Three Years!

Three Years in the UK

Today is my three year anniversary of coming to the UK!

It’s been a great three years, and Sylvia and I are still loving it (sorry: no plans to move back to Canada).

During this time I’ve learned to love British pub culture and in particular (warm) English ales. Beer anywhere else in the world just doesn’t cut it any more: there’s nothing better than a warm pub & pint on a cold English day. There’s so much going on in London – great food, great events, and lots of friends coming through – that we’re never in search of something to do! Decent public transit is a nice change as well, and it’s fantastic to be able to take a fast train to Paris or Brussels with St. Pancras right around the corner! We also (obviously) love the ability to travel easily (while cheap flights are still around!). I miss good peanut butter though …

In these past three years we’ve travelled to the Cook Islands & Fiji, Hong Kong, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Ireland, Estonia, France, New Zealand (& a bit of Australia), Germany, Egypt, Sweden, Croatia, Montenegro, Belgium – not to mention numerous trips back to Canada (bloody weddings!). I’ve also been shipped off for work to Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and various parts of Europe more times than I’d care to count (though I have to count for tax reasons). After all that travel my passport (a 48 page one!) is full! Of course, my UK Ancestry visa is still valid and the UK government doesn’t want to re-issue it so I guess I’ll be carrying two passports for a while … and don’t get me started on trying to get a new Canadian passport while living abroad …

We’ve spent a lot of time out of the country, so we’re starting to think we should try seeing a bit more of the UK (and London). Plus, working in Cambridge doesn’t allow me to get out in London nearly enough for my liking. Speaking of which, I don’t even want to think about the amount of time I’ve spent on the train between London and Cambridge on my way to & from work. This year I finally cracked and started working from home one day a week, which has allowed Sylvia and I to start taking Chinese lessons together (我们会说一点汉语).

I’m definitely heading to the pub today. Here’s to another great year in the UK!

Radisson Shanghai – Ground Zero for Bird Flu

I was staying in the Radisson Shanghai the other week for business, and they had a rather interesting Easter display:

Radisson Shanghai Easter Display

It was interesting for two reasons:

1) it was mind-bogglingly tacky
2) there were dozens of live rabbits and chicks

Radisson Shanghai Easter Display - Chicks and Rabbits

Radisson Shanghai Easter Display

People kept coming by the display and picking up the animals; kissing and snuggling with them. So remember – the next time you hear about an outbreak of birdflu in China you know who to blame: the Radisson Hotel Shanghai New World.

PS:  the hotel sucks – never stay there. The staff aren’t nearly as helpful as you would get from any other hotel in Asia and the heat wasn’t working in the guest rooms. Plus they’ll give you bird flu. Fun!

CeBIT 2008

Well, I’m back from what was a pretty short CeBIT tradeshow (I skipped half of it, attending just Monday morning to Wednesday night) which is just as well as CeBIT is pure evil. I hate the huge German tradeshows and their enormous exhibition grounds. They even let members of the public come (WHY would you come to a tradeshow on purpose!?) so you have to avoid moms pushing prams as well. Not much to say really: Hanover was cold (it even snowed on Wednesday) but the show went pretty smoothly. I’m glad to be back in the UK.

There is this demo that Panasonic does at every tradeshow – I must have seen it at least a half-dozen times myself – of rotating TVs. It’s actually quite cool, and I managed to grab a video of a small part of it this time:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atAzHIUVbr8]

Since this isn’t one of the big Asian tradeshows there weren’t as many funny name, but my coworker did come across this unfortunately named company:

Kuhnt

Fortunately in German it’s pronounced “koont.”

I spent most of my time talking to the press and pimping Samsung’s “Ubisync” products that have my company‘s technology built-in:

6 Monitors on one PC with Samsung Ubisync (DisplayLink)

Ubisync7: 7-inch USB powered mini-monitor

ASUS (also one of our customers) had some new PCs on display that are made of bamboo instead of just metal or plastic. They actually look a lot better than you’d think! I like them:

ASUS Bamboo Computers

Of course, we didn’t forget to partake in the best part of visiting Germany:

Pretzels and Beer

Next week: off to Shanghai!

The silly emails companies send

I’m not one to discuss work topics, but this blog does advertise itself as “Britlog: work, life, travel” so how can I lie to my viewing public?

For my first post under the work category, an email:

Dear all

please see the task below which is to be completed by all staff by next Tuesday.

Please send your responses to me. If for any reason you are unable to
meet the deadline then please speak to me beforehand.

Task

1. Please write a brief summary of your role and responsibilities

2. Please note who your line manager is, if you are not sure then please
state that

Regards

XXX

precious.
And such a boost to moral.

My translation:

Dear all, please tell us what you do, because he have no bloody clue.
Regards,
Incompetent management

Last Week in Europe

While I’m sure you all can’t get enough of “Sylvia rants about her commute,” it might be time for me to finally write an article! I just got back (very late Monday night) from one week in Europe – Brussels and Berlin. Europe? Yes, haven’t you heard? The Brits don’t really consider themselves part of Europe. They often say they’re “going to Europe” by which they mean “the continent” or “real Europe.” Admittedly, things are pretty different over there – the chavs speak two languages for instance.

