9.21.2011

updates and such



I can barely get a handle on the fact that I've been back in the States for two and a half weeks. This goes in both directions. I was still in Germany a month ago. I spent Labor Day weekend in London. And yet. And yet. And yet. It feels like I've been back much longer. I've stayed in 3 different places since being back and I'm getting tired. I couldn't sleep the other night and tried to count the different places I'd slept over the last 6 months in place of sheep. I lost count. Now I'm commiserating with a friend of mine about the difficulties of looking for a place to live when you don't currently live in that city. Don't be fooled by my complaining, though. I've managed to see a lot of people in the mean time and I'm looking forward to some fun and luxury next week. I'm the genius who made appointments for everything before I left: hair cut, massage, acupuncture, teeth cleaning (I actually like that) and a soccer game! Yay me! Throw in the awesome people I'm going to see and it's shaping up to be a fantastic time.

Happy day, all!

8.25.2011

I love the Alps and other tales.

Zugspitze vom Eibsee lounging view, 2
Zugspitze summit alpen fields

I, quite simply, love the Alps. This extends to pretty much all mountains, but some hold sway a bit more than others. And this little spot in the German Alps holds me. These are mountains that you can simply sit and stare at and have that be an activity in and of itself. Mountain rivers can hypnotyze me the same manner. I imagine that this is what Ocean people feel when they watch the endless waves crashing to shore (not really my thing). I will admit that I particularly love these mountains because they enable my love of nature without demanding hikes with heavy packs. Yes yes, I've been on multiple hikes in the Alps (both by walking up and taking a cable up to start) that had their challenging moments. But it's not hard. And then you turn a corner in the path and there's a rasthaus WHERE YOU EAT FOOD AND DRINK BEER up ON the mountain. Now that's a civilized hike! And I also really enjoy walking in mountains without worrying about bears and such. I'm a wimp like that, what do you want?

In other news, this little trip to the Alps was also the last one for my time on the Continent. Tomorrow I'm attending a fest, the Weindorf, in Stuttgart while Saturday and Sunday remain mostly up in the air. But I think I'll stick around close to my camp because on Tuesday I fly back to England. I'll have work for the week, then it's Labor Day weekend in London and my flight home to the States. Wow. Less than two weeks left. I'm particularly looking forward to London as Sunday shall be Sunday Funday with the intrepid Bernie, of Royal Wedding and A Very Jane Austen Day fame. I'll have to figure out some super touristy things for us to do. I'm talking things that any normal British person would be ashamed to do but for the fact that they got stuck with an American. The suggestion box is open.

Finally, to answer your question EM, you can find my pictures on my flickr site. All the bits of my trip are basically organized by location/event for you to pick and choose.

8.12.2011

SLIPPER! Updates

warning: SLIPPER

So... it's been some weeks since I last updated my blog. And I must say, I've used that time well. The sis came over and we did some general hanging about in Germany and then headed for the blue skies and clear water of the Cyclades and the land of Zorba: Crete. I have this compelling urge to write my impressions and observations served up in little anecdotes, but that would take entirely too long and be entirely too boring. So I cheat. I make list... it shall contain at least one bit of useful information:
  • everyone has a doppelganger in the world and your doppelganger has a Greek counterpart. Fact.
  • avoid islands where cruise ships dock... someone should have told us this.
  • my sister accused me of being tan. then she looked closer and said, "oh. nevermind."
  • good things happen when you avoid large towns.
  • eventually magic happens when you keep ordering new things.
  • you really can eat that many tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta.
  • feta ain't the only cheese in Greece.
  • I don't watch enough sunsets; or, clearly Greek islands lend themselves to sunset watching.
  • night ferries that save you the cost of a hotel one night really aren't worth the drain on your system.
  • for all the island beauty I'm still a mountain kind of nerd.

