Nach Berlin!

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Right.
I'll be off then.


I'll be back early next week.

Schizophrenia By Invitation

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I don't want to wade into the Mac vs. PC debate, but I think iTunes is becoming one of the best bloody things you can use a computer for.

Even with the media player features to one side, the volume of stuff you can get at through it as a portal is immense, and while yes, theoretically, this stuff would be available on the internet anyway, the accessibility of information, music and video is awesome.

Case in hand, and the cause of all this technogushing, is the 'Education' section of the podcasts library.
I'm up to Lesson 11 (of 26) of a radio language learning course offered by Deutsche Welle. It's really good, completely free, and bizarre enough to get me to pay attention. So I'm learning some German...for free.

Which while rather grand-sounding, means that right now I'm up on basic German telephone vocabulary, ordering coffee and tea, and the social position of invisible elves in modern Germany.

That sounds like a joke, but it isn't - the lessons are set, like many good language lessons before them, in a hotel. Unlike most of my high school language teaching materials, however, the porter has an invisible elf friend who speaks a good three octaves higher than he does but who still manages to make everyone who hears her think it's the porter being cheeky and talking in the informal to pompous hotel guests. Also one of the lessons consisted almost entirely of the narrator telling the story -in English- of how the elf leapt out of a book.
Up until that point I had been imagining a little fluttering fairy in the vein of Tinkerbell, but there was a sound effect of heavy feet landing when the elf jumped out of the book, so now when I listen to the lessons I imagine a whopping great six-foot-six elven warrior straight out of The Battle For Helm's Deep, complete with armour, pike, and longbow, mincing around behind a hotel desk asking very basic German questions in a quavering falsetto.

So if, as Charlemagne said (and several quotation website assure me that he did), that to gain another language is to gain another soul, I have to wonder what sort of batshit insane person I am by degrees allowing to take up residence in my head.

Alchemists Wanted

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I've been thinking about this for a while, and I've decided to ask for your help. You're a cosmopolitan, well-travelled bunch, right? I could use a bit of advice.

On Thursday evening I'm flying to Berlin, and on Friday morning I'll be starting a day's work and an evening's networking.

I'll be coping with the severely shortened night and likely very little sleep on top of the six hour time difference presenting me with a bright and busy day a lot earlier than expected.

So, let's talk tactics. The need to sleep is a given, so your suggestions for in-flight sleeping aids, please, chemical or otherwise, and then, depending on the strength of the sleep aid, I might need something to perk me up in the morning.
Ideally I'd like sleep to be a priority, as my old buddy Mr. Caffeine can help with whatever remnants of somnolence I carry into Friday...

...or has anyone discovered the cure for jetlag and been keeping it to themselves?
Anyone?

Career Choices

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Either the world of big business and the very wealthy isn't as interesting as it used to be, or someone at Forbes could use a bit of a chat about what they want to do with their lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Forbes Top 15 Richest Fictional Characters List, 2006.

Quotes:

"Longtime member C. Montgomery Burns doubled his fortune to $16.8 billion in just 12 months, thanks in large part to a "technology exchange" deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il."

"Ebeneezer Scrooge gave the bulk of his $1.7 billion fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."

"Other newcomers include Mario, the videogame plumber who built a $1 billion fortune after decades of collecting gold coins"

I KNOW this is meant to be a joke...but someone seriously sat down and thought, "Scrooge is a Victorian moneylender, so his fortune must be linked to interest rates in England, and let's say, oh, he gave Otto "Horseless Carriage" Diesel his first business start-up loan, yeah?" and someone sat on the other side of the desk and AGREED WITH THEM.

Also, Daddy Warbuck knocked Santa off the top spot, after Santa was disqualified from the list FOR BEING REAL.

Nice day for it!

I don't think in words as much as I used to. Krissa was talking about something the other day and I, trying to understand a concept, came up with three mechanical analogies in a row and realising this I stopped myself and wondered if I always thought this way and the three-in-a-row was a fluke, or if familiarity with that sort of mindwork these days is changing the way I look at and think about the world. I hope it was a fluke.
Analogies aside, my brain plays with geometry and the interactions of space for a huge chunk of the week, and the interactions of hypothetical energies and masses the rest of the time, and feels increasingly comfortable doing so. I hope this doesn't mean as I go along I'll be losing the ability to think...well, organically. I'm not saying my head whirrs with numbers, but the feel and the flow of them.
And speaking of which, Krissa and I went to see Stranger Than Fiction on Friday night.
It's bloody brilliant.
Will Ferrell plays a taxman who starts hearing a female voice narrating his life as if he was in a novel, including, just when he was already freaked out enough, references to his imminent death. Emma Thompson is brilliant as the neurotic writer drawing a blank on how she's going to kill the main character in her latest tragic novel, and all of the leaps of deduction that her main character makes in trying to find her are made hugely enjoyable by a cucumber-cool college English professor played by Dustin Hoffman:

"So you're the young gentleman who called me about 'the narrator'. The thing to determine conclusively is whether you are in a comedy or a tragedy. Have you met anyone who simply might loathe the very core of you?"
"I'm an IRS agent."

So Will Ferrell's character, tied up in the novel, slowly stops thinking in numbers and starts living his life. The best line, for me, was when he turns up to the bakery of Maggie Gyllenhaal's character (who he's taken a bit of a shine to, naturally) holding a tray full of brown paper bags.

"I brought you flours."

Worryingly, this took me a full minute to get. Am I suffering from numbers on the brain?
Anyway. Go and see 'Stranger than Fiction' as soon as you humanly can. It's the best film I've seen in ages.

My trip to England for work went really well, and as a sort of bonus I'm heading for Berlin for a long weekend at the beginning of December. I just got my flight itinerary, and the return leg is 9hrs and 15 minutes long.
That's nearly double figures. The prospect of double-figure-hour flights scares me.
I'll stick with the 45 minute subway commute for the time being, methinks.

Photopictographical Representations

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Photos from last week's jaunt to the sceptred isle, and the slightly smaller diamond-shaped one just beneath it.

1. You step in a chicken on your way to work

2. You have to restrain yourself three times in one morning from calling your fellow commuters fucknuts

3. Someone calls you a fucknut, even though you were just walking in a straight line and it was them who swerved into you

4. Leaving the house ten minutes late is multiplied by lackadaisical trains into half an hour late at the office

5. You take a deep breath of fresh air climbing out of the subway and it smells of hotdogs

6. You turn down three leafleteers and three free newspapers in the forty yards between the subway and the office door

It's Called Tradition For A Reason

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Bugger this for a lark, I'm off to...er....England.

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