Dreamhost! Fuck Ya!
And man is this blog DINOSAUR. Hackers, please stay away.
Hypothesis: A cell phone will get cold if you put it in the freezer.
Method: Put a cell phone in a freezer, and measure the temperature through bluetooth communication and monitoring software.
Background: I have a super cheap Sony Ericsson K550i with all the usual features: 2.0 megapixel camera, FM radio, and bluetooth. It’s a sweet phone, and was priced cheap to attract buyers who want the features of those Sony Ericsons but don’t want to pay extra for crazy buttons or orange phones. I use My Phone Explorer to manage the contacts and whatnot on the phone, and I love that piece of software. A crazy thing it does is it allows for the monitoring of your phone’s status: battery power, connection strength, and, most importantly for this experiment, temperature. Why would I care about the temperature of the phone? I don’t know. It’s most likely stored within the phone for internal monitoring so that the phone can adjust the battery’s behavior. I’m guessing here; I really don’t know why this is important. But it can be used for… pointless experimentation!
1. Put phone outside in Hong Kong hotness to get the temperature up.
2. Link the phone up to a bluetooth connection and go to the status page in My Phone Explorer
3. Every 30 seconds, record the temperature of the phone on a spreadsheet.
4. Put the phone in the freezer.
5. Quit when you wimp out.
Result: The phone got cold. Now, there may be some out there who would think this foolish. You’re correct, because I ended up wrecking the battery due to condensation issues in the swampy Hong Kong air. I reasoned that this phone has been through a similar environment in Canada, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I forgot about condensation. I have a nice red sticker on my phone’s battery that indicates exposure to moisture and it shuts off after a certain amount of time when powered through the battery. The phone itself works; I had a spare battery that I bought from a guy selling them on a blanket on the streets of Shenzhen for $3.00 US and there are no problems. My phone rudely calls this an ‘alien battery’, though.
Graph: There is a graph. Temperatures are in degrees Celsius.
Back when everyone bought CDs, my favorite thing to do was browsing through the selection at used CD shops. I did this for years, and found a ton of music by combing through the other people’s discards. I was never a collector — I was in this only for the music. It was a good way to kill an hour, and I got to be one of these flipper guys, rapidly scanning the racks of CDs as fast as possible… “Alanis, Pulp Fiction. Oh wow, there’s a David Bowie cluster here. I hope I finally see ‘Low’…” The CD flipping continues. “Outside.” Flip! “Heros.” Flip! “Earthlings.” Damn probably not. Ah there it is!” I grab “Low”. And flip through the rest. There were many commonalities in the selection between stores. Pink Floyd is surprisingly rare, even the usual suspects of their discography. It took me forever to track down “Animals”. It took forever to get the full discography for “The Orb”. But, there’s always copies of that great Blur album with the “Song #2″, which means you’re never far from a physical copy of the awesome “Essex Dogs”.
My favorite thing to do was to was to buy a CD without listening to it, without knowing the artist, and with only a quick glance at the cover. I’ve discovered music that I wouldn’t have discovered any other way with this method. Here are my three favorite random buys.
I have a thing for long songs… songs that go on for ten minutes are more. It started from my listening to Enigma when I was 12, and my tolerance for that sort of thing grew from there. In this one, the songs go on for twenty minutes, which mean they are twice as good as a ten minute song.
Now, you have to know what you’re doing when you produce a ten minute song. It’s a totally different skill as compared to producing the usual four minutes of music. It’s more of a journey that you have to produce, and there has to be an identifiable theme to the whole thing. You can cheat by adding speeches, but it’s only a small cheat. A forgivable cheat. It also works better if there’s an element of symphonic harmony going on. Dance music fits well for this sort of thing. The only tolerable rock and roll song of a considerable length is Guns N Roses’ “Coma”.
This CD was bought on the last day of a clearance sale. $3 I paid for a song that is one of the top ten CDs in my collection. I didn’t know anything about the band or even what type of music it was. It was $3, and it was a random selection. It’s great stuff, and I’m surprised its so hard to track down information about the band. Here’s the shortest song on this album.
Jouneryman - Valves [mp3]
She seems to be a Korean expat who knows some sort of Korean folk singing, but she’s one of those Koreans who like New York. She’s very angry about something. I bet her cellphone’s a Motorola. There’s not much out there on this band, but that’s the risk, beauty, and the entire point of buying random CDs. The basic structure here are songs with her strong vocals as the central focus, very little post production, an emphasis on slow BPM drumming that sounds like, I don’t know, what jazz would sound like if taiko drums were readily available in the 1930s. There’s also a high dynamic range between the highs and the lows, which is great to hear in performance based CDs. The one song I loved from this one was “Malady”. If you like that one, the rest will be very distinct but similar variations on that theme.
Don’t be scared of the other titles like “Ghost Dance”. It’s good stuff.
The band really changed in their latest release… Live FM says they’re a “Noir-Wave electronica with a slithery backbone of Industrial beats, tight female vocals, and crashing synths.”
Live FM - Xtatika
This was the best CD I’ve ever bought, which is what any music geek would say of the CD that introduced them to Can.
