Monday, October 31, 2005

Maryam prepared a very nice CD for me, with Katie Melua's very nice new album and some other goodies, which I didn't listen properly to, but I admit taking instant liking to Patrick Saussois and Pink Martini. I have to delve more into the CD. Thank you very much Maryam, it was a very nice surprise and it managed to brighten up my monday so far! :-)

Another weekend passed us by and I think I owe you a log of what happened ... otherwise my sister might strangle me or just assault me with questions next time :P hehehe.

It was an active weekend, having a spontaneous meeting for drinks on friday with good old friends ... no more meeting new people for now, I'm tired of organising and catering for everyone's needs. I'll indulge in a bit of house keeping for now ... hmm, metaphorically speaking, although literally my house begs for some keeping too. We had a nice friday, drinks, chatting to friends and ending with a stroll with Marco to find a place to eat, but everything was either closed or not really too inviting. We had to go our own ways in the end...

On saturday it was Charles' orkut meeting, in the old Porterhouse. A good nice socialising with good old and new people, although I spent the night talking with people I knew. Again ... not very adventurous these days. There were about 20 people there, which is quite surprising, usually you have to beg people to come out and play. Maybe as winter draws by, people tend to suddenly realise they have less and less options and start to hang out with us :P

Sunday was different. The plan was to visit Ali in East Grinstead, Sussex, in the countryside how we use to joke about it. It's literally in the countryside though, with cows being literal occurrences and not sarcastic urban dwellings. Of course we had to start with a bit of adventure when Alireza was late and we narrowly missed the train. Maybe you think narrowly is used here just for sprinkle the narration with couple of epithets to make it more interesting. But in actual fact ... we were 10 metres from the train and thinking "phew, we made it after all" when it started to move, to our disbelief.
In the end we caught another train and in East Croydon, where we had to change, we did a good run between platforms, helped by the English trains being always late (if this one hadn't been, we wouldn't have caught it).
It wasn't to be the only exercise we would do that day, but it was the most strenuous one. Once in East Grinstead, we did a bit of walking on some countryside trails, talking, singing songs in at least 3 languages and then praying to find the Spanish tapas restaurant, Ali telling us all the time "only 5 more minutes". We were an angry mob at that time, about to lynch him, or even worse ... eat at McDonald's.
Lunch was abundant, a lot of tapas (these are small-medium portions, not full dishes); we were all sharing, different flavours mixing and confusing our taste buds. We had some beers too, maybe too much of it, as, at some point ... the prawns started talking to each other "Eat me! No no, eat me!". All to Maryam's disbelief, being a vegetarian :-)
After dinner, slowly and painfully rolling, we parked in a coffee shop where we had some ice creams, milk shakes and beers. We were so sleepy when we had to leave to catch the connecting bus and then the train to London. But we were happy, it was a good escape and we should do it more often.

Today, Monday, we're meeting with David Borella, the australian guy ... I can't wait to hear his travel stories from Turkey and other places he's been to. Tomorrow he's flying to Australia, so this is a short intermezzo between trips and the only opportunity to see him before next year (well, he says he’ll be back next year, but you never know). He's a funny guy, we should have great fun tonight.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

So let's squeeze another yawn...
Today a good deed ... I helped an old lady cross the street. She didn't want to cross the street initially, so I had to make use of force to convince her. Kidding... She asked me to help her, grabbed my arm and we crossed, a thank-you, no chitchat, purely business. Now if people ask me what's my superpower I won't shrug anymore ... it's clearly helping old people cross the street.


Did I mention how much I hate Royal Mail? There's nothing royal about them, except perhaps the flamboyance of their daily fuck-ups. They had to deliver my tickets for Thailand, recorded delivery, so obviously they didn't catch me at home, as through a strange coincidence my working hours seem to overlap perfectly with theirs. And they didn't leave me a slip saying that "they've missed me"! Insensitive bastards! So the tickets were returned to sender and I had to call the travel agent today, an indian woman with a poor grasp of english who asked me to repeat every sentence at least twice. She promised to repost it on monday. I hope I won't have to check the post office every day "Is it there yet? Is it there yet?"


Last but not least ... I finally managed to download my pics from Barcelona from the camera to the computer and put them online for your enjoyment. Here's the link. Try to view them by slideshow. I was too lazy to add comments to pics, but if your memory fails you (duh! - consult your GP) the participants where: me, Christina (the girl in white sleeping all the time on the beach promenade), Mariana (the other brunette) and Analis (blonde).

Thursday, October 27, 2005

PS: Dream Theater

Looking for other accounts of the Dream Theater concert, I came across this post here! I didn't know some of the details presented there and the post depicts better what happened I guess. I saw the show on Tuesday by the way...

And on a remotely related note ... I remember when I was in Rome earlier this year, I met an italian rocker there in a pub and we talked about Petrucci and this guy was obsessed with him, going as far as saying he would give him a blowjob if he met him. Mwhahahaha ... the lengths fans go to satisfy ... their own sexual fantasies :-)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dream Theater concert

Most people will argue that if you're a fan, it's in a concert that you like your band the most. I mean think about it, you wait patiently for their next album to come out, you pre-order it, once you get it, you listen to it day and night, you dissect it looking for the most minor of details that only the ears of another fan as passionate as you might catch. You start checking websites regularly to see when your band is coming to town and as soon as you sniff the tickets, you snatch some for you and your friends, if possible in the front rows where you can see your idols' wrinkles and indulge in the aroma of their sweaty bodies, all in a state of trance that every hypnotist would envy.
Now if you think something like that might happen to me ... you're dead wrong. I'm not a fan in that sense of the word.
And I would even dare to argue for a different point of view. It's in a concert that you hate your band the most. You hate them because you listened to all their CDs (well, most of them, let's not exaggerate here) and you know they're capable of so many tricks, but they can't fit all that in 2-3 lousy hours. You hate that the quality of sound is crap comparing to a studio, you hate it because you'd like less distortion, you hate it as you'd like to rewind and listen to that snippet of a stave that caught your ear yet you didn't quite catch it and now the moment is gone forever.

