April 11th, 2003

Atacama

In Sutton.

It's not exactly downtown London, but it's pretty close. It's about 22 miles from Heathrow airport; there's a direct bus I'll be taking when I leave Wednesday morning.

At the Seattle airport, it only took a few minutes to clear up my United award travel reservation and pay the $98 in taxes. Strolled around looking at the Sea-Tac art collection until 1530, when the Scandinavian Airlines counter opened up for check-in. No problems there at all, thankfully; the wine shipper box wasn't too heavy and they were very pleasant about everything.

Went through security quickly as ever [I'm used to removing my shoes and putting everything but my belt in my carry-on bags at this point] and took the whizzy underground trainlet to the south satellite terminal. Had a Whopper and fries, wrote a postcard, waited around two hours or so until boarded. Found out I was sitting in the very back row of the plane - but after they shut the aircraft doors, I asked the purser if I could commandeer the entire middle back row of the plane instead and he said 'no problem'. So, had three seats to myself. Even managed to sleep a bit.

Scandinavian [I guess it's called that now, although bits of the old SAS livery/branding still remain] was fabulous. Not as fabulous as LAN Chile or Air New Zealand, but damn, very nice indeed. Personal video screens, Nintendo style games, lots of movies to chose from, great service, tasty food, cool amenity kits. Best of all was the packaging for the salt/pepper/sugar packets: it never said what it was, but instead had haiku or silly text [eg "The taste of tears" instead of "SALT"].

Nine hours later I landed in Copenhagen airport for the first time of my life. Sadly, I was confined to the tiny non-Schengen bit of the terminal, but that was OK. Explored a bit, passed out on a couch for a while, enjoyed the privacy of a completely self-contained washroom upstairs. Poked around the duty free shop [yawn], didn't buy anything, watched the snow falling outside.

Two hours later, got on the crowded flight to London [the earlier flight had been cancelled to consolidate everyone on one flight], but that went really well. Landed half an hour early, lost half an hour in Customs due to a bunch of people from what appeared to be a PIA flight causing problems in the queue ahead [no one seemed to have proper documentation, which resulted in delays as they were shunted over to the "refugee" lane; additionally, they kept having to wait for the single available interpreter to come over and help. Oh, and some women wearing burqas really slowed things down when they wouldn't remove them so that the officers could see that their passports were indeed for the correct person]. However, once they were flushed out of the queue, things got moving again and I made it through in a jif. Luckily, I wasn't busted for excess alcohol [15 bottles this time - some of my Dad's port, some cava, and a bunch of random stuff from my cellar]. Dad was there waiting for me, Mom got teary [surprise], and we hopped in their snazzy VW Golf and started back to their flat. I think I can safely say that Dad doesn't have a lot of driving experience in London yet. He's a good driver, but he just didn't have that special something you need to survive here. I drove around London for a coupla weeks back in 1996 and believe you me, it's a heady mix of infinite patience and reckless chutzpah. But we got home.

Home is a small flat in a retirement block of sorts. It's only two rooms, but everything is immaculate here. I'm sleeping in the non-bedroom, which is basically a kitchen cum living room. It's comfy! There's even a nice view out the windows, looking over the parking lot to some trees and the big blue cloudy sky.

Anyhow, long story short, we got the new hp laptop set up after running out and buying a scanner and printer to go along with it, which cost all of about £160. Transferred everything over a laplink serial cable from the old PC, which is basically dead. Dan asked me to take it home with me but I've made an executive decision: it's getting tossed in the dumpster tomorrow after I'm sure all of their files are off of it. I'll probably remove the hard disk though just to be certain I can get at them if something goes wrong. Dad and I worked on wiring [had to get a 4 port USB hub and an extension cord] and drilling holes in furniture to make it all look spiffy, and were amazingly successful. It's all come together really well and they even have broadband, which of course rocks. They're easily the only wired seniors here. V. cool!

Crucial.co.uk is going to deliver some more RAM for them on Monday, I think, so I'll be absolutely finished with everything.

Me, I'm still tired like you wouldn't believe. I don't think I'm going to do, well, anything much in the way of sightseeing while I'm here. I'm going to take Dad to Vinopolis tomorrow, and probably visit the Tate on Monday, but other than that, nah. This isn't a vacation, but rather a family visit, so I won't be running around trying to see the sights again. I have however done some shopping - 6 cans of Foamburst for Dan. I'm also going to stock up on some supplies while I'm here - a couple of kilos of tea [I can't decide between Marks and Spencer or Yorkshire brands - Dan? Comments?], some Gentlemen's Relish, shepherd's pie mix, and whatever else I find amusing.

So, that's it for now. A quiet week in Sutton, south of London, minimal tourism, and quality time with the family.

I fly back to Copenhagen on Wednesday. I'll be staying at the Mermaid Hotel for a night, and hopefully the Wolfgang Tillmanns exhibition will still be on at Louisiana. And then it's back home Thursday evening!
Atacama

11-APR-2003 09:43:12, or: The end of an era

Looks like all of my AOL Time Warner ESPP shares just sold on the New York stock market. They sold at $12.78 a share, which is symbolic as it was the ESPP purchase price from August 1998, when I started at Netscape, which was eventually acquired by AOL before it became AOL Time Warner. This way I figured I could at least say I didn't lose any money on one lot of stock I purchased while I was working there. Of course, I did lose money on the rest of it - quite a bit of money - but compared to most other dot commers it's not that bad. At least the stock still had some value - and of course the options I exercised in the summer of 2001 were worth enough to get me to Australia for a year.

So, I'm glad that's over with. Time to erase those shares from My Yahoo!, turn the proceeds over to my creditors, write it off my taxes as a capital loss, and forget about it for now!