I'm a father, manager, programmer, scrum master, geek, & movie lover.

Orange in the U.K.

Dear Hunter S. Thompson, You are fucking insane, yet you have the power of the sane; lucky bastard. I bought Kingdom of Fear completely by chance. I didn’t and don’t know who you were but by page 60 I said to myself “I want to shake that guy’s hand. Maybe fire a couple rounds. Maybe not. Too imposing.”. If I drive my ass from Toronto to Owl Farm in Colorado, will you shake my hand and have a drink? It feels important that this should happen, and I don’t know why. Derek

Drove to Chris & Michele’s at Woodford Close in London. We spent an hour or two ‘warming up’ with red wine and generally catching up. Then they had a nice collection of people over for drinks; a Christmas Eve tradition. The company included Tony Blair’s bodyguard’s family. So cool! Also present was Chris’s mother who seems to be very sharp and quite cool. We stayed up quite late. Dec. 25th, 2003Christmas Day. I was awakened by Chris saying “Here’s your tea, Derek. Bathroom is free.” He had made tea and put it on my bedside table. Wow. British people are cool :) It was early, and we were about to drive to Cheltenham to be with Chris & Michele’s son Dave (my cousin) and his fiance Nats for Christmas and Boxing Day. They have a new house that Chris & Michele haven’t seen yet. We took the scenic route, through London. It was great! I got to see where everything was, and even got out of the car for a quick peek at the Thames. Drove by the Millennium Dome too. It was eerie to see the streets of London completely empty. They were totally empty! Ooooooooooo…. Dave & Nat’s house in Cheltenham is blinding! It’s like walking into an Ikea magazine. It’s day 3 and I’m up to 8 beer, 11 tea, 6 coffee, and an untold number of glasses of red wine. Ahhh, the holidays. Christmas Dinner was fabulous — moist turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, and loads of mince pies. Mmmmm. We opened our presents too. Chris & Michele gave me a book “London from the Air”. Nice. Somehow I also managed to receive a whack of Scotch Whiskey and some spending money from Dad & Uncle Charles & Aunt Margaret, and my Granny back in Petrolia. As you know, mom gave me my digital camera as an early gift, as well as a package from her and Breslin which contained various spices, photos, trinkets, and cards :) Oh, and lots of sweets. Dave & Nats had far too much chocolate at their house. I ate an unhealthy amount of it, and it was delightful. Yippee! I gave everyone a large box of chocolates (Dave & Nats, Chris & Michele, Charles & Margaret, and Mary). Since I hadn’t really met them before (in my adult life) I didn’t know what else they’d like. Chocolate is usually a safe bet, and as luck would have it no one was diabetic. Phew! Dec. 26, 2003On Boxing Day we all went for a walk around Cheltenham and up in Cotswald. Had a pint of bitter in an olde pub in Cotswald (spelling?). Beautiful town. We were 8 miles from the Cathedral used as “Hogwarts” in the Harry Potter films, but I decided to leave that as a sight to see on my next visit :) On our way back we toured Windsor Castle and Europe’s First Hindu Temple (, both of which were mind boggling. Windsor Castle is lavish and ornate with much gold and many turrets. It’s the largest inhabited castle in the world. For 2 months of the year, it’s the Queen’s home. The Mandir Temple was pure white marble, carved in India and sent piece by piece (26,300 pieces) to England for assembly — Phwoooaaarrr! I could have stared at the ceiling for hours. Reader’s Digest called it “The 8th Wonder of the World”. I bought an incense burner, some incense, and a booklet about the temple. Seems to me that Hinduism is a lot like Zen Buddhism, but more strict with what you can and can’t do. Neat. Then we went back to Chris & Michele’s house where I tried to think of things I wanted to see in London. I did my grade 8 class project on Jack the Ripper, so I decided I’d like to see White Chapel, where he committed his murders. Chris happened to have a book about the East End of London, and it just happened to contain 1 full page and photograph of each of the places Jack’s 9 victims were found. Unfortunately, only 2 of these places still exist as they did back then — a street corner and a pub. The rest have been torn down, or re-built as strip malls :( Still, 2 was better than none. We’d only have time for 1 of them anyway. You might be wondering why I didn’t just call up “Ripper Tours” or something. Well, turns out London outlawed any promotions & tourism related to Jack the Ripper because it makes residents (and women in particular) nervous. So, there are no Ripper Tours. Dec. 27th, 2003Wheeee. We made it to the corner of Wentworth and Osborn, and I stood on the spot where Jack the Ripper killed his 1st victim in December 1887, almost exactly 122 years ago. The victim’s name was never known. The spot is now located in “Little India”, and smells great. If you venture down any of the side streets though, they look much as they did 122 years ago, and would have been quite scary without the streetlighting (installed as a direct reaction to Jack the Ripper). We walked around the area and checked out a huge outdoor market that used to be a fish market. I forget the name of it, but it was pretty cool. On our way back to the car a pub caught my eye. I’d seen it the previous night in that book. It was the “Ten Bells Pub”, which had been briefly renamed “The Jack Ripper Pub” because it is where Mary Kelly ordered her last drink just before she was killed in a nearby alley on November 9th, 1888. She was Jack’s 9th and final victim. So, purely by chance, I visited the sites of Jack’s first and last murders. The pub changed its name back to “Ten Bells” when publicizing Ripper stuff became illegal. Took a long walk all around London with Chris & Michele. Had a coffee in a nice pub from which we had an excellent view of Tower Bridge. Walked a LONG way. Walked around the outside of the Tower of London. Went to Trafalgar Square, and saw the outside of Westminster Abbey, which was closed. Walked past the London Eye, but the queue was monstrous. Saw London Bridge, which most tourists confuse with