Some Upcoming Fun

April 27th, 2007 by matt

Those of you might know that soccer is big in the UK. They have multiple divisions and the top division is the Premier league with Russian Oligarchs buying teams and lavishing tons of money on them (and still only getting second place). I’m not sure how it compares to the prices spent on professional sports in the US, but it’s damn close.

Anyhoo, with these crazy prices paid for players and 80,000 seat stadiums, come crazy ticket prices. And yet somehow, the demand is still absurd. The point is, it’s hard to get tickets to these games and, if you have the opportunity, it’ll cost you. Now, I live about 15 minutes from one of the top teams in the Premier League, Arsenal (they’re in 4th in the league at the moment). They recently moved into a gigantic new stadium which is very imposing when you stumble upon it. Now, I had no illusions that I would ever see a Premier league match. But luck threw me a very generous bone. One of the employees from the company I’m migrated got to talking to me and, when he found out I lived in Highbury (home of Arsenal), he commented on how that’s the home of the best team in the world and that he had season tickets. And he said that if he had a match he couldn’t attend, he would happily give me a ticket. I thought that was very generous but, with the season almost over, wasn’t expecting too much.

Well, this week he comes by and says ‘are you free this weekend’? I say sure and he offers me a ticket for the match this Sunday! Pretty cool. Alas, he was supposed to bring the ticket to work today and forgot, so we’re hopgully going to meet up sometime on Sunday and make a ticket exchange. So hopefully I’ll have an Arsenal ticket pretty soon. If so, expect pictures and stories. I plan on head-butting some hooligans (Mom, I swear I won’t). If not, I’ll bitch and moan about not being able to see a football match this season. 🙂

Why I Love the Interwebs

April 23rd, 2007 by matt

So here I am in a foreign country. One thing I always love is internet access. I have been internet-less for a month now when I’m not at work. In and of itself, it’s not deadly. I can do what I need when I’m in the office. But, there are things I like to use the internet for: skyp-ing loved ones, posting pics to this blog, watching my class and not having to lug my laptop to work and then download the whole thing which lend itself to having a network connection at home. Plus, as an IT person, I have times where I need to get back into my office during odd hours (like tonight, for example). I can’t do that from home which means I have to come into the office.

Anyways, Britain has deregulated the telco world here. In a nutshell, it means, instead of one company gouging you for crappy service, there are multiple. Doing my research, I found the most freedom I would have would having a BT phone line. It was an hour long ordeal of being on hold waaaaay to much to get a freaking phone number.

Once I had that, I thought I’d have a million choices for internet (if I’d kept my Virgin media line, I’d have been stuck with their internet as well and not have any other options). Well, one company didn’t have my telco exchange set up for internet (I live in a middle of freaking London!). Another one insisting on hijacking my phone service when I’d just set up new service. A third would be hooked up in my exchange, but not until the end of May. So I left for Stockholm all pissed off, assuming I’d be stuck with BT and their 12 month contracts and still without internet.

I was then turned on to this nice site, The Broadband Resource. They allow you to look up your local exchange and get all sorts of cool geeky info. I looked at my exchange today, and saw this note:

Be Unlimited has enabled the Canonbury exchange for their service

Well I’ll be damned. These were the people who claimed that they wouldn’t be ready for me until the end of May! So I checked their site and now I can have internet from them if I want. I do believe i’ll be signing up tomorrow!

So the internets showed me info that is publicly available but in a useable format and, hopefully, I’ll have internet — in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I just set myself up with cheap ass international calling (again, through the internets). Let’s see if it’s as cheap as they claim and make some calls 🙂

And now, for something completely random

April 22nd, 2007 by matt

For some reason, I got this idea walking back to my hotel after my biking tour of Stockholm (pics here). There are lots of bike and foot paths in Stockholm. They are nicely marked and decently laid out. On one of them, I found a special path, but they seemed a little confused as to who it was for:

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This path is for a man with no leg and his daughter. But then, a short while later, it changed purposes:
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Now the path is only for men with no heads, one hand and his legless daughter. But never fear, things go ok for the daughter in the end:

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Now the child has all her limbs. Alas, the man has no head (he did get his hand back).

Needless so say, I was alone and had all my body parts intact. So I got off that path. Best not to temp faith 🙂

Hope that was amusing!

