Monday, November 21, 2011

Doing what I love.

I had a tough night last night.  Totally unexpected.

Lynn returned from a few days away in New York.  It was great to get her back.  Us boys had had a good time while she was away, but we'd not even left the house.  We just played, watched movies, built lego and played some more.  Lynn was exhausted so she went to bed at 8pm - same time as our boys.

So I completed my epic full season view of Moto GP racing.  I have an on-off relationship with Moto GP.  I love it, but I no longer know anyone nearby that shares this interest.  So I sort of forget about it, whilst my DVR thankfully does not.  Also, luckily, Moto GP doesn't get the news coverage of other sports, so I stay totally blissfully unaware of the season's results.

Last night I watched the Sepang Moto GP and had no idea I was going to watch the death of Marco Simoncelli.  Over previous evenings I had watched him develop through the season, getting faster and smoother and more controlled.  I'd enjoyed his flair and was getting excited every time I saw him race.  He was 24.

The crash caused the race to be red flagged and I immediately grabbed my laptop.  The crash was so horrific I feared he wouldn't recover and the internet confirmed my fears.  In the end the race was abandoned, but clearly fans and riders spent a grueling time waiting for news and wondering what would happen next.  I was spared that ordeal, but not so his girlfriend or parents.

Almost immediately, I watched the next race, the final one of the season, from Valencia.  Lets face it, what else was I going to do.  There was no way I could sleep yet.  The coverage was respectful to Marco and frankly moving.   But that old cliche emerged, "He died doing what he loved."  Thankfully it was only mentioned once.

I remember when I was in my early 20's, I had this weird feeling that I was going to die young.  Surprisingly, it wasn't particularly worrying to me at that time.  I think it's only once you've assembled your life, and filled it with your loves, that mortality is scary.

Then I had an accident.  I fell off a mountain bike.  Top tip here:  Don't drink vodka and then try to get a buzz by cycling as fast as you can.  I was bored at a party and thought it might be fun.  I didn't tell anyone what I was doing and I didn't wear a helmet.  Stupid, eh?  I'm still not certain if I was knocked unconscious, and if so for how long, but I know that when I returned to the party, people had started to wonder where I'd gone.... but then, as I said, the party was quite dull.  ;-)

That accident, however, seemed to totally remove my foreboding feeling.  Of course, it didn't make me more careful.  And it didn't make me wear a helmet when I was cycling.  No, it took my children to make me wear a helmet.  Just as I'm pretty sure that it was me, who made my dad start to wear a seat belt.

I love my wife, my children and my friends.  I love my life.  I hope that I will die doing what I love, but I really hope it won't be soon.  You see Lynn and I have this pact, that once we're 75 we can start smoking and experimenting with all the illicit substances that we were, and are, too scared to even consider trying... so I need to stay alive for that party!

RIP Marco

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Once we stop laughing, I'll ask her what's important.
It's terribly important that you read this blog.  Really it is.  No really, I set out here the most important facts and perspectives on the most important issues of our planet.  Still not convinced?  Me neither.  If you tell me something is important, then I won't hear the next word.  I'll be changing the subject.

'Important' is becoming my most despised word.  Mostly I think this is partly due to the school systems of the UK and US.  Everything's important - but clearly it can't be.  It's important to remember that our children can only use 'Free Dress Passes' on Monday and Wednesday.  It's important to bring our recycling to school on Wednesday so that our children understand the importance of recycling (though please only bring the recycling that the school will be paid money for).  It is important to instill in our children a pattern of behavior to make their homework become more of a way of life and a Pavlovian reaction to evening.  It's important, though, not to place too much importance on homework as we need to keep our perspective on making learning fun and inspiring...

Quite recently I was at a conference where a speaker gave a list of 'Important Things To Consider.'  What a crock of....  Tell me what you think is important, and then I'll consider it.... perhaps. ;-)

I could continue to write lists of things that aren't important, but that would be inflammatory and somewhat dull and negative.  So instead I'll tell you something that's important to me.

We moved our family 5,000 miles from our families in the UK and right from the start we suffered the effect of the distance.  Lynn's mum died very soon after we arrived.  Skype has been keeping us in touch with most of our family and friends...well the one's who want to see us!  But that's no good for my 87 year old Gran, she's never used a computer and struggles with the DVD player.

So when the iPad 2 came out with its front facing camera and FaceTime software, I figured that maybe she would be able to use that.  Everyone in my family that I mentioned it to (except Lynn) told me that she'd never be able to use it, and that I'd be wasting money if I bought her one.

I ignored the naysayers.  What the f**k, I'll have that iPad if she can't use it.  Sorry for swearing Gran, but being as you don't have a'll never know!  So I bought one, and with a few swipes of a finger or two I hid every icon that wasn't Facetime.  And so when we went back to the UK in August, I took the iPad with me for my Gran.  She was scared, but under careful, click-by-click instruction at my Aunt's house, she managed to set up and answer calls.  So I left it with her.

It took a while for an internet DSL connection to be set up in my Gran's apartment and then we had to wait for my Aunt to travel the 200 miles to visit and set up the iPad to connect... but (ironically about a week after Steve Jobs died) my Gran called!

Now we see each other every week, we get to share smiles and my kids get to act up in front of their Great Grandmother.  'Gi-Gi', as we call her (she's pretended to be 23 years old throughout my entire life and so clearly can't be called Great Grandmother),  isn't well enough to come to see us here and for that I feel robbed.  But thanks to the wonders of technology, geeks and some bloody-mindedness we have Gi-Gi close again.

Unfortunately, she is now talking about taking some computer lessons at her local library.  So I may have to consider keeping my language a little cleaner.... and I wonder if I should have mentioned that I was taking a picture for my blog?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Write 50 times, "I will not pay too much attention at school"

Our eldest is in 3rd grade and this appears to be the point where school becomes hateful.  I'm not sure if that's too strong a word, but I've always wondered why/when it is that learning ceases to be fun.  Now I know that in the USA, this starts in 3rd Grade.  The plethora of homework is divisive and the speed of progress is both tedious and relentless, all at the same time.  It's almost as if this is our boy's first taste of how shitty people and school can be.

"Who's fault is it?"  What!  Do you think this is a political blog?!  ;-)  It's no-one's fault, it just happened through bad motivation, fear and ignorance.  The teachers are forced to keep testing our kids - this isn't to help our kids, it's to analyze the teachers' performance.  The syllabus can't hope to keep up with the way the world is progressing.  Learning a few keyboard skills will probably not be all that useful for my boy by the time he enters the world of work... I doubt we'll see 'qwerty' all that often in the 2020's.  If you can talk to your mobile phone easily now, how will you 'write' a report or an email in 2021?

So why is education such a mess?  I think it's because we're all scared.   Scared that our kids won't seamlessly power through school and into the career of their dreams.   Why are we scared?  Because we know it's inevitable that they won't have an easy ride.  We've learned that all by ourselves, without a single class in school.  We learned that by living.  But the main issue I think is that when we are scared we don't make our best decisions.  We blame teachers.  We try to cram more into the curriculum.  We decide to narrow the curriculum to be more vocational or more academic or more 'progressive'.  We assume that the job market will be only slightly different from the one we compete in  right now.

