Friday, January 18, 2019

A Barrage of Quiz Night Trivia

Last night was Quiz Night at the school where I work, where teams of teachers and parents compete to answer trivia questions correctly. The evening was run by a professional quiz master, with multiple sets of questions and about 12 teams (I think?) competing. Play took about three hours.

I organized a team largely made up of people from my department. And despite being down one team member -- who called in sick at the last minute -- we WON!

We only won by one point, but hey, victory is victory. And the beautiful thing is that all seven of us contributed something to the final score -- we all knew at least one answer that the others didn't. I, for example, knew Tom Cruise's real last name (Mapother -- a lingering shred of knowledge from my college years, when I had a celebrity crush on him) and I correctly identified Bulgaria by its shape alone. I would never have known the name of the rectangular bay that separates Norfolk from Lincolnshire, but one of my British teammates named it right away as The Wash. Another teammate was good on obscure pop music tracks and another on sports.

It's all about the team, y'all. And having at least one British person is essential when quizzing in this country -- we had two.

We fell down on a question about movies that had won Best Picture Oscars since 1970 whose titles featured the first or middle name of their lead characters. We got "Rocky" and "Forrest Gump" but we missed "Annie Hall" and "Driving Miss Daisy," among others. I added "Norma Rae" to the list but it turns out "Norma Rae" only got nominated for that award -- it didn't win. (You'd think I would have known that having recently read the biography of Sally Field, who did win for Best Actress.)

And what's the only Asian country bisected by the Equator? If you said Malaysia, like me, you'd be wrong. It's Indonesia.

Anyway, it was a fun night! Today we get to gloat a little.

(Photo: A discarded chair near our flat. I hope it hasn't recently been in anyone's house looking like that! I'm thinking it came from a garage.)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Leafy Forecourt

While walking Olga over the weekend I snapped a picture of the entrance to a block of flats on Finchley Road. I envisioned giving the photo the Waterlogue treatment, and indeed it makes a nice watercolor. Here's the original:

My neighbor with the bright light hasn't had it on the past few mornings -- or evenings either. Maybe someone else protested. (Or do they read my blog? Surely not.)

I got word that my high school graduating class is holding its 35th reunion this year. I probably won't go -- it's at the end of April, which isn't a great time for travel, given that we're still in school. I went to my 20th and I had a blast, but that was in the days just before Facebook. I don't feel the same need to see everyone again now that I'm in touch with them through social media, you know? I might go to my 50th, assuming I live that long.

Yesterday I finished going through all the library patrons in our computer system and removing those who no longer attend the school. If this seems like an endless task to those of you who read about it here before, imagine how it feels to me! But I took a long break between the first and last halves of the list. Overall I probably took 100 people out of the system -- some of whom had been invited to attend the school but never actually came. Why they got imported as library patrons I have no idea.

Dave and I watched most of "Bird Box" on Netflix last night. I had to see what was motivating all these crazy YouTubers to try to drive blindfolded and whatnot. It's an entertaining movie, I suppose, but far-fetched. We still have to finish it, so don't give away the ending!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

A Meeting at London Bridge

I had a Royal Photographic Society meeting last night near London Bridge. Naturally I brought along the camera and, with a couple of hours to kill between work and the meeting, wandered around taking some night shots of London. (That's Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast in the photo above, which was taken from London Bridge.)

I haven't done anything with the RPS in a while, partly because I fell out of contact with them. I maintained my membership but last spring I stopped getting their e-mail newsletters and other electronic notifications. A few weeks ago I got word of this meeting by snail mail, in a letter that said I'd "opted not to receive e-mails." That was news to me! Turns out I got automatically removed from the e-mail list because of the EU's new data protection laws. Doh!

So I rectified that and hopefully now I'll be more involved and aware.

A speaker at last night's meeting talked about his successful street photography and showed us a series of pictures. He was interesting, and his pictures were great, but man, did he go on. He must have shown us 100 images, or it felt like that, anyway. Someone needed an editor. I don't want to look at that many pictures from even the best photographer in the world, especially on a work night when I'm tired and I've had wine and the time is approaching 10 p.m.

