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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

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Location: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

100 things about me

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Monday, September 24, 2007


Samuel Pigeon was Christened on Sunday, 16 September, in Paris.

Here, he's in the arms of his God-mama, the Flame-Haired Angel, who also named him.

Yes, all babies are cute. But this one's particularly so. Really edible.

Happy baby-daddy. (Mama also looked gorgeous.)


Friday, September 21, 2007

Music Scholar Barred From U.S., but No One Will Tell Her Why

From The New York Times:

Nalini Ghuman, an up-and-coming musicologist and expert on the British composer Edward Elgar, was stopped at the San Francisco airport in August last year and, without explanation, told that she was no longer allowed to enter the United States.

Her case has become a cause célèbre among musicologists and the subject of a protest campaign by the American Musicological Society and by academic leaders ...

But the door has remained closed to Ms. Ghuman, an assistant professor at Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who is British and who had lived, studied and worked in this country for 10 years before her abrupt exclusion.

The mystery of her case shows how difficult, if not impossible, it is to defend against such a decision once the secretive government process has been set in motion.

Hat tip to BoingBoing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

How to find yourself in Istanbul, surrounded by Estonians...

...and Ghanaians, and Romanians, and Chinese, and Bahrainis, and...

This is a video of one of the most fun things I get to do each year on the company's dime.

The event was the annual International Congress of the world's largest student organization, AIESEC, which I'm proud to say my company sponsors.

In the video, there's lots of jargon native to the organization, but if you watch it, I think you'll get some idea about why being around AIESECers is addictive. Their passion, energy and open-heartedness are contagious. Serving them is some of the most fun I have.

Sadly, the video starts just after the introduction, which was perhaps the most fun part, but what the heck.

There's also a bit of a back-story. The day before the presentation, my entire slide file crashed, so I stayed up most of the night rebuilding it from scratch. That wiped out any rehearsal time we'd set aside. So, on-stage was the very first time through. I can't watch this without grimacing at the 143 things I screwed up, but thank goodness for adrenaline, and for AIESECers being such a supportive crowd.


Come rain, or sleet, or smelly colleagues...

In a few weeks' time, I'm going to be spending the night on some of the world's most expensive real estate, with a beautiful, expansive view of one of the UK's iconic monuments.

I'll also be sleeping in a box, and probably freezing my nipples off. I may also be very wet. And whiny.

I'm proud to be joining my Alcatel-Lucent UK & Ireland colleagues participating in Byte Night, the UK IT industry's annual charity sleep-over. On the ground. In the rain.

On the night of Friday, October 5, we'll be sleeping rough in London in aid of kids across the UK who often don't have a choice about sleeping any other way.

All proceeds go to NCH, the children's charity, supporting their work with at-risk kids across the UK.

If you'd like to sponsor me, a few pounds or dollars or yuan from you, and one uncomfortable night for us, could make a real difference in helping at-risk kids achieve their potential.

Are you in?

If so, please click HERE.

That link goes to my sponsorship site which makes donating simple, fast and totally secure. It is the most efficient way to sponsor me and get your money to NCH, the children's charity, as fast as possible.

Thanks for giving it a thought.

And don't call me too early on the morning of October 6!

More info:


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Greatest. Break. Up. Songs. Ever.

The breakup song dual has a long and glorious tradition. I reckon this pair closes the book.

I also reckon she lands the better punch.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK. If you have tender sensibilities, do NOT listen to these.



Hat-tip to Jess.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Don't reincarnate without my permission

From Newsweek via MSNBC

Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue - In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

Hat-tip to BoingBoing. Can you tell I'm catching up on my BoingBoing reading?

Oh, it's so bad it's so good it hurts

Vintage Finnish television.


Polar bears are to global warming as baby seals are to fur activists

The following is ripped straight from BoingBoing, a couple of days ago. The comments, there, make the point that it's in editors' interests to make the headlines sensational. Still, some of these are pretty attention-getting.

It's beginning to appear that the polar bear is to global climate change as the baby seal was to the anti-fur lobby.

* * *

Ice-free arctic in 23 years, and polar bear extinction?

(Polar bear photo ganked from ucumari's incredible set on Flickr. Found mah bukkit.)