So you want a solution?  Well provide world peace first and then I'll tell you the answer!  Perfect formal education is not possible, nor should it be.  The world keeps turning and although most of the test answers don't change, but some do.  But the biggest changes come from when we reset the questions. 

Too many times I look at my son's homework and I can think of 3 or more 'correct' answers to a single question, and this isn't just because of the language differences between UK and US English.  How many sides does a circle have exactly?  In the UK, I seem to remember being taught a circle has no sides, but my son has been taught that it has one side and, if you think about it a bit more, a circle could be considered as a polygon with an infinite number of sides.  Or of course there's inside and outside. ;-)

It probably sounds like I'm nitpicking, of course our kids need to develop concepts and so simple questions with simple answers are the best way to start... but do they really need to be tested on their ability to accept narrow minded questions and answers.  I wouldn't mind, but I'm told these tests are 'important'.  It's just BS, if my son knows that there are 3 valid answers but only one is 'correct' for teacher then he's only going to be confused.  If there's an Einstein in our schools right now, I bet their teacher is in discussion with their parent(s) about treatment for his/her condition in order to improve his/her poor test scores.

RANT OVER.  Sorry, it went on a bit. ;-)

I love learning new things, experimenting, discovering and trying to make sense of the world.  It's my job as Dad to fight my fears, as they try to tempt me down a path that will ultimately ruin my son's education.  My son is good, he is bright and he is interested.  He is not motivated by homework, tests and my pointless obsession with neat handwriting.  It's taken me 43 years to start to begin to learn what really interests me and what really motivates me.  Perhaps I can help give my son a head start by helping him find his own focus earlier in life than I did.

We certainly shouldn't be fighting over homework, we have a model airplane kit to learn to build and fly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just One Week

"Technology has exceeded our humanity"Image by Toban Black via FlickrWhat could be bad about my wife going to the UK for a week?

I'm over reacting, obviously.  Being a single parent for a week is hardly something to moan about.  I guess, though, I struggled with this because it was just for a little voice-over job.  There's plenty of fantastic studios capable of providing the voice-over for 4 episodes of a documentary...and computers can be connected and transfer huge files these days.  In fact, for this same documentary, Lynn interviewed Russell Brand and I shared the 4 Gb video files using Dropbox.

So it's not so much the week away I'm complaining about, it's the unnecessariness of it all.  Hmm, now that I see that written, I realize that's not really true.  You see, I was getting quite used to having Lynn make the lunches and ready the boys for school in the morning... and she'd collect them from school... and she'd make dinner for us all... and although I'd help with baths and PJs and the like, she's always the first choice for story reading (not a surprise there, I guess).  So in short, I wasn't so used to Lynn's efforts, that I wasn't able to predict how difficult it would be without her!

Through the help of friends (especially Tara), some minor miracles and an almost complete and utter lack of sleep, I still managed to work this week.

Thursday was the biggest challenge though.  We had a big gig in downtown LA with 4 hours of live streaming; first from an immersive dome and then from a theater, with a 90 minute gap to breakdown and move to the other location.  You can the watch the video archives here.   I arrived at the office at 9:30am and then arrived back home at just after 11pm.  Unfortunately our boys had decided that the unusualness of the day/week, meant they could give the babysitter the run around.  They were both still up when I got home!

Getting them up at 7am was a challenge beyond that of mere multi-camera and multi-locational live streaming.  Neither boy was interested in waking.  I literally had to drag them from their beds and sit them down at the table for breakfast.

And then it hit me, technology could be my ally once again.  This time the solution took the form of Google Voice linking me to a secret weapon... Mom!  7am here in Los Angeles is 3pm in the UK and luckily all the voice-overs were complete.  The boys were so excited to talk to her, they properly woke up and even got quite cheerful... and I manipulated that joy all the way to school... before returning home for a nap!

So I dedicate this blog post to my sons' teachers.  They had no idea, or prior warning, of the effect Lynn leaving would have on their weeks and especially their Friday!
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Daddy. Why do you have 2 beards growing out of your nose?

Old make-up mirror.It's been a long time since I last posted anything on this site.  I kept meaning too and there's been a lot going on that I could have written about.  However it took my 4 year old to spur me on with the title of this post.  You see, this blog is mine, but it also belongs to my boys.   Without them I do some interesting things, but it's my boys who provide the real challenges, fears, frustrations, joy and, well... damp shorts!

So it now occurs to me that this blog might be breaking the Trade Descriptions Act (a UK law that forces advertisers to only make claims that almost, nearly, perhaps, slightly resemble some form of truth).  I had already slowly eased away from being the stay-at-home Dad, but I was still the one dropping off and collecting the boys from school, buying the groceries and making dinner.  Not so much now though, since Lynn, my dear wife, gave up her job!

This wasn't just an 'on a whim' decision.  My wife had managed to do her job well, but it hadn't prove to be her passion.  Lynn's met lots of wonderful people here in LA and has lots of great projects to do, but when you've sold nearly all of your time to making 5 hours of TV a week, then you have very little space left to do anything else.  We have our Green Cards now, so we can stay in the country permanently and can work for anyone without an additional (read 'expensive') visa.  When we came here, we had only ever intended for Lynn to do that job for a year.  So the question inevitably became, "If not now, when?"

It seems that big decisions are easier to take, than to explain.  Lynn enlightened me to the mirror concept.  For example, when you tell someone that you've lost a parent, they'll look at you with the feeling they had when they lost their parent and then they'll tell you their story.  The same goes for those other big life events; child birth, weddings, relationship break-ups, etc.  With resignation from a job it's no different, except generally people have only considered resigning and then held on till they found something else.  So most react with shock and statements like, "you are so brave" or "don't you worry about providing for your children?"  Not exactly confidence inspiring statements, no matter how unintended or heart felt.

The only exception to the mirror concept, was from agents.  Both UK and US agents responded with, "Congratulations!"  Though I could be cynical and point out that neither agent was taking a cut from her salary and now that will likely change. ;-)

Enough about Lynn, back to me, myself and I.  Suddenly, I felt I was going to have to earn some 'proper' money.  That it was all on me now to ensure the family's financial security - just like it was in the UK.  An understandable reaction perhaps, but not exactly helpful.  You see Lynn and I are a team and although we swapped roles when we moved here, something else irrevocably changed too.  The balance of our roles may swap many times in our future, but now we both bear the financial and child rearing responsibilities, no matter what role we are presently occupying.  You can't un-know what you've learned; so taking on the stay-at-home role will not leave me, just as the financial responsibility will not leave Lynn.

