Archives for category: Travel

Not really posted much in the last week.  Not that I have had the connectivity to do so, but more that I have had the available cycles of time to get to it.

It’s been a very long, tough and enjoyable week. Setting off at the crack of dawn last Sunday for Newark, then on to Boston, Massachusetts. Being five hours behind your body clock is hard your well being, does nothing for your concentration, or your sleep patterns and digestive system.  Throw into that tasty, fatty food and you’ve got a recipe for a tired fat bloke in no time at all.

2.30pm local time was 7.30pm in my head so by 9pm (2am real time) I was crashing fast. The problem with that though is my body clock is all to ready to wake me up at 7am (real time), 2am (local). Not where you want to be when you have an 8am (local) meeting coming up. It’s not a new problem, but it’s still a painful one that lasts for about 3 days. Just in time to be travelling back home again.

You’d hope on the return leg you might get some sleep on a shortend overnight flight – but that’s all down to who you’re sat next to.  Needless to say, that wasn’t my luck and it resulted in me spending the best part of 24 hours asleep once I finally arrived back in blighty. Bye bye weekend.

In short – Jet Lag sucks….   That said, it’s worth it for the broadened horizons that the travel itself brings.

If you’re going to the Boston area in the not too distant future, here’s a few things I’d point you at to keep things interesting.  The Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, is not your regular hotel. It’s pet friendly, so you can take your dog along, but if you’ve arrived without “pet” you can ask for a Goldfish to accompany you on your stay.  Now I know the Badman has mentioned this, but it really is quite a sight to behold and even if they’re all “with guest” when you arrive, it’s worth reserving one just for the enjoyment of an indepth discussion on “Fishbowl Adventures”

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Worth a visit, is the “Top of the Hub”.  This is a restaurant on the 59th floor of the Prutential Tower in downtown Boston. While the food and drink are both excellent, it’s the view that really makes this spot outstanding. Highly recommended if you want to get your bearings and understand some of the layout of the place.

Also, Quincy Market & Fenuiel Hall. A great spot for breakfast before the obligatory shopping. Walking distance from downtown Boston and right by the docks.  I had half an hour here on my way out to the airport, just wish I’d had more time. Some beautifully restored buildngs and unusually for America, some actual history.  Buildings made of Brick??  Whatever next?

Finally, no visit to Boston is complete without a bottle of “Sam Adams”, locally brewed beer named after local hero and founder of the revolution Mr Samuel Adams himself.

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It’s a beautiful city. Very green and fit & healthy with running being the defacto sport. Not filled with the characature “fat” Americans, but a lot more students and the like. Surprising given the size and range of portions of food on offer – which is the same all over the US.

In summary a hard working and fun week both at the same time. 

So now it’s back to the grindstone in good old blighty.  I’m over the lag and helping sort out such fun subjects as LEA’s, Global Rate cards, and disengaging from an engagement that’s got it’s claws in me.  Clearly I should have taken a leaf out of Pooh’s book and gone on holiday. 😉

 

 


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

We appear to have arrived at what can only be described as …  Thursday.

Not quite true I suppose.  It could be described as many many different things. The New Friday, for example, or perhaps “Just past the middle of the week”.  This particular Thursday could also be considered “Flaming Hot!” for that is what it is. Being a Brit of course the weather is at the forefront of my mind and is the beginnings of most conversation.  While this might sound like a myth, or perhaps a nostalgic view of the english, surprisingly it is also true and a fact to boot. 

In short it is a Thursday in the summer which would normaly mean cold and wet, but is in fact unusually and correctly both hot and dry.  Nice.

Floppy

Yesterday included a trip to a Starfleet office to spend some time with the Badman and prepare for our various handovers.  The first of these will be taking place next Tuesday somewhere in the Southern part of England.  The other’s will be happening the following week somewhere in the Eastern part of America. So that’s that stuff….

In preparation for the US piece I had to renew my US Travel Authorisation which nowadays is all done online (ETSA: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ ). Gone are the days of filling in a green card on the plane just before you land, and gone are the days of it being free. You pay 14 dollars (some of that money goes to promote US travel) to be permitted to enter the US and it’s valid for two years. Interestingly, none of that happens the other way around.  In the UK we derive no revenue from visitors at the border in this way. I note the Welsh do though ( http://www.severnbridge.co.uk/toll_prices.shtml ) … 🙂

What’s more interesting though is the fact that the ETSA is only valid for two years and without a reminder you could easily show up at a US airport, only to have to fly home again.  Be warned.  

