Haifa Sights

I still haven’t had any time to do any real sight-seeing (and probably won’t; I thought tomorrow would be more or less free, but I now have meetings until the time I have to leave for the airport. sigh), but I did manage to take a couple of pictures.

The area I’m in is fairly near the harbor, and there are quite a few bars around — some of them have signs saying “US Navy Pub”, and my colleagues here advised avoiding them! I don’t actually have any problems avoiding bars in general (British pubs are an exception), so that was no hardship, but I did find the name of one bar here slightly interesting:

Bear Pub: For Cokie

Other than the businesses which cater to sailors (there’s even a USO here), this is not a particularly touristy area; most of the shops have signs in Hebrew only. Last night, I had dinner at a Chinese restaurant — unfortunately, it wasn’t a Kosher Chinese restaurant (I know they exist, but I haven’t found one yet). But the chicken was just fine anyway.

The view from my room is very nice, including the Bahai headquarters:

Bahai complex from my room:

I’ve just been told that they will be having a grand opening on May 22nd to show off the gardens, but I think I’ll have to miss it.

Last night was not a good one from the jet lag standpoint; I woke up at 4:15am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So if my writing appears incoherent, there’s a good reason! More later, perhaps….

Mongolian Barbecue is Different Here

After a very full day at IBM, two of my colleagues and I went to dinner at the Mongolia restaurant, about five minutes from my hotel. At home, Diane Reese introduced us to Su’s Mongolian BBQ, and now we go there several times a month. We like it because it’s fresh, fast, fun, and cheap — although the choices are somewhat limited (four meats, six vegetables, and a dozen sauces), that still gives more combinations than I’ll ever have a chance to try. And so, I had a mental model of what to expect at a Mongolian Barbecue place.

My model got jolted as soon as I saw the interior of the restaurant. Su’s is very plain — they’ve taken a huge step lately by putting up a few science-fictiony paintings; before that, the most interesting thing on their walls was the poster with the minimum wage notice. Mongolia is definitely not plain — it looked like a typical “yuppie” restaurant, with nice wrought iron on the walls, nice chairs, and lots of wood.

We sat down, and I got my next surprise — like Su’s, you pay one price for all you can eat, but unlike Su’s, it’s not all self-service. First, they brought out an assortment of fancy appetizers including ostrich liver and chicken sate, and even more surprisingly, bread (something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a Chinese restaurant in the US). Everything was tasty (though I chose to skip the ostrich liver — I’ve never met a liver I liked yet), and then we were ready to go cook.

Again, Mongolia far outdid Su’s — instead of four meats and six vegetables, there were a dozen of each, and many, many sauces (plus fresh herbs). Fortunately, everything was labelled in English as well as in Hebrew, but there were still things I couldn’t recognize (what kind of herb is “aspodhel”?). But I didn’t need to try everything — nor did I want to — I just wanted a tasty meal, and I was pretty sure I could manage to create one.

At a Mongolian barbecue, you control what goes into your food (though trained professionals actually cook it), and so selection is critical. Just like Su’s, Mongolia provided some suggested recipes; unlike Su’s, they were printed in Hebrew. And the font was quite different — at home, I often see posters in English printed in a Hebrew-looking font; here, they printed Hebrew in a Chinese-looking font (I wish I had brought my camera!), not exactly designed for the non-native.

I could have asked my colleagues to help me follow the printed suggestions (in fact, they offered to do so), but what fun would that have been?

Instead, I decided to adlib. I stuck with what I knew for the first bowl (chicken as the meat, and spices and sauces which seemed familiar), and I quite enjoyed it (though I probably went a little heavy on the peanut sauce). I experimented more on the second bowl (turkey as the meat), and it wasn’t as successful — the sauce I concocted went better with the vegetables than with the meat, so I was a good boy and just ate my vegetables.

And then it was time to pay the bill, and I discovered the last big difference between Mongolia and Su’s. Su’s is inexpensive: $8 for all you can stand (if you’re a big eater, it can be quite a bargain). But in Israel, Chinese food is one of the fancier options, and Mongolia was no exception; my share of the bill came to a bit over 100 shekels (about $25), the most expensive meal I’d had in Haifa. But it was a nice change of pace, and I enjoyed the company at dinner (and I think they liked the food, too, though they did stick pretty closely to the suggestions).

