Wednesday, July 28, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #415] Thank you, (b)log!

I have spent this week faithfully procrastinating finishing filling out my application for British citizenship, for which I am applying next month. The infamous Section 2 requires that you document, account for and tally all time spent outside of the UK since arriving on your settlement visa. Everyone who applies before you warns you to keep track of your travels; everybody ignores this advice and has to piece together half a decade of their lives from the careless, random stamping of listless immigration officers.

I fit things together as best I could from the stamps and visas in my passport, but had numerous holes where dates and destinations should have been. I am very thankful for starting this list and archiving it to the internet because every time I travelled I blogged something about it and Google handily stored and sorted all the entries by year and month. So thank you all for receiving, if not reading, these; you've saved me a lot of pain tonight and I owe you a drink when I see you next.

My travelling doesn't seem as prolific listed out on paper (or in Excel, to be accurate) as it does in experience. I suppose lists are never particularly impressive to behold, and this does omit intraborder travelling, but it still seems mediocre somehow. I suppose that is justification enough for taking more trips! Or perhaps I should just use a bigger font.

The stats, for those who're counting, near as I could figure:

- 34 trips abroad (including two planned ones between now and submitting my application)
- 6.8 trips/year
- One trip every 1.75 months
- A total of 208 days (or 11.4% of my British existence) out of the country

Cheers,
Shaun


Country Visited Reason Departure Return Days Absent
France Holiday 19-Nov-2005 22-Nov-2005 3
USA Visiting relatives 17-Mar-2006 2-Apr-2006 16
Spain Holiday 21-Apr-2006 24-Apr-2006 3
Italy Holiday 11-May-2006 14-May-2006 3
Sweden Holiday 14-Jul-2006 16-Jul-2006 2
Ireland Holiday 8-Sep-2006 11-Sep-2006 3
Bulgaria Holiday 13-Oct-2006 16-Oct-2006 3
USA Visiting relatives 22-Dec-2006 7-Jan-2007 16
Poland Holiday 10-Feb-2007 17-Feb-2007 7
USA Visiting relatives 6-Apr-2007 23-Apr-2007 17
France Holiday 19-May-2007 21-May-2007 2
China Holiday 9-Jun-2007 17-Jun-2007 8
Greece Holiday 22-Jun-2007 2-Jul-2007 10
Germany Holiday 30-Nov-2007 2-Dec-2007 2
Portugal Holiday 28-Dec-2007 1-Jan-2008 4
Turkey Holiday 31-Jan-2008 3-Feb-2008 3
USA Visiting relatives 3-Mar-2008 9-Mar-2008 6
France Holiday 18-Jul-2008 20-Jul-2008 2
Hungary Holiday 15-Aug-2008 18-Aug-2008 3
France Holiday 29-Aug-2008 31-Aug-2008 2
Israel Holiday 19-Sep-2008 28-Sep-2008 9
USA Visiting relatives 19-Dec-2008 5-Jan-2009 17
Italy Holiday 6-Mar-2009 9-Mar-2009 3
Spain Holiday 19-Mar-2009 22-Mar-2009 3
USA Visiting relatives 27-Jun-2009 13-Jul-2009 16
Estonia Holiday 11-Sep-2009 13-Sep-2009 2
Germany Holiday 16-Oct-2009 19-Oct-2009 3
Spain Holiday 6-Nov-2009 8-Nov-2009 2
Germany Holiday 25-Dec-2009 28-Dec-2009 3
Germany Holiday 22-Jan-2010 24-Jan-2010 2
Thailand, Cambodia, New Zealand, Australia Holiday 19-Feb-2010 9-Mar-2010 18
Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Macau, China Holiday 25-Jun-2010 5-Jul-2010 10
Greece Holiday 30-Jul-2010 2-Aug-2010 3
Germany Holiday 13-Aug-2010 15-Aug-2010 2




208


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #414] The Shard cometh!

I was very sad when they began construction of The Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe*, and I realised that a tower block was hiding it from my view. The Shard will be taller than the council estate, of course, but it was still a bit disappointing.

As the tower has risen, it's been crowned with a very simple, but powerful, sign that simply says SHARD. This week, the appellation has breached the top of the offending tower and you can see "RD" poking out; nothing visually dramatic to the layman, but as foreshadow, it's thrilling to an urban/Londonphile like me.

So onward and upward! Next up on the London Skyline? The Pinnacle.

Cheers,
Shaun


*There's a taller building under construction in Moscow, if you must consider that Europe.




1) The Shard, as it will be (my building circled in red)


2) The sign at the top of the construction


3) The Shard arrives to my view!


4) Grainy close-up


5) The Pinnacle, the Gherkin's soon-to-be neighbour

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #411] Paloma Faith

My friend Jim turned me on to Paloma Faith, and for those of you who like Amy Winehouse, Duffy, etc., check her out.  Particularly great is New York:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvXeUqlfxhY

In unrelated news, Mary Keany arrived safely yesterday - yay! - and is busy making her flat into a home ten floors above me.  It's great to have her back.

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Friday, July 09, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #410] Two strikes against DOMA

A little off topic, but potentially important.  There have been two decisions that say DOMA (the Defence of Marriage Act, which states that the Federal government won't recognise same-sex marriages, even if states do) is unconstitutional:

http://gayrights.change.org/blog/view/its_official_the_defense_of_marriage_act_is_unconstitutional

Now an interesting question: will the Obama administration appeal the decision?

Love to know what the news (esp. Fox) coverage is like from the statesiders.

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Monday, July 05, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #409] Back from the land of the durians

I sent out some postings while I was away, so just a short 'woof' (for The Office fans).

