A Mockery of our National Anthem

No, not “Oh, Canada!”, “Hockey Night in Canada.”

As you may have heard, Canada’s most important theme song went through a bit of a controversy recently. After CBC refused to pay the $2 million requested by the royalty owner, CBC/TSN picked up the “perpetual royalties” to save the song. To any Canadian reading you understand that this was really big news in Canada: after many decades Hockey Night in Canada on CBC is going to to have to get a new theme song!!!

Being the resourceful people they are, CBC decided to run a contest for the new “Hockey Night” theme song. Great idea, until the part where they decided that entries could be submitted on the Internet and voted upon by people online.

Which bring us to SomethingAwful.com – the people who brought you “All Your Base Is Belong To Us,” among other Internet memes. Nothing good can come of this.

Enter “Hockey Scores,” the brilliant theme created by one of the SomethingAwful message board members. A fine mix of animal sounds an crying babies described as “A beautiful theme encompassing the heart of hockey.” Go ahead, listen to “Hockey Scores” here. Here’s the original thread about it at SomethingAwful.

So, of course, the  monkeys over at SomethingAwful go over to the CBC anthem site and vote it up, and it’s currently the highest rated entry with almost 100,000 views.

It was temporarily removed from CBC’s site (I guess somebody though it was a joke? no way), but was put back after vicious oposition from Internet netizens and protest videos on YouTube.

But it gets better: last week CBC television ran a news piece about the anthem contest and featured the “Hockey Scores” composer:


I don’t know how he managed to keep a straight face through this interview. “If you think this is one big joke, you’re wrong.” Pure comedy gold.

Thankfully CBC were smart enought to state in advance the anthem content is not a popularity contest: their judges will choose the winning theme.

Being Canadian

Sylvia and I were in Canada this weekend for my cousin Jeremy’s wedding. On the road down to Windsor we stopped at a good ol’ Canadian service station for a snack.

A Tim Horton’s medium double double and box of 10 Timbits.

Tim Horton\'s outside of Wendy\'s in Canada

Very Canadian. Though I was reminded that Tim Horton’s coffee is crap.

I also went to Canadian Tire to buy some duct tape.

Canadian TIre

And now we’re drinking Bloody Ceasers. Pretty authentic weekend.

One of these days I’m going to lose it!


As part of my very long daily commute from London to Cambridge (by the way, Brits LOVE talking about commuting for some reason), I cycle from the Cambridge station into my office. A nice 15 minute ride through the centre of town.

Cycling is really popular in Cambridge. It seem that there are about one – maybe two – billion bicycles at Cambridge station (the photo only shows one lot). It’s quite difficult to find a spot to lock my bike sometimes so in the evenings I put it wherever I can and then run to catch my train back to London. Many times – especially after it’s been a while – I forget where I parked. This makes for a fun game of “find the bike” in the mornings.

In the mornings you’ll often see some sorry souls, dressed up in full bike gear, pacing up and down the rows at Cambridge station trying to find their cycle. Unfortunately bikes sometimes get stolen, so the worst people to watch are the ones who have been there for a while as it slowly sinks in that their bike is no longer there (and that’s why I lock mine with two different locks).

This morning I was one of those sorry people wandering for 5 minutes. I had been travelling for a few days so I couldn’t quite remember where I’d locked up my bike in my hurried rush on Friday night. I did find my nike in the end, but one of these days I know how it’s going to go:

  • after a long business trip I’ll come back to Cambridge and start pacing down the isles.
  • after about 20 minutes of searching and cursing I’ll give up
  • the next weekend I’ll buy a new bicycle
  • and then some day I’ll be pacing the aisles, looking for my new bike, and I’ll see my old bike, parked right where I left it just a few months prior.

Then I’ll really lose it.

London Elects

London Elects

Being good Commonwealth citizens and residents of the United Kingdom, Sylvia and I are eligible to vote. So we tried some good old fashioned X-drawing on for size today as we cast our ballots for the London mayoral election. The polls close in 3 minutes. Let’s see if our horse comes in!

LHC at CERN – It’s Like Mecca for Science

This weekend I visited the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. This was their last “open day” before the equipment becomes active – and radioactive – later this year.

