Friday, April 25, 2008

Rock the Vote, Nawth Carahlyna!

(I didn't want to leave a story about boogers and ear jam and the consumption thereof at the top of my page while we were away so....)

North Carolina excited to choose between Clinton and Obama

By MIKE BAKER, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 6 minutes ago

RALEIGH, N.C. - Not since 1988 has North Carolina had much of a voice in choosing a presidential nominee. Back then, it joined several Southern states to help pick Al Gore, a neighbor from Tennessee.

But the longer-than-expected race between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination will thrust the state into the national spotlight when it has its say on May 6.

The primary, offering 115 national convention delegates, comes two weeks after Pennsylvania gave the former first lady the win she needed to stay in the race. But Obama is favored to win North Carolina, the largest prize among the contests remaining.

Voters, especially new ones, have taken note.

More than 165,000 people have registered to vote in North Carolina in the first three months of the year, a nearly threefold increase from the same period in 2004. Election officials expect a record turnout May 6 — about half of the more than 5.7 million registered voters, compared with past turnouts ranging from 16 percent to 31 percent.

Another wild card: A new law allows unregistered voters to sign up and vote on the same day through May 3. Both campaigns have launched efforts to turn out those voters, and the polling sites have been flooded since they opened last week.

As of midafternoon Wednesday, more than 74,700 "one-stop" ballots had been cast — about eight times higher than during the 2006 primary, according to the state Board of Elections. An additional 8,400 absentee ballots have been collected, officials said.

Voter registration is up overall, but the biggest boost has been among blacks.

More than 45,000 black voters have registered in the first three months of 2008, compared with just over 11,000 in the same period four years ago. Blacks make up more than 20 percent of the state's registered voters, according to Board of Elections data.

Those numbers bode well for Obama, who has won strong black support throughout the primaries.

There are other signs Clinton will have a hard time achieving victory in North Carolina.

Neither of the state's top two Democrats, outgoing Gov. Mike Easley and former White House hopeful John Edwards, have endorsed a candidate. Among superdelegates who have made their choice known, Obama has a 6-1 edge. The 10 remaining superdelegates, including Meek, are uncommitted.

The two Democratic candidates vying to replace Easley, who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term, are not only backing Obama but have made their support for him a feature of their campaigns.

State Treasurer Richard Moore has run radio ads on stations popular with black listeners noting he "was the first Democrat running for governor to endorse Barack Obama for president." His rival, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, has sent mailers to likely black voters with a photo of her with Obama.

But Tar Heel politics are both unpredictable and contradictory.

The state elected the populist Edwards to serve alongside arch conservative Jesse Helms in the Senate. It has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1976, when Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter swept most of the South, but it has elected a Democratic majority to the state Senate for more than 100 years.

"People in North Carolina tend to look at individuals and offices distinctly and make the decision based on the person and the office," said Elon University pollster Hunter Bacot. "We have such a large number of independents. And they are true independents — they split ballots."

North Carolina has roughly 9 million people, making it the nation's 10th largest state. It is home to the Marine Corps' Camp Lejeune and the Army's Fort Bragg, two massive installations whose troops have suffered heavy losses in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What's left of a once vibrant manufacturing and textile industry is in tatters. Many voters blame the North American Free Trade Agreement, agreed to under President Clinton, for the decline and the thousands of job losses that followed.

The state's largest city, Charlotte, has become an international financial center as home of Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp., the nation's leading retail and consumer banks.

It's high-tech economy, led by the many companies with facilities based at Research Triangle Park outside Raleigh, have withstood the national economic downturn. Home values have not suffered the same widespread decline as in other states, and North Carolina's income tax revenues remain strong compared with others.

Both Clinton and Obama started campaigning in the state long before this week's Pennsylvania primary. Clinton debuted quirky TV ads asking voters to submit questions, to which she responded in conversational spots. Obama has blanketed the state with his own ads.

Some political observers say Clinton needs to win North Carolina, the last big stop on the road to the August convention in Denver, to convince unaligned superdelegates that momentum has swung in her favor. Superdelegates are elected leaders and party officials who can vote for any candidate. That, they said, is her only chance to overcome Obama.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

May I offer you a Q-tip?

There is no good intro to this so I'm just going to put it out there.

