30 October 2008

Why Are We OK With This?

Why are we ok with this America? The entire country is going bankrupt and Exxon/Mobil is stashing away $15 billion just THIS QUARTER? How about a little rage. Do something!


28 October 2008

Eastbourne With The Rotary Gang

First, let me apologize for the lack of postings. As you might imagine, re-learning how to go to school has been more difficult than originally anticipated. Couple that with tow weekends away in a row and a hotly contested election back in the USA (I am in desperate need of reading every headline from every news source EVERY DAY) and it starts to make a little more sense.

The real sad part is that when my mind is so busy reading and scheduling and "keeping up," I forget to think critically about my surroundings, what they mean, how they're different, etc. Of course the financial crisis has been felt in the UK more than anywhere else, I believe, but the long-term impact hasn't quite trickled out just yet (though stores are slowly becoming more and more empty, despite absurd sales). Naturally, as a student, you don't feel it quite as much. I was on a fixed budget before the crisis and I'm on a fixed budget now. So basically, I'm still broke (but I do live in Central London!).

So I promise to try and "think" more in my day-to-day! In the meantime, I'll just share about my happenings (there aren't nearly as many when you live in the same place and come back to the same room and go to the same classes day after endless day). My first great escape came last weekend when the London Rotary District held their annual conference in Eastbourne, which is along the Southeast Coast of the country. John and Lois (the Rotary parents), crazy Lou (more on that later) and I all hunkered down in the family truckster and headed South. The three-hour drive was reminiscent of the annual trek to Las Vegas - music, pictures out the window, witty banter and bagels and lox (ok, maybe not the lox).

Our "pad" was nudged gently up against the sea, which meant i actually got to watch both sunrise and sunset from my room! Spoiled? I think yes. The event itself ended up having a fairly pleasant routine of its own. It opened with a plenary session about Rotary's work locally, nationally and globally, including a fantastic guest speaker. That was followed by a pub lunch and another plenary session (or an amazing walk along the coast when John, Lois and I skipped out on Saturday afternoon).

The evenings began with cocktail hour in John and Lois' room, followed by a 4-course dinner in the hotel restaurant (we were staying a Best Western and I explained that eating in the hotel restaurant at a US Best Western probably wouldn't be the best idea). Still, the food was divine. The whole gang would then retreat to the front lounge, where we'd end the night with tea, coffee and mockery (they love to take the Mick out of everyone!).

This, of course, was a bit altered on Saturday night when we all went to see an Abba cover band (which was borderline amazing).

So yes, aside from school this is what I'm up to - seaside resorts, guest speakers, happy hours, pubs and five-course meals at a Best Western. Rockin'!


Kyle Taylor

16 October 2008

Political Food For Thought

I'm off for the weekend on a Scholarship Shindig, but here's some food for thought. This was forwarded to me by some who is almost as big a political junkie as me:

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."

* Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well rounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services Committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Veteran's Affairs Committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you teach responsible, age-appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DUI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25, and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, it's much clearer now...


Kyle Taylor

13 October 2008

One More Reason...

So I donated to the Obama campaign again today (only $10, but it's what I could give) in their "give a gift to inspire someone else to give" matching program. Not only are our donations matched, but so are we! They connect us by name, email, whatever info we want to give. Here is the email my "match" sent to me:

"Thank you for believing in change the way me and my family do and for matching my small contribution. As someone who's spouse has served in Iraq and will do so again, having you support a candidate who wants to end the nonsense and do the right thing means more than you will ever know. Thanks again."

Now THAT is what Obama is about, and that's what this election is about. Inspiring every American to believe in the power they have to create change, and that they're not alone. We're all in this together. That's one more check in the Obama box.


Kyle Taylor

11 October 2008

I Joined A Swim Team!

That's right, I started training with the London University Swim Team yesterday and I'm just about ready to collapse. I woke up this morning and couldn't really move my arms. Fortunately, it's not shoulder pain. I'm just that pathetically weak!

The whole thing started with an amazing walk through the city from my place to the pool (more on my place soon), which is located at the University of London campus. I asked a receptionist where the pool was and she pointed inanely in a general direction. Gotta just LOVE customer service in this country. LOVE.

