Friday, December 29, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #85] SF

Hi all,
 
Arrived in San Francisco yesterday afternoon after an eight-hour drive through the desert and San Joaquin Valley.  I forgot how beautiful this city is!  Swung by the old neighbourhood and went out in the Castro last night.  Going to dinner and out again tonight - and repeating that through Sunday before heading up to Napa Valley.  Having a lovely time!
 
Anyway, just wanted to send a hello.  Hope all is well with everyone.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #84] Number

Hey all,
 
I have a temp mobile for while I am on vacation here!  So if you need to call me, you can reach me at 702-592-5257.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK

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[The Life of Shaun #83] Safe in the desert

Hey all,

Just to let you know I arrived safely and only one hour delayed to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada.  It's been a nice whirlwind this first 18 hours - Russ had a surprise for me when I arrived, my sister Lisa was still in town (having been delayed two days), so I got to see her, which was fantastic.  I've only had one vodka martini since stepping off the plane, but getting the liver ready.

Hope you're all well!

xo,
Shaun

PS - If you haven't seen "Little Miss Sunshine" do so immediately - so wonderful and SO funny.

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #82] Merry Happy Chrischaunza!

Hey there everyone,

I just wanted to drop a quick line to wish everyone happy end-of-December season. I've not been very personal or very quick with the eMail as of late. It's been very good here, though. School's keeping me busy but happy, home life is good, and London is perfect, though cold! 0° (that's 32° in American) today - brrr!

I am really, truly loving my MBA program; I am getting the kind of academic experience I always wanted, but never really got in undergraduate. It's busy, intense, social. I am becoming good friends with a lot of my class and am part of the social core of the class. The program is great, too, and I am learning a lot. Tomorrow is my last exam for the term; exam's over at 1300 and I, along with much of the class, will be at the pub at 1305 at the latest.

Friday I leave for America - Vegas, San Francisco & Napa - looking very forward to that! A lot of people to see I haven't seen in a long time, a lot of fun to be had and a lot of neglected wine that needs drinking.

London is gorgeous and I am as happy as ever to be here. I love walking every day between home and school, seeing St. Paul's cathedral in the morning light, walking through Clerkenwell Green and alongside the Barbican. I'm still frequently finding myself amazed to be living this neighbourhood and in this city. Rosebery Court is warm with Natasha and her boyfriend, Chris; I genuinely enjoy their company and we have a real social, happy home.

So again I wish you a happy Chrischanza! :-D I don't think I will get much of a chance to write before Christmas, so wanted to say it now.

A bit of housekeeping, for those whom I am supposed to see on my trip, please make sure to eMail me your number. I will be reachable via Russ at 702-###-####.

Cheers (and very truly sincerely to Simon),
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Thursday, November 23, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #81] Happy Xgiving!

Happy Xgiving everyone!

Xgiving was always my favourite holiday in the US - all the good things, friends, family and lots of food, without the stress of Xmas and Xmas shopping.  So it's a little sad here where they don't celebrate it.  But fortunately there're enough Americans in my class to comfort one another.  :)

And Dollar, a restaurant just around the corner (of course) is having a Thanksgiving menu tonight and I am going with Natasha and some friends.  And it's gon' be good!  Dessert: pumpkin pie with Jack Daniels cream - YUMMAY!  Looking very forward.

So have a great holiday, all of you in the US; and the rest, well, enjoy your day at work.  ;-)

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #80] 24 v. 9.0

You know, forget all the hubris, what's so bad about getting older? Life just seems to be getting better and better.

Thank you to all that helped me celebrate in body and in spirit. Here are a few pics of the night in the flesh. (Thank you, Eugennie!)

Cheers,
Shaun

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Eugennie Chang
Date: 15-Nov-2006 00:17
Subject: Pictures from Eugennie
To: scoley@gmail.com




Pictures for you!



View
shaun's birthday pics, as promised.

enjoy!

From:Eugennie Chang

View album
(1 of 9 pictures)



If the 'View album' button doesn't work, copy and paste this link into your browser:
http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=1AcsWTluzaMXFA

Questions? http://www.shutterfly.com/support/form8.jsp


--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Friday, November 10, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #77] VOTE VOTE VOTE!

Hi all,

Just your friendly reminder to go out and VOTE today! It'd be so nice to have the first nice first Tuesday in November in years, wouldn't it?

As the brilliant auditor MD wrote (sic):


Here is your horoscope for Tuesday, November 07, 2006 (Happy Erection Day!
(What? Oh…really? Never mind.) But seriously, people, get out and vote.
Because if you don't vote, you can't b1tch. And l0rd knows if I my ownself
personally couldn't b1tch, I'd never get any exercise at all. And if the
races wherever you are are uninspiring, come vote with us in Pennsylvania…we
are on the verge of flushing out once and for all the frothy mixture of
f3cal material and lube that is sometimes a by-product of @nal s3x,
otherwise known as santorum. And this particular fetid turd has been
clinging to the @sshole hairs, avoiding being swept away by the sewers of
life for far too long. (Can I paint a word picture or what?)):


Have you ever read a more fitting metaphor?

Now VOTE VOTE VOTE*!

Cheers,
Shaun

*I sent in my absentee ballot a couple weeks ago with my happy votes for Hillary & Spitzer cast - this is going to be a wonderful day in New York**!

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #79] And we have it...

...finally!  Obviously I'm joyed.  An election day that doesn't leave me in tears of desperation.  Could it be?  Could it be things will start to get better?  Well, Rumsfeld and Santorum are gone, so that's two giant YESES right there.

But, no, I am not ignorant or overoptimistic about the situation.  Bush still has the veto pen, and the Democrats have had such a special knack at incompetence for years, so there's no guarantee.  What's done and dusted, though, is that Bush no longer has a rubber stamp, and that's brilliant.  All I can hope is that this will be a catalyst to break the Democrats out of their paralysis.

First up, raising the minimum wage -- will Bush be willing to veto that now that he no longer has complacent underlings to do it for him in Congress?

Doing a happy dance,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #75] Endings

Block 1 of school is over - woo woo!  Last Thursday was actually the last day, but I've lacked the mental energy to write much, so getting to it today.  The last week wasn't lectures, but a pretty intense series of group projects on a tight deadline.  The last day we had to make a poster (?) and a short commercial (??).  Odd, yes, but it all came together well.  This week is "career development", then block 2 starts Monday -- economics, finance and marketing - oi!

I've also reached another ending today - with my apartment in New York.  I sent off a letter today to terminate my lease.  It was time; I made the emotional cut long ago.  I've grown forward enough that if I went back to New York, going back to the same apartment would feel like a step backwards.  I would want a new place in a new neighbourhood, a new experience.  Still, despite all that, it is a big step giving up my Chelsea lease - I'm now totally committed to London.

