May 31, 2003
Why do I always look like a local?
Everywhere I go I get asked for directions. London, Paris, Syracuse, San Francisco, Vilnius.. Being mistaken for someone who knows where they're going is kind of comforting when you're away from home, and it demonstrates that my technique for avoiding a mugging (pretend to know where I'm going) is effective.
Tonight I separated from my dinner group to head back to the hotel early. Thirty seconds later I realized that I knew the way back to the hotel, but last night's hotel. I had to move to a new one today. I had a nice twenty-minute walk through Old Town, and somewhere along the way two women asked me for directions (in Russian I think). Once we got figured out that we all spoke English, they admitted that they live there but couldn't find the club they were seeking. I suggested a street where all the bars seemed to be and asked them for directions to my hotel. They weren't much help I'm afraid.
Got a decent photo along the way:
May 30, 2003
Lithuanian Food of The Day 9?
OK, so I'm not going to Swindon...
As you will recall, dear reader, at about midnight last night I was asked to book a flight to Swindon for the weekend. I was up until 3am getting everything ready and generally being pissed and stressed out.
At about 9am this morning I was packed and working in the customer's test lab alongside my bags. I got a call from a manager (who was about to get on a plane to fly from England back to the States) saying that I probably shouldn't go to Swindon. To confirm this I needed to get ahold of a coworker in England who hasn't got a mobile phone, hadn't yet been seen at work, and wasn't answering the phone in the hotel. Instead of getting lunch (second skipped meal of the day) I hopped in a taxi and headed for the airport to buy a ticket and wait for the call. As we were about to pull into the airport he finally called and confirmed that I did not need to be heading to the airport. The "taksi" driver seemed to take it all in stride, like this happens all the time, and executed a u-turn in the front entrance of the airport.
I recently finished Scott Carrier's "Running After Antelope." The book combines stories he's written for magazines and public radio about both his life and his crazy notion of running down an antelope. Part of his book concerns a group of native Mexicans (either the Tarahumara or the Seri, or both..I forget) whom he had read about and who are considered to be the best runners anywhere. When I got back from the gates of the airport and checked into my new hotel I turned on the TV and what should be on the DIscovery Channel? A program about these folks, "Greatest Runners In The World." Unfortunately it had been dubbed into Lithuanian.
So back to food: this city has way too many Italian restaurants. It also has many types of coffee, as many varieties of bottled water as you could ever hope for, but only four types of pop: Sprite, Fanta, Coke, and Coke Light. Many places have only Coke and Fanta.
We stopped by "Hyper-Rimi" yesterday for the second time to buy water and miscellaneous foodstuffs. I always find it fascinating to visit supermarkets and convenience stores in foreign countries because it's the one place were you can be sure that 90% of the people in there are just plain locals going about their lives. No tourism layer in between you and the people. OK, it's not that noble a pursuit..I'm really in there to get some decent water and some Pringles.
Anyway, this was the most American-like grocery store I've ever been in outside of the US or Canada. They even had horrible American easy-listening music playing. Most of the brands were unfamiliar, but the only glaring difference I saw was an entire aisle of hanging sausages. Every kind you could imagine. The other difference was the price of cigarettes.
I haven't been taking nearly enough pictures. Here are a couple from yesterday evening. I almost with I'd brought a tape recorder.. A lot of the sounds of this city are as interesting as the sites -- there are church bells reverberating around Old Town as I type, and last night these three teenagers were laughing and tripping their way up a street while singing what sounded like opera lyrics..and singing it well.
Hill of Three Crosses.
The main cathedreal in Old Town, Vilnius. I'm not sure what its name is..
Hopefully the upgrade tonight (around midnight) will go well and the weekend will be peaceful. I'm desperate for a good night's sleep.Posted at May 30, 2003 08:11 PM, Categories: Beardcore
Crappity crap crap.
Sorry for the lack of updates. I'm being "asked" to go to Swindon again, last minute of course.. $1300 and a huge pain in the ass to fix what everyone agrees is someone else's problem that they should be fixing. How much more will I put up with? The answer is the inverse of the quality of the job market.
It's cliche I know, but over this past year this one Dilbert cartoon has surfaced in my memory at many times like this.. Basically the boss asks for something ridiculous and asks, "So how's the job market? Thought so...Who's my bitch?"Posted at May 30, 2003 02:27 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 25, 2003
Lithuanian Food of The Day 6
From Gatwick airport:
Another day, another airport. Sitting in the BA lounge makes me feel more like an outsider observing an airport than someone waiting for a plane. Not observing, though, because you are, for the most part, isolated from all things airport. There are a couple of monitors showing flight departure times but otherwise it's hard to tell where you are.
