Anheuser Busch Sucks27 Aug 2005 04:07 am

Sunday we went to Seaworld in San Diego. It was really great fun – I mean, a dolphin might be assumed to be more fascinating than fun. But the guys making these shows have got a terrific sense of humor and they understand how to renew themselves (I was there 2 years ago, everything was more or less changed). Thomas shot a huge amount of pictures of dolphins and killer whales, I hope I can steal some of them and present them here.

The bad thing was that Anheuser-Busch (makers of beer-parody Budweiser) had obviously bought the entire thing since my last visit. And you notice this immediately… before you enter the park, you see big signs saying that they really, really support the American troops everywhere in the world (I even think anybody associated with the US forces had a free ticket). This could be perceived as some patriotic act and obviously this is what they want people to believe. Before the Shamu show, the cute killer-whale taming lady wanted to guide the audience’s attention towards a big screen with a tribute to all these US forces, people related to such should stand up, people should clap their hands and if you could shed a little tear it would be perfect. Very patriotic as is. But… (or should I say Bud…): Of course this is all some ingenious stunt from the Anheuser-Busch marketing department. Everywhere within the park you saw signs with text like the following:
“Which is the most American: a) The American Eagle, American Pie and Budweiser or b) South-Africa owned Miller?”. Seriously, even our local beer-hater Thomas paid attention to these posters announced as quizzes.

Seaworld had even introduced something called the Budweiser Beer School or something like that. During the day, we convinced ourselves we had to go there, just to be able to make a more authoritative nagging. And so we did, after having attended all must-see events, including penguin feeding. And what a joke. I mean seriously, this was so far out, almost surrealistic. About 30-40 people were put in a classroom like thing with glasses in front of each “pupil”. A poor Budweiser woman started the “class” – meaning she started a video presentation. If the guy on the video had said “Hello, my name is Troy McLure – you might know from such educational films as…”, I would not have been surprised… Well, after having seen the Anheuser-Busch’s living out the American dream, the Budweiser woman in the “class” presented a little poll: “If you had the choice between two beers of the SAME quality, taste, price (and some more attributes), but one was made in the US (a) and the other in South-Africa (b), which one would you chose?” All the people in the audience said / mumbled “a” and nodded as in “of course, how stupid do you think we are”. Next she presented all the negative consequences for the American society if people bought Miller instead of Budweiser…

Then, we had to taste 6-7 different Budweiser beers, all with different fantastic story. We (the Danes) were literally loughing our asses off – I mean, seriously, this woman stands there talking about various differences in taste of these fantastic beers. But ALL these beers tasted of exactly NOTHING. Really, nothing. Pale coloured, tasteless beer. The other “students” in there nodded and emitted “uhmmmm”s, strangely enough. Brain-washed in someway, I assume. Ok, I finally had my “Anheuser-Busch Beer Master” diploma, wee.

Btw: During the Seaworld trip, Kim suddenly noticed a couple of twins with identical T-shirts, shorts, shoes and even the same pink Seaworld Platinum wristbands – enjoy the Thomas and Jens twins:

The cute twins insisted that there were some better candidates for worst Seaworld Twins consisting of the Brothers in Black, i.e. Anders and yours truly:

Thomas & Jens deserve your vote in the poll in the sidebar to the right.

Life in California21 Aug 2005 12:39 am

Friday was the 20th Anniversary of Systematic and also the day of the annual Sensommer Party at the company. So back at home, everybody was going to a huge party – instead of joining them, the Systematic team in Fullerton threw their own party in a slightly modified edition, adapted to the American environment.

We started the Systematic Fullerton Anniversary Party in a limo with leather seats, driver, booze, TV, stereo and a Føtex bag. The latter contained even more booze, possibly contributing to Jens’ memory blackout and Kim’s sudden need for a nap later that night.

After cruising around for a while, the driver took us to Morton’s in Santa Ana. Office mate back at home and native LA girl Gina as well as Michael Westergaard had recommended this before we left Denmark as the best one available – tremendous steaks and ditto martinis. And they were right… Definitely the best porterhouse steak I have ever had and also some awsome martinis.

After having eaten his 24 oz porterhouse steak, Kim felt like demonstrating how you sleep in a top-notch steak house.

He was revived by two double espressos served by the kind waitress. It should be noted that it might not only be martinis and complimentary limo booze but also a little (one week old…) jetlag that contributed to the sudden need for a nap.