Speaking of mountains, I'm now slightly further south in Deutschland. This means, of course, that I'm that much closer to the Alps. I have grand plans. Hopefully this weekend I can attend the Zwiebel Fest in a nearby town, next weekend I'll be in the Alps (still deciding between the German Alps I know and love and the slightly further away & more expensive Swiss Alps), and finally there's the Weindorf in Stuttgart in two weeks. After that I go back to England and soon home to the States. That's it, people. Time is ticking by, three weekends here in Germany and one in England. But I've already got big plans for that, so no worries there. I may as well take this opportunity to announce that I'll see the Women's National Team for the 3rd time this year when they play Canada in Portland. Get your tickets while you can! Woot!

Have a great weekend. Over and out.

7.20.2011

Swim


Or don't. But more on that later. It's in the low 60s with a light drizzle at the moment and my mantra changes by the day: only X more days until Greece. I was chatting with my friend from Sweden about how I finally understand why people go crazy and travel to sunny, hot places to expose their pasty white bodies to the sun and she succinctly replied, "you turn into fungus if you don't get sunshine." One way or another I'm getting to that sunshine. I'm hoping, however, that at no point do I need to do what Google Maps instructs when travelling from China to Taiwan... check out #48 on the image above. Thank you Google Maps for putting a smile on my face after a long day of work.

That is all.

7.17.2011

tonight.

Things of interest; with such problems as these; or is that with such friends as these? No matter. I offer some snippets form the past week:
  1. I'm currently drinking coffee out of a mug that reads, "Atheist Wine Club - Celebrating 'life before-death.'"
  2. I'll marvel at my own purchasing power when I return to the States in September, the US dollar to US dollar conversion being what it is.
  3. The church bells, they ring. Really, it never ends.
  4. I get to go watch the US play Japan in the Women's World Cup final. This is indescribably rad for a whole mess of reasons.
  5. Ferry schedules will be understood! I have to go to what island to get to which island?
  6. Less than a week until the sister arrives.
  7. The "New York Times" restrictions on the amount of articles one can view in a month could cut down on my ability to stay in the loop. Until one remembers to clear their cache and dump their cookies.
  8. Spotify comes to the US! Embrace it friends! It's a great way to test-drive music. Think of it as the little booths or headphones one used to find in your local music shop.
  9. 9 is a beautiful number.

7.09.2011

To Berlin!

berliner dom life imitating art? to the U-Bahn ceremony

Last Sunday I hauled my cookies to Berlin. Ah, Berlin. Berlin is a place I've wanted to go for quite some time, but it always seemed so far away. So very far away. Considering some of the places I've been (Budapest, Prague, Bratislava), this was a very silly thought. I figured it out, though: Berlin is just close enough. You always feel like you could go there. It is in Germany, after all. But when you start to examine the ways and means, the nitty gritty, the brass tacks, it all falls apart. Too far away for a weekend and too too (if you know what I mean) for an American Tourist kamikaze trip. I did well, though, with Berlin. For sundry reasons I opted to rent a car for the treck. I mention this only because I was stopped by the polizei on the way out of town for a "spot check" and asked if I'd been drinking. At 7:45 in the morning. I attribute the stop more to the Fest going on that weekend in town than to a lack of driving skills. Better yet, it was as if the polizei was my first checkpoint into Berlin. Because I drove through Checkpoint Charlie, the Checkpoint Charlie, and everything had to be in order. Never mind that 20+ years have gone by. I turned a corner following my GPS instructions and there it was: guard house, giant picture of a soviet soldier, and tourists everywhere. Welcome to Berlin!

I stayed in the historical center of Berlin, Mitte, and walked everywhere. Literally. I took two walking tours on the same day because there was just so much to see and learn. And Mitte had it all: the middle ages, Frederick the Great, Humbolt University (Marx, Engels, Lenin!), Cabaret, WWII, the Cold War, and reunification. This created quite the witches brew: bullet holes still riddled buildings from the Battle of Berlin; buildings returned to the Jewish Community waiting patiently for a new purpose; Soviet memorials to the Communists killed by Hitler next to unified German memorials; East German crosswalk signs (loved the ampellmann); and a community of people that embraced it all. I feel I should apologize for the lists, but I'm still trying to unpack it all.

I recommend a visit.

