21 September 2007

The Final Act: London

Here I am, my last day in London and less than 24 hours before I leave for home. My stay here has been wonderful. The first day I reacquainted myself with the city. I walked down fleet street to Trafalgar square, to Westminster and Parliament; I crossed the Thames at Big Ben (even though he's not there, he's being polished or repaired someplace). I went past the London Eye and walked along the river to Shakespeare's Globe theatre. I purchased a ticket to "The Merchant of Venice" matinée. Here I became a Groundling, one who stands in the yard during the performance. It was fantastic!! A ghost tour ended the evening.

Wednesday I walked to Leicester Square and then to the British Museum where I made my linguistic pilgrimage to The Rosetta Stone. Then it was to a pub for a few delicious ales and to the theatre. We saw a comedy, "Boeing Boeing" which was really good. I love to watch live theatre. One of the actors lost it on stage and a giggling fit ensued (brief, but still amusing). This play had Rhea Perlman playing one of the main characters.

Thursday was more walking... or should I say, limping. I wandered to the Borough Market, stopping for lunch along the way. I ended up at the Tower but shortly before it closed. So I had a tea in a shop called "Eat." and watched it pour down rain. I ended up walking back to the apartment and propped my feet up for the rest of the evening. I let my friend cook for me and we enjoyed some mead purchased at the Edinburgh castle that I don't want to drag home with me.

Today has been the Tower (took a bus this time). A stop to write a post. Now I'll enjoy an Ale and reflect on my trip.

I am exhausted today and pretty much ready to head home. I need to savor the last few hours of my time here and head home with a happy heart. I feel content with what I've seen and done here. I see why everyone wants to live in London despite the expense. It's really an international city with no shortage of things to do and see. Walking around everywhere has been really revealing and really hard on my poor feet. I've loved it though. I decided today I need to train for my next trip abroad. I have to figure out where I'll go next!!

19 September 2007

Act Two, Scene Two: York

note to the reader: read the post below for a chronological read.

This city is fascinating. A large northern England town where everything is within walking distance. My backpack is weighted down with a few bottles of alcohol which I'm thinking of drinking instead of figuring out how to get them home.

I arrive late and check into my hostel. I'm staying in a room with 10 bunkbeds (20 beds) co-ed. For £12 a night, it can't be beat. I wander into town early Sunday morning and I am one of only a dozen people on the street. I encounter ancient roman walls and towers. A mideveal castle tower atop a large mound so many sinking buildings. Oh yes, and several Starbucks and Pizza Huts.

I end up in the queue at the Jorvik museum. This place is very scatalogical. They take you through a disney-like ride through a typical Viking town... including the toilet where an old man is straining himself (a bit too realistic for me). Did I mention there are actual smells being piped in? Ugh! After the ride, the museum begins with a petrified human poo! At that point, I wonder what the rest of the museum is like?! Turns out it's quite interesting. My ancestors were inventive folk. They were adventurous travelers, lived in quaint communitites and were overall quite intersting. My favorite exhibit was an actual skeleton found on the site and they pointed out all of his battle injuries. Broken limbs, several stab wounds including a spear through the neck which severed his spine. It was like watching a forensic science show!

I enjoyed a typical Sunday dinner in Yorkshire: roast beef, vegetables, potatoes, gravy and yorkshire pudding. With a local hand-pulled cask ale, of course! With every corner I turned I found another ancient building and about as much character as one could stand. The York Minster is unbelievable! I say that having seen more than my fair share of gothic cathedrals. The size of which could be compared to St. Peter's in the Vatican. A walk along the city wall -- built by the Romans -- and lunch in the "most haunted pub" in England (or is it Europe) rounded up my visit to this fine city. I bought some clotted cream fudge in the Shambles (tastes like candy corn) and by then it was time to head to London for the final Act of my journey.

I really enjoy train travel. I cherish the last train I'll be on during my trip and look forward to wandering around London seeing sites I encountered 20 years ago, and learning more about these English folk. Until the next act...