Stockholm in Pictures

April 22nd, 2007 by matt

Just to make people jealous, here are a selection of pictures that hopefully illustrate my trip here. If you want more words, check out a previous writeup.
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Here is Östermalm looking along some of the waterfront (there’s a lot of waterfront in Stockholm since part way between the North Sea and Baltic Sea)

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Here is my rented bike in front of a museum on Djurgården

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A Hot Chocolate and Cake break in a pretty square in Gamla Stan

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The front of one of the many churches in Stockholm. This one is known for a sculpture of St George fighting the dragon he supposedly slayed.

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A slice of modern Stockholm. Personally, I kind of like this sculpture.

A Trip To Stockholm

April 22nd, 2007 by matt

For those patient enough to still be reading my blog, I’ll give you a treat. Three posts in one day. Hopefully, you like at least one of them.

So I had to go to Stockholm for a short weekend trip. We have our data center here and, my being new and all and us having some work to be done at odd hours, my coworker Ben and I scheduled a trip to Stockholm. Our plan was to get up very early on Saturday, rebuild a server and do some general maintenance and check out our little world in Sweden. I won’t bore you with the details, but we had one day scheduled for work and another day just in case things got ugly.

Fortunately, things did not get ugly and the work portion of the trip ended smoothly. Which left me a day to set out and explore a new city. While I’m pretty sure I’ll be back here at least once or twice, I wasn’t running around going “holy shit! What am I going to do with one day!” but I wanted to take in a sizeable chunk of the city. I decided that renting a bike would be the best option as it’s not a huge city and a bike allowed me to get a good sample of a very nice city.

Stockholm is divided into a number of sections (as a tourist, I’ll focus on the city centre). Gamla Stan is the original part of the city. With some hindsight, the government was able to preserve it with all it’s lovely buildings, churches and winding medieval streets. The same can’t be said for Norrmalm. In the 1950s-1970s, the city thought it was a good idea to tear down huge sections of the old buildings in this section (just north of Gamla Stan). As a result, there is a decent amount of not-so-pretty modernist buildings. But there is also some interesting modern stuff as well. Södermalm is south of Gamla Stan. It’s the bohemian edgy part of town (but bohemian and edgy in Sweden is pretty darn clean and well thought out. None of that converted warehouse kind of vibe. Just coffee shops and people with alternative looks). Östermalm is the ritzy part of town (West of Gamla Stan — some of you might catching a pattern in the naming of things in this part of Stockholm). It has some wide boulevards and expensive housing. Finally, there is Djurgården, an island west of Gamla Stan that has remained quite un-developed and has a lot of nice parks and trails.

In order to see all of this, I found a bike rental place on Djurgården. I took a four hour ride through all sorts of areas. It’s a very pretty city. It has a German/North European feel to it, with lots of dark roofs and pointed decorations on places like the churches. Each of the areas had it’s own feel (very old in Gamla Stan, newer and modern in Normmalm and so on). If you want to see 100 photos of the place, I have a slideshow here. My next post will have a selection of pictures for those who have no interest in a bunch of vacation photos :).
Some random thoughts. Even in April, it stays VERY light here for a long time. The sun was spreading light by 4:30am and it didn’t get dark until 9:00pm. I feel like an ass because I know absolutely no Swedish (I know a little more now) and people here know English soooo well. I know it’s been said that in this country people don’t mind that no one knows their language, but it’s still embarrassing to not even try to me. It’s also interesting how much my intense efforts to think like someone living in the UK have paid off. It took me most of yesterday to remember which side of the road cars were coming from (same side as the US) and I was converting Swedish Kroner into Pounds, not dollars. And I kept saying cheers instead of thanks (or Tack — thanks in Swedish).

Sweden really does live up to a lot of its reputation. It’s very well laid out, clean and the drivers are the most sane I’ve seen anywhere in Europe. It’s a bit of a shock coming from the chaos of London. Even the train from the airport was efficient. The airport is about 25 miles from the city and it took 20 minutes to get there (the train was going 200+ km/hr most of the ride!).

Food so far has actually been Belgian. For some reason, both places Ben and I decided to eat served a huge variety of Belgian beer and food. But it’s pretty heavy stuff, so I think dinner will be lighter. 🙂
Anyway, I enjoyed my first European maintenance day and it was nice to have a day to explore a very nice city. I’m not leaving until the morning, but this would be most of my trip in a nutshell.
Pictures are next!

