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N5-Cam VII: Long Train Ride
· On March 1st I went from Barcelona to London by train. It was amusing and relaxing; If you can spare a day and some money, I recommend it ... [1 comment]
Rent-seeking for Nomads
· A friend was telling me of a young woman he knows who’d been struggling to get by in New York and he’d been sort of mentoring. Only she’s spent most of this year traveling in Southeast Asia and South America, “finding herself” ... [2 comments]
United, Still Borked
· Earlier this year the United/Continental merger went through and pretty well everything customer-facing stopped working. Back in April, Duncan Davidson posted this horror story. I’ve been off the road for a couple months, and now I discover that United still can’t do advance checkin if you’re on a code-share, nor can the airport machines recognize you. So you step up the counter and back into 1982 ... [9 comments]
Which Side of the Plane?
· If you’re one of the people who always books an aisle seat, you can stop reading. I never do, because I enjoy the view; It’s a six-mile-high platform and you’ll see astonishing things. Keep your camera handy and you’ll come home with good pictures too ... [8 comments]
· I think this counts as a travel-planning Personal Worst. In November, I’m committing speechification in Tokyo, Shanghai, Broomfield, and Antwerp ... [4 comments]
No More Fear
· Here’s the country I want to be a citizen of: the one that decides to buy comfort and convenience by deploying courage ... [21 comments]
· I’m heading home after a couple of days of customer visiting in Minneapolis. The week before, I’d been in Matsue, a small and remote Japanese city. The prices were about the same, but Japanese hotel was decisively better, and it’s just silly that North American hotels are so crappy in so many ways ... [12 comments]
Take the Train to Tokyo
· Being an illustrated mini-travelogue on taking the new Canada Line train to Vancouver airport. Almost certainly of interest only to people who might do such a thing ... [9 comments]
· I have always been sweet on donkeys. I’ve published some fetching donkey photographs in this space, and have visited the Donkey Sanctuary in Devon on three separate occasions. Herewith a donkey-centric book review, travel recommendation, and French word that needs a better English translation ... [11 comments]
· I travel too much and it’s getting on my nerves and I’m looking for a sensible way to cut it back ... [19 comments]
· This is the westernmost part of the island of Maui. It turns out the resort has exorbitantly-priced Internet which doesn’t allow anything but proxied Web access, which would mean that, among other things, I can’t post to this space. So I’m only gonna poke my head in at a café every few days ... [2 comments]
· It’s bad. Bad enough that I missed my connection from Geneva to Vancouver, and since everybody else did too, I’m stuck till tomorrow. I’m in a hotel in a vast empty park in a suburb somewhere, and it’s chilly outside with a howling wind. This is not improving my mood. [2 comments]
Tab Sweep — The World
· Yes, I’ve been posting fewer substantive original pieces here. Working on a couple of things that aren’t very public, and also feeling itchy because what was radical three years ago has become conventional wisdom, which leaves me feeling empty and in need of something radical. Today an amusing antique camera, Iranian video, where we went, nine days of winter, and what happens when everything’s free? ...
· Dear LazyWeb: I’m going to be in Geneva the week of February 25th attending that ISO meeting. The hotels seem mostly sold out and what’s left is 300CHF and up. I hear that there are appealing places across the border in France and that transit is straightforward. Would anyone have good advice on the matter?