My most memorable moment in listening to this would be that this was my “farming” music (It wasn’t getting high music as you’d expect). I’d bring in a CD player and a few choice CDs and drive a tractor for 10 hours. Now, farming can get very boring. It’s like mowing a lawn in that you’d have to go back and forth over the field, the same thing over and over again. As such, I listened to this CD over and over again, and really got to hear every layer of this CD.
What it is is an introduction to Industrial music from the 70s. So if you’ve heard about Caberet Voltaire and that’s about as far as the knowledge goes, this would be a great CD to track down.
I didn’t like “Midget Submarine” though. What the hell? It’s a song with the title of a Devo outtake. I really don’t get the point of that one. And there’s another song to avoid — Candy Man. 天啊！
Chinese food looks simple to cook. There’s nothing to bake; everything is flash fried or steamed. All soup is made in front of you, even at a roadside stand. There’s separate bowls for all the ingredients; you order; they mix it all up with hot water and hand it to you. The biggest emphasis is placed on the freshness of the food, and the end result has to have as much evidence of freshness as possible. The less evidence of cooking that is present, the better the food is perceived to be. This is the “biggest must” among the many rules to follow.
The second rule is there has to be vegetables, and they have to cooked perfectly.
It looks easy to cook, and it’s an afterthought in our cuisine. It’s basically boiling and chopping. The first time, I did several things wrong. The color was wrong because I cooked it longer than necessary. I used to much oil, and ruined the broth for ‘tong’. Too much ginger, then there was not enough. I think I’ve got the whole thing down now, and I’ll present a pictorial of the feat. I still like the whole dumping a can of corn in a saucepan, but the following food has its place in my kitchen repertoire.
These are the vegetables I bought from the market in Wan Chai. I have no idea what they’re called, so I have to consult that kid’s book of vegetables I bought in Shenzhen… ah, they’re suan tai (蒜苔). Ok, Suan Tai is surprisingly oily for something so green, but it’s a great vegetable to start cooking with. It’s easy to get everything consistent as the pieces are all uniform. It’s easy to cut, and quick to cut, also. There’s little cleaning prep to be done. A good one to start with.
Cut these guys up into suitable sized chunks; about the size of a green bean. The roots are hard and I don’t like eating them, but the flowery top thing is ok to eat, and makes it look better in the end. After everything’s cut, you put the following in the saucepan: about a tablespoon of salt, about the same amount of oil, and ginger, about a finger’s worth. I missed that here, but my cooking instructor was away at the time so it didn’t matter. The amount of water is smaller than you’d expect; you want the water to quickly hit the boiling point.
This is the cruicial stage in the game here. If you ignore the other instructions and decide to put jello in the mix I’ll forgive you, but you have to do this right: The dish is DONE, as in off the stove and on a plate, when the color starts to turn slightly greener. It’s very crucial. If the vegetables start to lose their color, the vegetables are ruined and you must throw them out into street from your 30th floor apartment whilst shouting “bu hao chi de!” to anyone unfortunate enough to have poorly cooked vegetables dumped on their clothes. So watch the color. It’s the most important part. You got that?
I made some sauce because it’s a blog and it’s got to be all fancy. I think this is called teriyiaki sauce.
The end result. Notice the flower things aren’t cut off, and I’m here to write this so it’s good to eat. I cut them off the first time I cooked this, so I’m just pointing this out in case you decide to cut these off.
I am a food snob. It has to be fresh, spicy, and interesting. I will never eat bologna. But there is one foodstuff that I love despite its pedestrian roots — the hamburger. It takes a lot of work to cook one the right way. Regular meat, corn flakes, eggs, worcester sauce, and finely diced onions. The paddies have to formed perfectly, and you must use a charcoal grill. After that, the fun part, and the reason a hamburger is one of great foods of the world — the condiments. Mushrooms, 5 year cheddar, romaine lettuce, chili sauce, bacon, mayonnaise, mustard, carrot flakes, eggs, tomatoes, pineapple, those cheap processed cheese slices, fresh onions, cilantro, homemade yellow relish, or pickles. Hey, you can even put some black forest ham on there, whatever. The tao of hamburger is a “whatever you want” atop an expertly created base.
I’ve had a lot of great hamburgers before, but here are some of the more notable hamburger experiences in my life.
Moss Burger in Tokyo
There is a lot of great burger restaurants in Japan. They actually do the whole American Casual restaurant thing quite well, but one thing that Japan has is awesome hamburger restaurants. In some respects, they make better hamburgers than the Americans. This burger gap must be closed, lest we fall behind.
In and Out burger in San Francisco after walking the Golden Gate Bridge
Visiting my sister in San Francisco, I walked from Fisherman’s Wharf to Marin County, and THEN BACK ACROSS THE BRIDGE AGAIN. With no food. There was some incident with a homeless man who smashed a bus window while yelling incoherently, which made my sister regret listening to me when I convinced her not to take a taxi. Short story shorter, In and Burgers rule even when there are eaten on a hotel room’s desk.
Burgers I cooked on a charcoal grill at my house
You can’t say you appreciate food until you can make it yourself. I was good at making hamburgers, but the charcoal grill caused the occasional time related problem. It was worth it in the end.
