places, I am sore and ready for sleep. I think I will post this, get one quick beer, take a long hot bath, and get to bed early.

I hope your day was as full of marvelous experiences!

Don Bergquist - 31-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom

Saturday, July 30, 2005

British Bar-Be-Cue

This afternoon I was invited to a barbecue at the home of my friends Terry and Agnie in West Molesey. The plan was made remotely. Angie's parents were coming to town and they had planned a gathering. They asked if I was going to be here the thirtieth and if I was, would I care to attend a bar-be-cue. I said that I was and that I would.

It was a lovely time... even with the rain.

I met-up with a friend at the Kings Arms pub and had a quick pint before heading across the bridge to Molesey. It had cleared considerably since this morning and so Kevin put the top down on the convertible and we headed across the Thames. The good weather held for almost all of the five minute trip.

Angie and Terry had put out quite a respectable spread.

There were a variety of imported beers and wines, hard liquor, and wonderful dips and spreads. It was all so wonderful. Except the mango salsa. (In all fairness I assume the mango salsa was okay, but being that I dislike and am allergic to mangoes, I will never know.) I tried a dish I had never had before: baba ganoush. It was quite yummy and I now have a new recipe that I can try at the beach next time I am there.

The weather was good... then it was bad... then it was good again. Eventually it started to rain and we had to move inside. All told, we spent a few lovely hours eating, chatting, sipping a few beers, looking at the pictures Terry and Angie took on their recent trip to Kenya. It was great. Later on in the evening, we piled into a cab and headed back across the bridge into Hampton Court to have a nightcap in the Kings Arms.

As this story would conclude if it appeared in one of the local papers in Minnesota: "...a good time was had by all."

I hope you are having a pleasant weekend.

Don Bergquist - 30-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom.

Summer in Bushy Park

It is easy to see how some of the beliefs of the dark ages tended toward magic of nature. There are some fascinating natural sites here. The trees in one area of the park (I do not recognize these trees) reminded me of a cathedral. It was magical how the wispy branches arch majestically over the forest floor, leafless until their tips in the canopy high above.

The green light filtering through the distant canopy as impressive as any that has ever been filtered through a pane of stained glass. I can see how the belief of the druids that these places are magical and sacred were formed. I believe they are as well. Nature cults aside, the park and its plants are showing me another side of the British aisles that I was not previously aware of. I am constantly amazed at the number of familiar plants that I see here. There are Day Lilies tucked into surprising corners of the garden; in the bends along the paths and in places delightful to find. I was even surprised to find that the gardens have magnolias in full bloom!

The magnolias bring me back to my days living in Tennessee where everyone had a magnolia on their block. The Daylilies remind me of South Carolina where there are fields of them and every small town has at least one person who has made a cottage industry of collecting, raising and selling them.

Wherever I look here, I am reminded of home. Perhaps I have been spending too much time in the United Kingdom!

I hope you feel at home wherever you are today!

Don Bergquist - 30-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom

Friday, July 29, 2005

British Summer

One of my co-workers out here asked me how I liked the British Summer. Confidentially, I see little difference between the British Summer and the British Spring. Or the British Fall or Winter for that matter. The seasons here all seem to run together. They all seem to be cool (not actually cold, but cooler than one would expect at any given time) and tending toward the... shall we say... damp.

I guess the dampness is easy enough to explain, the cool temperatures are not as easy. With all the tropical plants they have here one would expect the temperatures to warmer. But I am certainly not complaining. Occasionally there is a day like today. Perfectly comfortable temperatures, relatively dry air, just enough clouds to render the sky photographically interesting, and light breezes blowing off the Thames make the day one that makes me really regret being here on business. Luckily, I can orient myself in my office so that I do not see the outside. It allows me to keep working.

The walk in this morning was quite pleasant and it gives me pause for thought. As I watched the local people rushing toward the Hampton Court Railway Station, do they appreciate how lovely the area they are lucky enough to live in really is? It is days like today that make all the rain and cool weather worth it I guess, but I just hope that they appreciate it the way a visitor does. It would be a shame if they have become jaded to the beauty around them.

This weekend I have been invited by some friends of mine to a bar-be-cue at their home in Molesey on Saturday and then I have a friend from work who is taking me site-seeing on Sunday. It is going to be a busy weekend!

I cannot believe that this trip is nearly half over! Wow! Time flies. I will be back in the states in just over a week from now. I will have to appreciate the time I have while I am here! I hope that you have a great day wherever you are and that you will take a moment out of your day to look at the beauty in your surroundings.

