The Many Misadventures of One Kevin P. Lawver

I made it home. What a week. I posted before about what I did on the flight to China and that was the last you heard from me. Well, Saturday night, my laptop died. It suffered a complete hard drive failure. Even using Arun system disk, it couldn’t find the hard drive controller. Hopefully, this means the drive itself is OK and I can get the first day of pictures and all the stuff I worked on on the flight there off.\
But, that left me in a tough spot. I had no laptop, spotty access on my blackberry (which is OK for staying semi-connected and consuming small chunks of data, but doesn’t work very well as my primary connection to the “collective”), and I usually charge the blackberry with the laptop. Thankfully, I’d thrown a little USB power thing in my backpack just to see if it would work for charging the DS Lite.\
So, I took notes in a W3C meeting longhand, on paper… yes, I stood out. Yes, my fellow nerds gave me a hard time about it (good-naturedly, of course). Yes, it sucked not to be able to upload photos, browse the web, read feeds and hack.\
But, the worst part of the trip was my asthma. Beijing is extremely polluted, and I was affected by it. A couple times, I took a walk around the neighborhood (the hotel and conference center is right across the highway from most of the major olympic venues), and came back wheezing. The one free day I had, I took a “test” walk in the morning to see how I’d do, but had to cut my walk short and take multiple hits on my inhaler to stop the asthma attack that followed. So, I didn’t really go anywhere or see anything outside of a four or five block radius of the hotel. I didn’t want to get stuck somewhere having an asthma attack where I don’t speak the language and didn’t know where I was or how to get back to the hotel.\
There was a great dinner, with entertainment provided by students from Baihong University, and I love hanging out with W3C folks. We even got a game of werewolf together. Doug Scheppers and I cleaned up the village as werewolves and won handily. It was only slightly unfair as Doug and I are both seasoned werewolves, and we “feasted” on a game full of first-time players.\
Now, I’m home and it’s going to take me a few days to get back on schedule. A twelve hour time difference is crazy, and I don’t think I ever got quite adjusted to it, so maybe it’ll be easier coming back.\
I’m off to bed, hopefully to sleep for many many hours. I’ll hopefully post pictures tomorrow once my laptop situation is taken care of.

Categorized as travel, W3C

Losing Time, Gaining Time

I spent fourteen hours on a plane yesterday, racing the dawn over the North Pole, getting from Dulles to Beijing. In my sleeplessness, I started thinking about how weird travel days are when you cross timezones. I lost almost a whole day, timewise, being in the air. A fourteen hour flight really took twenty-six hours off my calendar. I didn’t get to “live” that day, and on my personal calendar, it’s compressed to a tiny fraction of what it would have normally been. But, on the way home, I only “lose” an hour and forty-five minutes, so that day gets stretched out. It’s weird, and something only crazy people trapped in airplanes or pot smokers should think about.

But, since I was trapped on a plane for fourteen hours, I decided that I should keep a little diary of all the stuff I did on the plane. Here it is, minus bathroom trips and meals (they fed us twice):

  1. Read half of The Writing Life
  2. Watched Wizard People, Dear Reader version of Harry Potter
  3. Wrote a queue processor (it’s so freaking cool, I can’t believe I did it on a plane with no internet access and just my little Ruby pocket guide). This killed a good two or three hours.
  4. Listened to some CBC Radio 3 podcasts and Sunparlour Players
  5. Flew over the North Pole, but couldn’t see anything because there were clouds everywhere… total white out.
  6. Watched Ricky Gervais’ Politics stand-up special
  7. Watched The Amazing Screw-On Head (Mike Mignola series pilot about civil war robot secret agent. Yes, it’s awesome)
  8. Watched some Strongbad E-mails and Abigail’s Teen Diary
  9. Watched the first episode of The X-Files.
    • Love that they don’t wear seat belts, the smoking man really smokes in the office, and Scully has shoulder pads.
  10. Played with hbase. I got it running and created a table, but didn’t do much more than that.
  11. Worked on the blog’s admin interface.
    • Bummed that in Firefox I have to wrap HTML5 elements in order to style them. Bah, humbug.
  12. Stubbed out the blog main and entry page. Not how it’s going to stay.
  13. Played some Sudoku (Brain Age 2 on my DS Lite). I’m trying to go back and redo games where I made mistakes and get all my times on the Basic and Intermediate ones under ten minutes. I have no idea if those are good times or not…
  14. Finished The Writing Life. I love Annie Dillard. The Writing Life is a short little book, only 111 pages, but just like Holy the Firm, it’s dense, packed with lots of great quotes, thoughts on writing and life and some of the most beautiful prose you’re likely to ever read. I’m so glad I stumbled on Pilgrim at Tinker Creek last year.

Beijing is big, noisy and “hazy”. Today, it’s big, noisy and drizzling, so I don’t think I’ll be going out. Plus, meetings start soon and well, why go out when I can stay in and nerd it up with a bunch of… nerds?

I’m seriously jet-lagged. I did all that stuff above while pretty much everyone around me slept. I don’t get how people can go to sleep at one in the afternoon and sleep pretty much straight for fourteen hours, but almost everyone around me did just that. I was there, trying to be quiet, either reading, watching something or typing. I got my upgrade to first class, which made things much more comfortable. I highly recommend it.

It’s 8:30AM on Sunday morning. My internal clock is somewhere on a train between home and here. If you see it, please tell it to hurry up. I’d like to feel human again.

