An interesting start to work today, came in with a voicemail from Worldcom, our long distance provider saying that our service has been stopped. Just like that, they left a voicemail saying we would no longer have service through them. Talk about good customer service, no warning, no contact, no nothing... And the whamo, no long distance. It seems like they needed to update some account information and the best way to get that figured out was to turn us off and when we called to update their records. I can't believe this...

On top of this, here at the bank we are updating the software that controls the bank, and the reps helping in the upgrade show up. Because of stupid Worldcom, they get to sit around while I fight the battle to get long distance up and going. Not the way to start a week.

Chasing the Siren Song - An Abrupt End!?

Last weekend, I arrived in Chicago in unkind terms. Actually, my throat was sore from the Greyhound bus air conditioner running at full blast, and I had only enough money for one-and-a-half days after the hostel and camera expenses.

However, I've managed to take a few photos of Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret and they should come out great. Singer Tom Michael was the best of the show with his friends Cory Jamison and Joan Curto doing a tribute to Richard Rodgers - a little of both his collaborations with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The highlight of the weekend was my photographing Mary Cleere Haran in the Ravinia Festival - all I had to do is ask the public relations dept., and I got in with my camera, tripod and winter coat (to keep things quiet). Since I had one roll of Tri-X to kill for the first few minutes of the performance, I took pictures using the whole spectrum of aperture and shutter speed settings. I was lucky my lens has an f/4 setting.

After the show, I told Mary Cleere about my proposed plans. I have $300 left in traveler's checks so far, and I could either go to San Francisco or home. She said "Go home."

I guess that means I have to rethink my road trip plans. I'd like to go to the Plush Room and all, but not now.

Again, a birthday.
A boring one.

What happened in the last 12 months ?

September, 11th. - a shock.
Unbelievable at first, then realizing that it was for real, with my wife being on a business trip to New Jersey. The hosting company had booked a table for dinner - in a restaurant that would just not exist after that day.

September, 16th - joy.
A very short email - "Flight confirmed, back home tomorrow" (plus an arrival time).

December - a trip
Singapore (again) and Indonesia. Singapore over Christmas is a marvellous experience.

May - a big change.
Buying property. A first after being perfectly happy with renting and never owning anything more expensive but a car. Nice flat.

June/July - surprises and work.
You buy a nice flat and expect to need to visit an interior decorator. Two days after getting the title, we have an account with a building materials wholesale place.
But I learned a copuple of things during the last few months :
- repairing floors, including concrete work
- installing parquet (joy when finished.)
- using a router (I was pretty competent with the networking version, the woodworking version is slightly different - they share a power cord, though. And both are fun.
- DSL modem is not DSL modem. (Yes, they are incompatible.)

August - the upper rooms are 99% finished. A great place again. Plumbing is something you can learn. Expect water.

So - an eventful year. And a boring birthday.

Monday was a public holiday over here in London England, and also the day of the Notting Hill Carnival. I can’t recommend the Notting Hill Carnival to anyone. We got there around noon, and it wasn’t very full. However it was filling up and it got very crowded by the time that I left around 6pm During the course of the afternoon I consumed:

By the time I got home I had a splitting headache and was physically ill. Yuk. Food poisoning or just poor choice of food? You be the judge.

The carnival itself consisted largely of inordinately large numbers of people milling about in search of a carnival, and generally getting in each other's way. The floats didn't try too hard to impress, the procession members spent a lot of time adjusting their clothes, talking on the mobile or looking bored and fat. The stationary sound systems played bad music at deafening volume through dodgy, overdriven speaker systems.

Most of the reveler's clothes were dull as ditchwater, almost deliberately drab. Some of my friends, who had dressed up, had their pictures taken a lot.

The smoke from burning meat hung heavy in the air like a gray greasy carrion shroud. In places it was heavy enough to impede visibility. The remnants, congealed dirty bones of the victims lay everywhere, on top of piles of dirty plastic other discarded crap. I don't know if this is just me as a long-term vegetarian, but there are times like this that turn my stomach. I realize that there's no point in putting litter bins out here, as no one would have had the slightest idea how to use them, but it would have been a nice gesture.

My guilty confession is that my stomach often does react positively to well-cooked meat. I have no idea how all of the stallholders managed it, but they all managed to produce clouds of smoke, blacked flesh and an entirely unappetizing smell a lot like burned rubber or week-old road kill. I don't care how traditional it might be, it's a hazard to respiration and it stank.

At least the ubiquitous policemen were friendly. There was a depressing lack of drugs - no dealers, no none obviously on E, no smell of Ganja. This was a far cry from 1993, when the dealer's call of "'e's in the 'ouse" was frequently heard. It was all so ordinary.

I got separated from my friends, and we exchanged a few SMSs - they were on Portobello road. But by then the place was getting rather full. I soon realized that it would take a long long time to force my way the few blocks to where they were. I stopped to listen to the steel drums, and remembered why I like them so much: warm tomes, polyphony, rhythm and melody. I listened for about 10 minutes, during which time they played their entire repertoire twice.

Eventually I got back to Portobello road, but by now my phone was getting no signal. Too busy? I found some nice music that sounded a lot like uplifting dream trance techno (remember that?) outside the Salvation army. I could dance in a gutter that wasn't to dirty without getting elbowed too much. But the headache was getting worse so I got out via High Street Kensington, quite a walk.

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