I wonder if I can find a decent Mongolian barbecue restaurant in Paris this weekend?

Old Home Week

I’m in Cambridge for the first W3C Technical Plenary meeting, along with about 150 other people from many Web-related companies. I had, of course, expected to see many old friends at the meeting — but I was surprised when I got down to the ground floor and bumped into Ian Brackenbury of IBM, who was not here for this meeting but happened to be staying in the same hotel. Since we needed to talk anyway, we had breakfast together, neatly solving my indecision about where I’d eat.

Then, after the meeting, I visited the part of my group which is housed at Lotus (across the street from this hotel). And again, I was surprised — this time by Carol Moore, who was the Webmaster of www.ibm.com in 1995, soon after we first put it on the air, and who was visiting from Amsterdam; we chatted for a while before I came back for the post-meeting reception.

And then I wound up going to dinner with two friends and co-workers from my days in Boca, Andi Snow-Weaver and Phill Jenkins, both of who are now with IBM in Austin. We verified our geek credentials by talking about long-departed hardware (Series/1 computers, to be specific) in the taxi, but then decided that talking about people and food was more enjoyable, and that’s what we did for the rest of the evening.

Then I came back to the hotel, flipped on the news, and heard about the quake in Seattle. I vividly remember the Loma Prieta quake in ’89, and I’m glad this one doesn’t seem to have been nearly as harmful.

How we spent our late-winter vacation

For the last couple of years, Jeffrey’s school has started taking the week of Presidents’ Day off, along with many other schools in the area. It’s unofficially known as “Ski Week”, but we’re not very big on skiing (certainly not downhill!), so we do something else. Two years ago, we put Jeffrey into the daylong childcare program at the Y, but they don’t operate on Presidents’ Day itself, and it seemed a shame to use up a vacation day near home.

Last year, we got rained on at Disneyland; Jeffrey would have been happy to go back, but I didn’t want to get near the place so soon after the new California Adventure park opened.

This year, we considered many choices, none of which really appealed, and then I suggested, half-jokingly, Las Vegas (I’d been there once, during Comdex, and thought it was an interesting place). Much to my surprise, Diane and Jeffrey thought it was a good idea, so that’s where we spent last week.

LV Trip map: Courtesy Microsoft Streets and Trips.

Sunday

We left Sunday morning, bright and early by our standards (10am); we had hotel reservations in Las Vegas beginning Monday, so we were in no great hurry. The drive was uneventful, and traffic was light; we had lunch at Harris Ranch near Coalinga. I recommend the Tri-Tip — beef is their speciality, and they do a nice job of it. Jeffrey and Diane had chicken and were not particularly impressed. We reached Bakersfield at about 3:30 and decided it was too early to call it a day; the next obvious stopping point was Barstow, about 130 miles away, so we used the AAA book to pick out a hotel there, the Best Western Desert Villa Inn, gave them a call, and made reservations. We arrived about 6:10, and, after some confusion, got checked into our room. Our noisy room.

I didn’t do enough research before choosing the hotel; this was one of the two three-diamond hotels in Barstow, and the price seemed reasonable, so I went for it.

Barstow map: Courtesy Microsoft Streets and Trips

I should have checked their location more carefully. The AAA book said they were a half-mile from an exit from I-15, which was true and useful for navigation — what the book didn’t say was that the hotel was conveniently located between an uphill grade on I-40 and some very active freight tracks, so that there was a veritable symphony of engine noises just outside the window. Fortunately, the room also boasted a noisy heating system, and that provided a steady roar which masked the sounds from outside. But I was glad we only were planning to spend one night there.

We found a nice Chinese restaurant nearby, the China Gourmet, and had a pleasant dinner. Then back to the room, and to bed. And, eventually, to sleep.

