Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not hungry

I’ve been back in the UK since Sunday, and I’m still very, very full of food from the US. Having not been across for a few years now, it’s easy to forget how “dialed up to 11” everything is there, including portion sizes. I could have easily (and on some days almost did) eaten to bursting on the meat alone, completely ignoring all sides, vegetables, and bread. The food, as I hoped and expected, was excellent, and I ate my way through an enormous amount of fish & seafood (Lafayette is Cajun country), steak, ribs, pancakes, pain perdu (French toast to us), coffee, beer, and margaritas. We ate at a chain place called Chilis on a couple of occasions, and boy were the ribs good there. It didn’t hurt that the beer and margaritas were 2 for 1 as well… Talking of beer, US brews have a very poor reputation over here (see Bud, Miller et al), but I’m pleased to report that there are now many fine locally-brewed beers on the go, often from “micro-breweries”.

On the work side of things, it was a conference, so I was hardly expecting great levels of excitement, and I didn’t get them. Lafayette seemed a nice enough, if a bit laid back and sleepy, place. The French influence on the place was evident, from the names, the food, and the unusual accent of the area. Getting around was tough: the US is not exactly known as a pedestrian paradise, and the taxi service was, let’s say, left wanting. We waited an hour for a taxi on the first day before giving up and walking; others reported 2 hours and above wait-times. I didn’t see a single taxi the entire time that I was there. Transport was easier after my colleagues hired a car to use over the weekend, meaning that we could expand our sphere of restaurants and even travel over longer distances. On a spare afternoon we took a trip to the Gulf coast to see the Tabasco factory. Did you know that it is an all-American traditional product? Me neither. The factory tour (and shop) was charming and excellent. I have now eaten jalapeño ice cream, which is much nicer than it sounds.

The travel itself all went OK, with the BA flight to America excellent, and the Delta flight back less so. One item of note was the security levels in the US: if you think things are heavy in Europe, then the US is a real treat. Bush has talked a lot about the War On Terror to ensure that the “turrrrists” don’t win, but guess what: they have. Whether it is all security theatre or is real, the level of security at airports indicates that there has been a significant impact on the freedom of citizens in recent years. Was it really necessary for security guys to unpack my (and everyone else’s) bags at check-in, randomly throwing it all back in, squashing it closed, and telling me not to touch my own bag as I tried to aid them in re-packing it in a non-chaotic way?

Finally on the US, maybe I was a bit hasty on the Clinton vs McCain prediction. The momentum out there seems to have really swung towards Obama, with the CNN coverage being all about him last week, and I got the real feeling that the time may be right for him now. He seems to have the “Blair effect”: pulling in voters who would normally not even think of voting for someone like him or his party. Interesting stuff.

So, as I said, I am back in the UK. Political tensions between Venezuela and the US (ExxonMobil in particular) stepped up last week, and it was thought best (on both sides of the Atlantic) if we went at a later date. I was happy to go, but that’s business politics for you. Looks like a week or two at home and then a jaunt to lovely Norway at the start of March.

Oh, and by the way, here are some photos from the trip on Flickr. Check out the amazing 3D cube room in the LITE technology facility in Lafayette. The computer that was displaying the graphics (and rendering them in real-time) was based on an array of around 200 HP computers with 4TB of RAM, and 500TB of storage on site. That’s impressive computing power.


Blogger Jenny said...

The further west you get in the US, the harder and harder it is to use public transit and/or get a cab. There'll be some exceptions (San Francisco, for instance, is a very public transit-friendly city), but that's a good rule of thumb to keep in your pocket for future travels to the States.

I'm telling you, Obama will be the next president.

6:50 pm  

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