Take a moment out of your day to appreciate the beauty around you today!
Don Bergquist - 29-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom

Time Flies Like an Arrow

Fruit flies like a banana.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Olfactory Prompting

They say that smell is one of the best memory triggers there is. If this is true, then it is because of a smell that I behaved the way I did on the way home. Last night I walked home barefoot. (Well, at least I did part of the way. )

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while may have seen my March 19th entry titled "Walking to Work." The entry had a link to pictures of the path I take to work. The path runs through a bog and crossing the bog brought to mind my family's summer trips to Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest, back in my home state of Florida. Let me explain...

Juniper Springs, Florida

At first it was nothing much, a vague aroma that smelled like forest anywhere I have ever been; a moldy, musty smell that collects at the base of wet trees everywhere. As I approached the middle of the bog it struck me that this was more-or-less the exact smell that we ran through each summer as my brothers, sister and I were camping in the woods of the Ocala National Forest.

We used to play hide-and-seek on the trails and in the palmetto groves of the campground. We'd dip into the shallow springs that dotted almost the entire area; splashing each other with the cold, clear water. It always seemed to be raining in the summers when we stayed at the Juniper Springs Campground.

Dad would pull the camper trailer up to the peek in the picnic pavilion so that the entire structure was like a huge portico built onto our small house in the wood. Mom would set-up the housekeeping and once all the camping stuff was set-up and the dog had been fed it was time to get into our bathing suits and play in the rain and the springs.

I guess I do remember it not raining from time to time, but it seemed that we would stay wet (either because it was raining, we were swimming, or just because it was so hot we'd sweat like there was no tomorrow) the entire time we were there. Mary, Denis, Chip and I would spend as much time as possible at the big spring, diving off the rock on the East end of the hole seeing who could go all the way to the bottom, bringing-up sand from the boil as proof.

All of this was running through my head as I walked, the skies of southern England dripping all around me. As I crossed the Thames, I saw some children playing in the puddles along the Thames Walk path. They were oblivious to the gloom of the evening as they padded across one of the deeper ruts in the pavement; the water coming to mid-shin on the smallest of the three. Their parents urged them to quit playing in the puddles and come along.

I guess it was the instance that if they dawdled a stranger may come and take them that made-up my mind for me. The parents (Elder sisters? Cousins? Aunts? Who knows!) were telling the children that if they didn't come along, some stranger may come and take them as I approached. I could hear them saying this as they cast glances my way; the implications, I guess, was that I would take them if they stayed where they were.

As I rounded the corner from the bridge onto the path, I kicked-off the loafers I was wearing, and pealed off my socks. Carrying my shoes, I walked right through the deepest and widest part of the puddle. I made sure to put my food down with more force than was absolutely necessary as I past the littlest of them thus sending little ripples up to his knee. The children laughed and pointed as I passed. My job here was done. I made a bee-line back to the Lion Gate where I changed into some dry clothing and sandals and headed across to The Kings Arms.

Take time to enjoy the little pleasures today! Splash a kid in a rain puddle.

Don Bergquist - 28-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and Smell the Roses

Some times it is as easy as walking to work, or walking home.

One of the great things about the place that I stay in the United Kingdom is that twice a day I get to walk through the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. As I have been writing in my blog since November of last year, it is always a pleasure for the eyes. In the summer it is a pleasure for the nose as well. The rose garden is bursting with the reds, whites and pinks. There is no need to stop and smell the roses, you can just keep walking and get a thrill for the senses.

The link above is to a group of pictures I took in the rose garden on the way back to the hotel last night.

I hope your day is a walk in the park!

Don Bergquist - 27-July-2005 - Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Weather Report

It is a beautiful spring-like day here in the UK. The breezes off the Thames that blow through my office window are brisk (cool verging on being actually cold) and tinted with the aroma of a distant fire burning in someone’s hearth. This is odd because it is, after all, the height of summer!

When I left Lakewood this weekend, the temperatures on my deck had been hitting one hundred degrees Fahrenheit on a daily basis for over a week. According to the BBC this morning, the temps there are still ranging into the high nineties. Here the current temperature is about seventy and it is lunch time so they do not expect the temperature to get much higher. What an odd thing to be dealing with when they had eighties and nineties here just last week.

I do not wonder that there is so little air conditioning here in England; there is apparently so little need for it. The down duvet on the bed in the hotel is welcome at night as the temperatures fall to below fifty. The walk from the pub to the hotel at closing time is bracing. I could get used to this!

I hope, that the temperatures do not get any cooler, however, as I packed for this trip when the prospects were calling for the UK to continue in the grips of a heat wave. It broke unexpectedly and the rains have set in. (England did not fool me on that account. I have learned that I have to be ready for it to rain every day. I have an umbrella with me.) I guess I need to add a note to my packing regimen for future trips to the UK: always pack a sweatshirt and/or a light jacket when coming over here. You will probably need it!

I hope that wherever you are the weather is pleasant and mild and that you have a great day!

