Monday, June 30

HIV. Cancer. Mexican Food

Clear to see the areas in which the world of science is developing.

The guys in the white coats have managed to combine a quesadilla and a burrito for Taco Bell's new Quesarito.

Incredible. What will they do next?


Sunday, June 29

Hyundai Accent and a Porsche Boxster

Anne and I went shopping today for some replacement kitchen appliances.

Microwave
I've just about broken every button on our current microwave. The 2, 3, 6 and 9 are the only one's still functional so it's a bit of a mathematic puzzle each time you need to defrost something.

We were told that there are only really 3 manufacturers worldwide of microwaves, everyone just re-badges them, which is why many different brands sound the same when you shut the door or push the buttons. As such, there is no high-end microwave ... at least not for the over the range types.

We bought a Whirlpool. Don't know who really makes it, but it's very quiet when you close the door. And I like that.

If the microwave is a Hyundai then we bought a Porsche of a dishwasher.

We were comparing 2 Mielé dishwashers. Anne asked what the difference was. My answer "$500".

We went with the pricier one!

I think this one does the laundry, re-stocks your fridge with beer and is good for 3 full-body rub-downs a year.

Anne liked the cutlery tray at the top of the dishwasher. That's what made it pricy.

Sunday, June 22

PostScript

Landing at Miami at 5am I'm placed in a "They may be American but they have been in Brazil enjoying an un-American pastime" line.

First I have to answer questions on a machine that prints out my photo with a big cross drawn through it. The passport guy asks me, "Where have you been", I bite my tongue so as NOT to say, "Look on the fucking form in front of you $10 an hour man", and just go with "Brazil".

He asks which game I saw and then who won it. "Argentina. Last minute. Crowd go wild" is my incredibly fact filled reply.

Next I have the same insidious interrogation from the Customs man. He hates that I was gone for just one day. It must suck to ask sleepy hyphenate-Americans what they were doing at 5.30am on a Sunday. Tough shit Customs guy, you should have tried harder at school and maybe you would have a better job.

Later I board my flight to Boston where I am sat next to a pilot called Rob Roy. Odd.

Home by 10.30am, and a full day of watching World Cup football ensues!!


Saturday, June 21

Post Game Blues

The blue of Argentina is everywhere. Including a few 'Hand of God' tops reminding me of 1986 and the cheating little cocaine addict who knocked England out of the tournament with his hand. Not bitter.

Back at the parking lot, and a scene is brewing. A bunch of people are blocked in. Drunk and shirtless Argentinian fans are flirting with the parking lady, A Brazilian guy is arguing with who I think is the farther of the parking lady. A family uncomfortably looks around as a guy takes a pee in the corner of the lot.

I try to stay out of it, although I do check my language app to see if they have a suitable phrase for my situation.

I'm finally able to squeeze out and I begin a 2 hour search for a gas station, before undergoing the most rigorous search of a rental car return I have ever witnessed. As this is going on 2 middle aged ladies in the rental shack knit and watch Germany v Ghana. Goooaaaallll and yet not a dropped stitch between them.

The airport has a massive TV with a rug and sofas, so 100s of us watch the game as we wait for our flights home.

Belo Horizonte is a big enough city to have a direct flight to Miami, but small enough to be mostly a domestic airport. The international gate is reached through an office door and a single x-ray machine.

But because Argentina have just played there are 10 extra charter flights to Buenos Aires. As I stand in line for the x-ray machine with 600 Argentinian blokes I realize why it was a bad idea to travel on my UK passport.

Next to me is a guy wearing a t-shirt with a map of the Falkland Islands. The 2 islands each contain a Union Jack flag, but between them is a middle finger wrapped in the Argentinian flag. Beneath? A simple phrase - Fuck You.

I smile nervously, raise a thumb, and say Malvinas.

It's fair to say if he had punched me I would have gone down quicker than the General Belgrano.

Game Time

It is no surprise that I am mostly among Argentinians and Brazilians, handily the Brazilians are cheering for the Iranians and some go so far as to wear vaguely Middle Eastern items of clothing.

In contrast I am sat next to an Argentina fan who is dressed as the Pope.

The game is a cracker. (Yes Americans, a goalless game can be entertaining). And when in the 91st minute Messi jinks onto his left and curls in a winning goal the blue half of the stadium goes ... as the Pope would say ... fucking mental.

