For business I had to hop on a plane quickly and fix a few things with some colleagues in the UK this week. I've resisted air travel for the last few years.
I do almost all my business with Intercall, if I need a conference call or review a remote presentation. I ship documents by email or overnight courier. I have a fax/scanner/printer in my office, which is good enough if someone needs my signature. My old suits are too large, since I've lost 40 lbs last summer. I'm too cheap to buy another one at this point. No one will see me.
I have a very comfortable hotel room here about 50 miles north of London. It used to be an old country estate that they've converted into a modern hotel. It has wireless internet and a refrigerator.
I'm missing all the debates going on at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday night. I'm sure they'll go on fine without me. I have my laptop, so I can catch up on them later this week. By the time I do, the New Hampshire primary will be over. I guess I missed the one in Wyoming, but so did most Americans.
I fly out of Chicago when I make this trip. It takes me two hours to drive from my house to get there. And then I have to arrive over two hours early for an international flight. So that shoots a whole afternoon. It was a good idea this time. The security line took over 40 minutes. When I was traveling every week for for business in the early 90s, I would make my reservations in the taxi, on the way to the airport, and run up to the gate, making my flight with minutes to spare. That company experienced some very fast growth. Kiss those days good-bye.
This weekend's terror alert is “Orange”. Like I said, I don't travel by air anymore if I can avoid it. I skipped flying all of 2007. When I heard that alert over the loudspeaker, I asked my traveling partner “how scared are we supposed to be?” I ignored it like everyone else does.
I checked my suitcase. Through security I carried my laptop bag and my C-PAP machine. A C-PAP is a breathing device which I need to combat my sleep apnea. I snore very loudly. When flying I was woken up by a passenger beating on the back of my seat. So I just had to order more coffee and get caught up on sleep in the hotel room.
I played a lot of Hold'em on my Blackberry. I can't use it in Europe as a phone. I keep an old Nokia phone for making calls from Europe. I just recharge the SIM chip at a convenience store when it gets low on minutes. I wish we had compatible cell phone service back home.
Since I was last here March 2006, a dollar was worth 56p, now it's closer to 50p. That makes everything I do 10% more expensive. This trip is coming our of my budget this time–ouch.
I arrive in Heathrow, but my bag didn't. We have a running joke in our company: Instead of asking how your trip went, we ask “were you 22'd?” 22 is the standard model number for roller bags the airlines use to identify lost baggage. I had to fill out one of those reports with Virgin Atlantic. So did seven other passengers. Of course you don't know that until you've been at the belt for an hour.
I went shopping for a shirt and shaving cream and other stuff that I won't see until tomorrow. I tried to use my Visa debit card in a sports shop. They rejected it because it didn't have the radio chip. I paid with my very expensive British notes. I got back change. The coins go up to two pounds, which is almost five dollars. It just reminded me how useless our pennies were. We really need to change our money so that we have coins of 10, 20, 50 cents, 1, 2, 5 dollars and the smallest note should be 10 dollars. It would cut down on the minting costs. We should round to the nearest dime for cash transactions. It's interesting to see how another country does it.
So, how goes it?
I use the same taxi service and get the same cab driver most trips to this office. He's been running this same route to our company office for years. That makes him very comfortable with Americans. When I asked about what everyone one thinks of the Iraq war, I got an earful.
It was a stream of expletives you don't get in most polite conversation. “Bloody mess” and “damn fantasy of thinking that we're going to win something after pouring billions into some sand hill.” “Those people rather shoot any westerner for sport.”
He went on about the sorry state of health care. “You go to the hospital for a minor operation, and wind up dead.” He believed that since the government can't afford to pay hospital workers, they're letting patients die than having to treat them.
On the news, the British government was urging members of parliament to limit their pay to 2%, like they're asking all public worker to do. Apparent greedy pay demands are the cause of inflation here.
The taxi driver explained why Brits were so obsessed with Kenya. Apparently a lot of fresh produce comes from Kenya to the UK. We hear about starving African countries on our news, but we don't hear that some of those countries are actually food producers. Kenya will get resolved by pressure from Europe, because they need a stable government there. That's one civil war the U.S. doesn't need to get involved in.
For dinner, I had a pint of Guinness with chicken madras. I tend to eat more Indian food here. It clears out my sinuses.
I did catch part of Saturday's debate on YouTube for the Republicans. I have to watch the whole thing later tonight, if I'm not stuck in a business dinner. I just can't figure out why no one can make the connection between inflation and increasing government debt. That part of “energy independence” struck me as another subsidy program for energy producers. Government-funded research will go right to oil companies' bottom line. It just seems obvious, even thousands of miles away.
By the way, I'm using an IBM ThinkPad. It's our company standard. It's now made by a company named Lenovo. If it weren't for a Chinese company, you wouldn't be reading this.Tweet
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