Don Bergquist – 26-July-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

The forecast for Tuesday:
High 70 F / 21 C
Low: 57 F / 13 C

Current weather in East Molesey: P/SUNNY
Temperature: 57 F / 13 C
Humidity: 82 %
Wind speed: 4 mph / 6 kmph
Wind direction: ENE
Barometric pressure: 29.89 inHg /762 mHg
Visibility: 25 mi / 40 km

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monday Night in England

Okay what is wrong with this picture: It is 19:00 GMT Summer Time and I have just gotten off my last conference call (to the United States!). My first call started at 13:30 local time.

I am in the UK this trip to do some testing on the software being written out here and to document same. While on this trip I am also meeting with my counterpart out here to make some decisions that are to be made about the next part of the development and to keep developing the concepts that we are trying to realize. It’s a big job!

I knew that this morning would be hectic. I got in around 07:00 and spent the morning working on administrative tasks; updating mailing lists, reading email, updating access to our team files and the like. I also did some writing of some documents we needed. We then strolled down to the deli in the high street to have lunch and headed back here to take our afternoon conference calls. It is now after seven pm and it is time for me to head home. I think I will bring my book to the pub, have a beer and some dinner and make it an early night.

Oh, for those of you who are wondering, I walked into work today and my knee is feeling fine. It gets a bit stiff because I spend so much time here sitting at the desk writing and testing and doing very little walking around. I have to remember to get up more regularly tomorrow!

I hope that your day is going well wherever you are!

Don Bergquist – 25-July-2005 – Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

Sunday, July 24, 2005

You Don't See That Every Day!

How here is something you don't see every day, rain and clouds in the United Kingdom! It was pouring when the plane landed this afternoon. By the time I got to the hotel it had stopped and was just a bit overcast. Who'd have thunk it would be raining in England. How unusual!

A Cloudy Day at Hampton Court Palace
Okay, now that I have the sarcasm out of the way, it is a bit like returning home after going on holiday. I walked into the Kings Arms this evening and it was as if I had been gone a couple days instead of a couple months.
My friends at the pub were all there and we had a great time catching-up. My friend Kevin, the constable, told me about his trip to California to see a couple friends of his; Angie and Terry told me about their Trip to Kenya, Paul and Bev brought me up to speed on the latest doings; their dogs begged cookies off me; Robert and Anuch (I know I misspelled her name, but I cannot spell anything in Dutch!) caught me up on the doings at the hotel. There were many rounds of beer and a couple Gin and Tonics at the hotel bar after we where tossed out of the pub. (The new Publican is much stricter about closing time than Brian had been.)
I was asked by someone if I found it odd that I was considered a local on both sides of the Atlantic. I know in the US there is a concept of being Bi-Coastal. I guess I am Bi-Continental. (C'mon, England counts as being in Europe even if it is an island off the coast!)
It is a bit of a strange feeling, now that you come to mention it. I know my way around pretty well. I understand a lot of the local references, but the historical ones still flummox me. (Damn the Dade County School System for not teaching a more global view of history. Did you know that we fought a couple wars against this country? Who Knew!) All-in-all, though I am glad that I am not thought of as a tourist over here. That is really a welcome feeling. I guess I had best post this and get to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day!
I hope you feel welcome and at home where ever today finds you!
Don Bergquist - 24-July-2005 - Hampton Court, England (United Kingdom)

PS: In answer to the question I keep getting asked; no, I am not concerned about coming to The UK at this time. For one thing I work in Thames Ditton. Who would want to attack such a small village? It may be years before anyone even hears about it! Secondly, The English are good at coping. I believe that they will persevere. I like that about them. Finally, I refuse to let the terrorists win. Regardless of your political views of what is going on in the world, if you change what you do (or are willing to do) based on the terrorist attacks, the terrorists achieve their goals. So, no, I am not afraid of being here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Flying East (Yet Again)

Well, here I am again flying east. The wheels came off the ground about thirty minutes ago and the trip so far is a bit of a rough one. Forget the fact that we left the ground more than an hour and a half late because a thunder storm blew in, the weather that passed the airport an hour ago seems to be what we are now sitting in.

The plane is bucking like a bronco. Fitting, I suppose, for a flight departing from Denver.

I got all my errands done today in record time. I made it to the library and returned all the books that I had out and checked-out a couple for the trip. Good thing trip! I am really no really interested in any of the movies playing on the flight so I guess I will read the latest issue of Mental_Floss Magazine, read one of the books I brought, and try to get some sleep.

I hope your day is smooth flying where you are!

Don Bergquist - 23-July-2005 - Somewhere over Eastern Colorado

Friday, July 22, 2005

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

This last day before I flew-out started with breakfast at McDonald's with Chip and his son, Ciar.

Ciar Looking Thoughtful

It was a pleasant time. Ciar posed for me and wanted to get his picture taken with my new camera. He then wanted to play in the playscape. More pictures of Ciar and Chip are at the link above.