The pontiff himself is now on the shoulders of a maniacal set of fans. The Brazilians are honorably shaking hands with their bitter rivals, and the few Iranians have that "So near, yet so far" look on their faces.

During the game and with Iran defending with 2 banks of 4, I candidly offer to my Argentinian neighbor, "Ocho rojos y estacionar el autobús." He nods. Because the language of football is universal.

Much like language, stadium food is also universal. At half-time I'm hoping for Feijoada and a Brahma. Instead my choices are Cheeseburger or Hot Dog, and a Budweiser in a commemorative cup.

My post-game exit is slowed down by a flag that covers about a quarter of the stadium. You cannot take water into the stadium but somebody managed to bring in a flag the size of 4 tennis courts?


É seguro nadar aqui?

I'm a bit worried. I'm traveling on my UK passport. Americans need visas to enter Brazil (some tit for tat bureaucratic bullshit after 9-11). Expecting a bunch of whereabouts do you live questions but instead I waltz through. Customs are wary that I have no luggage. "Only here for a day." I tell them.

First stop. Car rental, but I see no signs. Tourist info shrugs when I mention the American car rental agency I booked with. I trudge off to the local places and see a tiny National logo next to the huge Unidas branding.

The next 5 minutes are spent translating Portuguese into hand gestures. She wants me to go to the shuttle bus. There I wrote it in 5 seconds.

At the rental cabin I am fingerprinted and photographed before I can even look at the 2009 basic Ford Focus I am being charged $250 to rent for 10 hours. The car has a fire extinguisher bolted to the floor of the passenger side. Inflamável!

I begin my drive to the stadium. Handily, armed (guns not just limbs) military police are stationed every few miles. A human GPS!

I still take a wrong turn and manage to drive through a favela. Run down, but people getting on with their day, which seems to include 3 people on a moped and queuing for buses.

I spot the stadium and turn onto the connecting road - but are heading the wrong way! I have an open road, but the road to the stadium is a jam. With buses running down the median it is miles before I can turn around. Stuck in traffic I get my first taste of Belo Horizonte. I get a free carton milk and an invite to a night club. Meanwhile Argentinians heading to the game honk their horns as people in Brazil tops walk by.

As I approach the stadium it dawns on me that this city is like all cities with an old stadium. There is no parking. I start to search for a free spot, and finally see a normal* Brazilian lady holding up a sign with a price on it. Hoping it's for parking and not sex I wave at her and she shepherds me into the what you would struggle even euphemistically to call a parking lot.

*normal. If you live in East Cambridge as I do you will realize normal means wearing clothing 2 sizes too small.

I head on down to a bunch of Argentina fans milling around a hotel. I see the stadium in the distance. It's going to be a walk!

The walk to the stadium is great. Argentine fans chanting their songs. Brazilian fans chanting, "Messi is a Catalan", and the Argentine fans replying with "So is Neymar". I spot a few Iranians. It's one big carnival of the World. I am easily the palest person on display.

I've downloaded a "Learn Portuguese" app. Every time I try to speak Portuguese it seems I am talking to a Spanish speaking Argentinian. When I slip into Spanish, I get a Portuguese speaking Brazilian. Ho hum.

É seguro nadar aqui? Is it safe to swim in here ... my go to phrase in any language.

Friday, June 20

Home of the Nuts

Heading to Brazil to watch a World Cup game.

The trip begins in the American Airlines lounge and memories of sitting here with Anne 4 years ago before our trip to Australia.

This time I'm solo, but I'm watching the France v Switzerland goalfest with a bunch of Euro-types.

Flight time begins when a beautiful African woman sits next to me. After a swift conversation in French on her phone she turns to me and asks if, "I would take a picture of her, so my boyfriend knows I am safely on the plane."

Of course I agree, but then she starts to pose so I shoot off a bunch of options using her camera phone.

As she flicks through them I ask, "Are there any good ones?" "A few", she answers. During the flight she will proceed to eat a little bit of everything served before running to the bathroom. Nice.

In Miami the airport is definitely in World Cup fever. Bunting, merch and South Americans everywhere.

Boarding my flight I notice 3 people.

