Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Quiet in between Lights and Dreams

I can feel it. Dan and Jon. Soon, together, they would be. They're there, living their lives together, I know, I knew it too.

Last night, I was in Pittsburgh. In my jeans, a tee, boots, sitting on the bench on Mount Washington. A cool Spring shower passing overhead, the lights of the beautiful city dancing in front of me, down the cliff and across the river. I swallowed my dinner, feeling the cool rain touch me. I didn't cry! I was happy, even though I was with myself and nobody else, and people, a few of them, walked by in front of me on the sidewalk overlooking the cliff, they glanced, wondering. I was happy! The lights were dancing.

I know it, they enjoyed themselves too last night, or so I imagine, because I will never know for sure. Enjoying their lives together, despite the falseness of separation, uncertainty.

Despite all this, I know what I'm going to do! The silent voices give me the words to go on, and I see tomorrow, tonight, love, peace.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You wouldn't get on a plane

Dying Amazon, Franz von Stuck

Amazon 'faces more deadly droughts'

By James Painter
Latin America analyst

Two years ago the world was shocked by pictures of hundreds of rotting fish floating in the world's second largest river.

Stranded villagers stared in bewilderment at dried out banks, and helicopters delivered food and water to isolated river communities.

They were the images of the widespread drought in 2005 in the Amazon - an area of lush rainforest in most people's imagination. It was the worst in some areas since records began, and prompted the Brazilian government to declare a state of emergency.

Nearly two years on, the world may have forgotten the drought, but the scientific community has not. Meeting at Oxford University this week, many of the world's leading experts on climate change and Amazonia have been grappling with issues critical to the future climate of the world.

Did global warming cause the drought? How likely is it that such droughts will be repeated in a warming world? And just how much devastation did the drought cause?

There was broad consensus that the 2005 drought was linked not to El Nino - the periodic phenomenon which begins with a warming of waters in the Pacific - as with most previous droughts in the Amazon, but to warming sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic.

Peter Cox, professor in climate change dynamics at the University of Essex in the UK, thinks the same factors which caused the drought are likely to be repeated.

What drives it, he says, is the warming of the North Atlantic Ocean in the Tropics relative to the South - this causes less rain to fall.

'Forest dieback'

So how often could such droughts happen?

The Hadley Centre climate change model predicts that, under current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the chances of such a drought would rise from 5% now (one every 20 years) to 50% by 2030, and to 90% by 2100.

"We can't say for sure that any individual drought such as the one in 2005 is caused by global warming," says Mr Cox.

"But we can say the probability of such an event will increase as a result of human-induced climate change and could be very common indeed by the end of the century."

The Hadley Centre model is one of several global climate models (GCMs) attempting to predict weather changes in the Amazon.

It is best known for warning of catastrophic losses of forest in the Amazon over a period of decades known as "forest dieback".

Other models show very different patterns of rainfall over the Amazon, but experts at the conference regard the Hadley model as one of the more robust.

"The Hadley Centre model does a credible job," says Carlos Nobre, the Brazilian chair of the International Geosphere-Biosphere programme.

"What all the GCMs predict is much greater variability in the weather, and the Hadley model captures that well."

Human factor?

There is less uncertainty about the impact and the unusual nature of the 2005 drought.

"It was very atypical in its location and intensity," says Mr Nobre.

"Most Amazonian droughts occur in the north-eastern Amazon, but this one started in the west and south-west, and its impact spread as far as the centre and east."

Downstream in the city of Manaus, the Amazon's level dropped three metres lower than average.

Many communities dependent on the river for transport were left stranded as tributaries dried out. For the first time, a very large spread of forest fires was recorded in the south-west region.

New research by Luiz Aragao at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute shows the extent of the fires.

"An area of 2,800 sq km (1081 sq miles) was lost due to an extensive leakage of fires into newly-flammable forest," he says.

That is an area more than 1.5 times the size of Greater London.

Mr Aragao's research shows the fires occurred mainly where there was human activity which could ignite them.

In other areas affected by the drought where there are few humans, such as south-eastern Peru, there was little evidence of any fires.

High impact

The more alarming predictions for the Amazon say the combination of forest fires, drought, deforestation, changes in land use (such as soya production) and global warming will combine to push the Amazon over a "tipping point" into a cycle of destruction.

Scientists at the conference were keen to stress they do not know the risk of this occurring, but talked instead of "corridors of probability".

There is disagreement over these corridors.

"The Hadley Centre model predicts it is very likely indeed that the Amazon will be severely impacted by climate change over the next few decades," says Professor Cox.

"But if you take all the models, then maybe a 10 to 40% probability is more defensible."

But however low the probability, changes to the Amazon are likely to be a "high impact" event on the world's climate.