The excitement didn't end with Berlin! I made my way on Wednesday to Wolfsburg (home of the VW Bug) to watch the US play Sweden in the women's World Cup. The game itself was disappointing because we lost. There were missed opportunities, some panicking, and all the luck seemed to fall to the Swedes. But what fun was had. I sat alone in a sea of Swedes and Germans all rooting for Sweden. Alone I stood and cheered the amazing footsave in the first 10 minutes of the game by Hope Solo. Cheered the close calls, cheered the goal to pull it back within one, and applauded when the final whistle blew. That bit I wasn't alone. Those Swedes and Germans loved the outcome. That brings my tally of soccer matches up to two for the trip. Not bad at all.

Sadly I returned to reality on Thursday. Back to work. But it's fine. My sister arrives in two weeks time. We'll do a small amount of hanging out in Germany, but then it's off to the Greek Isles for 10 days. I don't consider myself a warm weather traveller. I do not seek the sun. I run from shade tree to shade tree. But I've had so much rain and cold weather this trip I can't wait for the Mediterranean sun and heat.

Have a great weekend, all!

6.30.2011

Oops.

I made a flippant Nazi remark while in public in Germany. Yeah. Oops. In other news, I'm back to picking up some random food item not available (or only limitedly available) in the United States. While in England I focused on candies, generally speaking. You know, all Cadbury has to offer. I do realize that you can get Cadbury in America, but it's not really the same. As an example, eating a Cadbury Egg before Easter didn't make me want to vomit. Other gems that I would heartily recommend: Jaffa Cakes and Reggae Reggae sauce.

My initial purchase was an item that looked like Cheetos Puffs and had the same texture but was peanut flavored, Erdnuss Locken. I am a peanut butter enthusiast. I start many of my days with peanut butter toast. Why not try the strange Cheetos-like German peanut chips? They were that unexpected good... the kind where you just keep eating them even though it's so. very. strange. This week, I decided to up the ante. I purchased the "Mexican Style" Erdnuss Locken. I'll admit, I was afraid. This should in no way surprise: there is no good Mexican food here. And why should there be? Anyway, I do get cravings for Mexican food and I have made Mexican food as well as I could with the options available to me. But here before me, in the small German grocery store in the small German village I am staying in, were two great loves combined! Mexican Style and Peanuts! I had to buy them! And the force of their goodness compelled me toward excessive exclamations of enthusiasm! No really. They were good. I'm not kidding. Think about other glorious peanutty-spicy combination much loved: pad thai, thai peanut curry, etc. Magic. All-in-all, a total win.

Mexican Style Erdn├╝ssen

6.21.2011

the church bells, they ring

The church bells, they ring. And they ring from 6:00AM to 10:00pm*. It is the Summer Solstice and the church bells just struck the 9:00pm hour. Ringing out to scare away any heathens that might gather to celebrate the arrival of summer. Nature, from my window on the world at least, seems to be in league with the heathens; the sun emerged for the first time in days just a few hours ago.

And what am I doing? Well, I just checked to make sure that Bjorn, the garden gnome, has not fallen over. I think he likes to booze it up a little too much. I find him face down, passed out in the dirt far more than is healthy. I'm also listening to The Head and The Heart**. And I'm also waiting to see if an IT update is going to make my work-life annoying like it did the last time. Keep your fingers crossed.

One other thing I'm getting up to... I'm waiting for the crows. There is a birch tree in the meadow behind my friend's house where crows congregate at night, just after sunset. They don't stay there too long, but they gather, kind of peck at one another, make all sorts of crow noises, and then they fly away. It is the coolest thing. And I realize I'm kinda strange for enjoying crows, but whatev. I'm gonna try to get a photograph of them tonight. I may have an update for you tomorrow. Wish me luck.

* the church is literally 40 yards away, as the crow flies.
** on to the band The Civil Wars by the end of the post

6.13.2011

welcome to germany

the scythe!

I've been in Germany now for just over a week. My new window to the work-a-day world is no longer an office complex, but rather a home office filled with history books that look out into the back yard and the meadow just beyond. I like this new view. What I lost in office banter and shared lunches I get back in birdsong, church bells, and runs in the forest with a very sweet dog. It would be more fun if there could be a bit of a balance rather than one or the other, but I'd be lying if I said I wanted it to be the office.