So finally I run into the team's social secretary, who leads the way. Within minutes I'm being treated like I've been on the team for years. I'm loving the spirit! I do love spirit.

Naturally, I have completely forgotten how to be a good swimmer. I have no lock for my locker and NO TOWEL. I mean, who forgets a towel? We head to the pool deck and I meet a few of the other guys on the team. Everyone is cool and I'm loving the whole feeling of being on a "team" and getting in the pool and clipping in lane lines and saying "hey coach." Oh yeah, I said "hey coach" to the coach as if I knew him. He said "hey swimmer I don't yet." It was great. Turns out he used to coach the Macedonian National Team, so la-di-da!

Warm-up is a 400, your choice. I hop in last and immediately remember exactly what it feels like to pull your body through the water. It's exhilarating. I'm chugging along at a less than spectacular pace but I haven't been in the water in nearly four years, so I'm fine with it. So is the coach. "You'll get your fitness back. Just give it time. It'll come back." I'm feeling pumped.

Here's when I start to get irritated. It's a 400 so I'm thinking 16 laps. Everyone stops after 12 so I look like either the super slow person or the one who can't count. I generally despise looking like a fool when I've not done something foolish. We get our first set. It's "2's" (that means two laps) IM order, "8 times." That means do 8 of them. I'm learning the UK lingo. This goes fine, though I'm nearing passing out by number 6.

You see, this pool isn't exactly spectacular. There are no gutters and no lines on the bottom, so I'm bobbing and weaving while feeling like I'm in a backyard pool. There is also a massive jet blasting out hot water, which means you have to swim "upstream" to do a flip-turn. The pool is also feeling incredibly long. I just associate that with my being really out of shape. "You'll get your fitness back. Just give it time. It'll come back." I'm feeling pumped again.

The final set of the workout is 12 100's descending in sets of 3. OH MY GOD. I hang at the rear and we stop after 3 laps, which I'm thinking is only a 75 (assuming we're in a 100-yard pool). "Did he say 100s," I ask. "Yep. That was a 100," one of the guys tells me. Now, not wanting to tick anyone off my being a know-it-all, I just plaster a perplexed look on my face. He catches my drift. "It's a 33 meter pool, so 3 laps is 100."

WHAT?!?! Never in my life have I seen - much less worked out in - a 33 meter pool! I mean, that is regulation NOTHING. Not European, not American, just bizarre though oddly fitting at the same time. Needless to say, I'm feeling relieved to know that I am actually not as pathetic as I originally thought.

Workout ends, I scurry to the showers, rinse off and try and decide what to do about the whole lack of towel situation. Air-drying won't work because we're inside and it's humid inside. I could use my jeans but then I won't have any pants to wear. I decide on walking briskly from one end of the locker room to the other to build some wind. By lap three I'm still wet and now just really cold. Fortunately, I notice four hair dryers just near the door. Now, that's hot air blowing out of a machine. Perfect.

And that's how my first swimming workout in 4 years ended - me drying off with a hairdryer.


Kyle Taylor

Obama Is Where It's At

I've donated and I've recruited and now I'm at the point where I will honestly and truly do anything and everything it takes to win. That's what made me a HIllary-ite: She was willing to do whatever she had to do to claim victory against pretty steep odds. Well, Obama has learned and now he's got what it takes, but it goes far beyond that.

We're talking about the future of humanity, and that is not something to take lightly. It may sound melodramatic, but trust me when I say it is simply realistic. Things are bad. Things are quite possibly the worst they have ever been in my lifetime, my parent's lifetime and my grandparent's lifetime (they've told me so). Companies own America and they own you. The rich get $240 million in severance for driving a company into the ground and the rest lose everything.

Forget for a minute who you "like" and think about who has the best ideas. McCain is against regulation. McCain is again healthcare for all. McCain is against equal rights. If that isn't enough, a McCain win would mean that Sarah Palin is a "heartbeat" away from the White House - a White House that would be home to the oldest President in US History. Are you willing to bet the future of humanity on her? I'm not.