As one conference speaker pointed out: "You wouldn't get on a plane if you knew there was a 10% chance of it crashing."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Some thoughts on an early Spring night in March

I wrote a whole bunch here just now, but some blogger error erased everything. Fucking hell. I am so fucking pissed. I wanted to say thanks everyone, especially Sue, for reading and commenting on my blog. And I had all those other things that I wrote about. I'm thinking Dan and Jon are getting back together -- at least I imagine that they are. Jon mentioned somewhere he's quitting smoking, and I imagine Dan to be too (It's always what I wished for, and I told Dan that.) It's almost like they'll get back together soon. They're good friends and all. It'd be false for me to say I want that to happen, but I'd be happy for Dan. God! I so fucking still love him so much, although the words here don't make it sound like I do. This is so not what I wrote just now, I'm just fucking pissed and sleepy now.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The boy that is me

Today I sent an email to Dan. I wrote it with all my heart. As best as I could, I gave him my few words of encouragement. I felt like I was softly floating on a fluffy cloud for a few moments after that.

I told my co-worker Kim that I've decided on adopting a golden retriever from the shelter after all. She loves dogs too, so I told her she could be my dog's godmother in the future. Tomorrow we're thinking of hitting the bar for a Friday evening drink or two. Looking forward to that!

Went swimming twice today. I know, I'm going a little over the top with the swimming. Tonight, Matt showed me the thumb drag drill. Katie, the chatty lifeguard, helped me too. I had a fun time. At one point, though, my fears and insecurities took over me momentarily and I burst into silly laughter. I got the funny look from Matt. It's me the silly, insecure boy who ends up behaving oddly because he's trying too hard to be cool, funny.

So I tell myself and everyone here, those goals I set for myself earlier don't mean a thing if I don't face up to the rocks that are really pulling me down, and those rocks are my fears and insecurities. And what are they? I fear loneliness, and I'm totally insecure about the way I look. I fear losing the things in my life, so I don't relax and chill, and I'm self-conscious about my own behavior. Funny those happens most acutely in the company of good-looking men. Tonight I own up here, and from tonight I shall not let those fears and insecurities overtake me again.

Also, I want to own up to two incidents that I have been hiding. The first happened when I was in Berkeley. I was still a closeted guy back then. I followed a really good-looking dude around (yeah, stalked him) and took pictures of him just to look at them afterwards. But very soon I was caught and confronted on the streets. It's long ago, but I remember him demanding, "Are you fucking gay?" To which I replied, "Are you homophobic?" Thanks to the times that we live in and to all the good gay guys who sacrificed themselves before my time, I saw a look of embarrassment on his face. The naive boy in me kept wanting to explain that I meant no harm at all, I was but a poor little obsessed fool who couldn't find an outlet for his gay love.

The second incident happened some time ago, just before I finally came out. Again it was a question of misplaced admiration. Long story short, I said to this really hot dude that I really wanted to suck his cock right now. Of course he got totally livid. At the time, I only saw that I was just being honest, and I wanted to know really badly why straight men should get upset. After all, I didn't mean it in any bad way at all.

So starting from tonight, from now on, I shall hold my head high and slowly untie the bind to those fears and insecurities. When you see my picture up on this page, you'd know I've finally made it.

As you know, I'm really into swimming, so I'm going to be working on those drills and more, and really learn as much as I can. Also, today I got a reply to a note I sent to someone so I'm delighted. Watch me, I feel like I'm finally starting to break away from the bad things plaguing me. Watch me, I shall swim on! I'm free, free from those horrid things!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thinking of

Today was a good day at work. Today was a decent day at the pool.

Articles from the BBC

Viewpoints: Abe sex slave row

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said there is no evidence that women were forced to become sex slaves, or so-called comfort women, by the Japanese army during World War II.

The BBC News website spoke to people across East Asia about Mr Abe's remarks and their impact on Japan's relations with its neighbours.


Abe's remarks are inevitably going to have a huge impact on Japan's relations with its neighbours.

The memories of the bitter colonisation are still fresh in Korean people's minds. There are still people, including my grandparents, who lived through it.

Hearing stories about that period has had a huge impact on young people's views on Japan. Although many young Koreans have an interest in Japanese culture and language, it is impossible to forget what happened only two, three generations ago.

I visited the House of Sharing - a government-sponsored establishment for former comfort women and I translated the testimony of one of the women living there. I have been unable to forget this experience.

She told us how she was sold by her step-father, how brutally she was beaten and raped by soldiers and how she was later rejected by society, including her own family.

She then answered a question from a Japanese student who asked what the young Japanese generation could do to put her mind at peace.

Her answer was: 'A formal apology and compensation from the Japanese government.'

This is what former comfort women demonstrate for every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Japan's failure to acknowledge its war crimes is a huge hurdle in establishing good relations with its neighbours.

I had high hopes for Abe when he took office. I was hoping that he can undo the damage done by Koizumi's frequent visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.

Now I firmly believe that he is worse than Koizumi. It is hypocritical of him to claim he wants to improve Japan's ties with its neighbours and then blatantly deny what happened less than a century ago.


Mr Abe's remarks on comfort women will have been received with varying degree of outrage in China.

You will almost certainly get uniform responses saying that the Japanese government's constant denial of their country's historical crimes, like the using of comfort women and the Nanjing massacre, is disgusting.