To cut the lyricism short, I was at the Dream Theater concert here in London yesterday and that's how I felt ... while I was very exuberant at seeing DT live, I felt let down by these glitches. Ok ok, some of them are inherent to any live concert, there's nothing you can do about them, but others ... For instance, during guitar solos, I felt that Petrucci didn't push the volume a bit higher ... he did only once ... so usually the solos got lost in the noise. That's something very disappointing for me. Another disappointment in a way was the absence of a "Petrucci moment" how I call them. It's when Petrucci soloes completely alone, no other instruments and he just manages to subjugate everyone into a state of utter bedazzlement that involuntarily opens your mouth wider and wider and manages to hold back your breath for minutes.

It was a bit unexpected when, in the second part, they started to play Pink Floyd songs, about 4-5 of them and they wouldn't stop. It was an interesting diversion reminding you they can do whatever they want on the stage, especially in rock progressive. It was different and although being different hurts some of the fans, risking alienating them, it surely was an interesting intermezzo.

The participants were almost as exuberant as I was after the concert - to be honest I wasn't exactly sure if my exuberance comes from the live performance, from remembering my days of yore when I used to be a rocker, from the beer I have ingurgitated or from a combination of all these. I think the strongest of them was my connection with my past, a memorabilia of my school days with other names like Metallica, Guns'n'Roses, Pink Floyd, Manowar, Coroner and others being mentioned briefly, but soon forgotten as the background of the participants was in a wide spectrum, only tangentially touching at carefully chosen points (sheesh, I talk like a mathematician here).

Monday, October 24, 2005

Breaking news

Since this is breaking news ... we don't have all the details yet, so I'll keep it short and concise.
I've just booked a trip to Granada in Andalucia, Spain for the 19-20 november weekend. Chris quickly gave me the thumb up, so I booked it in a second, impulsive buying. I admit my ignorance of the place, but hey, that's why we travel, to learn. Right!

yet another weekend went by

Some things never work out the way you plan them. Especially if the plan is to sneak out the office without your boss knowing at 5pm, just to spend an hour on the tube to Hammersmith to meet with the guys going to the Lake District. And it's even harder when you realise at 1pm that you haven't packed a single pair of trousers, except the pair of business trousers that you're wearing. Your heart sinks at that point. However you pick yourself up in pieces from the floor and you go to the nearest Mark & Spencer, where you buy what's gotta be the most expensive pair of trousers ever, light sport trousers.
And then at about 3pm you realise there's no way you can sneak out of the office at 5pm, as you're swamped with work and your boss would fire you on the spot or maybe just keep it in mind for your next appraisals, if you asked for permission.
That's the time when you call it the day and realise it's going to be another weekend in London, instead of the trip to the Lake District. And that's the time when you try to mentally make up for it, by telling yourself how sour the grapes are, how you have this sore throat in its infancy, how it might rain in the Lake District, how you don't have waterproof cloths and other psychological bullshit to keep you avoid starting to cry and kill your boss in a spontaneous act of generosity towards your work colleagues.
Yes, it's true, I didn't go to the Lake District as planned :-(. Maybe next time, it's still on my long list of destinations I have to visit.

So instead, on friday night I went for drinks ... I really needed some drinks after the long day and after all that stress accumulating and probably dragging my heart slowly but surely ever more closely to arrest. It was a good night and I was grateful to Ali for managing to somehow dislodge so many people from their comfy dens. It's always good to see other people initiating these things, instead of leaving it to me every time. If I had medals to give out, Ali would get one for friday.

Saturday I went with Lilian and Christina to a brazilian party in Fulham Broadway, the prospect not very enchanting, but it's when you have the lowest expectations that you are impressed the most. I wasn't very impressed though, but having low expectations surely helped me avoid disappointment. And the party wasn't bad, people were speaking English, they were very polite, the hosts very warm and friendly and on top of that ... Lilian bought some romanian wine for me. What more could have I ask for? Looking back now, probably I could ask to revert back the chain of events that led to me spilling a glass of wine in their lounge. So embarrassing!!! Thank god the glass was far from full (I'm very efficient at that part - that means I drink, not that I'm a pessimist), and thank god no one saw it, and thank god Christina was there to help me clean it quickly as I was so embarrassed and probably blushing like a lobster in scalding water.
Sometimes it's good when you're with friends and you can indulge in small talk with strangers, usually talking about all sorts of silly subjects you will definitely forget about tomorrow, but it's just an excuse for you to sip your wine without feeling like an alcoholic.

Sunday went by uneventful, I had to turn down a brazilian lunch to Mariana's place, something I really regret as I heard it was very good, but technicalities and tiredness prevented me from going. So I went for a quick lunch at Tai Tip Mein, I think I'm their platinum customer by now, I'm sure they would remember my name if they only cared about names there. But they don't, they only care about flushing people through as quick as they can. That's a bad thing to say, because the food is good, cheap and comes in industrial quantities.