Things to report: I attended a very traditional German party this weekend, the Richtfest. The Topping, if translated. Basically, when the the walls are up and the roof is finished on a new house, they have a ceremony to thank the builders, ask for protection, and show off the new digs. The carpenter that worked on my friends' house wore traditional dress and delivered the Richtspruch, the Richtfest speech. I couldn't understand it as I don't speak German. No matter. Also as part of this ceremony they (the builders) attached a small tree to building, drank some wine, and threw the glass that held the wine. The glass broke; a good omen. It was all very German. But perhaps not so German as what I saw when I looked up from working late this morning... a woman cutting down the grass of the meadow I look out to with a scythe. A SCYTHE. People still use those. Anyway, I didn't want to scare or startle the scythe-wielding German, so I snuck out of the office, grabbed my camera, and headed up stairs for a better view. Yeah. A scythe.

That is all.

6.03.2011

All that time wasted.

Not really. My title is merely intentionally provocative, the opening salvo. Tomorrow I'm travelling on a jet plane to Germany. Thus I present the UK in list form:

  • Tweeds really are that fun.
  • This island is really small.
  • Real Ale is a fancy name for warmish, flat beer.*
  • People dress fancy in the office. Way fancier than on the West Coast.
  • Edinburgh = AMAZING.
  • Snowdonia = Fantastic Middle Earth adventures.
  • It's all about the gravy.
  • HP sauce should be imported to the US.
  • Mind the gap!
  • I'm convinced there is a conspiracy to keep me away from Westminster.
  • "Posh" is a word used all the time with a meaning that I don't fully comprehend.**
  • The only way to survive is to not think about the US Dollar to British Pound Sterling exchange rate.
  • Bacon or sausage sandwiches for breakfast rule.
  • Proper pubs, when you find them, are magical places.

When things slow down next week I'll have some pictures of Edinburgh to offer. Until then, as Christian Slater said in the epic film "Pump Up the Volume," Talk Hard.

* Part of me really enjoys the adherence to this traditional pub fare. The other part of me just screams out for German beer or my beloved Pacific Northwest offerings.
** The British preoccupation with class bubbles up at the strangest times and in the strangest ways.

5.23.2011

a very Jane Austen day

Caversham: May 23rd
My dear ---,

I will first talk of my visit to Bath, as previous descriptions cannot have given you a very particular picture. On Saturday last Bernadette and I travelled 70 miles of good road to our destination. We took refreshments while changing horses in ---shire and made the town limit in good time. To my particular delight we happened upon a coffee festival. Though it fashionable to drink tea, I prefer a strong cuppa and rarely have I the opportunity to partake. B complained the caffeine made her nervous, but valiantly pushed forward. I was able to secure a coffee cone for reproducing the delights at home. This is particularly pleasurable as my own was lost in the last move.

Okay okay okay. I'm not Jane Austen and can't, for the life of me, write in the style of 200 years ago. And I really can't if the 5 people who read this blog will continue to return. I did, in fact, go to Bath last weekend. And it was my "Very Jane Austen Day" with my homie Bernie. She pretends to tolerate my American enthusiasm, but secretly she loves it (I'm including the forced Royal Wedding viewing in this which she will vehemently deny deny deny). And I wasn't kidding about the coffee "festival" that consisted of one large tent. One large tent populated with an unnatural number of tea stalls for a coffee festival. There was one guy serving his coffee using the line of coffee cones one finds in farmers' markets of the Pacific Northwest. He took pity on me and sold me one of his cones and a stack of filters for a Fiver (that's £5). The day was already a smashing success and we hadn't even started our Jane Austen audio tour.