American Visitors

April 21st, 2007 by matt

So my first month in London could be easily summed up as a tad stressful. But there have been some wonderful moments. And, due to the lack of free time and internet access at home, here’s my first chance to give you a nicer view of life in London. I have many entries to catch up on, and I’m putting them in a completely random order.

After a week living in an flat in London, I had my first visitors. Dave and Melissa had a trip to Barcelona planned and decided to spend the weekend prior to that in merry ol’ England. Now, my initial plan had been to have had a nice long weekend and then some in my apartment before my arrival. Instead, I moved in on the that long weekend and then spent a couple of days in Brighton (more on that next entry!) . So I was not really moved in in any meaningful way. I had a bed, a couch and enough to cook for a single person and that was all. Yes, it’s not much different from life in Chicago where I never cooked, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.

Anyhoo, my preparation for my visitors required a trip Argos. It’s a department store without the store. You either go online and choose what you with to purchase or you go to the store and look through a catalog. when you see what you want, you just select the item number, pay for it and a few minutes later, you pick it up at a counter. I believe things like these used to exist in the US, but I’ve not seen them. My first trip there involved picking up a nice comfy air mattress for my guests.

Dave and Melissa live in Chicago, so they knew they’d see me again when I left for good a month ago. But, this was my last chance to see them for a while (which is sad). They had done a lot of the touristy stuff, so they were happy to be dragged along to see some of ‘real’ London. This mostly consisted of wandering my neighborhood (which includes a very very large Football stadium. In the end, the big events of that part of their trip involved checking out nice cafes nearby and seeing about the local pubs. We checked out three pubs, all within 5 minutes of my flat, and they were all nice in their own ways. I think, if I had to pick my ‘local’, it would be The Nobody Inn. Good choice of beers and they even have decent burgers (not easy to find in England).

Aside from that, we checked out some of the things that London has to offer. We wandered the Saturday market in Notting Hill, we did a quick tour of the National Gallery and we looked around Covent Garden. They did tons of other things without me (what with my having a job and needing to do my US taxes 🙂 ), but they can comment in this entry with all of that fun. In the meantime, here are a select few pictures for a visual reference taken from a pub called The Cock (no fooling!):

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I told you it was called the Cock!!

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Dave and Matt enjoying a pint

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Dave and Melissa looking happy on vacation

Just Some Random Info

April 19th, 2007 by matt

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Add to that the fact that I have no internet at home and I’m working until 7 and 8pm every night, and there ain’t much time for updates. I assure you, I have lots of fun to share and it’ll all get dumped on those of you who read this soon. For the moment, here’re some random things:

  1. Tomorrow, I take my first trip back to the Continent. Alas, it’s not all fun and games. It’s to Stockholm, which isn’t exactly warm in April and it’s for work. But hopefully, the work will only be done at 7am on Saturday and a little bit of work really really early on Sunday and I can enjoy myself some of the time 🙂
  2. I’m rich! Well, not exactly. But the British pound is now worth double the US dollar. So all you people still living in the US with it’s high trade deficit, flat incomes/savings and treasury bonds being sucked up by foreign countries, enjoy!

hee hee. I’ll have tons of pics and andventures posted this weekend, i hope.

Anna And Chewy’s Big Adventure

April 17th, 2007 by matt

I’ve been good and not mentioned the cats in a while (I think). Since I have no internet at my apartment yet (i’m still not sure who my phone line is provided by!!) which is where all my photos are, I’ve been remiss in keeping people really up-to-date on some of the fun I’ve been having. So let me fill you in on the fun my cats have been having.

Since I last wrote about them in full, Anna and Chewy first travelled 1000 miles to Connecticut. There, they found two loving people who have been taking excellent care of them and a cat who had a rough first few years of life and didn’t take too kindly to having two strange cats invading her turf. So, for a couple of months, the three cats took turns having free range of the house. Finally, at the end of March, they all got loaded up in a car and went a little closer to Anna and Chewy’s world: Michigan.

Since then, all three cats, now that they’re in neutral territory, are apparently getting along marvelously. Meanwhile, being the wonderful cats that they are, they’ve managed to win people over. My parents keep threatening to not let them move to London when they are legally allowed to (the bastards!) and my uncle, who normally rips on cats constantly, has taken an immense liking to Anna (because of her dog-like qualities, but it’s impressive nonetheless) and referred to himself as Anna’s new ‘master’ (as if!).

Anyway, here’s a pic of Anna and Chewy in their temporary home (which is one of the things I need to post more about!). I can’t wait to see them again.
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Good luck Carolyn!!!