On that note, off into the night in my city - meeting a friend out in South London since I actually have a Friday off.  Good times!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Monday, October 16, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #74] The City of Knowledge

Bulgarians do not breath - they smoke.  I have never taken in so many bucket-fulls of smoke, and I lived in Paris in the 90s.  But once I learned to adapt to not needing my lungs to survive, things got looking up.

So, wow, Sofia!  Bulgaria!  Who'd'a thunk it, eh?  I am fascinated with Eastern Europe, always have been, especially since I took German and our teacher, Frau Ranz, would tell us stories about growing up in East Germany.  I'm sad I didn't get to see the divided Berlin, but I loved seeing East Berlin a couple years back when I went and after that I wanted more exposure to less-changed ex-communist states.  And Sofia delivered in spades.

True, it's not communist anymore, but you'd be pretty hard pressed to notice if you fell into a coma in 1990 and just woke up.  It's full of the prototypical expanses of concrete residential developments, crumbling older buildings, odd local brands that would never make it outside Bulgaria, insanely crooked & cracked sidewalks, sometimes with holes covered with a slab of concrete, sometimes just open to rebar wide enough for you to fall into the sewer below if you're not paying attention.  In general in really, really poor shape.  But there are some exceptions, of course.  Oddly, the metro is gorgeous and spotless, and there's a mobile phone signal throughout.

There's an amazing dearth of things to see for a capital city.  There are some churches, some government buildings, but nothing "wow" at all.  But for me this was all part of the fascination, this city the old government basically neutered and whose spirit they did their best to destroy.  And the poverty is rampant, which leads to nice prices for foreigners, a hard life for Bulgarians.

But what's so odd is, I went to Prague, which was also communist, but it's much richer than Sofia, and it's also gorgeous and thriving, and the people there are downtrodden and depressed.  In Sofia, where it's much worse, they are just the opposite - everyone's optimistic and happy and just purely golden.  Down to the last one, every single person we met was exceedingly friendly and went out of their way for us.  The Bulgarian people are beautiful.

There's a small but respectable gay scene, even a couple genuinely good bars.  And again, chock full of friendly, smiling people.  It makes such a difference to a holiday, and we had correspondingly great nights out.  The Friday we just started talking to someone in one of the bars, Exit, and he ended up taking us around in his car (with driver) and we found out the next day he's a top TV personality in Bulgaria - very cool.  :)  We also met up with a friend of a classmate of mine who's from Sofia on Saturday and hung out with him, which was great.  And I did well - I only knocked over two drinks all weekend!

BTW, eight beers, £5 - Sofia rocks!

We had a really hard time navigating at first because Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, not Roman, so we're looking at road signs and such that look like "На сайта можете да намерите интересни материали от архива" - not easy for Westerners (but also part of the exotic charm!). 

But it was hilarious because we had our little gay guide, which has been transliterated to the Roman alphabet so Westerners can read the bar descriptions and addresses.  Great, right?  Well, no, because since the street signs are in Cyrillic, the listings you've printed out are useless.  We thought briefly about buying a map in Bulgarian, but then we realized since our listings were in Western script, the map would be useless.  It was an auspicious start!  Fortunately Nick noticed the sign for Exit and from there we just counted streets to find another bar.  Then we met Evgeni Minchev (the TV personality) and it was smooth sailing from there.

I took some photos with my mobile phone, you can check them out here:

http://tinyurl.com/yfdhlt

or the full URL:

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/album?.dir=/24bescd&.src=ph&.tok=phscpqFBrD.tB0y0

My favourite's the "canal".  :)

So had a lovely time, and give Sofia high marks.  Go see it!  I am excited to see more of the East - it's good I've found a friend who wants to see these places as much as I do!  Next we're thinking Bucharest or Kiev.  But with school and all it won't happen for some time, but it will definitely happen.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Saturday, October 14, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #73] Wow

I cannot believe I am less than three hours from London.  You should have to fly at least eight hours to be this far away.  It is so different here.  This is the East.
 
More to come when I get home.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #72] Come live in England with me!

Ah, a moment!  Breath in...  hold it...  savour it...  release!

It's been quite the whirlwind since school started four-and-a-half weeks ago.  From saving the sinking ship to our first two projects, I've been pretty busy - and loving it!  After my mind-numbing year at St. Ives it feels so good to use my brain again.  I love being a student, and love this program.  Though the topics of this four-week block aren't my favourites, I can see the end in the near distance and us moving on to more interesting things.  (Well, *I* consider macroeconomics very interesting - someone's gotta!)

I was really lucky with the team I've ended up on as well, cassian.  On the first day of orientation we were asked to get into groups, and since we really didn't know anyone it was almost random.  But there were rules in forming teams - no more than four men and no more than three people from the same country.  I attached to a group helmed by two Portuguese guys, but it quickly grew to too many men.  As I was seeing the team form I was less excited about being on it, so I volunteered to leave.  I swapped with a girl on a team with too many girls and it turned out to be a huge boon. 

My team is awesome!  I definitely think it's the best team, and so does everyone else!  We get comments from other classmates all the time how they wish their teams were more like ours, how they admire how well we all get on and how we hang out together.  We mesh well, and there're no alpha egos.  Perfect.  I hope it stays this copacetic as the grind wears on, but it's certainly a great place to start.

Two very cool things about my program!  In February I will be going to Gdansk, Poland for a week for our group's strategy project.  Never been to Poland, so that will be great.  And how interesting it'll be to work for a week for a Polish company.  Then at the end of June I'll be going to Beijing and Shanghai for an International Business Symposium elective!  How cool is that?!  Add in to that my trips to the West Coast in December and East Coast in April and this is gonna be a great year.

So that's an update from me.  Hope everything's going well where you are.

Oh, almost forgot - regarding the subject of this eMail.  If anyone wants to move over here and has had any inclination to do an MBA, apply to my program here at Cass.  When you graduate you are guaranteed a Highly Skilled Migration visa which will allow you to stay indefinitely.  So c'mon over!  I'll have a pint waiting for you.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #71] I've got a sinking feeling...

Wow, what an exhausting two weeks this has been.  Cass has been very good at keeping us busy - we've had two weeks of orientation & introduction, culminating with Flagship this weekend.

I was not looking forward to it - dreading it, actually.  I hate these corny, touchy-freely corporate team-building type things.  Also, this one's not just a retreat, it's a weekend away at a Naval base ending in a sinking ship simulation.  Well, to my shock, the weekend was absolutely brilliant.  The program was fantastic, I really met several more people on my course, and got to do something I would never even think to do normally.