Even if you’re not a particle physics fan, this thing is really cool. LHC holds the title as “world’s largest machine.” It’s a 27km ring of vacuum tunnels and superconducting magnets under France and Switzerland for the express purpose of generating two beams of protons and smashing them together at 14TeV to see what happens. Of course, it’s all under ground, but this is the area it covers:

All this can be yours for only €5-€10 billion

CERN is also interesting because a lot of technologies have come out of the research done here, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) used in hospitals and the World Wide Web (the thing you’re reading this blog on and download your porn from).

LHC was designed to probe deeper into the “stuff” the universe is made of, and will help answer several questions:

  • What is the universe made of?
  • How many dimensions of time and space exist?
  • Why do particles have mass?
  • Why is everything made up of matter instead of anti-matter?

… or, it may just swallow up the entire Earth into a giant black hole. Either way it will be exciting.

While the site at CERN was very interesting, the logistics of “open day” were atrocious – thankfully their physics are better than their event management! They certainly weren’t prepared for the number of visitors they received; the event was insanely popular! There were people of all ages there and the queues were enormous. I got there early, but there was already a crowd of a few hundred people before the official 9AM opening time.

Queue for the LHC Tunnel
One of the many queues during Open Day.

In total I ended up queuing for about 3.5 hours throughout the day, most of that to see the LHC tunnel. Of course, the LHC lifts (to bring you 3km under ground) weren’t made to shuttle thousands of people per hour:

However the capacity problems were exacerbated by the interesting choice of the CERN staff to put every sign and instruction only in French. OK, fine, you’re a site based in French Switzerland and France, but when about half of your guests are from other parts of Europe and don’t understand French, don’t be surprised when half of your crowd doesn’t follow your instructions. During one tour a woman asked if the tour guide could mention some instructions in English and he said that “many people understand French so I’ll just talk in French.” One CERN employee called me a “faux Canadien” (in French) when he found out I was Canadian but didn’t speak French. The most entertaining part of all this was watching the crowd during a presentation of “introduction to particle physics” in French. I captured a minute of it for your enjoyment:

Good thing I already learned this stuff in University.

The first thing I saw under ground was the biggest detector at the LHC: ATLAS: a giant ring made up of 8 superconducting toroid magnets and the height of a 5-story building.

The pictures don’t do this justice: this thing is HUGE. It’s amazing that you need something this big to detect particles that are unimaginably small.

After seeing ATLAS, and a particularly long queue, I finally got to go down into one of the tunnels of the LHC where the protons travel before being smashed together in ATLAS:

Magnets chilled to -271C – can you imagine the electricity bill?

Another interesting part of the day was the computer centre. As I said CERN invented the world-wide web back in the early 90s and now they’ve invented “grid computing” to process the massive amounts of data that the LHC will generate when it goes online later this year. They had an interesting real-time map that showed where the data is being processed right now:

If you’d like to donate your own computer resources while you’re not using them, you can install the LHC@Home software.

Of course they also have their own data centre which is still looking quite empty as the continuously dropping price of computer technology means they won’t buy the computers until they need them:

Sure, it’s really cute until it becomes sentient and takes over the world

Ever wonder where the old equipment goes? I found this out back:

Let’s hope they recycle

One other funny thing is that all the streets at CERN are named after famous physicists:

Route Schrödinger isn’t always there: it depends how you observe it.

All in all – and despite the queues – it was a really good day. I didn’t get to see the ALICE detector, or the SPS, but I was able to go underground twice which is better than most visitors! It will be interesting to see what comes out of this experiment when they fire it up later this year.

PS: If anybody at CERN is reading this, I would love to come back for another tour! Just let me know when and I’ll be there. 🙂

Stupid British Confectionary #1: Yorkie

I found myself esurient today so I sallied forth and infiltrated the local corner shop in search of some confectionary to easy the hunger pangs. I came across a display that I had seen a few times since coming to the UK: that of a British chocolate bar called “Yorkie” with a rather stupid tagline of “It’s not for girls!”

Yorkie Display


For those who know me, they know I tend to be attracted to stupid local foods and drinks, which is why I have Pocari Sweat powder at my desk at work and used to stock my bar with Brennivín. So of course I coudln’t resist the attraction of trying a new local product with a stereotypically British name of “Yorkie” for only 55p.