But hang about – it seems that everything relating to travel now has much short expiration dates attached to it, so if you’re planning on leaving the front door of your house anytime soon – check these three just in case:

  • Passport: Only valid for 10 years now. A “One day” renewal is about £130 quid.
  • EHIC Card: Only valid for 5 years. The “European Health Insurance Card” covers EU citizens anywhere in the EU for state-managed hospital treatment. ( https://www.ehic.org.uk/ )
  • Driving Licence: Only valid for 10 years. Since it changed to a photo card, you have to renew them every 10 years, or you can pay a £1000 fine.  Your choice. It’ll cost you 20 quid to update it.

It’s all abit of a con. A nice way for government departments to make just a bit more money out of us – as if they didn’t get enough already, but this is the world we live in. Feel free to write to your MP and see where that gets you. Let me know how it works out.

 


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Those of you with a keen ear, will recognise the line from the Wizard of Oz, and one thing is for certain, this most definetly isn’t Kansas anymore, by which I mean, things have changed…..

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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Winnie-the-Pooh and I have been on a great adventure.  High up the hill above the village, we’ve seen woodland creatures of all shapes and sizes and we’ve run-off from the hedgerow in search of that mystic and majestic beast – the neliphunt. For our (sort of) first expedition, you’d expect this to be a ramshackle mess of a journey with nothing going right and everything going wrong. In truth, this hasn’t quite been the case.  There have been moments of danger, but generally speaking all has gone very well.  So it comes as a great surprise to all and sundry about, that we have actually caught us an neliphunt which is as I speak locked up in Pooh’s cellar while we decide what to do with it. I may have said too much already – although anyone with half a brain and a google search box might be able to figure it out. 

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We both need a bit of a rest ofter all the excitement, (Pooh probably more than I as he’s had to patiently ignore my obvious observations and listen to my less obvious one’s with apparant interest) so he will be off to the New World for a break, while I have the “Change is as good as a rest” option, to cover for him while he’s gone. Luckily for me, the cover means I too, will get to see the New World by way of a handover.  I think this means I’ll have to be sharing the tusks with our cousins, but so far that’s not being made very clear.  It’s been 4 years since I’ve been across the pond.  I’m both daunted (Not sure how I’ll get on with tusks in customs) and very much looking forward to it. While I’m not in love with it, I do realy quite like America…. a lot….  But that’s in the future….

Our friends of the fruit – Mr Jobs & co, have unleashed Lion upon us.  Now, me being a tigger (and tigger’s are wonderful things) I’m not in the least bit daunted.

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Many apple folks of old have warned that being an early adopter can cause pain – and having been an early adopter of technology for many years, I am all to aware of that fact.  I only have to think of the agony of a failed recording of Coronation Street thanks to Microsoft’s Media Center glitches to bring it all flooding back.  Personally, I wasn’t the least bit worried about a missed episode – but hell hath no fury… as the saying goes.

Still, unpreturbed – or perhaps that should be unhindered by hindsight – I was amongst the first to hand over my 20quid to download the latest offering for the App Store.  A very interesting move by Apple to have walked away from traditional methods of software distribution.  This is a first for such a major OS, and not something I could imagine MS doing (given their control freakery).  Besides, MS probably want to justify the extortionate prices they charge – but what do I know?

So how did it go?  Is my mac now a quivering jumled up mess of bits all over the floor, failing to boot up and awaiting new drivers for some piece of hardware I’ve owned for 5 years without any problems ???  (See MS Upgrades elsewhere for more on that).  Of course not. It’s awesome. And it’s encouraged me to spend a further sixty quid with them on a magic touchpad.  Now that my firends, is some darn clever marketing. 

My interation with the OS is now all swipes and hand gestures (no, not that one) – and it really does feel surprsingly natural. Pinching and zooming (just like the iPad, iPhon and iPod) is great, and a two fingured swipe to the right while web browsing is the most natural back button in the world. I’m suitably impressed.  On top of that, the full screen apps make great use of my desktop real estate and the whole system feels snappy and smart.  