Friday we arrived at school to be bussed down to Portsmouth where we were greeted, shown our quarters in the barracks on HMS Bristol (which fought in the Falklands war), attended some short simple lectures, had dinner and drank at the Naval bar (£2 pints!), getting acquainted, then off to bed.  I have to say outright, the sleeping situation was... less than ideal.  It was in authentic military triple bunks, 20+ to a room.  And the showers, also not the best as they were open, but I have as a result now gotten over any hangups I have about showering naked around people I don't really know.

Saturday, after being awoken at 06.30, we were broken into teams and spent the day split between tasks, lectures and lunch.  I've been so lucky with teams at Cass; my study group at school is awesome, and my team this weekend was great - it makes all the difference, the day was so much fun.  This was followed by dinner at the Officer's club and, of course, drinks until the bar closed.

But today was the main even - the sinking ship simulation!  This is midsection of a warship attached to hydraulic arms, capable of rotating it up to 20° to simulate waves.  Then you are put inside with your team for a "hit" from an enemy and charged with doing emergency repairs to keep the ship from sinking.  As you are trying to do this, on top of the wave motion, hundreds of gallons of water are pouring through the holes from the missile damage, water's shooting at high pressure from broken pipes and there is a lot of smoke.  And there wasn't like 6" of water - it was at my head at its highest when the ship was level, causing it to reach near the roof on a side as it rolled in the waves.

My first job required me diving underwater to repair a blown out door portal, and then it was on to the holes in the walls and securing the portal door.  After we were done & back up in our starting room, another attack happens and much more damage is done.  This is when the room totally fills and your team and you are bobbing about in 6+ feet of water.  And these holes were big and the water just shot through them.  We were proud when the safety man gave us our review and told us we were one of the fastest teams he'd ever had with the first half of that task.  Which was great since the first half we were a little less cohesive, but we pulled together for the tougher challenge.

I've attached the only picture I could find online of the experience, but of course it doesn't capture it - It was intense!  And exciting and such a great team activity, and something unlike anything I've ever done or am likely to do again.  And as a result, I am exhausted!  It's back to class in the morning.

A great start to what I hope will be a great year!

"Navem servavi" - I saved the ship.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #70] Dublin & London

Dublin & London
Here're some pics of Mary & me from our time in Dublin & London.

Cheers,
Shaun
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/album?.dir=/8e6fscd&.src=ph&.tok=ph_2rhFBtNetRNRL

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #69] School, Dublin, the Scissor Sisters & London

So, wow, grad school kicked my, um, bum last week; it's going to be a lot more work than I'd supposed - I am so glad I decided to take a year off to do it.  This week was just part of orientation & wind-up, so no "real" classes, but it's been all day, every day.  This coming week will be too, then at the weekend they're shipping us off to the naval base at Portsmouth to a flagship seminar where we'll stay in the barracks on the HMS Bristol (or some ship...) and participate in a sinking ship simulation where they put us in a section of a boat on hydraulics in a tank and proceed to fill it with thousands of gallons of seawater while we try and save it.  How this will help me with monetary policy I've yet to learn, but it will certainly be interesting...

On the travel front, I went to Dublin last weekend to meet up with my friend Mary Keany from New York.  I had a great time!  I have to admit, when I first got to the city I wasn't very hopeful.  It's very unassuming and decidedly poor for being the capital of the Celtic Tiger.  But as we were there for three days it grew on me.  It's so charming!  From the friendly people, to the accent, to the good night out, even to its blue-collar-ness.  I have to say, I can really see the roots of America in Ireland.  It has the same mix of middle class friendliness, zest for fun and overtones of religion.  I felt quite comfortable there.

But let me tell you, it's expensive.  Shockingly so.  It's not often a Londoner gets shocked about prices, but €17.50 for enchiladas?  Come on, now you're just taking the piss!  But I duly emptied my wallet several times and did my bit to support the Irish economy and keep multiple breweries in business.  Oh, yes, I had Guinness while I was there - I still don't like it.

More locally, I spent last night in Trafalgar Square at a Scissor Sisters concert I won tickets for.  They and it were fantastic.  I don't understand how they're not more popular in America.  They are huge here - the #1 album in 2004 and their new single "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" went right to #1 in the charts when it was released last week.

A notable paraphrase from Ana Matronic: "Prince William went to a party last week dressed as a Bond girl, and it makes us, the Scissor Sisters, very happy to know that the future king of England has a little bit of queen in him."

So a great concert, and a great band - buy their first album immediately and the new one as soon as it comes out (tomorrow here...).  And the whole night was amazing, being in Trafalgar Square for that.  I had a moment again where I realized how lucky I am to live in such an amazing city.

OK, off to take a bus tour with Mary Keany!  Hope all's well with you wherever you are.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
London, UK
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Friday, September 08, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #68] Safe on the Emerald Isle!

Hello!

Just letting you all know I've arrived safely in Dublin.  First impression: it's cute.  :)  And TOO warm!  Who'd'a thunk it?  But I'll give more on the city when the weekend's done.  Just waiting across from the hotel for Mary Keany to show, so wasting time on here.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK

"Mission Accomplished."  -- George W. Bush, 01 May 2003
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #67] And we're off!

Fifty-three minutes of work left, but who's counting?
 
Today is my last day at St. Ives before starting graduate school and I am so excited about it.  I am definitely ready for this next step.
 
My team and I went out to lunch at my favourite local pub, The Nelson.  Good panang curry and three pints - not bad for a Thursday!  My direct boss, who's only here for four months since my original boss left two weeks ago, bought dinner for everyone.  The payroll head bought my friend Nick and me an extra round, and my colleague Julia gave me a card and €20 for beer in Dublin.  All-in-all, pretty cool.  Those of you who've heard tell about my work know it hasn't been a total love affair.  But in the end, I can't complain; nice people and, honestly, if I'd've had a better job, I might well not've gotten the courage to take a full year off for school.  What's that about things always happen for a reason...?
 
Tonight: pack!
 
Tomorrow: Dublin, where I will be meeting Mary Keany (Hi Mary!  See you tomorrow!)
 
Weekend: Guinness!  (Well, just one, I'm more a lager man, but c'mon, you gotta have Guinness when you're in Dublin!)
 
Monday: School starts!  Yikes!
 
Orientation promises to be wretched.  Every day for two weeks, at late as 21h00 some nights.  And they're shipping me and half the class off to Portsmouth for the weekend two weeks hence.  I've been there before -- I am not excited.  But then after the two weeks "real" school gets down to business - and that I am excited about.
 
So, here I am, just over one year in London starting another new chapter in life (I hate that cliché, but after three pints it's hard to be original).  Life is exciting and good.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK

"Mission Accomplished."  -- George W. Bush, 01 May 2003

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #66] This is a small country

Living in the middle of a huge city on the edge of Europe, I sometimes lapse and forget that Britain is a small country.  To remember, all it can take is realizing you've gone from London to the other end of the country in three hours.  Or you can watch X Factor, née Pop Idol, antecedent to American Idol.

