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  1. This is a time for American heroes

    December 17, 2012 by dafyd

    More than any time in recent history, America’s destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people’s strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive.


    The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.

    The West Wing

  2. America: I have a favo(u)r to ask

    November 6, 2012 by dafyd

    My fellow Americans. I have a secret. I’ve been living with it for a couple of years now. I know it will come as a surprise, but don’t worry: I’m OK.

    Deep breath, here goes: I’m not American.

    I know, right? I’ve been trying really hard, with all the driving on the right and speaking funny and spelling words with more “z”s and fewer “u”s. I watch Doctor Who with commercials and Downton Abbey without. But the truth is, actually I’m British. Always have been.

    According to the Department of Homeland Security, I’m a Conditional Permanent Resident Alien.

    Another Resident Alien

    That means I live here. I work here. I earn here. I spend here. I follow the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the United States of America. I’m registered for Selective Service. I pay federal, state, county and municipal taxes. I even pay the 7% Allegheny County Poured Drink Tax. I believe I’m exempt from speed limits, but I may have misunderstood the man at the DMV. He was mumbling.

    I don’t get to vote here.

    Well, that’s not strictly true. I can vote for the Gerber Baby. I can vote for American Idol. I cannot vote for any of the politicians who tell me how to live, work, earn, spend, drive.

    And I don’t mind that. That was the deal when I came in. Eventually, if I want to, I can become a US citizen, and then I’ll be able to vote all I want. I think I’ll have to obey speed limits, too, so I might put it off for a few years. I can still vote in the UK. Sorry, Britain. Nick Clegg? That was me.

    But here’s the thing. The president that America elects today is going to be around for the next four years. January 2017. By then I’ll have traded in my iPhone 5 for an iPhone 7, and my iPhone 7 for an iPhone 9. Star Wars Episode VIII will be in production.

    This president will probably be the first president that my future children know.

    If you know me, I guess you know how I would vote. If you don’t know me, I’m not going to tell you. Your vote is yours. It is one of the most personal things you have. You’ve watched enough campaign ads, heard enough rhetoric, read enough articles, seen enough yard signs that you should know by now how you want to vote.

    And that’s exactly my point.

    I’m not going to ask you to vote for Obama “for the good of the Western world”. I’m not going to tell you to pick Romney because he has a nice haircut. These people want to be your president (my president). They have different positions on taxes, on women’s rights, on the role of government in disaster relief, on military spending, on immigration (hey, by the way: I’m an immigrant, even though I don’t speak Spanish). They don’t really have different views on foreign relations, as it turns out. I don’t know what their policies on speed limits are, because in three debates no one bothered to ask.

    Pick the man or woman that you think can best lead America. Pick him, then go down to your polling place (if you don’t know where it is, you can find it here) and push the button on the computer, or punch a hole in the card, or fill in the bubble on the sheet, to vote for him or her. While you’re there, vote for your Senator, your Representative in Congress, your State Representatives. Vote for your state’s Attorney General. Make your position clear on any ballot measures on which your state wants your opinion.

    Vote with your brain, not your heart. Vote because of what you believe in, not what you were told to believe in. Vote seriously.

    Don’t pick Hello Kitty for President because it would be “ironic”. You’re using “irony” wrong; the word you’re looking for is “stupid”. Don’t pick someone because they were endorsed by Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Honey Boo Boo or even Clint Eastwood. Again: you’re smarter than that.

    Vote for the man or woman who you think will most positively affect you, and will most positively affect me, and will most positively affect everyone else in this country. Your vote really does count. It does make a difference. It makes a difference for you, and it makes a difference for me.

    So please, for me: go vote. No matter who you vote for, make sure you vote.