Hong Kong is definitely one of the most visually stunning cities out there; I am sure the comparison's been used countless times before, but it's like dropping New York on top of San Francisco. You have the concrete canyons of New York amplified from being built improbably over steep hills like in San Francisco. (Hmmm.... the Big Apple + the Big Martini = Big Appletini. I need to write a marketing proposal.) It's hustling and bustling and has all the life a (second tier) world city should have. But, that's not really why I go to Asia...

Kuala Lumpur was much more what I was looking for. The Petronas Towers are stunning, and there is a fa├žade of modernity, but you don't have to go too far in any direction to see the third world coming through the cracks - sometimes literally: a heard of goats on the edge of downtown, holes in the sidewalk "fixed" by laying boards over them, a repressed and depressed gay scene. I know there is more to the city than we saw, but our brief time there was further truncated by severe rain, so we just had a taste -- but I can't say it left me wanting more.

Next was Singapore, which was my favourite of the trip. This is largely because we had a handsome tour guide, Prashant, who not only beguiled, but was able to make sure we were in the right places at the right time and drank and ate in the appropriate places. We were able to turn off and be led, which was nice. I had expected an island version of Canary Wharf, but instead got a city that, despite its antiseptic reputation, had a 70s edge to it that I adored and, due to its immigration policy and history, a cosmopolitan and, importantly and distinctly from everywhere else, integrated population that was more suitable to my palate.

Last was Macau, where Russ is stationed until the Autumn. "The Vegas of the Orient" is how it's billed - and in some respects it is. Old casinos crowd the original city centre, new megaresorts have sprouted on the outskirts. However, here the historic core is actually that, historic, and the resorts are emphasizing quality more than Sin City and so lack the teeming masses streaming between the machines and tables of Vegas's "resorts". We also popped over the border into mainland China to shop in Zhuhai, where as gwailo (Westerners) we naturally overpaid. It was still super cheap to us and, being lucky enough to be so much better off, it is only right that we did so.

Fantastic trip, and it was wonderful to see Russ again after missing his special day in April. I've loved getting to see more of Asia this year - it really is a different world - but think that's it for a while. So next year - India? Africa? South America? Middle East? First let's see how long it takes my bank account to recoup from dual antipodean adventures; perhaps 2011 will again be a year to see Britain.

Cheers,
Shaun


Attached are a few of my fave pics from the trip. For those who like this sort of thing, there are more here:

Hong Kong --> http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=239170&id=713081334&l=10c48fefe1

Kuala Lumpur -->
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=239177&id=713081334&l=8db9a6eae3

Singapore -->
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=240320&id=713081334&l=902d5629f0

Macau & Zhuhai -->
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=240328&id=713081334&l=21825c2c97


01 - Tried to get a pic from our hotel with the Hong Kong skyline... kind of worked.


02 - Older tower blocks in Hong Kong. New construction is demonstratively glitzy, showing the global stature and wealth of the city, but the older stock is decidedly functional; however, the size and density shows the longstanding status of Hong Kong as a centre for business - and refuge.


03 - Bank of China building; not loved by many feng shui masters, but it is by me


04 - Hong Kong from Victoria Peak. Definitely one of the top urban scapes.


05 - Petronas Towers, at night


06 - Downtown Singapore. The trio of buildings with the new Sands. I loved it.


07 - Downtown Singapore, orderly and clean as expected


08 - Some of colonial Singapore, with the charming 70s punctuating the skyline


09 - The "Gherkin farm" outside Russ's flat


10 - Macau Island from Russ's flat


11 - Macau's central square


12 - Grand Lisboa, Macau's first (and for a long time, only) big casino

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Friday, July 02, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #408] Coley-Petroni Economics 101

Russ and I have learned that whenever we travel, regardless of how much we plan and prepare, we will do stupid things that will cost us more and take longer than they should. Paying £400 to take a car across the English Channel and back, rather than renting one on the continent, is a prime example. But this trip is proving to be exemplary.

We had a good candidate for the most profligate night when spent $150 each in Kuala Lumpur, where cheap isn't too hard to find, on a ridiculous tourist-trap restaurant with dancing performers followed by exorbitant drinks at a grimy gay bar. But we topped that today.

When we booked our flights originally, I gave Russ the choice of an early one or a later one and he chose early so he could get to work on time. Well, despite thinking ourselves quite smart by setting our alarms on our phones last night, while we were still sober, we managed to miss our flight this morning.

Somehow we turned off both our phones after the alarms went off, spoke to the front desk when they called, and went back to sleep without remembering any of it. Needless to say, our budget airline wouldn't just move us to a new flight, so we had to buy new tickets. S$600 ($430, £280) and four hours later, we were on our way. Small silver lining, though, in that we got to fly directly into Macau rather than into Hong Kong, saving us $30 on the ferry ride over. Frugal indeed!

Here's to hoping that this remains our most expensive day!

Cheers,
Shaun

Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

[The Life of Shaun #407] 100

Just a short eMail here to mark a little milestone.  Attached is a pic from crossing into Singapore from Malaysia; when I went through Singapore customs I received my 100th stamp in my passport*.

Having a great time down here.  Hong Kong is stunning, as every tourist shot indicates.  Kuala Lumpur is interesting for all the reasons that make it somewhere I wouldn't want to live.  Singapore has more to it than I thought it would - I love the 70s feel of so many of the buildings and the organisation and Western standards are welcome after KL.

Macau tomorrow, then across the border into China for shopping Saturday morning and then one last night in HK before heading home on Sunday.

Cheers,
Shaun


*My third passport, I am proud to say, as an American.


Shaun H. Coley
Shadwell, Tower Hamlets
London, UK

http://www.nocirc.org
http://shaunism.blogspot.com

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