VJ’s late night burger under the urban skies of Winnipeg
There was little burger place in my hometown of Winnipeg that served great hamburgers. There was no room to sit inside the building, but there were tables outside. They put chili sauce in the burger, something I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else. Regional variations add to the hamburger mythos.
Arch Deluxe during a burger run to Brandon, Manitoba
I loved that Arch Deluxe that McDonald’s had. There’s not many fans of it out there. Oh, and a burger run? I lived in a small town where the nearest fast food restaurant was an hour’s drive away. When we started getting cars and driver’s licenses in high school, one thing to do to kill time was to drive to the fast food places, go to a Burger King, and then eat the food while driving back.
Burger at Schmeker’s in Winnipeg after Korean vacation
I had spent a bit under a month in Korea, eating nothing but bebimbap, kimchi, and 알몬드. The hamburger at this crazy restaurant called Schemeker’s was perfect, as it contained all of the food I’d been denying myself. I know I could have eaten at McDonald’s while I was there, but I was a bit snobbish at the time. The house-cut french fries were the one thing that made it a notable experience.
The Hamburgers That My Grandmother Cooked
My favorite memory of Grandma are the dinners I had with her and Grandma when I was working at a local convenience store. The walk was less than a block, and the food was always prepared with great care. The main course were hamburgers, To this day I cannot duplicate and cook them myself (I think there’s ketchup in there). There was always lemon-aid and scalloped potatoes. Vegetables, of course. At the end, there was always desert capped with a nod to our British heritage in the Djarling tea with cream. There was left over dainties from her many social engagements, and my favorite, specially prepared flour-free muffins with home made icing on top. When I starting cooking in college, my first foray into baking was remaking those muffins from a recipe that she gave me over the phone. Thanks Grandma!]]>
I’ve seen two Olympic torch relays in my life. The first one was for the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. I remember it being very cold. I remember the cheap plastic cups and candles they gave us to share the flame amongst the crowd. I carefully took the burning candle home, and I still have that original flame burning to this day. It is very hard to keep a flame burning for 20 years, but my love for the ideals behind the Olympics is very strong. I usually buy cases of long lasting candles from Costco. Once, the flame almost died in 1999 when two tires were slashed on my car and I couldn’t get to a store in time to purchase candles. I ran, with the dying flame supplanted by left over birthday cake candles, to a 99 cent store. My own personal relay! Ha. Ha. I made it, and the flame is beside me right now.
The hardest part was getting the flame from Canada to Hong Kong. I ended up shipping the flame via fed-ex in a mosquito coil contraption that I set up. I had phoned the now defunct Oasis airlines if I could bring a flame on board, but they said it couldn’t be done. Those Olympic hating jerks! This is all a lot of work that must be done every day, but I love Olympic Torch Relays more than you do.
The second relay? It was for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Relay in Hong Kong was going to be ran right next to the apartment I’m staying at. I filmed the whole thing, edited the footage, and threw it on youtube. Enjoy!
Hong Kong Olympic Torch Relay Wan Chai From Rooftop]]>
It’s the only frontier of humanity left in the world. The new wild west. Whenever I go there, it feels like I’m in Denver circa 1890. I can’t prove that this is really like the old wild west, but the energy here is crazy, frenetic, and never ending. There is a Shenzhen beat. Every store selling clothes, every car stereo, every disco, and everyone’s cell phone ring tune is the same never ending 120BPM beat. You hear that beat in the distance as you go to sleep at one in the morning. Everyone is driven by that beat, whether they’re putting on street side monkey shows, begging for change, or selling kitchen utensils on the side of the road. Or driving to the stock market. There is a lot of money here, by anyone’s standards. I usually go to Shenzhen from Hong Kong via the checkpoint at Lo Wu. One river separates the two places, but they are different worlds altogether. I like coming back to Hong Kong, looking at down town Shenzhen as I walk down the bridge over the river, wondering if I’ll ever do that again.
The place I go to is not within the foreigner’s friendly enclave in the SEZ. It’s just outside the SEZ. I sound like a Lonely Planet writer bragging about the “real Shenzhen.” It doesn’t matter, as this isn’t their kind of place. Nothing, even the people, is older than 30 years. The Lonely Planet aside, I did get to see the unfiltered Shenzhen; the Shenzhen where there is no Hooters restaurant. I’ve been at a table in a hot pot restaurant where sheep’s brains were ordered, I’ve been to private parties in the back of discos amongst the cavernous expanses of rooms in the basement, I’ve been to a market beneath the Guanzhou-Shenzhen high speed railway where they sold everything from a chicken, I’ve been there during Chinese New Year and swapped red lai see packets of 20 yuan notes, and I’ve seen the nightly waltzes amongst families in the courtyard of an apartment complex.
Being there for Chinese New Year was interesting. Every building had people shooting fireworks from the balcony of their apartments. I went on the back of a bike to get to the place I was staying for supper with this very laptop held in front of me while people were shooting fireworks from every direction. In the evening, I noticed a family walking in a parking lot in front of the balcony I was in. A little girl lit a firework, panicked, and the firework ended up skidding along the ground towards a parked car. Of course, after the light show was over, the car alarm went off.