I’ve had just about enough of air travel lately (having taken probably about 70 flights this year already), so I opted to begin my journey to the Continent via the train. I arrived at the Eurostar terminal in Waterloo just over an hour before my train and I couldn’t even check in yet! They didn’t board the train until 10 minutes before departure. Now that’s a nice change.

Eurostar Train

The Eurostar trains are good – better than airplanes – but not as perfect as I expected. I was hoping to get a pile of work done but with no power outlets (c’mon, it’s electric!) and no WiFi, my options were limited. Maybe I have to go First Class? However I did manage to get my highest score yet on Ka*Glom (damn you SHAUNDOUGHERTY – how do you score so high?).

But in the end it was a smooth journey. Less expensive, faster, and more comfortable than flying. I’m sold! When the Eurostar opens at St. Pancreas (less than 5 minutes walk from our flat) then I’ll be taking it as often as possible. And, they just hit a new speed record for London to Paris this week.

My hotel in Brussels wasn’t so great. For instance, there was a moth in the room and no soap in the despenser in the bathroom. Internet accesss was obscene: only WiFi with lousy reception (natch) and it was €20/day!! The best though, was the iron.

Like most hotels on the Continent, there is no iron in the room. I figure there must be some kind of EU tax on irons that make them particularly expensive because they seem to have every other useless hotel peripheral but never an iron. If I’m on a business trip, I would rather have an iron over a TV, but hey, that’s just me. But I digress. I phoned housekeeping, as per usual, to ask for an iron. The fellow on the other end of the phone sounded very confused. After explaining to him that “yes, I need it to iron my clothes,” he said “there’s one in the hallway.” Usually housekeeping brings it up but hey, if the can’t even be bothered to fill the soap dispensers I’m sure they’re not exactly employing a top-notch housekeeping staff.

Here was the iron:

Iron in the Hall

Yes, the ironing board is firmly attached to the wall and the iron is chained there as well. I had to stand out in the hallway, ironing my trousers, while guests and staff walked by. There is something truly ridiculous about this. I was tempted to strip off my clothes and start ironing in my birthday suit; maybe ask a few passers by if they need me to iron anything while I’m there. I’m sure they’d love a naked man standing in the hallway saying “Hey buddy, can I press your trousers?”

Anyhow, I’m done staying in Ibis Accor hotels.

So on to Berlin. My Lufthansa flight was uneventful. Berlin is an interesting city; much more spread out and spacious than a typical European city. I guess that’s what can happen when they rebuild it from scratch 60 years ago. It was good to practise my German which is getting worse quickly as I rarely practice.

Guten Morgen. Ich möchte zur Messe bitte fahren.

I was attending the “IFA” tradeshow during the week; this was a first for me. IFA is a typical enormous sprawling German tradeshow – kinda like CeBIT, but not in a shitty city. The strangest thing about IFA is that it’s completely open to the public so you’ve got a young couple pushing a pram next to granny inspecting the latest LCD TVs. Very strange. I was busy all week helping our customers with their tradeshow events and press. Here’s Wim – our trusty Señor FAE – helping Lucky Goldstar get their house in order:

Wim helping LG

Of course I was also meeting with the press every day to tell them all about our new and wonderful technology that enables users to improve their productivity quickly and easily through the use of multiple monitor computing with DisplayLink‘s unique network display techno…uh… sorry about that. I’ve been doing elevator pitches all week.

IFA, it seems, is all about the TVs. Who would have thought there were so many TV manufacturers out there? It seems like China has invaded the LCD market. Every room was plastered with huge LCD TVs proclaiming “Full HD” and “True HD,” as opposed to the “Half HD” and “False HD” the manufacturers have been peddling for years.

TVs

One vendor stood out however:

CRT at IFA

The miracles of modern CRTs! It takes some guts to go to a consumer electronics tradeshow and fill over a thousand square feet with 50 year old TV technology. Bravo!

This wasn’t an Asian tradeshow, so there weren’t as many funny things as some other shows I’ve been to. Still, I managed to find a few gems.

Walinda Technology Co. has what has to be the world’s most boring trade show booth:

Boring Tradeshow Booth

I guess they blew so much cash on the booth space they didn’t have the budget for anything else. If Walinda don’t do it for you, these folks will keep you 100% satisfied:

Satisfied GPS

At one of the restaurants, they had these random “speech bubbles” hanging from the ceiling:

Speech BubblesSpeech Bubbles

I particularly liked this guy who was walking around:

Speech Bubbles

No idea what these were for.

Sylvia joined me for the weekend, which would have been perfect if a) I didn’t need to work through half the time and b) shops were open on Sundays. Oh well, live and learn. We did go to a dark restaurant on Saturday night, but I think we’ll leave that for another blog post

The excitement that is … Computex Taipei!

