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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

football interlude supporting a different team


The way to a mid afternoon meeting on Tuesday also encountered huge quantities of traffic. Partly the Metro strike, but I suspect there was another matter affecting everything.

The Spain vs Portugal match was to be that evening, and the city needed to be prepared.

With England already down and out, the natural thing was to switch allegiance for this match to the local team. Of course, the central area was somewhat overcome with the double bonus of being in the next round AND to play their nearest neighbours, oh, and to win.

So the temperature of an already hot Spanish evening clicked up a few more notches, and then the car horns and the whooping and firecrackers and finally what can best be described a small home-made bombs were being let off around the streets.

I decided it was safer to get back to the midnight party in the club at the top of the hotel.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Es para uso personal


An early sunrise view across to the four towers dominating the downtown skyline and then into a five minute breakfast before I was to be met at the hotel.

The world suddenly slowed down. A metro strike was in progress. I didn't need to use it, but everyone else who did had decided to take to the roads. We skittered through back streets and twisted through on ramps to the motorway system but it didn't help. Madrid had decided to go slowly. Luckily my companion knew her way around and we criss-crossed the city to be within five minutes of the planned arrival time for the first meeting.

But.

They didn't have a parking space for us and the roadside ones stretched full for at least fifteen minutes in each direction around this sleek modern high tech building. "No hay problema", said my colleague as she parked blocking the exit from the complex and called the PA of the person we were due to meet. A few moments later we were back inside, in my case having to leave the car, walk through security scanners and re-join the vehicle.

That was before they took my passport.

Monday, 28 June 2010

in which I get caught in a space vortex

When I moved the chair in this room, it made a sound that reverberated like that scene near the end of Kubrick's 2001. You know, when the spaceman is kept in that white room.

My room's black though; I had to choose it from a menu when I arrived here. Apparently each floor was designed by a different architect. There was a floor that looked like something out of another Kubrick. That swirly white curved bar where the droogs met.

I couldn't decide easily though, so chickened out and chose the highest floor on offer. The theme is Japanese, with lots of sliding panels and a box-shaped wooden bath next to the minimalist high tech shower which also has lots of minature nozzles. I've probably dropped into a Murakami novel.

Thinking back, it started right from the airport. It's what they call 'ultramodern' in its design and if I'd had more time I'd have marvelled even at the strange jet contraptions in the baggage hall. I'm pretty sure that if I was a space traveller, this city's terminal would be the type I'd be leaving from. I'm wondering if the nozzles have somehow rearranged the molecules around here.

But next I must figure out how to power the room down. There's several mystery buttons which, if pressed, cause large machinery noises to occur but no apparent change to anything in the room. And there's a button by the bed that buzzes intermittently as if to say 'press me'.

Oh well, here goes.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

hips don't lie

towards the dance tents
No time for pop-up tents this weekend, so Glastonbury is missing its compliment from rashbre central for the first time in ages. Otherwise the wellies, sunnies, sunscreen and looroll would be in the compact backpack.

We are monitoring it, though, and consider that Groove Armada easily trumped Gorillaz yesterday evening.

Today I was practicing Spanish for next week with Shakira whose set shimmied with panache and earlier Mumford and Son drove some good folkiness ahead of Laura Marling who we'll fully support. And later tonight supermassive Muse (excuse the Britney 2007 blend) playing anthems, classical chords, Zep riffs and bits of Vienna whilst bathing everyone in light.

Between the footie, Wimbledon and Glasto, I'd easily select the music festival as the venue of choice, not just for the music, but for the rounded experience.

But I'm probably a bit of a hippy at heart.
dragon
The dragon around sunrise at the Healing Fields

in which the Pimms loosens the brain

137 bus
Its been a hectic few days for me with a rather wide range of challenges and a consequently diminutive amount of blog posting. There's probably an inverse square law about blogging content and time, and I suspect I'm suffering from it right now.

It amounts to lots happening but a consequent lack of time (and in some cases technology) to scribble it into the blog. Add to that the rather generous Pimms I've just been handed and I can see why it can sometimes all go rather wobbly.

A few days ago I was in a car park next to a colleague's car. He opened the back doors and out hopped two smart looking Rottweilers, who immediately wanted to become my next best friends.

