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Entries in Travel (56)

Wednesday
Nov192003

Great Bike Tour Travelogue

If you've read my weblog for a while now, you'll recall that not only do I love reading a good travelogue, I enjoy writing them as well. I think my love of good travelogues are experiencing another person's observations of the places they visit and their experiences in the new environment's context. My all-time favorite travel writer is Paul Theroux, because he tells a great story and writes vivid accounts of the places he visits. That combination, when done well, can make me as a reader feel as if I were along for the ride.

Today, as I do every day, I loaded up the weblog of my buddy and fellow Palm OS USer Council member, Michael Ashby (Mashby) and saw that he's posted his Natchez Trace bilking travelogue and photo collection. I knew about Mashby's bike tour plans because he tried to convince me to join him. As fun as it sounded, the timing just wasn't right, but I kept Michael in mind then on, knowing what he was facing.

Anyway, Mashby survived his trip but I was chomping at the bit to read his account and was rewarded today with his first postings. After reading through post 01.07, I came to realize just what a great storyteller Mashby really is. He shared his doubts and fears, physical challenges, local history, personal backstory and even joked about the horde of electronic gizmos he'd regretted hauling as he hit fierce headwinds like a brick.

I love this bit:

"OH MY STARS was this heavy. As soon as I moved Juliet away from the wall I knew that this was more weight than what I trained with. How much heavier? DOUBLE. Clearly the computer junk I had thrown in the panniers was nothing like what the final load ended up being. Flashbacks to my first month in the European tour flashed in my mind. I spent a month in some incredible pain as my legs adjusted to the load I was carrying back then. Would this tour have my legs crying the whole time?"

Hee hee! Oh man, I can just imagine the look on Michael's face at that point! This is what I love about reading good travelogues... you get not only the description of the event, but also an experiential and visual image of the event and teller.

Anyway, just wanted to provide a little encouragement and exposure for Michael Ashby, who I admire greatly for what he's done on his bike tour. I can't wait until his full account is posted, and hope he bundles the travelogue into a nice downloadable e-book in Palm Reader, iSilo and Palm Doc formats.

Congratulations buddy -- well done!! :-)

Tuesday
Jul012003

Queen's Cup Sailabration

Queen's CupThis Friday, my wife Gail, Andy (our houseguest), and I had the great opportunity to go on a sailing adventure in Lake Michigan. Andy had located a special boat trip called the Queen's Cup Sailabration, onboard old style wooden tall ship called the S/V Denis Sullivan and invited us along while he visited Milwaukee. Normally the Sullivan offers sailing tours of the Milwaukee harbor and lakefront but this package was a bit different. Details were sketchy on their website, so I rang the office.

During my call, I learned that the Sailabration package was a spot on the race committee boat for the Queen's Cup sailing race, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Muskegon, Michigan. The Queeen's Cup is actually one of the oldest sailing races in the world (since 1855), making this the 148th running. Funnily enough, not one of the committee members we asked knew which queen the race was in honor of.

So, we headed for the lakefront at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, with only a slight idea what we were in for on this excursion. There was a little confusion at Pier Wisconsin's office locating someone with our tickets. However, our persistance paid off, and we clarified all of the needed details for the trip and for parking. A little while later we were underway on the Sullivan, motoring for the starting point of the Queen's Cup.

Regarding the S/V Denis Sullivan, it's a recently built wooden tall ship, made in the old style of shipbuilding. I remember reading about this craft while it was being constructed; it took several years but I must say, the builders did a wonderful job. The vessel is made mostly of wood, with metal here and there. Very analog.

Of course, there were modern items on board, such as GPS, radios, a diesel engine and other items, though the majority of the ship is quite traditional. Masts were all solid wood (crafted from some seriously massive trees) as were the block and tackle and the deck. Even the anchor hoist was of old-style design, with hand crank ffor raising and lowering the anchors and chains. All in all this is a beautiful craft.

Rainbow RacingWe anchored in the chosen spot and the committe of the race began their praprations. We watched as they test-hoisted race flags and prepared the shotguns for race starts. Soon, the time approached for the first race to start -- which was accompanied by a huge squall that approached rapidly from the western shore of Milwaukee and hit the Sullivan just at starting time. We remained on deck and donned our foul weather jackets as the rain blasted the ship.

I was assigned photgraphy duties by one of the committee members, and through the rain I managed to shoot a few pictures of the start. Once I had a decent amount of shots taken, Gail, Andy and I all went below deck for a break from the rain, along with our packs. There we chatted while the race committee got drenched while officiating the race.

10 minutes later we returned to the deck, when we learned that the sun was out and the rain had ended. Upon exiting the lower decks, a huge rainbow had emerged, creating a gorgeous backdrop on the lake. We all worked feverishly to get shots of racing sailboats and rainbows while the moment lasted.