“Okay… I’ll go back inside now.”]]>
You don’t know what crude oil tastes like, do you? I do. You’ve seen the stuff in movies, but it’s usually fake. I’ve never seen convincing snow in a movie, ever, and I’ve never seen convincing crude oil in a movie. You probably don’t even know what crude oil smells like. If you’re a thinking person, one who is aware of how gasoline is processed, you might surmise that it smells like diesel fuel. If you’re a thinking person who hangs around at the tarmacs of airports, you might think it smells like jet fuel.
In a previous life, I worked at a pipeline which shipped crude oil from the producers on site at their oil wells and sold that oil to a larger pipeline. My job was to drive around to the producer’s sites, analyze the quality of the oil to be shipped, and then set timers on pumps so that the oil would flow to our distribution center. We had to wear scuba masks and don air quality monitors to protect ourselves against Hydrogen Sulphide gas when climbing the tanks which held the oil. It was a summer job between university, so I also had to mow lawns and make coffee. I didn’t have to wear the scuba mask while mowing lawns, despite the fact that that would have looked cool. For one summer, I actually had my own truck with a centrifuge for analyzing oil and an unlimited supply of Varsol, with a high power motor as strong as a car wash’s. It was to clean things that were dirty with crude oil. Infinite Varsol!
Once, while testing some crude oil, I dropped a tube while moving the oil from the centrifuge. It hit the sink in such a way that the crude oil being tested splashed on my face. As luck would have it, my mouth was open at the time. It was probably in the midst of saying “oh” in “oh crap”, so I got a huge mouthful of fresh crude oil in my mouth. Upon tasting it, I said to myself, “well, at least I know what crude oil tastes like now.”
Oh, yeah. Crude oil tastes like blenderized dead and rotting trees. The mouth-feel of crude oil is something like soy sauce that has been reduced for hundreds of thousands of years. The aftertaste is, predictably, terrible. Not recommended.]]>
I love “pulling” all nighters. There has been some boring ones where I spent the night in an office coding up lottery ticket data, but the following is my favorite one. One that will never be topped. My number one all time best all nighter.
Spend a night in the wonderful city of Valencia, do laundry, pack, find a cheap hotel in Barcelona. Fly out early in the morning to Moscow in advance of my trip on the Trans Mongolian Express.
Thursday, June 14th, Valencia
Went out to Las Ceuvas with my roommate from LA, Matthew, to eat tapas. At the same time, I got a message that would have been great to receive had I been in Madrid at the time.
Went out to the same street we had been going to for the last couple of days.
The first bar we went to, the one with a dinosaur motif, was closing, so we went walking down the street of Las Ceuvas. We found a dance bar where they were playing top 40 pop stuff. We had a few drinks there.
Friday, June 15th, Valencia-Barcelona
Went to a bar called Johnny Maracas. A Brazilian dancer was performing amongst the people on the dance floor. She was dressed Brazilian, or in close to nothing. There were three drummers surrounding her pounding on the drums as she gyrated. This was less sleazy than it sounds, if you can believe that.
Found a place for Turkish doners, Met some more Americans. We saw some graffiti, and took pictures of said graffiti.
Went back to the hostel. I slept about half an hour later.
I woke up, had breakfast, did laundry, dried clothes in the Valencian sun, did some emailing, and did some packing.
I left the hostel and walked to train station, with my backpack where it belongs. On my back.
Got on train to barcelona. The first train was sold out, so i had to wait a bit for the next one.
Arrived at Barcelona. Looked for a hotel near the train station so I could sleep and relax before the whole train ride to China thing.
All of the hotels that weren’t 175 Euros a night were booked. I decided to try and go to Las Ramblas and find a run down hostal.
Again, same story. Everything was fully booked.
Walked to the hostel I had stayed at the week before to see if it was possible to get a bed. I remembered that some people were able to get beds at the last minute the last Thursday I was there. Impossible
Decided to simply stay at the hotels near the airport, thinking that they might be more free than the hotels in the city. I went back to the train station. On the way, I met a girl from Limerick, Ireland, who asked me if i was going to the Sonar Music Festival this weekend. “Aha… so that is why everything is booked now,” I thought. She said that she was looking forward to the all night parties at the beach and whatnot. I said I wasn’t and was just looking for a room for the night. Although, Sonar… that would’ve been nice, had i not had a ticket for Moscow the following day at 8:45am. She did tell me that the ticket offices for sonar were closed at 9:00pm.
Found an internet cafe near the train station. I looked up hotel prices and availability in barcelona for that day… absolutely everything was booked, and anything that wasn’t booked was over 200 euros. There was no place to sleep in barcelona.
Decided, right there next to the train station, that there was no other option other than to go to sonar for the night until the flight to Moscow the next morning.
I rushed to the train station to use the lockers to store my backpack and laptop. The only things I kept were the things I needed to get to Russia. A passport and a wallet. I was planning ahead!
Got out of the subway station at Las Ramblas, and asked random people who looked like they might be going to Sonar where you could buy tickets.
