Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

in chicago

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Hello from big old Chicago. I’m here for just a couple of days having a bit more management offsite training and strategising etc. Hours of fun for all the family. Actually I think that we’ve gotten a lot done, and it’s been good to get my work friends from different places around the world in one place to work through stuff and get some plans for the future.

It’s pretty neat being in Chicago though. I haven’t been here for quite a few years, but hopefully Emma and I will get the chance to come back again soonish. It’s just quite an exciting place, and the architecture is fantastic – the size of the buildings is phenomenal. I’m staying in the gigantic Hyatt Regency and we’re doing work in the completely huge Sears Tower. I feel like we’re very high up in the 45th floor, but that’s in fact less than half way up. The view is astonishing, and it’s worth reading that link to find out how elevators and stuff work for a building that tall.

in wisconsin

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Hello from sunny Wisconsin where I’m at a work management retreat thing. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do this, having just gotten back from London, but it’s kind of fun now I’m here. Lots of us lowly middle management types in seminars all day, but at least we’re at a rather nice resort, and I generally like the people I work with. Especially with friends from other offices it’s nice to get the chance to catch up.

I arrived quite late last night – my flight from Minneapolis to Chicago had been canceled so I had to do a lot of running around at the airport to get moved from Northwest to American Airlines, but got here safely in the end. We had a shuttle bus to drive us the hour and a half to the resort. Once we got out of Chicago it was really beautiful – lots of quaint towns, and for the last few miles after the sun went down the fields on either side of the road were lit up with flashing fireflies.

This morning I found out that I would have to give a part of a presentation at the big opening seminar, which seemed to go fairly well – people asked good questions once I was done, and said afterwards that they liked what I had to say.

family and food

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Tonight had a really nice time with my brothers and my dad. We met up at Kings Cross station, then got the bus to Liverpool Street (near where I used to work when I was living in London) and walked over to Spitalfields Market, which even though it was Sunday evening was still buzzing and fun. We walked around for a wee while, including a walk around Brick Lane where there were a few pubs far too cool for us (and also too crowded) plus Indian restaurants aplenty, with guys outside trying to persuade us to go in for “special deals” – no thanks.

We ended up back at the market, and went to a great place – Canteen – which does traditional English food really well. It’s pretty simple and very reasonably priced (and looking at their website I see it won the Observer Food Magazine’s Best Restaurant award for 2007, but more importantly it was really fun to be with all three of my brothers and my dad. We just had a great time chatting, joking around and generally hanging out.


Sunday, July 15th, 2007

One of the many cultural things I notice in the UK is the amount people say “sorry”. I remember hearing Michael Palin talk about this, and its effect on the Monty Python comedy ideas – someone would stand on your foot and you’d say “Oh I’m so sorry [that you happened to stand on my foot thereby causing me pain]“.

In the client meetings earlier this week there was a fair bit of this (saying sorry, not standing on each others’ feet), and at least one of my brothers often starts sentences with sorry. For example “Sorry Andrew, would you like some tea?”

A spectacular example of this happened yesterday. To give some context, on the first day here I had set an alarm call for 7:20 to give me enough time to get up and ready and to the client meeting for 9am. I woke at 9:30 – it seemed the alarm call hadn’t worked and I had to do the first morning of the client stuff in a big rush with no breakfast or caffeine. I tested it the next day, setting my mobile phone alarm for five minutes before the room alarm call, and still no alarm call. Anyway, the first morning my mother was here (she came down from Aberdeen for a couple of days and is staying at the same hotel as me which is fun) she got an alarm call to her room at 6:30am, which needless to say she hadn’t ordered. She told me that she said to the guy on the phone “I’m terribly sorry but I didn’t order an alarm call.” I think it’s fantastic that someone would be woken up and apologize to the person who had woken you by mistake.

london update

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Having a pretty good time in London – very productive anyway. Yesterday was day 2 of client meetings which went extremely well – it’s just good from a trust and communication standpoint to be face to face, and also we uncovered a number of things which would be very expensive to fix down the line – that in itself will have paid for our trip out here.

Today I had a nice leisurely breakfast and have been working hard in my room since then – catching up on email and I have a lot of stuff to pull together for next week at work. My brother Richard is picking me up at about 3:30 and we’re off to hang out for the evening.

Last night I met up with my brother David near his work for dinner. I had forgotten the culture shock of different London neighborhoods: as I said yesterday my hotel is in a very Lebanese area of Marble Arch; then I was working in Mayfair, right next to Berkeley Square and the Ritz hotel where everything is very swanky. The surprise of getting off the tube to meet David in Camden Town where it’s all very indie was quite something. Lots of crazy kids dressed up in funky, sometimes totally ridiculous clothing – I felt way overdressed in my work stuff.

We had a really nice dinner, then to a pub where my friend Robin showed up, it was great to catch up with them both. One slightly alarming moment – a really drunk guy sat down next to us and started going on about how the British Army is the best in the world, how the Spartans had spears, how he was sorry to be talking to us, etc etc. Not sure if it was pathetic or scary. David, Robin and I went outside for a bit to get away from him, then went back in to a different table. By this time the guy had fallen asleep and the bar staff were trying to roll him out the door.

