I’ve Arrived in Chicago

Chicago at Night


I arrived in Chicago last night after a long day of flights and the unbelievable chore that was the Newark airport passport control. It took so long to get through it that I almost missed my connection. I barely made it, but I know I’m going to try to avoid that airport for connections from now on.

I was pretty exhausted after all of the travel yesterday but managed to have a wander around for a little while and find somewhere to get a few beers and a Kobe Burger with Truffle Fries – it was pretty damned good. After the food, beer, and the fact that with the time difference my body thought it was 6am there’s was nothing to do but head back to the apartment and get some sleep.

My body clock is all over the place at the moment though, so I didn’t sleep that well and finally gave up trying at around 6.30am this morning. The plus point of that is I got to see the skyline of Chicago from the balcony of the apartment I’m staying at in the early morning.

I haven’t really seen much the city yet other than the amazing view from the apartment, that’s the job for the next few days, but I can say that there’s something about Chicago that I already really like.

I’ve sat indoors today too long. I’m off to explore.

My head was full of marshmallows

In rather irritating timing, as I was prepared to write every day here on CHN I got sick. I’ve been under the weather with a cold for the last few days and it’s made putting a string of coherent sentences together quite a challenge. My thoughts were fuzzy and indistinct and by the end of my working day I couldn’t have written anything if I’d tried.

I managed to get rid of the annoying cold last night by running through a simple process that’s worked for me in the past:

  1. Drink a glass of really cheap whisky. It needs to be so cheap it slaps you in the face as you drink it. It also needs to be neat, no mixers allowed
  2. Drink something very cold – I personally use beer, and this time around went with three of them as I watched the football
  3. Drink another really cheap whisky. Wonder why you have that whisky it in the house in the first place because it’s terrible
  4. Take a long hot shower at a temperature that is just bearable
  5. Straight after the shower wrap yourself in several layers and go to bed – sleep as long as you possibly can
  6. When you wake up drink as much water as possible to re-hydrate – you’ll need it

After doing that I woke up this morning feeling so much better, though I did feel like I’d taken a beating. Everything was sore, but that’s going away as I hydrate throughout the day and is all but gone in the middle of the day.

I’ve no idea if that process will work for other people but it’s worked for me a number of times now so I thought I’d share it.

Dammit Hibs!

Well that wasn’t exactly a shock. Hibs lost to a single goal from Kris Boyd this afternoon. Now they’ll have to take part in the play-offs and I don’t see them winning either leg of that match. I have a feeling I’m going to be watching Championship football next season.

On the plus side it’ll probably be better than the Premier League as the Championship will have Hibs, Hearts and Rangers in it next season. Plus they don’t have that stupid split like the Premier League. Who am I kidding, it’s a very depressing state of affairs.

I’m not in the mood for writing anymore about it. I’m going to drink wine until I forget it all and have a laugh at the Eurovision song contest. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Who would be a Sports Fan?

This weekend is going to be a stressful one for me.

The football team I support, Hibs, are in a fight for their continued stay in the Scottish Premier League. They are playing Kilmarnock in what will probably be the worst game of football ever played, with the loser of the game going into a playoff with Hamilton to see who will be in the SPL next season.

That playoff game is one I, and probably everyone else in Scotland, expect Hamilton to win so neither Hibs or Kilmarnock want to be involved in it. For some quick context Hamilton scored ten goals in their last match of the regular season last week, which is a third of the goals Hibs have scored all season and a quarter of the goals Kilmarnock have scored.

Both teams are pretty bad this year but Kilmarnock have one thing Hibs don’t, a proven goalscorer in Kris Boyd. Without him Kilmarnock would already be firmly rooted to the 11th spot in the league. He has rescued points for them time and time again this season. Hibs however are completely toothless in front of goal this season and have scored a grand total of 3 goals in their last 9 games. I have very little hope that they’ll win tomorrow and avoid this playoff game.

With Hibs I’ve been despairing all season but it’s not the only stress I’ll be under when it comes to football this weekend.

The English Premier League draws to a close on Sunday, and to be honest I don’t particularly care who wins the league between Man City and Liverpool. What I do care about is the fantasy league I’m in with two of my friends. This year to keep us interested throughout the season there is a forfeit for the last placed team in our league. Until last week that was me.

After last week I jumped from last place into first place which just shows how tight the league is at the moment. After Sunday whoever is in last place will be forced to watch 20 of the most abysmal movies we could think of. I don’t have the list in front of me to let you know the gems that are on there but I remember laughing as we came up with the list while silently praying that I wouldn’t be the one watching them.

As the season has been drawing to a close I was starting to panic that I would end up at the bottom of the league and I’d be subjected to the torture that these movies are going to be. Last week was a spectacular success for me and I had almost every one of my players perform fantastically while the other teams struggled a little. That gave me a decent lead over the others but not enough for me to be comfortable going into the last game of the season.

This weekend I’m going to be glued to the TV expecting the worst and really, really hoping that I’m wrong. After this weekend I could be forced to watch too many terrible movies as well as watching Hibs find themselves in a position they won’t recover from for a very long time. Or if I’m lucky, Hibs will ensure another terrible season in the top flight and I’ll get to laugh at the misery of one of my closest friends when they realise the horrible extent of their summer movie viewing schedule.

