Monthly Archives: May 2001

Greetings from Toronto, eh!

The title tells it all; I’m in Toronto until Friday morning when I get to fly home.

I brought my own lunch on the plane to Chicago, which was a good decision. One of the flight attendants noticed the Lunardi’s sticker on the wrapping and asked me which location I went to and whether I knew one of the cashiers, Dorothy (who has been there since we moved to Calfornia back in 1984). But that was the extent of the friendly personal service on that flight.

And now I’m here, and it’s time to pretend that I’m tired and go to sleep. I probably won’t have any trouble pretending I’m tired tomorrow morning, but that won’t do me any good, either.

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Fish and Sunshine

So long, and thanks for all the fish (and all the sunshine).

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By popular demand….

…at least I think I’m popular with my mother, who asked when I was going to update my page.

We had a quiet weekend, with very little to write about (the computer stayed off most of the time, too), so I didn’t write.

I don’t think we’re likely to be suffering from a rolling blackout tonight; temperatures have moderated nicely, and we’ve got our windows wide open, enjoying the birds, frogs, breezes, and scents from outside. But our power just flickered, so I think I’ll post this while I can!

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A blast from the past

One of the side effects of the new federal privacy notification law is that I’m hearing from companies I thought I no longer had any affiliation with. Today’s mail brought a privacy notice from AT&T Universal Card — which I hadn’t used since 1995 when I realized how many AAdvantage miles I could accumulate by switching to American Airlines’ Citibank card. So I called them and confirmed that yes, my account was closed — and also found out that they are now part of the Citibank empire.

Tonight, Jeffrey’s school is having its annual Fantasy Faire; this’ll be the last time he’ll attend as a student, though they welcome the community. We started taking him when he was two or three years old, when the pony ride was the big highlight for him. They don’t have the pony ride any more, but I don’t think he misses it.

Hal wishes there were an adult Space Camp. There is! (But you have to go to Alabama to partake.)

Shabbat Shalom!

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Space Camp

979 Eugene Cernan's Suit.JPG: This is actually a predecessor to the suit Eugene Cernan wore on a flight; this was a model they used to help him train.The first stop for our team was the Space Suit room, where we got to see the suit Eugene Cernan used as a trainer, as well as some newer mockups.

Then we went to the first simulator — the 1/6th Gravity Trainer, which lets you feel what it’s like to walk on the moon. All of the kids got to try the special steps the astronauts used (the bunny walk, the bouncy jog, and the side shuffle), then four of them got to try them out in the simulator.

Next, the instructor showed shuttle tiles, told how they were made, and demonstrated how quickly they disperse heat.

Then the second simulator, which was used to test to see if Skylab astronauts could exercise by running around the interior of Skylab. Jeffrey was chosen to try this simulator.

980 hamster.JPG: Jeffrey getting ready to start on the exercise wheel.981 hamster.JPG: 982 hamster.JPG: Then outside for a discussion of the way the shuttle is assembled and trucked from the VAB to the launch complex — then back in for the last simulator, the Multiple Axis Trainer, which spins the victim around in several directions at once. Jeffrey had been hoping to get to go on this one, but he’d been picked for the Skylab exercise wheel instead.

Finally, the adults were given bags of freeze-dried ice cream to divide amongst the kids, then the kids got back on the bus and went to school while the adults got in their cars and went elsewhere.

I enjoyed the day, but would have liked it even better if I’d gotten to play, too!

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Hong Kong 2001

  • April 25: A few words about the United First Class Lounge in San Francisco

  • April 26: Many words about my flight to Hong Kong, a few words about the Airport Express in Hong Kong, and a few pictures

  • April 27: Wandering through Kowloon and going to Shabbat Services at the United Jewish Congregation of Hong Kong

  • April 28: A boring day at the W3C Advisory Board meeting

  • April 29: Buying a phone, other shopping, and my first ten-course dinner of the trip

  • April 30: The Advisory Committee meeting, a ten-course lunch, pictures from HKUST (including odd signs), and a pointer to the pictures and story of the ten-course meeting dinner at Ocean Park

  • May 1: Day 2 of the Advisory Committee meeting, no ten-course meal, and more talk of shopping

  • May 2: Hong Kong hotel reviews and the opening of WWW10 (with pictures)

  • May 3: More WWW10 talk, another ten-course banquet, and a few pictures

  • May 4: The end of the conference, Shabbat services, and some thoughts on Pirke Avot and memes

  • May 5: Sightseeing at The Peak and more shopping

  • May 6: Hot and sweaty sightseeing

  • May 7: The trip home (only one picture!)

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There's no place like work, either!

I’ve seen the inside of my office for the first time in two weeks; I can’t say that I missed it all that much, though it was good to see my colleagues again, even if it was in the cafeteria (which used to be a much nicer place to eat than it is these days).