After steaks, desert and loads of martinis, we went to Irvine Spectrum – a fantastic place with lots of happy people. We went to the Yard House with supposedly more than 200 beers on tap, including several favourite US ales and even the Gulden Draak from Belgium…

That concluded the Systematic Fullerton Anniversary Party. More pictures from the night are available (courtesy of Kim).

Life in California16 Aug 2005 11:45 pm

Tuesday it was time to leave Embassy Suites (just after the air condition started to work again) and into an apartment in the Pinnacle complex in Fullerton where the other Systematic guys are also going to stay. Kim has already stayed there for a few months and it was on his recommendation that we chose the place.

And what a place. This is definitely one of the nicest apartments I have ever seen. By Danish standards the furniture is pretty ugly, but it works well and everything else is fantastic here. I would be happy to show you some pictures of the apartment, but as of writing I definitely need to do some garbage collection before that is possible, so have patience. In the mean time, have a look at the official Pinnacle website or at the video, shot by Kim in an identical appartment (except for furniture and it being a mirror of mine).

So what was that with the treadmill and death thing? Tuesday was also the day for the annual DHL Stafet, a running event in Aarhus in which Systematic traditionally participates. The Systematic team in Fullerton would of course also like to participate. Instead of running outside, we did it the American way and ran on these treadmill things in the gym within the Pinnacle complex while watching TV. I don’t think I am in a really, really bad shape and I am usually able to run 5 km (~3 miles) in about 25-27 minutes without getting completely wasted. But things are apparently different with that awful treadmill running machine. I had never tried such a thing before and probably never will again… Take a look at the pictures below of a suffering me during and after the 3 mile Fullerton DHL Run to get an impression of what I mean… My legs hurt so much that I was not able to move without pain before several days later. Reconsidering that not-so-bad-shape statement.

Golf13 Aug 2005 03:10 am

After having picked up Kim in the airport Saturday after his trip to Friedrichshafen, he suggested we went to Palm Springs to play golf on Sunday. What an amazing plan! Pretty good thing that all the 5 Systematic guys staying here are either golfers or want to become such (Kim is the wanna-be one).

So Sunday we headed for the desert. First stop was the Cabazon Outlets. I have been there a few times before, it is kind of an inverse Ikea-experience – instead of getting Ikea-visit-convulsions and feeling an extreme urge to just get out as soon as possible, you are kind of attracted by these shops (now I sound like a woman); everything is extremely cheap, and you just keep on buying and buying, you can easily afford it because of all the money you just saved on the previous thing you bought. Now that sounds clever. Nevertheless, this time I had a pair of Nike Air Gore-Tex golf shoes for $59.95 (dkr ~350), a pair of Nike Air Pegasus running shoes for about the same price and more stuff, I didn’t really need, but it was damn (relatively) cheap.

After a few hours of intense money spending, we went to Palm Springs. 110 golf courses to chose from, right in the middle of the desert. The first course we found did not really match the description in our little guide and actually looked quite boring, so we went on and finally found something really cool – Westin Mission Hills North, a course designed by Gary Player. We played it from the golden Championship tee, pretty tough course, but extremely beautiful and in extremely nice condition.

The round started perfectly: The drive on the first tee (picture) was hit directly on the sweet spot, leaving half a sand wedge to the green (we are talking about a 423 yds par 4, so it was with good reason I felt kind of macho). A perfect sand wedge later and a holed putt, whui, what a start! And that was the last birdie in this round, despite having several really good chances later on, including a realistic eagle-putt (which was 3-putted…). But those greens were extremely fast, I have never tried anything like that, so hitting all those good shots was not really for much use when you were putting like a joke.

We were playing quite slow, so we had to run (to our cars) to make it before sun set. That kind of affected the game a little, so my drives started going quite a bit to the left and right. Interesting on this course, because on most holes there were max 20 meters from the fairway to expensive looking houses, built very close to each other as is evident from the pictures below. I did not hear anything break, but I hit several houses on that account and also lost a ball in a swimming pool (and it had no hazard markings, dammit, it was to be considered out of bounds, grmbl…).

This was the first time Kim played a “real” course (as opposed to the par-3-ish courses he had played in Brea) in his 2 week long golf career. Jens forgot to tell him that he could play from a little easier tee, so Kim took his first real course from the Championship tee (back-tee)… He actually managed to make stableford points at one of the holes.