There's a phrase used a lot here, "Living the dream."  For us, that dream involves finding an equilibrium; where both of us enjoy our work and both of us get to share a good proportion of our time with our family.  It's not the glitzy Hollywood dream that many seem to aspire to, but it's no less attractive to us.  And every time we get to jump in the pool, either after work or after the school run, we get more of a taste for it....
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Sunday, July 3, 2011


Van Nuys Fly Away at time of writing.
So I should mention my new enterprise, Stage'N'Stream.  Where do I start though? At the moment, I hope, I am at the end of the start of the beginning, so to speak.

We live streamed 16 shows from the Hollywood Fringe, across 4 days, using a mobile 4G hotspot for our internet connection.  Technically speaking, we knew we were taking a risk but we'd tested the hotspots a number of times. Logistically we knew we were taking a risk, each show lasted about an hour and then there was 15 minutes to turnaround the theatre space from one show to the next.  But the key was whether the streams be watchable and whether the viewers would enjoy the shows.

Logistically and technologically we had a resounding success.  The streams too, were watchable and enjoyable.  We got lots of praise for our work and inspired people to want to work with us in the future.  We even had a positive effect on the audience numbers of some of the shows.

I guess I should just happily say, "A Success." But will I leave it there?  No, I'm Scottish and that means nothing is perfect and everything is not quite good enough.  This might seem harsh, and sometimes in Scotland this attitude is way too harsh, but for me it's fueled my obsession to improve and develop.  Sometimes this outlook means that I don't sell myself or my achievements as well as I should and that can be destructive.  At the Hollywood Fringe though, it meant that I moved so far forward, that my final show was a two camera shoot of 5 performers backed by 7 musicians; a show that I loved and was proud to stream.

So what's next?  Well as I type this, I'm projecting flying doves onto the parking structure of Van Nuys Fly Away bus station as part of a performance art piece... and all I can think about, is how I could live stream this.  Where ever there's an interesting performance, I want to share it.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Things First.

'USCIS To Issue Redesigned Green Card'Image via WikipediaForgive me for not blogging sooner, I'd don't think I've been so busy since...well since I don't know when.  My every waking moment has been all about our new website and live streaming theatre from the Hollywood Fringe.  I'm certain I'll blog about that later, but first we have hit a monumentous moment in out relocation to America.


I can't really explain what that means to us.  We hid, or coped with, the stress of not being permanent residents for two and half years.  It became just a 'normal' frustration, always there and seemingly, out of our control.  At times we felt foolish for buying our house, how stupid to buy a house in a country where you aren't even considered to be a permanent resident.

The cards themselves arrived with no obvious logic to order or timescale.  When I got mine, I felt such relief that I welled up and struggled to keep the British stiff upper lip.  However that was nothing, as we had to wait the longest for my youngest son's card.  His card arrived on Tuesday last week, I opened it just before I headed off to set up for my live streaming marathon at the Hollywood Fringe.  I was a mess, all stressed from my project and astonished that we were now in a new phase of our American adventure.  Not a pretty sight.

Obviously, our four year old had no idea what this meant, though that day he did bring home a painting of the stars and stripes from pre-school.

Our 8 year old, however, knew exactly what this meant, "Does this mean we can get a pet hamster, now that we're allowed to stay?"

And bang! We're back to the grind of the everyday.  But this time we're 'normal', just like everyone else.  Trying to earn a living, trying to fit in kids' birthday parties and deal with the everyday pressures.  No more trips to our immigration attorney, no more $5,000 checks to the USCIS and no more figuring out what achievements might persuade the lovely person in Nebraska; who ultimately decided that we could stay.

In a way, it feels like we've just arrived.  That we've been in some strange in-between land for the last few years.  Suddenly we've landed.  Ok so we've not American citizens yet, but we are here on a permanent basis.  In some ways the UK has become a foreign land to us and some parts of American culture have become so much a part of us, that we no longer notice them.

We finally seem to be starting this phase on a more level playing field with the rest of America.  We have social security numbers, permanent resident cards and a hunger to work hard and do the best we can.

To close this chapter I have to say that there's one thing that I've consistently found refreshing from the moment we arrived in the USA.  Here, generally, though obviously not always, people are happy and confident to pile praises on those around them who do good work.  So in keeping with my permanent resident status, I can't recommend our immigration attorney more highly.  We saw a lot of attorney's before choosing him.  He was open, honest, straightforward and, here's the clincher, he was the only one who actually had a strategy for our application.  Thank you, Tucker Sandler!
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Friday, May 6, 2011

Four-lettered word.

Time ManagementImage by Intersection Consulting via FlickrWork. Not work like I knew it, all cheat suits and management buzz word bingo.  Still very much work though.  In fact it occurs to me that maybe I should quantify the difference in scale.  I'm currently working for a business that is 0.0025% smaller in terms of staff or budget than my last employer.

What I love is trying to figure out my place, my role.  Like all businesses, nothings perfect and everything could be improved.  Nothing appears to be completely rational to the new eye.  However, the different perspective that a smaller business brings is refreshing.

No one expects a large organization to be rational and sharply focused, they grow like mold - sometimes fast, sometimes slow and with only a modicum of predictability.  Hmm, that reads a little jaded, perhaps I spent too long in my last job!

In the little company, everything seems personal. "We do it like that because 'so-and-so' set it up, I keep meaning to tidy it up and make it slicker but I've never managed to get around to it."  So my work is becoming all about focus and priority and time management.

Which led me here, of course.  What's happened?  I haven't gotten round to writing this blog for an age, so it must be me who needs the focus and time management!
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Friday, April 22, 2011

Mummy, Mummy, Mummy

A man whose name is TalkativeImage via WikipediaOh my!  We'd forgotten.  What is it about being a parent that makes you forgetful? Or is it just age? Don't answer, I don't need to know.

There's a gap between our boys; almost 5 years. That's just beyond long enough to forget the torturous effect a new baby can have, in fact it's almost long enough for a rosy picture postcard to replace real accurate memory.

We forgot something else too.  It became apparent the other night as we drove to a restaurant.  Our youngest talked at us from the moment he entered the car, all through the journey and he didn't stop until he was eating dinner.  Lynn & I laughed hysterically as we suddenly remembered that our oldest boy had done the far as we can remember he talked non-stop for about 4 years!   Even now, don't ask him about Pokemon or Bakugan unless you're sitting comfortably.

We laughed hysterically, in that way, you know when something isn't really funny.  Like that inappropriate laughter that sometimes appears at points of great fear or distress.  It was good to laugh then, but now a week has passed and we're not laughing anymore.  At times I wipe next to my ears to see if they're bleeding or slowly oozing my mojo.

Now he has stopped continuously talking, he only talks whenever we are trying to concentrate or discuss something ourselves.  If you haven't experienced this yourself, then it's difficult to describe but I'll try...