The tour itself was fantastic. At the beginning, B. has a very strong need to do these things in order no matter where you find yourself on the map at the start of your day, the tour guide voice said we should feel free to pause the tour at our leisure. With that explicit permission our estimated 1 and a half hour tour took about 5 and a half hours. I almost knocked on Jane Austen's front door (the first of the 3 she occupied in Bath and the most fancy), learned how triumvirate of men shaped the look of the city through shameless self-promotion, had cream tea at the Jane Austen Centre (just down the street from her 2nd house at 25 Gay St.), and promenaded along the Royal Crescent. The city loved Jane Austen (present) and Jane Austen detested it (200 years ago); so many conniving, insipid, gossiping, and ridiculous characters stem from the city of Bath that their current residents can do nothing but shrug, acknowledge their own history, and hold out their hand as you buy a button from the BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice." It's a fun relationship.

Other things of note, they tried to make us pay £1 each to sit by the River Avon as we ate our take-away sandwiches for lunch. Instead we decided to sit in a nice round-about across the road that had plenty of grass, a statue, and some trees. It was a fine little spot that even afforded us the pleasure of witnessing a taxi/tour bus battle. I can only assume that the slew of insults and vulgar hand movements we saw is a frequent occurrence. I was quite pleased we saw this side of Bath because it is a beautiful city. Perhaps the fact that Bath has been a tourist destination for so long has something to do with it. They know how to keep the crowds coming back.

Things that I need to return to Bath for: ridiculous fancy dinner and actual promenading in the manner of Jane Austen ("We did not walk long in the Crescent yesterday. It was hot and not crowded enough."), taking the waters, tour of the actual (rebuilt) Roman Bath, taking a turn in the Upper Room. This last one might require an invitation to something fancy which would be more difficult to achieve.

My very Jane Austen day was a smashing success. Even after being interrogated and made to speak for ALL OF AMERICA at a pub. Because it wouldn't be fair to mention that and not give the shining snippet of mostly one-sided conversation, at one point the dude said to me, "I believe all humans have the ability to judge a good horse." The context doesn't help that at all, trust me.

5.17.2011

the technological floating population

It's almost 7:00pm at night (in the UK) and my co-workers in the States have been working for a few hours now. I'm chatting with one about a meeting we need to have. She's just starting her day (originally from Slovakia). When I started my day a friend of mine in California (originally from Ecuador) was up working late. Between the 3 of us we'll have had 24 hours of steady work. This, to me, is both normal and crazy. Normal because this happens more than I care to think about. Crazy because this is normal.

Meanwhile, my lovely friend (originally from Sweden) who opened her home to me is sitting on the couch listening to a lecture from a globalization course she's taking through Oxford. Yes, that Oxford. The line I just heard (in some indistinguishable European accent) was, "Are we Superman or are we Homer Simpson?" Again I'll say, yes, that Oxford. Today I'm particularly struck by the strange web of people I know where this is the norm. There are people who never leave their state, sometimes almost their home town and I'm having a strangely normal day filled with accents of the Great Technological Floating Population. Though I do technical things I'd hardly consider myself technical. So I feel a bit on the outside of this group I just made up. Actually, I'm sure there's some well-established names/fancy studies on this. And I did steal that floating population bit. But still, it's new to me and the same discovery can happen at different times in different places. How's that for logic? This is all a very long-winded way of saying I'm boggled, this fine evening.

My mind is boggled by accents and location and work. The cure for said malady is to go download my free audio walking tour of Bath. This is fantastic news because it's a Jane Austen's Bath walking tour I'm taking this Saturday. You see, this is how nerds de-boggle the mind.

5.12.2011

secrets and such

shadow dance.

Where to start? Where to start? When I last left you I was complaining. Not much fun there. And I was complaining about food in England. A rather predictable topic, I'd say. So, no complaining this time. There will, however, be a slight amount of unpleasant reporting. Don't worry, it's not as bad as it could be.

Things that are awesome: I went to London last friday to do a bit of walkabout before our Secret Cinema excursion. Both the walkabout and the event were fantastic. It might not be the most efficient way to go about things, or provide the most complete view of things, but I'm rather enjoying simply walk walk walking around as a method of being a tourist. I had an agenda, but that didn't work out due to my unwillingness to wait in line for an hour. Whatev. The experience of the Secret Cinema was fantastic as well. It was held in the Old Vic Tunnels by Waterloo, in the theater built for the premier of the Bansky film "Enter through the Gift Shop." Imagine Algiers in the tunnels of London. Also awesome: going to a Reading FC match. The crowd was quite polite, but the visiting side (Derby County) had hilarious fans who chanted and sang to their hearts' content. The home side won the day, so everyone left happy. Okay, maybe not the Derby fans, but whatev.