He'd driven them to the meeting (a round trip over two days of circa 700 miles) because his wife was away and of course they needed to be looked after. They were as good as gold whilst we attended the meeting and then he was going to take them onward to an expedition in the scenic area we'd reached for the meeting.

I, meantime, was planning the equally long drive home.

I guess the point of this is to remember the work/life thing and to figure the ways to integrate things together as much as possible, Sometimes the work wins for a while (like it is with me at the moment) but the trick is to find ways to redress the balance rather than let it become too one-sided.

In other news, four red arrow planes just flew over the garden low enough to make ripples in the Pimms. Brilliant.
redarrows
My artist's impression of the two Rottweilers is slightly inaccurate; the triangular ears pointed downwards and they were not green. They did have those spiky collars.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Trains, Planes and Automobiles


No prizes for guessing Switzerland today.

I travelled part of the way in a smooth and exceptionally punctual IC train as I headed from Geneva for my meeting.

It's another country where scenery police outlaw unsightly views and I noticed even the towering cranes in Lausanne had Edelweiss pictures adorning them to assist them to blend in.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

window seat

alps again
I still prefer the window seats on planes.

Plenty of people prefer aisle seats so that they can get out without disturbing others and so forth, but I'm still a sucker for the view. I can't help it, but I like looking out of the window. Whether its clouds, distant planes, stars, or the ground on a fortunate day with clear views, I just prefer to have the option.

Thursday its the Alps, as we travelled back from Italy, and there was good views of mountains, lakes, winding roads and snow. It may not bee cool to be taking photos of this, but I don't care. Its great to see the earth from this viewpoint.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Milan again

milano
From meetings in Kingston upon Thames in the morning to the streets of Milan by the early evening, on the way to a cafe for a light evening meal.

I was staying centrally in preparation for tomorrow's meetings, which were in the same part of town. Milan's central streets can be as busy as London, so an optimum location for the morning could save vital minutes.

I didn't hear the England score until I was in Italy and still only have the vaguest notion of how the team performed.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

continuous wavelet transforms mark an entire region in the time-scale plane

Canary Wharf
Another hectic day of meetings today, whilst also trying to get a piece of major project moved along. Som etim es the re are ju st to o man y inte rru ptions.

The most productive time was when I escaped alone, for an hour, in a small park, where I was able to set up a mini work environment in the sunshine.

I did have all the technology - laptops and blackberries - around me, but the simplest pencil and paper solution allowed me to make some good progress on getting the stuff done.

Tomorrow it's Wednesday, so it must be Milan.

Monday, 21 June 2010

bread on the night

bread on the night
I was sent on a mission involving an unusual aisle of the supermarket during the weekend.

My target was to find moulding icing, which is not part of my usual spectrum of shopping possibilities. The risk was that it would take me at slow speeds close to areas that I don't usually visit. Multiple passes too, because it wasn't called moulding icing and came in a chunky oblong box in a choice of white or ivory*.

The danger of slow speed meant I'd have time to note the adjacent area containing the flours and bakery products. I loitered just too long in the bread-making area. Like a tractor beam those stone ground flours were beckoning, along with various brands of baker's yeast.

First, and almost accidentally, a pack of seeded flour fell into my trolley, and then a couple of others, with me partly drawn to the brightness of the packaging and those cursive artisan scripts.

I knew I'd gone too far, when I arrived home and found myself smuggling the heavy bag of excess baking products past the security scanners. There was nothing for it, I'd have to get my hands into some dough.

Hours passed and that tell-tale aroma of bread in preparation began to waft through the scene. Would I be rumbled? Not as I was also preparing a relatively spicy evening meal.

By the next morning, it was too much to hide. The first bread was ready in all its glory. I like to think of it as different in a good way from the bread in the supermarkets. And it seems to have met with approval. It's only Monday and we are onto the second loaf.

And the moulding icing? The expresso cake guitar it eventually adorned as frets and fingerboard was also a great success.

*- reading this back, I'm slightly surprised if it was really called Ivory in these sensitive times. But I know it wasn't called beige.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

messing about on the Thames

Tower Bridge
We were messing about on the river during Sunday, amongst other things.

Here's Tower Bridge just after we'd passed under it, and at the point where it is letting through a traditional red-brown sailed Thames barge.

