Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Dead PCB

The washing machine guy came yesterday morning. He looked at our sputtering machine and tried unsuccessfully to run a few cycles. The machine started and stopped, started and stopped. "It needs a new PCB," he said confidently, adding that he would describe the situation to our management company and they may elect to simply buy a new machine. He couldn't immediately fix it but will get back in touch when a decision has been made.

A PCB, I later found out, is a "printed circuit board." So for want of a computer part that seems to sell online for something like £50, they're going to throw away an entire washing machine?


Well, it's not my machine and not my decision. But hopefully they'll choose to have it repaired rather than scrapped.

Meanwhile, I'll be hauling our laundry up to the laundromat, I suppose.

The good news is, I was able to productively use the time I spent waiting for the repairman by doing our income taxes! Woo hoo! So they're out of the way for another year. Being American, we have to file with Uncle Sam even though we don't live in the states and we pay taxes here in the UK. We don't have to pay Uncle Sam -- he just wants to know what's going on. So every year we send him a report.

It always feels great to have that done. I feel 30 pounds lighter.

(Photo: Forsythia in East London on Sunday.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Palladium

When Dave and I were riding the bus back from Heathrow last weekend, we passed this building in Shepherd's Bush. I was intrigued by the interesting architecture, the colorful paint job and all the posters on the front, so I went back yesterday morning for some photography.

Although it claims to be an "Australasian Bar," that was only in its most recent incarnation as Walkabout. It's really an old movie theater, the Palladium, though it hasn't shown a movie since 1981. Apparently it's been purchased by a developer who plans to turn the building into serviced apartments, while preserving its facade -- sort of like the old Queensway cinema, I guess.

Geez, everything is becoming swanky apartments -- pubs, theaters. It's crazy! And yet, ironically, London apartments are more expensive than ever!

After my brief stop in Shepherd's Bush I took the tube to East London for a photo walk in the Star Lane neighborhood of West Ham. The weather was gloriously sunny, although chilly until midday. I didn't even take that many photos -- it felt so free to keep the camera in the bag and just walk.

I got back home around noon and took Olga back to the Heath. She seemed to be raring to go, but then began dragging on the way there. She kept giving me looks like, "Are we really going all that way?" Could Olga be showing her age?

Anyway, once we got there she was fine, and she slept like a stone all last night. Dave got home yesterday, too, so now we're a family unit once again. We got dinner from Nando's, using my gift card from the South London health trust that used one of my photos on its web site (which apparently is not yet live). As fast-ish food goes, Nando's is pretty respectable -- it's basically baked (or grilled?) chicken with vegetable sides. I may be fooling myself, but I think it's healthier than the colonel.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lapis Lazuli

This is the kind of day we had around here yesterday -- a bit on the chilly side, but bright and blue and sunny.

I started the day modestly enough, doing stuff around the house. But when I tried to run a load of laundry, the machine began making a weird noise, and then stopped working altogether. It would try to start the next step of its cycle, shut off after a moment, try again, shut off again. It did this for about two hours.

So I called our landlord, and unplugged the machine. I just left the wet laundry in it because I could not yet deal and took the dog to the heath.

I think she had a terrible time, don't you?

Finally, upon our return in mid-afternoon, I mustered enough resolve to load the wet clothes into a plastic bag and re-wash them at the laundromat. Someone's scheduled to come and look at the machine tomorrow morning.

Last night's screening in my '70s-movie-fest: "American Gigolo." Marginal!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Alone Time

Is it terrible that I am LOVING having the house to myself while Dave is in Belgium?! Just me and Olga, hanging out, watching what we want on TV -- or maybe I read and don't watch anything at all. The heater set where I want it. Lots of space in the bed. Soup and peanut butter for dinner. Woo hoo!

The God's honest truth is that Dave is such a homebody I very rarely have any extended time to myself at home. I'm sure it will get old by the time he gets back tomorrow, but I'm digging it at the moment.

Above is another of my street finds -- I left this item behind, though. How long has it been since you've seen a portable short-wave radio and cassette player?! It looks like something I would have had in my Peace Corps years, a quarter of a century ago. It's probably about that old.

And here's an especially noble-looking photo of Olga, captured late one afternoon with the Olga cam.

I finished "The Man in the High Castle" -- the book -- yesterday. Actually, I finished it Thursday night, but I was so tired that I had to reread the last chapter yesterday morning on my way to work, just to clarify what happened in my mind. And even now I'm not sure I understand it. It's a very bizarre book, but it was interesting to see how it differs from the TV show. The whole Obergruppenf├╝hrer John Smith and family storyline, for example, isn't in the book at all. It's mostly a mystical exploration of the I Ching.

I also finished my latest podcast, "Missing Richard Simmons," about the disappearance of the normally not-publicity-shy Richard Simmons from the public eye a couple of years ago. Where did he go? That's the question at the heart of the podcast, which was very well put together but ultimately reaches a rather anticlimactic conclusion. Life is like that sometimes, I suppose.

Last night I watched "Saturday Night Fever," which I haven't seen in decades. While recently transcribing my old journals I came across a mention of it from when I first watched it, in July 1997: "I was actually shocked at how good it was! Of course, everything depends on your expectations -- I expected a really schlocky, terrible movie. But it was pretty good, with the exception of the clothes and dancing, which were hilarious. They both made and condemned the movie!" Now, having seen it again, I would say the clothes and dancing are the real reason to watch. But be prepared to cringe.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Potpourri of Mostly Insignificant Things

-- First, one significant thing: We now know the identity of the man behind the events on Westminster Bridge. We don't know much more than his name, but it's interesting that he's British born, thus laying to rest once again the myth of the murderous immigrant. From what I've read he sounds like a common criminal.

