A Travellerspoint blog

Powering Life Just Got Easy to Carry

A new electrical plug could mean I can reclaim some of the space in my laptop bag!

sunny 15 °C

As a consultant (or, at present a former consultant - hopefully new consultant again soon), one gets used to packing up the laptop bag quite frequently. Laptop in the case, electrical cord wrapped loosely around the transformer, tucked away in the corner.

Putting away the laptop in North America was never an issue. I often had extra space in my laptop bag to stow away stuff for the trip, like a can of coke or a snack. I never do here in England, though. That’s because the power plug is so massive.


Power plugs here are bulky. When plugging something in here, it feels a little bit like I am in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. These are plugs that look like they could power electrical appliances from the Victorian age.

Despite the Victorian bulkiness, the plugs, known as British Standard BS 1363, were adopted in 1947. They are much larger than the North American standard plugs (the two-pin ungrounded NEMA 1 and three-pin grounded NEMA 5).

It is this bulkiness that makes it such a pain to transport. Back in 1947, that probably wasn’t such a big deal. After all, one didn’t move the wireless or lamp all that often.

Nowadays, with laptops, mobile phones, ipods and other electronic devices common place, lots of people are walking around with chargers and power adapters that are taking up lots of space. It is especially galling to have an ultra thin mobile phone or laptop, and then have a power plug that takes up more space than the device it is meant to power.

Enter 29 year-old Min-Kyu Choi, a student at London's Royal College of Art. Mr. Choi bought a Macbook Air, thin enough to fit into an envelope, but was unimpressed when the power plug was so large. Unlike me, who just whines about such things, Mr. Choi decided to do something.

He designed a new plug. One that folds flat when not in use, with the pins on hinges to allow them to snap out and into place when needed.


It is impressive. So impressive that Mr. Choi has just won the Brit Insurance design of the year award.

Bravo Mr. Choi! This is good news for all of us here in the UK with portable devices. I’m looking forward to the day when I can get my hand on one of these, and replace the bulky plugs powering my laptop, mobile phone and iPod.


Posted by GregW 02:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

A Model of the Real World

sunny 14 °C

I was playing around today with a website called "Tiltshift Maker." Tilt shifting is a photography method which plays with the tilt of the camera and focus. It can be used to create selective focus pictures, which appear to be photos of miniatures, even though they are real.

The website allows you to use software to get this same effect. I tried a number of photos from my various trips over the years, but I think these are the best three of them. Enjoy.

Click on the photos for a larger view

Monaco Grand Prix, May 2009

Monaco Grand Prix, May 2009

Nice, France beach, May 2009

Nice, France beach, May 2009

Arsenal's Emirates Field, November 2009

Arsenal's Emirates Field, November 2009

Posted by GregW 06:20 Archived in England Tagged photography Comments (0)

Ploughed Under

On the hunt... for both housing and work... again.

sunny 5 °C

I woke up today at 7:30 AM. I don’t know why. Probably force of habit. I’m used to getting up early in the morning, and even though I don’t have to, my body is still so used to rolling out of bed at that hour, it still does.

Two months ago, things seemed to be going along quite well. I’d been in the UK for a little over a year and a half, and I had a good job, a nice place to live, a decent group of good friends and was really starting to fell settled.

Then in quick succession, changes.

Firstly, mid-January I find out that my landlord decided to sell the flat I am renting. The flat isn’t sold yet, and even once it is I’ll get two months notice, so it’s not like I’m sleeping on the street just yet. However, it does mean that the shadow of change is hovering over me.

Then, less than two weeks after getting that little nugget of news, I find out that I am going to be unemployed in early March. Ironically, on January 26th, as the UK press was reporting that the UK economy was coming out of recession, I was finding out that I had a little over a month before my pay cheques would stop. A coworker in a similar boat said that he had joined the company because he felt it was recession-proof. “What I didn’t realise was the company wasn’t growth-proof,” he quipped.

Anyway, the details of my job loss aren’t really important, but the end outcome is that as of Monday, March 8th, I no longer have to get up in the morning to go to work.

To extend my (perhaps already overextended) metaphor of the green field a little further - it seems my green field has been ploughed under. I am back to where I was about when I wrote that entry back in July of 2008 - without a permanent place to live and without a job.


This though, I suppose is life. As Mary Schmich, columnist for the Chicago Tribune wrote in here column Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young (famously turned into song Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen) by Baz Luhrmann), “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

My random Tuesday was the 26th of January, though it was actually at a 10 AM meeting.

So I am back again with a mostly green field to build a new life on. This time, I have a head start, though. I have a a network of professional contacts to mine for opportunities. I have experience in the UK that I can point to, which many companies indicated as being a problem during my last round of job hunting. I’m not hunting during the deepest recession in a generation, like I was in 2008, but rather during a time of economy growth, even if it is slight and tenuous. Finally, I have a good group of friends here in the UK to support me in my quest.


So I am off to pound the pavement, and plant some new seeds that I hope to grow into opportunities. In 2008, I wound up in Phoenix before landing a job in the UK. Who knows where the hunt will lead this time.