To most Chinese these are unquestionable facts: they were taught at school and were reinforced through media over and over again.

The majority of China's repressed teenagers, who are desperately trying to find a target for their anger and frustration, would not miss this chance. You can well expect a storm of verbal assaults on Abe from teenagers and students on major Chinese online forums.

They cannot openly attack the Communist regime because that would only get them into trouble.

Therefore, the aggressive diplomatic stance taken by Japan, which most young Chinese regard as an economically developed, yet annoying neighbour, would be seen as a socially and politically acceptable target for their anger.

On the other hand, the working population will have little time to worry about what Mr Abe has got to say because they have enough problems of their own.

It must have been very clear to Mr Abe that the issue of comfort women is an extremely sensitive one in neighbouring countries who were once victims of Japan's militaristic ambitions.

He must have made his own political calculations before making that remark. He wanted to send a clear message that the new government's foreign policy is in line with that of the previous one.

What he achieved though was to put Japan in a disadvantageous diplomatic position. By continuously denying and downplaying historical crimes, Japan will become a common enemy without a friend in this region.


For a Japanese prime minister to openly and seriously suggest that women were not coerced to become sex slaves is incredibly stupid.

I don't think any of Shinzo Abe's predecessors have put it quite this way.

I think that he is no different from Junichiro Koizumi or any other Japanese conservative politician.

People in Taiwan have mixed feelings for Japan. At the beginning of the 20th century Taiwan was part of the Japanese empire.

The Japanese did lots of industrial construction, while at the same time they treated Taiwanese people as second-class human beings.

But when the Kuomintang (KMT) came along, the order established by the Japanese fell apart. The KMTs chaotic ways were in a stark contrast to how the Japanese ruled during the colonial days.

I think this is one important reason why so many elderly people have good memories of Japan. And Japan's domination of our island wasn't as bloody as in other parts of the Japanese empire.

As for the atrocities the Japanese committed during World War II, I feel that the government's attitude moves more and more towards denial.

They think that they are a glorious race. So it would be very embarrassing for them acknowledge the truth and tell their young generation about their past deeds.

They probably think that time will erase the humiliation and memories of what they've done.

I think China will give Japan a hard time over this. Japanese who have businesses in China may well find themselves on the receiving end.

The more powerful China and Korea become, the more justice they will demand from the Japanese government. This is the epitome of international political reality.


Japan's refusal to acknowledge war-time crimes is predictable. According to their version of history, Japan never committed atrocities during the war.

What is emphasised in their history books are the heroics of their soldiers during World War II.

Until their historical books are completely rewritten, the Japanese people will never understand why their neighbours feel so strongly about this subject.

Mr Abe's remarks are typical of a politician who wants to retain his lofty position in the Japanese political world.

Maybe he is under pressure from the conservatives to make that kind of statement. He wouldn't want to antagonise them, as his position might become insecure.

There isn't much interest in the Philippines about what Mr Abe has to say on the issue of comfort women. The majority of people are much more interested in the forthcoming elections.

Even the Philippine's official position came out mute in the papers - it was buried inside the pages.

The Philippines reaction may not be able to create a significant threat to Mr Abe's position in view of our dependence on Japanese aid.

However, what Mr Abe does not realise is that other countries offended by his remarks, like China and South Korea, carry more political and economic weight to make decisions that could affect Japan.

Best of British

A cut glass English accent can fool unsuspecting Americans into detecting a "brilliance that isn't there", says Stephen Fry. So is a British accent - of any variety - the route to success in the United States?
"Gee, I just love your accent."

Any Brit crossing the Atlantic will have heard that line many times. Like the rest of us, Americans are rarely immune to the charms of an accent different from their own.

There's the amusement value of listening to someone who sounds like they might just punctuate their sentences with "oh, behave". And a British accent can conjure up a stereotype of a polite, droll, self-effacing race.

But very few Brits are like Hugh Grant (Grant himself has kicked over the traces of his Four Weddings and a Funeral persona), and Stephen Fry speculates that Americans may be dazzled by the British accent.

"I shouldn't be saying this, high treason really, but I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting a brilliance that may not really be there."

Fry - who puts his own melodious tones down to having "vocal cords made of tweed" - made the suggestion after seeing a "blitz of Brits" scoop many of this year's Golden Globes and Oscars.

His comments come as a new generation of British stars are trying to prove themselves in the US, while staying true to their regional roots (and more are landing plum jobs in US hit shows with accents other than their own).

About to try their luck are Ant and Dec, who will record the pilot of a new ABC game show - not a bad score in a country where they are best known for a brief cameo playing themselves in Love Actually, and as tone-deaf American Idol contestants playing a joke on judge Simon Cowell, currently the US's favourite pantomime limey baddie.

The network hopes they will enjoy more success than previous imports Anne Robinson and Johnny Vaughan - his 2005 game show My Kind of Town was cancelled after four episodes, with entertainment industry paper The Hollywood Reporter describing the Londoner as "heavily accented (and equally heavily annoying)".

