Sunday, 24 September 2006

London

Hello from sunny London, England. It's been fun so far, but I haven't been working so it's been pretty laid back. I shouldn't have done an overnight flight Thursday, I really need to stop booking those. I can't sleep on planes so I feel like I've spent the last three days just trying to catch up on sleep, sneaking naps in wherever I can.

I went to watch my brother's rugby game on Saturday morning, that is some weird shit. I had no idea what was going on! They do all this crazy stuff like lifting each other up and locking arms and charging into one another. And when a player gets tackled, everyone just comes over and starts kicking him in the face, while he covers his head and braces himself. And all without any gear or protection. It's downright barbaric.

I haven't really done any touristy stuff, I feel like I've already done most of it, and since I just got back from Switzerland I'm kind of touristed-out. Tomorrow I start at the London office. I'm curious to see what it's like. I've heard some not-so-glowing reviews from people in the New York office.

I stayed with my friend Josh, who moved here a year ago, last night. He's doing well, finishing school soon and thinks he will stay here.

Right now I'm exhausted, I'm just staying in my hotel on Hoxton Square and watching some Sky TV. I'm a little nervous about going to the office tomorrow, I hate meeting lots of new people all at once. Ah well, I can suck it up. But I think I'm going to sleep now. Cheers!

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

London calling

So my boss pulls me aside yesterday to tell me I should go to London next week for a conference and to meet with some IP folks. I'm certainly not complaining, but it's really short notice! I'm scrambling to make reservations and schedule some meetings. I'm actually going to fly over there this Thursday because my brother is actually going to be in London this weekend for a rugby game, so that way I'll be able to see his game on Friday. Should be fun. I'm staying with Aaron over the weekend and then staying in a business hotel in the city during the week next week. I figured it would be bad form to stay in a hotel over the weekend and expect my company to pay for it when I'm obviously not working. So I figure I'll pay everything till Sunday myself and then get comped for everything after that.

This will be a good opportunity to see if I really want to go ahead with this move. The last time I was in London was over a year ago so it will be helpful to have some fresh experience there. It will also be helpful to see what it's like to be in the London office (I'll have a desk and everything while I'm there) and see how I like the people there. I know I've heard that the London office has a very different vibe from the New York office. This office is very laid back and everyone's fairly pleasant. We'll see how the other one is.

So by the time I get back I should have a definite idea of whether I'm going ahead with this or not. Right now my biggest concern is over money.

Europe's Left Falling?

It's interesting that there seem to be simultaneous blows to Europe's left happening right now. Sunday's election in Sweden saw that country's conservative coalition claim an unbelievably narrow victory over the social democrats. The coalition has been running on a platform of tax cuts and drastic alterations to Sweden's cherished social model. This historically hasn't been a popular platform, as Swedes enjoy the highest quality of life in the world due to their generous social policies. Poverty is virtually non-existent, everyone has quality healthcare.

It was only by softening his party's stance that Fredrik Reinfeldt, the 41-year-old leader of the Moderate Party, who will become prime minister, was able to win Sunday. He ran on a platform of tax cuts and other pro-business incentives, but pledged to tweak, not uproot, the Swedish welfare system. His premise is that high taxes in Sweden discourage entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation. To fund the tax cuts, Reinfeldt is going to send Sweden on the most massive sell-off in its history, privatizing a host of now government-controlled companies including Nordea, a major bank; TeliaSonera, the largest phone company; OMX, the stock exchange operator; and SAS, a Swedish airline.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Ratzinger ratchets up the rhetoric

I'm very interested in the election results in Sweden, but I'm going to write about it later this week because the furor over the Pope's comments about Islam is getting more and more interesting and might at any moment explode into something similar to what was seen around the world in reaction to the Danish Mohamed cartoons.

To recap, at a speech last Tuesday in Regensburg, Germany, which was devoted to denouncing science and insisting on a central role for religion in all academic and secular life, the pope formerly known as Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made some pretty incendiary remarks about Islam. In making a point about the danger of fundamentalist Islam, the pope cited a quote by a Byzantine Emperor saying that the Prophet Mohammed brought "only evil and inhuman things" to the world. The full quote is below:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new," Benedict said, quoting the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II, "and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Back in the US

Well I am now back in the US, back at my desk at work IMing with Alison, who sits directly across from me, and delaying writing feature articles I should have started weeks ago. Ah, back to the status quo. Actually today is a little unusual because I got up at 4 in the morning after having slept for 14 hours. I must say, sleeping 14 hours is very nice, I feel great!

I was pretty exhausted from the flight yesterday. I cant sleep on planes (too anxious, they make me nervous) so a nine hour plane trip is not exactly a pleasurable experience. I flew American Airlines, which I can safely say I will avoid taking on a transatlantic trip from now on except under the most dire of circumstances. The seats are uncomfortable, the monitors are terrible, and the service is very poor (one meal for a nine hour flight! One meal!!).

Getting back into this country was a nightmare. All those new security regulations you've heard about? They apply only to international flights coming into the US, not going out. So getting out was a breeze. Went through security with liquids and gels in my bag, and once I got to Switzerland I breezed through the border check in about 2 minutes. Like everything else in Switzerland and Germany, the process was smooth and logical.

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Lessons from an Alpine water park

On our last day in Switzerland Pierce and I decided to do the most relaxing thing we could think of, visit Europe's largest water park, Alpemare, on an Alpine ridge outside of Zurich. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was definitly impressive. Tons of water slides cascading down the mountain, thermal iodine baths, a wave pool, a lazy river, everything a water park should have. And all on the edge of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. It was very cool.

One of the more interesting things I observed during the visit was yet another example of the completely different environment Europeans operate in in terms of legal liability. We were shocked to find at the water park that there were pretty much no attendants, anywhere. When you got on the slides, the only thing that kept you from going down whenever you felt like it and plunging into the person in front of you was a little traffic light. You could in theory go down whenever and in any way you wanted. And the slides were crazy! I came out with literal bruises! Same thing with the wave pool. With our wave pools in the states, there are lifeguards literally every five feet, and they're constantly blowing their whistles telling people not to do things. At this one, there was only one for the whole pool, and he was barely paying attention. He didn't even have a whistle.