Act Two, Scene One: York

I belive it was Aristotle who created the theory that persists today of the three acts of life, and therefore the three acts of literature, and plays. Act one is the introduction of the characters and the establishment of the hero/heroine with his/her fatal flaw. Act two is the predicament, that event that creates a problem that must be solved. Act three is the resolution of that problem. My trip has three cities and perhaps follows this pattern. Edinburgh was the introduction. York was the inevitable realization of my fatal flaw/weakness: my feet. Sounds funny, eh? Well, I bought a new pair of shoes before I left for the Great Britain. I wore them an entire day and had no problems! I decided to put inserts into them to give a bit more support. The first day I wore them, I got a gigantic blister and wound on my left heel. So, I have been forced to wear these evil, yet popular, "shoes" called crocs. Giving almost no support, I've had terrible feet pain since. After a day in York, I had to sit for hours in the hostel with my feet up. Observing their swollen ankles, the new broken veins along the arch. This, in turn, required me to miss my York ghost tour. Ahh, such is life with my poor shoe decision making. I sat in the hostel wondering how on earth i ever did this for 3 months?! The sad realization is that it was 20 years ago and my body was much, much younger and pliable. The inevitable journey through life at some times unfortunate and at others simply wonderful.

My experiences with travel, my study of languages, my many years of meeting and talking with interesting (many times international) people have allowed me to see this world with a unique set of eyes. I know, for example, that this trip is changing me every day; moreso than my normal life does. I wonder who I will be when I return to my home country and what adventures I will encounter in the next moment. I've learned to notice the little things. Like door handles and light switches, but also street signs and language and the interesting things cities paint at cross walks or the convenience items that people living their daily lives take for granted.

So, with sore feet, awful shoes and keen eyes, I begin my next Act. York, England.

16 September 2007

Sunburn in Edinburgh

I made it to the Great Britain. The apartment in Edinburgh was quite nice. Especially since they had a washer and a dryer and a dishwasher! I have a terrible blister on my left heel which is causing me to wear the same pair of shoes everyday. Not a good thing for my feet! I know all about whisky and will surly tell you all about it when I return. I tried Haggis, Tatties and Neeps. Not bad, but I discovered I don't like mashed rudabegas (aka neeps). I ventured into the Greyfryers cemetery and the Covenanters Prison where there's a really famous poltergeist (named Makenzie). But he didn't attack anyone in my group. I discovered what a "close" is... it's essentally an alley. Short for enclose. I stayed next to Campbell's Close. These were the streets below the tennement houses. The richer you were, the higher you got to live. They streched up to 11 stories tall! This is at a time when all the slop from the house got thrown out the window at 7 am and 10 pm. Watch out if you're walking below!! and certainly don't look up! The wedding was fantastic! I got a sunburn while we celebrated outside. Who says the sun never shines here? The weather has been terrific! I'm really not enjoying the fact that my feet hurt like hell or that my calves have all but seized up from the numerous walks up to castle hill. I've also been reminded of how it sounds when a train passes a train on the tracks. The "WHOOMP" still makes me jump!!

Today is Sunday and I'm trying to take it easy. I spent the day wandering the streets of York and the Jorvik museum. I decided to skip the ghost walk tonight to preserve my feet.

09 September 2007

The Great Britain Itinerary

In less than 2 days I will be on a plane heading to Edinburgh. I leave Omaha at 3:45 and will arrive on Wednesday around 10:00 a.m.

I've been planning my trip with enthusiasm, and yet I still feel unprepared! I have finalized the basic itinerary so you can imagine what I'm doing at any given time.

I arrive in the morning of the 12 and will head into town to meet the landlord of the apartment I'll be staying in. This will be very handy. For one thing, it will be cheaper than any hotel I could find (about the same price as the hostels). But, there's full kitchen so we can make our own coffee/tea and dinner if we want (which should save us some money). I have Wednesday afternoon and Thursday to explore the city. Friday is the wedding and we will have the opportunity to wander about the castle. Friday evening we'll be going on a ghost walk courtesy of the newlyweds. Saturday morning is open and in the afternoon we'll be taking a tour of Mary King's Close. That night I have reservations at a hostel in York.

Sunday I'll spend the day wandering about the city and spending some time at the Jorvik museum (the viking museum)! This is the only day where rain is in the forecast. Monday I meet the newlyweds at the train station and get a knowledgeable tour of York. I know we'll be seeing York Minster and the Shambles. I'll probably have some extra time on Sunday, so if you know of something I can't miss while I'm in York, let me know! Monday evening I hop on a train to London.