Dave called in sick to work today. He's feeling really fatigued again. I think he needs to go back to the doctor and have another chat about managing his Crohn's.

Meanwhile, the British government is in rebellion over Brexit and no one knows what's going to happen there. I feel sorry for Theresa May, who has tried valiantly to negotiate a way through the hellish terrain on this completely unnecessary trek. She gets points for persistence and determination, and I don't see anyone else in government -- certainly not the weasel-like Jeremy Corbyn -- who I would prefer as prime minister. Apparently most Leavers just don't believe the country will come to harm if we drop out of the EU with no deal at all. It's sort of like Trump's supporters who blindly support him despite all evidence of his buffoonery. We are in a place where reason and evidence mean nothing, and I fear we're driving over a cliff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks?

I was lying in bed this morning (wondering what on earth I was going to blog about) when I decided to get up and get a drink of water. It was about 4:30 and not quite time to get up. Olga and Dave were both snoring away.

I came out to the kitchen and noticed a lot of light spilling across the living room floor. I thought, "Wow, there must be a full moon!" But when I came to the back door, I realized what I was seeing wasn't the moon at all. It was the light from a neighbors' distant window!

They have a globe-shaped ceiling fixture that clearly contains an approximately 3,000-watt bulb -- bright enough to illuminate our bird feeders and the plants in our back garden. This is a good example of something I wouldn't even have noticed when our next-door neighbor's gigantic Leyland cypress tree was intact. But now that the tree is gone, that light comes right at us.

As you can see, they were the only lit window in the whole neighborhood. Everyone else was sensibly asleep, or at least wandering around in a dark house.

The moon, by the way, is waxing gibbous at about 60 percent at the moment, and as I write this I'm not sure it's even above the horizon. I don't see it, but perhaps I am temporarily blinded by my neighbor's chandelier. (Looking now at a moonrise/moonset timetable, I see that it slipped below the horizon at 1:14 a.m.)

Getting that picture was no easy task. I had to shoot manually and I don't have a tripod, so I had to hold the camera as super-still as possible with a very high ISO and slow exposure (3.2 seconds) while standing outside the back door with my bare feet on the patio. Brrrr!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Moon Street, a Film Crew and a Big Green Cat

I was feeling a bit cooped up yesterday morning. The sky was gray and although I briefly walked the dog, I'd resigned myself to spending the day more or less inside. But as the morning wore on the sun came out weakly, and I decided to take a walk through Islington.

I started at King's Cross and walked east on Pentonville Road and north through Barnsbury. One of my goals was Cloudesley Square, a neat little neighborhood of white townhouses surrounding a square with a church in the middle. Unfortunately what I took to be the front of the church is under construction and covered with scaffolding -- so here it is from the back.

I came across this street art of Tina Turner, which is pretty cool. I especially love the little hand-written message above the art itself: "Why did Obama go?"

I found a tiny street called Moon Street -- this is pretty much all of it. Doesn't that sound like a great address? I'd love to be able to tell someone I lived at 9 Moon Street in London. It's very Harry Potterish. (And it has the added benefit of sharing a name with Ms. Moon.)

As I walked north near Upper Street, I passed this peculiar group. The man and woman in front (not recognizable to me) were being followed by a film crew including a cameraman and someone carrying a long microphone boom. Then there's that guy in a high-vis vest with a blanket on his head (?) and the guy walking dogs and wearing headphones. It's not a great shot -- I only had time for one -- but you get the point.

For lunch, I stopped at a Starbucks near the Highbury and Islington overground station. I wouldn't normally go to lunch at Starbucks but we have gift cards given to us by Dave's students, so I'm trying to use them. The cashier was a young man, I would guess of Eritrean or Ethiopian descent, who heard my accent and asked if I was on holiday. When he heard I'm originally from Florida he said, "Seriously, man. Why would you move here from Florida?"

Florida's mythology still carries a lot of weight.

