I spent the week in London. Fun was had, pictures were taken, I learned things. Herewith illustrated notes on transportation, energy, finance technology, businesslike drinking, women’s clothing, Groovy, excellent lamb-chop curry, and a round red anomaly.

Travel · Damn, it’s a long way, and I can’t help thinking about the enormous carbon footprint. Also, there’s just no way to travel these kinds of distances without your butt and brain hurting when you arrive.

After flying across the Arctic and Atlantic for hours and hours, you see the first Hebrides and soon are over the lush greens (and at this time of year, yellows) of the heart of England.

Islands at the extreme North-West of the Hebrides
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The English countryside in green and yellow

On this trip I was talking to people in the finance business, which means London’s “City” and then Canary Wharf, which means trains and taxis and walking; it’s really efficient but boy do your feet get tired.

Most people have had the long-subway-escalator experience, but I still can’t get over it when I haven’t done it for a while.

London subway escalator

Of course, not all of the Tube is white and modern and gleamy; Farringdon station of a late evening can’t look much different than it did fifty years ago.

Farringdon station by night, London subway

The City is at the north end of London Bridge. My hotel was at the south end, right beside the medium-large train station. The bridge has rush hours; here’s the homeward herd six-ish on a weeknight.

The rush-hour crowd walking south across London Bridge

On Friday morning as I was coming into work, there was an anomaly. I was waiting for it to take off, but it just sat there. Then I saw the camera crews filming it; a T-Mobil commercial perhaps?

Anomalous red balloon on London Bridge

Booze · Posting my travel plans here worked out really well; I got an invite to the London Java Meetup on Tuesday night, a Fite Club meeting Wednesday, and dinner with a friend on Thursday. Thank you all for having me.

When British business colleagues get together after work, what they do is go to a pub and drink lots of beer for two or three hours; then they get something to eat. Which is not what I’m used to, but when in Rome... mind you, three pints on an empty stomach when you’re just a few hours off a ten-hour red-eye flight can lead to unwarranted enthusiasm. My low-light camera technique still needs lots of work, but here’s a shot from the Java Meetup.

London Java Meetup at a pub near Farringdon

Thanks for the beers and the good company, guys.

Groovy · At that event I met Jeremy Rayner, a heavy Java geek and one of the Groovy conspirators. Unlike some groovyists I could mention, he didn’t explain how Sun owed the language love and money, nor did I get any static about how only Groovy could really integrate with Java.

But he did tell me some interesting stories about how it’s being to work at Mutual of Omaha and PepsiCo and, well, watch here or here. Then, later on in the week, I was presenting to a room-full of senior Java developers from a bank whose name you’d recognize and it turns out they’ve got thousands of lines of Groovy in production: “It buys us flexibility and productivity.” Methinks we may have a phenomenon building. Earth to Groovy community: Do evangelism like Jeremy does.

Hadoop · Also at the pub was Tom White, who’s a Hadoop Committer and Lucene PMC Member. I know, because that’s what it says on his business card; in fact, that’s all it says, except for his name and email address. I call that stylish.

Hadoop was one of the things I was suggesting that the finance folk I met with should be looking at. We need new approaches to get good mileage out of increasingly-concurrent processors, and this Java implementation of Google’s map/reduce is a very interesting direction.

Canary Wharf · This is the synthetic financial district built East of downtown London by Canada’s Reichmann brothers (it’s a colourful story; they built it, they got into business trouble, they went bust, they eventually rebounded, and then they bought it back). It is brutal, entirely without charm or warmth. On the other hand, the Finance-centric parts of London, both the Wharf and the City, are distinguished by swarms of extremely well-dressed women; some of the fashion statements were totally new to me and really worked. The men? Pinstripes, yawn. My vest and black Akubra failed to fit in.

Arriving at the Wharf with the morning rush is mind-boggling; the subway trains are packed to the max; when they unload there are thousands of people in sharp dark clothing streaming through the vast cavernous spaces then crowding single-file onto the long threadlike escalators up to where the money is. I couldn’t help thinking of a swarm of ants lining up to climb a stick to get at something yummy.

I got a couple of pictures inside, which totally failed to capture the sense of space and the ant-hill feeling. But here’s a shot of the subway station entrance from above, not at rush hour, looking down from inside one of the big buildings. Pardon the weird angle, I can’t straighten it out without losing interesting parts of the picture.

Canary wharf subway station from above

On the way to dinner with Tony Coates and family Thursday, I got a couple of shots of the Wharf. Thank you for the evening, Tony and Daniela and the boy; it was a really refreshing break in the week.

Canary wharf in the dusk
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Canary wharf by night

A senior technologist working for a bank whose name you’d recognize told me that there are major infrastructure problems; right now, the mains delivering electrical power to the Wharf are maxed right out and there’s no ETA for bringing in more juice. He’s got a hiring freeze in one building, even though there’s space and budget, because they can’t power up any more PCs. Hey, Dave Douglas, they need your help!