  3. Downton Abbey: A Drinking Game

    February 19, 2012 by dafyd

    Downton Abbey cast

    Were there to be a drinking game to be played while watching Downton Abbey (the costume-y soap-y melodrama imported from ITV that finishes its American run on PBS tonight), it would surely be the most genteel, witty, beguiling drinking game ever conceived. To that end, I present the following:

    Sip your drink when:

    • Daisy moans about poor dead William
    • Lady Edith complains about being the middle daughter (boring, not taken seriously, damned to be the maiden aunt)
    • The Dowager Duchess chomps her way through the scenery
    • Any character speaks in a way totally inappropriate for the period
    • Matthew and Lady Mary lock eyes over a game of cards / dinner / a concert / a grouse shoot
    • Mr Bates and Anna locks eyes over a game of cards / dinner / a concert / polishing shoes
    • Lord Grantham writes to his “man of business”
    • The entail is called into question

    Take several sips of your drink when:

    • A well-known British character actor appears as the Crawley’s long-lost relative (I’m thinking Joanna Lumley, Nigel Havers, Bernard Cribbins)
    • Carson has health issues, brought on by overwork due to a chronic shortage of servants
    • Lady Sybil elopes with a servant
    • Sir Richard Carlisle taps a celebrity’s phone is booed offstage
    • Mrs Patmore accidentally poisons the family
    • Thomas shoots himself in the hand (literally or metaphorically)

    Finish your drink when:

    • O’Brien’s cunning scheme fails
    • “Doctor” Clarkson’s medical diagnosis is called into question / proved incorrect / kills off a recurring character
    • Reference is made to Britain’s current (2012) coalition government

    Finish your drink, everyone else’s drink, then run out to buy more drink when / if:

    • Mention is made of (or reference to) Lady Mary’s “Turkish diplomat” troubles
    • Lady Cora does anything (other than falling ill) that directly impacts the story
    • We discover Carson’s first name
    Enjoy. Best played with port or sherry.

  4. Green Card: My Immigration Story: Part the First

    September 7, 2011 by dafyd

    Disclaimer: I am not an immigration lawyer. In fact, I am not any kind of lawyer. I do not claim to be an immigration expert. The experiences I describe below are mine; others will vary. US immigration procedures, times, costs, forms, all change regularly. Don’t rely on what I say without checking.

    Green Card posterSo, in case you haven’t already picked this up from, say, my Mars Bar / Milky Way rant, I’m a fairly recent immigrant to the US. I was born and brought up in the UK, so it hasn’t been a massive jump, but there has been a huge amount of paperwork, bureaucracy and red tape to navigate. While it’s still fairly fresh in my memory, I wanted to document the process that K and I went through, in the hope that it may help others avoid any of the pitfalls along the way. It’s quite a lengthy story – we’re two years in at the moment, and still have a fair way to go – so this will be a short series of long posts (or a long series of short posts, depending on my mood). I’m not a big fan of these multipart posts, but I don’t really fancy writing the whole thing in one go, and this might make it look like I’m blogging slightly more actively…

    Our story begins in the UK, in late 2007/early 2008. K is studying for her MA at Durham, where I am in the fourth year of my bachelors degree. We meet through mutual friends and hit it off. Skipping forward some time, K returns to her native Pittsburgh to do another MA (although this turns into teaching) while I stay in the UK, job hunting. We Skype, we talk on the phone, we visit each other. But we can’t live together. Sometime during this period, we got engaged – we knew we wanted to be together and weren’t strong enough to do the long-distance thing for too long. We set a preliminary wedding date of June 2010, on the basis that 2 years would give us time to work out the logistics. Where would the wedding be? Where would we live afterwards?

    Skip forwards a year to Summer 2009. K has a job teaching high school history in Pittsburgh. I have a job as a web developer for a local firm (albeit with global aspirations) in Nottingham. By this time, it’s fairly clear to us that we’re going to get married and settle in Pittsburgh: for K to do what she does in the UK, she would have to retrain, whereas my skills are more transferable – I can do web stuff anywhere I have a laptop. So we need to work out how the immigration thing would work. I visit K for a week at the end of August, and we make an appointment with an “Immigration Information Officer” at the USCIS field office in Pittsburgh (USCIS = United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS], and but the first of many acronyms we shall encounter). The office is in the new Homeland Security building downtown, so there are the inevitable airport-style strip-searches to go through, but once we get into the information room (for want of a better word), we are seen fairly quickly. We are called over to a window (the room is just like a bank or post office – about a half-dozen window, with a screen telling you which to go to) and a pleasant young man introduces himself. We explain our situation, and ask how he would approach it. He explains to us that there are two ways we could get married and stay in the US, one long but safe, one easy but risky. Fair play to him, he didn’t have to tell us about the latter – but he wanted to make sure that we were fully informed and understood all our options.

