Monthly Archives: March 2008

My own life list

One of the bloggers I like to read recently posted a “life list” of things to do, in two parts (1-50, 51-100).  On the one hand, when I think about the state of my life right now (I moved solo to a foreign country to take a highly improbable job) I feel pretty good, but on the other hand it’s good to have goals and dreams.  So here is my own start at a life list, which pretty much falls neatly into just a few categories.

Places I want to visit
1. China
2. Japan
3. South Korea
4. Prague
5. Russia
6. Melbourne
7. New Zealand
8. Machu Picchu
9. Great Zimbabwe
10. Morocco

Sporting events I want to see in person
11. 6-nations rugby
12. Aussie rules
13. World-class cricket
14. Long bike ride with mountains (a la the Tour de France or similar)

15. become fluent in a foreign language
16. learn to use all the buttons on my camera
17. organize all my photographs
18. get promoted
19. buy my own place
20. clean out my old files (hard copy and computer)
21. learn to play the banjo
22. take a full week’s vacation without checking my email
23. write a book (technical)
24. write a book (general audience)
25. get to Friday and have gotten everything done for the week–carry an empty bag home and enjoy the weekend.

I think I’ll stop there for now but there might be more later.  Suggestions welcome, of course!

Slate on Disney

Slate has a five-part travel story on a grown man, no kids, visiting all the parks in Disney World, accompanied with photos.  The visitor is a bit incredulous at the entire thing, and seems a bit perplexed as to why people love it so much.   Being myself a closet Disneyphile, I thought I might try to explain it, risking my street cred in the process.  (If I ever had any to begin with, totally unclear.)

I’ve been to a Disney park a handful of times as an adult, both Florida and California.  I really do prefer Epcot so Florida is a clear winner, although I have never gone to the animal park or the movie one.  I adore Downtown Disney.  I love the shops that they have there and the restaurants and bars.  I love staying in a hotel close enough to wander over for an adult beverage, preferably enjoyed sitting outside.  I love the fact that anything with the Disney brand on it is likely to be clean and well-organized.

My contrast to Disney comes in that I hate Las Vegas.  I know there are many reasons why people like to go there, but I cannot get past the seedy side of it.  For me, Disney parks are like Vegas without the gambling and hookers and filth.  Great people watching, a slice of America that I never otherwise see.  A place where I truly feel like I’ve escaped my real life and my day job, where I know that I’m on vacation because I can go on rides and eat strange things and shop in the souvenir stores.  Ironically, of course, I’m almost always in Disney proximity because I *am* working, my job takes me to conferences and trade-shows that tend to be in places where Disney parks are located.

I do the whole Disney consumer thing.  I buy a shirt, purchase the photograph of myself making a silly face on some ride or another.  And I love every minute of it.

Now where I think the important difference comes in–from what the Slate author was so concerned about–is that I also like to travel to places in the real world.  I love the fact that my job takes me to places far more exotic than Disney World.  I like the gritty reality of trying to navigate in Budapest or Singapore.  But there is a special place in my heart for Disneyworld.  It’s been a few years, and I’m itching to head over on the train to Paris and check out the local flavor.  Of course, I also desperately want to go to Legoland in Windsor.

While on the Disney confessional, I love the princess movies and I watch them often.  I hated the Lion King.  Okay enough.  That’s definitely enough potential humiliation for one day.

Another bad week to travel from London

Heathrow’s Terminal 5 opened this week to the sort of bumbling incompetence some have come to expect out of British engineering projects. Luggage handling was a mess, and at a point they were back to the draconian restrictions (“we will not handle any checked luggage”) that occurred at T4 last month. They are still expecting further flight cancellations today and tomorrow, and everyone is pointing fingers about what went wrong. It looks pretty simple to me: they moved too much stuff over there all at once without the staff being ready for it. A more gradual transition appears to have been justified by the confusion that resulted this week.