I'm watching it now and the talent level of the audition pool is leagues below American Idol.  Yes, there are great ones, and yes, America has just as many humorously bad ones, but I am talking about the average.  So many of the people who are going through to the next round wouldn't stand a chance in the States.  And hearing Simon say, to someone who'd surely be shown the door on American Idol, "you're fantastic" makes you feel a bit bad for him - it must be hard coming back to this after hosting the show over there.

I know the UK has hugely talented people - there just isn't nearly as big a pool to draw from.  To emphasize this they've even had to expand what they draw from.  There are three categories here now: 16-24s, 25 & overs, and groups.  In the end each judge coaches a category and they "compete" to have someone from their category win.

We could very well get another Will Young out of this season, but we're gonna have to wade through a lot more pain than my American friends will finding the next Kelly Clarkson.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #65] Our cool flat, Definitely Nottingham and my bad chi

As you know, Natasha and I love our flat; it's a perfect fit for us, ideally located, and just a great place to live. Well, this past Thursday the management agency threw a BBQ for the residents (in the private garden, natch) - they had (veggie) burgers and dogs, salads and lots of wine and beer! Very cool. Seeing that it was a fight to get my last management agency in New York to change the bulb in the hallway, having this one do all this definitely took me aback. Oh, and we got to take three unopened bottles of wine with us as a parting gift at the end of the party. ;-)

Last weekend I took an overnight trip to Nottingham - just to see another city, check out some new bars and clubs. Well, I had a good time out, but I can definitely see why the town's not called Yessingham. Oi! Gertude Stein would've been at home - there is no there there.

Lastly, we tried to rearrange my room today to improve my feng shui; my bed's in the coffin position - very bad. But unfortunately the size and shape really won't allow any other set up, so it's as it was. But, I did notice that my door actually opens on an angle, so I think technically it's not the coffin position. However, anyone who knows any tricks for improved chi or energy flow, please let me know

That's about it at Rosebery Court this week - just wanted to give an update. Hope all's well where you are. It's a bank holiday weekend here - so long weekend here! Yahooey!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Monday, August 14, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #64] 100 bottles of beer in my stomach, 100 bottels of beer...

My anniversary weekend has been really nice.  Todd being in town assured debauchery and drunkenness, and dinner was really nice.  And a bit of surprise.  I was sitting there at the table with five friends and realized, hey, I do have a group of friends here, I am building a social circle; it's kind of snuck up on me without me even noticing it.

Thank you to all of you who were with me over the weekend, and the rest of you I hope to see soon, either here, the West Coast in December/January or East Coast in April.

xo,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/shaunism
London, UK
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Friday, August 11, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #62] Lovely & Brilliant

Five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand six-hundred minutes, five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand pints of beer!  Oh, wait, that's not how it goes, is it?  This is how you can tell it's a show about life in New York and not in London.  You can't survive Manhattan without at least a pint of vodka flowing through your veins at all times.  In London, unless you fancy $18 cosmos as standard, you drink beer.  Lots and lots of beer.  Fortunately they embrace white beer here.  Try it immediately.
 
Here I sit, on the afternoon of the eve of my one-year anniversary in London; Todd from New York is in town, I've had two pints at lunch, carefully selected friends have been invited to Thai tomorrow, and an even more select few are coming; the weekend holds promise, and the searing heat has given over to grey, cool, sweater weather.
 
So what do I think of my circumstance?  Of London, the year that's past, Natasha, all those and what I've left behind?  Well, lately, quite a lot.  I suppose the coming of this anniversary has naturally bent me towards introspection, and I've come to decisively cloudy indecision.
 
Natasha has been amazing.  I expected a roommate, but I got a partner in the truest sense.  Not just the friend she's become, but the person who's lived this experience with me and understands.  I remember how hard it was moving to New York, not knowing anyone in the flesh, and what a different move this was.  London feels diminished when she's not here.
 
I miss my New York friends immensely.  I have friends here, some of whom I've grown closer to than I'd expected, others I've rarely, or never, seen.  But the depth within the breadth I'd grown to have in New York is lacking, and it can feel emotionally naked.  Of course I can't have the type of friends I built up over seven years in just one, but that doesn't make me miss them any less.
 
I love writing sterling cheques.  I love when the phone is engaged, looking right then left to cross a street, snogging & pulling, taking the rough with the smooth, taking the piss, putting asides in brackets and brilliant or lovely things.  I love living and working abroad, amongst people who've grown up in a different culture than I.  It's so much fun learning the little ways their lives are different from mine: the different perspectives, the different collective memories & experiences.  I love living "so close to" Europe. 
 
"London's prohibitively expensive" someone told me just before I moved here.  As a Manhattanite, I shrugged her words off and laughed inside.  Wow, a slap in the face can hurt sometimes.  I was out Wednesday not having drinks with someone, and he got a vanilla milk shake.  For $7.50.  On top of this I've had some lingering financial worries hanging over me from New York that've made most every week a nervous, wrenching uncertainty.  It's been hard.  But it's also given me the momentum to take the plunge into school full-time, move forward and get on top of this situation.
 
With enough planning I can get anywhere in Western Europe, and much of the East, for $100 or less.  But it's costing me $1,200 to see friends and family this December.
 
Every morning and evening when I walk over the Blackfriars Bridge and can look from the Houses of Parliament and London Eye on one side, to St. Paul's, the Gherkin, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf on the other, I often feel stunned, but always feel lucky.  This city is amazing; amazing in a way you can never grow tired of.  And I live here.
 
I find London's Los Angeles-like sprawl frustrating.  I know some of you made fun of me for it, but I loved living in my tiny bubble in New York.  Everything and most everyone I wanted was near - what's so bad about that?
 
I relish getting to be a kid in a candy store again.  London's still so new; there's still so much to see and find.  I have areas I love, but there are so many I haven't even seen yet, and ones I like but rarely get to.  This fades after enough time in any city, but London will allow this to go on much longer than most.  What's that saying about a man who grows tired of London...?
 
So what do I think?  Did I make the right choice?  Am I still glad to be here?  Absolutely.  Am I ready to leave?  Definitely not.  But in the same breath, I feel more like a New Yorker than ever.
 
I miss you all.  Come visit soon.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

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Friday, August 04, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #61] Saving Citibank, La Familia (less Pappi) and topping

As I am sure all you financially savvy people know, Citibank's assets haven't been growing as fast as its competitors and has been surpassed by HSBC as the world's largest bank and is nearly losings its market capitalization rank to (gag!) Bank of America.  Well, I'm stepping up to the plate and doing my part!  I've taken out a silly amount of fresh debt in student loans from Citibank so I can take a year off work and go to grad school for my MBA full time.  Citibank obviously needs the money more than I do, so I am doing what I can to help.
 