Today I managed to wake up late, after switching off my alarm. So I was in office at 11.30. I felt bad up to the point I realised no one noticed. My work colleagues work in the basement, I'm based on the 2nd floor with the support and operations people. They don't know me, too busy to talk on the phone, which usually they like to put on speakers so that everyone in the office would enjoy their language sprinkled with F words and references to the recurrent weather theme. Wankers!

That's about it, just had lunch, roast beef with roast potato and vegetables. And I’ve just remembered that the french call the english "roasbifs" :-). Funny frogs!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I have a 50 euros note lying on my desk at home, waiting patiently to make up my mind about the next destination. It's got to be in the eurozone, ok? So shoot ... I'm open to suggestions!

Actually I don't think I'll travel in november, getting ready for the big one, the trip to Thailand in december. I still need to fill in my holiday form, to get the visa for thailand (sheesh, so annoying!), check if I need any jabs, buy a backpack ... but I'm so lazy and all is on hold at the moment, I postpone from one day to another.
This weekend I'm going to the Lake District, but I'm not very enthusiastic about it. I think the weather report indicates a lot of showers (how surprising, innit?!) and the prospect is far from enchanting. I didn't manage to buy some waterproof cloths, so I'll have to make do with whatever I've got.
Next year I'm thinking of travelling to a snowy destination and try some snowboarding, maybe even skiing. I'm a bit scared at the prospect of skiing after almost 4-5 years of not skiing. Break a leg eh!! No, shut up you!

I'm going to the gym tonight with Marco and then bowling and some drinks (otherwise he can't hit the pins!). Some food might be very appropriate and well deserved at that point. Now's the time to tell you that this guy bought a book about bowling and bowling techniques ... he's trying to find the Holy Grail of bowling, the perfect swirl that proves elusive to the rest of the mortals.

Ok, I'm hungry ... break for lunch!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

funny little things

Funny little things happen in life ... today I saw the first squirrel to fall off a tree from quite a height. It was so funny ... I heard a *SPLASH* and when I looked there she was, confused for a tiny fraction of a second like if she was thinking "what the heck happened here?" and then, instincts kicking in, she started to run a bit wobbly, probably still thinking "what the heck happened? where am I? let's run!". It must be one of those rookie squirrels that are so adapted to the life in the city that she was probably peeking through a window of the block near by, watching tv from the top of a tree and dreaming about nutella. I wonder if she knows nutella is not good for your teeth?! I guess we'll never know the answer to that one, folks!

Funny thing happened yesterday when we went to Bella Italia in Shaftesbury Avenue. First of all, I was stuck at work till 21.30 and let me share a secret with you: "that was no fun at all"! I missed the play I was supposed to see "Death of Salesman". Then I met Christina and Lilian in a pub where they were well on their way to meet this dude Bacchus! We set off all three on our way to Bella Italia where the others were. Now, we have no secrets right, so I can say the following people were there: Charles, Siew, Sebastian, Claudia, Kaisa, Ivika, Beata and the 3 of us. They made fun of us ... well, actually of the girls, me being the only sober one of the three of us. :-)
Apparently it was a surprise party for Sebastian, his birthday sometime this month. I didn't know what the plan was ... but now I suspect there was a surprise in the sleeve. I didn't know anything about that. So when we said "Cheers" for the first time, I was the only one to add "Happy birthday Sebastian!!". Everybody froze and then Claudia said "Yeah, happy birthday Sebastian" and some other people mumbled something similar. That's when I realised I ruined the surprise ... sheesh, I felt so so so bad about it. Lilian helped by telling me there was a surprise planned ... to stand up and sing Happy Birthday! Ah well, I'd wish people told me about these things too. I felt bad all the way. After the dinner I had a word with Claudia and she told me it was fine, there was nothing planned, because Sebastian doesn't want these things. And it made sense, as I saw the dismay, shock and horror on his face when I said "Happy Birthday". Anyway ... it was funny. If I ruined anything ... sorry folks, I genuinely didn't know about the plan.
But the food in Bella Italia was great, we all thought. Definitely it needs revisiting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

some pics from Barcelona

(From left to right, ladies first :P) Me, Mariana, Analis and Chris, heads on the table

Me and Mariana, at a table in Placa Reial ... highly recommended place

Me, trying out my artistic skills ... in vain I should say

This is a nice close up, Chris and me zooming in the background

Having dinner at a table in the same Placa Reial, just in front of our hostel ... beautiful place I must say ... the square I mean (the hostel wasn't too bad either, location-wise it was brilliant)

Close up of the girls ... left to right: Christina, Analis, Mariana

The girls on a drinking spree ;-)

Me, eating a spanish traditional dish: Paella I believe it's called

Monday, October 17, 2005

Dreaming in Catalan...