Tower Bridge. London Bridge is actually unremarkable and ugly, whereas Tower Bridge is beautiful. Walked past Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament (home of HP Sauce). Took a Black Cab back to our car, which we’d wandered far from. Dec. 28th, 2003Went to The Tate Modern with Aunt Mary. Saw some acutal Mark Rothko paintings. A room full, in fact. I don’t think the gallery realizes this, but the dark red painting on the right wall (as you enter the room) is hung upside down. I can tell by the way the paint drips are running. Can’t blame them too much though, as Rothko paintings are squares of colour. Easy to screw up. I’ll send them an email :) Saw an excellent exhibit on Weather. The artist installed a *massive* sun, and filled the great hall with a mist, so that the resulting light ressembled a London Fog. It was remarkable. The whole place reminded me of Ben Skinner. Then we went for a ‘flight’ on the London Eye — the huge ferris wheel thing that’s 140 metres tall. It was raining, but the view was still spectacular. London stretches as far as the eye can see, no pun intended. Then I took a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Awesome. I’d love to work there. I bought a t-shirt and some postcards :) Dec. 29th, 2003Wooo hooo! Stonehenge, baby! Yeeeah! Got up at like 6:30am and Chris drove us to Stonehenge. We got there 5 minutes before the parking lot filled with cars and 10 tour buses. It was a cold foggy morning - perfect for viewing & photographing something so mystical & mysterious. It was great. I’ve always wanted to go, and now I’ve been. You can’t go up and touch the stones, but you can get damn close. There’s also a free audio tour. Did you know that Stonehenge is the third ‘henge’ on the site? Before it there was a sort of “mound-henge” and then a “wood-henge”. Stonehenge is 5000 years old and the trilithon stones weigh 50 tons each. Whoa. I took about a million photos and some panoramas. I also bought a couple books and postcards, being the good little tourist that I am. Then we went into the town of Salisbury. Their Cathedral is the best I’ve seen. It houses the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, built in the 15th century. It also has a great nativity scene, and cloisters I wouldn’t mind spending most of my life in. We also got to see the Vicker give a little sermon and say an Our Father. I videoed it :) How anachronistic is videoing a Vicker in a centuries old cathedral! Then we went out for lunch at “The Cathedral Pub”, which the Vicker directed us to — “It’s across from the Red Lion Pub”. Apparently my grandparents met at The Cathedral Pub. In those days it was quite rare for women to be in a pub, but my grandmother was there with a friend, and so my grandfather moved in for a little conversation, and one thing led to another — ultimately resulting in 2 Canadian grandchildren, one of whom was sitting there now thinking about all of this. I had no choice but to order a Full English breakfast and a pint of Guinness. The breakfast came on a large bun. I’d never had 3 scrambled eggs, bacon, and 2 sausages on a bun before — but it was awesome. Then Chris & Michele drove me to St. Albans so that I could spend New Year’s Eve with my friend James Trott (aka Wildhog). James and his friend Stu met me at the St. Albans cathedral just after dark. We walked downtown and James bought a sleeping bag for me to use — very nice of him. Then we caught a cab to his house. Yummy pizza & beer for dinner. Okay - James has a super-beautiful and nice and friendly housemate named lucy. We had a few brief conversations, but not nearly enough :( Dec. 30th, 2003James & Stu and I spent the day playing “Rise of Nations”, which is a real-time strategy game. Very fun! Then James and I played some Quake 3, which I was really good at in 1999 when it came out. Unfortunately for me James was ranked 9th in the U.K., so I got my ass handed to me. Still fun though :) Dec. 31st, 2003More of the same. Relaxing and gaming… until night, that is. We went *out on the town* for New Year’s Eve. The first pub we went to had no cover charge, but sucked. So, we went to the bank machine to get some cash to get into another pub. There was a Drunken Mariachi in the bank machine area, singing his friend’s PIN and strumming his guitar while he was withdrawing cash. Idiot! Then we made our way to O’Neill’s pub. After waiting in line for about 35 minutes in the freezing cold, we got in, but not before being mistaken for an American by several drunken Brits. Oh well, I corrected them and told them I loved having the Queen on our coinage. The pub was packed and it was great. Our method was that Stu would buy a round of drinks, then James, then Me. Whatever the person brought back is what you were drinking. I think we had about 6 pints of lager, and then James came back with Vodka shooters. The first one tasted great, the second not so great, and the 3rd tasted much like vomit… all in the name of partying. Also, I forgot to mention that I drink A LOT slower than Stu & James. Apparently this meant that I had to be punished. I don’t know what it contained, but what they brought me was a large glass full of something strong, which I downed in a single swig. I’m sure this contributed significantly to my state the next morning. After that I vaguely remember something about rubbing a girl’s back, seeing a Blockbuster Video store filled with smoke and girls in satin dresses, lamb kebabs, rain, and a lot of stumbing on the way home. Taking a group photo. Then — faceplant on the floor. The room didn’t spin, but I was out cold. Jan. 1st, 2004Spent most of the day lying on the floor recovering. Didn’t puke though! :) Then I watched “Sound of Music” with lucy, because we both *love* that movie. Exchanged a few nice glances, and she showed me the pics of her New Year’s Eve. She looked stunning. Oh well, I’m going back to Croatia in 4 days anyway. James and I went out for dinner at a nice restaurant. I had a pasta dish, and we split a bottle of chillante. James and I watched some Strongbad. If you haven’t, you must. So funny. > the scroll, the scroll the buttons, the buttons scrolling so smooth like the butter on the muffins