Monday

The next morning, we had the continental breakfast (also not outstanding) and took off at about 9:30. Again, the drive was uneventful; traffic was heavy coming the other way, as people were leaving Las Vegas to go home for work on Tuesday. We stopped at the Nevada Welcome Center in Jean at about 11 and picked up some brochures and coupons for two free buffets at the nearby Gold Strike Casino; we were ready to eat, so the buffet seemed like a good idea. Of course, since there were three of us, we had to pay for one meal, but that still seemed cheap. It was, but Jeffrey couldn’t find anything to eat, and we wound up feeding him at Burger King (he got the best meal, too!).

Then we continued onward, visiting the Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Cactus Garden. I have no pictures of the Chocolate Factory (the tour is brief; the candy is yummy!), but the Cactus Garden is another story.

Jeffrey at Ethel M:

Here’s Jeffrey in the garden.

Teddy Bear Cholla: Unlike teddy bears or challah, this is <b>not</b> something you want to get close to!

This stuff (Teddy Bear Cholla) looks tame compared to Jumping Cholla — I didn’t want to get close enough to the latter to get a picture!

Beaver Tail:

We see cacti that look similar to this (Beaver Tail) near us. I don’t know if it’s the same variety or not; I do know that Prickly Pear thrives as near as our next-door neighbor’s house.

Boxing Glove:

And last, this is a picture of Boxing Glove cacti.

By this time, it was nearly 3, so we went to our hotel, the St. Tropez All Suite Hotel, to check in and unpack. We’d picked this hotel because it wasn’t too far from the Strip, had mini-suites with a foldout couch in the living room for Jeffrey, and didn’t have a casino. Of course, staying in a non-casino hotel costs more! The room was nice enough, though the air conditioner in the bedroom didn’t seem to work right, and they could have used significantly more sound insulation between suites (we had neighbors on Jeffrey’s side one night; they watched TV until well after 11, and it was loud enough that he couldn’t sleep in his room). But it was far better than the hotel in Barstow.

MGM Grand: Our car was usually parked here.  Well, in the parking garage, a short fifteen-minute walk away.

We drove down to the MGM Grand and parked, ready to go exploring. We never quite made it into the hotel; instead, we took the monorail to Bally’s, got out to the Strip, and started wandering. We had a list of free shows from the Welcome Center; the closest was the musical fountains at Bellagio, so we walked over there and were enthralled (and only slightly dampened). Then, to the Mirage, where we admired the statuary

Buddah Mirage: This is at the Mirage.  I think.

and the tigers.

White Tiger:

After a quick trip to Treasure Island, we came back to the Mirage for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, overlooking the sports book; we spent most of dinner trying to explain horse racing to Jeffrey, since that’s what they had up on the big screen.

Falling Pirate:
Then back to Treasure Island for the pirate ship battle,
and over to the Mirage for the volcano.

Smoke on the Water:

Fire and Water:

Then, to the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to see the Fountain Show, buy some shoelaces, and go on our first motion simulator ride of the trip, Race for Atlantis, which I thought was only OK — the 3-D effect was blurry, the story made no sense, and I didn’t feel at all caught up in the action.

After that, it was back to the room for Jeffrey and Diane, while I found a grocery store to buy some fruit. And then another grocery store, because the first one had no cantalope. And back to the room, and to bed.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the MGM Grand and parked. This time, we hiked the quarter-mile from the parking lot to the Strip (with a detour to see if the theme park was open — it wasn’t; I had expected it to be inside, like everything else in Las Vegas, but it’s outside, and so it was closed for the winter) and looked around.

Skyline with Roller Coaster:

New York, New York beckoned, just across the street — and Jeffrey was most interested in riding the Manhattan Express. He was just barely tall enough (54 inches) to do so; neither Diane nor I wanted to join him, so we waved farewell and sent him on his way. Like many rollercoasters, they take pictures and try to sell them to you — we were a little unsettled when the pictures from his ride came up on the monitors and he wasn’t visible…instead, there was a picture of what looked like an empty seat! But that was just an optical illusion; he returned, happy, a few minutes later, and we set out in search of lunch. There are many restaurants in New York; the casino didn’t have quite as many, but it still took us a while to find one we could all agree on — America (the coffee shop).