No luck at all in locating the ticket office, so I was resigned to not going to Sonar and finding something else to do for the night. I then spotted Sonar’s smiley face icon next to a building with people queuing with tickets in their hands. I decided to ask them where the ticket office was so I could run there before it closed.
Ran as fast as I could through the Las Ramblas throngs, stopped to get my bearings on a map I had noticed on a bus station along the way. The ticket office had closed at 8:00pm
Slowly walked back down to kill time at the beach or something. I pass the original buildings with the queuers I had found earlier. I decided to ask again, just in case there was something else that could be done. He pointed to another place on the map. I decided to go there simply because I had nothing better to do at the time.
The place ended up being a special bus set up for the night portion of the festival. I noticed on a map that the guy had given me that there was a ticket office at the place where the buses were going to. I decided to take the bus to the the night venue.
The bus took us way out of the city, further than I had ventured in my first wanderings around in barcelona. I saw the graves on the hills during the drive.
Followed arrows to the venue, and then followed more arrows to get to the ticket office. Found out that credit cards weren’t accepted, cash only, so I had to go to the ATM to get some more cash. He said some words in spanish, pointed in a general direction, and that was that. I decided to go in the general direction.
The general direction ended up being quiet a ways out. Along the way, I passed the place where they impound cars. I did think to myself that walking past the place where they impound cars the night before a flight is the result of some seriously misguided planning.
Back at the ticket office, cash in hand, and bought a ticket.
Bought a sonar t-shirt. I put it on underneath my current button down shirt.
Drank some fruit juice with ginger and gurana to prepare for the long night. watched some people play bumper cars, and explored the venue. Got the paper which described the bands playing at the festival, and discovered that the Beastie Boys were playing that night in a special instrumental only show. hazah!
Wondered how I was going to have a shower. I didn’t want to try and sneak through Russian customs smelling like European partiers and marijuana. About the only option i could think of was to hope that there would be a lounge in my stop over city in Germany with a shower. Or possibly a sauna, but this was Barcelona…
While waiting for the Beastie Boys, I bought two green apples and ate them. It’s a trick I learnt in my university days when an all nighter was required. It works!
June 15th Barcelona - Duseldorf - Moscow
The Beastie Boys came on stage, and there isn’t really enough room in here for a concert review. They did play an instrumental version of ‘So Whatcha Want’.
One of the Beastie Boys (Adam?) was dressed up in a sailor’s outfit. He was appreciative of the boating culture in Barcelona. He also mentioned that there was an after party on their yacht afterwards where they would watch the sun rise in the morning. When he said that, it was the first time I had thought of whether the sun would rise or set at the main beach in Barcelona. He gave me an idea of how to kill the rest of my time before the flight.
The Beastie Boys played their last song.
A new concert started where 10 people where lined on a table set up on stage with laptops, mixers, maracas, and other assorted noisemaking devices. It started with 10 minutes of a simple percussive beat, and kept going long past the time that I had left.
Left the concert, and went to the same place where the bus dropped us off. In between this, I bought a sausage from the saucuisse man across from the venue. I ate about 80% of the sausage and fed the rest to the feral dogs begging for food. A man noticed that I wasn’t eating the bun that the sausage was in, and gave me speechless cues that he wouldn’t mind eating that bread. I gave him the bun, he ate one bite, handed it back to me, and chewed what he bitten off while looking me in the eyes… I have thought no more of this incident.
The bus dropped us off at the same place it picked us up at. I couldn’t yet see any sun in the sky, so I went to the docks to look at the yachts for a while. I saw a docked cruise ship along the way.
Started walking towards the beach, because of what the sailor Beastie Boy had said earlier.
Made it to the beach, and watched the sun rise. There were about 20 people on the beach at this time, all of them on the beach silently facing the beach front and the sun. There were some clouds obscuring the actual sunrise on the horizon, but the sky was turning blue at this point. This is one moment I’ll never forget… I went to this beach the week previous and it was full of topless sunbathers, kids building sandcastles, 40 year old German tourists, and guys performing judo moves against the incoming waves. Now, it was serenity, and the awes in appreciation of the moment were audible across the beach.
Looked at the showers on the beach and figured out a way to solve my shower problem previously mentioned. I had a salt water bath in the Mediterranean. I skinny dipped for the second time in my life: I took off all of my clothes, Grabbed the passport and wallet from the pants pocket, walked into the ocean, and dipped my head under the water as I held my passport and wallet above my head. I then walked to the showers on the beach, took all of the salt off, and dried myself off with the sonar shirt I had bought earlier, and put all of my clothes back on.
Had a nice conversation in the Spanish-French creole i employ here with some fellow beach goers. He mentioned that the British girl walking along the waterside in her underwear and t-shirt was ‘pue de la vie’ — scared of life, I think.
Walked past a cofe bar that was open, and bought some pistachios from them. I asked (in my first and probably last Spanish conversation) where the nearest metro station was. I didn’t finish the conversation in spanish, though, as I used the French ‘la’ which is similar to the English ‘there’. What should be noted here is that there are spanish people up at 6 in the morning.
