Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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London, Visits

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I had planned meeting people for Saturday. But before that started, I used the opportunity of stopping at a Muji store close to our hotel after breakfast. Ever since having accidentally run into one of their stores I quite like the place because they’re selling loads of nice, clean and simply designed things. I think my addiction to them started with an aluminium credit card case which I use all the time and some of their office stuff (nice short aluminium rulers for example, and nice notebooks if you can adapt to the fact that their label is on what us Roman writing system users would consider to be the back cover), but then I started noticing that they also have clothes, most of which are nice and plain – and most notably without any branding labels, so I ventured into longsleeves as well. I’m sure that I’d walk out there with a sofa sooner or later if they had one of their stores close to me.

Then I was off to visit Chiho and Dave and their little daughter whom I hadn’t met yet. This took me to the mysterious ‘Zone 3’ of the public transport system, which really isn’t more than a ten minute train ride away. The trip gave me the opportunity to once more be confused by the displays in British railway stations (in Germany they are like at airports, one line per train, chronologically while in British stations they have a long horizontal row of screens with one train per screen; to make things more interesting they often don’t put the platform number on there until shortly before the train leaves). It also highlighted that I am seemingly unable to have a problem with service quality on Britain’s famously poor public transport: Their online timetables and booking systems may be byzantine (just for connection information in all of Europe, most people agree that using Deutsche Bahn’s web site is the quickest way to get it), their ticket pricing may be impossible to understand (Germany is catching up on that one!) and their trains may be dirty, but I never had any considerable delays. Touching wood on that one!

Chiho and Dave had prepared a huge barbecue which made time just fly by and there wasn’t even time left to have cake afterwards because I had to catch my train back into town where I then met Paul and we had a quick peek at the National Portrait Gallery, wondering about the point of painting photorealistic images, being amused by a photo of Belle and Sebastian and baffled by a room full of Diana. I quite liked the old floors in many parts of the building as well.

We then did a quick stop at the Apple Store to see the new iPods for real. That new greyish plastic is so-so, I’m not really sure about it, seems a bit too average compared to the old colours; and, just like in iTunes on the computer, (un-)ironically the Cover Flow feature isn’t all that convincing for browsing music. Because it will only display grey placeholder images for a moment while you are scrolling before the actual cover art has been loaded. Which kind of defeats the point of graphical browsing. [You don’t need to ‘inform’ me about thing like memory usage on this, thanks.] The images seem to be cached later on. But then again, the amount of music Apple put on the demo units was tiny, so it’s impossible to tell how thing works in a real-life situation from the demo. I also thought, that things were a little sluggish – an impression that is shared by others.

As the store was packed with people reading their e-mail, I just skipped the queueing and reading mine as well (and guess what, I didn’t miss anything…) and we headed on to meet Chris and Gareth for a coffee tea. A fun thing to do, although I may at times have felt technically left behind between people who think a mobile phone is a twitter front-end, note pad, calendar and whatnot (while the most useful non-telephony feature I could find on these devices so far is the fact that they display the time, and the devices aren’t particularly good at that either, even digital cameras are better in some respects - I guess the stupidity that made its way into the design of time display features of various devices could fill a whole book).

And that time passed rather quickly as well, so I had to hurry back to the hotel to meet my family for dinner. We went for dinner at one of the Royal China restaurants which had been recommended to me as doing more than just the stereotypical sweet-and-sour fare. And they did. The food was certainly interesting. Our waitress was a bit keen to push us around to order stuff she considered good (which, when tried, it actually was) and I ended up ordering a dish that was just a bit too peppery for my tastebuds. So we’re not quite in Eat Drink Man Woman world yet, but certainly a step up from what we usually get.

September 9, 2007, 0:00

Tagged as country:uk, travel, UK.

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