Monday, September 28, 2009


We were in the Uxbridge Pavillions mall today, shopping for various household items. We couldn't find one item, a down comforter, a duvet some call it. Every store had only synthetic microfiber duvets. Robin sat on a mall bench to snack on an apple we'd just bought. I was standing nearby, snacking on my apple turnover (hey, it's apple!) and noticed Robin was talking to an elderly lady. I figured she was asking the lady where we could find a down comforter (yes, she was) and I couldn't wait to remind her that local Brits never have a clue anytime we ask them where something is. Not even if it's a historic battlefield a few blocks away. Or how about the time it was the historic Inner Temple (where effigies of the Knights Templar are laying on the temple floor) that was half a block away from the men she asked. Admittedly, there's so much ancient history around here, people seem to block it out, like so much noise. For instance, at the Malt Shovel Robin asked a waitress how old the Tudor style building was, and the girl looked at us like the thought had never ever entered her mind. "Oh my, I wouldn't have any idea." She had a "Why would anyone want to know a silly thing like that?" look on her face.

To my astonishment, the elderly lady suggests "Deben's" in the other mall, The Chimes, just a block away. Of course, you have to know that when she says "Deben's," you're actually looking for a store pronounced "Deben's" but whose name is spelled "Debenham's." Brilliantly, we found the store and the down comforter.

Thanks to the elderly lady, from now on I'm going to cut the Brits some slack on the instructions thing.

As we left the store I grabbed this shot of a Debenham's employee in the display window. I consider myself open minded, but come on, get a room.


Monday sunset photo

Monday's sunset from the window of my UK office. Another residence hall - I mean office building - is seen next door. There's usually an airplane in this scene, taking off from Heathrow airport, 15 minutes away.

Barges vs. Narrow Boats

Our friend Laura pointed out in a comment that as a Mississippi Delta native, there's a difference between what I call a barge and a real barge, as in on the Mississippi River. She's right. I should have used the term Narrow Boat, although the Narrow Boats are sometimes called barges, I assume because they have barge qualities: they have flat bottoms and float in very shallow water.

In the future, I'll refer to the English boats as Narrow Boats. It sounds cooler, it's more accurate, and Laura is a Mississippi Delta expert if ever there was one. And probably a barge expert. She's been around the barge a few times, if you know what I mean. This is not her first barge rodeo, if you catch my drift.

Thanks for the comment, Laura.

A barge, as in "you're not gonna see one of these in an English canal, parked near a pub."

A Narrow Boat, as in "you probably won't see one of these on Ol' Man River."

Averaging two fire-alarms a week

And that's just in our own residence hall, Shoreditch. If you count fire alarms that we could hear coming from other halls, the number is 5 or 6 alarms a week. The first one in our hall was mid-evening, but the one last night was at 1:15am. Every room has an alarm siren mounted above the door, inside the room. Which means it's about 10 feet from you when you're in bed asleep. When it goes off, it pretty much wakes the dead, not to mention everyone on this side of the campus. We jump up, throw on clothes, hustle down 5 flights of stairs, then stand outside until Security shows up, turns off the alarm, and OKs everyone to return. During the first fire alarm, the second day we were here, a couple from Taiwan told us it happens 2 or 3 times a week (and they've been here for two months). I didn't believe him at the time, but I do now. Makes you wonder how much fun it'll be when it's pouring rain, or freezing cold. Or both.

Robin holds her ears while evacuating via the stairwell during a fire alarm. I'm sure many students will have permanent damage to their hearing before the semester ends. I once sat on the front row of a Led Zeppelin concert, and it was like a soothing lullaby compared to the siren used here.


My pal/sports buddy, Ces (Robin's brother-in-law), is playing in a golf tournament soon with some college friends and wanted a "Super Senior" image for tournament T-shirts.

Being at Brunel without my Wacom pressure-sensitive tablet, or a desk (Robin was using the small desk in our flat), I was able to do a drawing in my European office, JTmobile Studio, also known as "the couch."

JTstudios, Euorpean office.

Drawing in Photoshop, from an unfamiliar position, with a mouse, doesn't improve one's drawings. Freehand drawing with a mouse is about half a notch easier than using an Etch-a-Sketch (the plastic box that turned millions of potential artists into disturbed children who hated drawing). Luckily, I gave up on Etch-a-Sketch before it permanently damaged me.

It's OK for this to be a crummy sketch, because I'll place it as a template in Adobe Illustrator and redraw it using vector drawing tools, which are much easier to control using a mouse than the pixel-based drawings you can do in Photoshop.

The Illustrator version. Time restraints and other deadlines (Robin's book) forced me to eliminate the golf bag with clubs spilling out that's visible in the rough sketch. Hope it works for you, Ces. It was fun.