September 16, 2004

The U.K. Invasion: Coda(?)

After the E.U. West Invasion, I spent a couple of days winding things up in the U.K.

Places to go,
letters to write,
people to visit,
things to see,
one last blast before a brief rest.

Continue reading "The U.K. Invasion: Coda(?)"

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August 9, 2004

Delightful Design

One of my employer's clients has this lovely design for their site. I like it :)

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August 5, 2004

Too Funny!

I just found out that there's a little town (village?) in the UK, in Surrey county, called Bagshot. El-oh-el! That'll have me going for the rest of the day.

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August 4, 2004

Another One Gone

Assuming no delays at Gatwick today, another minion departs the U.K. today, right now. Too bad, too. She's one of the better ones.

We're coming to that time, and it's come fast. Folks are returning to their native lands to resume normal life. Case and point: me.

Talk to you soon :)

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August 2, 2004

My Epitaph

I was asked the other day at lunch by Lori, as written about in the Netherlands, what I'd put on my epitaph.

I had no immediate response. I never thought of it, seriously, anyway. And really, I'd be dead when it is done. Feed me to the sharks for all I care. Or encase me in gold.

I've come up with something, though:

THE DUDE (not my real nickname, but just so my name isn't shown online -- too many search engines go through here)
B: <ya know>
D: <date to be determined later>
JOKE'S ON YOU
I NEVER DIED

It's still a work in progress, but it's something to run with for now.

Feel free to contribute to my future tombstone :)

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July 30, 2004

The Dark Knight and the Genius, Almost

I've missed my chance, twice now, to meet, or at least come close to and possibly take a picture of, Dr. Stephen Hawking.

A friend in Cambridge texted me last night, saying she was standing near him at some restaurant on the River Cam. This makes the second brush with Dr. Hawking she's had.

Imagine that: me meeting a Simpsons guest star. Maybe I should've stayed in Cambridge :(

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July 28, 2004

Blisstonia

Maybe you've experienced this, maybe not. You know that period right after you wake up, for a brief moment in time, in life, you don't remember anything? Important, personal, life-long details are remembered, but things like what happened last night, or what you need to do today, or what cereal you're going to eat, or anything is forgotten. You know? Then, one by one, like bubbles bursting and setting free all sorts of memories, those elements that make your life good or bad are recalled, setting the tone for the day, or the morning at least. You know? It's a state of confusion, but without the panic. It's a nice feeling.

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July 26, 2004

The Dark Knight Strikes Cambridge Again

Days covered: July 24 - July 25

I had a blast the first time I was in Cambridge, I figured I should revisit it. The friends are still there, and the city hasn't changed (I think). It's been over two months since I've been there. Yeah, it's time.

Continue reading "The Dark Knight Strikes Cambridge Again"

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July 23, 2004

The Spat with the Landlord

My landlord says I didn't pay rent last week. I have the receipt proving him wrong. He said the receipt's wrong.

I'll get a bank statement today to further back me up.

I'll be able to laugh at this day in about a month from now.


UPDATE: On Monday, 26 July, he conceded, citing he missed the line item on his bank statement. Glad that's over.

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July 21, 2004

Brick Lane

Although not synonimous with England, and so it's not immediately thought of generally, something that must be done in England is dining in an Indian restaurant. Manchester has some fine, fine food, and I've been itching for over a year to try London's Indian cuisine. The best place to do this is on Brick Lane, in east end of central Lon.

Continue reading "Brick Lane"

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July 17, 2004

The Canadian Election 2004

On June 28th, the Canadian people spoke out on their federal government.

We now have a Liberal gov't again, of sorts.

It's the first time in (I may be mistaken) 25 years that we've had a minority government.

I didn't vote, though I could've by proxy. Still, I don't know who I would've voted for.

The Liberals are probably the least threatening of the four major choices. (Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and other.) But, and I know I'm not alone when I say this, they needed a kick in the ass. That sponsorship scandal was just the lastest sign that they've gotten too complacent and needed to leave. For that reason, I'd've voted Tory.

However, seeing what the conservative gov't is doing south of the border, I wouldn't want anything like that happening in Canada. The tories are potentially a dangerous lot. The name may have changed, but it's still an old Reform party member leading that charge, and as I recall, they had some dangerous things in mind regarding fiscal policy. I think the Cdn. gov't's policy and actions are decent right now. We're not in nearly as bad a shape as the U.S., though we're so close to them economically. For that reason, I'd go Liberal.

