Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category


Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Haven’t had a vacation for ages, not sure how I’ll cope, but hoping that Italy will be fun. It’s some sort of post-modern sickness to find the idea of not working quite disconcerting.

Stupidity can be fatal

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I recently rented a car in the USA, so I’ll use it as an example for the point I want to make, though the phenomenon is by no means exclusive to that car rental company nor the country – in fact, the same thing happened to me in Germany in a car rented from a different company. So, when you’re in a new place, you’re likely to need some way of navigating, and with the wonders of modern technology, a GPS guidance system makes sense. It certainly makes sense from a safety point of view – you avoid having to read paper maps or scribbled instructions from a piece of paper while driving. However, there’s one major FAILure that these systems suffer. Some bureaucrat somewhere has obviously decided that you need to be warned not to operate the system while driving. Great – I can understand that, you should pay attention when you drive, and the fewer distractions the better.
However, when you are actually driving, and you try to operate the GPS system, you then get a pop up screen warning you that you shouldn’t operate it while driving – which you have to click to acknowledge (after trying to read it while driving), and then you have to clear another screen to get to the actual navigation setup. Now, these popups don’t come when you’re stationary. So, when you most need to pay attention; while driving; you actually are distracted more by having to read a complex and annoying set of further instructions which has exactly the opposite effect to the intention. So you spend more time reading the screen and being distracted from your driving – the saftey message is much more likely to kill you than cure you from messing with the GPS, which is sometimes necessary. It seems to me that there’s much more to be gained by popping up the warning when you’re stationary, and if it’s so concerning that you can’t operate it while driving, you simply disable the ability to reprogram it while the car is moving – or just minimize the interference from the system, and allow fast reprogramming.

Onam Festival

Friday, September 12th, 2008
Onam Festival Flower of flowers

Onam Festival Pookalam, a mat made of fresh flowers

I recently started working in India. I’m really loving the place, so much contrast and colour!

Today is the festival of Onam celebrated by the Malayali people in the next state (Kerala), and also here in Tamil Nadu, as many Malayali people live here. The women wear special white sarees trimmed with gold threads, and special food is served.

Body modification

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

I’m convinced that constant travel (and the consequent jetlag) is a form of extreme body modification. If a normal person’s circadian rythmn is 4/4 time, then mine is 11/32 compound time, with a few dropped beats here and there for effect. I seem though, to have developed from that an ability to sleep anywhere, at pretty much any time. I’ve heard that military personnel and the like often develop such mechanisms, though whether or not it’s healthy I’m not sure. (I don’t get colds or flu much though – so it’s not all bad).

While we’re on the theme of body modification, I recently had my 5th tattoo – although only 4 are visible, as one is a cover up. The more time (and money) I spend getting tattooed, the more I feel like doing it, the acres of untouched skin look more and more like blank canvas every day, crying out to be filled. There’s no doubt it’s addictive. My advice though, to anyone, is still not to do it, unless you can deal with the fact that you will spend the rest of your life having to look at them. With increasing lifespans, that could be a really long time. Tattoos can be very beautiful, and if done well, are truly art, but they can also be things you come to regret. 15 years after my second tattoo, I just wanted it covered, it was embarrassing, the choice of a late teen rebel. Although, I still have the first, that has faded, blurred and looks less than wonderful (I will leave it alone, for sentimental reasons). The new inks available, not to mention going to skilled artists, will last better and look good for longer if cared for, but still, you have to accept that in 50 years time, you will still have to get up in the morning, sagging skin and all, and see them there. I’m just really glad I didn’t have any religiously themed, or ‘band’ type tattoos. People inevitably change, bands break up (as, sadly, do relationships), and things that once seemed cool, aren’t when you look down back down the years.

Newark Airport

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

There’s a woman in the President’s Club lounge, (the one in terminal C opposite gate 74) who has talked, loudly, and without ceasing for more than 3 hours. In a strange mix of Italian, Spanish and English she has berated, greeted, beguiled, wittered on to and generally talked at not only her two companions (who seem to be silent), but I imagine most of the contacts on her cellphone. I’m surrounded by other familes, and other fellow travellers, all, I imagine, hardly interested in the fact that our protagonist has three small suitcases, or that she wants her daughter to pick up a dress tonight, how much she loves her dog/child/boyfriend/carpet/etc, nor any other of the inane drivel that has spewed forth from her in a constant stream for the duration of my stay in the lounge. A billion years of evolution brings us to a place where we have nothing better to do than babble vacuously into the ether. (Or, indeed, sit and self-righteously blog about it).

Just thought you ought to know, and if by some infinitesimally small chance you’re in here with me, and read this…you have my sympathy.



Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

If you are stuck for places to go, Switzerland is one of the nicest I’ve been for ages. Great people, nice beer, good cows.


In fact, it’s exactly how you imagine it would be. Loveli!

All in all, it’s a great place, and if you happen to bump into Sven, Gabi or Dani, say hi for me

Airlines are dumb

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Well, really, it’s computers that are dumb. Actually, it’s not even that, it’s the people who program the computers that are operated by the airlines. They’re probably smart people, but they just don’t think about how people are going to use their systems. Specifically, they don’t think about how people want to book flights on line. I logged on to the website of a company which shall remain nameless, but in my opinion are the worst of the European airlines (don’t even start me on the US ones), on the off chance that they might (for once) be able to help me out.
I wanted to book a (fairly) simple schedule. I just wanted to do was to go from London – San Francisco – San Diego – London. Pretty straight forward. A couple of US airlines managed to give me that option on their websites, at fairly eyewatering prices (which is why I was looking elsewhere).
The airline in question has a code share with a US based airline, so there shouldn’t be a problem. In fact, there wasn’t a problem, unless that is you actually didn’t want to have to fly through London Heathrow and back via Chicago O’Hare to get from San Francisco to San Diego, which cities, while admittedly worlds apart culturally, are approximately 8 hours drive apart – in the same state.

Not surprisingly, I won’t be taking that option, but it just reinforces how dumb some airlines are (or how little they care about their customers).
In a similar vein, I received a mail tonight from an ailing US based airline (aren’t they all) begging me to sign a petition promoting its remaining independence against a hostile takeover from a rival. It’s not an airline I particularly dislike, and the airline doing the hostile takeover bid is one I frequently use (though I’m sure I don’t know why). But, it seems to me, that if you’re bankrupt, there’s not much point in bleating about how you can turn it around by spending more money and being independent. Why not do that before you spent all your cash? Quite frankly customers will be better served by a slimmer, leaner US airline market, the days of the independents are fast fading.

On the subject of travel, and more specifically airline travel, and the often surreal aspects thereof, interested parties are invited to visit the blog of my friend and colleague Randy at as I’m sure you’ll enjoy his commentary.