Tuesday, June 27, 2006

midnight in a perfect world


Medborgarplatsen (Citizen's Square), Stockholm, Sweden. (2005). I took this blurry photo on a rainy, dreamy early morning last November while wandering the streets of Stockholm's Södermalm district. Can't remember now if I was coming or going, which, for me, doesn't seem to be an uncommon occurence these days.

***
A glimpse, nothing more.

It's midnight in a perfect world.

Shadow's rendition is spinning in the distant background but the emanating waves are subdued by the night air, which has become sweltering in these dying days of June.

Beyond the dimmed light of my living room, colours flash on a television set with the sound turned so low that there are only murmurs, softly droned.

I look to my left, beyond the windowsill, and into the darkness, which envelopes the artificial glow of the city below.

It's quiet.

I blink.

And look to my right, where she sleeps.

With eyes gently closed and the trace of a smile.

I think.

And dream.

About the longest eyelashes I've ever seen.

The beauty that they give and the beauty they perceive.

And I think, and dream.

Of the day I told her.

That I loved her so.

And smile, eyes closed.

Eyes open.

With Shadow's subdued rendition spinning in the background of the sweltering heat in these dying days of June.

With flashes of colour from my TV set, sound turned low so there are only murmurs, droned.

I look to my left, at the luminosity of city below.

And I look to my right ...

It's midnight in a perfect world.

A glimpse, nothing more?

Monday, June 19, 2006

my simulated reality tv life: episode fifteen

I'm tired of my travel pictures. You're tired of my travel pictures. What better way to remedy all of this travel picture fatigue than with a brand new episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life? Good, I'm glad you agree. Miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun. Don't know what we're talking about? Click here to start at Episode One. Now don't go away because tonight's episode begins ... right now!


Wife Bridgette leaps into simulated Felix's arms. All of this luvie-dubbie stuff between the two of them as of late has got to stop.

Episode Fifteen
Ok, I apologize in advance. I have to admit upfront that this is not going to be an especially action-packed, exciting or even full-length episode. The reason? I've run the simulation for My Simulated Reality TV Life three times tonight and, each time, all simulated Felix and Bridgette have wanted to do is get it on with each other. Endlessly. They're machines!

Maybe it's because their simulated biological clocks are ticking. Maybe it's just because they're bored. But if simulated Felix and Bridgette keep this up, My Simulated Reality TV Life is going to devolve into a simulated softcore porn show. Not that about 50% of this site's regular readers would mind, I bet.


... and since this is obviously an equal opportunity simulated marriage, here we have a shot of simulated Felix jumping into Bridgette's arms.

One thing about simulated Felix and Bridgette's constant state of, um, "busyness": it's leaving toddler Felicia to pretty much raise herself. Poor Felicia! These days, most of her time is spent quietly playing with her teddy bear and not-so-quietly banging on the keys of her toy xylophone.

Meanwhile, around the corner and down the street, new neighbour simulated Penny - perhaps the last great hope to save My Simulated Reality TV Life from being cancelled - must be upset about something because she's spending large stretches of every day slouched on her couch, drinking. It's hard to say for sure exactly what simulated Penny is drinking but I suspect it's vodka.

What the hell is going on here? Someone, please, stop the simulated madness - it's driving me crazy! Something has got to give!

Make sure you tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out if something does!


Simulated Felix and Bridgette provide each other with some action ...


... leaving toddler Felicia all alone to play with her teddy bear.


The key to a successful simulated marriage: balance, congruency, and the ability to simultaneously make a bed you can bounce a silver dollar on.


Simulated Penny goes shopping for new outfits. Always the trendsetter, simulated Penny belies this season's metropolitan, Euro-chic styling for something a little more ... bobsled.


Felicia's teddy bear to Bridgette: "You recycle all of your milk bottles? Oh, that's fantastic. Why don't you go back to Russia, YOU COMMUNIST!"