More Booze · The Fite Club meeting was out at the wharf, and I learned a whole lot of useful things; among others, that this gang is generally un-seduced by the WS-* pitch and is actively thinking about the RESTful alternatives. Hey vendors, time to start tooling up.

After several gallons of beer apiece at a synthetic-Olde-Englishe Canary Wharf pub, Ken Horn proclaimed a magic word: “Curry!” So he and George and I went off to the Lahore Kebab House in East London. The decor was, shall we say, extremely sincere—I particularly enjoyed the big flat-screen TV tuned to Bollywood. The people were friendly and efficient and the food was really good, starting with the raita to dip the appetizers in. Especially the lamb chops with curry; spicy and maybe a bit greasy and I think the best dish I’ve had so far in 2007. I have no idea what the address is but picture below should help you find it if you’re in town, and if you’re in town I totally recommend it. It’s cheap, too (well, by London standards). Don’t forget to stop at the off-license next door to load up on beer, just the thing with all the hot stuff.

The Lahore Kebab house, East London

Finance Technology and Web 2.0 · I was there more or less as the ambassador from (sigh) “Web 2.0”. The finance business is all about information handling; unlike most modern big businesses, they employ legions of developers to build applications in-house, and they push the limits of the systems to the max. I learned a bunch of fascinating details, but what happens in Canary Wharf stays in Canary Wharf.

My messages: First, an information-centric business needs to think a lot about life in a world where the information flows from the edge to the centre; either they figure out how to get out in front and leverage it, or they run the risk of being disintermediated and hollowed out.

Second, that no matter how maniacally focused on performance you are, you can’t ignore the time-to-market advantages we’re seeing from modern Web frameworks; if my app gets to market before yours, it just might not end up mattering that yours runs faster on the same hardware.

Technical professionals in the finance business are well-housed, well-paid, and well-supported. I’ll close with an interior/exterior shot taken at another famous bank. I was a little worried that when I pulled out the camera, security ninjas would erupt from the greenery and rip my throat out, but nobody seemed to mind.

Interior shot at a London bank


Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Graeme Rocher (May 05 2007, at 07:03)

Hi Tim,

I think you will find most people from the Groovy community are pragmatic and interesting like Jeremy. We have never demanded "love or money" from Sun and I personally feel that is an unfair comment, which is again just highlighting the us and them division that blog posts like this one are creating.

Don't get me wrong I appreciate your good words about Groovy, but they seem to be unfortunately counter balanced with the usual resentment that is projecting some weird view about what the Groovy community is about.

It is a real shame, I recommend you come along to the Groovy & Grails community meet-up at JavaOne and meet people face to face. Sometimes the perceptions gathered from blogs can be harmful and meeting people can change things. With this in mind I encourage you to sign-up: http://www.nofluffjuststuff.com/groovygrailsmeetup/registration/register

See you at JavaOne.

--

Graeme Rocher

Grails Project Lead

http://grails.org

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From: John Cowan (May 05 2007, at 07:49)

Googling for the name and phone number of the restaurant, both prominently displayed in the photo, produced this:

Lahore Kebab House

2 Umberston Street, Whitechapel

London

E1 1PY

[link]

From: Prolific Programmer (May 05 2007, at 15:59)

The advert you were seeing being filmed is a bank advert. I forget which bank uses the red ball as a logo (ABN? ING? anyone else want to correct me?), but it is definitely a bank.

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From: John (May 05 2007, at 17:33)

The red sphere is possibly for a BBC bumper. At the end of a lot of BBC TV shows, there's a bumper that shows a red globe over what looks like a Scottish loch, with some graphics added to the globe.

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From: Ted (May 05 2007, at 23:53)

The islands you photographed are theSt Kilda archipelago, which is the remotest part of the British Isles, and a World Heritage Site.

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From: Pat Patterson (May 07 2007, at 21:11)

Nice pics, Tim; made me quite homesick. I worked 10 years in the City - some of the time was right next to Farringdon tube station, some of the rest was right by London Bridge, so those two pics in particular brought back memories. Someone's already posted the address of LKH - 'just off Commercial Road' is how I remember it :-)

BTW - it wasn't all dark suited conformity in the City - I used to show up for work wearing one of these: http://www.pornstarclothing.com/clothing/porn-star-skater.html :-)

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From: John Wilson (May 08 2007, at 08:30)

Tim,

It can be tricky taking photos in same parts of Canary Wharf. The security guards in Westferry Cirus, in particular, seem to be a bit over sensitive. You can get a photography permit free of charge by contacting the Canary Wharf Press Office who are friendy and efficient.

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From: David Roussel (May 09 2007, at 09:23)

Gald you enjoyed yourself over here in London. Canary Wharf is a bit sterile compared to the City. I love all the old bits. I work right by Saint Pauls Cathedral and the local pub was rebuilt in 1667!

Oh, those long escalators really do require skiing down!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFqQOlYE4EE

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