I was just on the tube and the girl sitting across from me was literally picking stuff out of her ears and eating it. For a long time. Really rummaging around in there and then totally f-ing eating it. I mean, WTF??? Did she have small snacks stored in there? Was she foraging for nuts and berries?? And just to clarify, I do not mean that she was sort of absentmindedly doing this like some people pick their cuticles or bite their nails. This was job one. She was actively concentrating on the task at hand. If she does this on the tube, I shudder to think about what goes on in the privacy of her own home.

I must say that I have actually noticed that many people here have absolutely no problem digging around in their noses in full view of the general public. They don't even try to hide it. And I mean to tell you people that I have seen some very serious digging. It is so vile. I have come thisclose to telling some people exactly how disgusting they are.

What takes the cake is when you see these people stand up and put their hands all over the bars and handles in the train. And that is exactly why they make Purell in travel size.

On that note, Jason and I are getting out of here and taking off for Vienna tomorrow morning.  Fingers crossed that people there are more tissue-inclined.  Back next week!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Therapy - for only 99 cents!

Ok. I know I was just banging on about Jason Mraz lyrics last week but I swear it's like he's inside my head right now. He just released a new song on iTunes yesterday and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard, and ever so timely for me in light of recent events. Here's a sample of the lyrics...

Details in the Fabric

Calm down
Deep breaths
And get yourself dressed
instead of running around
and pulling on your threads
and breaking yourself up

If it's a broken part, replace it
If it's a broken arm, then brace it
If it's a broken heart, then face it

Hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
And everything will be fine

Hang on
Help is on the way
Stay strong
I'm doing everything

All the details in the fabric
All the things that make you panic
Are your thoughts results of static cling?

Just hold your own
Know your name
And go your own way
And everything will be fine

Um, wow.  Apparently, he wrote it for a friend who was going through a particularly bad break up.  But every now and then, I think we all have dealt with something that has made us question who we are.  Whether it be a break up, break down, or just a bad day that broke our spirit.  What better advice than to "hold your own, know your name, and go your own way"?

Do yourself a favor and pony up the 99 cents for this gem.  It's a lot cheaper than a therapist.

P.S. Sorry for all these "serious" posts lately.  I'm sure you don't come here to listen to me wax philosophical about life and all its problems and/or joys.  You come here to read about my weird conversations with Domino's pizza man or my adventures with snakes or socks and snacks on a plane or for my arts and crafts lessons or horrible laundry accidents or maybe even to see what happens when Jason and I try to fit ourselves into boxes.  I know this.  I'll get back to regular programming very soon.  Promise.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who knew?

Well, I had my first NHS experience today.  And you know what?  It was totally super-duper easy-peasy-mac-and-cheesy.  (Well, except for the part where I had to pee into a container that was roughly the same circumference as a test tube.  Seriously?!?  Who's aim is that good??  For real. I'd like to know.  I almost told the lady that back in the US, they give you a big ol' cup but I didn't think she'd appreciate my "Well, they do say everything's bigger in the States" joke. )  But other than that, it was totally painless.  

I can't believe I was wigging out so much about going to the doctor to get a prescription refilled.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Existential crisis? Check.

Every now and again, I have what Jason calls a "break down, break through". For whatever reason, something triggers and I kind of freak out and wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. And as often happens when I do this, I first turn to music. And as is often the case, the lyrical poetry of Jason Mraz most succinctly summed up exactly how I was feeing:


Hands in line
Arms close to my sides
I'm fighting tides
of an ocean's undertows
And I figure that I might not make it

And I'm taking empty
But seldom speaking
and the words retreat
Well they're breathing histories
ill at ease
into stories untold
And my arms unfold
So I tried to think about exactly what I wanted. And everything I could come up with seemed to contradict the last. To wit:

I'm sick of flat-dwelling and I want my house and yard back.
But I want to stay in London as long as possible so I can travel to all the places I want to see before we go.  And I know we'll never live anywhere as beautiful as Richmond-upon-Thames.  

I've got major baby fever and it's not going away this time. I'm ready to be a mommy.
But WTF, I am totally NOT ready to be a mommy! I still eat kids cereal for crying out loud! And I watch The Hills and Gossip Girl. And I covet Prada heels and Marc Jacobs bags. These are not things a respectable mommy does, right?!?

I feel a bit useless at the moment and I want to go back to work in some capacity.
But the only things I'm passionate about are fashion and writing. And you may be shocked to find out that jobs in the fashion industry are not exactly in great supply in Raleigh, North Carolina, great city though it is. And I'm terrified to submit a manuscript to a publisher because I think rejection would crush me. And if all that weren't enough, I also really want to be a stay-at-home mom until our kids go to school. So, just to recap, I want to work but one of the jobs I want, I can't get and the other I'm terrified to do and I want to have a baby and be a full time mother.  Go me.

