Monthly Archives: May 2009
I think I’ve said before that English is the universal language. Well I think it is better said by Jay Walker here in this TED talk, which is both a little scary and a little inspiring.
His point is that the local language will always be the first one learned and the primary one used amongst people. But English is quickly becoming the world’s second language.
To use an example to drive the point home, China will next year become the world’s largest English speaking country. Every year 80 million Chinese students will take a test for which they have spent 12 hours a day for three years studying – and 25% of it will be scored on their mastery of English.
I’m back in Fort Morgan, population ~11,000. Last time here the place smelled awful due to a couple of industrial stink manufacturing plants. As a byproduct they also produced sugar from beets and…whatever you get from a cattle rendering plant. The beets smelled worse. And before I came I read that the beet plant had been smelling really foul lately, to the point where some of the old timers even complained about the smell to the town council.
Needless to say I was not looking forward to this trip. Actually I was dreading it. This is the place I had dubbed “Stink Town USA.”
Beet processing season is apparently over now so there is only one affront to the sense of smell here now. And since that’s on the East side of town, the West is relatively safe.
The weather is getting warmer here – highs this week in the low 90s – but is still comfortable in anything but the bright sun at the height of the day. Nights are in the fifties and sixties.
I realized that this is actually kind if a nice town without the stink. And I’m enjoying myself despite my dire expectations. Granted, it’s a small place – only a few restaurants and no real nightlife to speak of – but it’s comfortable for a few days.
That goes to show the value of keeping an open mind when traveling. A place might not be what you expected and that might be a good thing. Make an effort to allow your expectations to be dispeoven and they often will. Whether you see that as good or bad is up to you but if you let yourself be wrong you can sure learn a lot.
A few weeks ago I grabbed a pair of the Vibram Five Fingers shoes after seeing them in a video blog post by Tim Ferriss and Kevin Rose. As soon as I saw them I said to myself that they were made for my barefoot lifestyle! All of the barefoot and none of the splinter and glass and getting thrown out of restaurants. Sandals are nice and I liked my Sanuks at first but they got tattered and stinky fast.
Wearing these things it feels like I’m wearing nothing at all (as Ned Flanders would say)! These are the closest things to being barefoot and, as such, you quickly realize that man was never meant to walk on concrete. But walking on grass or gravel feel practically wonderful. It’s always interesting walking on different surfaces and actually feeling the textures. For example, some carpets have odd textures you can feel. Your feet, long forgotten in the sensing world, are now giving constant feedback on your world. More than once I’ve stopped and looked down to see what I was walking on – some ordinary seeming ground feels different and interesting.
The soles are rubber and have striations which enhance their grip on slippery surfaces. After walking a while you will notice that you’re not walking on your heels quite as hard as you would in normal shoes. That’s probably partly because of the large amount of padding on the heels which mean less penalty for smashing into our heels and which contributes to the way normal shoe heels stick out a little by design (after going barefoot or wearing sandals for a few days I often find myself tripping on the heels like Hank Azaria in The Birdcage). In the Vibrams I tend to strike closer to mid-foot with the heel only used as a pivot point to redirect the force of the step. Striking the heel hard as in shoes stops forward motion and puts stress on knees, hips and back.
One caveat: you’ve got to be more careful where you put your foot. The soles are thin and briars and thorns go right through. Ouch. So don’t use these for hardcore hiking, but then you probably wouldn’t anyway.
Why don’t we hear ads on subway lines? Either from the driver or automated. “The doors are now closing, be sure to pull your gucci handbags away from the doors.” “This stop is Piccadilly Circus. Why not grab a pint at Flescher’s pub?”
I’m on a flight from London to Atlanta and I didn’t get bumped up to the soft cushy seats that lay back flat so I can’t sleep and am a bit cranky. So some of the small things are starting to bother me.
Like deaf flight attendants. Why are they on planes? The ADA? I asked for red wine with my meal and she reached for the coffee. I said no, red wine. Orange Juice? She asked me. WINE I shouted. She poured me water. People on the opposite side of the plane glared at me. The guy on the aisle grabbed it for me and she handed me a cup.
And why are the stewardesses so homely these days? Airline travel isn’t sexy anymore I guess. Three of the five women on this flight practically make Sinead O’Connor look like Rapunzel with their butch hairstyles. And Tammy Faye apparently taught them to apply makeup, or they’ve been using Homer’s makeup gun. And to whomever is in delta’s HR team, please find a way to get the fat ones out of the air. As a rule of thumb, if they bump into both sides at the same time when walking down the aisles, they’ve got to go!
Which brings me to the meals. They seem like store brand frozen dinners more so than something I’d actually like to eat. I know it’s challenging to make a good meal at 30,000 feet but they seem to do it for the first class passengers. Let me put it this way: when collecting trays the waitresses at the mile-high cafe wear plastic gloves. They’re afraid to touch what I’ve been eating.
I suppose it all goes back to costs and profitability. “you people want cheap tickets” the execs might say. “so we have to keep cutting back costs.” well I suppose that’s true, but we weren’t the ones who started it. When the executives’ pay was raised and amenities started being cut back in the 80s and 90s, we said “I’m not going to pay that much for this crap.” since then it’s been a devolving cycle of executive increases and “cost cutting” measures which have gotten us to this place where the average airline traveler demands prices sub-premium fares comparable to the sub-standard travel conditions offered.
The peasants are revolting.
Two road construction workers in Oslo. We’ve got Magnum PI standing around in his short shorts and TC playing with the big fun toys all day.
Magnum: “Come on, TC, just let me fly the chopper a little bit.”
TC: “N-O, no. The last time I let you touch the controls you nearly put my bird in a tree on Kama’a Ma’a.”
Magnum: “That’s not fair, it was windy that day and besides my underwear wasn’t riding up my crack and it made me nervous. I’ll let you drive my Ferrari.”
TC: “It’s Robin Masters’ Ferrari, and it’s in the shop.”
Magnum: “It’ll be out tomorrow, the guy promised me! We both know Higgins is Robin Masters and besides I won a bet with him so I’ve got use of it all week.”
TC: “What was the bet?”
Magnum: “I bet Higgins that I would wear these boss shorts to a wedding reception for a good friend of mine. I bet him I wouldn’t.”
TC: “You mean you wore some other pants?”
Magnum: “No, I skipped the wedding. He’s not that good a friend.”
But seriously, who would wear these shorts to do road construction work on a cool, overcast, windy day in Oslo?