Bought a new ticket for the metro. along the way, some of those mullet headed spanish punks began talking to me in Spanish, and I said “soy habla ingles”. They replied back to me in a mocking voice, “Oh look at me! I only speak eeen-glish!”
Went to the bus depot, picked up my backpack and laptop (still there!!), and bought a train ticket to the airport.
The flight to Dusseldorf was great, nothing of note happened except at the check in security where a family was having great difficulty with every single security regulation that europeans and americans use — they had an entire bag of shampoo and other gels, they were walking back and forth through the metal detectors, they didn’t know how to use the bins, and et. al. I’m sure they were a nice group of people and I hope they had a great time in Barcelona, but I had little patience for this sort of thing at this point. The other thing I noticed was that germans really liked their children; every child on the flight got a play package of a coloring book and crayons. I fell asleep on the plane for the entire flight, the first time I have ever done this.
Arrived in Dusseldorf, and decided that i should take advantage of my four hour layover and see what Germay’s like. I went to the cable car, went to the train station to get to the city, started buying a ticket, and then… I crashed. My body is telling me I can’t do this. I walk to the outside, look at some weeds growing in a bicycle park, and then walk back to the airport. The only german thing I did was buy a pre-packed set of cold meat. I did have a nice yogurt and fruit flavored dessert thing.
Started boarding the flight to Moscow. They put us all on a bus at the tarmac next to the check in, and then drove us to the airplace. We all walked to the airplane, Hunter S. Thompson 60s style.
Two Russians sat next to me on the flight, and the first word he said to me was ‘gutten hagen (?)’. I said back to him ‘hello’, and he looked rather upset that he couldn’t practice German with someone.
Start talking to the Russian sitting beside me, and he decided to put away his Russian - German phrase book and practice English. I’ll have to describe the two guys. Alex was the guy sitting next to me, and he was an engineer for a crude oil well company in Russia. The person sitting next to him was his boss, a chief engineer of the same firm. They were going to an exhibition in Germany. The boss was an interesting character; whenever an English word was unknown to Alex, he consulted his boss and he unfailingly proffered the correct word. Despite this, he said not one sentence of English to me — all of his utterances of English were either Pink Floyd lyrics or one word in response to a query from Alex. Alex seemed to me to be an earnest student of languages, and of life in general. His boss mockingly nicknamed him “The Teacher.” The lessons he gave me in Russian were very well done, and he was patient of and cognizant of the pronunciation differences between English and Russian. I believe one aspect of his life was a respect for scholastic pursuits. He was very delighted when i pulled out my notebook containing the crylic characters I had been studying.
The boss starting to get his off duty bag out of the top compartment, and began to rip it open. I tried to tell him through Alex that they would throw the alcohol away if he was to do this. The boss opened the bag and pulled out a chocolate bar and a bottle of whiskey. Alex asked me if I would drink with them, and i said no, as I hadn’t has any sleep for almost 30 hours now, and I didn’t want to be full of whiskey before I entered the nebulous (to me) location of the customs agents in Russia. when I said this to him, he looked like I had just slapped him across the face. I did read before hand that refusing a drink offered from a Russian is in bad taste. so, in the interest of keeping the conversation (and the dual way language lessons) going, I decided to drink with them.
The three of us get water and tea/coffee from the stewardesses, along with sandwiches for the Russians, and a cheeseburger for myself. I didn’t really want airplane food, but I got the cheeseburger to soak up some the ill effects that whiskey would have on my under-sleeped self.
Started drinking the whiskey. In the end, I probably had about four ounces of whiskey.
After the duty free whiskey was done, the boss orders more whiskey from the stewardesses. He eventually cleans the plane of all of the whiskey.
The Russians help me with with the customs form. They also offer their assistance in Russia if I run into any problems.
I notice that Russia has a lot of forests and a lot of undeveloped land even this close to Moscow. The boss begins singing a song about the glories of Russia.
The plane begins landing in the runway in DEM airport after a few circles around the airport are done.
8:36pm (Russian time)
We are out of the airplane, and I see two lines at the customs border. One is for Russians, and the other is for foreigners. I begin to go to the foreigner’s line, but my new friends talk to one of the guards and they let me go through the Russian line.
The Russians insisted I stay in their group, so we went to get out luggage from the luggage belt. They got their luggage, but mine wasn’t there. As I wait, Alex says to me that his boss wants to leave now, and, therefore, “goodbye.” I wish him anglicized approximation of the phrase ’spyzzy bal’ (spicy ball!), one of the words he taught me on the plane.
I have looked at all of the turnstiles for my luggage, and nothing is there. Eventually I try to get help at the lost and found. I wait for the locally designated English speaker to get off the phone, and I then explain what happened. She says I am to first talk to a uniformed person near the luggage belt. I couldn’t find anyone that would help me, so she sent her co-worker with me to look for the luggage.
Forms, customers declarations, things to sign, more forms to hand to different people, red zones, green zones, etc. The principle point of this is that I have no luggage, no clothes to change into, no toothbrush, no socks, and none of the green tea I spent an hour looking for in the chinatown in Paris.
