Culture shock. Well, a little.

I have a half-written post on the iPad I can’t fetch because of wireless restrictions, so you’ll have to take it from me that you’ll hear about our flight here later…. probably when I’m on the flight back.

The family I came here to visit had to put their cat down today, on a wet, miserable day, so the stay has started out a bit odd. We’re making the best of everything and everyone’s being very patient with everyone else, so I’m sure that while things won’t be quite what we all expected, they’ll turn out to be pretty nice for what they are.

Things I have learned in England so far:

The electrical system is so controlled that when you blow a circuit breaker in your hotel room, nobody knows how to go flip the switch to turn it back on. We were moved to a new hotel room instead. So that was a bit interesting.

The elevators (lifts) count up from zero…. but the sign in the elevator says that everything (lobby, restaurant, etc.) is on floor G so if the 0 button on the lift wasn’t raised above the others, I don’t know that we’d’ve ever guessed.

There are very few true intersections on the roads…. most things are merge points or roundabouts. There are no stop signs. Dashed lines are painted on the road itself if you’re supposed to stop. Whereas in the States we’re expected to accelerate to merge into traffic, in the UK you’re expected to be prepared to stop.

And wow, it is difficult to adjust to people driving on the left side of the road because you constantly think that there are drunks barreling toward you. It’s most especially scary when you’re at the front of a double-decker bus. The bus drivers are very very good but it really does look like you’re going to hit everyone and everything. The roads are particularly insanely narrow.

We ate at a pub for lunch, and it was delicious. Sticky toffee pudding is wonderful, the curry is very good, and the smoked herring and cheese cakes are interesting. We won’t starve to death, that’s for sure.

The money’s more accessible, because all the bills are different sizes, but that does make finding a wallet a bit odd. I learned you don’t tip in a hotel until the end of the stay, you don’t tip at anything short of a full restaurant, and parking at the supermarket is on the supermarket’s roof.

I don’t know that I have the personality to wander into a foreign country on my own, with no local guide. (It took the trip to Boston for me to be comfortable traveling in my own country, for pete’s sake, although I think I did very well on my own going to Seattle.) It’s the little things that build up to the point that your brain goes, “Are all these people out of their minds?!?”.

Tonight was Eurovision… think American Idol where every country gets their own entry, and everyone calls in to vote for their favorite acts (the call cost 10p from a land line and “considerably more” on a mobile phone, the TV said) but you can’t vote for your own country. They then announce which acts each country voted as the top 10 for that country, individually by country, until all the votes have been tallied…. and then the top act is expected to sing their song again. The country where the top act came from is expected to host Eurovision the following year.

Apparently this has been going on since the 50s although I’m not sure it would ever take off in the United States because the music is all pretty much bubblegum pop and not enough anorexic singers. Plus, some of the costumes remind me more of the Mummers Parade than they did of an international talent show.

Topping all this is the fact that since it’s a live show, the show itself has an announcer, and then there’s a second country-specific commentator speaking over the main announcer throughout the whole thing. England has apparently taken on the tack of using their announcer as an homage to MST3K, or at least, that’s what it sounded like to me.

Laughed our asses off, learned a bit about the world and a lot more about politics than I expected, and actually heard one or two songs that didn’t make me physically nauseous.

Tomorrow we’re going to tromp all over London and do the tourist thing. We have to be up at 9 and it’s now almost 2 and I’m not tired at all. Not sure how I’m going to sleep, and my brain’s starting to speak with an accent when I think too much, so I might just go play The Sims or something until I crash.

Above the ocean

10:24 pm (ET) – 3:24 am London time. Some notes:

First, How to Train Your Dragon is awesome.

Second, when you’re tired and hungry enough, even cold corn and cheese salad in some kind of Italian dressing stuff tastes good. Odd, I know.

Third, if you order a rum and coke with dinner, they give you the world’s smallest glass of coke, and a bottle of rum that is better sized for two glasses of coke. So I’m still waiting to get more soda before I finish that puppy off. It mitt just be enough to get me to sleep, though I’m thinking the way I feel right now that if I’m not sleeping yet it’s not going to come.

I have a smoldering headache that feels like dehydration, which is an odd idea for me because I’ve had more water in the last 24 hours than I’ve had for months and still it’s not enough. Guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, considering I’m currently canned… Meaning the plane…. Dehydration would be the next step in ensuring my preservation I guess.

According to the map built into my seat screen, we’re finally out over the open ocean. Still many hours to go, which feels amazing because I think I’ve been in this seat for a week already.

The seat thing also shows us further south than the original trajectory it drew back in Toronto. We’re about the same latitude as Halifax, or maybe just south, and just north of Boston.

My companion is fast asleep with her sweatshirt hood over her head and her mouth wide open. If I think I’m dehydrated, I’ve got nothing on what she’s going to be by whatever passes for morning around here.

It’s been just long enough since dinner that those who are still awake are starting to have significant interest in the bathrooms. Couple that with a slight shake to the plane and I’m wishing I’d gone right after dinner. 35,000 feet in the air is no place to try to hold it until you get home.