And so on and so forth like this. I'll spare you the rest. You're welcome.

And how do you think Jason handled all this? Well, first, he let me talk circles around myself and he let the tears roll and he didn't say a word the whole time. Because he knows that when I do this, I just want to get it all out and I don't want to hear solutions.  And that's why I love him.

Then, when he knew I was ready, he said that we only have about five more months here. And five years from now, when we're standing in a kitchen covered in Spaghetti-O's and the kids are screaming and the house is strewn with toys, we're going to look back on this time and fondly remember the lazy Saturdays spent picnicing on the green or cycling through Richmond Park or strolling through the back streets of a beautiful European city.

So basically, live for the now while we can. Don't worry about things that don't matter today. Just enjoy. Don't simply exist.  Live.  And that's why I love him.

All this brought to mind another Mraz song - Live High.
I try to picture a girl through a looking glass
And see her as a carbon atom
See her eyes and stare back at them
See that girl as her own new world
Though her home is on the surface she is still a universe

Glory God, oh God is peeking through the blinds
Are we all here standing naked, taking guesses at the actual date and time
Oh my, justifying the reasons why
Is an absolutely insane resolution to live by

Live high, live mighty
Live righteously
Taking it easy
Live high, live mighty
Live righteously

Just take it easy and celebrate the malleable reality
Because nothing is ever as it seems
This life is but a dream

Live high, live mighty
Live righteously, taking it easy
Live high, live mighty
Live righteously

And if I may return to Unfold for a moment:
My hands are high
And I'm holding on
Holding on
And I figure that I just might make it

Crisis averted.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Milkin' It

I have never seen two people carry on with the "goodbye" parties like Beth and Rino. I mean, seriously - how many times do I have to hug these two and say a heartfelt "so long"??? There was the official leaving party last month, then they came over for one last game night, now they're back from South Africa and in London for one night only and want us to trek to Trafalgar Square for one last drink. Enough, I say! Scram!

Okay. I give. This is my grief talking. I'm lashing out emotionally. I'm sorry. This is how I deal with heartache. In all seriousness, we will definitely miss these guys and it really was sad when we had to say our for real last goodbye outside Embankment tube station. But as I've said before, such is the life of an expat. It is, by definition, transient and goodbyes are inevitable. Luckily, we've all racked up enough frequent flier miles during the process that we'll be able to visit each other and meet up in new cities back in the States.

Geo and I miss you already, B.

Monday, April 14, 2008

More random English towns

Earlier this year, Jason and I decided to take off on a little trip to Dorking. Why? Just because. This weekend, we decided on Lewes (pronounced Lewis). Why? Just because. And it was adorable! We absolutely loved it. So quaint, so twee... We couldn't believe it wasn't crawling with tourists. And luckily, we were blessed with mostly beautiful weather. Apart from a couple of five minute showers here and there, it was blue skies and sunshine.

The skyline of Lewes is dominated by the Norman keep and Barbican gate of Lewes Castle. (This is the gate.)

Jason on the walk up to the keep.

Inside the keep...

The view of the downs from the top of the keep. (I wonder if I can work the word "keep" into every caption in this post? Keep keep keep keepity keep keep keeperton.)

Hmmmm, so you're telling me that France used to like, own England?? And this King William character was from Normandy?? I don't get it. And the French historically, like, hate us, right? I'm not following... This is keep-fusing.

Well, well, well, Dover. Looks like you're not the only one with white cliffs. Suck on that. But keep your chin up because your cliffs are much nicer and more dramatic than these.

The Barbican Gate, which, to my great delight... held a magnificent surprise. (Keep. Keepkeep.)

A dress up room!!!! Keep-tastic!

St. Michael's Church, which incidentally, doesn't have a keep.

The impossibly steep cobblestone Keere Street. It's really keep-ing steep!

Time for a pub break. Barkeep! Two pints please!

Up next were the gardens. I keep forgetting the name of them...

Notice the shadow puppet on my sleeve? That Jason sure is a keeper. (Okay, I give up. This is getting tragic.)

After all the exhausting shadow puppeting, another pint was in order at the White Hart.

And what better pub than the one where American independence was basically founded? Go Thomas Paine! Thanks for, like, my country and the Declaration of Independence and hot dogs for Fourth of July and stuff.

Lewes is also home to Harvey's Brewery.