All my thoughts need to be taken with a cautionary note: I have no idea what anyone's platform was. The election was called after I got to the U.K., and at that time, I was unemployed and really had no where to go to pay for Internet useage above checking mail and mailing CVs and skimming the headlines. For all I know, Harper would've stopped expanding the money supply, froze interest rates, and let external factors drive the economy up. For all I know, Mr. Martin et al. took back all the money from the sponsorship scandal and invested in our single greatest resource, our children. (I know, I can't keep a straight face, either.)

But I don't know this, and I trust my Canadian counterparts made the right choice.

Since it's a minority gov't, it'll be a matter of time before another election is called and we gotta do this all over again.

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July 12, 2004

The Dark Knight Strikes Norwich Again

Days covered: July 09 - July 11

I went back up to visit Marq & Caroline, with the added bonus of seeing their new bungalow!

The weekend got off to a bad start. I was late for my train, and the train took a long time to get there due to signalling delays. We partied that night, which was a blast (except for that damn bubble machine in the club). The rest of the weekend was marred by rain, so we couldn't take in the city like we wanted to.

The highlight, outside of their new bungalow, and Marq's fine cooking, was visiting St. John's Roman Catholic Cathedral. Marq describes it as something out of Gotham City. You can guess what happened next.

Inside, the cathedral was beyond pristine. It's quite new, with its groundbreaking in only 1882. So, this had all the charm of a massive, ominous structure, but all the beauty of its youth. I was even compelled to attend mass there with M&C's friend, Kevin.

Damn, was it beautiful.

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July 8, 2004

The Championships Wimbledon

So far, the only real regret I have is that I didn't go to Wimbledon. It's the only tennis tournament I watch (not sure why, but...), and I figured I should actually go to it. When in, do as, right? Well, I would've, except that damn unemployment for 3.5 weeks put Wimbledon to bed early for me. I had the chance to watch it outside the arena on Henman Hill, but time was working against me, and I missed out.

Maybe next year.

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July 6, 2004

America Day

BUNAC hosted a boat cruise for myself and 349 other folks wishing to celebrate this day.

Overall, it was fun. The boatride seemed short, but it was about three hours long. We went all the way past Greenwich to the industrial area of the Thames river. The night ended with a bunch of us at the Sports Bar, some dance club in Piccadilly Circus.

Still, for Americans, they didn't really celebrate this day. No fireworks, no camaraderie, no singing. Not like Canada day :)

If you want to see I and mine on this cruse, go to TNT Mag's (a British publication) pix of July 4th :) (This set of photos has elevated me to celebrity status! The take-over continues... ;)

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July 4, 2004

The Vardons U.K.

I've been here for almost two months, a full two months if you round figures. I figured it was time to visit the family I have in London. I visited the cousins outside London, I figure it's time. I hadn't seen these folks in over a year, and really, not much's changed. The littlest, Adrian's, grown up some. People look the same, and I've been updated as to things all along for the last year. Still, it's nice to come home. (Especially with fabulous food being served ;)

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July 3, 2004

Nxe3 mate!

I met Gary Kasparov today!

He showed at a local chess & bridge shop, not too far from where I live. He's promoting a DVD about him vs. the computer, Deep Blue. I think he's pushing some book too, I'm not sure.

I got two pix of him, one where he and I are side by side as he's signing my little poster for Game Over, that DVD of his.

The tragedy is Batman didn't get to meet him. I was close: I had him perched on Mr. Kasparov's shoulder! Kasparov had a "What the...?" look on his face, but played along. The imbecile taking pix shared the sentiment, but pushed me along without a pic. Close...

And now for your viewing pleasure, the Dark Knight & The King!

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July 2, 2004

Canada Day in the U.K.

Every year, a massive party errupts in Covent Garden. There, a bar called the Maple Leaf resides. This is a Canadian themed place, the same place I watched the NHL playoffs. Well, what better place to celebrate Dominion day than there?

The party is so large that it spills out into the street, and Maiden Lane gets closed off to traffic. Last year, aboot 3,500 people showed up for this. This year, about the same amount showed.

Fun was had. The bottle of champagne was horrid as expected, and very hard to drink out of the bottle -- I lost about 25% in foam that overflowed. I managed through God's grace to find my friends and then some in that mess of flesh. The highlight was the world's best German kicking beer into some guy's back :D

One thing was missing: a barbecue. BBQd food would've been poifect. Ah well. Minor detail.

