Middlesbrough FC

6 02 2008

One of the largest passions I seem to have developed during my time in the UK is football (or soccer as it’s called over here for some bizarre reason).  The atmosphere at a game is unlike anything you will ever experience at a North American sporting event and the game itself is beautiful.  It also has the advantage that it is not like American football or baseball in that the action is pretty continuous for each half.  There are no breaks for the TV viewers to get bombarded with adverts (I am sure the Americans would love FIFA to adopt a 4 quarter approach purely for tv revenue purposes).

I’ve been a Middlesbrough supporter as soon as I took to seeing football matches in the UK.  This mostly derives from the fact that is where my parents are from so it seemed as good a reason as any to follow a team.  This is despite the time I was in Leeds during the quick rise of Leeds United’s fortune that saw them go all the way to the European Cup final and their equally spectacular demise due to bizarre transfers and internal club management issues.  I also had the dubious pleasure of being behind the Middlesbrough goal when Brian “Donkey” Deane scored the goal that relegated us 😦  It would be easy to be like most people I’ve encountered who ‘support’ football in North America who support Manchester United (and who probably could not name 5 first team players).  But that’s another issue…

Supporting a ‘non-glamour’ club like Middlesbrough has its ups and downs.  I went to our first ever FA cup final game at Wembley (and was behind the goal when Ben Roberts let in the fastest goal ever scored in a FA cup final).   I was fortunate enough to see the arrival of superstars like Juninho, Ravanelli and Emerson and they were awesome to watch.  Emerson’s thunderbolt shots from outside the area were something you had to see in person to appreciate.  Check out the video below to see Juninho and Emerson in action…

I moved back to Canada by the time we qualified for Europe which was a bit of a shame as I would have gladly went to some of those away matches (and the home ones, I was a season ticket holder for three years).  The UEFA cup final was probably our highest profile game although the result was disappointing.  Seville were the better team on the day clearly but it might have been so different if he had that penalty called when one of their defenders plastered Viduka onto the pitch…

This season has been nothing to write about so far.  We sold our best strikers Viduka and Yakabu and have no suitable replacements at all and we’ve been shown up week in and week out for that shortcoming.  However, brighter times may be ahead now we’ve signed the Brazillian Alfonso Alves from Heerenveen.  He’s had a phenomenal strike rate in the Dutch league so let’s hope he can reproduce that form in the Premiership and keep us above the drop zone.  I don’t think there is much to play for this year (we’re still in the FA Cup however) but his impact next year could be impressive.  I’m looking forward to his debut against Fulham this weekend.  It’s a shame the games are harder to come by on TV over here in Canada.  The only places I can catch the occasional games are a couple of pubs here in town.  Even during the world cup they would rather show baseball than the football (unbelievable or what?).



4 02 2008

After my fun and games with my flight back from Vegas I got an email today telling me they’ve given me a $250 flight credit for future travel due to the problems!

That was a pleasant surprise!

Hurrah for WestJet!  They have a clue!

Late nights and iPod vending machines…

29 01 2008

OK, well getting out of the airport took a bit longer than I thought.  I don’t think we left until about 3am and I did not get to my frozen car until after 6am.  When I finally got it going, paid up and left the car park I was just in time to hit the morning rush hour.  Joy.

I had Internet issues at the airport after the last posting and my battery died shortly after so the Internet entertainment did not last long.  I had plenty of time to get some healthy Burger King meat related products and have a wander through the Vegas airport departure area.  That took all of 10 minutes.  Vegas airport did, however, have one feature I’ve never seen before.  They had an iPod vending machine.  See picture below:

iPod vending machine.

Kind of a neat idea to sell iPods and related products at the airport.  I can imagine the disappointment, however, when some poor sod buys one to pass away the time at the airport and forgets that it won’t be charged.  I tried to find a live plug to connect my laptop to but the only ones to be found were in a crowded area of the airport that was on the opposite end from our gate.  All the other ones we could find were DEAD.  That’s useful.