Posted by GregW 03:24 Archived in England Tagged living_abroad migration_experiences Comments (0)

Hockey Night in London

Watching the Winter Olympic Hockey final on February 28, 2010 at the Albion on New Bridge Street in London. The game was Canada vs. USA. Canada wins 3-2 in overtime. The pub is owned by a Canadian, and so they showed all the hockey games.

overcast 10 °C

Eight years ago, I was sitting on a counter having an internal debate. I was in Air Canada Elite lounge in Terminal 2 of Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Access to the lounge is a benefit of being an Elite flyer, and includes comfortable chairs, free alcohol and big screen TVs. The date was Sunday, February 24th, 2002, and I was about to get on a flight down to St. Louis for work.

The debate I was having was whether or not I would get on that flight.

That Sunday was the final game in the Men's Olympic hockey tournament in Salt Lake City. Canada was playing the USA. My flight was scheduled in the late evening. I had showed up very early for my flight to make sure I could see the game.

In close to the end of the second period, and Brian Rafalski had just scored a goal for the USA to tie the game up at 2-2. The game was tight, and I suddenly was hit with the realisation that if the game stayed close, it could go into overtime. If the game wrapped up in regular time, I'd be able to see it all, but if it went to overtime, I'd either have to leave to catch my flight or blow off the flight and keep watching the game.

Luckily, I never had to make that choice. Canada scored with less than 2 minutes left in the second period, and then went on to put away another two goals in the 3rd period to win 5-2.

Between you and me, though, I would have blown off the flight and watched the game. Some things are more important than work.

Last Sunday (February 21st), I sacrificed work again by staying up really late to watch Canada and the USA play Olympic Hockey again. It was the round-robin part of the tourney, and Canada and the USA were both undefeated. The winner would move on to the quarter finals. The loser would have to play an elimination game before getting to the quarter finals.


I headed down to The Albion on New Bridge Street. The pub is owned by a Canadian, and so he got a late licensed to stay open for all the games. As the Olympics were in Vancouver, which is 8 hours difference from London, most of the games started very late. That Sunday, the game started after midnight.

It wasn't a great game, as a Canadian fan. Canada lost 5-3, setting up a long road to get to the final. It stung to have stayed up so late and not get the benefit of seeing a Canadian win.

Over the next week, Canada played three more games, winning against Germany, Russia (one of the favourites in the tournament) and Slovakia and winning them all to set up a final against the team they'd lost to the last Sunday - The United States of America.

I head down to the Albion again for the game. Judging by the crowd there the previous Sunday, I figured I should show up earlier. I showed up at 6 PM, two and a quarter hours before the game. I was one of the last people allowed in before the bar was packed and no others were let in.


Canada was up 2-1 until the dying minutes of the game, when the USA scored and sent the game to overtime. The crowd, almost all Canadians, were stunned into silence.

Luckily for the crowd, Sydney Crosby scored in overtime to win 3-2. The crowd went wild. People who didn't know each other were hugging. Everyone was smiling. A few folks even broke out the champagne.


Congratulations to Canada! Always nice watching these things with other folks of your nationality.

Come June, though, I'll have to adopt another country to be part of. Canada didn't make it into the World Cup.

Posted by GregW 09:36 Archived in England Tagged sports events Comments (3)

A Wider Field of Vision

How travel has opened my eyes and ears to what happens in the wider world.

rain 5 °C

Like most Saturday mornings, I woke up yesterday and flipped on the BBC News. The top story was the earthquake in Chile, which is now reported to have caused massive damage in Concepcion and the surrounding area and taken 300 lives.

I never visited Concepcion when I was in Chile in 2003. I took an overnight bus from Santiago to Puerto Varas in the lake district, passing through Concepcion in the middle of the night fast asleep. However, the fact that I had been to Chile - spent 6 weeks travelling to various points from the North to the South of the country - meant that I could place myself in the story. I knew what the geography of the country was, what the buildings are like, who the people were.

I've noticed since I started travelling that I do pay more attention to international news. I've always been a bit of a news junkie, in my 20s and early 30s I mostly read news about local and national issues, and skipped over international news unless it was about the USA and how that might impact the economy.

Travel, though, has made me more aware of the world, and interested in what is happening around our little globe. I now am as likely to click on the INTERNATIONAL tab of a news website to see what is happening abroad as I am to click on the LOCAL or NATIONAL news tabs. I'm always doubly interested in stories about places that I have been to - China's spat with Google or the storms battering Spain, Portugal and France - or places I've been near - though I've never been to Haiti, I have visited the Dominican Republic on the other side of the island and so watched the Haiti earthquake news intently. It is, I suppose, basic human nature. A story resonates more forcefully if you can place yourself within the narrative. By having seen places in person that appear in the news, it is easier to visualise the story in my head.

There are many ways to connect to a news story. Often you can empathise with those impacted without having ever seen the place where it occurred. Other items can help you connect to a story - emotions like anger, fear, humour or revulsion. Being able to connect to a story based on sense of place is just another way to connect, and makes reading the news a richer experience.

Posted by GregW 05:32 Archived in England Tagged armchair_travel travel_philosophy Comments (0)

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