    Long but safe: K “petitions” for permission for me to apply for a K1 visa, which would allow me to enter the US once as a non-immigrant and get married within 90 days of entry, after which I would have to apply for an “adjustment of status” to become a permanent resident.

    Easy but risky: I enter the US as normal under the Visa Waiver Program (that’s the green form that EU citizens fill out on the plane have to complete before flying, allowing them to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa). We then get married and I file immediately for permanent residency as the spouse of a US citizen. The danger here is that under the VWP, I could not enter the country with “intent to remain”. If USCIS found out that I was entering to get married, I would be deported and refused residency.

    It seemed obvious to us that the first was the way to go. We didn’t want to risk any lengthy immigration appeals or worse. The route with the least longterm hassle was the one that seemed immediately daunting. We ask the immigration chap about timescales, and he tells us that while he can’t speak for every embassy (each is different), six to nine months is a good estimate. That fits perfectly into our plans – we have about 10 months before the wedding.

    Part the Second, Petitioning for Alien Fiancé: coming soon.

  5. Public Service Announcement: Chocolate

    August 24, 2011 by dafyd

    Mars Believe

    Tangentially related to my last post, I wanted to share a somewhat amusing, somewhat annoying quirk of the American chocolate market.

    You know a Mars Bar, right? One a day helps you work, rest and play? There is no such thing in America. Nope, in the USA, a Mars Bar is called a Milky Way.

    This causes me immense amounts of confusion. Englishers, I’m sure you’ll understand why. For my American friends, I should explain that there is a chocolate bar (“candy bar”) marketed in the UK as a “Milky Way”. It is not, though, what you know as a Milky Way; it’s what Mars USA calls a 3 Musketeers bar. There is no 3 Musketeers bar in Britain.

    So, to recap, in the hope that I can help others from falling into the same trap:

    • UK Mars Bar = US Milky Way
    • UK Milky Way = US 3 Musketeers

    Now try standing in front of those two bars in an American store and try to pick the one containing caramel. Mind = blown.

    Photo by Flickr user ukslim (by-nc-sa)

  6. Dear Giant Eagle

    August 24, 2011 by dafyd

    A letter, recently dispatched to our local supermarket after it had the temerity to dangle Proper British Chocolate in front of me, only to snatch it away a short time later.

    Giant Eagle Market District
    100 Settlers Ridge Center Dr,
    Pittsburgh, PA 15205

    Wednesday, 24 August 2011

    Dear Giant Eagle chaps,

    As a Brit who has recently moved to the Pittsburgh area, I want to thank you for your Market District store at Settlers Ridge. You have no idea how much I have appreciated finding an impressive range of home comforts on your shelves: Weetabix cereal, Ready Brek porridge, Robinsons Lemon Barley Water, Yorkie bars, the largest range of Sam Smith’s beers in Western PA… all products that have, from time-to-time, helped to relieve any tinge of homesickness.

    Imagine my horror, therefore, when I recently visited the store to obtain a few essentials and discovered that the British section had been brutally mutilated, halved in size. Where once were two full shelf racks bustling with the finest spotted dicks and Marmite, there is now but one. Your array of Cadbury’s chocolate bars – vital, as I’m sure you’re aware, to remove any lingering taste of Hershey’s “chocolate” – has gone! No more Maltesers or Kit Kat Chunkies! Why? Are there too few expats and Anglophiles in Allegheny Country to justify such an extravagance? Where should I now sate my olde worlde sweet tooth? And to add insult to injury, the former British shelves are now filled with products from Germany. Curry Ketchup? Dried Spaetzle? Pfah.

    As I say, I’m a great admirer of your store, and will certainly continue to patronise it. That said, though, I would be eternally grateful if you were to reconsider your downsizing of the British foods display. I’m sure I can make it worth your while.

    Yours sincerely,
    Dafyd Jones

    PS: No matter how you may have been informed, Maille “Old Style” Moutarde de Dijon and “extra fine” Cornichons do not belong in the (already emasculated) British section. The Hundred Years War was fought over less.

    Also, Jaffa Cakes.