On to the unpleasant reporting. I'm currently locked in an epic battle of wills against my head. The migraine has not struck, but yesterday and (now) this morning, things are on the cusp. Normally I'd schedule an acupuncture appointment, but I'm not around my lovely Luke and Melinda and I've received no recommendations. So wish me luck!

** Lunch time update: things are looking up, people! Head appears to be cooperating and the loud lady with the particularly grating voice who sits directly behind me is almost quiet today. Almost.

5.03.2011

a note on food.

It is lunch time, yet I sit at my desk willing my stomach to limit the growling noises that threaten to escape. It's not that I don't have a lunch waiting for me. The meatloaf sandwich I made this morning waits patiently along with an apple to my left. It's a late night at the office you see, meetings on various continents being what they are. So I hold off. Dinner won't come until sometime around 8:00pm. Now that I'm thinking about it, I might save the apple until mid-afternoon. I find this is an appropriate time to mention food, both because of my (now) growling stomach and the fact that I've been in England for a full month.

Long, long ago I cynically told KFR the secret to remaining optimistic (or some version of happy) was to foster perpetually low expectations. This isn't exactly how I operate, but sometimes it's necessary to get by. And sometimes it is essential. I find this to be the case with the food in England. Not nice to jump on the bad-British-food bandwagon, but I feel they've more than earned their reputation. I should qualify things a bit. I've had some fantastically bad food from restaurants and some beautiful food from friends' kitchens. I've come to a couple conclusions: first, the joke about Britain taking over the world to find better food is true. Because even some of the pies and pasties I've had, in the British culinary wheelhouse if you will, are not spectacular; second, the British stiff-upper-lip reserve bites them in the ass when it comes to food. People can cook here. The friends with the delicious food exist! The standard for restaurants, however, seems to be rather low. I imagine one friend saying to another when deciding to head into a restaurant, "well, it tasted crap and my dog refused to eat the leftovers, but it's better than the place across the street." It's as if the entire nation is a bad tourist trap where the 5 restaurants in town all have the same menu.

I will spare you the list of specific complaints I have. I will also return to the one pie-shop that is exquisite. That's it for now. The meatloaf sandwich calls.

4.27.2011

"each step is like a vasectomy."

"Each step is like a vasectomy," said the teenage dude walking up the Miner's Track of Mt. Snowdon.

Yes, that is something I actually overheard whilst making my merry way down the Miner's Track path. Let me set the scene: the Miner's Track of Mt. Snowdon is mostly easy-peasy, lots of gentle incline and mountain lakes, with a straight up-hill climb that last bit. I don't want to down-play it. It took us 2 hours and 40 minutes on the way up to the top and only 1 hour and 50 minutes on the way down. And there were points where I was quite, quite glad that it was, in fact, misty and cloudy; vertigo being what it is.* But a vasectomy? Surely that uphill climb is easier than a vasectomy. Even to those given to hyperbole. After chuckling at the fellow I found I just wanted to call him a pansie. Yes, he had the decency to be embarrassed that 4 women witnessed that complaint. But still. Pansie.

Don't let my mini-rant throw you. Mt. Snowdon, though covered in cloud and mist almost the entire day, was lovely. Even with the hoardes of tourists. Seriously, you could spot the people on the various paths like ants at a picnic. On a clear day it must be spectacular. That was my second trip to Wales in as many weekends and I'd absolutely go back. Particularly to northern Wales. Get me a nice little cottage for a week by a creek and go hiking during the day, sit by a fire at night, pretend the the cute-as-a-button lambs in the field aren't the same ones I have for dinner....

Yes yes. Life is good.

The way up:
crazy 'path'


* I reserve the right to use commas and semicolons as I please.

