I’m writing this from the West of England: Bristol, to be precise, where I’m attending a face-to-face meeting of the W3C TAG. Herewith a few illustrated notes on the place, the country, Canadian History, and the dreaded Semantic Web Insurrectionists.
Norm Walsh and I arrived at Heathrow at more or less the same time and navigated down here together; it was chilly but the sun was out so we went for a Sunday-morning walk through the town.
Bristol · It’s a pretty place. These are the banks of the Avon river, which are done up very nicely. The prettified old ship is a replica of John Cabot’s The Matthew, and if you haven’t heard of John you’re not a Canadian. He sailed out of Bristol around 1500 and discovered Newfoundland; many of Canada’s Native people will tell you it’s been all downhill since then, but speaking as a descendant of poverty-stricken Norwegian peasants and poverty-stricken Orange horse-traders who made good and interbred in the New World, there are two sides to that story.
Not quite visible on the left of that shot is the Great Britain, an old steamer on display here which is interesting because it’s a hybrid sail/steam vessel and because it was one of the first with a steel—as opposed to wood—hull.
Our river’s-edge meander pretty quickly took us off the beaten track, I’m not sure what these are the ruins of. Norm’s a good guy to go out walking with because he doesn’t mind frequent stops to take pictures of falling-down stone walls and other visual highlights.
A Long Way From Home · Somehow England feels just as foreign to me as the rest of Europe and distinctly more foreign than France. It may just be a matter of language; what they speak in France is pretty well the same language as my (bad) French, but what they speak here in England is subtly, disorientingly different. My hotel has a sign pointing the way to the “bedrooms.” They’re not washrooms or restrooms, they’re (officially, on the signs) “toilets.” But it’s the little two-letter prepositions that are really squirm: Here, you live “in” a street and get called “on” a phone number.
Still, once you get out of London the English are a pretty genial bunch and they build a nice-looking city. Also some of the beers are outstanding.
Non-Quantitative Addressing · Our meeting is being hosted at HP Labs, just out of town, by Stuart Williams. He and Amanda had us over to (superb) High Tea the day we arrived; his address caused us some bemusement: Lilac Cottage, The Green, [Name-of-cute-little-town]. No numbers. Stuart‘s place is the epitome of English country charm, but unfortunately all I photographed were the pretty water plants you see above.
RDF Drums in the Undergrowth · For some reason, Bristol seems to be a nexus of Semantic Web energy: I know of at least Dan Brickley, Brian McBride, and Mark Butler in this neck of the woods. Jet-lagged, during some interminable TAG wrangling over whether a URI “represents” or “constitutes” a link (really, and worse, I started it) attention wandered and I had a deranged vision of the RDFistas staging a coup-de-main and taking the TAG hostage, or at least seizing the opportunity to perform some guerilla performance art.
Jet Lag · It takes a lot out of you. It’s a fine thing to come a third of the way around the world and walk down a sunlit street, but the combination of the travel time, the costs, and the jangled body-clock make this a very expensive proposition — yesterday in the meeting, I snarled seriously at someone for using the word “hypertext” in what seemed an unsuitable way. I’m not the only one who’s had enough of business travel, this only goes to show that videoconferencing is hard, I’d pay damn good money for a couple days of videoconferencing if I could avoid blowing the thousands of dollars, days of travel time, and mental stress all this causes. But in my experience, videoconferencing still generally sucks.
Bristol Cathedral · It’s exotic because it has a flat roof, and the layout is weird too. Well worth a visit.