We'd been having a Latin afternoon accompanied with a dash of rock music and were, at this precise moment, on the way to a riverside pub.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

World Cup: Pandorica vs England

tardistadium
The stadium picture is not exactly high definition, not least because my own eyesight has been affected by the pollen over the last few days. Even with anti-histamines, the lumpy air has some how 'got me'.

But even if it hadn't, I don't think it would have improved my view of the world cup football. That's two matches with England where some of the allegedly finest players have struggled against teams which are considerably lower in the pundits' rankings.

With my recent pollen affliction, I can understand the irritation to the very eyeballs of the followers of England who have trekked to South Africa to support some rather lack-lustre football.

It's not a completely fair comparison, but my enjoyment from the latest episode of Doctor Who was vastly higher than watching a set of ponderous and slightly disenchanted white shirts be outmanoeuvred by a set of enthusiastic, industrious, camouflaged green shirts during Friday's match.

I realise that the amassed forces of an imaginary universe may be pitched against our heroes in one show, but the ostensibly less formidable opponents in the football show didn't even have a good backing track, just that parping noise.

Monotonous and irritating rather than dramatic. I know which one I'd miss and I know which one I'll definitely record in case I'm out next week.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

motorway

Another evening on the motorways, tonight with a surprising number of high-performance police vehicles overtaking me along the outside lane.

There was a mixture of cars comprising unmarked saloons with blue lights and chequered motorway units and they passed me at few minute intervals.

At one stage I thought it was some kind of training exercise, as they sped along with their headlights doing that alternate flashing thing.

Then later I saw a few trucks flashing their emergency lights and a helicopter hovering over a field adjacent to the motorway. As I drove closer I could see the extensive collection of police cars pulled onto the hard shoulder and what appeared to be an extra car being searched whilst its occupants were being escorted to one of the waiting police vehicles.

Of course, my eyes were mainly on the traffic ahead, but it certainly looked as if some drama was playing out by the roadside.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

new lion squeaker

We even bought a new lion squeaker for the World Cup football, caught in the soccer madness that had led me to expect Sainsbury's to be empty.

Wrong.

The pre-match car park was almost full which made me wonder how many had decided to watch the afternoon matches ahead of England vs USA.

Like many, we scrunched down in front of the telly, with a few beers and munchies as well as the attractive distressed England beach towel(£3), the lion that shouts 'goal' and 'penalty' when you press a button (£2) and some hair extensions in Union Jack colours(£1), which confusingly are the same as the USA's.

We had well and truly invested in this match, in as ITV described, "the unforgettable experience'' of its High Definition splendour.

By now, everyone knows the result, so it is almost superfluous to mention the England team performance, except for the lightning fast first five minutes which led to a spectacular goal. Unfortunately, our television didn't show it because the ITV HD service decided to play a car advert. We were most confused, especially when the match returned and someone said 'look England have scored'.

We missed the whole goal and the post goal cheers because of the wrong button pushing by someone at ITV command central - who are already blaming another organisation for the problem.

As play resumed, the HD allowed us to see the layering in Cappello's hair style, but for some reason the on field play was sometimes rather jerky, as if the HD frame buffer was not keeping up.

I can't swear to it, but it then looked to me as if the rest of the game (after the jerky bits) was shown in standard definition on the HD channel. Don't worry ITV, its our little secret, but annoying to those who've gone out specially to get HD for the occasion.

Well, so what to make of the match? I suppose a few of the US players are also in the UK leagues, so they should be OK. I still think that a country that positions its soccer as the national game should be able to trounce a country where its something of an afterthought, behind their version of Football and Rounders.

Oh well, c'mon engerland etc.

Friday, 11 June 2010

A595

My work meetings routed me to the west of the Lake District on Friday and I found my sat-nav sending me along the A595 and through the town of Whitehaven, which is where the recent tragic gunman events unfolded.

It's one of those moments where something detached becomes that bit more real, as I drove through the centre and past the taxi stand where there were flowers piled high.

I'm not familiar with this area across the far side of the Lakes, but Whitehaven was showing itself well in the sunshine and with many people going about their daily business. There was a noticable police presence and some TV vans with satellite dishes, but overall I was struck by the apparent normality a few days on from the shocking events.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

business on the road

One of those days where in the morning I'm passing the elephants that currently stand in the middle of Sloane Square and by the evening I'm in the Lake District. Along the way I've dialled various conference meetings before the longish drive to the other side of the Lakes.

