More Football Madness!

September 25th, 2007 by matt

So I seem to work with a few football fanatics. Last week, with about 5 hours notice, I was offered another ticket to see a Premier League team play. I got to see Arsenal’s arch-rivals Tottenham. This time it was an international match again a team from Cyprus. Alas, with my complete lack of a camera right now and no notice that I was going to be going, I didn’t have a chance to capture it on film. These seats were in the corner of one end of the curve. It’s an older, smaller stadium so it had a more intimate feeling. Tottenham beat the crap out of their opponents, but the fans weren’t quite satisfied. It was really entertaining. Even with them up 4-0 at half time, the fans were grumbling that they weren’t shooting enough. They scored 3 goals with just a few minutes left in the first half. Even though they were getting beat pretty bad, the away fans stayed pretty jolly throughout and had the Tottenham fans beat in terms of flags waving. But the Tottenham fans were just as lively. Part way through the first half, there was some sort of scuffle between the away section and the rest of the stadium and suddenly, the sections we separated by a wall of security. Very interesting.

Anyway, while I lack photos, here’s a video someone posted of a very amusing event. Note the fact that the player who gets hit by the ball looks like he’s about the kick the shit out of this little kid until a moment of “crap, he’s a kid and there’re 30,000 Tottenham fans who’ll kill me if I go after him” comes over him. I was just a little ways away and got a great look at the whole incident live. fun!

Hope you enjoy! I’m supposed to get another ticket to see a league match tomorrow.

The Kitties

September 22nd, 2007 by matt

Well, here’s one thing I can’t believe I haven’t really written about. It’s been 6 weeks since the kitties finally arrived in merry old England. They arrived in the beginning of August. It was a relatively smooth trip. The tricky part was the prep stuff. In my research, I’d read that the tough stuff was the initial stuff — making sure they were chipped and had their shots and clean of rabies. The way the whole cat moving process works is that the cats can come over 6 months after being proved rabies free. Alas, there is a single lab in the US that handles the blood tests. They were supposed to send the original forms to my vet and it never showed up. On top of that, the vet didn’t follow up even after a number of phone calls. Thankfully, I have wonderful parents who helped ensure the forms showed up. Then there was something about FDA certification as well. Once that crap got sorted, they were ready to go on there way. My parents took them to O’hare, spending a night with them in my apartment and the cats were ready for an 8 hour plane ride — their first!

I had just gotten back from a trip to Frankfurt (I came back especially to be there for the cats) and spent the day nervously waiting for them. Their flight landed at 10:30am, so I assumed they’d show up around 12:30 or 1:00pm. And yet, silence. By 2:00pm, i was a little nervous. As it turned out, there was a major accident on the Ring Road which meant the courier bringing them was stuck in traffic. Finally, he managed to show up with two safe kitties! Here they are:


Chewy hanging out by the tub


Anna exploring — she didn’t wanna sit still for a photo!

I haven’t got any more photos of them as my camera gave up the ghost recently. But the cats are doing well. I think they are still adjusting but they are healthy and generally happy. My place it pretty small and they aren’t romping like they used to. And I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t been around as much as I’d like to 🙂

US Dollar Sucks

September 20th, 2007 by matt

Man, I’m glad I get paid in pounds. Not only is the dollar worth half a pound, but the Canadian dollar is now worth the same as the US dollar. This is up from being 1/3 less than a US dollar just 5 years ago. Ouch!

Carnival? In August? In London?

September 15th, 2007 by matt

To signify the end of summer, the UK has a bank holiday. Over the last 30 years, a tradition has grown in which the Caribbean community living in Notting Hill (or increasingly, near it as the area has gentrified) put on a big ass street festival. Now, it goes for two days and apparently attracts 2 million people to it. Think of it as an absolutely enormous street party centered on a never-ending parade. This sounded like one of those things you don’t miss if you’re going to spend in London. So Dina and Adrian came up and we went to check it out.

The first day is ‘children’s’ parade. We decided to go to that one because the adult one usually ends in at least a couple of stabbings and shootings. I have no idea why this one was the children’s day, as it consisted of amazing amounts of people drinking a hell of a lot of beer. Allow me to demostrate. This is a view of crowd as we were sauntering off:


Would you bring your kid to that? People did. Anyway, if you look at the picture above, you’ll see some semis. That is the parade. Numerous groups would rent a big truck, load it down with speakers and a DJ and play some cool, loud Caribbean influenced music (mostly of an electronic nature). Behind them would trail people dressed up in various costumes dancing to the music.