Yorkie Bar

The Yorkie in all its glory


Next to the “It’s not for girls!” tagline I also noticed that it contains 18% of an adult’s GDA of Calories. Good thing I skipped breakfast this morning, otherwise I’d feel like I’m being unhealthy.


But before consumption, I just had to know the back story Рwhy is Yorkie just for guys? Is it full of beer and foodball? Does it scratch its privates in public? Is it afraid of commitment? The Nestl̩ Yorkie site has this to say:

The ‘Not For Girls’ campaign theme for Yorkie uses humour, which resonates with today’s British male and simply states that Yorkie is positioning itself as a chocolate bar for men who need a satisfying hunger buster. With five solid chunks of chocolate, it’s a man sized eat!

It also mentioned that “Advertising reflected this with macho imagery – lorry drivers who take it one chunk at a time.” I can tell you from experience that lorry drivers in the UK are insane, so I can see how they want to take it “one chunk at a time.” They certainly drive like their aim is to take one chunk out of every pedestrian.


After being suitably educated, I cracked open the Yorkie:


Yorkie Chocolate


So how is it? Well, like many local foods that haven’t cracked the larger market, it kinda sucks. It’s just cheap milk chocolate in a chunky bar. Somehow I doubt that today’s British men are resonating at the idea of cheap milk chocolate in bar form. Furthermore, it did not “bust my hunger” as Nestlé claims, as I still needed a proper lunch only a half hour later. But perhaps I’m just not man enough for a Yorkie: while I often enjoy sitting on the couch and drinking beer, I’m not watching football when I do it.

In the end I think I discovered why Yorkie is “not for girls!” Most women aren’t stupid enough to waste 55p on bad quality milk chocolate. Blech. I would ask Nestlé for my 55p back but I know I would just blow it on their “Raisin & Biscuit” Yorkie.

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:


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:


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 Battle of the Brands

Which brand is the best? If you were given two random brands, say, Coca-Cola and Manulife Financial, and put them in head-to-head competition, which would be the victor?

Coca-Cola vs Manulife Financial

Some might define the best brand on a set of criteria – from brand awareness to corporate valuation – and generate a global brand scoreboard. This would rank Coca-Cola as #1 and Manulife as somewhere … not in the top 100. Or perhaps you could run a poll and ask respondents a question like “…which three brands do you consider the best?” With this method Coca-Cola might come out on top, while Manulife Financial might be … well, not in the results.

While these methods seem reasonable on paper, they’re clearly biased against Canadian brands most people have never heard of.

So what’s a fair test for brand comparison? While scholars have debated this fundamental question for a millennia, initial data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN suggests the optimal method would be something like the following:

  1. Take a pair of similar useless trinkets
  2. Place the competing brands’ logos on each trinket, converting them to Corporate SWAG
  3. Pit the two brands head-to-head on by selling the SWAG on eBay
  4. PROFIT!

Whichever gets the most money is clearly the superior brand.

Fortunately I was fortuitous enough to be in just the right situation to test such a theory. You see, most people think you should throw out (or, if possible, never take) corporate SWAG, but my Mother knows better: they make perfect stocking stuffers! And as a result, Sylvia and I came into the possession of the ideal crap to peddle on eBay brand testing material.

We’ll need some help if we’re to complete our mission. Call in FUWA!!


Beibei the Fish, Jingjing the Panda, Huanhuan the Olympic Flame, Yingying the Tibetan Antelope and Nini the Swallow. Together they form, VOLTRON!! Er… no. Actually they don’t do anything. But they will help us sell our SWAG on eBay, as they’re the official mascots of the Beijing 2008 Olypics. (PS: Tibetan Antelope?!)

In one corner we have the green team, neatly decked out in Manulife colours:

Manulife Pins

And in the red corner, we have the heavyweight champion and maker of diabetics – Coca-cola!

Coke Pins

Both teams will be represented by Fuwa. Otherwise who wants to buy a bunch of crappy corporate SWAG? If the pins don’t sell then the whole experiment is for naught.

So Good It’s Badminton
Nini shows ’em how it’s done. She’s so good, she’s badminton.

Huanhuan shows us his O-face. O-O-O.