4.20.2011

Queenie of Snowdonia

Have a new nickname, folks. Queenie. One of my more entertaining officemates coined the name for rather obvious reasons. Feel free to use it as you will. In my own Royal news, I'm trying to figure out what I'll be doing for the Royal Wedding. There are supposed to be all kinds picnics and neighborhood parties and such. All I know is that I've heard the word "bunting" more in the last 3 weeks than in all the years of my life combined. But before I get ahead of myself, other schemes are afoot.

Friday we're off to Mt. Snowden in norther Wales, the tallest peak south of Scotland on this tiny island. I'm super excited even though it's only 3,500 feet tall. Last weekend we walked up Pen y Fen in southern Wales and it was gorgeous. We're even expecting fine weather! Which, believe you me, is quite a topic of conversation around here. Basically clear skies, temperatures approaching 70 degrees and 3 holidays in two weeks time. I'm surprised the whole of Great Britain is surviving this trifecta. And I didn't truly understand the extent to which Brits will run head-long into sun without sunblock until I saw a warning against sun in the weather report for Mt. Snowden. They list the various hazards, you see: blizzards, heavy snow, gales, persistent and extensive hill fog, storm force winds, thunderstorms, heavy persistent rain, and strong sunlight. Because among that list of things to watch out for, strong sunlight is on the tops of my list. Just so you know, we're expecting a "Medium" risk of strong sunlight.

Please feel free to leave suggestions on my Royal Wedding doings. I'll feel free to completely disregard them.

Atop Pen y Fan in southern Wales....

4.14.2011

Notes from the Cubicle

I find myself working from an office consistently for the first time in over 2 years. Which is ironic, considering part of the reason why it's easier for me to do what I'm doing is because I've worked from home for the past 2 years. Friends and family asked whether the transition back to an office would be a difficult one for me. You know, since I couldn't roll out of bed at 8:00AM and stroll into my "office" at 8:30AM in a robe with a steaming cuppa. I'll admit that I was a bit worried, but I think the novelty will mostly last until I'm out of the office and in Germany. In honor (or honour, such as it is) of my return to the office, I present general impressions:
  • I'm doing my best to uphold the lazy American stereotype. An explination: I didn't pack any "office" type clothes because packing for 5 months is interesting enough without trying to please silly people in an office. Also! the Brits in the office just dress up a lot more than our own American offices. No big surprise.
  • I know I already said it, but they really do drink that much tea.
  • The low low cubicle walls makes me feel like I'm just a breath away from the office stylings of Mad Men.
  • It's nice being distracted by people you can actually see. It's a change of pace. I'm sure that might get old at some point.
  • I made my first journey with a cozy of tea drinkers today. I prefer coffee still. And I'll have to do some hunting of my own soon for new coffee. Sigh.
In the realm of small updates, we did not make it to southern Wales last weekend. It happens. Though it is still on the agenda and Mt. Snowden is definitely on the agenda, regardless of weather. I'm also plotting the next time I'll make Mexican food. Some things you just have to do yourself.

Happy Thursday, all!

4.08.2011

brecon beacon beckons

The weekend is almost here and all my changes, travel, and adjustments finally caught up. With a migraine I am. Or I was, rather. Things are better now since I took my drugs, but when I arrived in the morning for a group breakfast I was completely loopy. Then I was confronted with beans at breakfast. That didn't help. In that moment I likened me trying to figure out what a proper English breakfast looks like to a choose your adventure story. I wasn't prepared and didn't know which thing to pick up or pass on. I was waved off the black pudding by a gentlemanly co-worker.

Things to look forward to: tomorrow we should be off to Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales for a small walkabout. I think I shall like it. Take a look....



Hope y'all have a fantastic Friday and weekend.

Over and out.
AKN

4.06.2011

Collective Nouns

Sitting in my new office digs at the lunch hour I can safely report that the British are huge tea drinkers. Not that everyone didn't know that already. But knowing intellectually and witnessing firsthand are two very different things. Very different things, indeed. To provide a little spacial context, I'm sititng near the door to the elevator that leads to a little coffee stand and the exit. I'm also sitting right next to the communal tea supply: there are 4 boxes, one with 160 bags in it, for approximately 6 people.