After lunch, we took the elevated path to Excalibur, where Jeffrey and I rode Space Race, one of Merlin’s Magic Motion Machines (yes, a motion simulator). We both liked this one, although the story was pretty weak. Then we took the moving walkways to Luxor and all saw In Search of the Obelisk, their IMAX Ridefilm — yet another motion simulator. This was the best show we’d seen yet — the story made some sense, the preshow was engaging, and the guides helped get us into the mood. Great fun, highly recommended.

After that, we went back to the MGM Grand and saw the lions, picked up our car, and drove to the Las Vegas Hilton for Star Trek: The Experience. And it was quite an experience — we were there for several hours. First, we checked out the History of the Future Museum (a Star Trek timeline and paraphenalia), and then we rode the ride. Three times, in fact; one nice thing here is that you’re allowed to ride as many times as you’d like for one admission fee (AAA members get a $5 discount, by the way). This was my favorite ride — it was yet another motion simulator (of course) — but it was very well done, the pre-show is very good, and the cast members really interact with the participants. Riding it three times let me look at a lot of the details; I don’t want to spoil the ride for anyone who hasn’t been on it yet, but I would advise paying very close attention to the labels on panels once you’re on your way…there are many inside jokes to be spotted and enjoyed.

Before we left, we had dinner in Quark’s Bar and Grill and bought some stuff at the Deep Space Nine Promenade; we also had a family portrait taken with some of our more distant relatives.

Star Trek Family Portrait: Us with some members of our <b>very</b> extended family.

Wednesday

By this time, we were tired of free continental breakfasts, so we drove to the MGM Grand and enjoyed their Grand Buffet. I’m glad I don’t eat like that very often, though.

After breakfast, we went to M&M World and took in their 3-D movie, “I Lost My M in Las Vegas”, featuring Red and Yellow; we pocketed the free bag of M&M’s that they gave us afterwards (breakfast had been quite filling!), and headed North along the Strip. Some time later, we got to the Desert Passage shopping center, part of the new Aladdin complex, and went exploring. It was yet another mostly high-end shopping mall, featuring a food court whose restaurants were named only after the cuisine they offered. Jeffrey ate at Chinese; Diane and I decided to wait for something better.

Etoile (Vegas): Note the lack of traffic!

Paris offered us that something better — we ate in JJ’s Boulangerie and followed up with gelato and sorbet at Le Nôtre. Then we strolled the shopping street inside the hotel (which was just like the real Paris, if you ignored the lack of dog poop on the floor), and eventually came out at Bally’s, where we found the monorail back to the MGM and our car.

Then we drove to Circus Circus and watched two acts; in between, we finally succumbed to the lure of the machines and dropped a buck on pinball and a bit more on the Spiderman video game. Then, back to the car and down to Excalibur for the Tournament of Kings dinner show. The show was great fun, and the food was OK, too, even if the dessert was chocolate-less. Then we went back to Luxor, rode In Search of the Obelisk again, and made up for the lack of chocolate at dinner. Then back to our hotel and to bed.

Thursday

Thursday, we drove home. 538 miles, roughly, counting stops and detours for food. When we left, I wasn’t sure we’d do it all in one day, but we were really ready for our own beds, and the traffic and weather cooperated to make it an easy trip. We did have bad timing on dinner — we were in enough of a hurry to make fast food the right option, but the Burger King near Coalinga was busy hosting two Greyhound buses when we pulled up, so we continued on to Santa Nella before finding a place we wanted to eat. And the rain didn’t start until we were off the “Special Driving Zone — Double Fines” on Pacheco Pass Road above Gilroy — it was wet the rest of the way home, but that was only 35 miles or so, all freeway, and all flat.

Summing Up

We all enjoyed the trip; it would be nice if they issued gas masks for the walks through the casinos (Nevada is California’s smoking section), though!

I’m not sure I’d stay at the St. Tropez again — even though we’d deliberately selected a non-casino hotel, I felt like I was missing part of the Las Vegas experience by being there. I definitely would not stay at the Best Western Desert Villa in Barstow again, at least not without industrial-strength earplugs.

I wish we’d tried to make arrangements to see Hal while we were in Las Vegas (especially since Susan was also in town at the same time); I do appreciate the advice he gave us when we were planning our trip. And next time, we’ll probably see more than casinos — but as first-timers to Las Vegas (Comdex doesn’t really count), the casinos provided a lot of entertainment in a short time.

