Friday, March 31, 2006

Non-Invasive Drug Testing

If you ever want to know if one of your European-traveling friends smokes pot, just ask what they think of Amsterdam. If you get a response along the lines of, "It's okay, kind of a shithole," then you know they don't smoke. If they respond with unqualified enthusiasm, then you've got yourself a smoker.

Note: exceptions can be found if the person if obsessed with either french fries or Rembrandt.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I Can Suspend My Disbelief for Jedi, but This...

Saw "After the Sunset" this week on DVD, and it's about big-time jewel thieves Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan who retire to a caribbean island only for Pierce to realize he's unsatisfied with his life. So, a life of tropical sunshine & fun with Salma Hayek isn't enough for the man? The movie lost me right there. Well, until Salma kept showing up in a bikini. But I didn't believe it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

How Many IT Techs Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

30: 1 to change the bulb and 29 to send emails passing the work to someone else. It took at least 15, to change my email to the Europe domain -- and that's how many approved my most recent trouble ticket (and that's just in Europe). I now have internal email and should have external (and a new email address, hopefully just jt.richardson@...) mail later this week. It's taken at least 20 man-hours to get this done. Citi has said they want to hire 300 new employees in Germany this year. I assume this means 10 coming from the US or Asia and 290 IT people to facilitate the move.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Corrections - Jonathen Franzen

Since an integral part of the JT experience is hearing me blather on about books, I thought I'd add this to the blog. Not to worry, though, I won't be adding all of my annoying little quirks to this fount of stream-of-crapciousness.

I'd first heard of the novel via a review in Time and was reminded of it when Time listed their top 100 English-language novels. Since Poisonwood Bible wasn't on the list, I wanted to read a few of the recent novels that made the list in its place.

First, Never Let Me Go is no Poisonwood Bible. It's not even The Handmaiden's Tale, a clear influence on the world he has created. It's a well-written story about hope, love and what makes a person human, but it leaves some gaping questions, especially of religion and politics, left unasked, much less unanswered . While Atwood also left many of these issues alone, here they cause a sense of disbelief as key details are left out. To make matters worse, the quick end to the novel tries to wrap up the loose threads while simultaneously explaining the state of the world they live in. An admirable goal, but after ignoring or dodging the issues for 250 pages, why try to wrap it up in 20? The strong point of the novel is definitely the structure of narrative, as the main character tries to sort through memories of events from early childhood to her present age in the 30s. It rings true and allows surprises to be unveiled as she thinks about them, but it also shows a maddening disinterest in their situation that prevents us from learning more about their outlook and their world. A good read, but ultimately disappointing. And definitely not top 100-worthy.

The Corrections, on the other hand, was great. Hilarious at times, disturbing at others, it looks at a family filled with a variety of lunacies, their personal travails and how they deal these and with each other. A fun read, it's definitely worth the time investment. While the ending gets a bit sappy, it stands out as a first-rate farce -- far superior to Confederacy of Dunces and Vernon God Little, two highly-regarded "literary" comedies. Still, though, how did this surpass the Poisonwood Bible (or even The Power of One)?

Monday, March 27, 2006

FIFA Incompetence Update

After realizing that their half-assed effort on the initial sales programs for the World Cup weren't up to FIFA's usual standards, they're at it again. Now you can buy tickets for resale at a 15% premium from FIFA (plus shipping). Of course, all the joys of the previous sales (long waits, poor info, dead links, etc.) are still there, but now FIFA has raised the price to cover their costs. Also, they've now guaranteed that all speculators will now get their full scalped price by allowing transfers.
News Flash: Newt Gingrinch Converts to Islam!

Apparently unsatisfied with trying to divorce his wife while she was in the hospital for cancer surgery, the fiery, thrice-married "family values" republican said that the ability to divorce someone in his sleep was a "clear improvement on Judeo-Christian requirements for conscious requests for divorce. Plus, I like their views on keeping women in their place. I mean safe."
Overweight or undermath-ed?
Based on my two previous stints living abroad, I was looking forward to effortlessly dropping some pounds upon my arrival. Unfortunately, I failed to take into account a 30s metabolism and the insidious effects of cheap beer and pastries (fresh Rhubarb Danish: Breakfast of Champions). So after a month of German life and no evidence of a decreasing gut, I joined a gym. I weighed myself after a weekend in Brussels revolving around mussels, beer, waffles, and chocolate only to find that my weight had gone from a pre-Germany 160 to 168! Holy flurking schnitt – time to cut out the goodies. The worst part was that while I knew I hadn’t been eating healthfully, I also definitely hadn’t gotten 8 lbs of enjoyment out of my diet, either. Grrrrr. SO, 3 days of salad, cardio and no booze later, I re-weigh myself. A half-kilo less, but still only 71.5. As I did the mental math this time, though I was more careful – this works out to 157, not 167. I celebrated my newly-rediscovered math skills with a tasty gelato on the way home from a very brief workout.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Reason No 1 Why Train Travel in Germany Rocks

Not only is public drinking allowed, it's the standard. On the packed train to Dortmund for the USA-Germany game, at least 50% of the game-bound passengers had some sort of booze. Contrast this to the regular commuters on the train, where only 10% or so had a beer. Good times.

F'ing Ching -- The USA-Germany Game

The game was fun. The stadium was amazing -- we were about 30 rows from the top & had great seats. This is because the Germans go for extremely steep inclines in their stadia -- almost enough to trigger my vertigo (donde esta?). Instead we got a great view of a major ass-whooping in the second half.

The great part of the first half was how quiet the crowd was. They were clearly worried that somehow they would manage to choke against an American B team (plus D team regular Brian F'ing Ching). Anytime the US would get possession, they had the same look Dick Cheney has during Bush speeches -- "Please God, don't let him screw up". Had the US scored, there might have been a riot or a mass suicide -- it wasn't clear which.

God only knows what Taylor Twellman does in National Team training camps. I assume he either smokes or deals crack. How else do you explain how he's on the bench after torching the opposition in January & February? And to have Ching start in your place is not a good sign for your World Cup hopes. Unfortunately, this meant we were playing 9 on 11 in the first half on offense. The typical possession went: Convey outlet pass to Johnson, sweet flick on to Ching, who quickly loses the ball. Sometimes we varied this by having Ching not get off a shot. Other times he wouldn't make a run and a perfect pass would roll out of bounds while he watched from the least dangerous spot he could find. Instead of scoring at least one while controlling the majority of the half, we were stuck with 0-0.

Arena no doubt told the team he wanted an early goal in the 2nd half; he just forgot to specify which team. So anxious was the defense to please The Bruce, we were still in line for beer and sausage when the goal happened.

I've permanently blocked the six minutes of death from my memory. It was a comedy of errors, with Berhalter & Conrad starring as idiots, while Gibbs had a supporting role. I'll just say that if Arena had subbed in Agoos for any of the three, I wouldn't have argued.

On the bright side, the score meant my friends pushed for an early exit to make the better train, meaning i got home at 1130 instead of 1. No word yet from US Soccer on my request for a partial refund since the defense didn't play in the 2nd half.
Stansted Airport Promotes the Mile High Club

This is pretty much the only conclusion you can draw from an airport that has condom machines in their terminal bathrooms. Either that or people are so happy to get off a Ryan Air flight that they're having sex before they get to customs. I'm not sure which it is, though either way this is good news for people flying discount airlines into London.