(Side note: Dave and I just watched a four-part British TV show called "Dale Winton's Florida Fly-Drive," in which the well-known British TV host travels around Florida, from St. Augustine to Miami to St. Petersburg and even Weeki Wachee. He was a funny guy, quite camp, and I got a kick out of seeing Florida through his eyes. I was shocked to read just now that he died last April -- I had no idea when we were watching the show that he was no longer with us. I probably saw news of his death at the time but didn't know who he was.)

Anyway, back to my walk. I couldn't resist photographing a shop whose URL is ""!

I walked north through Holloway and finished up in Archway, passing a rendition of Dick Whittington's Cat covered in sempervivum plants -- they're called house leeks here in England, but in the states I knew them as hen-and-bitties or hen-and-chicks. Pretty creative!

All in all, it was an excellent day out. As usual, I felt much better engaging with the city and getting some exercise!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Days of Darkness

I always forget how little we see the sun at this time of year. The days pass in a kind of twilight gray, especially when the sky is overcast. The low light leads me to seek out other sources of photographic inspiration!

Olga and I came across the lighting store above when we walked to Childs Hill Park yesterday morning. Wonder what their electricity bill is like?

The park and the landscape are looking very wintry too, and I've been paying more attention to some of the plants. The gardening shows always advise planting species that provide "winter interest," which usually means tufts of grass or colored stems. These shrubs at Childs Hill definitely show off the latter.

We've been thinking more about our own garden, in preparation for pruning and getting it ready for action in spring. We have a tree-trimmer coming on Wednesday to give estimates for some trimming jobs we need done -- nothing too major.

Our daffodils and crocuses are sending up green spiky shoots!

Some of you asked to see Dave's new chair. Here it is, with the loveseat that it displaced pushed into the corner behind it. I suppose we need to call the council and arrange for that thing to be removed. It's not worth giving away -- part of its internal framework is broken. It's landfill-bound. (Or wherever furniture goes to die in London -- besides the street!)

Oh, speaking of debris on the street, I asked my neighbor about the abandoned Christmas tree in front of our house. He said it is indeed theirs and he'll take it to the recycling spot. I asked if he needed help and he said no, that he'd do it this weekend. As of this moment it has not moved.

Last night Dave was making dinner and he had an amazing little blue Le Creuset pot on the stove. "Where did you get that?" I asked him. "You found it for me," he said. (!) I had no memory of this pot at all, but he's right -- I found it walking the dog a couple of years ago.

I must be losing my mind.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Right Chair

Olga has an upset stomach this morning. There's lots of gurgling going on, and she demanded to be let out at 5 a.m. She probably ate something mysterious, as is typical for her. She seems better now, having spent twenty minutes foraging for grass in the garden.

Do you remember our wayward recliner? I'm sure you don't, because I barely remembered it myself. Last year, I ordered Dave a La-Z-Boy recliner for his 50th birthday. I placed the order in May, with his birthday at the end of June. I thought it might come in time. (Ha!)

It finally arrived at the beginning of September, and when it did, it was the wrong chair. (Click the link above for the whole story.) So we sent it back in exchange for the correct one. And we waited some more.

To be honest, I pretty much forgot about the whole thing. Every once in a while I'd think, "Oh, I've got to find out where that chair is." And then life would intervene and another week or two would pass. In late December I got an e-mail from the furniture company thanking me for my order, which seemed odd, since I hadn't recently been in touch with them.

I finally called early this week, and lo and behold, the chair was finished. (I guess that's what I was supposed to infer from that thank-you e-mail?)

The delivery guys showed up yesterday, parked illegally across the street, carried the chair past our neighbor's discarded Christmas tree and up our front steps, and through the house to our living room. They unwrapped it and set it up and voila, Dave finally has a recliner.

Last night, he ooohed and aaaahed as he sat down and reclined, and then he fell asleep during "The Romanoffs" (which I love, by the way) and he wound up sleeping in the chair at least part of the night. When I went to bed I tried to wake him up and he wouldn't budge. I guess he likes it!

(Photo: A windowsill in the library as I was locking up last night, around 4:58 p.m.)