Lunch was a hectic affair. I had a couple conference calls to take and I wanted to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. This meant that I ate lunch and tried to fend off Saga Roo (also trying to eat my lunch) while prepping for calls. I do believe that Saga knows that I am leaving soon because she kept following me around all day. Even when I had no food!

Tonight I went to dinner with my gang (also pictured at the link above) at our favorite little Chinese place. The food is wonderful but the service is, at best, mediocre. We go for the food! As tends to be the case, we had a wonderful meal and some really good conversation. I was completely sated and happy when it was time to go home and curl-up with the dog for an hour or so before bed. She is now snoozing on the couch and I am here writing my blog. The world is as it should be. I guess I should hit the sack because I have a load of laundry left to do tomorrow and need to get the remaining packing done before my shuttle arrives to take me to the airport.

I hope you day has gone well wherever you are!

Don Bergquist - 22-July-2005 - Lakewood, Colorado

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Physical Therapy and a New Camera

Well, I've been home from the hospital for a week and am getting ready to go to the UK for my next testing trip.

Part of this preparation is the purchase of a new camera. On one of my recent trips someone put something down on my briefcase in the overhead bin. My camera was one of the casualties. It can be held together by super glue, but it has never been the same. This weekend, I decided to try it out. The first place I tried was out in Wheatridge at sunset.

Sunset in Wheatridge, Colorado
There are a number of things I still need to learn to do with the camera.
Saga seems unimpressed with my new camera. Either that or she is wishing that I were a bit more interested in getting up and letting her go chase the squirrels.

Saga Seems Unimpressed

I do take her out as much as we have been going out usually, but since I started Physical Therapy for my torn ACL I do not feel like taking as long walks as I used to. She gets to chase the squirrels and prairie dogs as much as she would like to.

On the good side, I am gaining some of my flexibility back. Today I was able to get on the floor and play with Saga. She really wanted to burn some energy. It was cool. Well, I guess I am going to get my shoes on and take Saga over to the park.

Have a great day wherever you are!

Don Bergquist - 17-July-2005 - Lakewood, Colorado

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I'm Back Home Again.

Hello All!

At the risk of turning this into a medical update billboard, I need to let everyone know who has asked that yes, I am fine. To those of you who I did not get a chance to tell in person, I am sorry. As you will see, it was not a good week for me. To people who do not know or care who I am or how I am doing, you may want to look for another site to read this week. This will probably not be an entry you would care to read.

Last weekend I spend pleasantly enough. I had planned to add a description to the picture I posted last week explaining how I had spent a pleasant weekend. I spent Saturday doing my normal Saturday errands and then on Sunday I went for a drive in the mountains with one of my friends/coworkers from the UK. Later on Saturday afternoon, we went up to Fairplay for a barbecue at the cabin of another friend/coworker from Denver. It was quite pleasant and nice. We saw the Florissant Fossil Beds, and had an overall great time. Sunday night is when it all took a turn for the worst.

As I walked Saga and prepared for bed I realized that I was feeling chilled. I figured that I had the A/C set a little high so I pulled the covers onto the bed and went to sleep. Monday I was not feeling great. I pretty much lie on the couch and pet the dog. I was just bursting with lethargy! Tuesday was another thing altogether.

Tuesday morning I awoke with a fever of 103. I took some aspirin and went back to bed, determined to call the doctor when he opened. By the time I awoke, I had a normal temperature again so I called the doctor, said that I was running a fever and asked what he thought. He said that he thought I was doing just fine. Drink juices, rest, and take aspirin or Tylenol to keep my fever down. If I spiked again, I should either call or go to the emergency room. For most of the next couple of days, my fever stayed at about one hundred degrees.

Wednesday night was when I hit 103 again. This time, my left shin was also swollen and red. I went to the emergency room and was pumped full of antibiotics and told to go home, take an antibiotic that was prescribed and call my Primary Care Physician or come back to the emergency room if the fever spiked again or if the swelling spread.

By 05:00 the next morning, you guessed it; I was back off to the emergency room. I was checked into the hospital later that afternoon and have been there since. The actual diagnosis was that I had cellulitis. I have been there since they were trying to make sure that it was nothing more serious and discharged this afternoon.

Have I mentioned I hate being in the hospital? Even as a Visitor! I do find it odd, though, that approximately this time last year; I had cellulitis after spending time in the mountains. Granted it was in a different location, but I find it odd.

All better now though, I am off to work tomorrow. I hope that next week's entry will be more entertaining for all and less painful for me!

Wherever you are, I hope you are fit and well!

Don Bergquist - 10-July-2005 - Lakewood, Colorado

Monday, July 04, 2005

Pikes Peak from Florissant, CO