Better yet, this was the first Canada day I've celebrated in three years. Leaving Coral wasn't such a bad idea ;)

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June 30, 2004

My Job Here, pt. 2

It took a while, but I'm back in the work force. Renoir Christian & Timbers, an executive recruitment firm for the tech sector, decided to hire me to be a database monkey administrator. It should be intense, but that's good: I won't be bored. As for the office and stuff, we'll see how that goes. I start on July 01. Yay me!

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June 30, 2004

A Dark Knight over Oxford

Days covered: June 30

Today's the last day before I start my new job. As such, today's the last day I'll probably get a hassle free day trip and uncongested train ride to some city with my Eurail pass. So, I went to the one city that I wanted to go to that has so far escaped my presence: Oxford.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Oxford"

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June 28, 2004

A Dark Knight over Belgium

Days covered: June 27

I didn't expect much out of this stop. Afterall, we're in a country, a city, to be exact, for mere hours.

Well.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Belgium"

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June 28, 2004

A Dark Knight over The Netherlands

Days covered: June 25 - June 27

Originally, I wanted to do this to explore everything there is about England. Sure, I'd venture out into the E.U., but I was more interested in the U.K.

Well, it wasn't until I talked to a colleague in Coral office in Calgary about two months before I left that the desire to travel all around the E.U. was sparked. I have some rough plans to go around before I go home and off to the land of Oz. In the meantime, I've decided to follow BUNAC as they made a three day trip to Amsterdam!

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over The Netherlands"

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June 19, 2004

Manchester Fallout

The weekend following Manchester, I was sick as a dog. I'm not sure where it came from, but I'm sure it had something to do with the less-than-stellar weather and physical environment in Manchester. Or, it could've been that someone at some point in the last 24 hours breathed on me. The tubes are a cesspool of germs.

I was walking along Kensington High Street, out to see the Albert Memorial, and my legs were sore and I felt tired. I figured it was due to the amount of walking I did in the last few days. Instinctually, I went home.

I found out otherwise when I got home and just felt like crap.

God willing, this won't last through the weekend. Good thing I didn't make travel plans for these two days.

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June 18, 2004

A Dark Knight over Manchester

Days covered: June 16 - June 18

At this point, June 16, I've been without work for two and a half weeks. I thought I'd get a job sooner than this; I've got skillz, and my temp agencies said it wouldn't be a problem when I first approached them a month ago. C'est la vie, right? It's really starting to depress me and raise my ire, and that's bad. I'm not here to worry about a job. I'm here to travel 'n such. So, traveling I go, job and be damned. I made my way, once again, to Manchester.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Manchester"

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June 13, 2004

A Dark Knight over Brighton

Days covered: June 11 - June 13

For the last week, the week ending Friday, 11 June, I've been looking for jobs, in newspapers and w/ the BUNAC job board. June 11, though, I thought I'd drop all that. More than likely, today would've been a crashing defeat of no-go after no-go in jobs I'd call about. I'm not here to feel bad or to weigh myself down with petty details like a job. I don't need a bring down, esp. this weekend. So, I did what I set out to do: travel and lay claim to as many places as I can. Yesterday, I got the go-ahead from my friend Phil in Brighton to visit him, and that's what I'll do.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Brighton"

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June 7, 2004

Hockey in England

Many of you know me well enough to know I'm not a hockey fan. Yes, I am Canadian, Je me Souviens and all that, eh, and I have a slightly casual interest in the game, but it never really piqued my interest. However, I've been compelled to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs here in London.

Continue reading "Hockey in England"

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June 4, 2004

Well, That was Short

I was told that on Thursday, 03 June that my contract's being terminated on Friday, 04 June. Two things are wrong here:

  1. They gave me two days notice to terminate my employment;
  2. They terminated my contract after three weeks. It was for eight, but now it's three.

Gemma, my contact at the temp agency that got me this job, says this happens often in the world of contracting. I'll take her word for it. I've never been a contracter before. Still, I don't think she was impressed at the short term notice of termination. I gotta give two weeks notice, but they only need to give me two days? I hope this isn't a global thing and it's only limited to this area of the world. It's not fair, but I can't do much, really. Just go and look for another job, or hope that the agencies I got with can help out.

