30 September 2011

Sunshine and Good Deeds


After I got off the bus at Liverpool Station this morning, I looked into the sky and saw the blazing sun and thought, I'm going to ride the rest of the way to work today. It's outdoorsy and also fast, which was handy because I was running late.

As you may know, I love riding the bikes. However, that's because it's usually pleasant and not at all an emotional rollercoaster. Today however, was different.

I pulled the bike out of the stand and kicked off, riding along with Marc Maron's WTF in my headphones. The sun was shining, but it wasn't too warm; I was feeling good.

Three-quarters of the way through my commute, that happy feeling was abruptly elbowed aside by the sinking concern that I had lost my keys. I pulled over and looked through my bag three times. Not one of those times did I find my keys. That concern became panic.

That panic then became a realization, a fuzzy memory, that maybe when I pulled my bike out of the docking station, I left a scene like this behind.

Two more searches through my bags and pockets yielded nothing, and I then realized that yup, I'm a fucking idiot.

There was nothing else for it: I turned around and rode back to the scene. By now I was really late. I arrived back at my starting point but there was no set of keys.

As the station is outside of RBS, I went in to ask if anyone had turned them in. Nope.

So I texted the office, saying I was going to be especially late and got on the bus back to the office. Since I had nothing but time I figured rather than stew in bitterness and self-flagellation I'd call Barclay's to cancel my cycle key. After a minute I was put through to a human who said he'd cancel my year-long subscription while I waited on the phone. I could hear him typing, then he told me.

Someone had already done it!

Someone had found my keys, cancelled the cycle hire subscription (the only thing of any value to anyone other than myself), and then turned them into the police station.

I must say, this St. Martin's summer weather is making London feel like a nice place to live. But the good turn of a some person to save some random stranger untold frustration and expense is working at least as well.

Today's a good day to be a Londoner. Even if I did have to lose my fucking keys like a complete dickhead to really appreciate it.


29 September 2011

Sick of it all

It's been a month now, officially, that I've had a chest rattling, wake-me-up-at-night cough.

Now, I'm not one for complaining, but it's driving me (and my wife) crazy. The upside is that I've been able to catalogue the slightly different forms the cough has taken: chesty, throaty, sneezy, barky, tickly, phlegmy, and hoarse.

It's like the seven dwarves, only with fluctuating mucous and discomfort levels.

And for as shitty as this month has been, their Disneyfied cartoony images superimposed onto my lungs have given me some comfort. But now I'm really really ready for it all to stop.


25 September 2011

That's so Autumn

It's now officially fall (or autumn) in all of the northern hemisphere. Well, in the UK it is just autumn, as they refuse to enjoy the delights of a seasonal synonym.

But what else would you expect from a country still giggles when you call your trousers 'pants'? But regardless of how you refer to it, here in London this season, which is only days old, is about to get unseasonably hot:

If those temperatures seem reasonable, then you didn't spend July or August in London, where the average temperature was 13.9 degrees and raining.

So we're all looking forward to a week or so of Indian Summer. And if that term seems un-PC, we can all agree to use the seasonal synonym St. Martin's summer.

Not only does the term seem less racist, it also celebrates St. Martin of Tours, the man who popularized the rakish half-cloak, the ideal garment to wear during St. Martin's summer.


19 September 2011

Trade Show or Carnival?


I recently spent a few hours up in Birmingham, at their trainstation/airport/convention centre.

If that sounds deadly boring it's because:
  • You've spent time at an airport
  • You've spent time at a train station
  • You've been to Birmingham
I felt a sense of dread on the train ride up there, and not just for the above reasons, but also because I had been dragooned in the day before to give a half hour presentation on water efficiency.

The presentation went as well as could be expected; that is, passably. I went a little too fast, a few of the slides didn't work, I leaned too heavily on charm over preparation, and ultimately received a well-deserved warm smattering of applause from the sparse crowd. Then, with nothing else to do, I was free to roam the Energy Event killing time before my train home.

I very quickly realized that I had convention/trade shows all wrong. If you can get past the pervasive smell of desperation, you can have an amazing time.

Okay, maybe 'amazing' is overstating the case a bit, but trade show attendance (even at something dry and nichey like this) is a lot like going to a fun fair. In some ways, it's even better.

First of all, it didn't cost me anything. Second of all, I got paid. And third of all, I learned all kinds of things about energy procurement and state-of-the-art billing techniques. That never happened at the fun fairs of my childhood.

As for the good times:

It wasn't the same as getting a cheaply made teddy bear, or gigantic rubber ball, but I collected a set of branded reusable shopping bags full of candy (so! much! candy!), as well as a Rubik's cube, foam squeeze toys, balloons, pens, highlighters, magazines and notepads.

If I'd had the inclination and bag-space I could've collected up a door-stop sized stack of business cards. If I'd had the time and wherewithal, I could've collected up even more giveaway trinkets - the stuff they keep under the table, for discerning punters only.

But I didn't just spend my time wandering around collecting things; that would've been silly. Instead I seized the opportunity to drink deep of the experiential happenings available. There were no tattooed chain-smoking carnies, but in their place were an awful lot of mid-twenties guys in shiny suits and spiky hair. And the occasional leggy blonde.

During my day at the fair I managed to, at various points: ride a Segway, play an Operation-like metallic wand game for the chance to win an iPad2, sit behind the wheel of a prototype sportscar, get up close to a prototype of a different electric sports car, check my emails, play some roulette and do some simulated clay pigeon shooting. It wasn't quite on the level of 'knock the milk jugs over with a baseball', or 'shoot water into clown's mouth' type games, but I still had difficulty prying myself away from the showroom floor in order to make my train.

Obviously all that activity seriously taxed my energy levels. Fortunately I was able to keep peppy thanks to the steady stream of complimentary goods on offer. I had three flat whites, two muffins, a glass of champagne, a chicken finger dipped in salsa, a handful of triangle sandwiches, two energy drinks (Siemens and npower, respectively) a homemade cupcake washed down with a ginger soda water cocktail shaked up by an actual bartender, and of course, candy.

On the train ride home I built myself a nest out of all the free swag, and covered myself with my reusable shopping bags in order to sleep off my stomachache.

But now that the food pains have subsided, the giveaway treats have been disposed of, and my mood has leveled out, I can look back with fondness. I may not get a chance to go next year, but I'll always have my memories of the Energy Event 2011.


14 September 2011

Hand Drawn World Map


It's not easy to be globally offensive in one fell swoop, but it can be done. All you need is some markers, a piece of paper and a rich array of stereotypes.

There are some other offensive maps here.