Travelling alone is sometimes not as pleasant as you would like it to be, but if there's one advantage about it, it must be that it helps your neurons firing more and your neo-cortex warming up from the state of lethargy that a 9-5 job can put it into. As you have to do everything yourself, you can't rely on friends saving you in situations when you wished you had an automatic pilot. Setting the context, I must tell you I had to do exactly that, as I was flying alone to Barcelona, the girls flying on friday evening. So by the time I decided to check my flight details it was almost 12:30AM.To my surprise, the flight was from Stanstead, not from Luton as I thought all along. See ... it can prove very useful to check your details beforehand. So I had to leave house in 30 mins to catch a coach to Stanstead.
The coach to Stanstead takes about 1 hour and a half and it costs 15 pounds return. A coach to Luton takes 1 hour and it costs 9 pounds return. Stanstead is bigger, more shops, more options to get there by (but not at night!). However, I would have preferred Luton. Don't ask me why, maybe because I know it better, I travelled more from Luton than Stanstead.

Anyway, the trip to Barcelona was uneventful, except for some minor turbulences which surprisingly I managed to ignore. The first good impression was at the airport where the immigration officer was very nice (even I am romanian, which always gets me the "you're a scum, aren't you" look). And that was the lasting impression about the spanish I met in Barcelona. Very very friendly and open people. Let me give you an example ... I was in a tube station looking very confused and trying to make sense of the amalgam of lines and station names that aren't self-explanatory. And this guy came to me and said in english "Help?" ... and he started to explain to me, in English, what should I do, how it works (it's no brain surgery I can assure you). He even recommended me to walk on La Ramblas, a very commercial district road, very lively, where I can see a lot of Barcelona's pearls ... or failing that, a lot of Barcelona's english speaking tourists.
I was amazed, in London it would have never happened, no one would have volunteered to help you if you hadn't asked. In London you're left alone with your problems. If you ask, you get help, but if not ... sweet state of claustrophobic loneliness in your own cage.
Another time, when we asked where a shopping centre was, an older guy started to walk with us for about 5 minutes until he could point to it ... "That's it" he said in spanish. Using my infallible signs language, I manage to get a nod and some lovely words in spanish (or catalan?) that unequivocally made it clear there was no bridge over a lake and we had to go round. Speaking languages helps, but gesticulating can be as productive as that ... if you're patient!

The hostel was very nice indeed, imagine a student dorm full of bohemian people ceasing the day and especially the night! Predominantly they were americans and in their early 20s, a deadly combination, because it's when you give a damn the least! But the whole idea was very nice, the hostel gave you a strong backpackerish community feeling which I didn't get in other places. We had 8 beds in my room, all double deckers ... and the point is to go there as late as you can and get up early. You suffer the least that way. It's not something very difficult to do in Barcelona, as no club opens up before 1am, dinner is late. We felt we're a bit too adapted to the English way of life as we started yawning at 1am :-)
But we went into a nice club and we started to shake some booties and have some fun. We had some nice adventures and I have some other nice memories about that club. We left the club about 4am, just because we had enough, not because it was closing or anything (amazing liberalism, isn't it?).
It was unexpected to find someone else sleeping in my bed and the other 2 spare beds covered with cloths and other stuff. In a state of drunkenness, it took me about 5 minutes to think what should I do about it. In the end, hating every minute of it, I had to wake up the person sleeping in my bed. I think she was australian, she had the accent and also the laid back australian spirit. She wasn't upset, she even apologised and in the end, as the other beds appeared to be taken, we had to go to the reception to solve the problem. In the end we found out that there were 2 polish guys there, but they were taken away by the police for dealing that game where you have to guess where the ball is, presented with 3 caps, the ball allegedly under one of them. Usually you end up losing all your money and I think it's illegal too, as I saw big ads in Barcelona saying "That is not a game, it's a scam". "For westerns!" I said to myself ... I grew up in Romania, I know about these things...

Saturday was unexpectedly disappointing in a way, overcast, rain, physical exhaustion, Marco texting me that London was sunny :-) (thanks mate!!), people speaking more portuguese that my brain could filter out. Actually they were sweet, speaking english all the time, but it was so easy to slip into portuguese and they did that couple of times, unaware they were doing it. But whenever they realised it, they would switch back to English. We did visit some places like Sagrada Familia, me calling it "Sangria Familia" to the amusement of my travel companions. We had a nice lunch too, some seafood spanish speciality. We also saw Gaudi's house, which was a bit rushed as it was 15 minutes before closing. Barcelona lives very much in Gaudi's overpowering shadow, you can see his mark almost everywhere, it's the local deity that changed the course of the City and everyone speaks his name with great respect if not religious piety. Someone said "Barcelona would be nothing without Gaudi" ... you know who you are ;-) I don't agree entirely, but definitely Barcelona would be something entirely different without Gaudi.

Sunday the weather changed dramatically and we enjoyed the famous catalonian sun, we lingered close to the beach, where we had a seafood lunch and then an ice cream on the beach. It was great to look at all the yachts out there, exceeded in numbers only by the countless surfers enjoying a beautiful autumn sun. It was great; we also took a cruise around the town in one of those touristy buses, but only because we had little time and we just wanted a quick overview of what the city has to offer. Two days are not enough when you go to Barcelona, because after 2 days you don't want to go back.
Unfortunately I had to go back and even earlier than the girls as I was flying from Girona airport which is 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Barcelona by coach.

It was fun as I arrived at the bus station and almost got in a coach ... I noticed people looked a bit weirdly at me, then I turned back and realised there was a queue of no less than 100 people waiting to get on the same bus and I involuntarily jumped the queue. The guy in charge of queue management missed my late arrival as he didn't say anything, so I could have easily got into the bus, but a civic incorrigible spirit of fairness dragged me all the way at the back of the queue, where I had to wait another half an hour to get in another coach.