This has put a lot of sand in my engine of mobility (and, thus, the take-over). BUNAC has trips to Cornwall and Amsterdam in June, and I want to go to Brighton and Manchester to visit my peeps there before they leave, and I want to live and eat normally. That's all questionable now.

Add to the shitty buzz that my favourite gal in the BUNAC office is leaving. Well, she wasn't any more or less helpful than the rest, but she knew my name first. All the best, Amanda :)

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June 2, 2004

My Job Here

As of May the 17th, I've been employed by a mortgage company called, aptly and unimaginitively, The Mortgage Operation. They work with mortgage brokers to do some back end work. I'm not quite sure what they do, really. I never asked, nor have I been able to discern exactly what they do from my work. What I do is crap; I'm an office monkey. I file, I fax, I sort, I help update and maintain a database through proprietary software, and whatever odd li'l tasks they want me to do.

I know what you're all thinking, and you're right, but it pays decently, to my understanding.

And how's this for odd, and almost ironic: I work right across the street from the Shell Center. If you don't know, my old employers, Coral Energy, are owned by Shell. I was told not to expect anything from Shell in the way of employment directly from them. If I did get in there, it'd be through a temp agency. Moreover, from my experience at Coral, they don't like to have much contract/temp staff around.

Everyday as I walk in and out of the Elizabeth House, where TMO is, the Shell Center watches me and smirks at my puny job. It mocks me and belittles me from nearby, but I don't care. Shell's got its own problems right now.

Another plus to the job is that it's for eight weeks, meaning I won't need to look for employment for over a month! I can handle that.

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June 1, 2004

A Dark Knight over Wales

Days covered: May 29 - May 31

Saturday, May 29 was a promising day for me. Not only is this another BUNAC organised trip, but it's a mega-trip, three days long, and in another country. The invasion makes its way to Wales today.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Wales"

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May 23, 2004

The Real Speaker's Corner

Days covered: May 23

I had a short list of things I needed to accomplish whilst living in the U.K. One of them was going to Speaker's Corner in London. It took a few weeks (even longer if you consider the trip I made to London in 2003), but here I am.

Continue reading "The Real Speaker's Corner"

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May 23, 2004

A Dark Knight over Bath

Days covered: May 22

One hour after departing Stonehenge, the BUNAC day trip brought us to Bath, the sight of the ancient Roman divine grounds.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Bath"

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May 23, 2004

A Dark Knight over Stonehenge

Days covered: May 22

Today was an action packed day. It was the first BUNAC organized trip since I got here in London. Today, we set out on a day trip to two places. First up: Stonehenge.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Stonehenge"

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May 17, 2004

A Dark Knight over Cambridge

Days covered: May 13 - May 16

For quite some time, there was this raging debate going on: where to go when I get to England. After (too?) much brain work, I decided to try my hand at Cambridge. It was a decision made in about 24 hours. This is what it's all about.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Cambridge"

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May 13, 2004

Job Hunting, U.K. Style

Days covered: May 10 - May 13

The whole reason I came back to London from Norwich so early -- I would've stayed until Monday morning or so like M&C wanted -- was to begin looking for work. Not that I need to mention this, but a trip like this isn't free, and it was time find work for future endeavours.

Continue reading "Job Hunting, U.K. Style"

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May 9, 2004

A Dark Knight over Norwich

Days covered: May 08-May 09

The morning of May eighth was pretty frantic. I had a quick breakfast (well, the same size English breakfast as the other days, just eaten really fast), rushed to the front desk of the hostel to check out (tennants leaving must check out by 1000), threw my things in the overnight storage, made my way to the Liverpool Street train station, and got on a train bound for Norwich.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over Norwich"

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May 7, 2004

A Dark Knight over London

Days covered: May 05-May 07

When I got to the hostel to check in, it was 0800 GMT on Wednesday, May fifth. Problem was it wasn't until 1230 that they'd accept check-ins. Better yet, it started to lightly rain out. London wasn't going to take my presence kindly.

Continue reading "A Dark Knight over London"

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May 5, 2004

The U.K. Invasion

Days covered: May 04 - May 05

May fourth started out like the last several days: packing, unpacking, repacking, playing with Roxy, eating high calorie foods, except this one was different. By 1400 hrs EDT, I made my way to the airport, as this was the day prophesized for many moons. The day I left my familiar, comfortable physical surroundings for the larger world to expand my reach. First stop: London, England.

Continue reading "The U.K. Invasion"

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