Now, in truth, I do have some secondary less altruistic motives behind my actions.  One, I've learned that the system works differently here than in America, and not having the right letters after your name can be a hindrance, so I want to get some more letters ASAP, PDQ; the potential jobs I've been coming up for just aren't what I want to do for two years while doing the program part time.  Another is the desire to, hopefully, move on to more interesting and rewarding work more quickly.  And yet another is the freedom I'll have from not being tied to the school for two years; as we all know, I have serious commitment issues with schools.
 
So very good about that.  It feels right and I am excited about both going back to school full time and seeing what it's like over here.  Wish me luck!  And wish the hand of Bush to be kind over the next 13 months; should he crash the economy I may be in a prickly situation.
 
Also, as such, my vacations will be curtailed; other than the ones I've already bought tickets for, the only new additions will be America; the West Coast in December/January, the East Coast in April.  Stay tuned for dates.
 
In other news...
 
My mom, sisters Lara & Lisa and Lara's kid Emilio came to London to visit me over this past weekend.  I haven't seen them since I went back to America in March, so it was really good to see them.  I played tour guide, as best as one can with a 23-month old child, and showed my city off well, I believe.  Mostly it was just good to show them my life, where I am, what I do.  My good friend Sean even joined us for dinner one night and survived to tell about it.  Bless.  Attached is a picture of Lisa (blonde), Lara (brunette) and Emilio (baby).
 
Last for this installment...
 
Does anyone else distinguish between 'top up' and 'top off' or is that my own applied nuance?  I think topping up just means increasing/adding, but topping off means increasing/adding to the maximum amount.  My English coworker disagrees*.  Is this another Americanism or simply a Shaunism?
 
Cheers,
Shaun
 
*She also doesn't accept gotten as the past participle of got, but that's one of my favorite idiosyncrasies of American English and I refuse to drop it.

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Words of Wisdom

An e-pal of mine has just moved to Manhattan (Chelsea, no less!) recently.  He's finding it a tough town.  So I gave him the following advice:
 
(A preamble to my lady friends in New York: no, you are NOT fag hags; you do not hold our hands every weekend at the gay bars and clubs.  You, and we, have evolved beyond that, so the words below do not apply to you.)

 
"New York is a tough town; not for pussies, as I said.  The lonely-guy-in-the-big-city feeling is normal for new arrivals.  New Yorkers definitely aren't flaky, not in the LA sense at least.  What I think you're coming up against right now is the fact no one is taking you seriously.  You can't imagine home many new arrivals I met over my years there, so fresh and excited to be in New York, all the things they were going to do.  Then they either can't find work; can't cope with what it takes to live day-to-day in New York; or get caught up in The City and The Scene, overspend, overparty, run out of credit; and are back home within months promising to "return soon!  SOON!" and, of course, they never do.  No one will take you seriously until you've been there a year.  You have to prove yourself.
 
In tandem to that, you will find once you've been there a year, you'd rather gouge your eyes out than move back to where you came from.  Trust me on this.  You have to get through it.  It's worth it.  But you can't be a pussy.
 
You will find, eventually, though, that no one is your friend like a New Yorker is.  When they're your friends, they are your friends.  Someone told me this when I lived in San Francisco and I never understood it until I lived there.
 
As for the hag - NO!  Bad Manhattan homosexual!  Hags are only for guys under 22 or who live West of the Hudson.  You shed your hag by then in New York.  You will find they are nothing but a cock block. 
 
(Similarly, you cannot wear A&F if you live in Manhattan.  If you do, everyone will assume you're either a) from New Jersey, or b) just moved to New York and are about to fall off the proverbial edge and move back to Nebraska.  I don't think I have to warn a man of your ilk & calibre away from A&F, but you're from Chicago, so it's better to be safe than sorry.)"
 
I miss my gritty, hard city right now!
 
Cheers,

Monday, July 17, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #58] Inte blå hunde, Rosebery Court and The Simpsons

I just spent a lovely weekend in the ancestral country of both Ikea and my mother, Sweden, in beautiful Stockholm. It is, of course, the capital of Sweden, very old and the largest city in Scandinavia. It's got lovely colourful buildings and is built over a series of 14 islands, so there are water and bridges everywhere; quite aesthetically pleasing. I was visiting my friend Stefan, whom I know from my Paris days - we were in the same French class (as well as my sister, Lisa) with Madame Cho at La Sorbonne.

The agenda was usual - discussion, food, drink, repeat. I've been to Stockholm once before, with Russ in 2000. I liked it well enough then, but enjoyed it a lot more this time. One, there were no expectations, and two, it was all on its own, rather than one of ten cities squished into four weeks. Also we chose better gay bars/clubs, which can make or break a visit to a city.

I noticed one thing though between my visits - there seemed to be a lot more ethnic people than I remembered. This is good; Sweden needs immigration and it realizes that, so they're opening their arms. It's great, as elsewhere it's adding colour (literally & metaphorically) to Swedish life and helping out their economy and very generous social system.

So it was a great weekend, I met nice people and am looking forward to going again. Oh, "Inte blå hunde" was all the Swedish I can piece together from the words I remember from my trip; it means "No blue dogs." Not very useful, but fortunately everyone in Sweden speaks English, so I was free to tell them a variety of blue things I didn't want, or even no dogs of any colour that didn't suit my fancy.

In other news:

We signed our lease for another year today! So we'll be here in Clerkenwell, where we're so happy, for at least one more year. Nice, since we just got the key! We also managed to secure a commitment for new carpet for Natasha, and there was no rent increase; we're very pleased, obviously.

And as a sign-off, they took a little dig on E4 tonight... they were introducing The Simpsons episode where they legalize gay marriage in Springfield and the tagline intro was "Next, Springfield comes out of the closet and enters the 21st century." Brilliant.

Proud to be half Swedish,
Shaun

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #56] L'Italia Bella

Well, it's over -- Italy has won the world cup (for my American friends and family, they have this little soccer match here every four years and all the Europeans get very swept up in it). I was rooting for France before, mainly because I have amazing respect for Zinedine Zidane, the French captain. He's an amazing player; does incredible things with the ball (even me, a complete amateur can recognize it), one of the most respected players in football history, and, above all, he's a gentleman.

This was Zidane's last game before retirement, and the media has been full of lyrical waxings about him and his history, and telling Cristiano Ronaldo to look to him as an example. But then - shockingly - in the second overtime Zidane was sent off with a red card for head-butting an Italian player! What the hell?! How can you be about to retire, in your last and most important game, with two billion sets of eyes one you, and you head-butt another player in the chest?! It's so... dirty. My (limited) world view of soccer was shattered in that moment, and I was then behind Italy to win.