All in all it was a great getaway, Barcelona is a fantastic destination which doesn't deserve to be skimmed in 2 days by the busy weekend tourist. It deserve the passion and patience of a man like Gaudi who said once "my customer is not in a hurry" when talking about building the basilica of Sagrada Familia and the time taken. But maybe I'm a bit subjective, caught in my own silly smile, like the ones you can't stop for days after you're no longer single...

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ouch ... me head hurts! From the wine I had yesterday with Lilian and Christina. It was funny to see Lilian starting up a conversation with some people at the next table and hear her say to them at some point: "I hate british people". Hahaha ... that was absolutely hilarious.
And then she got upset that they said some bad things about brazilians. So unfair!!

Of course they made fun of Romania not qualifying to World Cup, but I think that's well deserved. I'll probably have to support Brazil and England ... Brazil just to have some chances to be on the winning side; England just because I like the ups and downs and people shouting passionately in pubs.

At work I'm bogged down with problems, today is suppose to be the last build of our release 3.3, but it seems havoc still lingers in our code, with odd behaviours hard to reproduce. And this french QA guy is so stressed out, almost pulling his hair out - I think it might be because he's still in the trial period. But it's in moments like these you have to keep your calm and hang on to your favourite proverb: "shit happens!". And you know what ... it does!

On the other hand, tonight I'm getting me bum on the coach to Luton, at 4am, flying to Barcelona. Yiihaa! I'm flying alone on saturday morning, the girls are flying tonight ... and we discovered yesterday that we fly to and from different airports. Ah well, I hope we're talking about the same Barcelona though ... the one in Peru, right?!

On wednesday I went to see Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist. Getting over his stories of paedophilia and his being fugitive from the hand of the law (read more about him here), the film was good, but I think it lacked something to make it great. In the Metro it was described as "Oliver Twist - it lacks a twist" ... that's exactly what it is. But it's a good film, all in all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Fear knows no frontiers

Let me start with a funny story and then I'll tackle a thornier matter.
Today I was talking with my sister on yahoo messenger and it came as no surprise that my parents are still trying to send me the subliminal message that I should move closer to work. It's something I do normally too as I hate spending hours on the public transport, but their motivation is that I avoid travelling on the tube, with all the bombs and shit. Well, bombs mainly, shit I handle at work so I'm used to it.

And my sister told me a funny story; she was on the bus in Romania and she noticed these 2 arabs, fidgeting, looking in all directions and she was afraid. It was in Cluj, in Transylvannia, it's not even the capital of Romania. Who the heck would want to blow up a bus in Cluj, Romania, I don't know ... but fear knows no frontiers.

I was just interrupted by the HR girl calling me on the phone "Ciprian, you're slightly late for you flu jab appointment". Damn right I was, half an hour late, I completely forgot about it. And I can't lie dammit, I told her candidly "Oh, is it today ... I forgot about it". She wasn't very happy. My slot was scheduled for 2:29 sharp. Now, who on earth schedules these meetings for these times I don't know. But I went and took the jab like a man ... without crying or fainting ... Brave Heart, no more, no less.

Let's go back to the main topic ... fear is a human universal thing. After the bombings in London, on the 7/7/05 I was more careful, I must admit, and more fearful at the same time. I was looking at the faces on the tube, trying, in my ignorance to preempt a strike.
How? By talking them out of it? By overpowering them? Nah ... by switching to a different carriage.
And one time I did just that. I was on the platform at Elephant & Castle, going into the City (for you not knowing, the bombs went off very close to the City, the financial district in London). I noticed a very dubious guy, with a large backpack, he was black, with a beard ... I thought ... hmm, beard, muslim! I moved away from him, choosing to stay in a different carriage a bit farther off.
Was I racist? Was I paranoid? Was I ignorant? Or was I really offensive to all the muslims in the world?
I think far from all these ... it has nothing to do with colour of skin or religious beliefs. It has to do with being naturally a bit afraid after the bombings and preferring to better stay safe than sorry. If, hypothetically, the bombs were the work of large hunky white caucasian males, I would try to stay away from those. It's just how normal people think, I don't think in terms of muslims or non-muslims.
And to support that ... I'll tell you how the story continued ... a black guy on the platform saw that I was moving away and he said to me "I saw you moving away, I did the same, that guys looks very suspicious". That was the moment when I realised we're all on the same boat, we're all concerned about making it alive, it doesn't matter if you're black or white, muslim, christian or agnostic. Fear knows no frontiers.

But I didn't stop using the tube, not in those days, not now, not tomorrow; I'm always using the tube late, around 10am, and the network is so vast, there are so many people here in London, it's safety in numbers. Do we feel like a herd of antelopes having to migrate every day, even if they feel the predators are out there somewhere planning the next strike? Nah ... life goes on, it's fully restored to normal now, no one ever looks at faces in the tube, few months after the attack. It's the same old London, eye contact still outlawed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

So this arab walks into a sex shop and comes out with an inflatable camel...

