Back at Work

Well, I’ve finally started to get back into the swing of things after a nice little holiday.

Geesh, where did I leave off last time? Well, I had another former Party colleague come out and visit me in Bangkok. Unfortunately he arrived while I was up in Chiang Mai so I wasn’t able to see him as much as I had wanted. I gave him a lot of advice on where to go and what to see but I think he ignored most of that which probably ended up being more entertaining for him anyway as I had suggested a fairly conservative itenerary.

Speaking of Chiang Mai, on new year’s day I was feeling quite ill. No, I didn’t get too drunk (though, always a possibility). I woke up that evening in cold sweats. I was shivering cold but I was sweating buckets. I rested all day while my friends went out exploring Chiang Mai. I guess the combination of way too much partying, allowing myself to pick up smoking while on holiday, and whatever I had weakening my defenses really beat the hell out of me. For all I knew I had dengue feaver or the plague. Actually, the way the mosquitos tore me up it’s entirely possible.

I felt better on the second when we traveled back to Bangkok but twice more before I left I woke up freezing despite being wet with sweat. Even when I felt perfectly fine I was running a little hot. When I got back to BKK my friend Toon gave me a hug when I saw her and she recoiled a bit saying that I felt like I was burning up.

I picked up some antibiotics from the pharmacist and did a 7 day course of treatment which seemed to clear up everything but the cough. That I’ve mostly gotten over but if it’s a little too dry or dusty it flares up again.

My Asian adventure ended with a flight out of the previously closed BKK airport. I always become a deeply religious man my last few days in Thailand. I start praying for coups, freakish Asian snow storms, airline bankruptcies, and any other sort of mess that would extend my stay even if only for a few more days. And either I’m praying to the wrong god or he simply doesn’t like me (probably more of the later) because he never comes through. The closest he’s come to helping me out is when my flight left late out of BKK going back to Hyderabad, India. I missed my connecting flight in Hyderabad and had to stay not just the next day but the entire weekend in Hyderabad. Yeah, real funny, god. Nice one.

In order to make the inevetiable easier to handle I went to the pharmacist the day before I was scheduled to depart and asked if he had anything to help me sleep on the plane. Surprise, surprise. He did. Roofies.

That meant I slept most of the way from BKK to LAX and the next day when I flew LAX to Heathrow I was out like a light as well. A bit of a shame because I had upgraded to Upper Class again on miles and other than taxiing down the runway and collecting my stuff before getting off the plane I didn’t really get to enjoy any of the perks other than the full layout bed.

Once I touched down in Europe I was cursed. When I went to go check in for my Air Malta flight they refused to allow me to check in because I didn’t have a return ticket. Interestingly, the UK which has much stricter immigation policies, never asked me for proof of onward travel but Air Malta and their crack team of illegal immigrant investigators flagged me and made me buy a return ticket – at full fare! Of course, you can’t buy a ticket at the same counter you check in so I had to go across the terminal to ticketing to buy a return ticket.

I buy the ticket and get back in line only to be told that my baggage is over their weight limits. Now forget the fact that I’ve flown all the way from Bangkok to Heathrow via Los Angeles with no problem . . . Air Malta in addition to being immigation experts are also baggage weight nazis. So now I have to pay for overweight bags. If you’re the quick type you’ve already deduced that I have to go back to ticketing to pay for the extra baggage. That cost an additional 100 GBP for 10 kg over (about 22.2 lbs) which is just designed to piss you off because a full fare ticket is only 150 GBP.

I pay the 100 GBP and go back and get back in line, once again. Now that I’ve purchased a full fare ticket, 100 GBP baggage over-allowance, and stood in line twice she wants to weigh my carry-on. Yep, you guessed it . . . it’s over their 7 kg (14 lbs) limit. Dammit!!!! I guess I was lucky because she was either too stupid to figure out that if I take the stuff out of my carry-on and put it into my checked luggage then the weight of the checked luggage goes up or she was playing ignorant because she was afraid to tell me to go back to ticketing to pay again.

My carry-on luggage came in at exactly 7.1 kg which meant that my bag contained my MacBook Pro laptop, a small pad of paper, a pen, my iPod Touch, my mobile phone, a magazine, and my Rolex. That’s it!!! I’m 100% convinced that their scales are rigged.

