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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