The eBay auction is simple enough. Just a straightforward listing with “{Insert Brand Name Here}-branded collectable pins from the Beijing 2008 Olympics. 5 pins in display case, as shown.” A photo (like the one of the ones above) is also shown.

So who will be the victor!? Tune in next week to see the exciting conclusion …


Nah, not really. The auctions ended on Friday. Manulife Financial won. That’s right. MANULIFE-FREAK’N-FINANCIAL! TAKE THAT COCA-COLA!!! And it was a commanding victory as well: the Manulife pins sold for a whopping 5% premium over the Coca-Cola pins. FIVE PERCENT!

The results are below:

Auction Results

Unfortunately the proceeds won’t even pay for my breakfast, but at least we know which is the better brand. Tune in next time for Microsoft vs Polka-dot Door.

Canada needs a new prime minister

I’ve suspected it for a while, but this cements it: Stephen Harper needs to go.


So what happened this past week when these Canadian scientists came to Parliament Hill for a reception in their honour with their Nobel prize tucked up underneath their arms? The Prime Minister, the guy who’s job it is to represent us at these things refused to attend. The Canadian cabinet refused to attend. And why? Because these scientists, who – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this or not – won the Nobel Peace Prize, had the gall to do it by formulating a plan to fight climate change. And my guess is it doesn’t call for an increase in oil sands production. So as a result, not a single cabinet minister would cross the hall and shake their hands.


Happy 7th Birthday MIPS!

MIPS Chillin’ Out

Today, January 23rd, is MIPS‘ birthday. He was born around 5PM (EST) on January 23rd, 2001, on the floor of my condo in Toronto. True to his name even today, MIPS is still proficient in Millions of Irritations Per Second with his incessant whining to go outside and play. Also celebrating birthdays this day are MIPS’ brother Placenta Head and his sisters Princess Noki and Rogue. Sadly his brother Cletus never made it as he was stillborn, but that’s fine–we never liked him anyway.

I’ve put together the following video of MIPS’ early years (including a few shots of his mom Tinrib and his siblings). The soundtrack features the classic song “My Toque’s Too Tight” from Drool Puddy’s HundredFootKeepOff (most surprising part – somebody is actually selling a copy of my highschool band’s album after 13 years).



Please use the comments section to suggest what activities and/or food MIPS should indulge in to celebrate his big 7th.


Happy New Year!

Sylvia and I just got in from celebrating the start of 2008 in Hong Kong.

We had heard there would be a great fireworks and light show this year, so we ensured we had a great viewing spot from the convention centre:The View of the Fireworks

Unfortunatley, this being Gweilo New Year as opposed to 春節, the fireworks weren’t nearly as impressive as we had hoped. Still, they put on a good finale with fireworks coming from all sides of the IFC (AKA the “Big Dick“):

Hong Kong New Years 2008 - Finale

Happy 2008 Everone!

Happy 2008!

Guy Fox Day Fireworks

This weekend is “fireworks day” in the UK. In Canada we reserve the privilege of lighting stuff on fire for some old hag’s birthday; here in the UK they use fireworks to celebrate terrorism.

The day is called Guy Fawkes Day (not to be confused with Gay Fox day, the celebration of the end of persecution of homosexual vulpini). Guy Fawkes was in a group of Roman Catholics who attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I on the 5th of November of 1605. Basically they celebrate that a religious fundamentalist tried to kill a bunch innocent people – and it doesn’t seem clear that they’re celebrating that he got caught or that he was trying to blow up parliament. But regardless of the motives, it’s always good to see some greenhouse-gas-emitting explosions on a warm Saturday night.

Sylvia was out of town tonight so I attended the festivities myself by attending the free fireworks display in Blackheath. There were a hell of a lot of people out and the town was packed with police keeping people moving:


The fireworks show was quite impressive. Here are a few of the (many) pictures I took with a tripod:




Here’s a good picture of the big finale:


Several people had sparklers out:


The show was only about an hour long, and I spent twice that time getting there and back, but it was still an enjoyable outing. Let’s hear it for the war on terror!