1. Jerry Springer look-a-like. Annoying American bloke who thinks the panel next to Seat 2a is 'too warm'. Tries all flight to chat-up ...

2. J-Lo look-a-like Flight Attendant. "You're obviously Brazilian,' states douchy Jerry. "No I'm Moroccan" replies Soukaina. The tools in row 5 will refer to her as J-Lo the whole flight. I'm shocked she doesn't kill any of them.

3. Squirrelly old lady of South American descent. AKA my seat neighbor. In the middle of night I wake to see her reclined with her arms crossed over her chest like a corpse. Her eyes are open but she is asleep. And she's wearing Bose headphones. I drift off to sleep again wondering if she might be dead. She's not. An hour later she mistakenly starts adjusting my seat instead of hers. Head up, legs up, ass down it's like a mini massage. She apologizes in some crazy language. I smile and drift back off.

Thursday, June 19

My computer has a bug

This little bug began to scurry across my computer, but when I went to squish him I realized he was inside the glass.


Wednesday, June 18

Countdown is on

And I'm not talking about the Channel 4 tea-time word puzzle game-show with the now dead Richard Whiteley.


On Friday I head to Brazil on my first ever South American adventure.

And I am officially excited. Anne's a bit worried but I managed to put that into perspective by telling her I might be going to Colombia later in the year for work. That positively freaked her out!

I have a purely First World problem in that the business class seats don't recline to a fully flat bed. Huh!

Tuesday, June 17

How did he know?

Anne and I went grocery shopping last night to the wonderfully glamorous Shaws.

As we rounded a corner near the frozen section a large man dressed in white approached and asked Anne, "Lady, aren't you cold?".

Now, Anne is always cold. She once had cold feet after 4 consecutive days in Acapulco.

But, last night, in just a T-Shirt she replied, "No, I'm doing OK thanks."

The man's lady friend who was wearing a crash helmet just smiled.

You don't get that at Whole Foods.


Monday, June 16

Last week's travel pt1

I had to head to Boise, Idaho at the end of last week.

This gave me the opportunity to sit in the United Lounge during the first half of the Brazil Croatia World Cup opener. Wish I hadn't. After Brazil scored to cancel out their earlier own goal I had 2 people saying, "They did it again, they've scored another own goal, why do they keep doing that". This was probably the 5th most annoying thing the group said.

Pissed off I returned to the gate and bumped into this savvy entrepreneur. It's a real man who combines a sports jacket, with a camouflage hat and a twat-handle Bluetooth device. Unsurprisingly he was a bit of a dick as he spoke 'hands free'.

But not to worry, because I was flying business class. First stop Chicago.

They ran out of my dinner choice, and the bathroom was broken. Wa-wah.

I then had a 3.5 hour ride from Chicago to Boise in a plane only slightly larger than a toothpaste tube.

At least I had a snack box to keep me company.

Landing in Boise I headed to the taxi rank. I got an African guy who couldn't speak English ... or read English. I found this out when I showed him the hotel address for his navigation app.

Unperturbed, I punched the address into my phone navigation and, from the back seat, held out my phone at full-arm stretch so he could see the map as he drove (at speed) towards my destination.

I had a lovely day in Boise with my colleagues and client.

I flew back through Denver, where, as a business class passenger, I attempted to enter the United lounge. "You have to be flying international to enter", I was told. To which I replied, "Who flies internationally from Denver?"

Once on the plane we took off and 10 minutes later we heard the dreaded, "Is there a doctor on board?"

Thankfully we did not need to turnaround, and so I returned to Boston and my short drive home only to find no parking in a 2 block radius at 2.30am.

Love to travel!

Last week's travel pt2

So the shitty mom from my flight last week made the news.

http://news.yahoo.com/flight-attendant-forces-child-urinate-seat-030606938.html

The flight attendant did not force the kid to piss everywhere, and the mom was not wholly innocent.


Sunday, June 15

Relief Pitcher?

Nice branding for the Red Sox. This guy is one of the militants taking over Northern Iraq.


Saturday, June 14

Heard that one before

The commentator at the Ivory Coast v Japan game just said,

"The Japanese will never surrender".

Monday, June 9

Moral Dilemma

Time to return to Boston. We were up at 4am to drive to the airport in time for our 7am direct flight home.