I notice there are showers in the airport, but I decide to ignore that for now in case I lose some valuable time in searching for the hostel in Moscow.
Wandered around looking for a train to get me out of here. DEM is about 40km from Moscow, and I have to find the hostel soon, or I could lose the reservation and the same thing that happened to me in Barcelona would happen in Moscow.
Go to this kiosk, then that one, etc. got tickets to the train which leaves hourly, The next train left at 11:00pm
On time, the train leaves for Moscow. I can’t really see outside, but i do see alot of forest. I am almost falling asleep, but am quite worried enough about getting to my hostel in time to keep the reservation. It will be about 11:30pm when I get to Moscow.
Get out of the train station, and I am ready to use the subway to get to the place in Moscow where my hostel is. I haven’t found any places to buy maps at this point, so I am mappless for the hostel search.
There’s no machines that give tickets! You have to wait in line and there’s one woman running it. I have to wait in line along with everyone else who was on the train from the airport. This takes about 15 minutes.
June 16th, Moscow
I am on the metro, going to the correct station. More craziness, as the stations are no where near as user friendly as the one I’ve encountered in Europe. No maps in the carriages, no signs on the stations indicating what station you’re at. All of these things are surprises, so it takes a while to adjust. I make a few mistakes, but eventually make it to Markovskovy station.
I am trying to find the correct street for the hostel, which is presenting its own specific problems. I am tired and can’t figure out which signs are in Crylic and which are in Roman script.
Started to talk to people to ask for help, but you can’t expect much at this time of night on random Moscow streets. I noticed a woman, not in a policewoman’s uniform, on a horse walking down the streets of downtown Moscow. Again, I thought no more of this incident.
Decided i should try and call the hostel to get some directions to the place and to confirm that I have still have a reservation. But, the only money i have is in 1000 ruble bills that i received from the bankomat (ATM) and therefore, I have no coins to put in the telephones. I buy some water from a street vendor, and ask for change. He wouldn’t give it to me. I then went to a bar, and asked for some change. Nothing. I am positive they understood what I wanted, as I made the international sign language motion for phone and showed him some euro change to indicate what I wanted. No one helped me. At this point, I threw my notebook on the floor of the bar in front of everyone, as I thought this was it — I was going to have to spent a second night trying to sleep in a strange city. A city stranger than Barcelona, a city where women ride horses at midnight. I hadn’t as much said a negative word to anyone at this point, not even when my luggage was lost, but this was the nadir of the emotional impact of the last few hours.
A taxi driver noticed my outburst of anger, and asked me ‘where’. I showed him the directions to the hostel I had written down, and he said he could take me there… for 500 rubles. Now, I did eventually find the hostel, and he was really ripping me off. The hostel was about a 4 minute walk from the place he was picking me up at. I should have gave up at this point, as 500 rubles is only about 23 dollars, but i didn’t like the fact that random people were offering me to drive me places in Moscow.
I found the one street mentioned in the directions to the place… then I found more and more pieces of the puzzle. Some explanation is needed. In Moscow, some roads have more than one road to them. If they had this system in Canada, it would be 1 willow drive, 2 willow drive, 3 willow drive, and so on to indicate three separate roads. This was confusing at first, but someone clarified how this system works when I was asking for help. The second confusing thing was that i was very glad i had tried to study the Crylic alphabet earlier, as it came in handy once I had figured out which parts of the signs were in Roman and which were in Crylic.
In front of the hostel… which isn’t really a hostel at all, but a simple unmarked apartment building with no indication that it is a hostel. The directions say to type in a number like 142 281 on the pin pad in front of the door. I am at the right the street, I am at an “old green building”, there is a pin pad next to the door, and the number of the apartment building is correct. But I see that the numbers for the code go up to at least 8, and i only see 4 buttons on the door with the numbers painted over and very hard to see in the night. Maybe I am wrong about the location? I then thought about this for a while… there’s only 4 numbers, but the code has numbers up to 8. What if… the numbers were binary numbers? The entry code only had numbers of powers of 2. (In binary, the first number is 1, the second is 2, the third is 4, and the last is 8.) what the hell…? I type in the number, the light goes red and a buzzer sounds, but i don’t hear any of the typical automatic door opening noises I hear in apartments in North America. I try again, pulling on the door the entire time I entered the code, and the door opens. Now… I am in a simple apartment building stairwell. At least the doors are numbered. I find door number 8, and it is just that, a door with the number 8 on it. It is closed.
When you’re solving problems in times of distress, the one thing you have to tell yourself over and over again is to not assume anything. So I think to myself that is it necessarily true that every single apartment in Moscow would have its door locked in the middle of night? Obviously not, so I try to open the door. It is unlocked.
An apartment: a kitchen, some bathrooms, some shoes on the floor, and that is it. At this point of 40ish hours of no decent sleep, I decided that the worst thing that could happen to me would be to thrown in jail… with a nice bed to sleep in. that was how my thoughts were forming at this point.