I'm cooking dinner for my boys.  Lynn doesn't get home for another hour or so.  Nothing too elaborate, just some pasta.  The water is just coming to a boil and I'm grating some cheese.  The persistent one runs into the kitchen, almost knocking me over by grabbing onto my legs.  Luckily he's never been one for the pitter patter of tiny feet, more like there's a baby rhino charging at me.  So I'd braced myself for the impact and had let go of the pot of boiling water.  "MUMMY, MUMMY, MUMMY, I'M HUNGRY!"  I mention that he has mistaken my identity.  "DADDY, DADDY, DADDY, I'M HUNGRY!"  I mention that I'm making pasta.  "I DON'T WANT PASTA!  I WANT SOMETHING FROM THERE." He gestures towards to the cupboard, the one where we keep the treats, the one where we thought he couldn't reach till he ran and bounded up onto the counter top.  He starts to climb next to the boiling pot of water...

Even as I write the description, I get tense.  However, by writing it I've realized what is going on.  He doesn't continually talk at all.  He continually shouts at us, like some sort of drunken sergeant major in a bar room squabble.  So far I'm winning the war, but not all of the battles.  He has found that his toys tell Daddy that they don't like his behavior, and then Daddy helps them to take temporary 'leave.'  He didn't believe that Buzz would leave, till he heard our burglar alarm chime that a door had opened...  I know, I'm cruel, but Buzz will soon have to face up to his obligations and return, no matter what his feelings are. ;-)
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Couldn't see for looking.

Right that's it, you're in my shoes now.  Erm, sorry about all the medicated talc but it's the only way to, er... too much information.  Look here's the thing.  You never really liked work much.  There were these odd little bits where you got to do something a little cool, something that made you a little proud, but usually it wasn't something you could tell anyone about.  Not that it was secret, all cloak and dagger, intelligence, special ops, etc.  Just that it was so difficult to explain, or had no relevance outside of the UK defense / government community.  It wasn't worth the effort.

Then you get your big break, a career break.  You get to look after your kids while your other half brings home the bacon.  And you love it.  It's tough, but it's rewarding.  You discover that you have more self resolve and strength of will than you ever realized.  Ever argued a 3 year old into submission?  Ever explained to a 6 year old why you need to go to the grocery store and not to the Game Stop?

Now in order for good things to remain good, they need to change.  You thought you needed to get a job.  You know, like the last one.  One where you wear a suit and use obscure, unfathomable language at endless meetings.  However the corporate job descriptions leave you cold and you find the help wanted ads on Craigslist far more enticing.

All you want really, is to work in a small business where your contribution is truly essential.  A business that uses technology, unites people, is able to grow and has a great team of interesting people.

Imagine that before you even started you job search properly, a good friend offered to give you work; a few days a week in his production company.  His company does web streaming and video production and lights and sound... So why did you ignore his offer and waste time looking at corporate America?

I have no answer.  I start on Monday.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Job Search

Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, London; viewed...Image via Wikipedia I've got a little more serious in my job search.  Before I was more tentative, not wishing to lose my position as primary parent, but now I feel I need to work.  Money would be nice, motorcycles and fancy living would be lovely, but actually I think the need comes from wanting to contribute to a team effort and, if I'm honest, wanting to have something else to talk about other than toilet training, schools and stroppy behavior.  [Stroppy is apparently a British word according to the spell checker. If I tell you that in the UK, the phrase it's most used with is "stroppy teenager," I doubt you'll need to look it up...]

I've modified my CV into a resume and it's spelt correctly for its target audience - though I struggle with the UK Ministry of Defence as I don't feel I can change its name to defense, but I know it must still irk an American eye or two.

I signed up with a recruitment website and even paid them money for their pro service.  As you may expect, I hate spending money on this type of thing.  Well, actually I hate spending money on anything that doesn't have wheels and /or burn petrochemicals, but that's another story. What I've discovered is that there is an acute level of specialization in job specifications over here.  I guess the market and the organizations are bigger and so the jobs can be narrower.

So far I have more luck / interest through my Craigslist applications and have even had my first interview.  The jobs on Craigslist seem to be much more fluid and some are even outcome based, e.g. I need help to achieve better web presence, greater efficiency, etc.

Then finally on the paid for service, I saw a project manager job with a list of competences and skills I felt I could easily and effectively demonstrate.  Hmm, am I beginning to change my language already? Anyway, I click on the 'apply on the company website" button.  The company website has an additional requirement not mentioned on my paid for website... "Candidate must have built at least 3 jails."  I still can't help but laugh at that phrase.  I've seen news reports and read articles about how many Americans are incarcerated, but really how many people can say that they've built 3 jails?  Surely only a handful of project managers are eligible.

It gets better when I find another job advert with similar competences... click.... "Candidate must have built at least 2 hospitals."  Must be trickier to find good project managers who've built hospitals so they've dropped their normal requirement by a third.  Though I guess no matter what kind of economy we're experiencing, there's always a need for jails and hospitals.

Overall I'm quite liking looking for work, as it's quickly become a voyage of discovery into American culture and, let's face it, that's why I'm here.
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Friday, April 1, 2011


Do note [Closed]Image by Paul Watson via FlickrI don't like to take notes, but now I think I should.

Once upon a time I used to take copious notes; whilst I endured High School, whilst I studied for my electronics degree and when I started my first proper job.  Then I discovered I did better without them.

It was during my MBA that I met an interesting chap called Harry Humble and he didn't take notes during lectures.  He said that writing notes stopped him listening properly and meant he'd miss out on understanding.  He was right.  Though it turned out his real name was Mark, he just prefered to be called Harry for the double 'H'.  As I said, he's an interesting chap.

When I don't take notes, I learn more.  When I don't take notes, I have more time to interact and explore more.  However, there's two minor issues.  First, all of those years taking notes and the consensus that it's the normal and right thing to do, means that it's a difficult habit to kick.  So to help wean yourself of the habit, you have to come prepared not to take notes; which is a more positive way of saying you have neither pen nor paper.  So what if you have to remember a non-relevant fact, like an address or a phone number?  Well, that's what smart phones are for.

But now I have a new foible to the no notes policy.  When you tell your wife about a minor detail of the American, stay-home Dad experience and she laughs.  And she doesn't just laugh a little bit.  She really laughs, hard. Then she says, "There's a blog in that."  And you agree, it's a great idea.  And the next night you find yourself writing about how you don't like to take notes, because you've no idea what that blog was to be about.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

St Chris

Authentic portrait of St PatrickImage via WikipediaI've pretty much always hated violence.  There was a lot of it about when and where I grew up.  Skin heads. Punks.  Sectarian troubles. Gangs. Neds.

When we lived in London violence was definitely there, but with luck and experience you could pretty much avoid it.  When I first moved there, I thought it'd be too dangerous and frustrating to ride my motorcycle to work.  Then on the crowded London Underground one day, I watched two guys start to fight because one wanted off the train and the other didn't want to lose his spot on the carriage.  From then on I rode my bike whenever I felt able.  I figured that on the Underground you took a low probability risk of a random stranger trying to kill you, either by knife or bomb.  On my bike I took the view that there was a greater honesty and predictability, as pretty much every car, truck, bus and taxi driver would kill you if gave them the chance.