Categorized as travel

How to Spend 14 Hours Stuck in a Chair

I’m heading to the airport in a couple hours, with a very long plane ride ahead of me (well, two, but the second is next week). How long? Well, if United is to be believed, it’s thirteen hours and forty-four minutes long. This will be the longest continuous flight I’ve ever been on (Dulles to Bangalore is twenty hours in the air, but there’s a four hour “break” in the middle). Since I almost never sleep on planes, I’ve compiled a list of things to occupy my time:

  • A bunch of DVD’s including the first season of The X-Files, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (so I can finally watch it with Wizard People, Dear Reader) and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t remember at the moment.
  • I downloaded a ton of TED Talks and stuff from iTunesU.
  • Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky and The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.
  • The old standby, the DS Lite
  • A bunch of silly programming things to play with:
    • I’m going to try to write my own queueing server, or if that fails, play with Starling
    • Work on the blog re-write
    • Work on another top secret thingie I’ve been meaning to play with.
    • Adobe AIR
  • A bunch of podcasts
  • And then, if I do all of those things, I can always watch whatever movie the airline provides.\
    Hopefully, that’ll be enough to keep my occupied from Dulles to Beijing (for the W3C AC meeting). I’ll let you know how it goes (if I can get to the internet from China… I hear they have some version of it).
Categorized as travel, W3C

The Two Best Photos I’ve Ever Taken

These aren’t great from a photography standpoint, but they tell a story that still makes me crack up.\
There were eight Americans in a row boat (rowed by a tiny Indian man) in a bird sanctuary. Our driver promised crocodiles. The guy rowing the boat lifted up his oars as we got close to a large (we guessed about 14 feet) and said “Watch this!” We drifted in towards this very large fellow sunning himself on the rock.\
The boat drifted closer and closer and eventually stopped with a thud against the croc’s rock. The croc wheeled his big head around, opened his mouth and hissed. Cliff was zoomed in all the way and thought it just looked like we were close the the gigantic angry crocodile.

Cliff holding a camera up to his face while staring down an open-mouthed crocodile.

When the croc hissed, Cliff lowered his camera, sprang back and screamed “*Oh dear, crocodile!!”

Cliff screaming 'Oh dear, a crocodile!' after taking the camera down from his face and realizing how close we were to the open-mouthed croc.

Still makes me giggle…

Holiday Highlights

This is just the fun stuff. I am leaving out all of the fevers, vomiting, face implosions, second-degree burns, and tears:\
We left for my parents’ house in Mississippi on the Friday before Christmas, a day earlier than we had planned, because Max kept nagging us about wanting to be there already. The drive really was better than I expected, but I had to pull out a DVD about three hours into the second day’s drive. That kept everyone happy until we got to town. Yay. We got to Miss about 1 pm. It was so nice to see my parents. I just wanted to hold hands and sing “Kum By Ah.”\
While there we went to the zoo and had fun having a sing-along with a dancing, singing Santa statue and dropping coins into the spinny, twirly donation bucket. Yea, that isn’t a ringing endorsement of the zoo, is it?\
My parents took the kids to see the chipmunk movie and they both loved it! (Which is difficult to achieve with their age gap.) While they were doing that, Kevin and I saw Charlie Wilson’s War. Woot!\
On Christmas Eve, we drove to this little town, Tylertown, to see a Christmas lights display in the town’s park. One hundred miles round trip for a 13 minute drive through the park. Do I know how to prioritize my resources or what?\
My dad had fun taking the kids for rides on the trailer attached to his riding lawn mower. That is our version of a hayride, I guess.\
One of th gifts Brian received is a Barbie, because he’s been asking for one for ages. My mother-in-law let him play with one at her house and said that he just loved it. Well, I am not sure exactly what was going on there, but all Brian wants to do with his new Barbie is “smell her butt.” Yes, he’s three.\
My mom invited a friend over for Christmas dinner. She is a gifted educator. We talked for awhile about Max, and she kind of spurred me on to do more about Max’s schooling. It’s been really hard to find out answers here and I keep getting the run around. Boo.\
My dad and Kevin took the kids fishing for the first time. Apparently everyone had fun. I only have one picture though because the adults were too busy keeping the fishing hooks out of the kids’ eyes and keeping the kids from falling into the lake.\
The town had a fund raiser by selling giant fiberglass swans to businesses and organizations. It was fun to drive around town and spot them. Think of the painted cows in Chicago and you’ll get the idea.\
Probably the highlight of the trip, and isn’t this sort of sad, was watching the USA-version of The Forty Year Virgin with my parents. No F-words, but all the raunch. That movie is hysterical. For some reason, let’s blame the eggnog, it was so much funnier the second time around.\
I was really intent on trying all the yummy regional food: fried catfish, shrimp creole, bbq ribs, and Krispy Kremes (heh). Add all of the holiday food on top of that and I need to eat salad for the next month to cleanse the body.\
We left a day later than we had originally planned. I needed that extra day with my folks; they just live too far away now that I am hampered by school vacation schedules. Boo. Before we left, we made plans to go down there in June and then drive to the beach, plus my mom said that she and my dad would come up here next Christmas. :)\
There may or may not be pictures posted soon.

Categorized as travel

Au Revoir, Paris!

It’s been a good week in Paris for XTech. I haven’t been able to do a lot of site seeing with Jen because of a chest cold and my foot, but the food’s been good, the company great and I’ve learned some interesting stuff and met some really cool folks. I spent most of the afternoon in the hotel bar with Molly, Simon and a bunch of other geeks laughing and drinking (them wine, me Fanta and a Coke). Then tonight, to cap all of this fun off, Jen and I had dinner with Daniel Glazman and his lovely wife at a fantastic French restaurant. The food was out of this world, and the company was wonderful. I love Daniel, and am always happy when we get to share a meal. We both love food and giggle over each course, how it taste, how they made it, where the ingredients are from… way too much fun.\
It’s up early tomorrow, breakfast, then off to the airport and home to see the boys and hear all about their adventures with Grandma. Au revoir, Paris!

Categorized as travel