The hotter, and tonight, more sportsmanlike, team won, bringing much joy to our heavily Italian neighborhood - the horns are-a-honkin' and the people are-a-cheerin'.

Very disappointed in Zidane, happy for a deserved win to Italy, and very surprised to be a football fan,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #54] England is crying

I now know the pain of being English.  As all my friends outside of America, and none of them in, know, England lost to Portugal and was eliminated from the World Cup.  The game took place in the middle of Europride, held in London this year, and I took my leave from the festivities along with my friend Alister and watched amongst my compatriots and lived the national experience.
 
I have to say, I've gotten swept up in the World Cup - it really has been fun.  There's no equivalent in America; there, some people love baseball, some (American) football, some hockey...  there's no overwhelmingly obvious consensus about one game, and one game only, that really matters - The Beautiful Game - and, nearly universally, everyone cares about it (though not all to the same extent).  So the whole mood of the nation swings with the pendulum of England's success and failure on the pitch, and it really was fantastic, as a new immigrant, to be part of that.
 
An interesting observation for an American: the English are so pessimistic about their team.  England won most games (it just takes one loss to be eliminated past round one), but all along the way the fans were deriding the team's performance, technique and chances.  In America, we back our teams 100%; even when they, frankly, suck, we're shouting "Go team, go!  USA!  USA!"  And, admittedly, as someone who never embraced American patriotism fully, that never sat well with me.  But seeing this opposite approach, I am for the American way for once.  I don't see how England could win with this rather rampant lack of enthusiasm and support.
 
All that aside, it's time to move on.  Tonight is Germany vs. Italy, I am supporting Germany.  A group of us are meeting at Santoré on Exmouth Market to watch.  Then to the next match where, for once, all of England will unite in support of France to cheer them on to victory over those dirty, swarthy, cheating Portuguese.
 
GO TEAM GO!
 
Cheers,

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Unfolding of Language

I am 100 pages into a marvelous book I thought you might be interested in:
 
The Unfolding of Language by Guy Deutscher
 
Synopsis
'Language is mankind's greatest invention - except of course, that it was never invented.' So begins Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the evolution of language. No one believes that the Roman Senate sat down one day to design the complex system that is Latin grammar, and few believe, these days, in the literal truth of the story of the Tower of Babel. But then how did there come to be so many languages, and of such elaborate design? If we started off with rudimentary utterances on the level of 'man throw spear', how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced shades of meaning? Drawing on recent, groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication. Along the way, we learn why German maidens are neuter while German turnips are female, why we have feet not foots, and how great changes of pronunciation may result from simple laziness...
 
 
I've learned such fabulous things as the Semitic languages' noun stems and the fact that 'not' is equivalent to the 'pas' in French's 'ne...pas' and originally wasn't a negater at all!
 
I am absolutely loving it and am actually excited when I get a chance to take time and read more.  It's right up there with three of my other favourite books I can't recommend enough:
 
 
The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John H. McWhorter
 
Amazon.co.uk Review
In his enormously ambitious book The Power of Babel, John McWhorter offers an account of the first common language ever spoken by human beings, and proceeds to explore why it then fragmented into the 6,000 languages that are spoken today across the globe. As Professor of Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, McWhorter is perfectly qualified to provide a witty and accessible guide to his subject. As he puts it, "the process by which one original language has developed into six thousand is a rich and fascinating one, incorporating not only findings from linguistic theory but also geography, history, sociology. It is this fascinating story that I will share with you in this book."
 
 
Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (Quite possibly my favourite book ever.)
 
Amazon.co.uk Review
Who would have thought that a book about the English language would be so entertaining? Certainly not this grammar-allergic reviewer, but The Mother Tongue pulls it off admirably. Bill Bryson--a zealot--is the right man for the job. Who else could rhapsodise about "the colourless murmur of the schwa" with a straight face? It is his unflagging enthusiasm, seeping from between every sentence, that carries the book.

Bryson displays an encyclopedic knowledge of his topic, and this inevitably encourages a light tone; the more you know about a subject, the more absurd it becomes. No jokes are necessary, the facts do well enough by themselves, and Bryson supplies tens per page. As well as tossing off gems of fractured English (from a Japanese eraser: "This product will self- destruct in Mother Earth."), Bryson frequently takes time to compare the idiosyncratic tongue with other languages. Not only does this give a laugh (one word: Welsh), and always shed considerable light, it also makes the reader feel fortunate to speak English.

Synopsis
A witty, irreverent but very useful account of the peculiarities of the English language. This book is designed to appeal to all lovers of language and history. The author also wrote "The Lost Continent", "Book of Blunders" and "Dictionary of Troublesome Words". "Mother Tongue" should appeal to all lovers of language and history and also those with a sense of humour.

and its American expansion:
 
Made in America by Bill Bryson
 
Amazon.co.uk Review
Bill Bryson's "Informal History of the English Language in the United States" is, in a word, fascinating. After reading this tour de force, it's clear that a nation's language speaks volumes about its true character: you are what you speak. Bryson traces America's history through the language of the time, then goes on to discuss words culled from everyday activities: immigration, eating, shopping, advertising, going to the movies, and others.

Made in America will supply you with interesting facts and cocktail chatter for a year or more. Did you know, for example, that Teddy Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick" credo has its roots in a West African proverb? Or that actor Walter Matthau's given name is Walter Mattaschanskayasky? Or that the supposedly frigid Puritans--who called themselves "Saints," by the way--had something called a pre-contract, which was a license for premarital sex? Made in America is an excellent discussion of American English, but what makes the book such a treasure is that it offers much, much more.

Synopsis
An entertaining, anecdotal look at the origins of language and ideas in the USA. Bryson explains why two bicycle repairmen from Ohio succeeded in mastering manned flight, why the assassination of President Garfield led to the invention of air conditioning, and many other improbable but true facts.


So buy them and read so we can discuss ad nauseum.

 
Cheers,
Shaun

Sunday, June 11, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #53] Shaun's a Mary, quite contrary, how does his garden grow?

This past Thursday, Natasha and I planned and successfully carried out a coup.  As you may remember, our complex has that most English of amenities, a private garden.  But we weren't given keys because, also very English, we're not the right class; we're renters, not owners.  As the Summer has sprang upon us with a vengeance we decided we must get a key.

So we invited the neighbor we're friendliest with, Alister, for wine.  And boy was wine had!  Six bottles split amongst three.  A nice follow-up to Natasha's and my anniversary celebration the Monday before where we had four split amongst two.  But I digress.

Anyway, expertly laid out in the middle of all this., Natasha made an off-handed comment about us not being given keys and Alister offered to get us a copy, no prodding needed!  She's a brilliant lady, my Natasha.

