Archive for July, 2007

back home

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

It’s really good to be back home. I’m trying to rinse the work stuff out of my head, and the overeating and drinking out of my body (I chose not to believe what the scales told me this morning about my weight). It’s so good to see Emma and Toby.

Tonight Emma and I are going to a party for the union ceremony of our friends Christopher and Jason (same-sex marriage being unfortunately illegal in Minnesota and most of the US). We were scrambling around to get a babysitter – most of our friends are either coming to the party too, or are going to other weddings – so we ended up with one of Toby’s former teachers who is fantastic. She’s got something going on too – going out for dinner with her boyfriend and his mother – and was happy for Toby to come too. I hope they’re going to have a good time.

firefox activex fix

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Ages ago I did a quick post on the fix for the Firefox ActiveX error and how to resolve it. For a few months I’ve noticed people finding the entry through a web search, but just in the last day two kind souls have added thank you comments. It’s quite gratifying to know that I’ve helped make the world happier in a very small way.

Right now I’m in Chicago’s O’Hare airport waiting for my flight home. This has been a good week workwise but I just can’t wait to get home.

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.

becks in los angeles

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Emma and I got the chance to watch the LA Galaxy/Chelsea game on Saturday – the first game featuring David Beckham. It was quite a spectacle, not for the game, in which Chelsea ran rings around the Galaxy’s midfield (LA’s defence was pretty decent which is why it ended up only 1-0 – that and I’m not sure how hard Chelsea were actually trying) but for the media blitz of Beckham himself.

He did get on the pitch about 12 minutes from the end, and even though he had only two or three touches of the ball it was clear that he is a class above. One pass forward was inch perfect, for example. I hope that things will work out for him – I think his new team is going to be a very different experience from what he’s been used to. I’m sure he’ll cope though.

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.

tech issues

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

A couple of tech issues today. Firstly I got the notification about an update for Firefox which went very smoothly, but seemed to cause the indispensable adblock add-on to lose all the filtering preferences it had stored, resulting in me having to look at web ads. Aagh!

Secondly it seems that the Sunrocket phone service Emma and I have been using has gone out of business. This is a big pain – we’ll have to look for something else, possibly Vonage, and kind of annoying to hear about second-hand. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to make or receive calls so you will have to use our mobile numbers for a few days till we get restarted. Also it seems that Vonage are doing a special deal for people moving from Sunrocket, and with their calling plan it’s free to the UK, so that might work out quite nicely. We’ll see.

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.