Friday, June 09, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 6: from the öresund

This is the sixth segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

***
Sorry, I'm too exhausted to bore you with any stories from the couple of days I spent in Copenhagen and Malmö; maybe I'll write something at a later date. Tonight, I'll just let the pictures do the talking. Hope all's well with you, wherever you may be logging in from.


Stortorget, Malmö, Sweden. (2006). Built in 1536, Stortorget is the oldest square in Malmö, which is today Sweden's third largest city after Stockholm and Göteborg. The guy on the horse is King Karl X Gustav, who is responsible for taking over Skåne for the Swedish from the Danish in 1658.


The Turning Torso and the Western Harbour district of Malmö, Sweden. (2006). 190 metres (623 feet) high, the Turning Torso is Sweden's tallest building. Designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.


Rundetårn (The Round Tower), Copenhagen, Denmark. (2006). Test your knees and hike the 209-metre (686 foot) long spiral ramp to the top of the Rundetårn, for great views of ...


... Copenhagen, of course. (2006). Red-tile rooftops and church spires abound. The Rundetårn was built by King Christian IV in 1642 as an observatory for the stars (the ones in the sky, not the Hollywood variety).


More views of Copenhagen from the Rundetårn. (2006).


A Danish pastry, Copenhagen, Denmark. (2006). When in Denmark, one must eat a "Danish" - it's the proper thing to do. Except in Denmark, a Danish is not known as a Danish but rather a "wienerbrød." Haha, "wiener."


One of Copenhagen's many canals. (2006).


Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark. (2006). Home to Denmark's national government.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 5: south shore iceland

This is the fifth segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

***
"Did you go to the Blue Lagoon?"


The spectacular waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. (2006). You can actually hike behind Seljalandsfoss for a surreal perspective, and also get drenched in the process. Because it was cold the day I went (0C or 32F), many of the rocks on the short jaunt behind Seljalandsfoss were icy and quite treacherous. I'm sure my mom would not be happy to hear that I nearly plunged to my death, so I'll just keep quiet about that part.

"Nope."

"You came all the way to Iceland and you didn't go to the Blue Lagoon? What the hell is wrong with you? Why not?"

I shrugged. I didn't have the patience to tell the two brash girls from Philly that the reason I chose not to go was to avoid the package tour crowd, which was typical of, well, themselves.

"How about the Golden Circle? Did you go on a tour of the Golden Circle?"

"No."

"Well, where did you go, then?"

"The South Shore ... Vík ... Skógar."

"Really? What's there?"

"Iceland."

The brunette with the long curly hair shot a funny look at her strawberry blonde friend and then turned back to me.

"You know you're pretty weird, right?"

"Yup," I nodded.

It wouldn't be the last time I'd be forced to explain why, in my short time in Iceland, I didn't hit the Blue Lagoon (the country's most popular tourist destination) and the so-called "Golden Circle" attractions of Gulfoss (a supposedly spectacular waterfall), Geysir (the original spouting hot spring and the one which all other geysirs are named after), and þingvellir (a historical national park).

Yes, I went to the South Shore instead. And yes, I completely stand by my decision.


Seljalandsfoss, Iceland. (2006).


Vík, Iceland. (2006). Population: 300. Near the most southerly point in Iceland, the quaint little village of Vík became one of my favourite stops in Iceland. Reputed to be the rainiest spot on the island, Vík was completely sun-drenched and windswept the day I was there.


Sea stacks off the coast of Vík, Iceland. (2006). One of the unique things about Vík is its fine, black, volcanic sand beach. I'd go as far as to say it's one of the better beaches I've ever stepped foot on. If the temperature were not near freezing, I would have stayed awhile just to lie around in the sun.


Vík's architecturally-acclaimed church, which sits high on a hill above the village and the North Atlantic Ocean. (2006). As you probably know, Iceland is something of a hotspot for volcanic activity and earthquakes, which means there's always a possibility for a tsunami. I was told that the residents of Vík regularly have tsunami drills where everyone rushes up the hill to the church.