Jan. 2nd, 2004Taking the train from St. Albans to Worthing to meet up with Auntie Mary again. Got on the train and a 50 year old man with his daughter got on. He saw the flag on my backpack and asked “Are you Canadian?” — “Yeah!”, I replied. His name was Michel Celemenski and his lovely daughter was maya. Michel used to live in Montreal but has been in Paris for the last 25 years. His daughter is Parisian. They frequently travel to Montreal, and love it. Michel is in the translation business. He spent a few weeks in Dubrovnik in 1974 and told me some stories about pre-war Yugoslavia. We hope to meet up in Paris in April. How cool does that sound! Mary picked me up at Hassocks Station, and we went back to her place where we’d meet up with Uncle Charles and Aunt Margaret. We got there about 1/2hr before they did, which gave us time to freshen up. They’re both super-friendly, and Charles is so very like Dad. He says “yeh/yeah” where Canadians would typically say “eh”, and says it often :) He’s really cool. Loves the coffee house lifestyle nad people watching, and model trains and boats. Told me what his mom (my grandmother) always used to tell kids who were self-conscious about some aspect of themselves — she’d say “It’s a sign of refinement”. Great! He told me how urban and exciting Dad was when he was younger — wink at a girl and she’d drool ;) It’s always fun to learn about what your parents were like when they were young. I hope repeating it here doesn’t get Uncle Charles into trouble ;) He also said that Dad and his friend had a great gig at British Telecom. Each day they had a certain amount of work they had to get done, and if they got it done, they had the rest of the day to do whatever. As luck would have it, there were some empty garages behind their work building, so on days when they finished early (most days) they’d re/build sports cars and make some extra cash. Sweeeet. Anywho - Charles loves challenging driving — mountainous roads etc. Fun stuff. Spoke with Great Aunt Bernadette on the phone. She is very nice and very loving, though we’ve never met. She sends her love to Mom & Dad & Breslin and asked how Breslin is doing. She used to be a cabaret singer on the original Queen Mary and another cruise ship. Now she is an expert spanish guitar player/instructor. Neat-oh! Charles says that if I like the laissez-faire lifestyle of coffee houses, I’ll love Italy, and that I simply must go. Jan. 3nd, 2004Charles, Margaret, Mary and I go to Brighton. We see the pier, and walk around the lanes for some window shopping. We also tour the Royal Pavillion, which has an Indian exterior and Asian interior. It’s sooooo spectacular. You really need to see a crystal chandalier that weighs 1000 lbs. to know what I’m talking about. Brighton is hopping & vibrant. There was a great street band called “Logjammin” playing. I bought their CD for 10 pounds. Saxophone, double-bass, trumpet, violin, & jazz guitar! Jan. 4nd, 2004Mary and I see Charles & Margaret off. Then we went to see a church that my ancestors attended. It was built by the Knights Templar somewhere around 1000AD. The graveyard surrounding it illustrated its age. Then we went to see the family farm (long since sold) — Butterstocks Stables. Beautiful place. Apparently it’s under new ownership, and they frequently host polo tournaments. There were also some cute sheep, which I petted. Then we went to Worthing Cinema to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Thankfully they had an intermission. Phew! It was a long 3.5 hour film, but the battles were awesome. Mental Note: Mounted Knight loses versus Flying Dragon. Knight on foot wins versus Grounded Dragon. Lazy evening with a few phone calls home, some pizza, beer, chocolate, and television. Jan. 5nd, 2004Very early morning. Got up at quarter to six in order to catch the 6:15 train to Gatwick airport. Arrived at Gatwick at 7:30am and said goodbye to Mary. Waited around for my boarding area to be announced. Went to it. Waited for 1/2 hr. Found out that they’d announced the wrong area and that my area was actually at the opposite end of the airport. Rushed ot get there. Did. While waiting I surveyed the crowd of a couple hundred or so people for “who I wanted to sit beside”. Of course it was the super-hottie. But this time my luck had changed, and out of all the seats on the plane, she was indeed seated next to me. Unfortunately she