April 16th, 2007 by matt

**Update** She finished in 4:27 in extremely bad conditions. Congrats Carolyn!!!!!!!!!!

In about 7 hours, Carolyn will be running the Boston Marathon. For those of you unaware, she has raised almost $5000 for Cancer research as well as training for the run. I’m very sad I’m unable to be in Boston to cheer her on, Nor’easter or not, so I’m sending her lots of good vibes all day and will be tracking her online (she’s bib #20221). If you’re in Boston, go out and brave the cold and cheer her and all the other crazy runner on. AND, if you haven’t donated, do it now! 🙂

Good luck Carolyn!!!!!!!!!!

I’m 30 today

April 11th, 2007 by matt

I’m normally never too big on birthdays, but this one feels odd. First of all, it’s one of those milestone birthdays. Today, I turn 30 years old. That’s odd enough. But putting myself in a new country with very few people I know makes it a little odder. I turned 21 in Italy, so it’s not the first milestone birthday I’ve celebrated abroad, but this time, I’m right in the thick of relocating as well as working my ass off and, that time, I had already been over there for a few months and was pretty settled.

Anyway, it’s a blog and I figured I’d be a little self-indulgent. Happy birthday to me 🙂

Things I saw on my way to work today

April 10th, 2007 by matt

I had my first commute today. If I’d only been going to my actual office, it would have taken 10 minutes. But then I wouldn’t have seen the following from the top of my double-decker bus :

  1. A double eecker bus (duh!)
  2. London Bridge (the new one)
  3. St. Pauls Cathedral
  4. The London Monument
  5. Tower Bridge (the cool one)
  6. The Thames River
  7. The Tube

I have a bunch of entries to write with pictures. It’ll have to wait until I have more solid internet access

I have an apartment!

April 7th, 2007 by matt

So I have an apartment. I got the keys this afternoon and, when I got there, there were two people just finishing up cleaning. it’s pretty much empty, but it’s mine!!! It feels a little odd. But the neighborhood is already growing on me. I’m at the office for a brief stop over so I can pick up my stuff (a suitcase and a very large duffel bag) and then i’m off to, ummm, ‘unpack’. then i’ll try picking up some basics so i can do laundry and whatnot. I took some quick shots, but it’s very similar to the original photos I took. woo hoo!!

Comment Spam

April 5th, 2007 by matt

Time for a little random post not related to the unpleasantness from yesterday. I’m sure all of you are aware of spam. Well, since spammers are the essense of evil, they try to find anywhere they can to post crap for viagra and cialis and so on. Now, I have a pretty good system to keep myself pretty immune from spam in email (my personal email addresses get maybe 3 a week), but the spammers managed to implicate me in one form of it: comment spam. This is where they post comments to any blog they can find (blog software is pretty dumb in that the install usually ends up in a similar URL so they can find them easily) with either those weird psuedo-philosophical/gibberish comments or with links to pr0n or discounted drugs. Well, for a long while, if you searched for my name on google, you would find that some spammer decided to use my name as a spam commenter. Very odd!

Anyway, now I have my own blog and I guess it’s out in the open now because I have some comment spam. Now, you might be asking yourself ‘where is this so called comment spam? I’m on the site right now and all the comments appear to be from people like God (thanks Dina!) and my mom.’ Well, the blog software has a sweet piece of spam catching and the 20 or so pieces of spam that have been posted have been swallowed whole! Thank you wordpress!

Thus endeth my random naval gazing for the day. We’ll be back to regular programming (hopefully with a new apartment, photos of my funky hotel, as well as trips to Cambridge, Brighton and Stockholm) shortly.

ARGH!

April 4th, 2007 by matt

So the current tenent in my place is apparently a little dim on what ‘no, you cannot stay until Saturday means’. So, today is supposed to be move-in day and she’s got movers and cleaners coming in on Saturday. Now I’m going back and forth with my estate agent to figure out how to clean this mess up (alas, it’s not cut and dry as always). Needless to say, I’m pretty fucking pissed right now :(More when I know more. It’s looking increasingly likely that today is not move-in day. sigh.

**Update**

OK. I’m stuck in a hotel for the next 2 or 3 days. I’m feeling like a drama queen, but this is extrordinarily irritating. Now I need to re-figure out my first European long weekend and I have to be a nomad for another few days. Anyways, that’s enough whining for one day.