Please, please let it be the latter.

The Levelling Up Project: Learning Swedish

SwedenAs I mentioned yesterday I’ve started to learn Swedish. So far I’ve learned a couple phrases with the help of my fantastic Swedish friend and the wonders of technology that let us chat between countries for free.

I’m still trying to build my vocabulary above a few simple words using a basic phrase book, but with her help at least I’m learning phrases that I can use to introduce myself and have a few polite exchanges with people straight away.

So far our method for learning has been simple. She’ll send me a message with what I need to say written in English and Swedish, then she’ll send me an audio file of the phrase in Swedish. Once I’ve had a little practice I’ll send an audio file of me speaking in Swedish back to her to correct any mistakes or add suggestions.

It’s better than having generic instruction simply because it’s going to be tailored specifically for me to have conversations with her and my Swedish work colleagues once we get beyond the absolute basics. After a little while of doing this, the tentative plan is to have a Skype chat using as much Swedish as possible.

One of the great things about learning this way is the normal fear of making a mistake doesn’t really exist. While I think that when attempting a new language you should try to speak it immediately, embrace your mistakes and learn from them, it can be a little daunting if you’re speaking with a complete stranger. With a friend at least if you say something utterly stupid you can both laugh about it in the future.

There’s also the added bonus that it’s much harder to back out of the endeavour when it’s your friend teaching you. With a stranger it’s easier to walk away or not put in as much effort. With a friend there’s that knowledge that you’re going to be speaking to them a lot anyway so you have to stick with it once you begin. It’s good external pressure that forces you to put in a little extra effort that I don’t think would be there with a stranger. I could be wrong of course, and I suppose it really comes down to why you’re learning the language in the first place. I know for me it helps.

My approach to learning another language is heavily influenced by Benny Lewis. If you’re interested in learning another language I highly recommend you check out his site.

It’s obviously very early in the process, but I’ve already noticed that it’s a much more fun experience when actually speaking to someone in the language rather than spending all of your time reading about it without ever actually getting around to using anything you’ve learned. Language is all about communicating with another person and the difference when you go out and do that from day one is startling.

Now, I’m off to try to learn a phrase my friend hasn’t taught me yet so that I can surprise her in the next audio message I send over. Learning a new language is great fun!

It’s been a busy few months

We’re into May already and I’ve been a little quiet on here so far this year. I’d fully intended on writing a great deal more on CHN since I decided to change it back to a personal blog rather than my freelance writer website.

The reason for the absence isn’t that I didn’t want to write here, it’s simply that I’ve been so busy there’s been no time to sit down and actually think about writing. I haven’t written on this site, my sports blog or any of my offline projects for months. Everything has been focused on my new day job.

I hinted briefly in my last post that there was something potentially on the horizon that would allow me to combine sport and travel together. At the time I didn’t want to say more because I still had to have the interview for the job even though I was quietly confident I’d get it. I wasn’t wrong either. For the last few months I’ve been working for a sports federation that I’m not going to name here, but it’s not exactly difficult to figure out if you’re really interested.

My first day on the job saw me travel to Switzerland for a few days, and since then I’ve been to China, a part of Scotland I’d never visited before and in a few weeks I’ll be heading to Chicago.

The last couple of months have been a blur of travel and trying to learn about a new sport, as well as get to grips with the scale of the job requirements. They essentially took two completely different positions and combined them into one. It’s been a challenge finding the balance between them but I’m making the IT and New Media position work… well I think I am.

Now that I’m starting to find that balance I can start to think about other writing. Which means there will be more posts here, including tales from the road. It let’s me work on relaunching The Sporting Week – my goal is to relaunch the site before the World Cup in the middle of June – and it allows me to find time to work on the other projects I’ve had to set aside for the last few months.

My aim, whether it’s foolish or not is to write here every day.

The posts may be long, they may be short. It may simply be a photo of something but there will be at least one post will be added to this site every day from now on. My reason for this is that I’ve gone so long without writing consistently that I need the practice as well as the fact that I dislike this site looking so empty. I’ve always found that the more I write, the more I’m able to write in a shorter period of time and the less “warm up” time I need.

In other news – I started the first item on the Levelling Up Project list – which I just realised I haven’t spoken about properly either because I can see the post is still in draft form.

Okay, the Levelling Up Project is an idea I had to improve the skills I have as well as learning a bunch of new things. The list is extremely varied and very flexible. Items are added and removed from it all the time. One of the first things on there has always been “Become conversationally fluent in another language“.

The language has changed a couple of times because there are a several languages I want to learn but never needed to learn. Now I have one that will make aspects of my job easier plus I have easy access to several native speakers.

As of yesterday I started to learn Swedish.

It’s going as well as you’d expect for one day in. Even with my extremely limited vocabulary I’m going to start using it when speaking to my Swedish friends and colleagues. Speaking from day 1 no matter how poorly is going to be the quickest and easiest way to learn.

This post is more a signal of intent than anything of substance. It’s here to let me know that what I post on here doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to be honest and it needs to be me. That’s been missing for a quite a while and it’ll be good to find my own voice again after so long without it.