With all this exclusive "luxury," however, why don't they have free ethernet, free wireless internet, and easy-to-locate A/C plugs with which to recharge your computer?
Since I got here I've read the middle third of Scott Carrier's "Running After Antelope." His stories of hitchhiking across the country because he hadn't the money to fly or drive and riding military helicopters into and out of Cambodia left me with two feelings: "Hey, sometimes I'm a rugged world traveller too," and "I live a very sheltered, boring life."
Arriving back in Lithuania was both different and the same. I kind of had this "continuum of travelling" feeling where I expected everything to be the same when I got off the plane as it was when I got on, but the signs reminded me that I was not in England, nor back home in the US. I haven't had the experience of taking off from and arriving to places that were not home.
And again I was reminded of what must be the saddest part of business travel: walking through the arrival hall where families have packed in to greet loved ones and knowing that you don't know anybody, and home is thousands of miles away.Posted at May 25, 2003 10:10 PM, Categories: Beardcore
Lithuanian/British Food of The Day 5
British Foods of The Day:
Fish & Chips at "The Jovial Monk" near work. They insisted that I must stay in one of their six suites next time I'm in town for business.
"Fill-it" steak with the borras sauce at The Three Crowns. If we hadn't made it to TTC, this wouldn't have been a real Swindon trip.Posted at May 25, 2003 12:01 PM, Categories: Beardcore
May 24, 2003
Forgot to add this strange tidbit:
Every sign on the Lithuanian Airlines plane was in Lithuanian, English, and usually German. Except for the signs in the bathroom -- there was the usual sign about "Federal law prohibits tampering with bathroom smoke detectors," (which as far as I know applies to US federal law and not necessarily any other federal laws) and every other sign in there was in English and Spanish.Posted at May 24, 2003 03:24 AM, Categories: Beardcore
Lithuanian Food of The Day 4
Lithuanian Food of The Day: "Chicken hash."
My parents used to make this dish they invented: cream of chicken soup, white rice, and celery salt. Mix it all together in a pot, warm it on the stove, call is "chicken hash" and serve. I think it was born in their early poor student parent days, and it was always a hit with the kids.
On today's Lithuanian Airlines flight from Vilnuis to Gatwick, they served (well, up in business class at least) a dish with chicken, rice, and a yellowish creamy sauce. It tasted exactly like "chicken hash."
Swindon is, well, Swindon. All of the Brits we were working with in Lithuania gave us a hard time because we were being sent to the place they can't stand, which is the same place they all live. Perhaps Swindon's problem is one of attitude -- if the inhabitants were to think more highly of the city, perhaps it would improve. The other way around is more likely to have an effect, but it has to start somewhere or it will always be known as the most boring large city in Europe.
British Food of The Day: Connie's.
Chinese food in Swindon.. yummy chicken ho fun with green peppers, onions, and a spicy black bean sauce. The food really is the best thing Swindon has going.Posted at May 24, 2003 03:13 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 23, 2003
Lithuanian Food of The Day 3
So the lunacy continues.. Two of us have been "asked" to fly to England for the weekend to work on issues in the factory. We'll miss a weekend in Vilnius with no work to do and the first good weather of the entire trip. All for what amounts to about $3500 and one good working day in England. Fuck. I got the call in my hotel room at about 10:30pm and the other guy that has to go was out at a bar. I tried phoning him about 20 times with no luck so I got the room number for the guy who knows the most about this place, phoned him and got directions back to the bar. Walked there but they were nowhere in sight. Walked back, thought to call the office number (in England) of another guy who was there, hoping that it would be redirected to his mobile (and hoping that HIS mobile was working). Success. Then called the travel agency and spent 45 minutes sorting everything out. It's a shame that only business class seats are available.
Today's food: potato pancakes with meat. Yummy potato pancakes with what amounted to a hamburger patty in the middle. Tasty but I couldn't help thinking that it would have tested better with a beer (I'm on antibiotics).
I can't deny that Vilnius is full of beautiful women. Thousands more apparently appear when the weather turns nice but I won't be here for that, will I? At dinner tonight we were served by a woman who was a *dead ringer* for Juliette Binoche in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being." One of the guys insisted on asking her, repeatedly, "Want to come out drinking with us after dinner?" She didn't seem to be too bothered by that, but please.
Guess we'll have a fourth BFoTD after all.Posted at May 23, 2003 01:21 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 21, 2003
Lithuanian Food of The Day 2
"Crackle" is apparently fried pig skin. I didn't have any, but it did look kind of good...until I knew it was a football.