[Next day]: Dear LazyWeb, thank you. Owen’s suggestion that I check out Hotelsrus.com got me a decent rate at Hôtel-les-Nations, which is a nice-looking place. [12 comments]
Naked Terrorist Toothpaste
· O’Hare airport, you know, I’ve said kind things about it here in the past, but it’s developing an attitude problem ... [20 comments]
Narita T2 ANA Lounge
· If you travel a lot on Star Alliance and you’re heading out of Narita, I’d like to recommend the ANA Lounge in Narita Terminal 2, out at the far end around Gate 44. It’s one of the nicest I’ve seen anywhere. They have lots of space, comfy chairs, secluded cubicles if you need to buckle down, decent WiFi albeit with slow DNS, excellent draught beer from a way-cool automated pouring machine, a selection of fine sakes, vegetarian sushi, and—this is just beyond brilliant—an Udon/Soba bar where a couple of wrinkled old guys will fix you a bowl on demand. There are few items I can think of that are more proactively therapeutic against a 10+-hour flight than a bellyfull of light warm salty Japanese soup and noodles. If you’re feeling burned out and have four or five fine sakes that tends to counteract the benefits though. Hmmm, upstairs there’s an ANA “First Class” facility I didn’t have sufficient status to get into. The mind boggles at the delights that must lie inside. [1 comment]
Immediately Upcoming Gig
· My colleague & buddy Bob Brewin has been yanked away from his scheduled gig at Web 2.0 Expo Tokyo and I was
strongly kindly requested to fill in. So, I show up in Tokyo Tuesday afternoon and come home Thursday suppertime. Oh joy. I like Tokyo but this is suboptimal. [5 comments] Ups and Downs
· Everybody I know travels to China repeatedly it seems, but I haven’t for a decade or more, and that was Hong Kong, so herewith the Shanghai-newbie experience ... [8 comments]
· One of this week’s deliverables was a visa for the Shanghai trip. This involved a total of about five hours in line at the Vancouver PRC consulate, an unpleasant place; but the visa looks great ... [10 comments]
Starving in Vegas
· Under what circumstances should you burn a System-Wide upgrade certificate to get breakfast? ... [1 comment]
SFO Domestic Hints
· If you do technology, you probably find yourself traveling through SFO, a.k.a. San Francisco International Airport, regularly. Here are a couple of hints. I don’t go across the ocean from there, so thus these exclude the international terminal ... [4 comments]
Avoid Heathrow At All Costs
· I’ve been through Heathrow a couple of times this year now, and my patience has snapped. Anyone who cares about cost, comfort, convenience, or getting there on time with their possessions, should start taking extreme measures to avoid routing through Heathrow. They’re trying hard, but they’re failing, it’s just broken. Find another way; even if it’s longer and more expensive, the chances are still that you’ll arrive sooner having spent and suffered less. Yes, it’s that bad. [The comments are boiling over, I’m not the only one who feels this way; can something be done?] [Later: Check the horrifying number reported by Hanan Cohen. I’m serious; I am totally going to find a way around Heathrow.] [Later, still: In the last week of July, Eric Pfanner of the International Herald Tribune ran across this piece and called me for an interview; the story turns out to be about transport privatization in general, and is a good one I think.] ... [60 comments]
· I travel more than I’d like, so I just invested $80 and a couple of hours of my time in getting a Nexus card. Actually, it’s only maybe a quarter of the time that I roll up to either the US or Canadian immigration and face the dreaded long-lineup scenario; but those times are painful. [Update: Jeepers, it’s getting hot in the comments; check it out.] ... [17 comments]
The London Illustrated News
· 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 ... [8 comments]
My Other Office
· In this space, I write often enough to whine and bitch and moan about business travel, so I ought to give an occasional tip of the hat to the parts that aren’t too bad ... [6 comments]
· Today I spent nine (9) (no, that’s not a typo) hours in line to apply for a passport ... [17 comments]
The Wrath of Heaven
· May it visit endless delays, blocked airplane toilets, and hostile customs officials on three groups of airline professionals ... [16 comments]
· Check out Scoble on Cisco’s HD telepresence. I think he’s underestimating the impact. I’m on the road every month, sometimes two or three times, and I hate the airlines and the whole travel system with the heat of a thousand suns. Plus, I probably cost Sun the best part of $100K a year in travel expenses. Suppose you have a population of employees like me; cutting travel costs in half for six of us would cover the $300K price point. Plus, think of the extra efficiency we’d get from not spending all those endless hours in lines at airports. Of the travel I do, some part is actually need-to-be-there stuff; but if the HD telepresence prices can be brought down a little and the virtual meetings cranked up a little, this stuff is not that far from having slam-dunk ROI. [7 comments]
· The combo rollie/backpack laptop case I bought two years back is starting to wear out, and I’ve decided that the rollie feature is not cost-effective; there are lots of times I can’t use it, and the mechanism adds weight and bulk while robbing me of space. So I’ve been poking around looking for good laptop packs (has to be a pack so I can put a change of clothes in for my frequent overnighters). David Weinberger told me that Crumpler was a hot name, and in looking at them I ran across some other interesting candidates via reviews that said “and the competition is...” The candidates are the Crumpler King Single (that website is totally trying too hard), the Tom Bihn Brain Bag, and the RoadWired Digital Daypack. Anyone out there got one of these, or want to weigh on on the subject of the ideal laptop pack? [Update: GAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I’m buried, even more people care about laptop bags than about carbonara sauce, even. I must must MUST do that comments system.] [Dear Tom Bihn: you owe the LazyWeb a couple hundred bucks worth of thanks. I just ordered a Brain Bag with all the fixings. Dear Crumpler: please fix that egregious website. What part of “don’t offend every computer professional on the planet” don’t you understand? Dear world: please stop sending me laptop-bag email.] ...