Simchat Torah 5761

Joy

I had a wonderful morning today, attending Simchat Torah services with the members of the South Hampshire Reform Jewish Congregation. They’re a small congregation without a permanent location (they use the Southampton Orthodox shul about twice a month and move around the area the rest of the time to be closer to the widely-scattered membership; today, they were at a member’s home on Allington Lane, about 10 miles from Winchester) and without a full-time rabbi or cantor (in fact, I found out today that no UK Reform congregation has a cantor). But they do own two Torah scrolls, and today, that was what counted.

Wrapped in the Torah: Celebrating Simchat Torah with the South Hampshire Reform Jewish Congregation

I’d actually never been to Simchat Torah morning services before — I’d been to the evening service, where the congregation dances with the Torah and processes around the sanctuary; it’s a fun evening. Morning services are a bit different, since we actually read the last and first parts of the Torah, and to do that, we unroll the complete scroll and literally wrap ourselves in the Torah. Today, in the small space available, we wrapped ourselves three layers deep in the Torah, which was a bit of a logistical challenge, especially when it came time to reroll the scroll.

no vowels:

I was given the unexpected honor of being Katan Torah, that is, called to the Torah to “read” the final portion of Deuteronomy. I put “read” in quotes because, like many contemporary Jews, I can’t actually read the Torah itself (there are no vowels in the Torah, for one thing, as you can see above), but in practice, that’s not a problem — all I had to do was read the blessings before and after the Torah reading, and the service leader read the Torah (she’s an Israeli who now lives in England, so her Hebrew was more than up to the task). Some day, perhaps, I’ll take on the challenge of actually reading (chanting) a Torah portion at services at Shir Hadash — Diane does it once or twice a year — but so far, I have found being asked to give a drash (explanatory talk) on the portion (in English, of course) to be sufficiently daunting!

I took a lot more pictures while we were rerolling the scroll, so I’ve written a photoessay to help tell the story.

Frustration

After leaving services, I started heading towards my hotel near Heathrow. We’d had a very light kiddush lunch at services, but I was hungry, so I stopped at a shopping center in Eastleigh for a more filling lunch. Parking was more of a challenge than I’d expected — fortunately, the parking lots here are “pay and display” rather than the “take a ticket” style which is common at home, so there’s no additional hassle leaving if you didn’t find a space. I succeeded in the second parking lot I tried; then I discovered that the one restaurant in the shopping center wasn’t very good. And I wasn’t successful at any of the other shopping I tried to do, either. But at least the parking was cheap.

Then I got on the M3 on my way to the hotel. All was well until I got off the highway, at which point I got thoroughly lost. I eventually found a place to park and called the hotel; they gave me directions, but unfortunately, their directions assumed I was starting from a different place than where I really was (I guess I told them the wrong thing!), and I got more lost; after a few more miles, I stumbled across a Sainsbury’s, parked, took out my map, and figured out where I was and where I had to be (I still have no idea how I got lost). Carrying a GPS is not very helpful if you have no way to cross-reference it to reality! But the UK mobile phone was quite useful; I’m glad I bought it.

But after the stop at Sainsbury’s, I was oriented, and found my way to the hotel in only a few more minutes. By this time, I was hungry again, but I didn’t want to eat in the hotel. So I walked out in search of the unknown. The first restaurant I saw was the McDonald’s in the Airport Bowl; I decided I could do better. A mile or so later, I found the next business district, which had an interesting-looking Indian restaurant…but it was closed. The Indian takeaway next door was open, though, and they had a couple of seats, so that’s where I ate (it was nice and spicy and filling, too!). Then I walked back to the hotel.

I spent the next 90 minutes trying to get connected to the network and failing. I had a hard time getting my computer plugged in to the wall, too — I still don’t have a UK power adapter, and the trick I used in Winchester to force the ground plug open enough to let an European plug go into the slot didn’t work here! The hotel found a UK adapter for me; I just have to remember to give it back to them, or I’ll be out 10 pounds (not a bad markup for something which costs about 2 pounds).

