Monthly Archives: November 2011


Two work-funded piss-ups in one week outside of Christmastide is unusual and welcome, but it was made up for by the demands of the deadlines. Altogether, recent work experiences have increased my determination to produce the desired goods, whilst making it seem more achievable. When plans are mapped out in great detail and with concrete dates, life looks different, especially to people like me who don’t deal with planning their own lives very well. Ask me what I’m doing for Christmas and I’ll shrug. Ask me where the project at work will be on that day and I can tell you precisely where we hope it’ll be. Consequently, as that date approaches, if we’re behind I’m going to end up working stupidly long hours just to get back on track. It’s a very clever way to keep us all on our toes. But also quite reassuring in a not very reassuring way.

The latest weekend is all but over and now Leo is preening himself on my left arm. Meanwhile the latest addition to the family, Bertie the foster cockatiel, is running around the bottom of his cage desperate to come out. We have to re-home him but until then we just have to make sure he’s content. Fortunately he is like all cockatiels I’ve ever met: entirely adorable. He will make someone an extraordinarily good companion.

Yesterday Michele and I went to Fort Washington State Park with the intention of watching the hawks migrate. It turns out we were late for the migration season and so we had to make do with the more quotidian bird spotting. We got chatting to another fellow bird watcher who turned out to be a German radio Ham (his handheld radio was singing morse code melodies through his jacket pocket). We had a long chat during which we discovered he lives a few streets away from us and was delighted at the prospect of mentoring a new, young (hah!), Ham. The experience rekindled my excitement about getting a Ham licence.

The rest of the weekend was pretty mellow: comedy TV, a great curry, a bit of garden maintenance, cracking some Mac software (gdb and hexedit were the only tools required btw), and fixing “The Meanness”. At least it feels like something has been achieved.

Halloween, work and monsters

Halloween was as joyfully uneventful as usual this year.
Brits probably won’t understand this: but the hype and marketing bullshit surrounding Halloween in Britain is not regarded with so much cynicism here; having fun on Halloween is so deeply ingrained, that people tend to see it as “the fun celebration” of the year; much like Christmas in Britain, but without all of the days off. People genuinely want to have fun and do so, with all of the other crap as an aside.
Christmas here is much like Christmas over there too, but without the days off. Same with Thanksgiving. All of the other stuff about spending shitloads of money you don’t own, to buy presents for people you don’t like, who won’t enjoy what you’ve bought them anyway, is exactly the same. But Halloween is not like that – it’s about enjoying yourself.

Outside of Halloween and the fun stuff, days off work are generally frowned upon. If you get sick, obviously you shouldn’t come into work to spread your germs around; but frankly why should your company, or your country, pay for you to be ill?
Thankfully, most companies have dealt with this by combining all holidays/vacation together with sick-days to form the simple, easy-to-understand, concept of “Personal Time Off”. Rather than getting 26 days per year of holiday and around 6 months of paid sick benefit (like I had in the UK), we now have a convenient 20 days of combined holiday and sick-pay entitlement. It’s so much simpler!
As a result of this, whenever a national holiday occurs here, people lose their minds with joy! AN EXTRA DAY! So different from the tragic Bank Holidays that we all know and love.

But let’s not forget that all of the lovely benefits and paid holidays we take for granted are as a direct result of generations of people fighting; fighting though poverty, pain and suffering. That we have weekends, 8-hour work days, and paid holidays, is something we tend to take for granted. Moving to the US also made me notice other things I had previously taken for granted back in Britain: a spectacular national healthcare system, some serious rights for workers and plentiful paid holidays.

It’s not that working people don’t deserve these things – it’s that we need to remember why we have them and keep fighting the motherfuckers who want to take them away.

Yet again this wasn’t what I intended to say. Arses.