· That’s the name of a blog subtitled “Airlines and commercial aerospace”, an insider’s take on the airline business. They recently had a piece in which they were kind of complaining about how few comments they got; my suspicion is that these guys know their stuff so well that there’s little left to add to their pieces. I’m not in the business at all, but as a heavy customer, I find an almost sick fascination in their pieces about Boeing/Airbus competition (summary: Boeing is winning just now), old vs. new airline models (summary: new is winning), and airlines vs. the “GDS” ticket-selling systems (summary: too close to call). Here’s today’s example, Delta’s Unsecured Creditors, which dives deep on the negotiations between bankrupt airlines (quite a few of those these days) and the people who finance the planes they fly; this is a big-bucks high-stakes game and one that you’d never hear about, normally. Great stuff.
· Some airlines have these weird little special sockets that you can use to power your laptop, if you have the right adapter cord. They work OK. Twice in the last couple of weeks I’ve got on an Air Canada flight, both Airbuses (a 319 and a 321) and found an ordinary 110-volt 3-prong plug in the seat-back in front of me. All airplanes should have these.
· I am generally pessimistic before each trip, expecting the worst. But it’s not always like that. Item: In Prague the public transit system is efficient, easy to understand, and cheap; I paid 500Kč, more or less $25, to taxi from the airport to town, and 20Kč, more or less $1, for the train/tram ride back, which was a little slower but stress-free. And there are more good-looking women on trams. Item: On the way from Prague to Ljubljana, Czech Airlines gave me the best airline lunch I’ve had in years; a tasty cold-cuts plate with some cheeses you’ve never heard of and an unbelievably-fresh salad. Item: Pretty well all the beer in Prague is excellent. Item: In Slovenia, plan to drive if you get the chance. The highways (at least the airport-Ljubljana-Koper sequence) are outstanding, better than most Canadian roads, and while they’re toll roads the tolls are low, the mountains you drive through are lovely, and finally (if I understood the signage correctly) it’s autobahn style, as in no speed limit; my poor little Opel made alarming sounds on uphill turns at 160kph as I cackled maniacally. [Update: They tell me it’s 130kph, good thing I didn’t meet an industrious public servant late on Friday evening.] Also the signs are easy to read, I never had to look at my laborious Mapquest printouts. Item: Koper-Capodistria is way cool, worth a whole ongoing fragment. Item: Slovenians seem unreasonably nice, generally. Item: Slovenia is unreasonably cheap; it just can’t last, among other things it’s too close to Italy. Item: The Slovenian “Tolar” runs about 200 to the dollar; it’s soon to be replaced by the € I imagine; but anyhow, when you take money out of a bank machine and look at your remaining balance, you feel like Bill Gates. Item: I got to Ljubljana airport sometime between 6 and 7AM with breathing time before the flight, so I got an apfelstrudel & coffee at the smoky stand-up bar in the harsh pre-dawn airport light. It was a revelation, the filling eye-wateringly tart and the pastry fluffy yet chewy, with cinnamon and other complex accents. Then Adria (Slovenian airways) gave me a damn fine cheese sandwich on fresh-baked bread on the way to Frankfurt.