So – no pain at all???  Well, one thing – and it’s a tiny one.  Internally on my home network, I run a web server to share various things – and after upgrade – I wasn’t able to get this working again.  At this precise moment I still haven’t figured it out – but that’s due entirely to having to work for a living and not being able to procrastinate all day long.  I’m sure I’ll have it sorted on Sunday.  I am tempted to take the “clean install” approach, just because upgrades are known for doing the unexpected. I’ll give it some thought.

Google+ is also with us, and I’ve prattled about it here already. The iOS app arrived this week, which you can pick up here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/google/id447119634?mt=8 .  If you haven’t got on it yet – it’s up to 20million users now (in about 3 weeks – it took Facebook three years to do that) and I’d highly recommend that you become one of them: http://plus.google.com. Feel free to add http://gplus.to/golfyball to one of your circles.

Mrs G and I have had our Wedding anniversary as well – all good… Choclate and Iron.  I didn’t buy her an Iron as violence often hurts, and I would have been subjected to some if I had.  Today however, will see us off to a food festival.  and I’m starving just at the thought of it.  http://www.gloucesterquaysfoodfestival.co.uk/

Toodle-pip old bean!


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

This is going to be on Channel 4 on the 21st March at 8pm. Given my recent train trvelling experiences I think it will be very much worth a watch.

If you’ve got bad train journey stories to tell, or if you’re looking for more details, everything you need is here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/train-journeys-from-hell


This post originally appeared here: Posterous
In truth, it’s been a while since we’ve been to the states, but I know we’ll go again. What that means when I see things like this though, is that I remember how much I miss the place. Must go again soon.

NYC – Mindrelic Timelapse from Mindrelic on Vimeo.

PS: Blogging will return to normal this week.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous

First things first….  Finally got round to catching up with my Google Reader feeds from the weekend.  I use “Gruml” on the Mac for this, and “NewsRack” on the iPhone and if I really have to, then just a good old browser on a PC. However, when the unread counter is over a thousand I have a new policy. “Mark All As Read” and start again.  Life’s too short and there’s too much information….

This brings me on to some interesting thoughts on the nature of human intelligence in the Internet age.

I’ve read a couple of articles recently that have talked about the way the human brain works while surfing the Internet. If I’ve understood the concepts and got it right then what I found surprising is that we use a different area of our brain when we surf compared to say, trying to solve a problem. Apparently we use our short term memory far more when ingesting new information and so these are the synapses that get fired the most when reading the wealth of material available to us.  The problems arise when we have so much of this information that we suffer a sort of short-term memory overload to the point that using your short-term storage becomes the norm.  When that happens, things aren’t committed to the longer term memory and so are forgotten altogether.  Essentially we forget to analyse in any depth the stuff we find interesting.

Now this has started some healthy debate of the dangers of surfing – ie: over utilising your short term memory in the longer term or in tabloid form: “Surfing makes you stupid” but does it?

I’d argue it doesn’t. It just changes the way you think about things.  I’m sure you’ve noticed yourself saying “I’ll just google it” and such like. This doesn’t mean you’re stupid – it just means there are easier ways to uncover bits of information than we are traditionally used to.

Let’s face it, 10 years ago if someone had said to you “Do the BBC have a clock?” what would you have done ? Other than respond with “I’ve no idea, you’ll have to ask them”.  Now, you’d google “BBC Clock” and get something like this or this. (Truly awesome).  Just because you can get the answer to (just about) anything very very quickly doesn’t make you stupid. It should actually be freeing up the areas of your brain that were being used for storing all that useless information to re-use for analysing the now enormous volumes of fresh data that we can find every moment of the day.

So, perhaps what we’re really seeing is an evolution in the way we use our brains, and as long as we keep the machines going to manage the record of human knowledge (as digitised as it is so far) then we have nothing to fear in this change.  In fact if we take it to a logical conclusion, the machines are the new library and perhaps in time, the storage will be more like this:

Interesting that a concept like this existed long before any of the tools to begin to achieve it did and that it was a man from Bromley who wrote it in a book in 1895.  More terrifying is the thought that we could actually end up as Eloi and Morlocks. The Eloi being the lazy good for nothings with no interest in the past and everything at their fingertips (Google surfers) while the Morlocks, the hardworking underground dwelling workers, maintain the systems that hold all human knowledge.  Well, it’s possible…..   If a little unlikely.  Makes for a good story though. Kudos to Mr. Wells.