America's most wanted

Another Brit currently feted in the US is Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen, who gave Rolling Stone a rare interview as himself, rather than in character. The magazine was much taken with his "deep, genteel British accent", which in the UK might be described as educated north London.

"For most Americans, there's no distinction between British accents. For us, there's just one sort of British accent, and it's better than any American accent - more educated, more genteel," says Rosina Lippi-Green, a US academic and author of English with an Accent: Language, Ideology and Discrimination in the United States.

"It's a way of speaking that is all tied up with the Old Country, the Queen."

This perception extends to any UK accent, she says, divorcing the voice from any regional or class associations it might carry for a fellow Brit.

"There was a sitcom called Dead Like Me with a Brit [Callum Blue] in it. He was a scruffy, 20-something drug dealer. Even he had that sort of patina - his was not an RP accent, it was a working class London accent."

As for Parminder Nagra, plucked from Bend It Like Beckham to star in ER with her soft Midlands accent intact: "Oh, she's thought to be very, very classy, very Oxbridge."

And Simon Cowell, minting it as an American Idol judge? "He's the classic stereotype of a stuck-up Englishman - and stuck-up is something that goes with that perception of Britishness." Little wonder he's found success - the British baddie is a Hollywood staple.

Master and servant

As is the English butler. Henry Pryor, the founder of and the Register Of Estate Agents website, worked for Savills International in the late 1980s and early 90s, helping wealthy US buyers purchase flashy dockside apartments, gracious town houses and country piles in the UK.

"Our accents added a huge amount to what they thought they were buying into. This was the age of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Brideshead Revisited - and Arthur, in which John Gielgud played a butler. They approached having an English broker in the same way as having an English tailor or butler - it was a trophy of sorts."

And with a classic public school accent, Mr Pryor played up his Englishness. "It added cachet - you were buying a piece of English real estate from a guy who spoke just like Hugh Grant, and might look foppishly like him. I suspect it's the flipside of what my mother's generation found during World War II - the English seduced by American accents."

Katharine Jones, author of Accent of Privilege: English Identities and Anglophilia in the US, says the cultured associations have a long history. "British etiquette books have been used for years; and although Americans say they have no class system, they do - and the American upper class apes the British upper class."

Then there is the air of authority such a voice carries, hence the number of ads that use English-accented voiceover artists for products such as insurance and mouth wash.

Good neighbours

Whereas UK expats in Australia tend to lose their accents quite quickly, those in the US are less likely to, Ms Jones says. "They don't have as much incentive to change because of the perceived benefits - leaving a message in a 'posh' accent about a sought-after apartment and the landlady rings you straight back; the ripped-up parking tickets..."

And the job offers. Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman is currently recording his fourth series of the US version of the BBC show, Dancing with the Stars. He describes his own voice and choice of phrases as Cockney.

"Part of the reason they wanted me was my accent. Along with Bruno Tonioli, who's Italian, it lends the judging panel a cosmopolitan edge."

But he has modified the way he talks. "I do have to speak more slowly, and I play up to it. I might say 'that wasn't my cup of tea' or 'give it a bit of welly'. They love those quirky phrases."

As one who could never be described as sounding like the Queen, Goodman finds that his regional accent often confuses listeners. "I get asked if I'm Australian."

So does Liverpudlian Alison Walters, an immigration lawyer in Los Angles. But she enjoys feeling unique, and says that people are more friendly, and treat her with respect. "You do get preferential treatment and more of people's time, but I do think that is also down to our manners - saying please and thank you."

Then there's the perception that a British accent equals a brain the size of a planet - a perception reinforced by the not-uncommon belief that for the British, English is a second language. "From time to time I was complimented on how quick I was to pick up the language," says Mr Pryor.

Ms Walters adds that as the average American has a hard time following what she's saying, "perhaps the perception of being more intelligent comes from the fact they only understand 50% of what you are uttering".

With planeloads of Brits relocating to the US - not to mention three million tourists who visit the country every year - the stereotype of floppy fringes and plummy vowels must surely be due an overhaul.

Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

I attended Harvard Business School in Boston, where a large part of the grade is awarded on spoken contributions to the classroom. Brits generally did better there than other nationalities. I have no doubt that a large part of this was just the natural brilliance of the British. However, if I'm honest, Americans' perception that the accent was indicative of brain-the-size-of-planet intelligence was also a factor. I'm afraid that dear old Mr Fry has given away the game away.
Sam, London

"May I have 12 slices of salami, please?"
"I love your accent. You're English, right?".
"No, I'm Welsh."
"No, Welsh. I'm from Wales."
"Oh, whales [with a very strong 'h']. That's part of England, right?"
"No, it's..." At this point I feel tempted to give a made-up explanation of what and where my homeland is. Somewhere off Greenland, perhaps? Reminding myself that I am an ambassador for my country I give an all-too practiced explanation. Blank faces. My accent, rather than being a benefit, is an almost constant reminder that my country, of which I am justly proud, is an unknown entity to at least 99% of the people I speak to. Frankly, I find it all a bit disheartening. I console myself with the notion that the American education system is lacking in the geography department and move on. "May I have 5lbs of potatoes, please?" "I love your accent. You're English, right?"
Paul Beckerton, Georgetown, Kentucky, US