· I am generally pessimistic before each trip, expecting the worst; even so, some parts turn out worse than you expect. Item: The Hilton in Prague is insanely, criminally, stupidly overpriced for what it is. Among their many sins were the $4 local phone calls and the gold-plated Internet service, up and down like a yo-yo. Never again. Item: Taxi drivers in Prague are generally crooks it seems; take the train. Item: The food in Prague is wildly variable, I had the worst schnitzel I’ve ever encountered, at least you can wash it down with good beer. Item: Either we had bad luck or Slovenian red wine is Not Ready For Prime time; not just bad, but heroically bad. The people are nice and the beer is good so I’m sure they’ll do better. [Update: Andrew Brown writes to say there are excellent red wines from Western Slovenia.] Item: It makes me nervous when you’re checking out and you pull out your credit card and the hotel offers you a big discount for cash. Item: The Hotel Silvester, near Ljubljana airport, is decent enough and cheap but you might want to avoid Friday nights; there was a wedding or birthday or something in the bar underneath my room; the medley of Slovenian folk-songs and Deep Purple hits went on till 2AM. Then they all stomped in unison for a while—like, minutes—before they broke up and had loud beery conversations in the hallway outside my room. Mystified, I was going to go downstairs to investigate the stomping but then maybe it was a secret Slovenian fertility rite and foreigners who see it Must Be Killed. Item: WiFi in Frankfurt airport is exclusively by T-Mobil which should be OK because I have an account but they demand to know who your home provider is and then want $0.18/minute roaming, no that’s not a misprint; are they mad? Item: Frankfurt airport is less tolerable every time I go there. Its saving grace is decently idiosyncratic stores; but I gather they’re about to fix that by filling it up with The Body Shop, Starbucks, and friends, so it’ll be exactly like everywhere else, shopping-wise. It is full of smoke, everywhere, always. Earth to Germany: Pervasive public smoke is no longer considered acceptable among civilized people. There is nothing good to eat after you go through security. The washrooms are smoky, grubby and sized for midgets. I will take extreme measures to avoid going back. But that probably won’t do any good.
· Speaking on behalf of all of us who fly often, a major Merci beaucoup! to the Air France cabin crew who got 309 people out of a burning A340 with no fatalities. Do you know how big those things are? “Miracle” is the appropriate word. If this isn’t Légion d’honneur territory, I don’t know what is. [Update: Seems like it’s not just the cabin crew, apparently the co-pilot was last man off.]
· In a week distinguished by good food and bad travel planning, I flew to Europe on Monday to attend Javapolis in Antwerp, Belgium, and returned Thursday. Herewith an illustrated travelogue and remarks on the conference, the Cathedral and the Pink Panther, and the flesh of Jesus ...
· A day trip today, Vancouver to Victoria and back; some might not find it self-evident that Victoria is on Vancouver island but Vancouver isn’t. There are a bunch of ways to get there; herewith a little photo-essay on the best ...
Helping the Terrorists
· This post is completely self-interested. I fly a lot. I think the idea of having air marshals on board airplanes is sensible and notably increases my safety. I was horrified and astounded to read in the NYT today that these guys have a dress code that make them stand out so that anyone can spot them. There are no words to describe the lethal stupidity at work here.
· From the last surviving email newsletter I still read, David Strom’s Web Informant, comes this piece on airline seat selection, which points to SeatGuru.com. Wow, what a terrific piece of work.