Life in California12 Aug 2005 02:40 am

Monday was first day at work at ThalesRaytheonSystems, located at Raytheon‘s facilities in Fullerton (the former Hughes Aircraft facilities where my uncle Peter once worked). It was a pleasure to be back and see the people I had been working with on my previous trips there. I have not been working on the ACCS project for more than a year now (except for a short trip to Paris in January and an occasional support mail and discussions with the local ACCS team in Denmark), so it was interesting to see, if I could remember something about it… It turned out to be no problem at all. Actually, it was a relief to actually do a little tweaking of some real software instead of writing Word documents and making Powerpoint presentations which had been my task for quite a while back at home…

We had lunch at most of my favourite places within the first week – Heroes, Brownstone Cafe, Islands and Soup Plantation. The Raytheon cafeteria suck, sorry to say so. The food is expensive and tastes either bad or of nothing, so we eat at some external restaurant as often as possible (the cafeteria is much faster, though, therefore it is sometimes the only choice). Rikke’s food in the Systematic cafeteria is several orders of magnitude better, I am going to miss that. Well, I have been trying to eat a little healthy this time – no Cokes, no fries. Salad or fruit when possible. All my clothes still fit, so it seems as if I am going to win the bet with Jens Jr. (he was 100% sure I will gain 10 kg / 20 lbs before Christmas).

Friday I was invited to a poker event at colleague Leo’s house. I think my poker skills was no match for the sharks there… Some of them definitely had played a little before, wearing sunglasses and all. Note the tiny pile of chips in front of me on the picture below… But I actually did not finish last in that game and therefore I did not have to go through all sorts of humiliating rituals involving MC Hammer, some tradition at these events. It was a really good time there, despite my lacking poker abilities. My favourite Mexican, Dave, also showed up and we had a chance to have a few beers and discuss what had been going on in our lives the last year.

Life in California08 Aug 2005 02:16 am

After quite a stressfull time in the last days before departure, Saturday morning was time to leave everything behind for quite a while . A little trip of about 20 hours was ahead for Thomas, Anders and I. And what a trip! I have been flying quite a few times since my last British Airways trip and NOTHING comes close to the comfort, service and kindness. I mean, I consider the 11 hours across the Atlantic on flight BA0269 as a kind of therapy – smiling people serving you drinks, cocktails and delicious food in a steady stream while you just sit in your comfortable seat and can do absolutely nothing but completely relax. Exactly what I needed upon the last few weeks…British Airways Therapy

After arriving in LAX, of course our luggage was missing. This is the 3rd trip in a row to the US where this happens in 14 months. Oh well, no big deal, this just means Sunday is yet another power-shopping day, thanks to our very useful luggage insurance deal at Systematic.

After struggling with the paperwork regarding the missing luggage, we made it to the Avis car rental thing, but our car to rent had disappeared, so even more bøvl. Finally we managed to get our hands on a huge SUV – a Chevrolet Trailblazer (this picture is from Chevrolet’s website, a picture of our specific car coming up). The Red Polo could approximately fit in the trunk of this thing… I almost drove over a very low car on the freeway when changing lanes a little later, possibly due to not really being used to check vertical dead angles. Nothing happened, though, due to some very awake passengers.

Finally, we arrived at Embassy Suites Hotel in Brea. My 4th stay at this very hotel and everything was exactly as it used to be (old pictures of the room), so I felt almost at home. Right upon arrival it is a well-established Systematic tradition to go to TGI Friday’s across the street to enjoy the trip’s first US burger and a large Sam Adams on tap, so that was what we did – together with Jens, who had been staying here for a while. Ahhh, they really know how to cook a burger in this country. And mashed potatoes. And serve a cold, tasteful beer – even in a burger joint kind of place like this, you can have beer that actually tastes of something. Somebody in Denmark, please learn.

Sunday started in an “interesting way”… we were informed that the air condition at the hotel was imploded or something. The temperature started to rise slowly everywhere (about 30 degress Celcius outside)… Well, I enjoyed a healthy breakfast consisting of an omelet stuffed with cheese and bacon with sausages and bacon on the side. After this it was delayed-luggage-power-shopping time in Brea Mall right next to the hotel (180 shops – go home, Bruuns Galleri…).

Back at the hotel, the heat was getting even worse … and I couldn’t even keep the windows open in the night, as my room was at the top floor just below all the extremely noisy but non-functional air condition stuff on the roof…

Actually the problem persisted for almost a week. Yirks, the air at the hotel was really, really bad.