Yeap, make fun of the arabs, it's because I was boiling today when I received an email from (owned by blessed not be its name) saying that this UAE based airline called Etihad (now I will count down to 1 and you will forget the name and never use it) simply woke up one morning and decided to change the date of my outbound flight. From saturday to friday, like it wouldn't be a big deal at all.
I was boiling, I can't fly on a friday, I'm sure if I could they would change it to thursday.
I called them and all they told me all they could do is to refund me. Bastards, I don't understand, if I wanted to amend my flight details, it would cost me 45 quid, but they can do it for free? Where's the justice in that?
Anyway ... I booked another flight today, flying via Bahrain with another arab airline, Gulf Air, they crashed twice so far ... in 1983 when a bomb exploded in the luggage compartment and in 2000, which is more worrying, while landing in Bahrain. So fingers crossed eh? Hehehe ... The reviews of the airline are not that good, but I heard it's all about the colour of the skin, treating europeans better ... that's just appalling, but hey, I don't make these rules...
Let's hope the transfer is not done by camel riding ... or maybe the word should be camelback riding.
Enough silliness for one day!

Monday, October 10, 2005

And to descend from the spheres of pure metaphysics into the realm of trivial cause and effect, here's what happened last weekend...

I was caught in the middle of Ali and Lilian breaking up and that was the most painful thing as I was caught in the middle between two of my best friends. It's really difficult to be caught in the middle of a couple (unless it's a lesbian couple, they're very hot and it doesn't happen only in your head ... kidding folks, check your pulses, you're gasping!).

I went to the gym on saturday, after 3 weeks or so of being handicapped by the damn flu. Finally starting running again... It was good but after 3 weeks of not practising you can feel it on the treadmill.

After that, I went to shop for some mountaineering equipment, mainly cloths, for the Lake District trip in 2 weeks time. Hmm ... I couldn't find the outdoor equipment shop, but instead, like a novice shopper that I must admit I am, I've been tricked into getting excited by an ad promising a guitar sale. Before I could realise what I was doing, I was swallowed by the Virgin megastore in Tottenham court road. After an hour I was leaving with a 15 watt amplifier and a guitar sound effects device. I would have bought a guitar but I couldn't carry them all. But don't worry ... there's always sunday, right?

After that, I met up with a friend ...

Later on, I met up with Ali, and even later on, Lilian, Christina, Claudia, Sebastian and Edyta caught up with us in a pub where we watched England barely getting past Austria. But we had fun.

After I met with Marco and Maryam and went for a coffee and some sushi and then bowling. All almost spontaneous... It was a good night, I found out that Marco have been reading bowling books and improving his technique probably late at night, Maryam not having to know about it. He won most of the games, with me snatching one game and Maryam another one.

On Sunday, Ali came very early and together we went for Streatham, where we met with Marco and went for a very very nice breakfast ... if I'd known there were places like that, I wouldn't have skipped breakfast all this time :-) Really folks, it was very nice breakfast.

We manage to return just in time to be late 15 minutes for our 12PM rendezvous with the rest of the gang (Kaisa, Ali reza and a brazilian guy whose name I forgot or never knew) just in from of the ice rink in Streatham. We skated like madmen and madwomen ... I improved my cross leg technique ... you know, when you cross the legs to catch speed and cut curves more easily. I only fell couple of times.

After skating we went to a very nice vegetarian restaurant in Streatham, where I had a very nice salad ... I have to go back there, it's just fantastic place, and Maryam promised everything was organic. As I couldn't verify everything just by looking at the ingredients, I trusted her.

We rushed on the train, me, Ali and Ali reza, and we went to the Virgin Megastore in Tottenham court road where I bought an electric guitar. I was the last customer to leave the place and they had to reopen the door for me. There are moments in life when you feel special (for those of you not knowing me ... I was heavily sarcastic just now!)

Me and Ali came to my place where we exchanged some music and some films, we didn't have much time as he was in a hurry to catch his last train.

I went to London Bridge afterwards where I met my friends Lilian and Christina and we stayed in a pub for a drink and a chat. When I came back home, I quickly installed the guitar, the amp and the sound effects box and gave it a try.

Phew, that's the log for the weekend ... now you know me inside out! :-)

Travelling these days is the ultimate luxury of the modern cave man. We no longer have to travel to chase eternal and periodical migrations of our prey, we no longer travel only to conquest or escape persecution. We travel for leisure, we travel because we constantly search something new, something virgin to the eye and the mind, something that might move us from our continuous and monotone modern state of utter boredom. It's an inner search of the frustratingly elusive je ne sais quoi, the outward reflection of our inner journey of discovery. Are we in the search of our soul as maybe poets would put it or maybe constantly redefining ourselves, conscious that we haven't reached the perfect definition, the one that maybe comprises more silences than words? We don't know ... but travelling is so much easier. You buy a cheap ticket on a website, take your backpack or hand luggage, occupy a crammed economy seat in an airplane and off you go. You escaped, you're a different something, you're a rolling stone now.
But do we escape really? Wherever we go we carry our baggage with us, it's always there, a burden, the more we know or think we know, the heavier the burden. It's a mental burden, something a priori that ruins the novelty of every new venue, every new adventure, as we try to fit everything in the big master plan, as we look at the world through the same eyes, different scenery, different people, different geography, but it's all through the same eyes, the same architecture of thought. We cannot escape our inner geography, no matter how far off we're trying to run away from it, no matter how different the experience. And yet, we do hope to break free and meet the unmetable, hoping to be saved from our own state of disarray or the ever so present modern confusion. We keep the faith because sometimes it works, it's in those moments when you catch that small detail with the corner of your eye, that detail that stared you in the face all along, yet you've given it no special meaning. And now, from the corner of the eye, it's a momentary revelation, momentary yet life long lasting. Your life can change in a blink of the eye, in one of those zen moments when you can almost hear the sound of one hand clapping.
And it's for moments like that we still keep the faith and plod along from one destination to another, without hoping yet so desperately hoping...