Being here in Los Angeles you don't really see the violence so much, actually you don't people much as we are always in our cars.  I even sign up to the local police email system, nixle, and although sometimes there are a few ongoing events, it doesn't seem like there's the concentration of 'minor' violence here - certainly not in the valley.

If you've managed to come to see any of the theatre that we've produced here in Hollywood, then chances are you might of spotted Chris.  He's a big guy, quiet, gentle and distinctly cheeky - there's more than one of our female friends whose asked his status - but he had a long term girlfriend at that point.  He helped set up and run the sound, lights and even operated a camera when we were live streaming.

On St Patrick's Day night Chris was leaving a bar in Hollywood and spotted 4 guys beating someone up.  I'd like to say that he should have just called the cops, but I wasn't there so I don't feel I have the right to such an opinion.  The outcome was that Chris was stabbed and now has staples and 280 stitches in his side.  He's leaving for Florida now for a long recuperation with his parents.

With incidents of violence there is usually nothing interesting or unique to be said.  It all seems so pointless and horrific. 

I wish Chris a simple, speedy recovery and hope he returns soon.
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Monday, March 21, 2011

It's not just me.

You could be forgiven for thinking it's just me, but it's not.  I know there's probably quite a few stay at home dads out there in the world.  There's probably quite a few that have partners bringing home the bacon, so to speak.  There's probably quite a few living in Los Angeles.  I guess there's some whose partner is a performer / comedienne.  But have they also come here from the UK?  Did they have a 'proper' job back there? Did they come here in the last couple of years?  Do they have 2 kids?

Well apparently yes.  I met Dan a couple of weeks ago, when we met up at his house.  We know his wife, Julia Morris, through our visits to the Edinburgh Festival and, er, "happy nonsense" in the bars of comedy venues.  So it was a new experience to be meeting again after quite a few years, the smell of stale beer replaced with... Acht, yes we had those conversations about diapers and sleeping and tantrums and those comedy moments that only a toddler can provide. 

Back to the point.  Dan.  He suffers the same visa issues as I.  The ladies have their visas to work due the Department of Homeland Security agreeing to their 'extraordinary ability.'  Dan and I both have MBAs - I forgot to mention that in the similarities!   Despite the qualifications and career experience we've not yet been recognized for our abilities by the folks at the Department of Homeland Security.  So we arrived here with the same rights as our children, mere dependents, draining the resources of our wives of extraordinary ability...

We had a lot to talk about and, both being from the UK, we could understand each other a full speed chat.  He also has suffered the stunned looks and completely made up coffee orders - and he doesn't even have a strong an accent.  So cutting to the chase, Lynn and Julia are accusing us of having a bro'mance.

We met up last week and that's where I started to notice the differences.  I'd say we're both comfortable in our roles and completely unchallenged in our masculinity.  However, Dan has two girls.  He's surrounded by girls all day every day.  So Dan's first suggestion as to where we should meet.... a gun club!  When we discovered it was closed during the day, he followed up suggesting a batting cage.  I wonder if he's a little bored of princesses and make up?  I'd have been happy with a latte and a mani pedi.... ;-)

Dan's bendy bat courtesy of Blackberry Bold

There's nothing quite like wondering what it will be like to have baseballs be fired at you at 50 mph.  The experience was surprisingly fun.  Both of us managed to hit about 80% of the little missiles and I think I may have discovered a new respect for this sport.  Soon I'll be a proper man, able to hold conversations with America men about baseball and bullets - and all thanks to the effect of Julia and Dan's beautiful princesses.
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Friday, March 11, 2011


The guilt trip starts here.
I feel like I achieved nothing last week.

Monday was probably the best day of the week.  My youngest had a trike-athon at his pre-school.  He was the epitome of awesome. (I must be proper a American now just by using the 'awesome' word.)  Initially all the kids were a little confused.  My guy just kept shoving his oversized rollerskate thing into the back of whoever was unfortunate enough to get in the way.  So I told him to go around and overtake his class mates.  Well he liked this and so he immediately turned the procession into a race.  Not a normal race as he was the only one racing, but by the end of it there was no doubt as to who had won.  My boy did 8 laps and his closest rival did 5.

He didn't win because it wasn't a race, however if there ever is a race he will have the mental advantage through his performance that day!

When I picked him up from pre-school later on, he seemed a little warm.  After we'd been home for about 30 minutes he was definitely hot and so I immediately gave him some paracetamol to lower his temperature.  Young kids can be susceptible to febrile convulsions due to fevers and there has been some history in our family, so we never take chances.

And that was the beginning of the end of my week.  He was fine all day Tuesday - and so he should have been, Dad was on hand at a moments notice for his every whim.  He wasn't lethargic and was fever free, so I took him back to pre-school on Wednesday.  By 10:30 he was back home, having had another mild fever.  He had another episode later in the day and so I took him to see the doctor on Thursday morning.  Apparently he had a mild bronchitis, so he has yet more antibiotics and had to stay home on Friday too.

In my mind, throughout the week I failed to give the level of care and attention to my son that I should have.  At the same time, I had tried to continue to progress my existing projects and tasks, but ultimately I had failed to make headway as much as I thought I could have.  I felt that I should have taken him to see the Doctor on Tuesday, not waited till Thursday and that I should have been able to focus my time more effectively to achieve more.

When I talked to Lynn about how rotten I felt about the week, I discovered that this is not an uncommon experience for the stay at home parent.  As ever, she managed to sum the whole thing up in a sentence.  "When you're looking after a sick child, you earn a PhD in Guilt."

So I am trying to cut myself some slack.  No one was hurt.  I juggled one sick kid, one healthy child's school schedule and still managed to progress some of my project commitments.  It's not a race and even if it were, it's not a race that can be won.
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Window Shopping.

Note: Old table and chairs by Craig's List
The past few weeks I've been mostly obsessing about windows.  Our 100 year old house in London was too drafty and hence costly to heat even when we lived there over 2 years ago.  So when our friend, who now rents the house from us, mentioned "slight troubles with the windows," we knew it was time to reach deep into our pockets. Ouch!  Now you probably already know how little I like spending money on anything without 'cycle' in its name... so that was tough.

Actually the UK end was sort of easy.  Our friend did the leg work, got the quotes and we suddenly realized that we really didn't care about the aesthetic anymore.  When we lived there, we could never decide what to do. Should we retrofit new wooden replicas of the original sash windows or buy plastic doesn't-really-look-a-likey versions?  When you're sure that your not returning, you just want cheap, solid and low maintenance.

Here has been trickier.  Removing two very small stained glass windows in an exposed brick wall caused lots of discussions and horrified looks.  I sat on the fence mostly.  The stained glass windows were decrepit, ugly, noisy, drafty and required unsightly bars to make them secure.  The brick wall was disgustingly dirty, dusty, salt-stained and sucked light from the room.  Hopefully, you can tell from my description that I remained open and malleable to all other viewpoints. ;-)

People love brick - it's sort of rare here, I think because the earthquakes demolish it so readily.  The day we had the first coat of primer on the wall a visitor remarked, "Aren't you just really tempted to have it shot blasted back to the bare brick?!"