So we're off now to celebrate with a bottle of cold prosecco in the hot sun.  In our private garden.  Bless.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK
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Thursday, June 08, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #52] Italia

Here are pics from Sean's and my trip to Italy, if you're interested:

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/album?.dir=/a9b3re2&.src=ph&.tok=phNBp_EBWiZAB2dD

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #51] Shaun in a word (or 20)

Yesterday I sent out an eMail to my "doodles" list asking people to describe me in one word. This is how my friends & family see me:

Amazing, Voluptuous, Promiscuous, Relentless, Outrageous, Alcoholic, Precocious, Nomadic, Brilliant, Unique, Clued-Up, Peripatetic, Inspired, Worldly, Capricious, Ebullient, Adorable, Experimental, Omnipresent, Impervious.

Sound like me?

(And, yes, clued-up counts as one word... I protested as well, but turns out MS Word counts hyphenated expressions as one, and since this is Micro$oft's world, it counts.)

Cheers,
Shaun
--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #50] Never Mind the Full Stops

Anyone who's visited the UK knows TV here is a lot different than in the US.  A lot of it is dreadful, but a lot is great.  Earlier this year I was in love with "Balderdash and Piffle" a show that traced the origin of English words.

Tonight Natasha and I watched one of the cerebral 'game shows' that would only work in England -- the type that is all about the guests' answers & commentary, not about winning.  It's called "Never Mind the Full Stops" and it's a quiz show about everything & anything English.  If you're so inclined, you can check out the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/features/fullstops/

But just another little cultural thing that makes me love living here.  :)

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #49] Good news!

I've just received notice that I've been accepted to Cass Business School to complete my MBA, beginning in September.  VERY glad about this!  It's more debt (yahooey!), but I will be finishing the degree sooner than I'd thought and at a well-respected university in the UK.  So my life over the next two years is becoming a little bit more settled.
 
Today's a good day!
 
Cheers,

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Monday, May 15, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #48] Ciao, bella!

WARNING: Very calm, laid-back weekend described below.

Nine months (Nine? How did that happen? I was sure it was only eight...) to the day after leaving New York for shores abroad I set foot in my first new European country. Quite surprising, seeing it's a stalwart of almost everyone's itinerary on their first trip to Europe, but I have finally made it to Italy. I went with my friend Sean to Bologna over a long weekend to dip my toes into the Roman world and to visit a friend Luca.

Bologna is an eminently nice city. It's called the red city as most every building is a shade of red. The city center is mostly still medieval-aged structures and Bologna is home to the world's oldest university. A quirk in real estate measurements led to 42km of covered sidewalks in the city. In medieval times the property was priced (and I imagine taxed) based on the perimeter of the building on the ground. So to save money owners built a smaller base, then jutted the second floor out and supported it with arches. This resulted in covered archways lining many of Bologna's central streets. Lovely effect, and especially nice in the heat and/or rain.

Overall Bologna's a very quiet, small, but sophisticated, city. We had a good time exploring the city, dining, some people-watching in the piazzas. It wasn't the dinners laden with rivers of wine I'd anticipated, but I enjoyed myself, and I still have Rome to feel out that side of Italian life.

Friday we spent the day in Florence and what can one say but "Wow, the Duomo really is that amazing"? The whole city center is a post-card and I enjoyed getting to walk over the famous bridge with houses & stores on it. It was surprisingly uncrowded (note: I am using Times Square and Oxford Street as bases to measure this) for being such a tourist mecca; quite appreciated.

Now I am back in fair London. Already mentally planning the next time in Italy... Rome & Naples, I am thinking; it's time to see the South.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Monday, May 08, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #47] Londcisco-by-the-Sea

Ah! They grey skies! Chilly weather! Insipid rain! Pebbles & stones stretching as far as the eye can see! Where else can one get all this but the English seaside?! I went to Brighton this weekend, a town on the coast of England, about an hour south from London. It's a popular gay getaway, London's more declassé answer to Provincetown.

Brighton's nickname is "London-by-the-Sea" due to the large influx of (largely gay) Londoners that occurs every weekend, especially over the Summer. But I believe a more accurate description would be if you were to think of London and San Francisco having a tryst at the beach one holiday and Brighton is the love child they left behind. It is thoroughly English, from its large London emigrant population and guests, to fish-and-chips on the pier, to the people enjoying themselves on the rides at the pier oblivious to the rain & glum in the way only a people who've grown up with it could. But there're huge overlaps with San Francisco; the city is choc-a-block with Edwardian architecture, rows of ticky-tack houses lining the hills above the city, gays & hippies everywhere, galleries displaying art for art's sake (tell me, really, does anyone like this stuff?) and 300 pound lesbians with mullets who don't wear bras to make a political point. If the trip hadn't only taken an hour I could easily have been fooled into thinking I was back on 18th & Castro.

It really is a lovely town, and I had a good time. Good food, good just-tacky-enough gay bars, dance club, a cute shopping district called The Lanes, made up of a series of 5-feet-or-so-wide lanes lined with oh-so-precious stores. I also rode the world famous Crazy Mouse, a roller coaster where, for the second half of the ride, as you're riding along the track your car spins around randomly. It was surprisingly fun (and scary, since you feel you're about to fly off into the sea) and only £3 (as opposed to the highly disappointing £9 (yes, £9!) roller coaster Russ and I rode in Blackpool.

So a good weekend was had. I'd definitely go back some time; I hear Pride there is fantastic. But now all thoughts are to Italy! Sean and I go to Bologna this Thursday for a four-day getaway there and Verona. It's my first time to Italy - very excited!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #45] ¡Amo Madrid!

As a brilliant philosopher once said, "¡Amo Madrid!  Pero odio salir de Madrid", or "I love Madrid!  But I hate leaving Madrid." 
 
Russ and I arrived in Madrid (dead sober, if you can fathom it) to a ridiculously huge, ridiculously nice, ridiculously empty airport.  We rode for miles on the train from the gate terminal to the baggage terminal, to wait for our luggage.  And wait and wait.  Finally the luggage came and we made our way out through customs.  Or attempted to.  Again, the airport was so massive we felt like we were in Poltergeist -- for every step we took towards the exit it got two steps further away.  But eventually we overcame the demon and got out.  Two cash machine attempts later, euros in hand, we headed out in a taxi with a cute boy from Brighton into Madrid.
 
Right away the city amazed us.  It's so gorgeous; I had no idea.  Even out by the airport, where less image-savvy cities pile up acres of hideous projects & council estates, there were beautiful villas and tasteful stucco apartment blocks.  Only once on our way in did we see a concrete development of the type London is so fond, and including that I only recoiled at three buildings I saw the whole time.  Madrid is big, regal, and gorgeous.
 
But I don't understand it at all.
 