All throughout the day groups of people venture back and forth on tea excusions. The only thing I can compare it to, in terms of the frequency, is a smoke break. Top of the hour? Time for a tea break. Just finish lunch? Time for a tea break. Bored? Time for a tea break. It never ends. And it's almost always in packs. Except the word "packs" doesn't really provide the gravitas that I'm after. Think a parliment of owls, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese, etc. etc. etc..

The order of the day is quite simple: create an appropriate collective noun for a group of british tea drinkers. Right now the best candidate I could come up with is a "staff of tea drinkers." It is with that small offering that I will now say I'm taking any and all suggestions to fill this gaping hole* in the English language. The winner will be sent a jar of marmite.

* ridiculous and telling spelling mistake pointed out by KFR; fixed at 16:16 UTC

3.28.2011

It's like Groundhog's Day....

It's funny what packing up your crap and putting it into storage can do. People pick up and move for every kind of reason and they say goodbye to their people and their places. Or not. Cross-town moves, cross-state, cross-country, move for work, move by choice, move to escape, move for more opportunity, move to stave off boredom. Move to keep moving. Whatever the reasons, moves always involve goodbyes. With smiles, tears, and sometimes a well placed "suck it." I've known I'd be moving for a while. I've visited all the places I've wanted to, made plans to visit with friends when I should have been packing, even had an amazing mustache themed farewell party. I've said goodbye so many times I think it's starting to get old for some people.

Today is the day I'm supposed to pack up Trixie and head north to visit with the fam before I fly to England on Saturday. I even had one final goodbye this morning that involved silent tears... you know the kind. Except now I might have to stay longer. My work PC is jacked up. Thank you IT and your automatic "updates." So I find myself tied to my work computer and phone in a way that I haven't in a long time. Waiting for them to try and fix the thing remotely. Waiting for them to tell me I need to bring it in to some office. Waiting for them to tell me it will be a week before they could fix it. Whatever. I'm tied to the damn thing and I'm stuck in a place where I've said goodbye to all my friends 5 times over. It's like Groundhog's Day. But not in a funny way.

This is all a very long-winded way of saying I'm excited and ready to leave except I can't. And there is a very real plane waiting for me on Saturday that I will catch, stupid-work-computer fix in place or not. Gooo. It's not the end of the world, just a rather large annoyance. But plans change and good things come out of those changes if you look for them.

3.23.2011

of meetings and boxes

I sit in my office drinking coffee. I used the last of the half-n-half just a few minutes ago, so tomorrow won't be quite so lovely on the coffee front. I am also surrounded by packed boxes and the detritus of crap not yet crammed into to some appropriately sized and shaped box. Finally, I sit in my office only moderately paying attention to a giant, catch-all meeting. You can see my priorities here: coffee (elixir of life), packing (big big doings), and then giant meeting*. Honestly, the giant meeting is much lower but nothing else is doing.

Let me explain the boxes: they are labeled with great detail. You see, I'm putting my riff-raff into storage for the next 6 months or so because I'm going to Europe for 5 months. Maybe a bit longer, at least for the storage of boxes. The movers come on Friday to load everything up. I will now take this opportunity to say that anyone who enjoys packing is completely insane. I've met them. I know they're out there. Except they don't look like the kind of people you wished you'd avoided by crossing the street after you spotted them.

Bottom line, this Nerd is going on a big trip. I'll have two bases of operation over the next 5 months (one in England, the other in Germany) and hope to have trips to Scotland, Ireland, France, Croatia, and Greece. There will be other things. My Easter weekend will be spent traveling through Middle Earth to Snowdonia to conquer the inimitable Mt. Snowdon. All 3,560 feet of it. It will probably rain or snow the entire way up, so I really shouldn't make fun.

Consider yourself warned, all 5 readers who gave up on this blog. The Nerd is back for the foreseeable future to apprise you of the status of the English countryside, the prevalence of tweeds, and the state of German beer. There will at least be 3 other blog posts thrown in between those topics as well. Don't want to give it all away.


* words like "synergies," "mega," "pipeline," and "drive awareness" are thrown about; you can understand why these aren't a favorite work-a-day experience of mine.