Here are some fairly terrifying news articles out in the past few days on the subject of global warming:

  • "Ice-free Arctic could be here in 23 years," Sep 5, in The Guardian. Snip:
    The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at a record low, scientists said last night. Experts said they were "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as Britain disappearing in the last week alone. So much ice has melted this summer that the north-west passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the north-east passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month. If the increased rate of melting continues, the summertime Arctic could be totally free of ice by 2030.
  • "Warming Is Seen as Wiping Out Most Polar Bears," Sep 7, New York Times:
    Two-thirds of the world’s polar bears will disappear by 2050, even under moderate projections for shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, government scientists reported on Friday.
  • "Arctic ice cap to melt faster than feared, scientists say," Sep. 7, Seattle Times. snip:
    About 40 percent of the floating ice that normally blankets the top of the world during the summer will be gone by 2050, says James Overland, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. Earlier studies had predicted it would be nearly a century before that much ice vanished. "This is a major change," Overland said. "This is actually moving the threshold up."
  • See also this Google News comment by Kassie Siegel from the Center for Biological Diversity:
    All of this is indeed horrifying, but it is not cause for despair, but rather a call to action. The good news is that there is still time to save the Arctic, though the window is closing. Our hope lies in a rapid response including both deep and immediate carbon dioxide reductions, as well as a full-court press on other greenhouse pollutants such as methane. While carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere for about a century, and therefore commit us to long term warming, methane is more powerful but remains for only about a decade. Opportunities to reduce methane from sources like landfills, mining, and agriculture abound, and such reductions would also directly benefit air quality and human health. With such reductions we can still buy ourselves some time.

    But we cannot "stay the course" of our current energy consumption, land use, and transportation patterns, without losing the Arctic sea ice, polar bears, and the quality of life we have enjoyed.

  • More background: here's the National Snow and Ice Data Center -- Link.

  • Sunday, September 09, 2007

    Angel's latest Tattoo

    Flame-Haired Angel and I don’t see a lot of each other, these days.

    When we do, she’s exhausted.

    She announced, a couple of years ago, she was changing careers to become a costume designer. From another person, that might have sounded fanciful. From her, it was a breakthrough. This is what she’d always wanted to do. She had apparently convinced herself that she finally could.

    It was a risk, of course. Film is a young person’s industry, and we are no longer 22. It’s a tough place to be, too: a professional environment that thrives on insecurity and aggressive ambition. And, being project based, it’s either feast or famine; you’re either working on a film or you’re not.

    It’s also notoriously hard to break in to. People spend years not getting work. At a practical level, this didn’t thrill me. More important, I wondered how the Angel would digest those inevitable stretches when no one was saying yes.

    The period since her announcement has been predictably up and down. Watching someone pursue their dream -- really get on with it to the exclusion of most else -- can be like watching a diver working off a high board: no matter how confident and talented they are, there’s still suspense about how they’re going to hit the water.

    So, not seeing much of FHA, this month, is one of the best things I could have hoped for, two years ago. She’s working 17 hours a day as costumer designer for a new feature film, The Butterfly Tattoo, based on Philip Pullman’s novel, The White Mercedes.

    That's only a milestone, not even close to the end of the journey. There is lots left to do. It’s still early days, as they say, in the epic that is anyone’s career in that insane industry. Nevertheless, her persistence and talent and professional intensity, and this month’s reality check that says she’s increasingly a success, make me proud.

    But it’s more than that: I admire her. She’s doing what so few of us do. We all have narratives in our heads about who we really are. And, for many of us, those reassuring stories we tell ourselves include a healthy dose of what we’d be doing if we weren’t limited by practicalities: mortgages, kids, height… Those narratives are vital to our self-concepts. We depend on them for our self-esteem. We are who we are at least in part because of who we imagine we could be.

    Flame-Haired Angel is risking all that. She’s risking her self-concept by testing her entire fantasy of “what might have been” by putting it in the blender of reality and finding if it is.

    This is not a safe bet. Which is why most of us never take it. We prefer to nurture the story of our idealized selves on the inside, instead of putting our chips on the table at the risk of finding out our fantasies were better than our cards.

    But she’s taken that bet. She’s done something most people never have the balls to do. And she appears to be winning.


    Saturday, September 08, 2007

    Hei Matau

    A young man you don't know walks up to you. He starts talking quickly. You have inspired him, he says. You have stirred something in him, at a moment he needed it.

    You're late. He walks with you, talking quickly, searching, intimate, humble. He tells you his story.