If you get to read this, I was successful at dialing in. That hasn’t been so easy this trip, either…half the time, the modems don’t successfully negotiate the connection.

Travel Tales

This page is a permanent link to my travel diaries.

What do Steve Young and I have in common?

Today, I attended the general CTRE session in the morning — all of the speakers were excellent. We had one talk from Bernard Buigues on the
raising of the mammoth, and another from Jane Lapotaire (a renowned Shakespearean actress and President, The Friends of Shakespeare’s Globe) and Professor Andrew Gurr on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre — both talks got standing ovations, which really impressed me; IBM audiences are not usually so moved.

Then Diane and I had lunch and she headed out to take a Montréal city tour, while Jeffrey and I went ice skating. All went swimmingly for a while, then something happened (I don’t know exactly what and probably never will, because whatever it was caused a small amount of retrograde amnesia), and the next thing I knew, I was on a bench with two people trying to help me decide if I wanted to take a taxi or an ambulance to the hospital. And I didn’t remember having being out cold on the ice for ten minutes, either.

The rest of the evening was spent at the hospital, waiting for my X-rays and CT scan to be read. To make a long story short, everything appears to be well, but I sure looked awful, and neither my shirt nor my glasses will ever be the same (actually, my shirt will never come home). And I missed the grand finale of CTRE, the circus.

So to answer the question: both of us have suffered concussions within the past year. And apparently neither of us is playing in the NFL this year, either.

Tomorrow, it’s back home, and Friday, it’s work. After stopping at the optician, that is….

Memorial Day Weekend

Saturday, Jeffrey went to a friend’s birthday party, while Diane and I saw “Having Our Say” at San Jose Rep. The play was excellent — the audience gave the cast a standing ovation, the first one I’d seen at the Rep for several years, and I thought it was well-deserved.

Sunday, I started the day with a trip to the Y to work out for the first time since going to Amsterdam (and boy, do I need it!), then we puttered around the house — I tried to replace the filter cartridges for the kitchen sink and failed (somehow, I screwed the sumps on more tightly than I can manage to unscrew them). I’m going to try again today — this should not be beyond my capabilities. After that, Diane went to the Y and Jeffrey and I went to the video store, where we bought a fine motion picture, Eegah. But by the time we got home, it was too late to watch it.

This morning, Jeffrey woke up early and watched Eegah (twice — once with the bots and once without). While he was watching for the second time, I installed the USB driver and TWAIN support for my camera so I could upload pictures to my underdesk machine instead of always having to use the laptop. And now we’re going to go do the Los Gatos year-round volksmarch and have lunch en route.

Well, I was close. We did the volksmarch (here are before and after photos as proof (you can tell that Diane is more attuned to long walks than Jeffrey is)), but we noshed instead of eating actual meals. Oh, well. And we passed an typical Los Gatos parking lot, full of Ferraris (we don’t own one) on the way.

Then we came home and puttered for a bit; eventually, some friends came over (bearing a USB hub, no less!) and we had dinner. They also helped unscrew the filter housing, and I was able to put it back together correctly this time, so we have filtered water again.

And after they left, we watched the first half-hour of Spaceballs, which is not in the best of taste, but is very funny (just what I expect from Mel Brooks). I hope Jeffrey doesn’t have too much homework tomorrow so we can finish the movie before it gets late fees.

It’s nice being in California in the spring!

Tomorrow, it’s back to the regular grind for a couple of days.

Last full day in Amsterdam

me at the mike (thumbnail)  I’m back in the conference center (and at the microphone) for the second (and last) day of the W3C AC meeting. We’ve had one lively discussion (on the future of the Web), but most of the meeting has been pretty predictable, which shows that W3C is maturing.

Lunchtime Escape

I think I’ve been travelling too long. I took one look at the lunch that the hotel had set up and I decided I needed to eat somewhere else! It’s not that the lunch looked bad, it’s that it looked to be rich, and last night’s dinner covered my need for rich food for some time to come.

I remembered having seen an Israeli felafel/shoarma shop near the Dam tram stop (about a ten-minute walk from the meeting) last night, and decided it would do nicely, so I set out. But when I got to the Royal Palace, I found the going rather slow — the grounds were blocked off, and there was a big security presence all around the Palace. And they were laying out the red carpet.