And like the brick, people love stained glass windows here too.  Lynn has also fallen for them.  So now 4 tiny, buckled, rotten and bowed windows sit in our garage.  I expect they'll remain there for about at least a year or so, but if you know where I should, or just could, sell such things then please let me know where to offload them and I'll happily donate a cut to a charity of your choice.
Note: New table and chairs by Craig's List
Well I think it looks a lot better, so there!  If you disagree, then by all means drop me a comment once you've left a donation to the Cumbernauld House Trust.  Some things are worth keeping and others are just tired dusty walls with rotten windows...
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Predict the Future.

Bedford Bridge from Antiquities of England (17...Image via WikipediaI drafted this blog entry earlier this month, but didn't press publish because I felt it needed something else.

"A long time ago, in fact more than 15 years ago, I lived in Bedford, England.  It's a small town north of London known for brick works and John Bunyan who spent 12 years in Bedford Gaol (where he wrote The Pilgrims Progress).

While in Bedford, I worked for the Royal Air Force Signals Engineering Establishment at RAF Henlow and rented a room from a Mr Philip Bunnage.  Phil and I were in our mid twenties and quite often bored.  Mostly we attempted to cure the boredom with beer or motorcycles (beer and motorcycles don't mix).

If I was feeling particularly negative, I would say we wasted our time there.  However in California speak I'd say that I think we figured out what was important to each of us, and slowly made the moves which ultimately set us up for the rest of our lives... Sentences like that almost make me shiver, brrr!

Phil now lives in New Zealand and our other flat mate (room mate in US speak?) from then, Mike, now lives in Tasmania.  So Bedford may well have spurred us all on to see a bit more of the world.

Phil visited me last weekend, he was on his way back to New Zealand and so stopped over in LA for 2 nights.  He'd just crewed on a yacht from Australia to Brazil, taking nearly 6 months and spending quite a bit of the time in Africa.  He phoned me from Panama and I was blown away by how odd that seemed, and how far from Bedford we'd come.

They say that you can never predict never future, and I think I've just witnessed proof of this saying.  I know that when in Bedford, no one, not ourselves, not our critics, not our friends, would have predicted correctly where we'd be in 15 years time.  I really hope that the next 15 years are just as positive, thrilling and productive, but I won't be attempting to make any predictions. Brrr!"
Phil had mentioned how, whilst he had been sailing, there was the big earthquake in Christchurch, NZ and how weird it was to have to rely on friends to check for damage to his house and vehicles (as I said we share the obsession for motorcycles, except he has 5 and I now have none).  As it turns out, he got home just in time to inspect the damage from the last quake and then experience the full effect of the recent 6.3 magnitude quake.  Who would have predicted that?

I found this video which makes me think how Phil would react to an earthquake... except replace the glass of wine with a beer and the TV for his beloved motorcycles... I'm so glad he's ok.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Something wrong with the picture.

Even cloudy weather can have an effect here.
I had a great night on Friday.

First I was given a wake up call by a friend - Not the kind you get when you stay in a hotel, more the "Mate, what were you thinking?" kind of thing.  I know that doesn't sound lovely, but it was.  I think if someone cares enough to say you're making a mistake, when it would've been easier to just agree, then you should sit up and listen.

I was thinking I should start setting up a simple business to help small companies start to use social media.  When in actual fact I was merely falling into that trap that grabs us all from time to time.  Just because you can, doesn't mean you should and just because there's money to be made, doesn't mean your life would be made any better.  For example, I quite like maths and I can understand double entry accounting, and accountants can make good money...  Not that there's anything at all wrong with being an accountant just, if I'm honest with myself, I'd be miserable.

I was having a drink with my friend, in order to remove him from his home whilst his partner readied a surprise birthday party.  It was a tough job drinking great beer, in the company of a good friend, in a lovely warm bar on a rainy Friday night.  Keeping the party secret was surprisingly easy and the effect on my friend was suitably impressive.  He was still babbling and confused at the number of friends in his home by the time I left at 11:30'ish.

Now for a piece of advice if you're ever in Los Angeles in the winter time.  Avoid driving in the rain if you can.  Especially at night and particularly on a Friday / Saturday night.  It doesn't matter how good a driver you are, you will soon see so many accidents that it becomes obvious that an incident free journey is totally outside your area of control.

I drove 10 miles and luckily only saw 3 accidents.  One minor shunt before I got to the 405 freeway, one spinner temporarily closing the opposite carriageway and then just after I joined the 101 freeway all the cars around me suddenly slowed.  I couldn't see anything wrong, but slowed too.  I was looking for debris or just something that would have caused the sudden caution, but I saw nothing.

Then I realized that the car leaving by the Van Nuys Blvd exit didn't look right.  As I stared at it I thought, why are it's lights white?  That'll be because it's reversing.  Then I thought, why are there so many sparks?  That'll be because a lot of the car has been smashed off and is being dragged along the pavement.  The car was now distinctly second-hand and was reversing at about 40mph down the exit ramp.  Somehow the driver seemed to be more in control in reverse and so the car hadn't initially looked out of place...

So I had a great night.  There was fun and then I got home without anyone crashing their car into mine.
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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Social Medium

I did a fun thing yesterday.  Perhaps not everybody's cup of tea, but fun for me.  It was a fun day for Lynn too, as she spent the day being the stay at home Mom again... and she loved it.

I went to a seminar on Social Media run by CBS radio and I had a ball.  It wasn't the best event ever, but it was informative and at points there were even a few laughs.  I loved it because it was like dipping my toe back into the world of work and business and communicating with adults and management and jargon and buzz words and.... and it just made me happy.

One of the best bits was the understanding.  I understood what all of the speakers were talking about, indeed I'd wished they'd gone in a bit deeper.  As with most business seminars, there were too many lists of important cliches, like "it's important to be authentic." I'm not sure why there seems to be an assumption that it used to be a successful strategy in business to lie.  The saying, "you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time" is as old as time itself.  Though I suppose it's more relevant when you're broadcasting over twitter to everyone, and that just one person can expose a lie with crushing effectiveness.

My favorite part of the experience was when I followed our host's instructions and asked a question of the panel by tweeting with the hash tag #cbssoc.  The panel were somewhat lost in a love-in about the beautiful effect that an influential blogger can have when they mention your product favorably.  I'd recently read an article about how bloggers reviewing movies seem to be pretty much in line with the reviews that the traditional media are publishing.  Further, universal critical acclaim by bloggers and the traditional media wasn't having much effect on audience figures.  It's thought that we are actually persuaded more by our facebook friends' status on which movies to see and that the reviews have little sway whatsoever.

So I tweeted, "Do bloggers really matter, most seem to review similarly to traditional media journalists? #cbssoc."  Mine was the first question of the panel and the host introduced it with the statement, "I don't think he was intending to be insulting..."