A Very Happy Hallowe’en

I’m sitting at home all alone this Hallowe’en; Sylvia has been very busy with a project at work. Hallowe’en isn’t taken nearly as seriously here in the UK as it is back in Canada – here’s it’s pretty much just a kid’s holiday (though I did see a few students dressed up on my ride through Cambridge today). Now that we’re living in a house I have to hide inside to keep the kids away. I’m shocked that kids actually trick-or-treat around the King’s Cross area; I guess prostitutes and drug dealers have kids too.

But this is a special Hallowe’en for me tonight. Want to hear a really scary story? Sylvia and I have been sleeping on the floor (and more recently an air matress) for the past 3 weeks! Yep, since we moved into the new unfurnished house we’ve had no place to sleep! This terrible state of affairs came to a close today after our new mattress was delivered by Dreams. Here she is:

New Bed

I cannot tell you how excited I am. We decided to go all out: a King-size (or as they say here, “Super King”) mattress with 6,000 luxurious pocket springs and a sweet, sweet layer of memory foam on top. That’s what I like to hear. They even provided it in a “split” mattress that zips two smallers mattresses together to fit it up the small stairway in our London home. That’s the miracles of modern mattress technology; is there anything they can’t do?

It’s going to feel soooooo good tonight. This is the best Hallowe’en ever.

Upgrades to the Scotsman!

The Flying Scotsman made some changes this weekend: by adding fancy new awnings for the smokers! It’s frightening because it makes the place look almost respectable. But don’t be fooled by the gloss – you’ll know as soon as you step in that there’s nothing respectable about the Flying Scotsman.

Bonne Fete a Moi

Today is my birthday, and I continued our four year tradition of “having a glass of scotch that has been aged in a cask longer than I’ve been alive” with a 35 year old Dalwhinnie. This tradition certainly gets more expensive after a nice round number like 30.
Excuse the crappy photo.

Friday Night is Roller Disco!

What happens when you take a bunch of British teenagers, dress them up in what they think is 80s clothing (having no living memory of it), feed them alcohol, give them roller skates, and put them all into a small club? If you guessed a recipe for disaster, your right! Welcome to Roller Disco at King’s Cross.

Kasia was in town and we wanted to try something new for her only Friday in town. Sylvia suggested Roller Disco and the plans were in place. I actually used to go roller skating in the 80s, so I had dreams of revisiting my childhood with a big skating rink with Belinda Carlile replaced with banging house music. Sylvia had similar aspirations; probably related to the days she used to ice skate like a champion (though not dressed as a Treasure Troll). Needless to say it wasn’t quite what we expected.
First of all, there was mass disorganisation. And trust me, if there’s one thing that pisses Sylvia off the most it’s disorganisation. “Why the hell don’t they have a different queue for skate pick up and returns? If I ran this place ….” Combine that chaos with sweaty drunken people on roller skates. Good times! It was a great show: as soon as one drunkard fell over the rest fell like bowling pins:

The most difficult part for me is that it’s tough to get your grove on whilst on roller skates. Bottom line: great to do once for the experience but we won’t become roller regulars. My childhood memories will never be relived. Oh well, at least Jesus approves:

It’s Been One Fantastic Year

One year this week, September 10th, 2006, I entered the United Kingdom. And what a year! Sylvia and I got married on the 23rd (our first year anniversary, “paper,” is fast approaching) and after spending almost 6 months living apart we started living London. We went through the arduous process of importing our two cats into the United Kingdom and we both started new jobs.

Travel this year for Sylvia and I has included Fiji, The Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Thailand, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Germany, and all around England. We’ve already got a few more trips lined up to Germany, Italy, Ireland, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. My business travels have taken me to Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, The USA, and Canada with a total of over 63 flights this year – and that’s just from flights where I kept the boarding passes! I managed to avoid going to Korea somehow, despite having LG and Samsung as customers; we’ll see how long that lasts.

This year we’ve viewed more flats in London than I’d care to remember: dealing with estate agents is a truly painful experience. We have had a few friends make the long journey over to visit and we have as many again coming in the next few weeks!

We’ve had lot of interesting experiences that have made it to the blog including attending horse races, dealing with the tube, travelling by train, hunting for the perfect flat, buying Manolos, navigating the floodwaters, watching local sports, exploring English cuisine, mobile blogging, tasting sweeteners, bitching about the weather, hanging out with the cats, stumbling through the language barrier, getting well deserved status, attending tradeshows, exploring the Sunday pub culture, tasting cheese, the trials and tribulations of international professionals, ranting about the commute, ranting about budget airlines, and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of travel.