I arrive late Monday night and head to my friend's apartment. I'm sure I will sleep well on her blue couch! London is where I don't have a lot of plans and I don't leave until early Saturday morning. I have tickets to see Boeing Boeing on Wednesday night and plan on going to the British Museum, the Kensington Museums--specifically the Natural History and possibly the Science museums--the Tower of London, The Globe (including a matinée of The Merchant of Venice), and a lot of wandering around the city.

If you know of anything in these three cities that I cannot miss, let me know!

20 August 2007

Viking Week

My birthday weekend was fantastic! I was a little bummed out because a couple of friends had moved away, a few others were going to be out of town and yet I really wanted to celebrate my last birthday of my 30s.

Saturday, my friend Reckless and I went on a road trip! I had put together a schedule for visiting a few Nebraska Wineries. We were planning on setting off at 10:00, but I had a little trouble getting up in the morning and R had a little trouble at Panera and then Starbucks. So, we set off about 11:00 and after a bit of trouble with the cup of Starbucks coffee, we were on our way.

Two states later we arrived in Brownville, Nebraska. The old bridge heading into town wrecked havoc on Rs nerves, but we managed to make it to the winery without serious incident. This winery is called Whiskey Run Creek. The winery is in an old barn that was moved to the area and placed over a small creek. The landscaping was well done so the aesthetics were very nice. They didn't charge for the tasting, so I selected to try each one of their wines. One smelled like peanut butter and another had a likeness to sawdust. Overall their wine was very good.

From Brownville, we headed West to Crete and Denton. We went through Beatrice and drove around in the country for a while before we finally found Prime County Winery outside of Denton. That was definitely an experience. They gave free tasting, so I tried all of them, but they served them in little cough syrup plastic cups. I thought all their wine tasted the same and they all had that bitter plastic taste. I couldn't believe it.

After leaving Prime County, we headed to Springfield where we would meet a few other friends and do a bit more wine tasting at Soaring Wings Winery. I struck up a conversation with a guy standing at the bar and he ended up buying my friends and I a block of cheese! Nebraskans are so nice.

After that, we headed to Lucky's Ten-O-One restaurant for dinner. My friends surprised me with a fantastic gift!! A red camera!

Sunday, the surprise was my friend, who moved to California earlier this year, showed up outside the restaurant where we had brunch! I have to say I have the best friends in world.

The party continues this week. I thought it was a bit haughty to celebrate my birthday all week, so I created Viking Week. You know, like Shark Week on the Discovery channel. The fun continues!

Monday, was PIE DAY! We had blueberry, apple and french silk pie at work. Tuesday, it's fun and mayhem at the Crescent Moon. Wednesday I'm sure we'll find some excuse to party. Thursday mom and dad will be here celebrating my birthday.... this weekend I'll have to recuperate.

22 July 2007


While the rest of the world was reading Harry Potter, I spent the weekend planning my trip to Britain and doing some genealogical research.

I finished reading the Let's Go Britain guide book that I bought a few weeks ago and spend a considerable amount of time on the internet. I discovered some very cool mapping tools from google maps that I will share with you in my next post. Right now, I'm still planning out the trip.

I was all jazzed this morning (at 3:00 a.m. and at 9:00 a.m... I sort of slept in between). My sister did some research a while back on the Clement side of our family and discovered that indeed we were related to the Vikings. I spend a considerable amount of time digging into those roots.

If we are indeed descendants of Rollo the 1st Duke of Normandy, and we are indeed descendants of Olaf, King of Norway, I have found the link between these families. Although we are not DIRECT descendants of Rollo, there is a connection between the two. I found it! It was an exhilarating moment!

Well, push forward from Rollo, who founded Normandy around 0912 and it's really easy to trace his lineage to William the Conquerer who invaded (and ruled) England beginning in 1066. That's where the trail cools, well, frankly, freezes. Skip 700 years to Richard Clement born around 1712 in either Essex or Berkshire England who fathered Henry Clement (born around 1760) who fathered John Clement (born on Oct. 19, 1783) who was the father of several children who left their home in Eddington, Berkshire, England to make a new life in Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia (luckily one child stayed home -- the youngest, of course!). His son Benjamin moved to the US and had a ridiculous number of children... one of which eventually produced a son who produced a son, who produced a son, who eventually produced, you guessed it, yours truly.

