The same spot now that summer has arrived.

The same spot now that summer has arrived.

Monday 21st May about lunchtime:

Rambling about my plan whist rambling about the countryside

Spring has sprung

I went for a long walk today, a brisk long walk as part of my exercise routine. We don’t have a climate in the UK we just have weather.

Another wonderful spring day in the UK

Another wonderful spring day in the UK

Homeward bound

I’m now on my way home and it’s been a very busy week. No doubt I’ll be home by the time you read this but I’d like to complete the write up on the “purely” fun bits of my recent visit.

I spent last Sunday afternoon in a marque (tent) on a beach in Southern California watching the superbowl, which, on the surface sounds like a pleasant way to while away a few hours. Sadly I’m terribly cynical and find it hard work just accepting what I am told is “fun” so instead I tend to watch and listen and take notes.

The geographical location was undeniably spectacular and melted even my cynical old heart. Perfect sand, a warm 70 degrees, beautifully breaking waves and a sun slowly setting in a cloudless sky. I can understand and appreciate why this location would be the destination of every beach bum or Pamela Anderson in the world.

But the real revelation for me was the game itself. I’ll start by admitting that I’m the least sporting person in the place and know next to nothing about American football, other than it seems to have its roots somewhere in rugby (perhaps). Not that my ignorance really mattered because I had a tent full of American experts who were very willing to impart their exhaustive knowledge of every nuance of the game to me in monotonous detail (and they did). I’m being slightly rude because without their help I really wouldn’t have had a clue what was going on.

The game is surprisingly more tactical than two teams of armoured combatants randomly colliding with each other would suggest, although having said that, they do get to play for about an hour in the four hours that the game has allotted which gives them plenty of ad breaks to think of their next move.

It’s the adverts and the half time show though that I most enjoyed. An English colleague expressed what had occurred to me, that the adverts were really amusing and designed to keep you captivated. It is an absolute credit to the creativity of the advertisers that they rise to the challenge of the superbowl.

This is your challenge should you choose to accept it:

  1. You have about 30 seconds to impress people with your best work
  2. What you create will be seen by 10s of millions of people
  3. It will cost you millions of dollars to take this test
  4. If you fail everyone will either forget who you were or remember your failure

The game is on.

And how the game was on. You have to appreciate that the action in the superbowl lasts only for a few seconds at a time. Whenever the ball goes out of play, for whatever reason; that’s a valid time for an advert break. You’re being constantly bombarded with adverts and so as an advertiser you are one amongst many trying, desperately, to get their message across. I won’t try and recount the adverts to you because in the way that retelling an amusing situation doesn’t work unless you were there, I won’t be able to do justice to some of the sheer brilliance of wit and writing that the advertisers achieved.

Congratulations go to the New York Giants who won the game by mistake as far as I could tell although it was a mistake in the tactics rather than a mistake in the winning. It made an Englishman laugh as a big fat guy fell on his arse, scored the winning touch down and everyone was mad at him because he had done so…. How does that work ? (My American colleagues did explain but frankly I still found it amusing).

America is a giant ecosystem where you can do anything you want from becoming the most powerful man in the world with the capability to destroy us all, a million, billionaire sports man in a world tournament that doesn’t include the rest of the world, a very rich industrialist or a planet famous film star as well as a myriad of other roles and you never have to leave its shores.

Despite that I have visited here many times over the past 20 years, I count amongst my close friends several Americans and, no doubt, I will be back here in the future - I’m looking forward to boarding this plane and heading home to the green pastures of England where my body and soul belong.

Sunday morning - It hurts

As I checked into the hotel last night an old friend turned up. We both work in the UK but I haven’t seen him since this time last year when we were both in Colorado on this same event. Well, it would have been rude not to celebrate. We decided to get refreshed and then sample the local brew, purely as a research exercise you understand.

The rooms in this hotel I’m staying at are absolutely enormous, huge, gigantic… It’s not that I’m particularly important, I think all of the rooms are this big. To illustrate how big I thought I’d post a picture but to try and give a perspective I’d include myself. 

Yes that’s me and yes I’m entirely naked but I figured that this room is so big I wouldn’t be exposing anything.

Last night I did manage to stay up until a reasonable time and so this morning I should be feeling good and not jet lagged. Sadly we sampled rather too much of the very delicious local brew so this morning I have a hang over. Ah well, I’ll get over it. I have to, this afternoon I’m going to a “Super Bowl” beach party. This will be the first time I’ve ever been in the states when the super bowl is on so it’ll be interesting to see what the fuss is all about.