So what do we think about living here? We bloody love it. Let’s hope 2008 is even better.

Licence to … Drive

I’ve got my UK driver’s licence! Oh yeah!

Driver’s Licence

No, it’s not what you think – I didn’t take a road test. Actually I still have yet to attempt to drive in the UK at all. Through the miracle of international treaties, I can drive in the UK without ever setting foot in a right-hand drive car. It’s like diplomatic immunity but … well … nothing like diplomatic immunity.

Consider this list of countries:

  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Korea
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Zimbabwe

What do these have in common? Well nothing, except that the UK allows people with driver’s licences from this haphazard list of countries to “trade in” for a UK licence. My Canadian licence was due to expire next month so I figured I might as well do the swap. By the way, I notice a disproportionate number of “island countries” in this list. I think there’s a pro-island bias in the UK.

But it’s not all roses and kitten tails. I cheerfully ordered the relevant forms but when they arrived I found their dirty little racist secret:

Automatic Only Licence for Canadians

What?! So you’re telling me I go take a driver’s test in Zimbabwe and I’m a-okay to putter around in a manual transmission but a Canadian can’t hack it? Are they saying that the drivers of Barbados are more capable than I, a noble graduate of Ontario Truck Driving School (car lessons)? I feel so singled out, betrayed. I bet if I were born on an Island they wouldn’t have any issues with me. At least they printed it on 100% recycled paper.

But then I realized I’m kinda crap at driving a manual transmission anyway and they’re probably right: most Canadians can’t drive a manual transmission car worth shit.

Ah well. I traded in a licence that expires in 2007 for one that expires in 2017. Shazam! Maybe I’ll try taking a driving test in Zimbabwe next time I’m there.

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.


One vendor stood out however:


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

Potter Spotter Part 2

Continuing on the Harry Potter mania, there was a full gaggle of muggles at platform 9 3/4 today:

They were all fully decked out in capes, and the chaperones had wizards hats. How odd.
King’s Cross is busy today in general. I don’t know why, but today seems to be tourist day and my normally empty train is packed with poorly dressed fat Americans. Admittedly the weather is beautiful, but that seems to be the norm this past week.

BlackBerry Blogging

To continue our reputation of “the house of the future,” I’ve decided it was about time to set up mobile blogging on britlog. Through the miracles of modern technology, Sylvia and I can now post to the blog from our BlackBerrys. Here’s Sylvia blogging on the street:

This will ensure we can post all of our rage as it happens.

No, we’re not under water

For all of you who keep asking, no, we’re not flooded. We’re well away from it as we were smart enough not to build our castle on a swamp. However last weekend we were in the Cotswolds and, while not the worst of the flooded areas, we definitely ran into some water. Here are some more pictures from our weekend.

We visited “The Slaughters”:

The Slaughters

Our hotel in Lower Slaughter was flooded:

Floded Hotel in Lower Slaughter

Here’s a picture of the reception as we were checking in:

Flooded Reception

Fortunately they were able to put us in their “cottages” that were up the hill.

Several parts of Lower Slaughter were flooded:

Flooding at the Lower Slaughter Mill

We wanted to do the “Wardens’ Way” hike to Upper Slaughter but the path was … under the weather:

Wardens’ Way Flooding

The Slaughters weren’t the worst hit in the area. We had to turn around a few times whilst driving through the Cotswolds:

Flooded Road

Flooded Road

Of course The Guardian found a much better “flood” sign picture than I did:

Guardian UK Flood Picture

But in the end we still had a great time in The Slaughters:

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Potter Spotter

Every day this week I’ve seen people reading the new Harry Potter book (Sylvia on the other hand takes the road less chav’elled and hasn’t seen any). With this being the last in the series, it may be the last season of Potter Spotting in England so I’m glad I had a chance to see it.

I saw this one on Thursday:

Harry on the Bus

C’mon man, it’s been 6 days since its release! How slow a reader are you?

It’s not surprising that all the chavs have it. It’s available for only £5 at Tescos*:

£5 Harry Potter

* purchase of £50 of groceries required. Who the hell spends £50 at Tescos Express?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Harry Potter dies.