Who wouldn't prefer a British accent to an American one? It just sounds better, no matter what the UK region or class it comes from. American accents are so much hard-edged and more nasal. It seems to me that most American accents make you seem like either a thug or a junior high school drop-out. I am an American but definitely acknowledge this.
Sanford Santacroce, NYC, US

I work in Strategic Planning at a major advertising agency in New York. Having been born and bred in India, I have what I would call a "leftover English" Indian accent. In this politically correct country, it's both funny and sad to see how people who have only spoken to me on the phone, react when they see me in person. I've also been told that I can get away with a lot of outrageous stuff because of my accent. About that, I'm not complaining.
RP Kumar, New York

Being Northern Irish, I find people, whether it be in the US or in England bemused by my accent. It's not just Americans who lack a good sense of world geography, English people are similarly shocking when it comes to the geography of the UK. Like the guy who said that when asked, he says London rather than Shropshire, I find it easier to say Belfast, rather than the country or the town. I've found myself dumbing down my accent and changed the idiomatic phrases that I use in order to stand out less and be patronised and laughed at, with the inverse of that being when I go home to NI having an anglicised twang on my accent.
Philip Kee, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

I grew up bilingually, speaking with an English (generic southern) accent at home with my family and the US accent I learned at school. Neither one is perfectly sound, each having a twang that sets it apart from a native speaker and my vocabulary, slang and spelling are more American. The change between the two happens subconsciously based on who I'm around. American friends get a bit nervous the first time they hear me talk to relatives, they think I've got a split personality. It can be quite convenient though to put one or the other on in certain situations. Any other English-born kids who grew up in the US have a similar situation? I've lived there since I was seven, about 15 years; my parents' haven't changed at all, but my younger brother's is far more American-slanted than mine.
Jacob, Virginia

I have two accents, my native Scouse and a straight English accent I use when trying to communicate with people who are unfortunate enough not to come from Liverpool. A few years back I was working in Tennessee as an ICT consultant. I generally used my straight English accent which I found attracted a great deal of attention from the fairer sex. On one occasion while sitting talking to a fellow Liverpudlian at a booth in a bar in Nashville, two very pretty young ladies came up to us and asked if we spoke English to which I replied "better than most". They were totally gobsmacked and sat next to us and one said "wow you speak real good English... but what was that other language you where just talking?" For the first time since arriving in the US, we were speechless!
John Murphy, Liverpool

"Yes - I'm the Queen's cousin."
Works every time with my accent.
Joe, RP London, England

As an expat living in Canada I'm always getting told how nice my accent is. But when people try to imitate it, it always comes out sounding like Del Boy...
Callum, Quebec, Canada

After 25 years here my accent has yet to successfully talk me out of a traffic ticket - but maybe I shouldn't be addressing the men in blue as "constable"?
John Kelly, New York City

I recently started as a consultant at a bank in New York and have since learnt from my co-workers that my CV was put on the top of the pile because I was British. Rolling out the British tones at interview was a formality.
Alex Preston, New York, US (originally Oxford, England)

I'm reading these comments with glee: as a Scot about to move to the US with my American girlfriend I shall expect 5-star treatment and favours everywhere I go.
Chris Evans, Glasgow

Sorry but I am NOT a fan of the "British" accent in any way. Sure, some of my countrymen who haven't travelled outside the US are easily impressed with a bit of cockney, but it doesn't do anything for me at all, except to have me wondering just whom this affectation of erudition and breeding is supposed to impress. I don't buy it - nor does anyone else I know. And yes, I'm an educated, well travelled person.
Johnny Wells, Santa Paula CA US

On my first visit to America I tried to cash a cheque (check!) at a bank in Chicago. The bank teller said "Excuse me?" three times, making me repeat my request. In the end she smiled disarmingly (Americans are good at that) and admitted "I heard you the first time. I just wanted to hear your accent again!" But it can be a two-edged sword as the BBC article points out. Sometimes Americans interpret the British accent as snobbish and aloof and unfriendly (British people cannot talk and smile at the same time like Americans). So it can lead to misunderstandings. But in truth it really is an advantage being British over here (even with a Yorkshire accent like mine). Of course, it is an advantage that evaporates the minute you set foot on British soil.
Pip, Michigan, US

There are some here in America who can discern the lilt of Londoners' accents from the cut of a Manchester accent, for example. But not many. The same can be true for Americans' accents abroad. How many Brits can tell the difference between a bloke from Kentucky and a chap from Montana by accent alone? Not many, I would assume.
Ryan, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