My own Heathrow trips have included flying the week of “all baggage must be checked and you can only carry on a plastic baggie with your passport” in the summer of 2006. Then there was the aftermath, the “only one carry-on bag” problem that was enforced on layovers at Heathrow but not in other airports in Europe, such that you would get to Heathrow with one bag too many and no way to deal with it. It is no wonder that one is then quite shocked to arrive at Heathrow to hear “no checked bags, only carry-on” when you had essentially been planning on the opposite. It’s mixed messages, people. And I guess it’s the nature of the draconian measures, the lack of a clear way forward, that bothers me most. When one is alone and travelling in a foreign country, as I am most of the time these days, you’re left with no easy alternative when faced with these instructions. You have nowhere to go, no way to get anywhere, no one to help.

But I admit, I am increasingly tempted to try the “carry-on only” approach on my next trips, especially now that I have the mini-laptop to save space and weight. Off to Austria this week, thank goodness not via Heathrow. Hopefully by the time of my next Heathrow (long-haul) trips, they will have ironed out the problems in T5.

Update: the commentary on the Guardian is much more biting than that linked above on the BBC, see this, this and this.

Size matters, part 2

In contrast to the new closets, where bigger is better, when travelling for work all the time, even the smallest Mac laptop can start to get quite heavy. I was thoroughly disgusted when I realized that, while my old Powerbook fit, my new Macbook did not actually fit into my beloved Kate Spade messenger bag. Alas, I have solved the problem with the acquisition of my latest toy (at less total cost than the wardrobes, I might add!):

On the left, my trusty laptop. On the right, my new Asus Eee. I will be taking it on a test-drive to Austria next week, and I’ll let you know what I think. For now, I’m delighted. Not only does it fit into my messenger bag, I can actually just about slide it into my purse. Now that’s a laptop for a girl on the go!!!

(I also note that I beat my Dad, who has also been eye-ing these things, and have a current and I’m sure temporary lead in the coolness stakes when it comes to gadgets!)

Size matters, part 1

When it comes to closet space, bigger is better.  I have now finished the transformation of my bedroom, which formerly had only a single 2-door wardrobe, into a clean and organized dream thanks to my new wall of IKEA wardrobes:


Hidden behind these similar-looking doors are drawers, shelves, cupboards, hanging space, I could go on for days.  I love my new UK “closets”.  I think this is even better than anything I ever had in the US, never having had a “California closets” arrangement, not even when I owned a house.  My last US apartment had plenty of closet space but it was never usefully partitioned like this!

Easter Monday?

I need someone with local intelligence (local to the UK, that is) to explain to me the logic of closing the grocery store early last night.  I was well aware that we were at the end of a 4-day weekend, one which included a full day of no groceries (Easter Sunday) and an early evening closing for Good Friday (8 p.m., remember that).  So last night, when I left my flat (for the first time since Saturday, I might add!) at 7:30 it did not occur to me that there would be any issue with the grocery store.  But it was closed.  Had closed at 7 p.m.  Earlier than Good Friday.  I am completely perplexed.  Is there some deep significance to Easter Monday that my American self just does not grasp?  Fortunately this story has a happy ending, in that the co-op down the street was open to 11 p.m. as normal.  And really it has a two-fold happy ending in that I managed to only leave the house twice in the four day weekend, in both cases only briefly for the purpose of obtaining comestibles, and as such I continued to make great progress with both my apartment reorganization and with the slightly overdue book chapters I have been writing.  A lovely weekend indeed.  If only today had not started out with a series of emails from people following up on my not having gotten back to them yet from 2 weeks ago… it’s been quite a wild ride lately, the job has been really busy and the weekend was much appreciated.

Easter Snow

Here we go, photos taken out my window of the snow coming down here in England and of the bit that actually stuck for a while (gone now though).  Happy Easter!  (Whatever that means, see a hilarious piece at Slate about “Crossmas” and how Easter has never been the commercial success that Christmas is…)  I personally am enjoying staying warm and dry inside my flat and working today, taking special advantage of the holiday in that my email is not constantly chiming in with work things 🙂