Sea arch and the lighthouse of Dyrhólaey, as seen from Reynisfjara, Iceland. (2006). I had hoped to get a photograph of an Atlantic puffin or two while on this rocky stretch of shoreline but I never got close enough to get a good shot.


Reynisfjara, Iceland. (2006). It was unbelievably windy here. One particular gust of wind actually picked me up off the ground.


Sólheimajökull. (2006). Sólheimajökull is the tongue of the massive glacier Mýrdalsjökull. Besides the glacier, there's also an abundance of lava rock and quicksand. Perhaps this is what the Earth looked like billions of years ago? This particular part of Iceland is somewhat indicative of the moonscape that I envisioned before I got here.


Sod house, Skógar, Iceland. (2006).


Sod buildings on the grounds of the Skógar Folk Museum, Skógar, Iceland. (2006). While here, I got the chance to meet the colourful 84-year old founder of the museum, Þórður Tómasson. A collector of pretty much anything since he was a teenager, many of the items he has amassed are on display at the Skógar Folk Museum. Sure, it's in the middle of nowhere, but the museum is one of the best I've ever been to anywhere in the world.


The powerful waterfall Skógafoss. (2006).


Eyrarbakki, Iceland. (2006). Eyrarbakki used to be Iceland's most populous settlement; it isn't anymore. Not too far out of town is a large, multi-story white house with a black roof and no fence. Apparently, the house used to serve as Iceland's only prison for women. However, the prison has since moved to a smaller house because it was deemed to be too large for all 4(!) of the country's women prisoners. The Icelandic are a famously law-abiding people.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 4: springtime in skåne

This is the fourth segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

***
Longtime readers of starfish and waffles already know that one of the main objectives of my trip was to visit Lund University in Sweden.


Spring is in full bloom in Lund, Sweden. (2006).

As you may recall, LU had accepted me into their Master's program in Asian Studies for Fall 2006. So I had figured the prudent thing to do was to visit the school before quitting on my career back here in North America.

My impressions, after the visit? Lund is a charming town and it feels like there should be a university here. Tall, broadleaf trees line a campus filled with quaint old buildings, superb coffee shops, and beautiful Swedish women! I spoke to a couple of the professors in the program who were very nice and refreshingly upfront about the all of the things the school could and could not offer potential students like myself.

But as wonderful as it all seemed, I had also promised myself that I wouldn't make the move if I couldn't clearly picture myself living in the town for this Fall ... and when I tried to picture it, well, I just couldn't. Maybe the thought of moving to a foreign country only eight weeks from now just seemed a little too rushed.

Next Fall, however, is a different story. Therefore, Sweden remains a good option for 2007. The way I see it, deferring will give me a year to save up some money and get my thoughts together so I can do things the right way should I decide head across the Pond.

So for better or for worse, you're stuck with at least another year of Canadian starfish and waffles.


Apparently, in Sweden, I'm a brand of ketchup. (2006). The fact that two of me can be had for 30 Swedish kronor (about C$4.50 or US$4.00) at the local Willy's is not good for my self-esteem.


The Main University Building of Lund University. (2006). Lund University is Sweden's largest post-secondary institution with 40,000+ students.


Wandering the medieval streets of Lund, Sweden. (2006). Once the capital of Denmark, Lund was founded around 1000. After a prolonged war, Sweden took over Lund and the Skåne region in 1658. Lund University was built shortly thereafter, in large part to assimilate the Danish population.


Bicycles parked on Clemenstorget, Lund, Sweden. (2006). Unlike in North America, nobody in Sweden locks their bike.


The STF Vandrarhem Tåget, Lund, Sweden. (2006). Situated on an abandoned track near the Lund train station, the Vandrarhem Tåget - essentially an old train - is one of the more unique hostels I've ever stayed in. There are three bunks per tiny sleeping compartment, which is fine if you have a compartment all to yourself, like I did the first night I stayed here. Unfortunately, on the second night, the hostel was full and the guy in the frighteningly rickety bunk above me must have weighed about 280 pounds. Had the bunk given ... wow, now that would have been a bad way to go, huh?