Friday, October 07, 2005

taking the piss

Taking the piss Chiefly British
Vrb phrs.
1. To ridicule, to tease, to make fun off. Cf. 'extract the urine'.
2. To take advantage of, to exploit. E.g."Just because they like looking after their grand children, doesn't mean you can dump the kids on them every weekend whilst you go out clubbing. That's just taking the piss."

Yeap, that's british slang and here's the explanation about the origin of the expression:
Synonyms: Take the Michael out of... or Take the mickey out of ...

Take the mickey out of someone
1. to tease. Mickey represents Mickey Bliss, Cockney rhyming slang for piss. The expression then is a euphemism for take the piss.

Yes, the expression was briefly mentioned in our meeting yesterday, among other topics sprinkled with countless cocktails to keep our kidneys happy. It was an explosion of fun and I was in a very good mood. Great laugh and piss taking and I, too, was at the receiving end of irony!
I've also been called a poet in a jester's costume, a description that I acknowledged with a smile and embraced as a compliment. Eh, pleasantries between fellow poets, what do you know? ;-)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sometimes you need someone to give you grief, just to appreciate life more. Or just to snap, kill couple of sheepish passers-by and solve all your long term problems and insecurities.
Anyway, I was pulling my hair out to try to understand a defect raised by our magnificent Q&A team ... I was on the brink of depression ... I was losing self respect ... just to decide in the end to go to their test bed and ask them to help me reproduce it. And they couldn't. I reckon it's not a defect and I pulled my hair out for nothing. Some people are bald for a reason, I'm bald for nothing!

Sometimes you hate people just because they happen to work with you! Hehe ... I'm kidding, they're nice guys, we get along great, it's just that in the Q&A cycle, there's visible friction between developers and quality assurance guys. And with a release date of this friday (today being thursday) ... tensions run a bit higher than normal. But we're also grining and laughing like madmen, we know we're so close to screwing up. It's a sweet madness that comes with the realisation you're f.u.c.k.e.d! Last time I felt that, it was in university, in the days before an exam I knew I would be more than lucky to pass. Or just when I had to memorise stupid things that didn't make sense and my brain was giving out, my short term memory strained to the max. Ah, those were the days of our lives...

To end this moan in a positive note ... it's getting closer to 6:30pm and I'm outta here, we're going for cocktails tonight, sweet obliteration. Work was given to the man for him to appreciate more his spare time.

another wednesday

Briefly, as it's 12:30 am (it's already another thursday in fact)...

Someone guessed correctly the name of the poet of one of the poems I posted here a while ago (see: It was indeed Bacovia. Learn more about him here:

Great news today ... Roberto is coming with me to Thailand in december for 3 weeks. It's amazingly unexpected :-) Well done mate!

I've seen Crash tonight, the film, after a pizza @ Pizza express and a glass of wine. I was with Lilian and Christina. The film is a hyperbole of Yin & Yang, black and white, good and bad, a comedy of human errors as we find that all our lives are intermixed in a closely connected web of random events ... as we crash into each other. Too strong antitheses, a too american take which might alienate the european viewer. Personally I wasn't touched, don't get me wrong, not because it was american, because it was overly exaggerated. The characters were not very well defined, that was on purpose as each person leaves a gap in its own in order to complete the big picture that people can see only if you distract them from the details. But the bigger picture lacked cohesion and in turn it left the viewer with a mixture of contradictory feelings, very difficult to reconciliate. All was left was the idea, an idea which is not new and far from revolutionary.
The photography of the film wasn't impressive at all and that, for me, was the last nail in the coffin. Sorry folks, I know everyone says it's an excellent film, for me it was nothing out of extraordinary. But hey, this is all very subjective and we're all entitled to love or hate it in private or public if we want. Don't hate me now!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Flashes from Stockholm

Roberto's here, if you don't know him, now it's the time to get acquainted with him.

This is one of my favourite photos from Stockholm ... it's the fate of all poets isn't it? Vergilius, Horatius I hope you're on the Elysian fields and enjoying yourselves, coz over here the pigeons shit on you!

This is a nice picture, it can suggest such a mixture of feelings ... mainly alienation that comes in time ... or that we all end up alone anyway?

Say no to guns, what a nice idea ... don't do this at home though!

I told you they brought snow especially for the snowboarding event. Here's the proof :-)

Playing chess in the market with no name where we had lunch twice. Isn't it nice? Now you can surely agree that chess is a sport! :-)

Now this is nice, I like this picture, Aphrodite looking back to the skies where she belongs ... sort of...

The full set of pictures can be found here: in the Stockholm folder, next to my pics from Wales.
I don't like the lot that much, the light wasn't very good for photography. And I was a bit tired too. We agreed with Roberto that we take them only for their documentary value, nothing artistic.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Stockholm baby!