    It's not far. You're there quickly. He's not nearly through, but he stops, respectful of your need to go.

    He steps close to you, fishing a pendant from inside his shirt. He bows his head, takes the cord from his neck, and places it around yours.

    He tells you what it means where he's from. How it's important. Why it is given.

    He says thank you for what you've done.

    And he walks away.

    In that moment, you hope you've earned it: the thanks, the gift, the lesson.

    *Hei Matau: traditional Maori (New Zealand) carving in the shape of a stylized fish-hook, worn as a pendant.


    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Damn, we have a lot of stuff. Sexy, sexy stuff.

    Since moving to the UK, we've been trying to find nooks and crannies for all the stuff we've got. It's not like we had big places in Shanghai or Paris. Apartments. We had apartments.

    Now, for the first time since we've been living together, we have a house. A free-standing, ridgy-didge house. We should have room to burn. We should be able to swing a cat. And the cat ought to be, say, a Siberian tiger.

    Nope. We have more stuff than house. How is it that a Paris apartment was able to cope better with our volume than a two-story house? With an attic? We always said Parisians were great at making a lot of use of a little dwelling space, but, hey, we didn't actually buy that shit!

    On Saturday, in the name of consolidation, another 29 boxes arrived. When I moved to China, six years ago, I left a bunch of stuff in California, in storage. I'd just been through an international move that hadn't seen me stay put for more than a year, so I wasn't really trusting this "permanent relocation" thing. Turns out I moved, got married, bought a houseful of furniture, set up a darkroom, then moved again, and accumulated even more furniture. So, you know, good plan leaving a bunch of crap in California.

    Three international moves later, I thought it was probably time I reunited with it all.

    A part of me briefly thought "Screw it! You've lived without it for almost 7 years. You can just dump it and move on through life a little lighter." But, after all that time, I knew I ought to at least look through it, eh?

    So, first off, I didn't think it would be 29 boxes. I remember more like seven or eight. Second, I thinned it down a little. I called the folks in California and told them to send the obvious stuff to my mom. Like the television. Big thing that's as deep as it is wide. No flat screens 7 years ago. And the ladder. Got a fine ladder when I lived in China. The dehumidifier was hard to explain. I lived in southern California. It's a desert. Had to special order that sucker.

    So my mom got all that stuff. I still had 29 boxes arrive on Saturday. As I unpacked them, I remembered why.

    China has pesky rules about what you can and can't take in to the country. All the standard stuff, like politically volatile material and drug paraphernalia, are no-nos. Happily, I didn't have any of that, unless you consider Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits to be political. Or drug paraphernalia. But I was embarrassed to own that, anyway, and would gladly have forfeited it to Chinese border guards.

    Another category of material I *did* happen to own a lot of, however, is what the Chinese authorities might have considered inappropriately appealing to "the prurient interest". I'm not saying I had a stack of porn. In all honesty, I would be unembarrassed if my boss perused all 29 boxes at length. (And he's welcome to! Next weekend, if he's free! I'll bring the beer!) But it must be said that I had a lot stuff that, I was assured, would fall afoul of Chinese moral standards.

    "I'm a published photographer," I protested to my relocation consultant. No dice. Confiscation awaited all books and framed photographs. "I did my graduate thesis on pornography and erotica! It's very, very dry stuff, with lots of data and numbers and whatnot!" No matter my reassurances, she was certain it would all go into Chinese Customs' incinerator.

    Not wanting all that naked flesh to face the flame, I packed it off to an amoral storage facility in California, in the hopes of being reunited with it at some later date.

    So, on Saturday, a truck backed up to the house, and unloaded 29 boxes filled -- with the exception of a few Ikea lamps and a box of letters -- with pictures of naked people and stories of what naked people often get up to when there are two or more of them in a room together.

    "Books full of naked people? Yeah, just stack them over there, next to the home-brew equipment."

    I am *so* aced out of being able to run for public office.


    Saturday, September 01, 2007

    My Tuesday night in Istanbul

    Four Estonian women who've just proven their angel's wings false by convincing me to drink Estonian vodka. Lesson learned: Go to Estonia for the women, not the vodka. A moment later, one of them tied an Estonian flag to my wrist and wrote something in Estonian on my arm with a magic marker.

    Did I mention that my company paid for me to be there?

    Believe me when I tell you I've got no idea where these guys are from.