But wait second….  If Mr Wells came up with in 1895, is it possible that he had actually travelled through time ?  As we all know time travel is perfectly possible and a completely natural thing for humans to do. The problem with it as we understand it today, is that it’s a one way trip only.  Like you, I spend all my time travelling into the future.  The real genius will come when one of us figures out a way to go backwards, or even forwards faster than the rest of us and while I’d romantically like to think that H.G. had made such a journey, I remain unconvinced.

There is a little sniff of evidence in the form of his self penned epitaph: “I told you so. You damned fools.” and of course he’s famed for his science fiction writing, but as yet I’ve not seen an “Invisible Man” (I wonder why?), or heard about the “War of the Worlds” or even seen “The First Men in the Moon“, “on” no problem, but not “in”. As for “The Shape of Things to Come“… other than predicting submarines and wikipedia, it looks like he missed the mark.

Still, let’s not wish our lives away – there’s far too much to do now, let alone if we were on fast-forward.  But then it’s not for me to fill up the Internet (and your RSS feed) with all this pondering. Your brain’s got enough to deal with already. Luckily, neither of us have to worry. It’s all here already: H.G.Wells’ The Time MAchine and How Stuff Works: Time Travel


References:
The Time Machine Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy (+ Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] Hot Tub Time Machine (Unrated) [Blu-ray] The Time Traveler's Wife [Blu-ray]H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon

The kids are off in Wales, so that leaves Me and Mrs G to do whatever we like. WooHoo!!….
Starfleet is making my brain hurt at the moment, not least because I can’t seem to get the right people interested in helping out with their fields of expertise, which means adding delays to the things I’m trying to shift, it’s just not much fun when it’s like that. So instead of thinking about that, and taking my mind right off the subject we’ve been thinking about holidays – and why not.

I very nearly booked a trip to Dubai last night, I’d looked at it online at lunch time and it was a reasonable price, but by the evening (when I’d decided it will be a fun thing to do) it had gone up by over 25%. In a state of shock I rang the company involved to talk to a person rather than a machine, to be told that demand had gone up this afternoon and the package price was based on available flights. Most disappointing, and got me to wondering if their booking system online is self defeating. It probably logs people looking at packages as interest and if the number of views goes up, so does the price. The problem with that is that if the number of views goes down, the price doesn’t, and I’m then not inclined to buy a package. More than likely this scenario is in my paranoid head, but you never know – some companies think they’re being clever with tricks like that – when in fact they’re just being dumb.

After a lot of poking about and persuasion on my part, we’re not, I repeat NOT going to the Mediterranean this year. I’d rather be going to Cuba or the Domincan Republic or somewhere around there, but Mrs G’s new job means she’s only got limited amounts of holiday this year, and a week isn’t long enough for places of such distance. So it looks like we might have a week in the Canary Islands in September – to top up the British Summer Tan (you’re having a laugh aren’t you? – Ed) just in time for Christmas. We already have a little trip in November to Spain as well, but that’s more likely to be warm rather than sunny, and Mrs G does love the sunshine. A bit more digging around on’t’internet and we’re ready to book as soon as Mrs G has booked her time off from the office.

After that it was time to cook some dinner, so as we’re on our own we had one of my speciality chilli’s and a bottle of fizz (for a special treat). As you may be aware, I like to keep up (or is it down?) with the kids, so popular culture in all it’s forms is very much my thang (he said showing his age). This week’s stuff and nonsense is particularly large.

First up, double corrie to catch up with. After the terribly sad events in cumbria last week, ITV withdrew the goings on in the Street because of the gun related story line. Sensible, and showed respect for those involved. Corrie, as I’ve mentioned before is my one vice in soap opera land, I know nothing of the other efforts other than they don’t have a giggle in sight.

