Let’s talk about something other than the pandemic, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
The shareholders of Tesco, a British supermarket chain, objected by 67% to whatever’s left to paying its outgoing chief exec an extra £1.7 on top of the £6.42 million he was already scheduled to get. And while we’re at it, to paying an extra £900,000 to the finance director.
To which Tesco said, “They didn’t really mean that.”
That’s a paraphrase. What they actually said was, “Recent engagement on our remuneration report with a number of our larger shareholders” told them that shareholders are actually just fine with it.
That one marginally comprehensible phrase was wrapped in enough extra verbiage that I had to borrow the neighbors’ an hedge trimmer to cut it loose.
A Spanish law that was passed to keep Canary Island separatists from flying their flags on public buildings ended up blocking the town of Villanueva de Algaidas from flying a rainbow flag to mark Pride Month. Town officials put up a rainbow flag, the police got three complaints (or possibly one complaint from three people), and down the flag had to go.
What happened next? Residents filled the town with rainbow flags. Hundreds of people flew them from windows, from balconies, from anything they had access to. The instigators–sorry, the organizers–are hoping to do the same next year.
A German post office closed down because a suspicious package smelled so bad that six people were taken to the hospital and others became nauseous and were evacuated.
The place promptly filled with police and firefighters who cleared sixty people from the building and looked for some sort of dangerous gas.
The cause turned turned out to be a four durians from Thailand.
The durian is a fruit, and one of those things people either love or hate. It’s been compared to cheesecake. It’s also been compared to dirty feet and to rotting onions. In parts of Asia, it’s banned from public transportation. Some hotels won’t allow it on the premises.
After I moved to Britain, I learned that Britain and the U.S. have a special relationship.
Sorry, make that the special relationship. It’s something that almost no one in the U.S. knows about it, but mention it in Britain and 93.6% of resident humans will know what you mean.
And 47.3% of statistics are made up on the spot.
That doesn’t have much to do with the following story, but it needed some sort of introduction.
Michelle from North Carolina posted a TikTok video that involved making tea by mixing milk, powdered lemonade, spices, sugar, Tang (that’s an orange-colored drink mix), and a teabag, then microwaving the whole mess.
Did the microwave die of embarrassment? It did not. It stuck around long enough for her to try making “British tea,” which (as far as I can figure out without actually going to TikTok myself) involved cold water, a tea bag (possibly the same one, but possibly not; what do I know?) and that same microwave.
The internet went nuts–or at least the British segment of it did. Eventually Britain’s ambassador to Washington posted a video of in which three branches of the armed forces appeared separately and demonstrated how to make a cup of tea.
Take that, Americans.
They didn’t. The U.S. ambassador to London responded with a video demonstrating how to make a cup of coffee. He dumped a spoonful of instant coffee in a mug, poured milk in, and put water in a kettle.
“Have a nice day,” he said.
The British think all Americans say “have a nice day” at the end of every encounter. They’re probably right, but they’ve started saying it themselves.
A source at the Italian embassy has said, unofficially, “What [the ambassador] made was American coffee. And I stress: American coffee.”
Michelle from North Carolina turns out to live in Britain. She’s having a great time, thanks and has 5 million TikTok likes. You can trade those for money at the concession stand on your way out.
As I’m sure you know, Britain’s leaving the E.U., and that means we have to do all sorts of things for ourselves that the E.U had been doing for us, including find satellites to bounce our navigation system signals off of. (I know: a preposition is something you should never end a sentence with. Aren’t I just daring? Don’t you just hold your breath at the audacity of it all?)
So Britain bought a 20% stake in OneWeb, to the tune of something like £500 million. The problem? OneWeb doesn’t run the kind of satellite network navigation systems need.
According to Bleddyn Bower, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, “What happened is that the very talented lobbyists at OneWeb have convinced the government that we can completely redesign some of the satellites to piggyback a navigation payload on it. It’s bolting an unproven technology onto a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else.”
All existing navigation use satellites in medium orbit. OneWeb’s are in low orbit.
The original plan was for the UK to build its own satellite system, to the tune of about £4 billion. That was put on hold just before the feasibility study was due to be published, by which time the cost had gone up to £5 billion.
Giles Thorne, a research analyst, said, “Let’s give the government the benefit of the doubt. . . . It is probably quicker and cheaper to smash the square peg of OneWeb into the round hole of a Galileo replacement than to do it from scratch.”
But he also said, “This situation is nonsensical to me.”
OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. in March. Which has nothing to do with anything.
Okay, one pandemic story: A barista in San Diego, California, asked a customer to wear a face mask. Instead, the customer cursed at him, threatened to call the cops, took a photo, and posted it to Facebook.
“Meet Lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption,” she wrote.
His name isn’t Lenen. It’s Lenin Gutierrez.
The move backfired. Her post is full of comments that range from reasoned arguments to abuse to my favorite explanation of why you wear a mask: “You know what’s really uncomfortable? Pants. But I still wear them in public. Not for me. For others.”
In American, pants aren’t underwear. They’re overwear: trousers. In British, they’re underwear.
Okay, one more comment on her post: “Covid-19 sent you a friend request.”
Then someone–not anyone who knew Gutierrez–set up a GoFundMe page, asking people to leave Gutierrez a tip for standing up to the customer. He hoped to raise $1,000 and ended up raising $80,000 in less than a week. When I checked at the end of June, it was close to $100,000.
“I don’t know how to truly vocalize how grateful and blessed I feel with this opportunity everyone has given me,” Gutierrez said.
He plans to use some of the money to pursue his dream, which is to become a dancer, and to donate some of it to organizations in San Diego.