From dinner last night:
Indonesian guy (serious): "Do you know how to say 'Thank you' in Lithuanian? It's 'Ah-choo.'"
Me (joking): "Gesundheit."
German guy (serious): "Oh, you speak German?"Posted at May 21, 2003 11:57 PM, Categories: Beardcore
May 20, 2003
Lithuanian Food of The Day 1
Lithuanian food of the day 1
Today's entries are not really Lithuanian, but particular to Scandinavian Airlines, which for some reason is abbreviated SAS and their flight numbers are proceeded with "SK." Whatever.
On the flight from Chicago to Stockholm, the usual peanuts or pretzels at the beginning of the flight were replaced with what I can best describe as a bag of croutons. The "breakfast" consisted of a cup of yogurt and cold cuts. That is, two slices of cold ham and two slices of cold Swiss cheese. They get points for not pretending the breakfast is something more than it is (think American Airlines and their "omelettes.")
This is the first flight I've been on where the default language of the staff is not English. I'm still not sure what they were speaking (I don't think there's a universal Scandinavian language..I would guess it was Swedish but it sounded more German than Swedish to my untrained ears). Much of the Scandinavian Airlines aesthetic is adorable. For example, the sugar packet they give you is plain white with this printed on it:
"imagine if it snowed sugar
it would look like snow,
but a lot more people
would be eating out."
The salt and pepper packets say:
"if you want salt
on your meal,
don't cry -
use this package"
"imagine of the oceans
of the world
instead of salt, well...
I threw away the first S&P packet they gave me and it turns out that they have different phrases written on them. The pepper was something like, 'pepper is considered a gift from the east. The word "gift" in Swedish means poison -- don't let that stop you from using this.'
The after-dinner snack was a bag of adorable little candies called "bilar." What's with the Scandinavians and lack of capital letters? Maybe it's the whole bauhaus thing..that's the extent of my knowledge of the bauhaus movement right there.
The Stockholm airport, at least Pier F, is totally IKEA. I want to see more of Sweden some day but for now I'm convinced that IKEA both represents and controls the entire country's decor.
The flight from Stockholm to Vilnius is on a turboprop, and we boarded it by riding a bus from the terminal to the some remote part of the tarmac, then walking up the plane's steps. I felt like the president. President of what?
I've been on a propeller plane exactly once -- a local air show had $20 rides in a Cessna-like plane. This was the first time either my brother or I flew in a plane, and would be the only time for years. There was only room for one person besides the pilot so we took separate turns. I was pretty terrified because, well, I'd never flown before and I had no idea what to expect. After we took off the pilot said something about how my door wasn't closed properly and so he leans across me to open and close the door. Twice. All the while I'm staring through the sliver that opens up between door and fuselage with a mix of fear and awe. I barely remember anything else from that short flight, but it was sweet of our parents to let us take the flights, especially trusting the unknown hobbyist pilot with their kids.
So anyway, the lunch on the flight to Vilnius (we're half and hour into it) revolves around a chunky wheat bread sandwich containing lettuce and some unidentifiable "spread." It seems to contain mayo, bits of something that looks like parsley, maybe chopped bacon or ham, and some vegetable that looks like diced potatoes but has the consistency of uncooked diced potatoes. In addition to the sandwich is a teeny 15cl can of pop and a plastic tub of "blackcurrant drink." Containing 20% real blackcurrant juice! My dad's a big fan of (red) currant jelly so I drank it for him. Not bad.
OK, the stewardess just Lysolled the cabin, front to back.
I got a tonic water for the first time and DAMN that stuff is nasty. I'll take blackcurrant drink over tonic water any day of the week. "Soft drink contains quinine" indeed.
The mens bathroom in the Vilnius airport contains some non-Western toilets and some "handicap" stalls that a normal person can't fit into. When the taxi driver was loading our bags his counterpart apparently said, in Russian, "OK, time to rip these guys off!" One of our crew is originally from Belarus and he finds it convenient to keep his knowledge of Russian secret -- both to avoid anti-Russian sentiments here and so he can overhear those who speak Russian in our presence.
The hotel features ethernet-based internet access that is slower than dialup in the States, and the whole hotel was without hot water until about 3:30pm, when half of us got hot water back. The other half will be borrowing our showers tonight.
Our early dinner was rather uneventful besides the numerous people who decided that we looked like easy people from whom to beg money. The secret knowledge of Russian came in handy again here (after the fact). After dinner we met up with the English contingent, who proceeded to plow through five four-liter "graduated cylinders" of beer before anybody ordered their dinner. We left once they finally did order to pursue much-needed Zs.