Right now I’m trying to decide whether to switch over to watching another movie (this time on my iPad) or whether to work on the novel.

12:48am ET, 5:48am London time.

OK, I am officially sick of being awake in a chair.

I already watched two movies (the aforementioned awesome How to Train Your Dragon, and the animated Last Unicorn that came out in 1982 thanks to my iPad) and I highly doubt I have the patience for a third. My body’s sending me every single sign it has that it wants me to lie down and take a nap: legs are cramping up, nose is running, head aches, butt aches, and I can’t type to save myself.

I am a grouch.

Canada: a review

My sister and I are in Toronto right now, on a layover during a trip that will take us from Philly to London. I’m pretty surer we’re just in one of the two terminals, but it’s so small it feels like I’m in the world’s tiniest airport. I think we’ve walked this terminal twice.

Things I didn’t expect about Canada:

1. It’s hot here. Like, probably 85 degrees and muggy. I’m not sure that Canada was prepared for this, because it seems like they’re barely running the air conditioning. I’m used to places running the AC as if they’re refrigerating a building. If I had known that it was going to be sticky hot even in the airports I would have worn shorts.

As it is, it’s only supposed to be in the 60s in the London area, so I don’t necessarily want to change into shorts here, especially since I’m pretty sure the airplane has a better chance of being cold than hot.

2. My brain keeps desperately attempting to resurrect the French lessons I took in high school, so every time I listen to an announcement in English and French I forget half the English announcement as soon as the French one comes on because my brain gets distracted easily on four hours’ sleep.

3. Customs was really easy. Mostly because my sister and I were the only ones trying to get through at the time.

More later, as our vacation develops!

Lots o links to amaze and amuse

That’s enough to keep you busy for now.

Ow my brain.

I think the best way to qualify what I just woke up from was a “defrag dream” (thank you Jo for finally giving them a name), partially because it was a weird “will it blend?” of work, the conference, family, and hell, anything else my brain could come up with, and partially because after two awesome awesome awesome days of An Event Apart: Seattle, I have a hell of a lot to defrag.

I’d tell you about the dream, but I can’t remember it because of the end of the dream. And it’s really the end of the dream I’m writing about because I want to know if this happens to anyone else.

Last night, I went to a rockin’ party, where I didn’t drink (only relevant because we’re talking about brain behavior), came back to the hotel, watched about a half hour or so of SportsCenter while surfing twitter and catching up on my email, and fell asleep.

I woke back up, got into bed, and turn on the music I usually sleep to. (Look up Dan Gibson’s Solitudes on your music store of choice. No relation, btw.). I don’t remember setting an alarm.

Normally, that would be a massive error on my part. I regularly sleep through my alarms at home, which is why I set three of them when it’s something important.

As an added bonus, I neglected to actually plug the phone into the charger. It was down to below 45% charge when I went to bed, and I was playing music at the time. It had no shot of living to morning.

So I’m asleep, and I’m dreaming all kinds of crazy shit about trying to get something work-related redesigned using css3 on my iPhone while waiting on the tarmac of the plane back to Philly, except the plane won’t take off because the runway is packed with people who got off their planes to go to the IA Summit and decided to just sit down in the middle of the runway to eat lunch… there were many dogs involved, something about us actually being in Japan, I was being followed, a few bits were animated, the plane has hotel furniture in it… see? Defrag dream.

Anyway, the phone in the hallway of the hotel (which was somehow in the plane) (and which looks really cool, I’ll try to grab a pic shortly) starts ringing. I know it’s my sister, in that it’s-a-dream-you’re-psychic way, so even though I’m in a hallway of a hotel inside an airplane in Japan, I answer it.

Here’s where it gets weird.

(Don’t give me that look.)

The voice on the other end sounds like a hairy monster. Pick a male muppet not voiced by Frank Oz, make him sound gruff, turn him into a faceless scary thing (that’s only about 2 feet tall). He screams about four words at me. When I say screams, I mean THIS BIT OF THE DREAM WAS 10 TIMES LOUDER THAN THE REST and I didn’t even know dreams had volume controls. I can’t understand any of the 4 words because they’re cut off like bad cellphone connections.

Instantly, I wake up. And it’s the exact time my first alarm would’ve gone off, if I’d set it, on the iPhone that’s dead anyway.

So here’s my theory: Rational Brain and Emotional Brain are working together to clean the house, and Emotional Brain (which by the way is better at cleaning) is in charge. Neither of them is watching the clock, but Rational Brain slipped Dinosaur Brain $20 and a bottle of Bacardi Mojito earlier to make sure we get up on time, because it knows we’re in trouble. Dinosaur Brain is very good at keeping time, so when the alarm needs to go off, it cuts in Matrix-style and violently disrupts the dream with extreme loudness. But since it’s Dinosaur Brain, it can’t talk to me in words, so Emotional Brian translates the entire mess into the next closest thing: a bad signal from AT&T.