I spent a considerable amount of time searching for ancestors of Richard, but could find nothing. I'm not sure we ever knew about Richard, but I have a poor memory, so this may not have been a new discovery. I think Richard married a woman named Elizabeth, but I'm not even sure about that. As as to who his parent were... well, I'm hoping that nugget of information has not been lost to history. I mean, after all, I still have 700 years of generations to sift through to find the connection between the Clement family and William the Conquerer. I know there is a connection, but finding it may prove to be quite a chore.

After dead-ending at Richard Clement, I switched to the Campbell family. Wow. I must have been on over-load of genealogical research because I just couldn't figure any of that out. There are 4 branches of the Campbells and I'd like to know specifically which one I am descended from so I know which tartans to buy when I am in Scotland!

I really wonder how many people in the world search for their ancestry. It seems to be a unique characteristic of the "new world" nations. I get to embrace so much of the Scots, Germans, English, French, Vikings... as my own! I find my history so rich with culture and so mysterious. Yet, if I lived in Normandy now, would I be so obsessed with figuring out who my ancestors are? Would I be more obsessed with cave paintings in southern France, wondering if they were my ancestors? In the end, don't we all (Europeans, that is) come from essentially a pretty small band of Cro-magnon who kicked out or killed the Neanderthals from Europe?

Such a fascinating study. I could spend my life trying to figure it out!! In the meantime, I will work on bridging the 700 year gap.

05 July 2007

Monday #2

It's really unfair of life to deliver two Monday's in the same week!!

23 June 2007

Auld Reekie & the capitol of England

It's official! I'm taking my first international trip since I went to Quebec in 2005. I'm headed to Scotland and England in September. I will be heading out of the country on September 11. I'm hoping there will be enough superstitious folks in the world that I will have an empty seat beside me on the way over. I always like to have a theme for the trips I take. It helps me narrow my focus on the activities and sites to see, since I couldn't possibly do everything that is interesting and available to do. Things can certainly change between now and then, but for now, I think this one will have an ancestral exploration thread running through it. I have Scottish lineage: the Campbell's, my Clement heritage came from England (originally Normandy) and of course there's the Viking blood which can be found all over the British isles.

The next task will be to find all the hidden gems that I can uncover during my voyage; those hole-in-the-wall eateries, the fascinating-yet-unknown museums and the unusual and trivial locales that enrich the experience.

I'll have to investigate the not-to-miss items... like great whiskey, tartans, tea and biscuits, haggis (OK, maybe not haggis)!

I plan to spend some time in London, too, checking out all the things I skipped the first time I was there... like the British Museum (must see the Rosetta Stone!), and the Tower of London. Oh, the possibilities are endless!

Now the real fun begins: the planning!

19 June 2007

I'm Back!

I have found my way back to the 21st century. I now have Internet connection at home again! I feel like I have my freedom back!!

Soon, I will fill you in on what I've been up to during my hiatus.

21 February 2007

StrengthsFinder 2

A friend of mine gave me the book "StrengthsFinder 2.0." Included in the book was an envelope that contained a set of 34 stickers and a code with which I could take StrengthsFinder 2.

Since I've taken SF about 30 times previously, and have a set of top 5 strengths that I "claim" I promptly took the stickers and stuck my themes on the front of the book: Discipline, Deliberative, Analytical, Individualization, Maximizer. I put Responsibility on there too, since I know I scored 100% on that theme as well.

I then took the SF "for real" for the first time in a several years. I hear they have made some scoring changes and some item additions/removals. I was curious to see how the changes would affect my top 5.

Let me back up for a minute... I first became involved in the StrengthsFinder in 1998 when I was asked by the CIO to step in and be the liaison between Don Clifton, other executives and the programmer of the assessment. I agreed and quickly became a key piece of the SF formula. For a considerable amount of time, I created ALL the reports, set up ALL the clients and created ALL the id codes for the assessment. I was also the worldwide contact for technical and production support. I would get numerous calls daily from the US, the UK, Israel, Germany, Japan even China. Along with my production responsibilities, I was privy to the weekly meetings where the future of SF would be decided. I humbly claim that "The StrengthsFinder Family Camp" was my brainchild. Frankly, I don't know if this seminar still exists, but it was fabulous for the time I was involved in it, and Don Clifton was impressed with the work I did with it (and really, that's the only thing that mattered).