Hmm.  I was a little nervous.  I hadn't meant to insult and so it appeared I'd just demonstrated what I'd call, "the law of unintended consequences" and others what called something different and added to their lists of important things to always consider...  I so hate those lists, almost as much as I hate the phrase "it's just common sense."  Common sense isn't common, experience is individual and so common experience is as rare as common conclusions.  It's often said that if 10 people witness an accident they'll give 10 different views, so where's this common sense then?  Sorry, I'm ranting and off topic.  I was lucky and had not insulted the panel.  In fact their response was wonderful, as they gave real life examples as to how blogs had directly helped their brands, businesses and clients.

And later when I got home, I started to get some responses to my tweet.  The first was from @tdhurst saying, "I'm a writer who blogs. I matter."  So back to that list of important things to consider... your digital footprint doesn't go away, even and especially if, you try to ignore it.

Over time I've become convinced that I learn far more by doing, than by reading books - especially if those books are full of lists of important things you should always consider.  So this one day seminar has taught me quite a lot really.

I think the day could have been better though.  It would have been nice if they had tried to create an online community of the audience or just used social media more innovatively throughout the day.  However it's all too easy to give advice in hindsight and I didn't stay till the end, so my review loses some credibility as I missed the last speaker.  My excuse is that I finally left because the thermostat was set to ABERDEEN-SCOTLAND and although I tweeted about that too, I think they only reset it to FALKIRK-SCOTLAND.  As I remember it, on many of the lists of important things to consider, were strategies to respond to negative criticism or comments.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Just an idea.

So Lynn had this idea.  It started a while back and it still hasn't gone away.  It scares me.  Actually it scares me quite a bit.

So here's the idea, as best I can explain it.  Lynn is writing a play for an English actor.  It's for the "Biographies In A Bag" series, but there's a specific challenge to conquer.  The actor is pretty much confined to his bedroom as he fights MS.  So he can't tread the boards of the stage, but he could appear projected on a screen on stage...  And his projected image could act alongside another actor... And we could stream this performance back to our friend in his bed, so that he can witness his own performance.

One of the nicest pieces of feedback from our live stream of Rachel Ogilvy's performance was from a lady, who thanked us as she enjoyed watching great theatre without having to plan her evening around wheelchair access.  So clearly we must continue, and to continue we must push some more boundaries.

Our actor is known for his fantastic improv work and his performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  So how about he has his Hollywood debut streamed to a theatre in Edinburgh as part of the festival?  And how about we stream him live to both theatres?  And how about we live stream Elvis watching the live stream of both theatres?

With technology there are few limits, only budgets and timescales and risks, though I'm not sure how interested Elvis is in theatre anymore.

24 hours.

I thought I could write this post in the Jack Bauer, 24 style.  Starting 20:10hrs : Arrived Soho House.  But the style got in the way of the story.  The point of it was that in 24 hours I went from feeling fantastic at a great Burns Night party in an exclusive private club, to being at the pits of sleep deprived paranoia caring for my sickly children.

We arrived at Soho House at the same time as a very famous actress.  She got to the desk first, but because we were expected, we found ourselves away in the elevator before her.  I took this as a sign that this was going to be a fun night and I wasn't wrong.

A Burns Night can be a tricky thing to get right.  Robert Burn's poetry can be great fun, but it's still poetry and how many great poetry-based evenings have you gone to exactly?  From the moment the piper arrived and we made our way to our dining room, this felt special.  Macallan's whisky sponsored the event, hosted by Duncan Quinn, so we experienced both taste and style.  Oh and the chef from the restaurant, 'The Gorbals' made the most amazing haggis.  Like the food, the poetry readings were well chosen and suitable sized.

We met some amazing people and within about an hour, I persuaded Lynn to become my designated driver... Soon after, a character known only as the Red Baron - supposedly with some links to the German aristocracy, was found searching under the table.  Apparently he'd lost his wedding ring and though clearly perturbed at the loss, he managed to retain his good humor and effortless smile.  The next piece of poetry was about love and the young couple who read it, were in the midst of planning their wedding.  Somehow, this discovery led to an instant wedding "pre-enactment" where the Red Baron married the beautiful couple and thus 'saved' them the expense of a more normal ceremony.  It was a truly moving experience, after all we even had the man with the bag pipes for the walk down the aisle.

You may note from this experience that not everyone was sober.  I felt fine but was glad Lynn was driving when we departed at about 12:30am.

After such a fun evening, things really changed at 2am.  I awoke to hear my youngest coughing.  He was still sleeping but he was wheezing quite badly.  He wasn't hot, but he didn't sound good.  As he was sleeping, I hoped he'd just sleep it off.  At 4am, he awoke needing water, he was aware and lucid and immediately went back to sleep.  I couldn't sleep, the wheezing worried me and so I just lay there, waiting in case he needed me.  My tension woke Lynn at 4:30am and we agreed to let him continue to sleep and then get him to the doctors in the morning.  We were all up at just after 6am.

Once up, it became apparent that my eldest also was suffering with a slightly milder cold /flu.  So I now had both my boys off school and had to get both of them to the first available doctors appointment at 10:25am.

My youngest wheezed so badly, he couldn't walk from the car to the doctors' surgery.  The doctor wanted to use a nebulizer, however my baby had other ideas, kicking her and the nurse as hard as he could.  In end, I banished all health professionals from the room after they tried unsuccessfully to pin down my child and hold the mask to his face.

Previously the same doctor had unsuccessfully tried the same pin down technique to try to remove his ear wax.  That experience resulted in my little guy saying, "We're NOT going to the Doctors!"every time he saw a tall building.  Only through a white lie about Buzz Lightyear going to the doctor, had we diminished this doctor phobia...but that's another story.

My son is willful.  He is smart and he is resourceful.  It took me about 15 minutes to persuade him to try the nebulizer.  It seemed a very long 15 minutes, but there was none of the screaming and violence that had preceded.  He eventually accepted that we weren't leaving till he did it.  He understood that the doctor and I just wanted him to get better.  So, in his own time, he tried the demon machine.  The first attempt was just 5 seconds and I stopped it the moment he shouted "STOP!"  Eventually, he took 2 full doses, his wheezing ceased and this blood oxygen levels returned to normal.  In the end we were at the doctors' surgery for 2 full hours.  (That's $6 for the parking right there!)

Armed with 4 prescriptions, I left the doctor and headed for the pharmacy and it's associated labyrinth of nonsense.  I don't know why there's always a problem every time I go to to the pharmacy, there just is.  I've tried different pharmacies, but it doesn't make a difference.  This time the problem was the nebulizer.  "This is Medical Supplies," said the pharmacist.  When I said that I didn't know what she meant, she ignored me and checked she had all the drugs for the other prescriptions.  It was only when I pointed out to her that in my humble opinion, pharmacies are stocked almost entirely with "medical supplies" that even she attempted to explain.

