What have I done? I've volunteered….

I’m not sure what came over me, but at the class dinner last night, I volunteered to be co-secretary and networking person for the Class of ’75 for the next five years. The main qualification for the job appears to be the ability to use e-mail, something which I can safely claim. And it should help me stay in touch with my classmates and with RPI over the next five years, too.

We had some good visits with friends from the Class of ’75 during Reunion; then on Sunday, we visited friends from other classes who have stayed in Troy. I have to admit that every time I visit, I find myself liking the place more — of course, I never visit during the winter!

Pictures will follow, but not until I have decent connectivity.

Here's to old RPI…

Greetings from the beautiful
Voorhees Computer Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. I’m here, along with Diane and Jeffrey, for my 25th

We arrived Thursday evening and planned to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Platt’s Place (a deli with wonderful cheesecake), for dinner. But when we got there, we found that it was gone, replaced by a Buca di Beppo, which, while quite acceptable, was not the same thing at all. I was amused to find that their literature quoted a review in the San Jose Mercury News — I had never heard of the chain before, but apparently they have a location in the Pruneyard, 15 minutes from our house. It’d be better in a larger group, since they specialize in large family-sized meals (and our family was barely able to finish a small spaghetti!).

Yesterday, we drove to RPI to register for Reunion and wander the campus; we hadn’t signed up for many activities during the day, but the weather convinced us to stay inside as much as possible. Either it was hot and humid or rainy — sometimes both. And towards the end of the day, there were
thunderstorms, which impressed Jeffrey a lot! The storms knocked out the PBX at our hotel, and it’s likely to be down throughout our stay. Yesterday evening, we went to the Houston Fieldhouse for dinner, and then many of us from the Class of ’75 got together at the Troy Pub and Brewery (I can recommend the Uncle Sam Amber Ale). It was great to see some of my old friends, many of whom I see every five years, as if by clockwork.

Today is cool and sunny, ideal weather for a parade and a picnic, which are on the schedule for noonish. Right now, Diane is at the Modern Classroom Facility (as it was known when I was an undergraduate here; now it’s the Darren Communications Center) listening to RPI’s new President,
Shirley Ann Jackson, talking about the Rensselaer Plan, while Jeffrey and I are in the computer center — he’s looking at the Internet Movie Database and enjoying the fast Internet access that being on a campus provides.

I’ve been taking pictures but I may not be able to upload them until I get home — for some reason, none of the public-access systems here seem to have PCMCIA slots. More later.

Well, it’s much later, but here are some of the pictures we took on June 2nd and 3rd:

Work, work, work….

Three-day weekends are great. Returning from a three-day weekend is a different story. Fortunately, this is a two-day week for me!

We watched the rest of Spaceballs tonight. I’m afraid Jeffrey will never be the same.

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.

It's so nice to be back in my office…

Fortunately, it’s the day before a 3-day weekend, and this is the 3-day weekend that we have a site powerdown for maintenance, so I came in to turn on my machines so I could turn off my machines before I leave. There must be a message there….

And the message is…”go home early!” So I am.

Back home!

I did make an unpleasant discovery on the plane — the DVD player I have on my laptop wouldn’t play a Macrovision-protected disc unless I turned off the “TV out” on the graphics adapter, but I could not figure out how to do that, so I couldn’t watch the other movie I’d brought along (The Graduate). I hate copy-protection.

I got home a few minutes before Diane did; it was great to see her and Jeffrey live instead of in photos again! But I fell asleep rather early (before 9pm, not counting the times I dozed off sitting in a chair before that).

I worked from home today; tomorrow, I go to the office to see what disasters arrived in paper mail, and then it’s a three-day weekend. Jeffrey goes on a field trip to the Gold Country tomorrow, so we have to get up early (he has to be at school before 6am). Oh, well, maybe I can get a head start on things.

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

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]

No more touristing, back to work!

Today, I spent the day at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting, which, of course, is the reason I’m still in Amsterdam and was able to play tourist all weekend. I did escape for a brief lunchtime walk — it was difficult to go back, since the weather had finally improved (it was dry if not exactly warm).

But the highlight of today’s meeting was the dinner at the Grand Hotel. The Grand Hotel is clearly at a very different level than the Marriott or the Barbizon Palace; the only reason it’s a five-star hotel is that they don’t ever give out more than five stars.

The dinner was held in the Council Chamber (unfortunately, the room was too dimly lit to get a picture which does it justice). I don’t know what council sat at the council table, but without microphones, I don’t know how people at one end heard the other. Late in the evening, Jean-François Abramatic (W3C Chair, seated in the “Legi Gregi” chair (and no, I don’t know who Legi Gregi was)) introduced the
Achilles and the Tortoise: Ian Jacobs and Tim Berners-Lee engaged in a Socratic dialog on the nature of URIs.explanation of metadata by Tim Berners-Lee and Ian Jacobs, which was an appropriate conclusion to the evening.

The dinner ran to five courses, with a vegetarian option as well. Dinner ran late, even by Amsterdam standards; I got back to the hotel around 11:30pm — some folks were planning to go out for more partying, but I’d had enough and went to bed to be ready for the second day of the meeting.

Rooms at the Grand: I wonder what sort of meetings get held in the "Marriage Chamber". (I wonder what kind of meetings get held in the Marriage Chamber?)

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

Jewish Amsterdam

I spent most of Sunday exploring Jewish Amsterdam. Somehow, a Jewish community did survive the Shoah, and there are a number of Jewish cultural sites. But, of course, it is quite different from before the Shoah.

I started at the Joods Historisch Museum, which is in the “heart of the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam”, housed in “what used to be four Ashkenazi synagogues”. (Quoted phrases are from the museum’s brochure; their website is worth visiting even if you can visit the museum in person.)

The Museum doesn’t focus on the Shoah — it doesn’t ignore it (that would be impossible), but its main goal is to show the religion, culture, and history of Jews in the Netherlands, past and present. And it does a good job; I spent well over an hour in the museum. I happened to be there while a group of Jewish students from London were being given a tour, and they were certainly paying attention the whole time. But there isn’t much emphasis on the future at the museum.

The Portuguese Synagogue, across the street, on the other hand, is a going proposition. They, too, barely survived the Shoah, but they are determined to continue as an active congregation (preserving Sephardic traditions, as contrasted with the Ashkenazi practices that most modern American and European Jews are familiar with). Their website is also worth a visit.

Pictures coming later….watch this space!

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