Monday, 24 October 2011

A weekend of healthy Alpine air



After a work trip to London on Wednesday (damn I do miss the place), I was back at Schiphol two days later for a trip to Zurich. A workfriend is doing a project in Zurich and opted for an apartment where she can stay the weekends rather than hotelling it Mon-Fri and flying home every weekend. When she suggested I'd come and visit, I didn't need to think long.


I'd been to Zurich once before, but only to our offices and some restaurant in town. So on this trip, I wanted to get to know the city. And I did! The forecast was cloudy and rather blegh but both Saturday and Sunday turned into wonderfully sunny days. We ate nice food (tapas and local fare), walked miles along the lake (with swans that don't belong to a queen), had a look around town (pretty), had a coffee at an old fashioned tea house that is apparently a pick up place for 70+ cougars (Spr√ľngli), and watched the All Blacks beat France (but only just...my heartrate went through the roof). We also stumbled upon a lovely coffee place, Babu's, where we had brekkie on Sunday morning, pre-match. A nice find. Great coffee, super friendly staff, and delicious bread. Also pretty affordable, for Zurich standards anyway. All in all a lovely weekend, and I came back completely recharged!


And of course we ate like a local too. This was Sunday lunch.




Saturday, 15 October 2011

Books

Amsterdam just doesn't give me the energy levels London did so rather than being out and about a lot, I prefer to stay in most nights. A glass of red, a hot bath, Spotify and a book are perfect companions on those occasions. So despite no longer commuting by public transport, book or Kindle in hand, I still finish one book after another. And recently I read a couple I really enjoyed.

The Help is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the sixties, and is told from the perspective of two maids and a daughter of a cotton farmer. Skeeter, the cotton farmer's daughter, mourns the loss of the maid who was with her family for most of her life and is struggling to accept the racial views of her peers. Aibileen loves the child in her care more than the mother does, and Minny often gets in trouble for speaking her mind. Their stories come together when Skeeter decides to write a book with stories of the Jackson maids and asks Aibileen, her friend's maid, to help her. It's a wonderfully written book, painful to read at times, even more so when you realise how recent this history is, and how for some it's not even quite history yet (think KKK). It's touching and funny and I just loved reading it.

When I visited Washington DC last May I made sure to spend some time in Kramer's, one of my fav book stores. One of the titles I picked up was The Imperfectionists. It is basically a series of portraits of employees of an English language newspaper in Rome. The characters are so well defined, and the stories often so funny, it's hard to put the book away. It's an amazing debut by Tom Rachman. In several of the stories, the last few sentences completely change the picture you'd been painting in your mind. Very clever and charming.


Ian McEwan is very much hit and miss for me. I've loved some of his books yet almost hated others. A few reviews I read made me buy Solar. And I enjoyed this story of a womanizing scientist whose life went downhill after he won the Nobel Prize for his research. He sometimes made me cringe, in the way that David Brent from The Office does. But just like I would keep watching The Office, I kept reading Solar. There's a certain charm in the dodgy scientist, and the way McEwan portrays him troughout the book is brilliant.


Finally, having read a fair bit about the flick, I picked up One Day at a recent visit to Waterstone. A guy I follow on Twitter said he'd found it touching and I can see what he means. It tells the life of two friends on 15 July of every year from their graduation date onwards. A drunken snog then turns into a friendship where he becomes a womanising tv-personality while she dates an unsuccesful comedian, slaving away in a Mexican theme restaurant for years. It's a very easy read, and great company on grey autumn days.


Four positive reviews. Have I read any crap books recently? Not really, I think. Next is the Fry Chronicles, and I have high expectations of that one too!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

New job

It's been a hectic month. Shortly after Barcelona I went to Frankfurt for work, wrapped up a project, and organised a client seminar at our offices. And I changed jobs. Pfew. Having had doubts about my old business unit since March or so, I still thought I should give it a go. But three months into it I realised it wasn't going to happen. So I graciously accepted the offer one of our actuarial partners made me earlier this year, and I joined the actuaries. As a non quant, I constantly feel like the least clever person around, but love the focus my work now has, and kinda feel at home in geek town. A week and a half into it, it's a bit early to say for sure, but I think it's been the right move. Everyone's more serious but super friendly. And it's amazing how much work you get done in the office if you're not mucking about half the time!