-- Remember the abandoned orchid that I rescued from Dave's office? (Actually, I'm not sure I ever wrote about it, so maybe not.) It had been left on a windowsill and was looking sad and withered when I brought it home last fall and rejuvenated it. Well, it has rewarded us with a blossom, albeit a slightly disfigured one. I'm not sure what happened to it but obviously the bud got injured somehow. We weren't even sure what color it would be!

-- Had some excitement yesterday morning. I was walking Olga when I found someone's wallet beneath a park bench on Sumatra Road. I looked inside and there was a tube fare card, a driver's license and a bank card. The license had a name and address on it, up in Willesden Green, just a few tube stops away. So I left for work a bit early and took the guy's wallet to his house. A woman there -- his wife? mother? -- was happy to get it back!

-- All the shed stuff is gone. Piece by piece I managed to dispose of it, as planned.

-- I found this in the school library a few days ago. Why?? Because, well, middle-school boys.

-- Our amaryllis (amaryllises? amarylli?) are way, way behind this year. Last year at this time they had long stalks and leaves. This year, only two of them have shown any sign of life so far, and they're just green nubs barely emerging from the bulbs. I think it's because they wintered in the dining room, which is cooler than the living room, where they used to be.

-- Remember when I attended London's March for Women back in January? I came across an online photo taken by another photographer that includes me! I'm about a third of the way from the right margin of the picture, wearing a green jacket and darker green hat. I was holding my camera above the crowd to try to get a wide shot, which is why my arms are up over my head. Funny!

-- I did wind up speaking some French in Luxembourg, mainly in the cafe where we had lunch. And I did OK, but I hit a wall pretty quickly. My brain just doesn't work fast enough for me to carry on much of a conversation. Still, I don't miss my French classes. I think this is as good as it's going to get.

-- The rest of this week is going to be quiet time chez nous. Dave left yesterday morning for Belgium and Luxembourg with his students, and he won't be back until Sunday. I'm trying to use the time to catch up on reading and other projects. Last night, for example, I finished my audio recording of the Arabian Nights for the 6th graders. It's nice to have that done!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

So Many Questions

I was hoping to wake this morning and learn the identity of the twisted individual who carried out Wednesday's terror attack in Westminster. I don't know why his identity even matters to me, but I'm curious to know about his background, his family, his upbringing. What kind of person could drive his car into groups of schoolchildren and tourists? What kind of mind could be so perverted by fanaticism or disease?

I was at work yesterday afternoon when I heard the news. It's particularly chilling to think that I was just at Parliament myself, chaperoning a school group, not even two weeks ago -- walking children through the same fenced yard where the police officer was stabbed and the assailant shot.

There is so much I just don't understand about the world. I don't understand religion, though I know religion isn't entirely the culprit, here. Maybe it's not the culprit at all. We still don't know.

I don't understand why we as a society don't make more allowances for identifying and treating mentally ill people. (Anyone who's in a position to do such a thing is mentally ill -- regardless of his or her reasons.)

And though there's no way to know the attacker's background, I am afraid all the conflict in the Middle East over the last two decades has produced untold numbers of hardened, scarred people with PTSD and limitless frustration and anger. This is not a reason to isolate people from that region -- rather, it's a reason to help them reorganize their societies and improve their lives. The wealthier nations of Europe and the Americas need to be far more invested and involved in stabilizing conflicted parts of the globe, rather than sealing off our borders and retreating from the world. The resources for doing so should come from proportional taxation of the wealthier people in our societies, who have instead hijacked the political process to bolster their personal prosperity.

And on a purely practical note, I'm surprised that security bollards were never installed to protect the sidewalks along the length of that bridge -- although I've walked it many times and I must admit I never noticed their absence. Easy to see in retrospect, I suppose.

Anyway, school was already over by the time the event happened, but the rest of my day went on as usual. I stayed at work until my normal time, as did many students. Today we're working as usual too. Life goes on.

(Photo: Signs of religion in Cricklewood, a few weeks ago.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Owl

We had some excitement yesterday evening.

First, I came home from work to find that our nosy neighbor Mrs. Kravitz cut down the hawthorn tree in her back garden. Well, I'm sure she didn't cut it down herself, but she had it cut down. Workers were hauling branches out of her garden and packing them into a truck.

This surprised me, because she's been so protective of that hawthorn. In fact, she often complained about a large holly in our back garden that she felt was interfering with her tree's growth. (She also hates the holly because it drops berries on her trampoline). Dave and I had debated taking down the holly, but since we don't own the garden and tree removal is a major expense I've balked -- and now it looks like maybe we won't need to. At least not for the first reason.

Then, after it got dark, Dave and I were in the living room when I noticed a peculiar sound. At first, with the TV on, it sounded like a dog howling. Then I thought maybe it was a fox. But it was very regular, the same tone over and over. I went out in the garden and listened:

The name of my recording gives away the mystery. Yes, it was a tawny owl.

At first, I didn't know what kind of bird it was. A nightingale? They're a British thing, right? But no, I discovered online -- nightingales really sing, more like a mockingbird. This was just that single, low call, repeated again and again. So I suspected an owl.

I found this page of various British owl sounds (isn't the Internet wonderful?) and sure enough, the male tawny owl call matched.

I couldn't see him because he was in a huge, dark cedar in another neighbor's yard. But I have seen a tawny owl before, in Hyde Park.

I guess it can only be a good thing to have an owl in a garden that's plagued with digging rodents! I hope he hangs around!

(Photo: Fortune Green, about a week and a half ago.)