  7. Pseuds Recruitment

    March 15, 2011 by dafyd

    Breaking my ridiculously long blog-silence (to be properly broken soon, I promise), to reproduce this email, received earlier today from an IT recruiter back in the UK. He doesn’t know that I (a) have a job and (b) am on another continent. It strikes me as a perfect candidate for Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner.

    Good Day to you Dafyd,

    The conventional Digital Agency is becoming somewhat of a commonplace in today’s society. Most developers know what to expect from a Digital Agency environment……. Large windows, trendy yuppies, converted warehouses, exposed brickwork etc etc.

    What strikes me when I enter a digital agency is that they are all pretty much the same. Agencies purporting to be creative, yet which in themselves are anything but ‘machines for creativity’, rather clones of the agency down the road. interior Cobblestone floors, converted warehouses and a Shoreditch location, no longer appeal to those wise developers who yearn for a working environment which nourishes the creative juices far more than an ‘open plan office with perspex desks’. Indeed, great artisans have long tended to seek recourse in a small workshop rather than a huge sprawling office. Take the great architect, prophet, luminary, painter, sculptor, furniture designer and all round Uber-Menche, Le Corbusier, a man who was given the opportunity to work in some of the most opulent and ornamented Parisian ateliers, yet who settled for a ramshackle studio in Rue de Sevres, Paris from whence, some of the most highly valued paintings were conceived.

    I went to the London offices of my client yesterday to discuss a role that they are seeking to fill urgently. I was expecting, the same old Digital Agency stereotype, yet I was pleasantly surprised to enter a beautiful building which in my view served as a synthesis between the old and the new, past and present, Ying and Yang, nature and the machine. I was immediately struck by the timber framed roof beams of the main studio, reinforced with steel girders, the smoking room adorned with epoque empire candelabras and old smoking pipes juxtaposed by cutting edge orthopaedic chairs with built in lumbar supports. At the far end of the room, an interior ornamental pediment surmounted by muses caught my gaze, as if removed from atop the pillars of Athens. I realised just what an exceptional agency I had stumbled upon. What’s more, they create websites for the most well known european car brands, MERCEDES BENZ!

    They are currently seeking a strong hybrid PHP/AS3 developer to join their team, somewhat of an interesting combination, but one which no doubt fits in with their general maxim of reconciling of opposites. The successful candidate would be joining a small team of very smart yet very laid back developers and designers.

    Seriously? Corbusier, Uber-Menche (he means mensch)? Ying (sic) and yang? Sounds a great place to work, but, despite his wordy protestations to the contrary, I have to say that it sounds exactly like every trendy digital agency…

  8. CordenBleugh

    June 10, 2010 by dafyd

    Are you using the shiny new Safari 5? Do you want to remove all traces of James Corden from your interwebs? I can help.

    Install the CordenBleugh Safari Extension (right-click and download), and, almost magically, your browsing will be no longer blighted. Can’t promise the same for this Saturday’s Doctor Who, though. Sorry.

    Not sure how to use Safari extensions? Read this.

    (This is all based on Tane Piper’s CordenBleugh extension for Google Chrome, which is in turn based on Shaved Bieber by Greg Leuch)

  9. Instablog

    January 5, 2010 by dafyd

    Look! I’m back! Sort of – this is very much a holding blog until I get everything sorted out on my super-shiny, all-bells-and-whistles, systematic, hydromatic new site.

    Many apologies for my sustained absence – believe me, I wish it hadn’t been so long. Anyhoo, I have returned, with a temporary blog here to hold my pearls of wisdom until I finally get round to finishing the new-look version of my full site.

    But, I hear you cry, why have I made such a sudden reappearance? Well, I’m going to be spending much of the next week in bed (more on that anon), and feel I may wish to vent my frustration in more than 140 characters. So I shall be publishing, with luck, longer form rants here once again.

    So, yes, more blogging here again. Starting tomorrow, with a brief catchup of what’s going on with me and why.

  10. 140 characters or fewer

    May 8, 2009 by dafyd

    I was going to post on Twitter that Twitter is currently down. It took me at least three attempts to realise the flaw in my plan…

    Should be blogging more, but I’ve been awfully busy with work (yes, proper work, here) and haven’t really felt like it. More anon, though, I promise.