· I was checking in at Brussels for the British Airways hop back to Heathrow, then home to Vancouver. Unfortunately they’ve suddenly started enforcing the long-ignored policy that no carry-on shall exceed 6 kg in weight. My ordinary roll-on full of ordinary clothes and so on came in at 14 kg (my briefcase, on the other hand, bulges with electronics and has the specific gravity of lead, but they didn’t weigh that). So, I was going to have to check it. Except for, British Airways is OneWorld and Air Canada is Star Alliance, so they couldn’t check it through to Vancouver, I’d have to recover it at Heathrow. Except for, I had barely two hours at Heathrow and had to change terminals, which just doesn’t leave any slack for doing the luggage dance. This looked serious and, in a soft-voiced, polite way, I made a scene. Three phone calls later, they decided to allow me to carry it on board. Six kg is, frankly, ridiculous. This is yet another step in the ongoing campaign by the air travel industry to make the experience supremely unpleasant. I expect their executives all to end up in jail when the videoconferencing boom hits and it turns out they’ve been accumulating big equity holdings.
What Japan Looks Like
· Flying to the weekend meeting in Yokohama the sun lays a huge gold stripe down the middle of the Bering Strait, and on the headphones Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons sing Sleepless Nights, fruit of Napster-that-was (I paid for the LP in 1975, and I still have it, OK?); the 767 has laptop power so I don’t care where in iTunes’ 347 songs, one day, 1.47 GB I am, I just let it play. Russia from the air looks different from any part of North America. The music has segued into Fleming and John’s I’m Not Afraid (ripped from my own CD, thank you). I have a ton of fine (some little-known) music on this box, and I bet lots of you do too; wouldn’t it be great if we could post some samples of it and maybe drive a few new listeners to some deserving artists? Instead I’ll share travel pictures ...
· As previously noted, last week I spent time in airports in Seattle, Denver, and Minneapolis. In one of them—modern airports blur together in their grungy lack of welcome to the extent that I really can’t remember which—I had an eye-opening experience in the men’s room ...
Heathrow Sucks, Plus Arctic Lies
· This is mostly a rant about the extreme crappiness of the Heathrow experience and will probably be enjoyed by those who’ve shared it a few times too often; plus some pretty neat aerial photographs and a confession ...
Trains and Taxis and Shop-Window Geeks
· Travel sucks, but some times less than others. Three days of TAG meetings, socializing, and jet-lag had left me pretty well an empty shell. But I had all day starting in Bristol to make the 4:15 to Vancouver out of Heathrow, an (infrequent) chance to just kick back and enjoy the process of getting there ...
Could Be Worse
· In SeaTac on the way home, two hours to kill before the Vancouver flight boards, I could drive there quicker. But, I’m sitting in a comfy bar watching the Mariners mount a good-looking comeback on Tampa Bay, drinking a creditable Black Butte Porter, and chatting with Lauren via wireless. Plus, I looked at the log and I now have the top listing for “binary search” on Google. Now there’s a giggle.
· Every news organization in the world has covered this, but I remember seeing one of the first Concorde flights, one of them went on a world tour before commercial flights started, flew low over my home town, I was amazed, it's a poem poured into metal. Also an environmental disaster and (they say) an uncomfortable travel experience. But beautiful; I poked around and found a nice picture ...
Biz Travel, Chapter 312
· The route from Vancouver to Norfolk VA is not exactly well-trodden, and part of it led from gates B22 to F12 at O'Hare - Chicago airport conaisseurs are shuddering in sympathy, we're talking 20 minutes of hard walking here. But the quest had its reward, a jewel actually ...
Extended Test Drive
· What happened was, my New Zealander mother-in-law bought a farm in Eastern Saskatchewan. Since my own mother lives a relatively urban existence in Regina (Saskatchewan's capital), and we live in Vancouver, and we took delivery of a brand-new Audi A4 Avant (3.0l engine, 6-speed, most options) on December 14th, it seemed obvious that we should load the family into the wagon and visit our mothers two time-zones away for Christmas ...
Business Travel Isn't Always Awful
· I, like a lot of people, travel too much on business and like a lot of people I complain about it a lot. But sometimes not; recently I needed to get from downtown Baltimore home to Vancouver; the hitch was I was flying not out of Baltimore's own BWI airport but out of National down in DC, a 4:37PM departure. It's a fair distance from Baltimore to Washington ...
By Tim Bray
I am an employee
of Amazon.com, but
the opinions expressed here
are my own, and no other party
necessarily agrees with them.
A full disclosure of my
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