Got the tube home – it was fun to be all London again and getting myself around. Then I had a great chat with Emma and Toby. As noted, hard to be away from them, but at least Toby is good on the phone now so I get good conversation with him.

in london

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Just arrived a few hours ago in London – I’m here for a few days to work with a client, and also have a couple of days on the end to see family and friends. Having the usual being far away from Emma and Toby malaise, but it is kind of fun to be here within that limitation.

I’m staying in a hotel right by Marble Arch, near Park Lane and all kinds of very swanky touristy spots. However the hotel is right in the middle of a bustling Lebanese neighborhood – pretty much every shop and restaurant is Lebanese, and lots of the hotel guests seem to be middle Eastern too. It makes for a really cool international feel. Now that I think about it the people I’ve spoken with most over the last day have all been eastern. My cab driver to the airport in Minneapolis was Ethiopian, and we talked the whole way about his wife’s brand new baby, and Emma’s and my upcoming new baby. Then the guy next to me on the plane was from Tunisia – he’s a chemical engineering student in Minneapolis, doing his masters program. Also a really decent guy and we chatted a lot on the way over.

on the road – arkansas edition

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

I’m out of town once again, this time just for two days, visiting Bentonville, Arkansas. So far nobody has explained to me why the “–kansas” bit of Arkansas is pronounced differently from “Kansas“, the state (and the 70s band).

Reasonably quick flight down here in a teeny plane this morning. It seems quite a nice town, fairly rural round the edges and compactly corporate in the center. The airport is very small, and right in the middle of some fields.

Two moments today when I wished I had a camera with me. Firstly in the strip mall next door to the little Mexican restaurant where I had lunch (two people for less than 10 bucks) was a big picture of a bemuscled, tanned and oiled guy with the tagline “Body for Jesus”. I gathered that it’s a homoerotic Christian gym where I would assume that the people who go are totally anti-gay. Just a feeling.

The other thing which freaked me out was in the restaurant at another table was a guy who looked exactly like my dad. OK, he was a few years younger, and a few inches taller, but he had the exact same profile and hairstyle as my dad. Quite disconcerting.

toby’s orlando photos

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

Toby and I finally got around to getting the photos from our Orlando trip into the computer, did some editing and some hilarious captioning – the results are here. Hope you like them!


Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

When we travel, one of Emma’s favorite things to do is to browse the SkyMall catalog. It’s full of ridiculous things you don’t really need, and a few you think “that’s actually not a bad idea” but would never actually buy. Lots of pet-related stuff, and tons and tons of things you would imagine a sad executive who is never home would get for his children. Slate recently ran an article featuring some highlights and lowlights.

When we went to Orlando a couple of weeks ago, we found a new item which I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while. I think that once you see it you will realize why. Mostly it’s for the name: the Original Backnobber Ii

going back

Friday, May 18th, 2007

Tomorrow morning, almost later tonight, we have to get up at an ungodly hour for an early flight back to Minneapolis. And tomorrow’s going to be a busy day – Emma has a class in the afternoon and then has to collect her two sisters from the airport; I have a rehearsal in the afternoon and then a concert in the evening.

Kind of looking forward to getting home though; as noted a few days ago, it’s amazing how quickly you can get used to being in a hotel – I’m sure it’s miserable after a while, but it’s great to leave your room in the morning then get back later in the day to find it all clean.

So – quick impressions of the trip: My work stuff has been really worthwhile, I learned some good stuff, met some interesting people and have a lot of things to implement when I get back to the office. Emma and Toby have had a great time – Toby did a lot of swimming in the hotel pool and his confidence is way up. He went from, on the first day, being quite nervous and only wanting to be in the kiddy pool, to today zooming around under his own steam back and forth across the big pool, his little legs kicking away and his arms reaching out in front for his kid’s version of freestyle. Nice work.

Today I didn’t have any classes so we all went to Sea World (Toby and Emma’s tickets were good for a second day) and had a great time. The sealion show was really fun – a lot more pantomime and less slick than the other shows, and lots of fun as a result. Toby and Em took me to the Shamu show too – they sat well back having been completely drenched on Tuesday in the “soak zone” and it was pretty cool. We also spent some time at the little funfair bit – as Emma is expecting she wasn’t able to go on the rides with Toby so I went on the rollercoaster with him. I’m not really a fairground ride kind of person, but I must say it was really fun. For a kids’ ride it was pretty fast, Toby was kind of nervous but I did lots of very obvious laughing – “Ha ha haaaa!” – which seemed to make him feel better. I was glad we did it – definitely a fun thing about being a dad. It was pretty hot though, and great to have a swim back at the hotel pool when we got home, followed by a little meal outside in the mild weather.

The only blight on the evening was realizing that now my conference is over, there’s a meeting of the Florida Republicans in the hotel – definitely time for us to leave.