I spent 11 years in California and lowly, I had to modify (Americanise) the way I spoke so that people would listen to what I was saying and not how I was saying it. I, also, had to employ local idioms otherwise entire rooms full of people would burst out in adoring, but patronising, laughter. Eventually, my accent changed and I constantly got accused of being an Aussie. I came back to England in 2002 and found myself stuck with a twang that I'm only just now losing. But, I'll never forget the blank looks I used to get when I was asked the inevitable question, "Where are you from in England?" I soon learned that the only answer really was "London" because "Shropshire" simply didn't register.
Jon Bailey, Shrewsbury, UK

I've been living and working in the States for four years. People constantly comment on my accent and the company I work for like to have me answer their phones because they think my voice sounds professional. I have been asked a few times where I learned to speak English so well before I moved to the States though, despite me saying I am from England.
Sarah, Louisville, Kentucky, US

I work here as a truck driver and always get strange reactions to my Scots accent. Sometimes it opens doors, sometimes slams them hard on my face. I often have to repeat myself as people listen to how I say things, not to what I'm actually saying.
Gary, Morristown, Tennessee, US

Married to an expat Brit, I can tell you he gets preferential treatment at a lot of places, especially during interviews for work. It's gotten to the point where I've thought about affecting a British accent myself (which I can impersonate quite well after ten years of marriage)just so I can get a cushy job as well. Of course on the flipside, he often gets frustrated when the employees a the local McDonalds don't understand a word he says and they get his order all wrong and my order is happily correct...
Ainy, Baltimore, US

Oh how true! and how unfair! My British wife still bowls over the gullible Americans at every turn with her cute Scots-Irish accent. Free coffees, better tables in restaurants, better service, and on and on ad nausea. Our recent four years living in York got me no such treatment in kind with my cute and quiet American accent. Oh well, time to just give up and cheerfully hang on her coattails for the perquisites.
Christopher Kovach, New Albany, Ohio, US

A friend of mine went on holiday to Florida.
In the first week he was complimented : "You speak really good American."
In the second week, he was asked which part of France he was from.
He's from Leeds.
Mark Jones, Plymouth, Devon

Belgians in anti-racism weddings

About 700 Belgian couples have symbolically wed in a Flemish town where three couples had refused to let a black official marry them.

Deputy Mayor Wouter Van Bellingen was the first black councillor elected in St-Niklaas in northern Belgium.

In response to the snub, Mr Van Bellingen decided to organise a mass wedding as an anti-racism protest.

On a cold, wet night, the couples shouted "yes" when Mr Van Bellingen asked if they were ready to marry.

The day's events - chosen to coincide with the International Day against Racism - kicked off with a group hug before the assembled couples exchanged or renewed vows.

There was then a huge wedding photo, a "multicultural dessert buffet" and a wedding dance.

'Primitive form of racism'

Geere Brokken said he was participating to make an anti-racism statement.

"We were indignant that people refused to marry because of someone's skin colour," he said.

The councillor, Mr Van Bellingen, said of February's incident: "It was the most primitive form of racism. Nothing but the colour of my skin."

At least 2,000 letters and emails poured in after the incident, AFP news agency reports.

The Rwandan-born councillor was adopted by a Flemish family at birth.

He was elected councillor in the town of some 70,000, 50km (30 miles) north of Brussels, in local elections in October.

At the same elections, the anti-immigration Vlaams Belang got 26% of the vote.

The group has accused Mr Van Bellingen of using the mass wedding to further his political ambitions.

Thousands of people marched last year following the killing of a woman of African origin and the two-year-old girl she was a nanny for in Antwerp.

"We have to take away the fear of the unknown. If you are unknown, you are unloved," Mr Van Bellingen said.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You can't hide those lying eyes

Wanted to write about taking a break from swimming tonight, my life, my job, my thoughts, Dan, my imagination, my feelings, my plans, my needs, my dreams, the past, the future or it seems, and jetzt, maintenant, boku, jianglai, yaoyuan de jianglai.

But it's time to sleep now, so I shall write tomorrow or sometime.

Be a responsible shopper

Find out more about sweatshops, here and here.

Children of the World, Iraq

Sunday, March 18, 2007

For there will be moonshine

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Goals

My goals!

This is a list under modification.

Short-term goals

- Read at least one book at least four nights each week (at least half an hour each night - starting tomorrow)
- Keep up on current affairs by reading and watching the news, programs/shows on TV (starting next week - at least one hour each week)
- Watch interesting movies on my Netflix once a week (starting next week)
- Devote four hours each week studying languages (starting next week)
- Start more constructive swim training, with Matt's help (if he is willing) (within this month)
- Discover the arts with John (within the next two months)
- Find out about harmonicas (for the next two months)
- Read "Successful Dog Adoption" and visit animal shelters (three to six months)
- Find out more about organizations to join to make new friends (two to six months)
- Travel to Europe in May (two months out)

Medium-term goals

- Try out one organization by the middle of summer (July 15 - in four months)
- If successful, stick with it. If not, try out another by end of summer (September 15 - in six months). Keep trying at least one every two months if not successful.
- Bonus goal (give myself a pat on the back if I can make this): Try to see if I can join a second organization. (by year's end)
- Visit my friends in Purdue (by end of summer)
- Perform more than adequately at work (everyday)
- Take stock of life by end of summer and think about medium-term goals again

Long-term goals

- Go home and see my parents and old friends! (By summer of 2008)
- Think about career paths, what other careers that are interesting and meaningful to me that I really have a passion for, especially that I don't consider making money a big goal, so more time off to travel to places, back home, visit friends would be ideal. (two years)
- Maintain friendship with Dan, if destiny permits (two years)

Other lesser goals

- Put a real picture up on my myspace, facebook, and blogger, and link them. (By the third month of my joining an aquatics club!)