The main event though has to be Channel 4’s offering last night at 9pm. Finally, it’s the final final Big Brother in it’s 11th (and final) series. When this first started in the UK (10 years ago) I paid it no interest and dismissed it as the piffle that it was, and still is really. However, there is no denying that it has had a significant impact on British Television and TV audiences. In the first instance it marks the start of the Summer proper. Secondly when you start watching someone’s behaviour in this voyeuristic manner, it quickly can become addictive, so be careful.  By about the 4th series I was hooked and by the 8th I’d got over it. This time round, I’m going to watch, although not obsessively, for old times sake (and because Davina McCall is very watchable, albeit slightly barking). This being the last series, there will be all sorts of buffoonery though. They already have a mole who should he be found out will be evicted. Unfortunately for him as he had to wear a mole costume with a sign around his neck saying “I am a Mole” – In theory they should work that out pretty quickly, but we are talking about Big Brother (#BB11) contestants here – so he could equally likely get away with it.

Every muscle twitch is likely to be reported on twitter (see link above) but this had a negative effect last night when so many users were posting so many observations that twitter actually fell over. This has been known a couple of times before, but it’s surprising when it’s something like BB. At the time, the trending topic of the moment was “Monobrow” – one of the contestants has one of 6.5″. Kids and technology cause these bizarre events on this planet that we inhabit. Freaky. It’s going to be a very long summer.

Honestly, I swear I had some vacation right here somewhere. Maybe I left it on the dining room table, or perhaps it’s slipped down the back of the sofa… Wherever it is, it seems to be much smaller than I thought it was. All of a sudden, in less than 24 hours, I’ll be back at work. In the words of the philosopher Homer (J. Simpson) D’oh!!!

Yesterday was relatively busy for a day off, although I did manage to crowbar a movie in as well, so it was almost a proper day off. Started off with dropping Mrs G off at work, and then off to the bank to arrange holiday payment. It’s not until November, but now it’s paid for it’s a real trip. This led to dropping in on Mother-in-law who had Triple B at her house working on the renovations. Banter ensued.

As this is over two thirds of the way to Chelter’s the bad man will be glad to hear that I managed to get into town and pick up some fresh coffee from Whittard’s at last!! I chose more Old Brown Java (because it’s sooo good) and some Italian Espresso. So far the OBJ is still winning, all though I’ve only had one shot of the IE, so that could change yet. Watch this space.

These two rather simple tasks to until around 2pm to get completed. That’s because it’s half term. Traffic hell, mum’s and kids everywhere, nowhere to park, nowhere to run!….

The afternoon was free enough for me to be able to start to catch up with the movies – and in particular “Daybreakers“. It’s a futuristic Vampire movie with a twist and I really enjoyed far more than I expected. The logic is that the world has turned to vampirism and there’s only a few humans left. Vampires need human blood to sustain themselves, and of course that supply is rapidly dwindling. Our hero is a human-turned-vamp haematologist who’s looking for a synthetic replacement or better yet a cure. It has some great technological ideas – things like night mode cars so that the vampires can drive around in daylight without getting burned and instead of guns (bullets don’t kill vampires) the weapon of choice is a crossbow (stake through the heart and all that). Nice touches. 6 out of 10

Now for today’s challenge which in theory is a very simple one. Collect daughter and her mates from the airport on their return from Egypt. The golden age of simple straight forward air travel is long gone though, and I can see I’m headed for a gaffing sort of day. Daughter called on Monday just to be sure we’re all set on flight times – 12:55 arrival. All good. A quick check on the airports arrivals board via their website this morning and only one arrival at 11:40… hmmmm.. That’s not quite the same. So a look on the departures board from Egypt and no flights to the selected arrival airport at all!!?… What is going on here?? Now, I know from old not to be too trusting of such online wizardy and magic (Well, it’s actually just a backend SQL or Oracle DB to the web server probably). The airlines don’t see these methods of communication as primary, and the telephone and the boards physically in the airports are their bible’s. However, a phone call to the airport just confirms the only arrival being mid morning. Something is awry.

SO my plan is to revert to the old 70’s method of travel. That is, “go with what you know until you know something else”. How did we cope before mobile phones and the Internet?? Well, quite well actually as it happens. On the basis that they might be on the earlier flight I’m going to set out a little ahead of schedule, the downside of course is that they may be massively delayed and I could end up sitting at the airport until very late this evening – or worse yet… tomorrow!!… Let’s hope not. eh?

For now though – one more cup of IE, a quick car wash and brush up and then onto the road. Have a great day. Work hard. Makes me feel like I might still have one day off if you do that. 😉

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