There was one additional element of excitement.  After we had first got the airport and got through the security check (bags XRayed, etc) a blue light and alert went off.  A bunch of us had just got through and us (amongst others) were kept from going anywhere else in the airport whilst they sorted out this security issue.  It only took about 20 minutes.  A sniffer dog came and went and various important and serious looking people in rent-a-cop outfits came and went.  From what I could gather it looked like that an older couple had made their way through the security check and forgot one of their bags.  I guess the security guys realised they had an extra bag that nobody seemed to want and wanted to get it cleared (hence the dog).  I saw a sheepish looking older guy and his wife brought back and he collected his bag.

When we did finally get on the plane the flight was further delayed as the front landing gear needed some immediate maintenance so we had to wait 40 minutes on the plane before it even took off.  When we got to Edmonton and it’s -35 wind chilled temperature we had a further delay as the ramp that connects up with the plane wasn’t working in the extreme cold.  Cue another 10 minute wait before we could get off.  Then there was the huge queue in customs but, to be fair, that went as quick as they could make it.  Bags were there and straight outside into the cold to wait for the Park & Fly shuttle to take me to my car. 

My car, reluctantly, started on the 1st try.  There was this 5 seconds of a burning smell then it seemed to be ok (probably a belt of some sort not being able to turn something in the engine for a short bit due to the cold).  Lots of snow drifts in the car park but fortunately luck was on my side and my car needed minimal snow clearing and I had a clear path to the booth to pay.

Got into the Park & Fly booth to pay my fees.  Lots of people there.  Waited my turn and played the people watching game.  This poor woman came in looking for a boost as her car would not start.  Amazingly the car park folks were not able to help her.  First it was a case of having to wait for the shuttle bus to be free to help then she was told that they did not have any functioning vehicle at all with jumper cables (or, more likely, no jumper cables).  I really felt for that poor woman and I have to admit I was a bit annoyed at the Park & Ride.  They are managing a car park service near the airport.  Think about it:

  1. People will be leaving their cars for days at a time.
  2. We live in CANADA.
  3. CANADA can get COLD from time to time.
  4. Peoples cars probably won’t start from time to time.
  5. Having to give an occasional boost is part of the job.

Looks like another clue for sale is needed.  I did not have any jumper cables in my car or I would have helped her. 

I should probably look into getting some.

On that note… it’s supposed to be -38 tomorrow (no wind chill included).  Food for thought.

Waiting in the airport…

27 01 2008

Thank god for free internet wireless access.  That’s currently the entertainment of choice sitting here in the aiport in Las Vegas.  Our flight has been delayed by about half an hour so it’s not a big deal but it sounds like there is quite the storm in Edmonton so the driving conditions will more than likely suck and starting my ice cube car will be a lottery when I get there. 

You can tell I work for a technology company.  I’ve got about 9 co-workers with me in the aiport and half of us are typing away on our laptops and a few others are messing about with their blackberrys.  Blackberry addiction is a real problem I can tell you.  I don’t have one but the folks around me who do seem to have them permanently glued to their hand throughout the day doing god knows what on them.  Another co-worker is playing with her swearing parrot and now it looks like they’re huddling up to play cards now…  We’re pretty much the only people in the depatures lounge now.  It was full when I started typing this but has emptied out nicely.

Visited the the discount designer fashion mall in Vegas today looking for bargains.  I did not really find any but it killed a couple of hours.  Picked up a couple of belts for myself and my girlfriend (as I’ve lost weight and need a smaller belt now!  Woo hoo!).

There was a (unintentionally) humerous road billboard that was from a legal firm that specializes in suing lawyers.  I guess it’s come around full circle now.  You can’t make this stuff up.  I really wish I was able to take a picture of that but I was in a cab at the time.

We hung out in Ceasar’s Palace for awhile but head back to our hotel to take a taxi to the aiport.  We even got to watch a guest throw up all over the entryway to the hotel whist we were waiting.  Entertainment is ever-present in Vegas.  It’s a very bizzare place indeed.  At least the company is good and we’ve had some fun.

