There was an interesting segment on NPR last night about President Bush’s trip to Britain. Many people in Britain vocally object to this visit and are protesting in various ways, for example singing (badly), taking too many pictures of him with their mobile phones, or becoming the Queen’s servants.

Anyway, the (British [-sounding]) newsreader commented on the fact that the Brits aren’t consistent: 60% of people think America is a force for good in the world, while roughly the same number consider Bush to be a danger to world peace. This could be down to polling errors or the speed at which public opinion moves (between the two polls), but an alternative explanation is that the British people are able to distinguish between America and its leader. I am heartened by this news, especially coming as it did on such a momentous day, being both the first day of Bush’s visit, and Mickey Mouse’s 75th birthday.

I mainly came to America for work (which I enjoy immensely). A minor reason was to see America at first hand from the inside. I already had some understanding, having plenty of American friends over the years, but I am interested in getting a better appreciation. It is clear that America is a land of great wealth, natural beauty, and cultural diversity. It is hard to synthesise this into an overall understanding of America. Actually, I do not think it is possible. Now, looking back at the UK, I wonder, “what is Britain”? I find I can’t answer that question either.

The leaf blowers are out in force again at my apartment complex. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BE SO LOUD? I h a t e &nbspthem. I hate them 8000 times as much as I hate those stupid security sticky plasticky guard things which they put on new CDs and DVDs here – it’s a major 15 minute demolition project opening one a new CD, and by the time you have, the box is scratched and broken. I strongly dislike those. 8000 times is a lot.

From a distance of 10 feet, a leaf blower is 18 times louder than normal conversation. 75 times louder than a mouse’s squeak. A mouse which had a squeak as loud as a leaf-blower would be 15 feet tall.

I’m starting to understand the leaf blower situation a bit better though. They are at their most annoying during the summer, when the guy who looks after the grounds can be observed of a morning trying to blow 15 leaves into a pile. This takes about 2 hours of frantic and noisy blowing, as compared to picking up the leaves, which would take 3 minutes, or using a broom, which would also take 3 minutes.

At this time of year, however, there are lots of leaves on the ground, and it’s wet, so I can see that the leaf blower might be a more necessary tool. Blowing the leaves into neat piles seems to be much easier now. I think wet leaves blow together better. There’s a lesson for us all. Still,

EVEN WHEN THE LEAF BLOWER IS A GOOD TOOL FOR THE JOB, IT IS TOO LOUD.

I realised yesterday that I don’t laugh nearly enough. I realised this yesterday while listening to a tape of Billy Connolly in the car on the way to the Stanford Shopping Center. Driving down the wonderful I-280 and listening to this – so fantastic I nearly wet myself and/or crashed the car.

I have finally decided to enter the 21st century with a Blog, which will provide a place for collecting strange thingies.

First up, is the intriguing whistling language from the Canary Islands called Silbo Gomero.

Here is an article on Yahoo News about it, and here is an audio clip. Amazing.

A friend of mine recently lent me a book called “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. It is a collection of anecdotes from his life, some funny, some not so funny. In one chapter he describes a period of his life spent as a speed-fueled performance artist. So when I saw this photograph of a performance artist performing in a bath of baked beans, I naturally thought of the book.

The mental wanderings of Julian Richardson