Marry Me? DianaAnother week of work with the same old grind. Well, that’s what you may be thinking, but I just got off the most exciting week of the year – the glamour and excitement of one of the world’s largest trade shows for PC component and peripheral manufacturers: Computex Taipei 2007! Yee haw! Jealous yet? You will be.

Computex Taipei is an enormous sprawling collection of Taiwanese electronics (fun fact – the domain name computex.biz is the only .biz address not owned by spammers). The show is spread out throughout four buldings of the Taiwain World Trade Centre complex that surround the Grand Hyatt Taipei and Taipei 101 (after four days, still no word from Diana). The show floor is mainly made up of endless booths from every Taiwainese company you’ve never heard of.

Source Come Science & Technology
Who these days doesn’t own a monitor from Source Come Science & Technology?

Taipei Weather - Computex 2007Normally I look forward to the beautiful Taipei summer weather for my annual Computex pilgramige: a crisp 38C with 95% humidity and heavy smog. Unfortunately this year it was only about 30C with 90% humidity and constant thundershowers. Nevertheless, I didn’t let that put a damper on my mood – there was pointless technology to explore.

While you would think that most attendees come to see the latest in cheap Taiwanese electronics, the primary draw seems to be the booth babes. Seriously, follow that link. You would think by the photos that Computex is just an endless line-up of scantily clad Taiwanese girls flaunting obscure technology brand logos.

But there’s more to Computex than just booth babes. There’s also the exciting game of hunt the Engrish.

Keep Rotating the Earth
Few of us comprehended the importance of green power until now.

VESA Vedio
VESA need a spell checker.

ASUS EEEPC
Eee! PC! ASUS are one of the biggest PC technology companies in the world and they still don’t understand that “Rock Solid. Heart Touching” doesn’t make any god-damned sense.

Computex.org
I’ve been to Computex.org and this is clearly false advertising.

Of course the big-names in the PC industry also share the stage with Shiunn Yang Enterprise Co., LTD. Intel and AMD put plenty of cash into the event:

Intel and one AMD
Never have I seen market share put so eloquently in picture.

In the end, Computex met all of my expectations – it was exactly the same as last year. As much as I would like to make this one my last (you know, go out on a high-note like Seinfeld) it’s pretty unlikely given my choice of career. It’s inevitable: I’ll be back for Computex 2008 along with all the rest. With any luck, Diana will have made up her mind by then.

See you at Computex 2008

Never buy a Microsoft phone

I know this should be obvious, and I should have known better, but (suprise!) my Microsoft-powered “smart” phone that work bought me is a piece of trash. I’ve had this thing since November and it’s been nothing but trouble. The phone needs to be rebooted every day or the phone will stop rining and alarms and notifications will stop going off, making the phone basically useless. And now, whenever I reboot, I get this for about 10 minutes:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmIrlmBmN4E]

NEVER buy a Windows Mobile phone if you can avoid it. I’m just hoping that I can convince my work to get rid of this piece of trash and get me a BlackBerry again. Palm should be ashamed of themselves for going over to Windows.

Art at Work

Today I remembered to bring my camera, and I managed to sneak a photo of this giant sculpture in my main reception lobby at work. At first I thought it was a woman riding a bull. But then on interview number 3 I noticed ‘she’ had long bunny ears (which unfortunetely you can’t see in this photo). And now when I look at the photo it doesn’t look like a bull anymore, but perhaps a giant ant?

What do you think:

artatwork.JPG

More on Business Cards

The ordeal continues! We have a new employee who has joined us in Japan and he’s put in his 2¢ towards our business cards. He suggested changes across the board with my title changing to シニアプロダクトマーケティングマネージャー. I have a feeling that I will never resolve this, so they’re going to print! How bad could it be?

The Joy of International Business

As if flying 10 to 14 hours to Asia all the time wasn’t enough of a pain in the ass, I’ve been jumping through the hoops of getting local language business cards. You would think it would be an easy process but as Engrish reminds us, translating to and from European and Asians languages is not a trivial process.

Chinese Business Card

For my Chinese business cards, a coworker who lived in Taiwan (and is moving back there) mentioned that while technically correct, the Taiwanese would find my title of 高級產品經理 to be particularly funny. He loosely translated it as “High Class Product Manager” which isn’t quite what we were going for. He recommended 資深產品經理 as a replacement. Maybe I should just go with 白屁股大熱賣 and be done with it – I doubt anybody would forget that business card.

Japanese Business Card

Then for my Japanese business cards I sent them over to a friend in Japan. After being told the font was “too traditional” (that is, “Chinese”) he said his coworkers’ comments were that my title was “not normal or somehow funny sounding.” They recommended a katakana replacement of 製品担当シニアマネージャー.

Korean Business Card

After all this fun with Chinese and Japanese is there any doubt that I’m concerned about my Korean cards? Unfortunately my Korean friends have never lived there and I’ve never been to Korea so I don’t know a lot of qualified Koreans to ask. I’ll have to rely on our outsourced Korean sales reps to give this translations the OK.

It may be a pain, but I think it’s worth spending the time to get it right. Of course by having these cards done my employer is sending a pretty clear message – “you’re going to be in Asia a lot!” :)