As the day's races continued, starts improved. It seems the less-experienced sailors started first while more experienced sailors started last in the sequence. In the first few race starts there were many illegal start line crossings (requiring the offending boat to circle back for a short time as a penalty) while in later starts, more experienced sailors managed to hug the start line, jumping over only seconds after the starting shot had sounded.

Once the last race had begun, another squall was fast approaching the ship, so Gail, Andy and I got back below decks to try and maintain some dry spots on our clothes. In the galley, chatted with the crew and the race committee, and heard several war stories from past Queen's Cup races.

Breakwall LighthouseOne of the crew came below and mentioned that the storm had passed, so a large group returned to the deck to enjoy the return trip to the dock. However, the anchors had to be raised, which was quite an experience, since there was no electric winch. The raising was done by four crew members on a manual winch! It looked like very hard work, taking 200 feet of anchor chain up 3 inches at a time. Gail and I even had an opportunity to help haul in some anchor line with the crew, which was a workout in itself.

Once the anchors were up, it didn't take long to re-enter the Milwaukee Harbor, motoring toward our docking point at Pier Wisconsin. Looking back at Lake Michigan provided an eerie sight, with the dark storm clouds heading East, right behind the sailors, and the sun setting in the West.

All in all it was a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to go sailing on a tall ship like the S/V Denis Sullivan, go for it. There's nothing else like it.

Monday
May122003

Palm DevCon: Day Four

Departure day. Bags are all packed up tight and a 6:30am phone call from my wife served as a nice end to the week away and wake up call in case of an alarm failure. Gail and Nathan are doing better and are glad I'm heading back home.

At 6:50am, I meet Jen Edwards (a.k.a. PocketGoddess) in the lobby to catch the shuttle to San Francisco International, as our outgoing flights both left around 9am. We had a good chat on the way over to the airport, discussing our meetings and experiences over these past few days. Jen mentioned writing some articles about her experience -- when that info goes up I'll be sure to share the link. Jen and I parted outside SFO as I needed to ride the shuttle a bit farther to catch my United flight.

Inside, people were hustling to gates and security checkpoints seemed very busy. I found the line for United and within a few minutes, I was standing at the desk, getting checked in. Interestingly, United's desk featured e-ticket consoles which most people were using -- since I didn't have an e-ticket, I chose to speak to a representative. This turned out to be a good choice, since the attendant seated me farther up on the plane since getting to my connecting flight within 45 minutes was going to be a tight affair.

The security line looked like a zoo, but moved quickly. While departing Milwaukee earlier in the week, one of the security personnel commented to another traveller that tennis shoes didn't require scanning, so I tested this info at SFO and found it accurate. A few minites later I was through and headed for my gate.

Decided to grab a coffee and was pleased to learn that the Starbucks location at SFO accepted the Starbucks card (many airport locations do not). I have this card for occasions such as this; where my pocket cash is limited but I can really use a coffee.

Starbucks seems to have done well in cornering the airport market for coffee vendors, at least at San Francisco International, Chicago's O'Hare and Milwaukee's Mitchell. It seemed everywhere I went I could easily locate a Starbucks either by sight, smell or the sound of squealing steam and frothing foam. At O'Hare it seemed as though there was a Starbucks at every gate.

While awaiting my flight from San Francisco to Chicago, I noticed the pillar near my gate had a T-Mobile HotSpot logo emblazoned on it. I fired up the Powerbook and activated AirPort networking -- the HotSpot immediately displayed itself in the menu bar, to my delight. I then tried checking my email, but with no luck. Must sign in.

Next I launched my browser which brought up a JavaScript that automatically launched the T-Mobile HotSpot login page. It was very disconcerting to have my browser so easily commandeered by the HotSpot server. I began to wonder how hard it would be for a hacker to access the T-Mobile access point or server, in order to spoof users signing in to get access to their Wi-Fi connected laptops. Hmmm.

Finally, I wanted to see if I could sign up for access via the HotSpot connection and found it quite possible, but with only a few minutes until boarding began, I decided to hold off for a future opportunity. Still, this sign up option brought another question to my mind -- was the signup secure? Could someone with a packet sniffer grab my credit card info, or my username and password this way? Double hmmm.

Flight was significant only in that the pre-takeoff announcement by our pilot included:

"related to the the safety presentation, which I'm sure you all followed intently... that some passengers are charged with helping the crew. I wanted to point out that this includes certain security situations, such as dealing with unruly passengers. Please think about that."