The seventy-thirty rule: If I can make all this work seven out of ten times, I'd have achieved my goals. Well and good! The eighty-twenty rule: If I can make all this work eight out of ten times, it'd be awesome!

My Tennis Guys

My favorite guys of tennis right now are Novak Djokovic and Richard Gasquet. They are great players! I saw Novak's match today at Indian Wells. Good-looking! And he looks a bit like Dan :-). But really my favorite player is still Richard. Sweetest backhand in the world.

P.S. Adding Tommy to my list.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You know I love you so

Everyone knows I'm a lonely guy. I try not to think about it too much, but I know that's not really the whole truth. I'm just able to keep those demons at bay, and it's important that I do so. The more I try to not be lonely by doing everything I can, the more I fuck up by trying too hard.

I talked about Matt, the swim guy, earlier on. He's one of only two "friends" outside of work I have now. I put that in quotes because we're not really friends yet, you know. Just swim buddies. But I know it's not likely we're gonna be much more than that, even though that's fine by itself. I find myself screwing up sometimes because inside of me I get those emotions and I don't carry it off very well anymore. Why don't I just chill and everything would be better?

You know, last night, I wrote on my myspace, under who I'd like to meet, that I wanted to meet all the good, cool people in this world. I only want to meet them because I'm happy doing that. So I shouldn't think so hard about wanting much more. That's my weakness. Thinking too hard about some shit ideal.

We talked about doing kick and pull sets, so I'm thinking I'll get a pair of fins and paddles and a pull buoy. It'd be cool!

I think I need to write down my goals once again to keep me level-headed. Watch out, folks! Next entry. Off to bed now.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dog's Best Buddy

Always wanted a dog but never found the opportunity. Bookstore today, picked up a book called "Dogs for Dummies". Been a dummy lately, yeah. Dummy for dogs, too. OK, think that though me and shelter dog may have lots of love for each other, that love will have to wait!

I'll be Sailing

Looking forward to my trip already! Can you guess where I'll be going? Hopefully my friend and I will get to see Roland Garros at the conclusion of the holiday.

Now I'm off to the pool and beyond, fun and all!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where the Ocean meets the Sky

Exciting week! My cool boss and I drove up to Blandon, Pennsylvania for a site visit to a cement siding manufacturing plant. Trudging in hard hat, steel toes, safety glasses and earplugs, I thought about the years of schooling I had, about the fact that I was working my first real job. And as usual my imagination overtook me, and I found myself wondering about the world, about Dan, and how all this came about.

Today, browsing through some books at the local Borders, I became engrossed in a book called "Dating for Dummies". How true some of the things it said. That's the thing about books. Every book I've read has provided fodder for understanding. Language, the greatest invention of man.

Swimming at the Hood College pool has let me meet two cool people so far. The first person is a 60-year old art teacher whose name is John. I made brief mention of him in my last post. Talking with him makes me feel like I'm talking to a living, breathing book. The second person who I haven't mentioned is a 30-year old guy named Matt, who happens to be in the same profession as I am. Muscular and good-looking, he was a college swimmer and is currently training for a triathlon. Seems like a steady, decent sort of guy, I certainly have fun talking with him! I hope to meet more cool people like John and Matt.

Last night, I went to the Bestbuy store in town. Sat down on a comfy couch in front of the gigantic flat panel and watched the Coldplay concert they were playing from the DVD.

Though I find Coldplay somewhat depressing, I think they're fine musicians. And I like their songs "Fix You" and "Yellow".

Through the corner of my eye, a second large TV screen was showing scenes from the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes. To be honest, I didn't know what it was all about until today!

Another screen was showing images of the magnificent Oregon coastline. Hope to have a chance to be there one day.

Bedtime! Maybe tomorrow I'll write a little about my upcoming trip and everything else.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Four posts today!

Above is General Lafayette standing tall and proud outside the White House. We were there (Mom and I) a little less than two months ago.

Then there's Lafayette, Indiana, Christmas Parade 2006.

There's my friends still in Purdue, they saw the hot boys in the pool with me!

Makoto, in the Palisades district of D.C., a very authentic Japanese restaurant. Mom and I were mad about it when we were there. Go for the Japanese experience and for the mouth-watering food, but not for the cramp atmosphere. Won't be back there for some time!

Originally taken for friends who haven't seen a sheet of ice on the car window!