I continued my work with StrengthsFinder until 2001 when I moved to a position that promised success but delivered frustration and would eventually lead to my demise at the Gallup Organization. I swore a long time ago to have no regrets but sometimes I do regret leaving StrengthsFinder.

So, I took SF 2.0 and got a surprising result... two new themes, and two had disappeared. Now my top 5 are Deliberative, Analytical, Maximizer, Learner, Relator. What happened to Discipline and Individualization? These are two of my favorite themes! I guess that means I get to add Learner and Relator to my list of strengths.

25 January 2007

The Census Bureau & My Viking Ethnicity

I got a survey from the census bureau a few weeks ago. I love filling out surveys, so of course I sat right down and filled it out. I got to the question of my ethnic background. It only gave me two spaces to let them know what my ethnic background was. Well, this is a pickle. I have MULTIPLE ethnic backgrounds like so many Americans. But, the survey required me to pick only two. How could I put my French background over my Swedish? What about my English and Swiss? I couldn't say I was German without also mentioning English and I couldn't say I was English without also including French. Well, what do all these ethnicities have in common? Yep. Vikings. So, I put Viking as my ethnic background.

Then I got the call from the Census Bureau. They wanted to know what "viking" meant. Are they serious? Just because it isn't a currently recognized ethnicity, does that mean I can't claim it as my own? Isn't it plausible that someone may claim to be Yugoslavian? I felt it was perfectly rational. I'm not sure how the Bureau will categorized my response.

But just to prove that I am not selecting Viking willy-nilly as my ethnicity, my sister was doing some genealogical research and discovered an ancestor of ours that goes to the year 822 and includes Richard Sans Peur, the Duke of Normandy. Our ancestors include "The Longsword," William 1, Second Duke of Normandy and Rollo, "The Dane", 1st Duke of Normandy, all the way back to King Halfdan HUITHEIN "The Old" of Norway, and then to The Viking OLAF King of Vermeland, and then Ilgiald King of Sweden , Onund King of Sweden, YNGVAR King Of Sweden, Eystein King of Sweden, and ADELIS "The Great Of Sweden."


04 January 2007

BSU--National Champs?

Fox shows lots of crowd shots which I found interesting (annoying early in the game and then fascinating as the emotional roller coaster was on full tilt).

I was empathetic toward the Sooner fans as they are much like Husker fans (plus, I'm sure BSU fans are really annoying--particularly to a legendary power-house like OU). The shock they must of felt that Boise St was ahead the entire game, then the raw, ecstatic, joy when they ran the interception back for a TD; and then the sobering and
shocking realization that they were going into overtime... all they had was hope for a little sooner magic. I think deep in their hearts they knew that the broncos had the advantage in OT. It wasn't yet midnight and they were still at the ball (where are those evil step-sisters when you need them?)!

The Boise St fans were equally entertaining, but their joy was sustained throughout... until OU got the ball with a few minutes left in the game. That's when I knew it would get interesting, the Broncos were worn out and the Sooners were incensed. I had been saying since the championship game that Boise St would beat the Sooners; I felt my prediction going down the toilet when the sooners got the ball with just enough time to score. Oh, too bad. I enjoy rooting for the underdogs and they played well enough to win, so they should be proud that they played so....

what? we're going to overtime!? Figures. I have to work in the morning!

It was such a slow-motion moment when the running back from BSU was running to the endzone, he was still 5 yards away but he knew (and so did everyone else) that he was going to score the two points; I'm not sure i've ever seen a more joyous run!

I recall a replay of the two broncos who were in shock after the play. I also recall a tight end hollering at a lineman on the Bronco sideline just after OU ran the interception back for a TD, "We're NOT giving up! We're not tired! We're going to give it our ALL until the clock reads zero! We can DO THIS! This game is not over yet! We got a lot more fight in us!" After that speech the lineman nodded and stood up and high-fived the guy. He was clearly exhausted and ready to lie down, but that speech reminded him of the reason they were there.

That's is what college football is all about. An instant classic! I love it!