We'd heard about the famous lateness of Madrid, so we tastefully showed for dinner at 10:30 for 90 minutes of dining, followed by a good night out.  Madrid is gorgeous, and this time I am referring to the people.  It's a little ridiculous, actually.  I feel sorry for Calvin Klein et al, throwing millions of dollars into advertising with models strewn about on posters, just to be ignored because, in Madrid at least, the people on the streets are the ones you notice.
 
But back to going out, we always had a great time and found some good bars (Sunrise!) and some bad ones.  Only hit one club, Cool, which I quite liked.  I failed in my plan to secure a new, hot Spanish boyfriend, but I did meet a cute English boy, which is nice in its own way.  What confused us was this: we'd be at a nice bar, very full, people having fun; decide to try a new bar; have one drink there and decide to go back to the first; it's been emptied, closed and shuttered up!  So we're suddenly alone on an empty street wondering where everyone went.
 
The other peculiar thing in Madrid is how long the days are.  I went to bed three separate times on Saturday, with full-on doings in between each.  How do they get so much time in one day?
 
And thus we spent our days and nights, wandering, eating, drinking, going out, leaving in a happy frame of mind.
 
But you can't visit a country as passionate and hot as Spain without some drama, can you?  We learned upon arrival that there's a strict 55-minutes-before-the-flight rule at Madrid's airport.  We learned this by showing up 50 minutes before.  And not being allowed on the plane.  Or rebooked on the next.  Or the next.  Since our tickets were considered null & void since we'd missed the first cut-off time.  End result: we got to pay €260 (£180, $323) each for a flight back on EasyJet.  This should provide a nice bit of ironic humour to those of you who remember we decided to go to Madrid instead of Athens since the flights to Athens were so expensive.
 
So, as was said:
 
"¡Amo Madrid!  Pero odio salir de Madrid."
          - Shaun Coley (1974 - )
 
Russ left yesterday morning and I miss him already.
 
Next stop: Bologna, 11 May.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #44] From light into dark

Ah, Wednesday! Wednesday's an extra good hump day when your only work days are the Tuesday and Thursday surrounding it. I've returned from Manchester for a little bobble here in London before heading off to Madrid for the weekend coming. I also noticed today that starting from last week I have short weeks every week through to the week starting 15 May. Not a bad situation.

Russ arrived in town early Friday morning; I met him at Euston and we boarded a train heading North. Just under three hours and a bottle of vodka later we were in Manchester (via Birmingham; I saw the Selfridges - very cool!), the Gem of the North. This was my and Russ's third time to Manchester and we were excited to see how it compared to our memories. We went there before "Queer as Folk", the original, made it (relatively) trendy to go there and we hoped it hadn't changed too much.

It hadn't! There was some new development, it was busier, and even a Manchester "Eye", but the essence of the city remained unchanged. We quickly settled into our hotel room, directly on Canal Street, and set about reacquainting ourselves with the city we love.

I have to set out, Manchester is not glamorous. As soon as you leave the city centre its blue collar roots betray. Nor does it have any "wow" like London, New York or any It city. But what it does have is the loveliest, warmest, lightest character I've ever come across. I don't know how, but everyone in this city in the middle of England's depressed North seems to be happy. When you go out to bars, there will be a silly pop song that could only be popular in Britain playing and everyone, I mean everyone save me and Russ, are doing the moves to it. This would earn you a stare of derision in any mecca on the gay travel circuit, but here no one has a hint of attitude. Everyone just seems so happy and is having a great time. I love it.

So that's what we go to Manchester for, and despite the climb it has made since our last visit, its heart is still the same and we spent a very happy weekend there.

An added bonus to this trip was an excursion Sunday night to the famous English seaside resort town of Blackpool. It was a bit cold (read: freezing) to be on the beach, but we rode our £9 roller-coaster (the tallest in Europe, we were told, and if so this continent is severely lacking in amusements of the park sort) and went to Funny Girls, a great drag cabaret. It's not the typical drag one-act, but a series of acts about 20 minutes apart overnight, and serious ones with dancers and all. Well worth the price.

So with contented hearts and minds, we settled back onto a train, new bottle of vodka in hand, and returned to London to celebrate Russ's birthday before heading to Madrid this weekend.

We decided to celebrate at Dans le Noir?, a new branch of a Paris-based restaurant on Clerkenwell Green, just 'round the bend from ours. Its concept is this: you eat in complete darkness; you cannot see a thing. All the waitstaff are blind, they lead you to your table, and you must rely on them if you have to get up for the restroom. Sounded like a cool experience. And it was.

But that's all I can say good about it. The food? Was terrible*. When the whole point of sight deprivation is to heighten your other senses, you'd expect the food to have a certain kick to it, something interesting, or at the very least, be good. But bland chicken and mashed potatoes? A spinach filo thing? And you'd think they'd pay attention to the texture since, for the most part, you're eating with your hands.

My poor flatmate ordered the surprise menu and had no idea what was on order. What she got was some large, flavorless mass with acres of overdone spinach on the side. Even the desserts were mostly a bust (though I quite liked mine). And it all was so terribly expensive. Dinner for four (with two bottles of wine and one of champagne, of course) was £280 ($490). Not at all a ridiculous price if the food were good, but since its quality was sub-par even to my £2 canteen lunches at work, we felt gorged and betrayed.

A side note, the London Times critic was there and Natasha got talking to him when she left the table early out of disgust for a cigarette. His assessment of the experience: "Blind people eat shit food." Look for his review this Sunday.

Looking forward to the weekend ahead; Madrid's an unknown entity to both Russ and me. Hopefully we'll stumble on some gems and some trouble. But regardless what we encounter we'll get to in the company of the Spaniards and their lucky, lucky genes.

Cheers,
Shaun


*Thanks for that construction, MD, I couldn't think of a better way to say it!

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Monday, April 10, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #43] The Gherkin on Friday

It's a small pic, but it really was a lovely view... this is from Friday when I was walking home as I was crossing the Blackfriars Bridge looking east towards The City and especially the Gherkin (the pickle-shaped building), my favorite (tall) building in London.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

[The Life of Shaun #42] Back in the Big Smoke

Hey all,

Just letting you know I got back to London safely, albeit 8+ hours later than planned.

In Miami, after boarding, we were informed there was a hydraulic leak that was being looked at.  After nearly an hour we were told the plane was being put out of service and we had to deboard the plane and go to a new gate for a new aircraft.  This, of course, was enough of a delay to miss the connection to London in New York.  They put us up in a hotel, in theory, but when we got to the hotel they sent us to there were actually no rooms available.  Nice, eh?  While waiting for a shuttle to go back to the terminal they found one room with two beds and I shared it with another stranded passenger on his way from Miami to Budapest.  Got the first flight this morning and here I am.

Lovely to be back, but I am tired.  At least I didn't have to fight staying awake my first day back!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
scoley@gmail.com
http://www.friendster.com/profiles/shaunism
London, UK
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