I explore the apartment a bit, and it is indeed a hostel, as I found some cards for another hostel in Irkstuk, Russia. Good. But there is no one around and the only thing I see is… a room with four bunk beds and no one sleeping in them. I put the notebook containing the directions to the hostel and my Canadian medical card to prove that I was the person who had a reservation at the hostel, grabbed a blanket that was in the room, and went to sleep.
The hostel owner came in and we sorted everything out.
June 17th - Moscow
The next day was spent buying clothes at a Russian market, finding a place to buy toothpaste, and so on. I got my luggage two days later, fresh from Munich. I wrenched the sand and dirt out of the Sonar shirt, and it’s now outside on the window sill drying in the sun.
what about lorenzos on yokohama tires?
what about when people say “take that chain off boy, you’re blinding me”?
what about the 40 billion candle light atop the Luxor?
what about drink till we throw up?
what about candy coated helicoptors with leather covers?
what about private planes with 30 inch lorenzos?
- Enron Poem
First off, I will never get to work at Goldman Sachs. To all those who would be aghast that I would could be an alumni of that Borat guy when I grew up driving farm equipment through lightning storms and I watch alot of movies, don’t worry. I’ve gotta be blacklisted there after three phone screens. There’s also the whole reduced liquidity in the credit markets crisis thing going on right now, and there has to be a some Bear Stearns guys that have more right to work there than I do.
I am a programmer with experience in Sybase, C++, and I have a degree with a really neat name — “Bachelor of Computer Science First Class Honors (Co-op option)”. It’s from a small university, but still, it’s a lot of impressive words crammed up together. I think I deserve a few hours of some GS executive’s time. I worked hard for that degree. For my last exam, we were allowed to take two pages for a cheat sheet into the exam for my networking class. This was the only time in my university career that this was allowed, so I took full advantage of it. I felt like the protagonist in Se7en during the opening credits while I was writing these.
I also worked in Omaha! That’s gotta account for something, no?
Now, why would anyone like Goldman Sachs prescreens? Why would I like them after I’ve been rejected? I should be angry, I should dig out my Canadian Communist Party membership card and start a blog about the cabalistic sect of bankers who parasitically eat uncooked hamburger meat in Lyon; meat bought by the hard work of EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO PRODUCES TANGIBLE PHYSICAL OBJECTS THAT CAN BE SOLD. THE MEAT IS BLOODY THEY ARE EATING YOUR BLOO…
No, no. Steak Tartare is good, and so are those who make capital more flexible. The raison d’etre of such organizations is to allocate resources to the those deemed most efficient, and to remove said capital from those enterprises deemed unworthy. If you want to bet that Kodak will still be able to sell photo paper 20 years from now, go ahead, give them your money. If you want to take over the company, you can, but it costs a lot less now than it did 10 years ago. To make money, they utilize acquired capital for other means, become market makers and take a small percentage of the transactions of each exchange of money for stock, or invest in the market themselves. The way to make money through arbitrage, or knowing more than everyone else. Expending this arbitrage by executing orders is noticed by others, and soon the information is well known. The price of a stock will reflect the real worth of an enterprise once all of these small accountings are tallied.
For example, take the example of a importer / exporter. They are taking advantage of information not known to everyone. They hunt out factories where things can be made cheaply. They find markets for what the factories produce. Once they find and utilize an opportunity, it will be reflected in the final price. Other importer / exporters must meet the new lower price. All of those who fail to take advantage of this new information will be out of business. The world becomes more efficient.
I really appreciated this concept when I was taking a tour in Amsterdam where the scheme for priming ocean trading voyages without the resources of a king or queen was proposed. Everyone bought shares by giving money to provide startup capital to these voyages; shares voyages deemed to be potentially more successful would be priced accordingly. Without the market, voyages would be decided on the whims of a few people. Now, everyone with capital has a say in what should be done with a working person’s labor and the resources of the world. We can use a wider set of opinions and viewpoints of the world, without hindrance of familial relations, malformed opinions, or incomplete information. No one is going to be searching for marble to make monuments; they’re going to fill the hulls with exotic spices or bananas. That is more efficient.
Keep in mind this is a simplistic argument and I’m not saying that large banks are faithful to the people they are serving. I am saying that we’re better off with them than without them.
Ok, now, why did I like these interviews? I loved the way the people who interviewed me talked. It was a pleasure talking to them. It was over the phone, so I wasn’t influenced by the cut of the clothes or subtle physical displays of authority. It was phone and the only way to convey information was through words. Everything they said was concise, to the point, and immediately understandable. There was no messing around; everything was about the work to be done. I got the impression that if you’re deemed worthy (which I wasn’t) and you did good work, good things would happen. Work was the measure of things there, one person couldn’t hold power for their own good against the interests of the company. If you’re good, that’s good. I’m not dismissing the importance of political maneuverings at large banks. I’m sure that those who relay information the quickest are rewarded well. My proposed roles would be very small part of the end goal, but they wanted someone who would be quick to respond to any problems that may arise. It was great to believe that there’s a world like that out there.
The reality would have been different, most likely. I would have crying next to that bull sculpture after some stressed up trader just spent 20 minutes yelling at me because I used an OUTER JOIN instead of an INNER JOIN. The interviewers probably sensed that. Those phone screens were awesome.]]>