Thanks to the reliable connectivity from Hong Kong, I didn’t have a pile of unread e-mail awaiting me — just a pile of things to do which I chose to defer while travelling. Wonder if I’ll get them done before my next trip?

Tomorrow morning, I accompany Jeffrey’s class to Space Camp at Moffett Field; I’m supposed to keep an eye on about ten kids and make sure they do what they’re supposed to do. I hope they let me play with the simulators, too!

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There's no place like home…

…and that’s where I’m typing this entry. Pardon any incoherencies; I’m trying to stay awake until a decent hour, but it’s not clear my brain is playing along.

At any rate, I woke up at 7am Hong Kong time, giving me plenty of time to pack, eat, and check out before taking the 9:30 airport shuttle to make my 11:55am plane. Oh, yes, and to upload pictures from yesterday — my dial-up connection died last night while I was in the process of sending up my pictures, and I decided to take the hint and go to bed.

Sure enough, the shuttle arrived promptly at 9:30, and we drove east to pick up passengers at the City Garden hotel, about 15 minutes away through heavy traffic. And then the bus turned around and drove to the airport, passing right by my hotel on its way; I can’t figure out why they didn’t start with the City Garden instead of sending us on the loop-the-loop, but the trip did let me make one more shot at getting photos, only one of which panned out — this is the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter. I wonder what it looks like when there’s a typhoon if it’s this crowded normally!

971 causeway bay typhoon shelter: We reached the airport at 10:30; I checked in, got rid of my last HK$70 (I had saved HK$50 for departure tax, but United rolls it into the fare; apparently some airlines don’t), and took the golf cart to the First Class Lounge, where I had a quick snack while waiting for flight 806 to be called. We ran a little late, which gave me enough time to catch my breath and relax — next time, I won’t cut the trip to the airport so short.

This time, the plane was equipped with the United Suite in First Class, and I hoped to get some sleep on the flight home. But, even though the seat (5F) did open up so that I could lie down on a flat surface, I didn’t find it all that comfortable; it was plenty long, but not wide enough for me to have a good place to put my hands and arms. Despite that, I’d upgrade again — and I might sleep better on a flight which leaves later in the day, such as flights from California to Europe. Trying to go to sleep just nine hours after waking up is not easy for me, though my seatmate seemed not to have any problem sleeping. I did sleep some, though, but gave up the attempt about 8 hours into the flight.

Just before they closed the door, two women came into first class carrying young babies (I later found out the babies were eight and three months old). One of them took the seat across the aisle from mine, and I have to admit that I wasn’t happy about the idea — I was afraid that the baby would cry the entire flight (not without reason — unbeknownst to us, Jeffrey had a cold when we took him on his first flight…you can guess the rest). But that didn’t happen — the babies were amazingly quiet (the eight-month-old made a little noise once or twice; I don’t think I heard anything from the three-month-old, who was closer to me). About the only disturbance I noticed happened when the women took the babies on a walk into the galley and the flight attendants oohed and aahed — but that was no noisier than when an adult passenger went back to the galley and asked for something to eat.

I forgot to take a menu, so I don’t remember the wines or any of the entrees other than the one I had (filet mignon, which was tasty). Breakfast was more substantial than the second meal on the flight to Hong Kong, but nothing outstanding. They did have Godiva chocolates; the purser (who’d been on the flight I took to HKG last month) told me that they were carrying them outbound from Hong Kong until the supply ran out and suggested I write UA to complain.

Flight time was just under 12 hours, and I was out of Customs 30 minutes after wheels down. The car service was waiting for me, and I was home about an hour later; I’m now waiting for everyone to come home. School should be out in a few minutes, and I suspect Jeffrey will want to see his Game Boy sooner rather than later!

It’s hot here — but much drier than Hong Kong. I took a walk at lunchtime to get some sunshine, and came back only slightly damp; in Hong Kong, I was soaked by the time I’d walked half a block. And there were long stretches of my walk (through a populous suburb) when I didn’t see any other people; that never happened in Hong Kong! And finally, the air here smells of roses and citrus; that wasn’t the case in the urban areas of Hong Kong.

It’s good to be home.

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Hot and Sweaty Sightseeing

This morning, I woke up and decided that I was ready to go home, so I
called United and changed my flight from Tuesday to Monday. I’m
enjoying Hong Kong, but the heat and humidity are getting to me; also,
I’d be hanging around by myself on Monday (unlike the past couple of
days, when I’ve had friends to travel with). And finally, the Fortune
Global Forum starts Tuesday at the Convention Centre; some of the guests
include Bill Clinton and the President of China, Jiang Zemin. Protests
are expected, and my hotel is conveniently located between the protest
area and the conference centre. While I’m sure the protests would be
educational, I think I can do without learning what tear gas smells
like, so I’m bailing out in the morning.

