Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Iceland Troubles

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Letter from Iceland: “Holidaymakers and business travellers venturing ’til Útlanda’, as it is called, found their credit cards refused.” That was just 2 weeks after we returned from Iceland. Good thing it didn’t implode while we were there… (A point of comparison: my credit card statement shows a 23 Sep purchase for ISK28,500 as US$301.93. Under two months later, and the conversion is now US$203.04.)

Sign of Quality

Monday, August 4th, 2008

In an effort to demonstrate a presentation style, Wired author Dan Pink created a video on “Emotionally Intelligent Signage.” It’s an interesting topic, but the part that made me smile was this sign:
Don\'t worry. This line moves really quickly.

The friendly, human voice of the sign is nice all by itself, but for me the cool part was the memory it triggered: earlier this year, The Boy Nick James and I were in Maui at a lovely breakfast spot called the Gazebo. It’s this little hole-in-the-wall joint that somehow manages to make the most amazing omelettes you’ve ever had. (And the fried rice! Heavenly.)

Anyway, as its reputation has inspired a loyal following, we encountered a sizable line both times we visited. The queue started at this sign:
Please wait to be seated

Once we got to the front of the line, I was bored and decided to play with it. I wondered: What did the other versions say? I lifted the “please wait” sign to find:
Please seat yourself

Aha! Clearly there were times when the crowd was a little thinner. I wonder when that would be? Have to arrange my next visit around that time of day if possible. And, hmm, what’s this? Another sign! What might this one reveal? I lifted the “seat yourself” plate to discover:
Don\'t play with the signs.

Hooray for a sense of humor.

Nothing If Not Flexible

Friday, May 9th, 2008

So, after enjoying an amazing meal (and view!) at one of Vallarta’s restaurants, The Boy and I grabbed a cab for the ride back to the hotel.

Our driver’s English was limited, yet his enthusiasm was boundless. He directed this energy partly into driving, but mostly (after a cursory trip through the usual what’s-your-name, isn’t-it-great-here routine) into one area: lap dances. (Or as he put it: “BOOBIES!”)

I must say, I had no idea Puerto Vallarta had so many opportunities for exotic dance. In addition to the Mirage (for which the cabbie had an actual placard affixed in his upper right windshield), there’s Aqua, Hysteria, Candy’s, Estadia, and who knows how many other options — I got lost in the descriptions and comparative pricing.

Not that we didn’t have the opportunity to consider the merits of several of these establishments, conveniently located as they were right along our route — and wouldn’t you know our man Cecil helpfully (or was it hopefully?) slowed when passing each one? (The bouncer at one of the middle ones actually shouted out a friendly greeting to him, which pleased Cecil mightily.)

Alas, we chose not to partake in any of the local “muy caliente Mexicas,” and just as Cecil was pulling up to the digs, I decided to clue him in. “Hey,” I said, indicating my companion and myself, “do you know ‘gay’?”

“Oh,” he said, “Yes. Sorry, guys. Sorry.” Then he paused a moment, brightened, and added: “Club Mañana has lap dances too!”

Thanks, buddy. We’ll see what the night brings after today’s activities.

Missing Maui

Monday, March 17th, 2008

Back from Maui, and would you believe it was sleeting and gray in Chicago? Of course you would. That’s how it works. Sigh…

Anyway, didn’t take too many pictures, but here’s one I kind of liked (click for bigger):
sunrise, viewed from a volcano

That’s a snap of the sunrise from 12,000 ft up in Haleakala National Park. Specifically, it was taken from outside this little building, which is really better appreciated in context.


Sunday, March 9th, 2008

View from the balcony of my resort; feet up on the railing

Two Sentences

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

One, the opening line from a “thriller” I found left behind in a parking garage, made me groan:

The house in Silverlake was dark, its windows as empty as a dead man’s eyes.

Blech. That book’s getting donated.

But turn that frown upside down, as there’s this one, from NYT:

“It’s going to be really good for international travel over the next year and a half,” Mr. Seaney said.

Excellent! Iceland, anyone?

You Know Something’s Gone Wrong When…

Monday, February 13th, 2006

…you’re driving in the city, and you glance over at the GPS:
image of car over the Atlantic Ocean

Well, That Took Awhile

Saturday, January 28th, 2006

Left Chi at 2:30p on Thursday. (All times Central.)

3:03pm Near as I can tell, this is the first indication you’ve left Illinois:
Indiana exit sign
Pretend it says “Welcome to Indiana.”