Red Carpet: Laying out the red carpet for the Emperor of Japan.

I pushed through the crowd and eventually got to the restaurant (Benjamin Restaurant; I didn’t think it was as good as Maoz), where I found out that the security and red carpet were for the arrival of the Emperor of Japan for a state visit — for some reason, neither CNN nor USA Today had bothered to mention this, I guess because no Americans were involved and no bloodshed was expected.

Spidey: Spidey on the Fox Kids' tram  While at lunch, the Fox Kids’ Network tram drove by and I got a picture of it in the distance — click on Spidey if you’re interested.

After lunch, I headed back to the hotel; the direct route was still blocked, so I detoured around the “Oud Kirk” (Old Church). Suddenly, I discovered that I was in the Red Light District. My first clue was this sign. And a few meters on, there were a number of windows in active use. I continued walking, and about five minutes later, I was back at the Barbizon Palace, ready to continue with the meeting. Amsterdam is certainly a city of contrasts!

It’s over!

The meeting ended promptly at 5pm (much to my surprise); I went to dinner with Lorrie and Chuck Cranor of AT&T and Ari Schwartz of CDT at a restaurant whose name I didn’t think to note (not this one!). It was very unusual for Amsterdam — we had a salad, appetizers, and dinner in less than an hour! And it was tasty, too (I had swordfish). So even with a trip to Australian Homemade for ice cream, and missing a tram by seconds, I was still back in my room before 8pm. I thought about going to Boom Chicago, but decided I should pack instead — this was a good idea, since packing for the way home was decidedly non-trivial. I’ve accumulated quite a bit of stuff here in Amsterdam, most of which I want to bring home (I’m not sure about some of the paper given out at WWW9 and the meeting, though). But I got it done and even had time to watch the last half of the 1999 version of The Thomas Crown Affair.

Tomorrow morning, it’s time to go home! I’ve enjoyed Amsterdam, but I’m ready to be at home again.

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]

Amsterdam, the first day

I had an uneventful flight (I slept more than usual for a trans-Atlantic flight, which was nice…but probably only four hours, which is not really enough). But I got to Amsterdam too early; the hotel wasn’t ready for me. So I left my luggage and walked to Centraal Station to buy a train pass for my entire stay; then I took the tram down to the RAI convention center to register for WWW9, and that’s where I am as I type this.

But en route, I stopped for lunch, having an old Dutch favorite…

Falafel: (The Hebrew means "Falafel like in the land [of Israel]". Thanks to Yiftach Ravid for the translation!)

I also noticed that some of the least savory aspects of the global culture have reached Holland.

It’s a beautiful day in Amsterdam, making for very pleasant walking. And my path took me past the street of flower markets, which was very pretty.

I only wish I were wearing short sleeves — it’s probably 80 or so, so long sleeves are less than optimal (on the other hand, they’re keeping me from getting sunburned). I have a few pictures, but they’ll have to wait till I get back to my computer — this one doesn’t seem to have a PCMCIA slot. (Thanks to Rohit Kahre for loaning me his computer; it’s different enough that I’m going to stop editing now after getting one picture up. Macs may be easy, but I’m too imprinted on Windows….)

But now it’s 3:15pm here and my hotel room should be ready, so I’m going to blow off the tutorials here and head back to the room. More later, perhaps.

Later the same day…

I eventually got into my hotel room, where I discovered that the phone charges are rather high by my standards (roughly 40 cents/minute (US), topping out at $10/hour/call, or $1.75 to access AT&T, plus AT&T charges), so I don’t think I’ll be connecting up from the hotel very much!

I went to dinner with Rohit; we ate at Little Tel Aviv, which, of course, was a pizzeria. I declined the ham pizza in favor of mushroom, which was very good.

Little Tel Aviv

After that, I joined a private canal tour set up by Sally Khudairi of ZOTgroup.
I’ll post more pictures when I get a chance to edit them.

Amsterdam pages: [15 May] | [17 May] | [18 May] | [19 May] | [20 May] | [21 May] | [22 May] | [23 May] | [25 May]