But it wasn’t an organized parade in most places. You could meander into the parade route and join in. The parade served as the nucleus of the festivities. Off on the side streets, you had an amazing variety of random things. One minute you’d stumble upon a street filled with food vendors, the next, someone had hauled out their own speakers and were putting on a show. This being Notting Hill, we ran into a couple of streets with people selling things in a street fair kind of setting. It was huge and complex. I felt like, in the 6 hours we were there, we probably scratched a small bit of the surface. It was very impressive.

That said, it also had the seedy underbelly side of it. Like I said, there tends to be some violence. Take millions of people, lots of alcohol and a long long day and, as the sun goes down, bad shit happens. I believe there were 2 or 3 stabbings as well as someone firing a gun in the air. Aside from anything carnival related, the area shuts down. Majorly shuts down. Take this fancy looking store:


That’s not because business has been bad and the owner decided to close shop for good. That’s because the owner boarded the place up for the weekend while the crowds descended 🙂 There were entire streets like this where all the action was replaced by street vendors and the stores that normally were open would shut down and go on holiday. The only places that were open were off-licenses to buy alcohol (and some food places) and they would usually only open enough to hand you beer across the doorway. Very interesting.

Anyway, I feel like my words aren’t quite capturing the whole vibe, but that’s what yer getting. It was a very cool experience.

RIP Pavarotti

September 12th, 2007 by matt

See, being a slacker when blogging means things like this which I wanted to post about get lost 🙂

For those of you unaware, Pavarotti died last week. I don’t have much more to add that you can’t find more eloquently said elsewhere. The man had an amazing voice and he managed to last for a very long time singing music that would tear a normal persons voice to shreds. I just wanted to point out this video of one of his signature songs. Beautiful stuff. He will be missed.

Bowling Champion of my Company

September 11th, 2007 by matt

Now, I’m not the competitive type (sort of), but this is worthy of a posting. My company usually sponsors a number of activities during the summer known as the ‘Summer of Fun’. In the US, most of them consist of using one of the few patios in the Loop to host a party. In the UK, we lack that kind of public space, so it ends up being a variety of activities. This summers seemed to focus on bowling. We had two bowling events, the British type and the US type. Why do I post about something this simple? Because I somehow rule both! 🙂

The first event was lawn bowling. For those of you looking for a US parallel, it’s like bocce. You have teams and a single ball rolled down some grass. You try to roll a weighted ball closest to the ball in the middle of the grass. My coworker Steve was in town for the fun and, on a whim, we joined in. Well, we somehow won! The final was a closely fought contest in which we actually came down to a roll off which required a measurement to determine who was closest in the end. Here would be a perfect capturing of that moment:


Look how close it is!

Well, Steve and I took home the gold for Team USA (and team IT geeks). Flash in the pan, you’re probably thinking.

But no! I came back in the US version of bowling to show how truly dominant sedentary geeks can be. Tonight was the US bowling leg of the summer of fun. Well, how did we do? My team came in first overall. I bowled a strike on my first roll, thus winning the ‘First Strike’ trophy. My teammate, Julie, won best female bowler and I won best male bowler. We Rule!!!

I’m not dead, I swear

September 10th, 2007 by matt

OK, there are a few of you dedicated types who haven’t given up on me. I’ve been busy/tired and I’m finally getting a chance to catch up. I have at least 5 posts (yes ‘timber’ one of those involves my kitties!) that I’ll start putting up on Wednesday. In the meantime, my friend Dan is an artist. He has been drawing as long as I’ve known him (which is about 25 years). He’s made some cool shit that’s been put on the web and he published something recently. Sooo, here it be:

Woah! A three day tube strike

September 3rd, 2007 by matt

So I come back from lovely Paris to find that 2/3s of the underground will effectively be shutdown for three days due to a strike. This is due to the fact that England, like a lot of industrialized nations, has been screwing around with public services by privatizing them. Unlike, say the US which cut the cord entirely, causing corruption, higher prices and terrible service, the UK went the public-private route. As a result, you have companies with many restrictions on them trying to make money off of things that shouldn’t be thought of as being profitable and now one went bankrupt. So the workers, afraid of losing their jobs and pensions, are striking (although the government seems to have agreed to all their demands. weird). Anyway, all I can think of right now is ‘Thankfully, I take the bus!’ 🙂

I do wish countries would stop thinking about profitability when it comes to public transit. The whole point is that it’s subsidized and should never run at a profit. Now, running efficiently, that’s another story, but I personally think the idea that corporations can run things more efficiently than the public sector is a myth. They both have their bloated inefficiencies, they’re just different.

For those of you curious, this is what it looks like when the tube is shut down at rush hour. Although they’re claiming the Northern and Picadilly Lines aren’t supposed to be shut down. Wow!