If you want to indulge yourself in a place that's more expensive than London, then go to Stockholm! But that wasn't something I or Roberto suspected when we set off for Stockholm on friday at 3am, just in time to catch a night bus to Victoria, hop on a coach to Luton and onto the cheap Ryanair flight to the capital of Scandinavia! And it's not something you care about if you're drunk on top of it. Yeap folks, the rumours are true, I was drunk at 3am with a portion of lousy chips tasting like half baked flour and swearing at the night bus not being there in time. It wouldn't be the first time I missed the coach to Luton because of the night bus.
But it must have been all Ali and Lilian's fault. I invited them to my place and we stayed up late, talking, laughing and gossiping like old ladies over a cup of tea. Just that it was wine and we aren't old! Sic!
I told Lilian and Ali that they can spend the weekend at my place as I'm off to Stockholm anyway, so instead of packing I was hoovering at 9 o'clock in the evening. I packed while my mind was still groggy from the vapours of alcohol still fresh in my nostrils. And I packed at 3 am, it took me 5 mins and I whooshed on the door, hoping I wouldn't miss the night bus.

I didn't and the coach was in the station, me and Roberto the last customers to board it, just before it left Victoria, sighs of relief from its most drunk customer. One trick I need to share with you ... whenever you take Green Line to Luton, say you travel by EasyJet, they will ask you and if you say EasyJet the ticket is cheaper as EJ sponsors its customers. Isn't it nice? It's even nicer as they have no way of checking if you're telling the truth. Information is power folks!

Stockholm is a nice place, spread on a set of islands, a sort of Venice of the north ... maybe I'm too generous here as I've never been to Venice. But I'm sure they pray global warming is just a fairy tale to bully the gullible into signing the Kyoto treaty. Damn you Bush!
Nothing out of ordinary though in Stockholm, I found the architecture to be dull, nothing that would catch your eye and stick on your retina for a long time, no single imposing landmark to associate Stockholm with and make it stand out in your plethora of memories.

The wind was a bitch, we were swearing at it like old sailors with wrinkled foreheads and calloused hands. If the sailors were used to it, we weren't and for us it was blistering cold. However, even the sailors would have appreciated the nice open air markets where they had these sailors' delicacies: salmon pate and salmon cheese. We bought it on sunday after we tried it on saturday and we were impressed. It was good and we had a nice ad-hoc lunch in a beautiful square with no name. Of course it had a name, it was just difficult to learn it, difficult to pronounce and impossible to remember. Swedish is an unfamiliar language for the latins that we are, nothing to relate to, nothing that even remotely and en sourdine rings a bell.

The hostel was a very pragmatic dwelling as if they experimentally tried to see how many beds they can pack in the same small room. It was no problem for me as I matured in a student dormitory anyway, it was a trip back in the past. Actually it wasn't even that, as soon as I put my head down and rolled myself in the thick sleeping bag, I hit hyperspace, no sound ever disturbed me, no light could bring me back, it was a speedy unconscious worm hole, morning at the other end. Roberto on the other hand suffered. Unlike me, he didn't spend 48 hours awake, so he was visibly upset in the morning when he complained about a guy in the next bed snoring like a fastuous military fanfare.

We took a mini cruise around Stockholm by boat, nothing really impressive as it was too cold to think. However we listened to the commentary in English and we learnt more about Sweden and Stockholm. I was surprised to learn for instance that the term Scandinavia refers only to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. No Finland.

We did a lot of walking, that was the whole experience actually ... Stockholm by foot. We saw a free style snowboarding competition in the middle of Stockholm where they brought some snow especially for it. We also bought the most expensive bottle of water EVER, at 25 koronas, it works out to be almost 2 pounds. We browsed through a flea market which gave you a strong community feeling. We also had lunch outside in the cold, it's very interesting how most restaurants provide blankets for their customers that stay at the tables outside. And there were many places with tables outside, it came as a surprise, for such a cold country, they were very outdoorsy. We also had very nice cakes ... I don't have a sweet tooth, but I thought the cakes were very good and they have them in almost every restaurant and coffee shop. Yummy!

The girls are beautiful, most of them blonde and slim ... what can I say, we were two single guys so you can excuse the head turning ... which happened a lot by the way. Most of it was accompanied by frustration as we realised they're too tall for us. Or we're too short for that country! Whatever! I don't wanna talk about it! :-)

We drank too in our little expedition, mostly Guinness, on saturday night in a pub called the Londoner ... simply couldn't resist. And we talked too, it was quite good as if you're with a single friend rather than a group, you tend to open up more and share more. It was good!
Same night, before hitting the bed, we went to another pub closer to the hostel where we watched a football game between GET and VAL. We couldn't work out what the abbreviations actually stand for. VAL probably being Valencia, with GET remaining in the annals as a total mystery.
The second night, just before heading home, we stopped in a nameless pub (read: we can't remember the name, nor do we care) where we watched the football game Chelsea vs. Liverpool. It was with great pleasure to watch Chelsea hammering Liverpool, us being the only people there shouting out loud YES with each goal. 4-1 and I was thinking of my triumphal march in the office on monday, two of my colleagues being passionate Liverpool fans. I'll have my hour of glory soon, during lunch.

Needless to say we missed our bus to the airport. Well, we were there in time but the bus was full. We had to wait for another one, taking the time to shop for postcards and water with our last koronas. I also gave my last 3 koronas to the shop assistant telling her I don't need them anymore, I'm going home. She said Ok, with a smile. It's amazing how many people speak English in Stockholm, everyone I would say. And they speak it very well. And they're trying to be helpful too. Very nice people, I would say warm people in a cold country but that's just a 2 days trip impression. I'm sure they have their fair share of arseholes too! :-)

We returned to a cold London, knackered but in good spirits. It was a good experience, a chilling experience in both senses of the word. Stockholm is much more relaxed, laid back than London. All in all, it was a good weekend and I hope this little story will be a good incentive for you folks to travel more!