Me, inside the aforementioned tiny sleeping compartments aboard the Train Hostel. (2006). You may be asking yourself: why does Felix look so damn smug in the picture? It may be because I'm in Sweden, baby! Or, it could be because I only paid 130 Swedish kronor (C$19 or US$21) a night for a bed. Or, just maybe, it's because I'm the least photogenic person alive, and out of seven similar shots, THIS was the best one. *Sigh*


Hockey Night in Sweden aboard the Train Hostel. (2006). You'll be pleased to know I played an eleven-year old kid from Holland and mercilessly pummelled him back to Amsterdam. We Canadians take our (table) hockey very, very seriously.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

starfishin' the north atlantic, part 3: long cocoa forever

This is the third segment of our Starfishin' the North Atlantic series. If you're new to the series, click here for context. If you missed the last segment, click here. For the next segment, click here. If all you want to see are pictures without the stories, click here.

***
I hurried through the revolving doors of a tall, steel-and-glass office tower in Boston's Financial District and checked my watch. Good, ten minutes early. But already, they were waiting for me. These financial types are never late, especially when they're angling for more business from your firm.


The majestic Victorian brownstones on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. (2006). If I ever move to Boston, I think I would want to live on this lovely, tree-lined boulevard.

Fortunately, this morning would be relatively relaxed: the only thing on the docket was a tour of the trading floor. We took the elevator up to the sixth floor and they led me to a catwalk which overlooked the trading floor on the fifth. The square footage and setup were impressive. There were rows upon rows of computers with a caffeine-driven, headset-wearing trader seated at each one. At the far end of the floor, the 10am sunshine flooded through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Still, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed, especially with the apparent lack of activity on this day. In my mind, I had secretly hoped to catch a glimpse of the type of open outcry, frantic activity one might see in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or the New York Board of Trade.


A view of the Boston skyline from City Hall Plaza. (2006).

My "tour guide," who was a national sales manager of some sort, went into a spiel on how many trillions of dollars they trade, their state-of-the-art systems, their trading floors in London and Tokyo, and their talented people.

But to be truthful, I wasn't really paying that close of attention. Because at the very moment my guide was explaining the broad range of transition management services they provided (or something like that), I was imagining if the blonde, wisp of a girl two rows of computers deep on the floor would cover my back if I tackled the tall, linebacker of a man next to her, all the while making hand signals and shouting:

"COCOA! BUY COCOA! 3000 CONTRACTS! COCOA!! SOY! SOY, SOY, SOY! SHORT SOY!! SHORT ORANGE JUICE!! SHORT PORK BELLIES!"

Now that would be fun.

My guide finished his spiel.

"Do you have any questions, Felix?"

I did a double-take, snapped back into reality and replied:

"Thanks for the overview. Tell me about your competitive advantage." Nice save, huh? (A tip: if you ever find yourself in a business situation where you haven't been paying attention, always ask about competitive advantage.)

"I'm glad you asked me that. Let's head down to the floor and we'll give you a demonstration of our trading software."

As we walked down the stairs and passed by the blonde, wisp of a girl and the tall, linebacker of a man, for a brief moment I seriously contemplated making "the tackle." But in the end, professionalism won out and I did nothing.

Sometimes I hate being a professional.


Boston's Old City Hall. (2006). On the ground floor there's now an expensive restaurant.


The gold-domed Massachusetts State House, Boston, Massachusetts. (2006). Sitting atop Beacon Hill, the State House is the second stop along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile red brick path that winds its way through sixteen important historic sites of revolutionary Boston. I got lazy and only walked maybe half the length of the trail.


Harvard rowing crews on the Charles River at sunset, with a view of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the background. (2006). I took this photo from the Harvard Bridge, which connects Boston and Cambridge.