Thought Repository


I've procrastinated writing this for a week but I guess that is long enough. For anyone who doesn't know, I spent most of last month in London. I would have written more from there but I had webserver issuez (which should be fixed for good now), so let me summarize the trip. I was there to work on a project, it was pretty crazy, I saw a lot of London, the tube is cool, made friend with and hung out with some locals, went on a crazy road trip to Scotland and all over England, my bag got lost... Ok, maybe a little more detail than that.

On the way there, Delta lost one of my bags and I still haven't gotten it back. I blame the gate agent in Atlanta who didn't affix the tag to it very well and who ignored me when I told her it looked like it was going to fall off. She also said that my bags would make the connection in NY when I asked, but even the bag that made it to London was on the flight 1:30 later. I don't even want to go into this ordeal any more. maybe when I actually find the bag.

The first week, Magic Michael was also there with me. He had studied there a semester so he knew the town. The first night we went and had a pint in a pub that he used to hang out in and met some nice Canadian girls who had all recently moved to London. I knew the British liked to drink but I didn't realize that the pubs all close at 11:30. Crazy. Michael showed me around town the next couple of days. I took all the normal touristy pictures like Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, a red phonebooth, etc. We went to see Billy Elliot. And in case you are wondering, we didn't experience any ginger abuse.

I was there working on a project for the Brand Experience Lab. It was a video game that was a promotion for Volvo. A movie theater audience leans left and right in their seats to steer their new car in the 5 minute game that runs between the ads and trailers before a movie. The event was only for a single showtime on one day, but ran simultaneously (and competitively) at 12 theaters across the UK. So I spent far too much time in my hotel room working on it, but it was the reason I was there.

I was in charge of the leaning of the audience but also the overall technical setup. Originally this was going to mean visiting all the cities to do the installation, but we decided we couldn't leave stuff set up ahead of time so I'd have to train others to bring the equipment the day of the event and set it up. Luckily I still got to visit some of the cities to at least get an idea of what I was dealing with. That side trip was maybe the best part of the whole trip.

One Wednesday I had to fly up to Glasgow, Scotland to meet with the people making the game itself. Unfortunately I didn't get a lot of time to explore Glasgow, but I really liked the Scots that I met. On Thursday morning I took the train down to Bolton, England to check out one of the theaters. Touf, A friend of a friend of someone I was working with drove up from London to meet me there. We became good friends on the ensuing two days of craziness, trying to visit 5 more cities/theaters. The tests I had to do were mostly an in and out in a half hour kind of thing but if I missed that 20 minute window between showtimes I had to wait 2 hours until the movie was over. Between traffic and a confusing road system, we were constantly behind schedule.

Thursday night we spent in a small town called Chesterfield. We stayed a very nice B&B but didn't see much of it. We went out on the town, had some drinks, and ended up dancing at a club until pretty late. My plan to meet English girls didn't go as well as I would have liked but it was fun. Afterwards we couldn't even find the path we took to get there but eventually found the hotel after much stumbling around. Oh, I was surprised to find out that no English people seem to know what an Irish car bomb (the drink) is. I explained it to Touf, but the when we tried to do one the bartender didn't quite get it, which made it a sort of over-strong mess (the car bomb strikes again).

On Friday we paid for the hard living of Thursday as we made our way to 3 more theaters. In Nottingham we were late so we watched the movie Control, a British movie about the band Joy Division. After Birmingham it was late enough that we just headed back to London.

The press screening of the project went very well (other than everyone leaving with me still in the project booth unaware). The rest of the project, however, was a bit more stressful. I had to prepare all the gear to go out which means 12 backpacks worth of laptops, camera, tripods, and other gear all in my small hotel room. It was so crowded and messy in there I couldn't let the maids in for almost a week. I had to train all of the people we hired to run it in all the cities, which went well except that I didn't quite have all the machines ready. Although I thought they were good to go, at the training there was a mysterious problem with 5 of them which meant I had to take them back to the hotel and fix them and then hand deliver them all that night or the next morning before everyone left for their cities. It turned out to be something stupid (the network is invisible when the power isn't plugged in), so it was easy to fix and I kind of enjoyed running around town delivering the laptops. I took the tube (London's subway) a lot when I was there and I really liked it.

The last crazy thing was coordinating the tests in each city. We had two tests to perform, one of the equipment when each person got to their city (varied times), and one synchronized game test in the morning. This meant 3 coworkers and I all crammed into my hotel room from 5pm to 2am answering calls left and right. We had several cellphones which they'd answer as people in the field called in with problems and whenever I'd put one down they'd throw me another one. I've you've ever tried to do 2 or 3 things at once, imagine trying 12. It was such a blur. I had no idea sometimes who I was talking to in what city, whose problem was whose, which computer I was remotely controlling. At one point I was actually talking on 2 cellphones at once (that picture is not staged at all). On one ear I had the guy up in Edinburgh, Scotland with a broken camera, and on the other ear I had the camera company tech support in America. By the event, we got all the site to work. When it came to the actual event, though, I was talking to just as many people, only now I was also in a projection booth with lousy reception and was running one theater myself. Plus we had only one chance to get it right.

I had hoped to be able to use the last couple days after the event to see some more of the sights, but after everything that happened, we still had plenty to do to wrap it all up, get the equipment back and return it to the rental company or ship it to the states. I did manage to go out and see Avenue Q and a few other things. One night earlier on I went out to see Touf and some of his friends perform at a pub with a sort of open mic night. Hanging out with the local was definitely a highlight of the trip. Didn't get to any of the museums I wanted to, though. Maybe next time. London was a cool place, although expensive, but I definitely recommend it.

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