It really does touch the limits of human endurance to fly for nearly three staight days and then have some petty stuff like this happen to you. You just have to take a deep breath, supress your desire to grab someone by the throat, and do as you’re told.

So I arrive in Malta and I’m supposed to pick up the keys to the corporate apartment where I’ll be staying until I find a place of my own. The only problem is that the taxi driver can’t find the office. I had only been to the office once and I was driven there so I was as clueless as the driver . . . except I don’t get paid to know where stuff is!

We spend a good hour driving around and around. I keep trying to point him to places I remember but he ignores me and keeps telling me his GPS says we should go the other way. Yeah, because after the fifth or sixth time we rounded the same block maybe the office will just appear because your GPS says it should.

Somehow he find the place and the plan is that I’m supposed to come up, grab the keys and a mobile phone, and go to the apartment. Well, if this guy couldn’t find one of the bigger businesses on the island I sure wasn’t going to trust him to find a residential address so I told him I was okay and carried my bags up to the third floor.

I grab the keys, a detailed Google map with written turn-by-turn directions, and the mobile phone. I also ask if someone can call me another taxi. They do so I go downstairs to wait for him. He shows up, puts my stuff in the car, and off we go. Except he can’t find the place and much like the previous taxi driver he refuses to take any sort of recommendations from the backseat. So we drive around for about 45 minutes looking for the place.

Finally in the flat I put my stuff down, sit on the couch, and reach for the remote. Oh, except there’s no cable. What kind of mega-bad-beat am I on????

The next day I’m booked on a flight to Stockholm which is a balmy 0 C (32 F) or so.

The taxi driver curse continued in Stockholm. Even though the hotel was in well mapped part of town the driver – with his GPS – couldn’t seem to find it. Well, actually, his GPS knew exactly where it was he just thought he was smarter than the GPS and turned on streets he wasn’t supposed to which basically put him at the wrong end of a one-way street to which he would turn around and ignore his GPS again and end up on the wrong end of another one-way street.

Stockholm, despite the weather, was actually quite a nice city. The one thing I found strange though is that it seems to be one of the most English-unfriendly cities I’ve been to. Nothing is in English. Menus are in Swedish, steet signs are in Swedish, everything is in Swedish. Yet, they all speak English! I didn’t walk into a single restaurant, 7-11, pharmacy, or any other business where they didn’t speak perfect English. Hell, even many of the Swedish commercials on television were partially in English. They just don’t seem to print it anywhere.

The guys at the office had a “friendly” poker game one of the nights we were there. It was a cash game with a 200 SEK buy-in (maybe 20 Euro’ish). I was the new guy so I played pretty tight and watched my chips dwindle down after several orbits. I finally got felted by someone and rebought for another 200 SEK. After that there was no looking back. At the end of the night I cashed in something over 1100 SEK which put me up over 700 SEK.

Oh, and I get a little evil chuckle seeing an Ikea in Sweden. It’s like seeing Santa’s workshop.

On Friday it was time to head back to Malta.

First impressions of Malta . . . for all of the beautiful architecture and ancient buildings they can learn a thing or two about building streets that run in straight lines. I’ve gotten lost so many times it’s not funny. You start walking down a street and somehow it empties out somewhere in the opposite direction from where you started out.

Also, I have to say that TGI Friday’s is quietly hatching a plan to take over the world. There was on in Sweden a block or two from the office and there’s one here in Malta! In Malta! A TGI Friday’s!!

So I began settling into Maltese life which means that I spent Sat, Sun, Mon, and Tues in Malta and then I was on a flight back to Sweden. Last trip it got down to -10C but it was fairly dry. This time it snowed when temps dipped below 0 and was misty rainy when the temps got above freezing.

We stayed at a pretty nice hotel called Nordic Sea Hotel. They have an ice bar in the lobby where the entire bar is made out of ice. Pretty cool to see but we weren’t there long so I didn’t get to pop inside. Maybe another trip.

Stockholm Ice Bar

We flew back Friday in the early morning.

Tuesday I’m off to London for the ICE / CAP conferences. I come back on Sunday. Looks like I’ll be able to meet up with Hilly and Sander in London. Both will be out there. That should be fun.

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled programming of poker stuff . . .

Rainbow Over Malta

Rainbow over Malta

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