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UK trip: Friday in London

The last week has been a blur. Just one week ago I woke up in a small hotel in Farnham, Surrey yet I've also spend quite a number of days here in Seattle. This is how it went down.

Wind the clock back to last Thursday morning and a 5am town car to the airport. I pounded through some unfinished business at the gate and boarded the plane to Chicago. For those of us at 6'4" I can definitely recommend the United Economy Plus; I felt like a sucker for buying it (at $100) on the way out but definitely missed it on the way back. A 6am arrival in Heathrow and the body is ready to sleep, not embrace the day ahead.

Heathrow Express into Paddington and I started off in search of some food. I wandered aimlessly for about 20 minutes until it started to rain so I stepped into the restaurant at a nearby Hilton Hotel. For the next hour, I gorged on all the British breakfast food I miss - beans, pork sausages, grilled tomatoes, particular hash browns, real bacon. Mmmmm.

I planned to spend the day with my mum who was coming down by train. I figured I could at least drop off my bags at the hotel before she arrived and they did one better, letting me check in at 8am giving me time for a shower and shave.

We met at Euston and decided to head to the British Museum. The atrium is a very impressive structure, huge sweeping room over a main central exhibit with so much off to the sides too. Unfortunately we had the attention level of uninterested school children and headed straight for the coffee shop to catch up, incidentally glancing at a few mummies on the way. After a good chat, we walked through a small exhibit of American art (impressive woodcuts) and then decided we had had our fill of culture. Definitely a place to go back to, perhaps with a little more focus.

Next we caught to tube to Embankment, walked down the river to Parliament, through some back streets and through St James Park in a torrential downpour. All-Bar-One in Leicester Square for lunch and then we visited a place I've long wanted to go: the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. Closed shortly after the war, they provide a fascinating insight into the conditions and epic struggle of the time. Having read Roy Jenkin's biography of Churchill a few years ago, I found a number of parts of the Churchill Museum to be quite familiar too. Highly recommended.

By the end of that tour, I was tired and fading fast. We parted ways and I got an early start on the night's sleep.

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World's Fairs are still happening!

Anyone in Seattle knows the Space Needle, downtown monorail and a few other things were built for the 1962 World's Fair. The World's Fair is an extravagant event that throughout history has left several major cities across the US with large, oddly-shaped landmarks and a legacy to tell to children for generations.

Asking around, I'd not been able to find anyone who has the slightest recollection of any World's Fairs since the early 1980s. It turns out that since Vancouver, BC in 1986, all subsequent fairs have been in other parts of the world. The World's Fair Museum site at expomuseum.com has the full details.

A trip to Shanghai in 2010 does sound rather tempting.

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Powershell to Twitter

I have too much time on my hands this morning. The following script makes it easy to get and set Twitter status. I've seen similar ones elsewhere but they all seemed to have external dependencies, this one does not.

[sourcecode language="powershell"]

twitter.ps1:

$script:username = "foo" $script:password = "bar" function get-twitter {  $wc = new-object System.Net.Webclient  $wc.Credentials = new-object System.Net.NetworkCredential $script:username,$script:password   $rest = $wc.DownloadString("<a href="http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.xml">http://twitter.com/statuses/friends_timeline.xml</a>")  $xml = [xml]$rest  $xml.statuses.status } function set-twitter {  param($status)  $wc = new-object System.Net.Webclient  $wc.Credentials = new-object System.Net.NetworkCredential $script:username,$script:password   [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("System.Web") | out-null  $encodedstatus = [System.Web.HttpUtility]::UrlEncode($status)  $postdata = "status=$encodedstatus"  $postbytes = [System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetBytes($postdata)  $wc.Headers.Add("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded")  [System.Text.Encoding]::ASCII.GetString($wc.UploadData("<a href="http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml">http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml</a>", $postbytes)) } [/sourcecode]

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Jack Johnson concert at The Gorge

It really isn't summer without a trip out to The Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA. We left Redmond last Friday afternoon and headed straight out on I-90. Just time for a single drink tailgating party and we headed in to the venue to listen to some live music. The setting against the awesome backdrop of the Columbia River gorge, sunset, and mellow tunes never fails to impress.

The youthful days of joining the debauchery in the adjacent campground are probably behind me and this time we were led to 'little known' spot on the way back toward Cle Elum. About 20 minutes drive out of civilization (swerving past a couple of deer on the way), we drew to a halt at the side of the road. Camping gear in hand, we walked through a small opening at the roadside and emerged on railway tracks. A hundred yard walk down the line (bearing in mind it's after midnight and very dark) and we are again led down into a dark, flat, sandy hollow next to what sounds like a river.

We set up camp and called it a night. We had been warned about what to expect next, but I have to say it is mighty impressive to hear the sound of full-speed freight train passing in the dead of night only yards away.

A leisurely morning, a fine breakfast at the Sunrise Cafe in Cle Elum and an easy drive back into Seattle for a late lunch.

Camping near Cle Elum

Camping near Cle Elum

Camping near Cle Elum

Map image

On review: Turns out this post had little to do with music and not all that much to do with anything else either.

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Reflections on the Olympics

I really enjoyed the recent Olympics. I have little recollection of the Athens and Sydney games but did manage to catch quite a bit more this time.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • NBC (and the media in general) have a definite propensity for only covering sports that are likely to be dominated by the US, quite a different approach from what I recall growing up. But I do rather enjoy the rivalry of the superpowers.
  • Great Britain almost finished with the bronze on the medal table. A clear win if measured by population or land area.
  • Watching on-demand video was pretty cool and made it fun to see the really close races again.
  • The Opening ceremony was incredible. Very clever usage of technology as a complement to the performance skill of many, many participants, rather than a replacement for them. I'm sure things went wrong during it the level of preparation made it impossible to notice.
  • Usain Bolt combined two of my favorite things in one man: raw talent and a fine example of  nominative determinism.
  • I was once again reminded of the attitude at that level. As Al Oerter once said "These are the Olympics. You die before you quit."

On the down side, the 'it's cool to bash China' sentiment in the media was very disappointing. Perpetuating already off-the-mark misconceptions without any balanced discussion of the issues seemed borderline irresponsible. Such behavior has the effect of setting public opinion irrationally against something and leads to attitudes and attacks grounded in ignorance. Although in a different context, I must say that story was strikingly familiar.

Anyone who doesn't believe there's a huge transformation happening in China is going to be mightily surprised. The level of optimism, enthusiasm and sense of endless possibility is unmatched elsewhere at this point.

Oh, and we were doing our bit too:

image

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Argosy cruise around Lake Washington and Lake Union

Despite having lived in Seattle for almost seven years, there were two things that, until today, I had not done: taken an Argosy cruise and seen Bill Gates' house from the water. Fueled with Ezelle's Chicken for lunch, our team spent the afternoon on the water.

Despite having 18 bathrooms (think of the parties), the compound itself it actually quite subtle and a far stretch from what I suspect most people think of when they think richest man in the world.

For that image, I think this guy in Hong Kong has the win: 'The toilet stays. I don't care if gold hits $10,000 an ounce, I'm not melting it down.' The man knows what he wants.

image

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GBR makes it into the top-3 medal table

I'm really enjoying the Olympics this year. Seeing Great Britain in the medal count top three was a pleasant surprise today. Although there's been almost zero TV coverage of any sports in which the USA might not dominate, the online offerings have been quite inclusive and are making it easy to follow the other sports like rowing.

medal count