I took my boys home for lunch and immediately after my youngest napped.  So I used this time to investigate "medical supplies."

Apparently, machines like nebulizers are sold by the special stores that also sell wheelchairs and those Rascal mobility scooters.  The next challenge was to find a store that takes our WGA health insurance... Pharmacists classify nebulizers medical supplies, insurers as I discovered categorize them "Durable Medical Equipment (DME)."  In the end, I just bought one, signed a form and fully expect to hear nothing more about being recompensed.

By the time Lynn was home from work, I was exhausted.  My boy, at least, was feeling much better.  He'd had his medicine, he'd used his new machine and now he was using his new energy to torment his older brother.

Lynn was spent too.  We fought over who should make dinner.  It's my job, but I was tardy in the execution of my duties.  To cut a long story short, this grown man cried.  I was finished, all my fight was gone.  I had fought sleep deprivation, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical insurers and medical supplies stores and I had nothing left.

Apparently some men think their stay at home wives are weak and emotional, I think those men need to stay home more.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sleep is never easy.

At last we can sleep easy.  The shows are finished, the web streaming is done and Rachel has left for London.  Apart from Rachel leaving, all is good.

During the shows was another matter though.  I don't think we'll ever do more plays when Lynn is still at work.  She was exhausted spending all day writing jokes for her brother's voice and then performing at night.  The adrenalin produced during the performance doesn't dissipate easy and so sleep can be tricky.

Our youngest also was finding sleep difficult.  He decided that he didn't like that we were out and so refused to sleep till we got home.  He was up till 11:30pm for all three nights and his face turned a kind of grey color with the fatigue.  Being that tired really messed him up.  He was pretty much always in a good mood when we got home, though he appeared to be trashed; all staggering, uncoordinated and slurring his speech.  He was even just as uncooperative, but easily fooled, as a drunk...and so each night I tricked him into his bed.

Sunday was our first day without any visitors, or work, or shows to prepare for.  We all went to bed early on Saturday night and so when our younger dictator awoke at 6am, we grabbed the opportunity and headed for the beach.  We could not have had a better time and had a timely reminder of how wonderful this place can be.  I think we need to go to the beach more, hike more and most importantly sleep more.

So for our projects we're firmly in the "never again" school of thought!  And so we're now preparing for the next run of Heart & Sole in February....  I know, we're gluttons for punishment but somehow each time we learn more, we can't help but set a new goal...
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Sunday, January 16, 2011


Photo: Rich Marchewka
I know it's coming.  I tried to ignore it.  Almost completely ignored it through the Christmas holidays.  The last few weeks have been crazy as we prepared for it.  Tomorrow it starts.

Every time Lynn says, "The next play we should do is...," my heart should sink, but it rarely does.  We seem to gather enthusiasm from somewhere and before we know it we're talking about how we can make this the best yet.  Once we're committed, then follows a calm.  A period of reflection I suppose.  Every so often one of us will blurt out another 'great idea.'  The great idea will be discussed for a couple of minutes before the awkward silence appears, and then we watch the TV.

And all the time we are drifting towards the committed dates.  Stuff does happen in this period.  There is a plan.  Really, it's not necessarily written down, but there is a plan.  In that plan is a sketchy idea of how we take care of our boys.  We always plan to spend more relaxation time with them before the shows, but nearly always that's a naive intention.  Apparently, there something called rehearsals and line runs and web sites and designing images and printing and promoting and... you get the picture.

Yesterday my eldest played basketball, and won!!! Then he had a play-date. [Note: A play-date in the US is where your kid goes to a friend's house to play.]   Meanwhile my youngest pretty much did as he always does... whatever he damn well wants to!  There's been a lot of Backyardigans watched.  There's been a lot of play dough shaped and left to dry.  And there's been a lot of toys left out in a specific pattern designed to impale any un-shoed foot.

Now there's no silence in my head at all.  There's just a mush of lists and thoughts and what if's.  Tomorrow's performance will be fun, no doubt, but when planning this event, why did I think starting on a Public Holiday might be good for audience figures?  When I should have been thinking, how will I cope with the kids being off school?

[Go to for details of the shows.  Rachel Ogilvey's performance on Wednesday Jan 17 will be filmed for all to watch either live or within 24 hours of the show closing - just register with the website beforehand.]

Friday, January 7, 2011

Financial Viewpoint From Our 8 Year Old

Our eldest has started to understand the world of finance.

First he started to grasp the concept that I couldn't afford to buy him toys every time we went  to a store.  Perhaps telling him we could either buy a toy or food for dinner was a little dramatic... but it worked (he was hungry!)

We have 4 'Aunties' visiting at the moment and so the other day they took him to the beach.  He was very pleased to be considered old enough to 'look after' the Aunties by himself.  Whilst out with the Aunties, one Aunty delayed their return to the car (and his Nintendo) saying she needed to go to the ATM to get cash.  Our boy responded, "If you need cash, then why don't you get a job?"  At least he gets the principle, his brother thinks Lynn works for chocolate brownies - and frankly he's content to let her go to work so long as she returns with the brownies.

And then, whilst at the local supermarket, my eldest pointed out to me that they are hiring at the moment...  I think he's just keen for me to start earning, so we won't have to choose between toys and food!

In fact I think he might understand finance better than me, currently all my effort is centered around charity and non-profit enterprises.  Lynn and one of the 'Aunties' will be performing at the Stella Adler - LA with all profits going to the school - see here for info and tickets.  Once that's over I'll return to my other formative obsession of how to help my friends use social media and internet mapping software for their charity cycle rides.  One's planning to go LA to NY in aid of Parkinsons charities and the other is already booked to do the San Francisco to LA Aids/Lifecycle.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New year, same old apologies...

1/1/11 was a funny day for me.  Well, not initially.  You see our Hogmanay celebrations were very good indeed.  I even won the 'best dressed man' award at a pajama party (skilful use of a Ferguson tie and an Ekky Thump hat).  In fact it was all so good that I didn't get to sleep till 2:30... and then my youngest awoke at 4:30 for half an hour of intense negotiations, followed by a too-short 3 hour nap.

So I was a little tired starting this new year.  I'm never quite at my best in the morning and so I met the day particularly grumpily.

I couldn't shake my mood till I became aware of something idiotic.  For some unknown reason, I'd not noticed a little error in my last blog post of 2010.  I'll call it a typo, though I made the same error twice (including the title!).  You see the Scottish toast is spelt, Slainte Mhath... I even linked to a definition page with the correct spelling.  I dropped the 'T' in Mhath - I fear I may be called Mr Weddle in future!

This error made me laugh a lot, though not as much as Mrs T.  You see, I'd avoided asking her to proof read the offending blog post because Lynn had 'edited' a previous draft to a point that I became overly huffy as I no longer recognised as my own.

So I start the New Year with an apology.  I sincerely apologise for my errors and my grumpiness of 2010.  To try to make amends, my New Year's resolutions are to be more open to seek help and to try to laugh a little more.  ;-)