Sunday, April 29, 2007

12/4/07 Schiphol, The Netherlands – Straight Outta Schiphol

Flying these days is either stupidly cheap (€1 flights and so forth) or not nearly so cheap as expected. There never seems to be tickets as cheap as you were hoping. It is also no longer fun now that security has been lengthened and pettified in an attempt to increase the appearance of it. Or to increase the sales of duty free and vending machine drinks. I'm not sure which.

After a few days of tending cats concerned that their owner had gone away and aware, somehow, that I was going too, it was a relief. Cats don't know how to ask for attention. When they want it, they just go right ahead and demand it. Or grab it. It's very, very irritating to not be able to walk anywhere without a cat lodged against one of your shins. Even the haughty, semi-independent cat had been coming to me and demanding validation. She, however, was too smart to stand up against the legs of a man trying to walk.

Eventually, I snuck out silently wishing the cat-sitter luck when she calls in on them. Anyone who said cats were capable and independent was thinking of leopards.

Whilst waiting to board, a plane slipped by declaring "nwa." Wow, I thought. It's great when a band that isn't bland makes it big enough to have their own airline. However, subsequent investigation showed that nwa actually stands for Northwest Airline. Pity. I really, really wanted it to stand for Niggaz With Altitude.


Over the years, I've been given al sorts of excuses for delayed flights, but today's beats most of them. Apparently it was too hot on board to get on the plane and extra air-conditioning had to be brought in to cool it down. It's a goodie, and right up there with, but not quite as good (or disturbing) as the recent pissed-off announcement by the captain that the flight was delayed because the airport authorities had made them sleep the minimum amount of time required by international air-flight law.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Call for responsible warfare

Time was, the aim of war was to lay waste to as much of the enemy’s land as possible, to was as much of the countryside with the blood as you humanly could and to leave no construction unburnt. This was all well and good in the days before flying began, but the world is different now. Last year’s war zone is this year’s holiday destination.

And this happens quicker and quicker. It took many years for Vietnam and Korea to really appear on the holiday radar, but Croatia, Serbia, etc have appeared much quicker after their spots of bother.

Given this and that despite being this year’s enemy, your neighbour could be the next top holiday destination for your citizens, it’s important not to leave a lasting legacy in the form of land mines and unexploded bombs. It’s also important to leave infrastructure in place and to not destroy too many hotels.

Plus people’s attention spans are much shorter these days. No longer as a species could we stand for a 100-years’ war. We want a quick, spectacular surgical strike taking out a handful of strategic buildings, plus the odd hospital to keep the sceptics happy, all ending after a few short days with a truce-signing ceremony at which Ashlee Simpson or Justin Timberlake will sing.

This may sound facetious, but actually this is exactly what Sun Tzu talks about in his early Chinese classic, The Art of War. He said “Generally, in war the best policy is to take a state intact” adding, “thus, those skilled in war subdue the enemy’s army without battle.” Almost exactly what I said. In fact the only difference is that at the truce-signing ceremony he wanted Coco Lee or Fish Leong to sing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Catching Up

I've not written too much here for a while. Not because I don't love any (either?) of you any more. And not because I have turned my back on the written arts - heaven forbid. It's just that my time and pen has been taking me elsewhere.

So what's been going on?

In February, as well as turning another ripe old age, I moved in to a menagerie. One of the number was the wonderful Lady Catherine, with whom I have been stepping out for a good 8 seasons. The others are a horde of cats. Although in fact I believe they number just two.

The move was pretty simple, especially for Lady C who didn't even leave her building, and instead humped her stuff up two floors to the penthouse apartment. I had to shift my stuff over a river but and fortunately this city is festooned with bridges, so there was no need to hire a boat, just a guy with a van. The new place has two floors, much storage space and his'n'hers offices. Damn near perfect, despite costing all of our limbs and the limbs of our first-born in rent.

I am not really a cat person. I was brought up with dogs and hamsters. But I have always admired their cunning and ability to dupe owners that they care about them. Cats take some getting used to. Dogs, once trained, respond to commands and won't go where you tell them not to after a few times of stern telling. Cats wilfully seek those places and do not understand orders, shouts or pleads to move. When you finally shove, throw or even gently push them off, they look back at you with a face of incomprehension and faint malice.

Of the two cats, one is exactly what I expected in a cat. She's superior and a little independent, if somewhat afraid of sudden movements and much of the outside world. The other is needy, demanding of attention and whiney. More like a puppy in fact. This is the one that if we didn't barricade ourselves into the bedroom section of the house, would spend all night scratching at the door to be let in. He's not allowed in as, once in, he would either turn his nose up and walk out again or try to sleep on you face.

The other thing about cats is that they shed hair. Girlfriends, of course, do this too, but nothing like the way cats do. It's quite amazing to put on a shirt you haven't worn for a few weeks that's been hanging high in the wardrobe and find it's covered almost uniformly in cat hairs.

I guess I shouldn't complain as real cat-hair jackets cost a lot of money these days and no cruelty is involved.