I’ll catch you all later.

Saturday - The way out west

According to my laptop it’s now midnight but the sun streaming in through the upper deck window of this Amtrak train tells me that the laptop is confused. It’s 16:05 and I’m waiting for the southbound 569 surfliner bound for San Diego to leave the station.

My wife has this theory that a countries infrastructure is for the indigenous population and one shouldn’t take advantage of the taxes they have paid to provide the service. I don’t agree with her but it is easy to see why she holds that view. Using someone else’s railway service is like learning a special etiquette and the American version is no different. The train tracks are hidden away from the main concourse and there’s no familiar tannoy that directs waiting passengers, instead a lady with a very loud voice announces that the San Diego train will depart from track 11 in five minutes. I must look naturally authoritative because a fellow lady passenger asks me if this train is going to San Diego and despite my obvious English accent continues to try and elicit details about the number of stops and so forth.

Los Angeles union station is a rather grand affair with throw backs to an age before the second world war, art deco signs still adorn the walls and the style of the architecture and furnishings would be right at home in the age of Eisenhower. The female train guards have a wonderful uniform that still sports the peak caps from the original wild west. I’ll see if I can persuade one of them to let me take a photograph.

Leaving Los Angeles the scenery is similar to anywhere else in California that I’ve seen from a train. A mixture of industrial units interleaved with scrub land and the odd poor quality housing estate. In fact that scenery sounds about the same as a view from a train leaving any major city anywhere in the world.

The weather is very warm (22c/70f) which contrasts with the -7c that I left at home this morning and my experience is that it never really gets much colder than these temperatures.

It’s now 12:45 as the train pulls into Anahiem where there is a massive stadium (the Angel stadium) filling the whole view from the train, I guess it’s a famous venue but for what I have no idea.

I’m starting to flag, I did sleep a little on the plane and whilst I don’t feel tired I can tell that my typing is suffering, I’m slowing down. The plan is to stay awake until around 10:00pm local time and then sleep through to 8:00am which hopefully will put me onto US Pacific time, well that’s the plan. Another 5 hours awake sounds like a challenge right now. While I still have to get to my destination I won’t fall asleep but once I get to my hotel room and collapse on the bed in front of the TV I can see my will power dwindling.

I’m hitting the lonely wall at the moment, when I know that everyone at home is asleep, I’ve made no contact with my colleagues and I’m off line. Just Chu, alone on the wrong side of the world, on one hand it’s quite exciting, on the other… well, there’s only me and no one who cares a jot about me - my self preservation instincts become particularly acute at times like these. The station architecture is changing subtly from where I joined the train. The mosaic platforms and semi cylindrical tiles all finished in that very pale pink suggest a Mexican influence is creeping in as we creep inexorably closer to the Mexican border.

Before I sign out I’ll leave you with a small glimpse of the pacific ocean that I’m now passing.

Pacific ocean drive by


Posting a map of my train route


I’ll be heading down from LA to Oceanside. The journey is about 90 miles and takes almost 2 hours. Blu was right about the incredibly slow progress of American trains.

Ok, I’m off to catch some sleep I’ll add some more tomorrow.

Why isn’t it easy ?

The world of social networking is a strange and alien place to me. It’s akin to visiting a foreign country where they speak a dialect of English but you don’t really understand them - like Newcastle.

I’ve been trying to find an offline editor for Tumblr (Linux based) so I can compose blogs and then send them later. I thought it was a simple request but it appears not. It’s as though I’d inadvertently suggested to a young Christian meeting that the man himself may have been a friend of Dorothy. The hushed silence that spread across the internet when I mentioned “offline” was almost palpable, it’s like the Scottish play to Thespians, don’t mention “offline”. But I am going to be offline that’s the whole point. I know we live in a connected world but you try getting a internet connection at 42,000 feet. In fact no, don’t try it, especially not on a plane where I might be a passenger.

Actually I have experienced an internet connection in a plane. Some domestic flights in the US have wireless: as remarkable (or dangerous) as that seems. But being terribly British and short of money BA haven’t yet installed it in their transatlantic flights which is exactly where I might need it.

Anyway, it can’t be done apparently or no one feels that the investment is worthwhile since we spend so little time “offline” and so I’m using a text editor, without a spell checker or any html checking. If anyone knows of a decent editor do let me know and I promise not to mention the “absence of connection situation” ever again.