I had to chuckle -- an airline pilot with a dry sense of humor. :-)

Near the end of the flight I was slightly concerned about timing, since we were running about 18 minutes late on the expected 3:00pm landing time. My connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 3:45pm. This delay would leave me with less than 30 minutes to get across O'Hare, not to mention my checked bags.

When we finally landed it was 3:18pm -- I cranked it out of the gate, searching for the connecting flight's gate number, then located the gate on the map. Sure enough, I had to cross the entire airport to reach my flight, so I put the afterburners on. I blew past all sorts of travelers, until climbing an escalator where a wife was casually chatting with her husband, blocking the way. Arrgggh!

Amazingly, I made my gate with time to spare, only to find that the gate had switched from E9 to E7 and the Milwaukee flight had been delayed. All that hard work to make the flight for nothing. Still, I was happy for the delay in the end, since I figured my bags would have never made it on my original flight. Better to be delayed 15 minutes at the gate than spending hours hunting down bags at the airport baggage claim.

Saw a great t-shirt on two guys from the Soldiers for Jesus Motorcycle Club who were traveling to Milwaukee for a Harley rider's convention:

Jesus Would Have Ridden a Harley

On the ground in Milwaukee, I exited the terminal and entered the main waiting area where I heard Gail call my name. Wow, it was great to see her and Nathan again. Ah, home again. :-)

All told, I had a great time on my visit to the PalmSource DevCon and I hope you've enjoyed my travelogue account. I wish I could share more details from meetings and other events, but I take the NDAs I've signed very seriously. I will instead direct you to other story links from the event:

BrightHand: Steve Bush's PalmSource Trip Diary
Brighthand: PalmSource Developer Seminar Recap
GearMongers: Craig Froehle's Post on the Tapwave Helix
Palm Infocenter: Palm OS 6 To Be Released in Late 2003
SiliconValley.com: Palm OS 6: the Evolution
SiliconValley.com: Q&A with PalmSource CEO David Nagel

If I do come into information related to PalmSource stuff that's ok to share, you can be sure I'll post it here. :-)

Thanks for reading. I should be back on my normal weekday blogging schedule here once again, so tune in tomorrow for another installment.

Cheers!

Friday
May092003

Palm DevCon: Day Three

Another early start Wednesday, but like Tuesday, our meetings were well worth the time spent. We learned quite a bit about the state of wireless carriers and how Palm handhelds integrate with them among other things.

I was also able to have a look at the new Aceeca device in the expo area between meetings. Aceeca is the second of two licensees to the Palm OS platform. The Meazura device was interesting -- I can imagine even more interesting to industrial clients looking for an inexpensive, reliable device for testing and gathering information. I even had a chance to meet the CEO, Alex Topschij, a good bloke from down under in New Zealand. :-)

Lunch was a short grab and stuff affair, followed by more excellent internal meetings in the afternoon. Near 4:30 we wrapped up. I enjoyed note taking once again, though after another day of mind-to-finger processing, I was glad for the break from note writing. Amazingly, in two days I managed to write about 15,000 words and about 100k worth of notes -- yikes!

Okay, now for something a little off topic and curious. I observed over the past two days a very strange habit of people at the seminars starting sentaces with "so...". To give you a better idea of what I mean, here's an example:

Q: Why did the Tungsten C have a mono headset rather than stereo headset?

A: So... We asked people if they had to choose between a stereo jack or a mono jack with potential Voice Over IP features, what would you choose? They overwhelmingly said "give us the mono headset and VOIP".

This sentance starter just seemed to me a very odd way to begin a statement. I noticed the abundance of "So" statement-starters because of how commonly it was used among speakers. I suppose this could equate to an "Ummm..." often used for buying a little time while organizing thoughts. See what two days of note-taking does to me? :-)

The seminar sessions ended with an interesting session with David Fedor on details of Palm OS 6. Most of the stuff he spoke about was several atmospheres above my head (I'm no developer), however some tidbits I did comprehend and liked the sound of. One in particular is the structure of new built-in core app databases being based on "schemas" which meant XML to me. Very cool.

The essence of David Fedor's message on this point was extensibility of stock databasess, allowing 3rd party developers to add fields to the built-in app DBs without screwing them up. So, a product like Beyond Contacts, used for full sync to Outlook could theoretically extend the standard Datebook and other stock DBs without ruining the underlying database structure. (Developers, feel free to correct any errors I may be spouting here)

Fedor also mentioned an evolutionary transition to OS 6 rather than revolutionary, so the changes will not be so shocking. He phrased it as "Changing Everything and Nothing." I suppose this should make developers a little happier knowing their apps will not have to change unless they choose to take advantage of new OS 6 system features. I was happy to hear old Palm OS apps should still run on OS 6 under PACE (Palm Application Compatibility Environment), assuming they've followed the Palm OS guidelines properly.