At some point along the way I stopped in the Pennines to buy some milk before everywhere closed and as I exited my air conditioned car I caught the blast of Pennine air with grass, peat, and a dampness that reminded me of trekking around the area with a backpack.

Tonight's stop was brief before onward chasing the late night sun, which was setting far more towards the North than we customarily see down South. Indeed, as it approach eleven pm, there was still light on the horizon and almost a sense of early morning.

But I had to reach my evening destination, to be 'in position' for Friday.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

world cup willie

worldcup1966The marketing of the World Cup has stepped up over the last few days. This morning, I noticed smug television segments beamed from airports in South Africa as reporters arrived and its not hard to spot England flags sprouting from cars as well as substantial pub redecoration in time for the occasion.

Like the Olympics, there's a special mascot for the event, which is a sort of green and yellow leopard - in South African colours and named Zakumi - which is "ZA" = South Africa and "Kumi" = ten.

world cup willie 2010Of course, England once had a world cup mascot "World Cup Willie" - which had all but disappeared until this time around. I think it was used properly back in 1966 and even sported a Union flag instead of the England flag. I see the 2010 re-make has moved to an England strip and even features one of those little stars.

Now I must wait to see which team I am awarded in the Office Sweepstake.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

under cover


It's short duration commuting for me this week, across London to Canary Wharf which means I'm travelling mainly under cover and under ground.

Compared with last week, where I could see the sky almost continuously, this week I'm protected from the elements by various man-made constructions unless I decide to break cover at lunchtime.

Monday, 7 June 2010

movie time?

hd video edit on iPhone
I've been using one of those Flip Mino HDs for quite some time for conveniently capturing pocket-sized bits of video. It works rather well and is significantly better than the stuff one can capture in most phones - both as picture and also sound.

My guess was that the "HD type technology" of the Flip would appear in a phone, which needs a better lens and sensor, some image stabilisation and a decent way to capture sound in such a small device.

It seems that Apple have had a go in the new and finally announced iPhone and are also adding iMovie support as well as WiFi based video calling.

We all know it is still consumer based video capture, but I've been quite impressed with what can be squeezed out of the Mino format and look forward to see what can be correspondingly achieved in the new phone.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

radial anxiety


Back from a short break with plenty of good experiences and a whole extra layer of dust inside and outside of the car.

Despite using bicycles for some of the travelling I have also needed to take the car for a spot of attention. I'm now the proud owner of a new tyre on each corner of the car.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Muicking around

Cairngorms
We're heading way down south to Manchester today, thereby saying 'farewell' to the glens and lochs for a while.

The usual accompaniment of pictures and narrative hasn't been so easy this week, what with relaxing and all.

But now it's time to load the car and check around for those last few items, which I suppose had better include this computer.

Friday, 4 June 2010

staccato bursts from the north

Cairngorms
We're still crossing rivers and climbing hills as well as a spot of cycling along what would once have been railway tracks. The bird and squirrel bait has worked quite well attracting all manner of livestock to our locale and a few inevitable photo opportunities.

The lack of bandwidth here precludes extensive uploads so these short telegrams from a tranquil place will have to suffice until we are back in better contact.

Of course, that's the original idea behind rashbre north, a place where we can chill without the usual pressures. It may also explain why its three years since we were last here.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Zazie moment


Vezi mai multe video din Film
Still away in the hills.

Here's a short Chelsea interlude for film (and photography) buffs, which has cropped up in our beer-laden conversations and makes a London-ish post, whilst I enjoy the sunshine.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

travelling back a month in time

Cairngorms
We are away in the Cairngorms at the moment, having woven a path across a decent chunk of England and then over the border to Scotland.

There's almost no mobile phone signal coverage in this area and this current blip of WiFi was unexpected although allows me to upload a few pictures and a short blog entry whilst sipping a bowl of leek, potato and onion soup.

The soup may sound hearty, but I think they'd add a wee dram of whisky if it was really cold. It's certainly a month or so earlier seasonally, with daffodils still in evidence and lambs that are a whole size smaller.
Cairngorms