First snow from my apartment balcony. My own backyard (for the dogs I'm gonna have) with a nice scenic view!

Looking forward to:
-Traveling to Amsterdam, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, Interlaken, Geneva, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Paris (and a whole lot more) with a good long-time buddy of mine from home in May/June. Hopefully we'll get our tickets for Roland Garros, fulfilling a dream! Bought this lonely planet two days ago.

-Going to the art gallery with an art teacher I met at the Hood College pool. He happens to know who my boss is because they are from the same town. A nice, fatherly chap! I got to ask him, but I think I respect him and he respects me. BTW, the first guy to know I'm gay here!
-Finding time to visit Dan, and to visit my friends in Indiana. I shall go! I am confident Dan and I will meet ;-), and I will find time to go back to Indiana. Thirteen days of leave a year does not help, but hey! I have a bright smile on me now.
-Looking for organizations to join. There's the DC Aquatics Club, they seem to be very hardcore though, and there's I'm sure some others with the right people and the right interests... maybe in Baltimore. Don't fit in to the scene in DC, and wanting too much to fit in = bad.
-Learning French, German, Spanish etc.!
-Seeing Dan, seeing my friends back home, seeing my family, writing emails and talking with them.

Der Gute Mensch Dan

I like to talk about Dan on this blog, as you know. This is one of the few places I can take out some of the things closest to my heart, put them away neatly and safely in a box, and place that box back in my heart again.

Episodes from the last few days made me think about Dan again. I probably would like to chat with Mom about this tonight. I want to tell her and to tell you, that even though Dan is not here and that Dan isn't with me, I feel strong and my heart fills with love for the kind and beautiful people and things in this world when I think of Dan. It sounds sappy, I know. But it really is how I feel.

This part is really for Sue to read. Sue, thanks for everything. I told you some very real things at the time. I only got to know of this later. I was sorry to hear from Dan, that they broke up. Dan says he thinks of Jon a lot still.

You see, it does not make me happy that they are not together. I do look out of the window every day, seeing the sun shining in, and think about spending my time with him. But it's not about having him, do you know? It's about just seeing him, talking with him, and spending some happy days, and knowing he's happy and healthy.

Here's something for me to look back down the road. My job is good to me. It's all sounding insane to say, but if Dan is still where he is when the time comes, I will move up to be with him. I will be happy and happy to be in the "little big city", be there with him. It's silly, but it's true. That's what I want to do.

I want to tell him that I won't be letting frivolous things come between our friendship. Whatever happens, I still want to travel, to go out, to talk, to do stuff with him. I won't come between him and Jon, or whoever else.

I know all that I wrote sounds crazy, but that is really what I think of. I don't do nothing crazy, and I won't do nothing crazy. For I do care, and I do care a lot.

And thinking about these things, it makes me want to live and breathe this beautiful earth. It makes me love my family and friends even more, to treasure what I have, to go for what I want. I say all this not because I'm a hopeless romantic, but because I do feel all this every living minute, every living second. Hope you are doing well, Dan.

Das Leben

Friday night, I went to see the German film Das Leben der Anderen in Bethesda. Enjoyed the movie very much. Now, of course you got to see the movie. Great story, good lines. Lines, that's what makes a movie!

One thing I noticed about the audience that night was that a lot of them were foreigners. One could tell from the English, or non-English, they spoke. A funny episode occurred after the end of the film. Apparently, there was some unhappiness between two groups of moviegoers, one sitting behind the other. The man in front got up and yelled, "You think you are fucking smart, eh?" to the woman at the back who replied, "If you want, we can take this outside." And the man was livid, and said let's take it outside, then, come on." Too bad they didn't get to enjoy a good movie!

Of course, I was thinking about Dan as I was watching the film. There's so many elements that remind me of him.

You don't say

A few weeks ago, feeling like I needed to make friends here, I answered a personal on Metroweekly. The guy turned out to be a lawyer, 32 years of age. Sounded pretty nice on the phone, he told me he had a party at his place last night, do you want to come. I said, sure why not.

So I turn up and there were a bunch of people I never met. J., the 20-something from Catholic American South, not out to his family, decent. V., the host, my "contact", lawyer, wealthy. K., interesting, ok. Name-I-forgot, 50-something, geeky, ok. S., 34, workaholic. C., bitchy, ok. M., didn't talk to much, no comments. E., decent, didn't talk to much, no comments. Very tall, name-I-forgot, didn't want to talk to me. A., sullen-faced, didn't want to talk to me. S., arrived late, I was kinda sleepy and left before we talked. A few others, gone with the wind.

What a boring night. Silver Springs, Maryland, home of rich yuppified faggots doing their shit, living in posh condos without no yard nor garden of green grass and flowers.

Got home, went to bed. V. calls, saying nice cordial things. Did you get home safe, we were worried (that I was tipsy). Didn't get to try the wine you brought, maybe we could try it sometime. I say, yeah I got home safe, I'm fine, yeah to everything he said.

No more nights like this for me, though.