Welcome to Kentucky sign

Welcome to Tennessee sign

Fri, 12:04am:
Welcome to Alabama sign

Fri, 5:03am:
Welcome to Florida sign

You Know Your Industry’s Fucked When…

Sunday, January 8th, 2006

I was looking at flights today and found a feature on Travelocity I hadn’t seen before: a “1 seat left” warning. While helpful, I don’t find this feature that big a deal (Amazon’s long had a similar “only 2 left, order soon (more on the way)”) but Travelocity clearly does:

They’ve filed a patent for the feature.

Now, to be fair, Travelocity has to do a lot more work than Amazon to figure out how many items are left. Consider the complexity:

6. If you want to do a simple round-trip from BOS to LAX in two weeks, coming back in three, willing to entertain a 24 hour departure window for both parts, then limiting to “reasonable” routes (at most 3 flights and at most 10 hours or so) you have about 5,000 ways to get there and 5,000 ways to get back. Listing them is a mostly trivial graph-search (there are a few minor complications, but not many), that anybody could do in a fraction of a second.

7. The real challenge is that a single fixed itinerary (a fixed set of flights from BOS to LAX and a fixed set back) with only two flights in each direction may have more than 10,000 possible combinations of applicable “fares”, each fare with complex restrictions that must be checked against the flights and the other fares. That means that the search space for this simple trip is of the order 5000 x 5000 x 10000 [= 250 billion], and a naive program would need to do a _lot_ of computation just to validate each of these possibilities.

When your pricing is so complicated your resellers feel the need to patent a “Supplies are running out!” message, it’s well past time to fire somebody.

Great Googly Moogly

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005


signal lost

Now It Can Be Told

Monday, May 17th, 2004

Now that 13th May has passed, I can reveal the news: I’m back in Sydney again. I flew here on the 30th of April, a fact which I kept from this site because my friend Jesse was due to come down and I wanted to surprise him.

If his face was any indication, that mission was a success. Good thing, too, because otherwise meeting his (6:05a) plane would have really been a bummer. But it was well worth it, and I got an opportunity to show him around the city a little bit, including a nice lunch (which opened with Sydney rock oysters, natch) just across the harbour from the Opera House.

Before meeting Jesse, I spent some time in Melbourne, which was not terribly noteworthy, save for the Australian production of The Producers, for which Simon scored tickets. (Mel Brooks is hilarious.) Other than that, the time was basically spent in the suite, computing anyway.

Anyway, this is a lame entry, I know, but I’m a bit out of practice — not to mention doing some fairly boring things of late. Though tonight should be good, because I’m going to the quiz with Simon, Keef, Phil, Jesse and Cath. I’ll let you know how we go.

Back in Iowa

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

I returned to Chicago on 6 Apr, and then flew to Des Moines on Saturday for a week. I sure do prefer the big Boeing long-haulers to the Canadair jets. (Oddly, at O’Hare we had to walk to the plane, at Des Moines they used a jetway.)

Still, it seems that all the travelling is beginning to take its toll: I’ve been sleeping in odd snatches lately. Of course, I have a ticket to fly back to Chicago this Saturday…

Now It’s Just Getting Silly

Tuesday, March 16th, 2004

Been back in Sydney for almost a week now, and it’s been going great. (The weather is lovely.)

This evening Si, Keef and I went for the famous Anglo-American pub quiz that we’ve won in the past. After the quizmaster announced we’d tied for second, we decided to adjourn to another pub.

Selecting this second establishment was no mean feat, as I first had to veto Keef’s suggestion of a skanky place (we’d been there before), then organize a mutiny of a second place after the bartender failed to provide us with prompt, courteous service.

I bore you with these details only to emphasize that it was a series of choices that brought us eventually to the pub we settled on. And it was there, some hours on, that I thought a guy leaning against the wall with a beer looked quite familiar. Lo and behold, it was “Li’l” Jon, a guy I lived with in Swansea.

So for those keeping score at home, this now means that I ran into someone from college in Cairns, friends from Fiji in Brisbane, and now a former schoolmate in Sydney.

At this rate, by April I should run into someone I met in Morocco. Stay tuned.

I’m Back

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Just landed in Sydney. The flights were good. I got seats with plenty of legroom and managed to sleep for about 6 hours on the LAX>SYD leg. I’ve been introduced to the place that will be my home base for the next month. It has a new bed, broadband, and 86°F weather. What more could one ask for?

Let’s Do This Again Sometime

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Well, I’m off to Sydney on Sunday — but this time it’s business, not pleasure. (Okay, there will probably be some pleasure.)

Updates here will slow down as a result, and I don’t yet know if Journeys will resurrect or not. Could be I’ll just be too busy workin’.

Have a good weekend.