I think I should probably go in search of food now….

2:30 AM in Vegas… (and it’s raining!)

27 01 2008

It’s 2:30 am in Las Vegas.  I just got back to my hotel room.  It’s raining.

It’s been an interesting few days here in Las Vegas.  Work has sent me here since Wednesday to attend an internal development program of sorts to help prepare us for future senior roles in the company.  It’s pretty cool that the company is willing to invest the money to send us here to do this and great that the senior management can take the time out of their schedules to spend the time here for some 1 on 1 interaction with them. 

We had various exercises to work on that were real problems that the company would face (sales models, HR issues, products issues and financial decisions).  Pretty humbling experience in all as in many ways I think these are things most employees take for granted from day to day as you don’t really deal with them in any intimate fashion given your role.

Good eating, a night out to see the magicians Penn and Teller and interesting social company from our offices from all around the world was a welcome bonus.

This is my second time to Las Vegas.  It’s a pretty weird and surreal place.  Sort of a Disneyland for adults.  Even though this is my second time here I am still trying to work out what to make of it all.  We had a good night out tonight (hence the late hour of this posting) and this time we went to “Old Vegas” and hung out in a dodgy casino and drank and gambled (what else would one do?).

Vegas is a microcosim all into itself.  It has it’s own pulse and energy that is unique.  You can easily spend time just walking around the shops and the strip people watching and you’ll see all walks of life and people of every socio-economic statuses.  There is some serious money in this town…. too bad none of it is mine (except what I’ve donated at the poker tables).  $100 gone in 20 minutes playing poker… and I think I’m a reasonably competent player!  Ouch!  I won $140 on a slot machine later that evening so I don’t feel too bad 🙂

The shopping is a world unto itself.  They have all sorts of higher end shops that have all sorts of interesing good for sale at astronomical prices (I looked at a Versace belt and it had a price tag of $530 USD…. ouch!!). 

We found this fantastic bar around the corner from the Flamingos casino that has CHEAP drinks.  A round for 8 people (that I purchased after peer pressure from my $140 slot machine win…. tip… if you win at something never tell anyone!) cost only $16.  A gin & tonic in a bar at Ceasar’s Palace cost $11.50.  You do the math…

All in all a good couple of days.  It will be good to get back home to see my girlfriend, pets and get on with some work.  The get together here has certainly given me some motivation and the chance to hang out with the CEO and divisional leaders has certainly given me some ideas on how to proceed in my job (I generated a few leads worth chasing from talking with people from other offices).

Bleh, it’s 2:43 now.  I should probably check facebook for pointless apps I’ve been invited to add, check my mail and and go to bed.  I’ll probably do some shopping tomorrow for gifts and the like and I’ll be flying back in the evening and won’t be getting home until Monday at around 2 in the morning.

Now for bed…

Ads, what were they thinking?

10 01 2008

Take a close look at the ad below.  I snapped this pic on my camera phone at a train station during my daily commute to work.  The topic itself is a serious one but whoever took the photo on the add clearly wasn’t thinking.  If you check out the angle fo the car with respect to the roads in the intersection it looks like the driver WENT for the pedestrian (the car is pointing towards a corner of the intersection).  I don’t know what kind of attention this driver was paying when he was trying to get up on the sidewalk!  Kind of funny in a messed up way.

Intersection Safety Ad

80s Cultural Education…

7 01 2008

At the ripe old age of 37 I have finally seen the film “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”. 

Apparently I am culturally deprived for not having seen this as it is (so I’ve been told) one of the definitive films of my generation.  I also suspect it would have been better if I was still 16.   My girlfriend has taken it upon herself to educate me with all of the 80s culture I missed out on.

I did find Ferris’s easily malleable mate (Cameron was it?) quite entertaining…

Any other ‘classic’ films I’m missing out on here people can suggest?