We made good time and as I walked to the kiosk to print our boarding pass Anne glanced at the big screens.

"Darling, I think our flight has been canceled", said Anne.

For some reason I looked at my mobile and noticed a voicemail. Indeed the flight was canceled and we'd been placed on a 1pm flight, some 6 hours later.

We went to the counter and Pedro confirmed our plight, only when he said 1pm Anne exclaimed "Leave at 1pm, I thought we were landing at 1pm".

Set in motion Pedro scrambled to find us a non-direct route home and 20 minutes later we were on the JetBlue flight to JFK.

After a quick break for magazines and coffee we boarded the 2nd flight from JFK to Boston.

We were on the back row and taxi-ing on the runway when a woman ran down the aisle from row 20 asking if she could use the bathroom.

The flight attendant said "No, you should not be up when we are taxi-ing, return to your seat". She said it in a bit of a bitch-slappy fashion.

The lady actually wanted to bring her 5 year to the bathroom because she had "Had an accident" on the seat.

There followed a repetitive circus of the mom crouching in the seat well trying to change the kid, the flight attendant telling her to sit down, beepers beeping, mom shrieking, flight attendant shouting until finally we heard the flight attendant on the phone to the pilot (who had 2 minutes earlier announced we were #23 in line for take-off).

A minute later the plane accelerated, not to the runway, but back to the gate. The pilot came on again and said, "We have a situation".

The police and TSA came on board. The mom cried, other passengers began a revolution against the flight attendant, everyone else got up to pee.

Another 40 later the mom was allowed to stay on, and our 35 minute flight took off with no drinks service as the flight attendant hid in the back of the plane.

Amazing how everyone turns into a human-rights lawyer when these events occur.

I was in the minority agreeing with the flight attendant. Throw the bitch and her pissing kids off was my view.

In the words of Mary J Blige. No More Drama!

Sunday, June 8

Day 2

Evidently there's a magic to theme parks that has completely washed over my head.

Today we drove to Busch Gardens.

After 3 hours I had spent $95 on an entrance fee only to stand outside a gift shop, watch some scantily clad women dance with furries and observe people make inappropriate food choices.

Relief did come in the form a mini-safari, and a chance to watch a giraffe up close.

Here I am having Ruby eat lettuce out of my hand. I'm on the left.

Afterwards I watched Anne on some pretty scary roller-coasters. I've turned into a very good bag holder.

Saturday, June 7

Going to Miami


Flew down this weekend to Florida, home of deadbeat dads, tourists, insects and presumably the rapper Flo Rida.

My sis is on holiday with all of her little offspring.

The trip coincides with England playing Honduras in the footie down in Miami. So we drove there … for 4.5 hours.

My 8-year old niece, obviously a big Will Smith fan repeatedly sang, "We're going to Miami" ... just in case I forgot.

A quick walk along Miami Beach saw the usual collection of beautiful, skank, weird, outré risque and mid-western.

Then the guys headed for the football. Bizarrely they made a group of English and Honduran people stand for the US national anthem.

Judging by the crowd it was a good night to be a burglar in a Honduran neighborhood - they were all in the ground, dressed from head to toe in national blue and white.

The game had to be stopped after 40 minutes. Lightning! Seemed like a small ruse to make the English drink some more.

The game played out as a thrilling 0-0 draw.

And because England are great planners and usually go out on penalties at the World Cup the team took this opportunity to practice a penalty shoot out.

After a quick switcheroo with the car personnel we headed back north.

For an hour we got to view an amazing electrical storm light up the night sky. It seemed almost constant.

I said to Anne, "At least it's not raining". 5 mins later we hit the most torrential rain ever, making the wipers redundant and slowing our high speed toll-road journey down to an almost pedestrian crawl.

Speaking of tolls. We had a little thingy-do in the glove compartment that we pinched from another Avis rental car. Shockingly it didn't work, even when Anne held it up the windshield for an elongated period.

I'm waiting for the $15 bill + $100 fine to drop into my in-box.

Monday, June 2

Obsession Continued

I managed to maintain an average of 10,000 steps a day in May too.


Sunday, June 1

How nice is that?

I wrote a letter to the good people at Clif Bar when I found an empty wrapper in one of their cartons.

And yesterday I received a note with 12 bars in a box.

Yay!