After the David Fedor OS 6 preview and a break I attended the Silicon Valley Palm User Group PUG meeting, featuring David Nagel and speakers from Palm SG, Fossil, PalmGear, and Handango. I put my card into the bucket to win one of 3 handhelds, but no such luck.

That evening the PUC group and a few others had a final dinner together in the overpriced California Grill, inside the hotel. It was a great time of discussion and banter about the past few days, Palm devices and many other topics. Will and Matt from SnapperMail dropped in a bit later to hang with us -- I had a great time chatting with these friendly New Zealanders while enjoying my Spicy Thai Chicken bowl.

I stopped by Michael Ashby's place to get a fix of his high-speed hotel network connection -- I was too cheap to activate mine at $10 per 24 hours. Back at my room I spent the remaining hours before bed, organizing and packing my gear for the journey home. The incredibly nice backpack by PalmSource on Tuesday ended up packed to the gills with t-shirts and promo swag, and would have to be checked as baggage since I brought my own backpack for the PowerBook and other stuff.

And so the seminar ended. All in all a great time to meet other Palm people, learn about what's new and to make a difference for the future. It all seemed to go by so quickly though. Ah well, that's what makes "see you next time" so attractive.

Until my next post...

Thursday
May082003

Palm DevCon: Day Two

First day of the DevCon and it was off to David Nagel's (PalmSource CEO) opening keynote speech. It was an upbeat and positive presentation, covering the current state and future aims of PalmSource. David mentioned two staggering stats: there are now about 260,000 Palm OS developers and 17,000 Palm OS applications out there. Pretty significant and important for PalmSource and Palm OS users alike.

Nagel also suggested the coming availability of ubiquitous wireless in the next few years and PalmSource's desire to have an impact in this area with the Palm OS. I'm all for that!

Following David Nagel's keynote intro, the group I'm a member of -- Palm OS User Council (PUC) -- departed to prep for our day-long meetings. In a nutshell, our group of 10 Palm community leaders distill and share feedback from the Palm community with both PalmSource and Palm OS licensees, to help improve Palm handheld devices and the Palm OS.

The PUC represents the voice of Palm handheld users, making sure the user perspective is heard clearly. While details of our meetings are all under NDA, I'm pleased to report we had very productive meetings with PalmSource and several licensees.

At lunch, one of the PUC members, Dan Royea, did a Bluetooth test at the Sony booth. While holding a Clié TG-50 he walked nearly 30 feet from a Bluetooth controlled DV video camera and was able to activate panning, zooming and other functions -- all from the Clié. Impressive!

Lunch itself was eaten in the hotel courtyard under overcast skies. I was surprised at how chilly San Mateo was in May. However, I did remember I was in the San Francisco area, which has the reputation as a cool and foggy place.

Our PUC meetings continued productively after lunch break. I was grateful when our meetings finally ended at 5pm, mainly because I'm the group secretary. My tired fingers and brain needed the break after hours of processing and typing.

On my call home, I learned my wife and 6 month old son were both battling terrible colds. l felt a bit guilty for having such a great day. But we both felt badly for our little boy's sickness, even though we know colds help build his immune system.

Next, it was off to the seminar reception for great Chinese dim-sum and conversation with Palm developers. I met Brian Oldham and Dale Walker of Farwalker.com, who help small companies integrate Palm devices into Mac networks. We actually talked more about Macs than Palms, as we were all Mac fans.

The reception was interrupted by a power outage in the hotel, lasting over an hour. It's apparently become a tradition at PalmSource events (February '02 conference in San Jose had a power cut too). The hotel staff even broke out the green light sticks as night fell.

A small group of people, including the PUC group and others escaped the hotel for the Prince of Wales Pub in downtown San Mateo. The pub was quite unique, with a comfortably shabby ambiance one member of the group described as "The kind of atmosphere you can't buy". We managed to acquire the private upper room of the place, complete with recently patched kick-holes in the wall, legless, gaudy and torn couch, a table and mixed chairs.

Four of us began a game of Cricket with darts and a board we found while the rest of the group chatted. For the record, Hal and I beat Craig and Dan by a single bulls eye. Greg from the PUC tried the pub's famous Habenero Burger, which helped warm the room. I think Greg's ears were smoking, but he ate it all.

Back at the hotel, I posted my first DevCon entry on the blog. It was good to test out my WordSmith blogging solution and to see how well remote posting to a blog is. Most definitely easier than manually editing and posting files via FTP.

I can also tell you that using a broadband cable connection has a way of amplifying the pain of using a 56k dialup connection in a hotel room. It works, but I fear cable has spoiled me.

So that's the story for Tuesday. Look for the remaining DevCon entries to appear here in the next few days.

Until my next post...