Until tomorrow..Posted at May 20, 2003 09:30 PM, Categories: Beardcore
May 17, 2003
New music photosPosted at May 17, 2003 11:46 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 16, 2003
POTD finally updated. I hope to get photos from three bands online this weekend but my cable modem is out and I don't have much faith in Comcast to fix it. Someone probably pulled my cable while installing someone elses.Posted at May 16, 2003 12:54 PM, Categories: Beardcore
May 10, 2003
Time to leave work finally. The wetnaps:
On our road trip last summer my brother brought dozens of wetnaps from the casino where he works. The things were indispensible.. cleaning hands, faces, spills on the dashboard, etc. We used the last two wetnaps after we ate our last on-the-road meal at a rest stop in Iowa at 2am. I think it was Iowa.
Anyway, I had a couple of boxes of wetnaps of similar design: rough paper with lemony smell. Last time I was home my brother and I went to Meijer (whee!) to look for a relay for his car and I decided to stock up on wetnaps. Not so fast! They don't seem to carry normal wetnaps. My choices were between two "premium" styles: one had lotion and the other was antibacterial. I want no lotion in my wetnaps and I don't want to help species of superbacteria prosper on my hands, so I was stuck. The obvious choice was to buy neither but I chose to buy both. And they suck.
Oh, they didn't have the relay we needed and we found the next day that the problem was a fuse that we had all overlooked.Posted at May 10, 2003 12:26 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 09, 2003
You ate the whole thing..
This is awesome. Who knew you could endear yourself to someone by snarfing down a whole pie?
I'm still not sure if the pie eater was a man or a woman (or for that matter the gender of the author). I can see someone being impressed with a woman who can shove a whole pie in her cake hole, but I more easily see someone accepting this behavior of a man.
In case the page disappears:Posted at May 9, 2003 10:54 PM, Categories: Beardcore
It's 11pm, do you know where Randy is?
Yeah, it's 11pm on Friday night and I'm at work. Isn't summertime wonderful?
If one good thing has come of burning the midnight (Eastern time) oil, it's that I finally figured out where the suburban kids go at night: the Wendy's parking lot. Fifty of them and I'm not kidding. Spending Friday night in the lab doesn't seem so bad after all.Posted at May 9, 2003 10:50 PM, Categories: Beardcore
May 08, 2003
I Brake For Jake
Yesterday I saw an "I Brake For Jake!" bumper sticker on a truck sporting the ol' all-blue plate. They even had the "Say Ya To Da UP, Eh?" sticker. If I hadn't been home for a visit last weekend I doubt these stickers would have made me so nostalgic.Posted at May 8, 2003 07:18 AM, Categories: Beardcore
May 05, 2003
The City That Turns In Early
Why is it that East Lansing (my home town) and neighboring Okemos, with a population of maybe 120,000 (when the students are there) can support at least four 24-hour grocery stores and nearly all the gas stations are open all night, yet in Chicago I have to search the entire neighborhood for a place to buy milk at 11pm? I've never understood why everything closes so early in this city.
At least the weather is nice. It was a beautiful night for a walk.Posted at May 5, 2003 11:47 PM, Categories: Beardcore
Trying to catch up on things I meant to write weeks ago:
The Postal Service show was a total shocker: I had no idea how many fans they had. Around 10pm I showed up, late, assuming that the room would be half empty and I could saunter right up front to enjoy the music and take some pictures. Instead I found the show sold out (I've taken to always buying advanced tickets), Cex rocking a crowded house and nowhere to stand. Where did all of these people come from? Ben Gibbard's relative fame from Death Cab certainly helps, but why was the place half-full of drunken idiot screaming, "Postal Service RAAAAAAAWKS!"
These annoyances inspired my latest half-baked idea (see Half Bakery for more brilliant ideas): a pen to hold in all the non-drunks at a show. It looks like this:
And it works like this: everybody gets a token when they pay at the door or when their ticker is ripped. With this token they can get into the central "pen" (I envision something like a split-rail fence =) but they have to relinquish it upon entry. That is, they can enter only once. If they want to buy alcohol or use the bathroom, they cannot reenter the premium area. This shouldn't pose a problem to those that want to shut up and enjoy the show.
A possible modification to this scheme would be this: charge $6 extra for access to the premium area. This is something that, presumably, only true fans would be interested in (hopefully preventing the riff-raff from getting loaded before entering). For this $6 one gets access, one gets a free beer or drink, and $2 goes to the waitresses (who cannot sell booze inside the premium area).
I know it would never work but it's nice to dream.
By the way, Ben says that The Postal Service themselves had no idea that so many of their shows would sell out. Another tour soon.Posted at May 5, 2003 10:17 PM, Categories: Beardcore