Here's the thing... In many places, this would be an address. Here, it represents the date the building was built.

The best part of this whole thing was that we had decided not to worry about traveling back to London so we booked a room in Brighton for Saturday evening. So Sunday morning, we woke up to this...

We've been here before but Brighton is one of my favorite places to be. It's such an interesting little city. Everything about it is so retro. It has Victorian influences and 1920's vibes which makes for a pretty eclectic atmosphere.

The derelict West Pier - well, what's left of it anyway... It's basically a skeleton.

A holdover from Victorian Brighton.

Our hotel was technically in Hove (the area is actually called "Brighton & Hove") which is just down the beach. That was fine with us because we walked the mile or so along the beach to get to Brighton proper and our favorite coffee shop anywhere ever.

Redroaster, redroaster, send cappucino right over!

After that, we headed to The Lanes for some shopping. Brighton is the best place to shop. So many little indie shops and one-offs... I was sad to discover that my favorite vintage clothes shop had closed but recovered fairly quickly and got some new fancy knickers, a dress, a handbag and a necklace.

Made from 100% real vegetarians!

We rounded off the day with some awesome Mexican food...

...and candy floss on Brighton Pier.

I don't know why really but train stations fascinate me. I just love them. The decorative beams, the arches...

Bye-bye Brighton. Keep on keepin' on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quality family time

Jason's brother was recently here for a visit and London was really showing off. Fog thick as pea soup, followed by snow, all interspersed with sporadic bouts of intense sunshine and ten minute downpours. "Visit London! Bring your rain coat, wool coat, sunglasses, wellies, and a sled!"

Friday, we all took off to Dover. Jason and I had been before with Monique and Murray but this time, we also visited Dover Castle and the "Secret Wartime Tunnels". Too bad you can't really see Dover Castle... Tragic.

The Roman lighthouse, built in like 1st Century AD.

Me, as seen through the keyhole of the church door. I'm like Bigfoot!

Jason makes his slapstick comedy debut.

Thank god for signs for idiots - when it's not glaringly obvious what might happen when you step head first off the side of a small cliff.

I'm such a renegade. "No Exit." Yet, I exit. I laugh in the face of authority.

Light coming through the holes made for shooting arrows.

Hall o' cannons.

The drawbridge.

Boys will be boys. No further caption necessary.

This picture was a lot funnier when you could actually see the "No surfing on the cannon" sign.

"The Secret Wartime Tunnels: Not so secret anymore."

Surprise! I found your tunnels!

After a VERY VERY VERY long hike/walk, we finally made it to the White Cliffs. I must say, I highly recommend bypassing the whole hiking/walking thing and driving right up onto the cliffs like we did last time. Because the actual town of Dover? Ummm, not exactly what one would call "picturesque". In fact, one might even call it "a bit of a shithole".

The path behind us with Dover Castle in the background.

That's a horse's ass. And to the left, the hindquarters of an equine mammal. (Sorry Jason. It was too easy.)

Awesome. Clowning around on the edge of a cliff. I love it when they pretend to kill off one another.

Oh yes. And then there were the "Hey! Take a picture of me that looks like I'm climbing the cliffs!" pictures. A true classic.

At least the fog had lifted and left us with beautiful skies before sunset.

Saturday, I decided to leave the boys to their own devices and sit at home watching Gossip Girl. "Spotted: J and J by the River Thames, trying to decide where to go. Who knows where they'll end up. Stick around for all the news you can use. XOXO, Gossip Girl."

Borough Market - every London foodie's perfect Saturday.

And a typical London scene...

Sunday, as you may recall from an earlier post, dawned in a blanket of white. Here are a few more pics of Richmond in the snow...

Later, Jason and Joe went into Central to try to see the Olympic torch pass through. Since crowds aren't my thing (to put it mildly), I stayed put. You couldn't have gotten me in this mess if you promised me they were throwing out free Chloe bags.

They didn't even get to see anything because by the time the torch was supposed to have reached St. Paul's, there had already been so many protester attempts to take it down, they had extinguished it and put it on a bus.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the British Museum - soaking in some "culture". Or whatever.

On the last day, we all headed into Central. The boys went to a performance of Shakespeare on speed (a play condensed to 45 minutes, for a lunch break) while I went to a Renoir exhibit and later...

we all met up at Harrod's.

This is what happens when you leave boys alone with a camera. "Jason's Nut Butter".

And that's it. I leave you with Jason and his nut butter. Marinate on that for a while.