Be weary. They'll say anything to win, and most of what they've been saying are flat-out lies. They go on about being the "Original Mavericks," whatever that means. Now, more importantly, do you really want the economy in the hands of a "Maverick?" That's not a safe bet. So watch these two clips and get to know the real McCain and the real Obama. Then, on November 4th, go out and do the human thing - Vote Obama.



08 October 2008

I live in China! Wait, I mean England

Six days in and I’m already half-way through my traditional start-of-semester nervous breakdown, which usually includes a few frantic nights, one all-out crying fit and a major break-out that takes me right back to the 7th grade. School is, as expected, overwhelming. My top-choice course isn’t be offered, which has left me wandering aimlessly from optional to optional, trying to find something that at least partly touches on my interest area (fortunately, I think I found it today in “Critical Issues of Media, Communication & Development). Tack on an education system entirely different than ours in the US (read: fragmented, discombobulated and slightly illogical)and you’ve got a pretty good picture of my mental state.

Naturally, nothing has gone quite as planned and that’s usually at no fault to me. Since my last name begins with T and ends with aylor, it might seem fitting. At the same time, I thought that moving to England would be a whole lot easier than moving to China. How wrong I was. Here in the UK, bureaucracy and “the system” reign supreme. If the computer doesn’t say it, it can’t be done. If you don’t have this certain, specific form that is exactly like this other certain specific form except for the color of the stamp and the weight of the paper, then it can’t be done. And finally, if the system doesn’t support “interactivity,” then you simply cannot log on. EVER. I’d like to quickly highlight three anecdotes where I was almost certain that I was either in China or on a hidden camera show.

The first came just after my Mom and I had arrived in London after a short stint with the Belgian host fam. We had reserved a car with Sixt and I had “started” the reservation at 1pm, though I imagined we could pick the car up at any time. Wrong. Because of the Chunnel fire, my Mom and I arrived to London 3 hours early. Rather than lolli-gaggle, we went straight to the rental place. I handed over my information and the woman handed it right back to me. “This reservation is starting at 1pm. You are too early.” I explained the situation. Nothing she could do. I asked if the car was there. “Yes, but doesn’t matter. Your reservation is starting at 1pm. The computer won’t let me give to you the car until 1pm.” By now my head is spinning. The car is there, no one else wants it and we’re ready to go. I end up on the phone with “Customer Service” (and I use that term lightly), who says the only way to get the car is to the cancel the current reservation and make a new one. I would, however, have to pay the full price of the original reservation as well as for the new one. Um, no. 30 minutes have passed and there is officially NOTHING that can be done because the “computer says no.” So what do we do? We sit in the lobby for 3 hours and wait. Promptly at 1pm I go back to the counter and the woman acts as if she has never seen me before. Brilliant. We then proceeded to get lost in London for two hours, thanks to a lack of street signs and a local population that apparently doesn’t know how to get around either.

The second incident occurred when trying to open a bank account. Now on my sixth attempt, I brought what I was told I needed. There is, of course, no reception, so you have to wait 40 minutes to see someone before you can be told that you’ve got the wrong forms. This time, I have the wrong “stamp” on the right form. Apparently this is also the ONLY PLACE in England that I can open an account as an LSE student, even though I am not getting the benefits of a student account. Why? Because “that’s the way the system processes the input sets.” So I head off to get the right stamp, but first I have to print another copy of the form.

This leads into the third incident. I head to the library to use one of the 10 million computers. I enter my login info and receive this error message: “This system does not support interactivity.” A few more tries and the same thing, so I go to the IT help desk and explain my situation. “Wow, we’ve never heard of that one before. Sorry mate.” I decide to try the Student “Services” Center to see if they can just print then stamp the form. Once again no reception, so I have to wait twenty minutes to find out they can’t help me. “Sorry, the system doesn’t allow us to print student information.”

So there it is. One week and one very powerful, ethereal, all-knowing, creepy “system.” The tiers of bureaucracy reach the same level as those in China, only here they’re inside a computer, which makes them even less “real.” Back for round 37 tomorrow…
Kyle Taylor