wasn’t very talkative and was actually Slovenian from Sarajevo, so her English wasn’t great. Oh well. Got to Ljubljana and hailed a taxi. Man, they know they have you by the balls. The airport is 30km out of town, so they can charge whatever they want, which in this case was 5800 Tolars to get to the train station downtown. That’s about 35 or 37 Euros. Bitch. My train ticket from Ljubljana to Zagreb was only 1200 Tolars. I couldn’t buy it at first though, cause I didn’t realize the numbers on the interac machine went “789/456/123/0” instead of “123/456/789/0” as they do in Canada, so I kept punching in the wrong PIN and my transactions were denied. Anyway, I got on the train and had a seating area all to myself until 2 post-highschoolers sat in it with me. Now 3 seats were occupied and 3 were empty, but it turned out that Dennis and Kate were really cool. Kate is from Zagreb and Dennis is from Sibenik, which I had visited and loved. They are dating. Kate is really into astrology and makes money by doing tarot readings. She’d like to learn more about it, but there is nowhere to learn about it in Croatia — so I told her about Flamel College, and she was so happy that she gave me some of her chocolate bar, which was very yummy. Dennis loves techno music. They are both self-described “Playstation2 Freaks”, so we got along well. Bought some groceries at the square and caught a tram home. Stores are closed tomorrow so I had to do it now. Riding past my friend Janka’s apartment I saw her light on, so I flopped my stuff on the bed, shaved, and went over to her place. We had a coffee and chatted for a bit. It was nice. I also met some of her other co-workers who were still working (she lives above her office). Jan. 6nd, 2004 — National Holiday — “3 Kings Day”Went to Zamir to check email. Went to see “The Italian Job” at the multi-plex with Dinko. He’d never been to a multi-plex before, so it was an adventure. This is a brand new multi-plex, and Croatia’s first. There were “previews” for “The Hunted”, “Basic” and “Narc”, all of which I rented on DVD in Toronto before coming to Croatia. It hasn’t hit theatres here yet. Nutty. Jan. 7th, 2004Today is my first day back at work in over 2 weeks. Going well so far. Catching up with everyone. Tonight I’m going to a “Food Not Bombs” meeting with my friend Emina. Should be a good time. Listening to a “The Beer Song” by Reel Big Fish. It’s a goodie! Download it :) Okay, so humans evolve But HOW does the species know what evolutionary newness is needed? Do we think about what we need / would like, and introduce that to the collective unconscious? Does that unconscious slowly influence future incarnations? Can you tell if you will like a person by the way they type? Like, if you find the way they type annoying, what are the odds you’ll get along with that person? Granted, hating their typing style is petty, and a poor foot to start off on, but still… Christopher Columbus would have listened to mp3s, not CDs, or DVDAudio discs. Why? MP3s are about exploration, not re-listening. MP3s make it easier to explore much more music. Even when confined to your own mp3s, it is much easier to start listening to a different band on mp3 than on cd. Click & Go - Yay!. Whereas CDs require changing - Booo! MP3s don’t force you to “get into” a certain band - because of factors like lack of other music. In fact, when was the last time you said to yourself “I’m really getting into this band”. More than likely you thought “This is nice, I wonder if amazon knows of any other bands like them”, and then proceeded to download related bands’ music. For me, music has somehow become about collecting, and not listening, and I’m not sure I like it. In the movie High Fidelity, John Cusack has a great speech about making mixed tapes. That remains true, but because we skip around in our listening to much, it becomes harder to really “know” the songs we own, especially if you ‘own’ tens of thousands of MP3s. So, although we now have more pre-fab words with which we might convey our emotions via “mixed tape/CD”, our actual ability to create a great mixed tape is decreasing due to information overload. Boooo! My Hypothesis: given 2 bands of the same genre & general quality, the listener will prefer the music with the higher bitrate. I took about 550 photos while I was in England, but have only managed to put up 5 or 6 so far. You can find them here.