But today, I still had more sightseeing to do — this time with yet
another colleague from IBM. He hadn’t been to Kowloon, so we hopped the
Star Ferry to the dock at Tsim Sha Tsui. On the way over, I saw a bunch
of people in yellow T-shirts.

956 special olympics: Yellow, of course, is the colour of the Falun Gong, who are proscribed
in China, hassled in Macau, and more or less tolerated in Hong Kong —
but they aren’t going to be allowed to protest at the Global Forum;
instead, they’re being kept across the harbour in Tsim Sha Tsui. So I
put one and one together and figured I was seeing a Falun Gong
demonstration in progress.

I was wrong; it turned out that the people in yellow were there for the
the Hong Kong Law Enforcement Torch Run on behalf of the Special
Olympics. But there were people giving out information
about Falun Gong at the Star Ferry dock, and it didn’t look like the
police were paying any special attention to them.

958 falun gong: After our near brush with politics, we turned our attention to the view
of Hong Kong island; it was a bright and sunny day, and the view was
stunning.

951 from kowloon: I could even see my hotel (the building just to the left of the really
tall building) and the Convention Centre (the low building towards the
left, projecting into the harbour).

953 from kowloon: We wandered around for a while and eventually had lunch at Harbour City
(it was air conditioned, which was very important at that point in the
afternoon!), then took the Star Ferry back to Hong Kong side; I couldn’t
resist taking one last shot of the Convention Centre and my hotel.

963 hkcec and hotel from ferry: Then my friend took off for the south side
of Hong Kong, but I was wiped and decided to go back to my room and cool
off. Here’s what the Star Ferry and dock looked from the 36th floor.

965 ferry dock from room: After cooling off for a while, I decided to make one last shopping trip,
this time to Times Square, a less-touristy spot at Causeway Bay. Like
the Times Square in New York, there’s a Jumbotron to entertain the
crowds.

968 times square: I think this Times Square has more shopping opportunities than the one
in New York; I poked around for a while, but the sheer magnitude of the
place defeated me. The 9th floor, with ten or fifteen different
electronics places, truly impressed me. Anyone who thinks Americans
like to shop has never been to Hong Kong.

And now this American has to pack. I have resisted the
temptation to buy another suitcase; it’s time to find out if that was a
wise decision or not.

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Hong Kong Saturday

I started the day with a trip to the health club at the Grand Hyatt (the
Hyatt and the Renaissance share some facilities, which seems odd to me,
but who am I to argue?). I was already hot and sweaty by the time I got
there, but I persevered and actually spent some time exercising. Then
it was back to the room to recuperate before taking off for a long day’s
sightseeing and shopping.

I spent the day with a friend from the conference; since today was
sunny, we decided to make the trip to
The Peak [Caution! Page
has horrible sound effects which start automatically!]
and see if
the view
was worth the trek. And because today was hot, we decided to take the
Peak Tram
rather than walking up the 373 meters and thousands of steps.

Both decisions were good. But before we got to the Peak Tram, we took a
regular surface tram route along Johnson Road, passing streets like this
one:

927 from tram: And then we ducked into The Landmark (expensive shopping centre) to grab
a quick cold soda at Pizza Hut to fortify us for the trip to the Peak
Tram. A few minutes later, we were on the tram, and then at the Peak
Tower.

935 peak tower: As is far too typical of tourist spots, the Peak Tower is loaded with
kitsch; there’s a Ripley’s, a Madame Tussaud’s, and, of
course, tons of tacky souvenir shops. We ignored all of those and went
outside to enjoy the view — and the fact that it was a good ten degrees
cooler than it was nearer sea level!

The view from The Peak is unbelievable, and I know these pictures don’t
do it justice. But here are a couple of attempts anyway. First, a
picture of downtown Hong Kong and Kowloon.

941 hong kong: Here’s the view looking the other way, towards Repulse Bay.

937 back side: And they’re still building — I wonder how much apartments
in this building will go for? It’s on a hill above The Peak and should
have an even more impressive view.

936 going up: But after a while, and after lunch, the siren sound of the city lured us
back, and we took the tram downhill.

944 tram: The tram dropped us near the famous Bank of China building, which looked
impressive from The Peak and even more so from across the street.

947 bank of china: I could also see the Hong Kong Convention and Exposition Centre, where
I’d spent most of the week (and where I could have been attending
Developer’s Day; I heard later that attendance was pretty light).

948 hkcec: The rest of the day was spent shopping.

950 no fakes: And then for dinner, we went to Pasta E Pizza, where the Thai basil on
the Pizza Verde was as good as it was last week. I’m going to have to
try making that combination at home.

Tomorrow should bring more sightseeing, but for now, it’s time for bed.

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