Comments from my old blog:

mom said: just on my way to work, so can’t stay on, awesome trip hon, so glad you got to go. just so you know, i can’t get to the photo’s , it says error every time, don’t know if others will have the same problem. ttyl, love ya, mom at 2004-01-07 11:35:57

beige said: hooray! Derek apparently back from the dead. Been entertaining Athionus at my crib for the last week or so and we’d both been wondering what the hell happened to you. Sounds good : I agree with you about the airline food for what it’s worth.

Two links: Serious (From Chromewaves)

Fun :

“I’m a computer. Stop all the downloadin’!’” at 2004-01-07 14:41:13

derek said: FYI, I mentioned back on November 3rd :) Say “YO” to Athionus for me. at 2004-01-07 14:52:17

you know that guy… ummm… andre said: Derek,

Amazing trip.

1) Its amazing what men will say to be with women they are attracted to. You may like ‘the sound of music,’ but Derek, be honest, do you really LOVE ‘the sound of music’? How much more did you suddenly love the sound of music when Julie said she loved the sound of music.

2) You asked “Do we think about what we need / would like, and introduce that to the collective unconscious? ” According to a lot of people yes. I’ve never been in to nutty supernatural metaphysical views of the universe. A deck of cards cannot predict the future. The day your parents decided to have sex and conceive a child having you born on a certain date in a particular zodiac sign can in no way have an affect on the type of personality you will have. (e.g. Fire signs are passionate, Earth signs are serious and natural leaders etc.).

Still, the only such nutty notion that I subscribe to is that our thoughts and collective unconscious do in fact change the world around us. Not always in obvious ways - but they do IMHO.

3) MP3’s are about exploration, but I will have to disagree with you about getting into bands. I’ve found it infinitely easier to get into bands given access to their entire catalogues. Given a few minutes and a broadband connection I can tell if I like a band or whether a band just happens to have a fluke song that appeals to me.

4) Mixed Cd’s are just as easy (or difficult) to make today as they ever were. “Knowing” a song is a relative. If you’ve only heard a song once and it produces an emotional response that captures the feelings you have towards a person, that song could easily qualify for a slot on a mixed CD. Its not a question of how intimately you know a song - but rather a question of whether a song accurately conveys your message regardless of your intimate knowledge.

The other great thing about mixed CD’s today is that you can crack open your favorite graphics program and create elaborate professional liner notes that tell more of the story through images and your own words.

andre at 2004-01-07 21:24:59

derek said: yes, i really do love The Sound of Music :) Ask me to sing a song. I know them all. at 2004-01-08 10:24:10

(James Trott (UK))[] said: Derek, my housemates name, is lucy! at 2004-01-08 18:33:54