3am in London

Well. They insist on calling it "9am" here, but you get the idea. I’m in Kensington, at Chris’ conference hotel enjoying their wireless connection. Or rather, their "wireless" connection. It only works in the lobby or the business centre (a room full of noisy hotel employees) but not in the room. In the room you can pay a separate per hour fee for an ethernet connection. Apparently UK hotels haven’t caught on to the wonders of PRINGLES CANS for expanding a wireless network yet. Get on it, people.

There’s this weird attitude toward bandwidth here that I’m finding difficult to understand. Everywhere you can see ads for expensive per-hour internet services, and the BBC news treats open wireless connections as Horribly Dangerous Vulnerabilities rather than an egalitarian sharing of resources. It’s as if a broadband connection were some sort of precious substance that must be protected from Unwashed Hackers who will Eat it Up. Which just seems silly. I’ve never run out of Internet. A broadband connection isn’t like the hot water for the shower. I don’t get charged more if I use more, within reason. You have to download a hell of alot of Daily Show episodes to put a dent in it. So if someone wants to sit outside my house and check their email, they can go ahead. I’ve got a firewall, I’m running OS X. Help yourself, enjoy. I’m certainly not going to make you buy a scratchcard with a 34 digit code that expires in 24 hours.

Yesterday was a foggy blur of various transportation methods. Highlights included the gay flight crew singing showtunes quietly in the back of the plane (hooray!), my melted airplane dinner (the whole thing! melted! including the packet of cheddar and the moon pie), and realizing we left the paper tickets to Madrid back on the bookcase at home. Paper tickets. Whoever heard of such a thing?

We wandered over to Westminster last night, but missed the last flight on the Eye. Gotta say, despite about 30 episodes of The Prisoner and all the James Bond movies, seeing Big Ben all huge and lit up as you come out of the subway is Very Impressive. Yesterday was Rememberance day, so we visited the Battle of Britain memorial and I got all choked up. Maybe it was the jetlag, but the awfulness of it all really hit me. If you get a chance, watch the Masterpiece Theater production Piece of Cake. It’s a great account of the RAF’s role in the Battle of Britain.

I’ll be taking it easy today, posting when I can, and taking photos with Chris’ friend’s Digital Rebel. I’m still moving a bit slow, despite the three cups of tea I poured into myself this morning at breakfast, but I hope to get to the British Library today, and as well as locate some of the Big City Shops that we poor Ithacans don’t have access to normally. Lush, here I come. 

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 NEWS FLASH! I’m three feet from Jacob Nielson! He’s drinking tea! And discussing the semantics of user testing vs. user centered design with other speakers! I’m eavesdropping! But, being Midwester, I feel guilty about this, so I’ll toddle off.

 

Books, Life

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The worst part about this post is that I pretty much just lifted it from an email to a friend. Don’t tell, ok? Bad blogger.

I’m running around with alligators hanging from my ankles this week. The work-related travel starts Saturday, so Things Must Be Prepared. Stuff Must Get Done. The NSDL waits for no man.

I have this fantasy where I sit in a hip London sushi joint upgrading this site whilst eavesdropping on conversations in a variety of awesome UK dialects. That’s my idea of a good time. It could happen.

We cleaned our gutters this weekend. I made bread and soup. I created a JSP interface for tying item-level records to their associated subassets. I brushed the cat. I tried to teach my friends’ daughter to say "mop" like the trashcan droid in star wars.

Life in Ithaca is domestic and lovely.

I’m also reading a Great Long Book  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.
My favorite quote, which reminds me of the much-mentioned view outside my window:
"In winter the barren trees shall be a black writing but they shall not understand it"

Halloween

laiapumpkin.jpgWe had a great Halloween – I put a bunch of candles out in the yard, and we got bombarded with neighbor kids until we ran out of candy. Then Chris dug up the confetti eggs from Easter and we started giving those out. They got a great reception, especially from the middle-school boy contingent. I think we’re going to get more and just give out cascarones next year. 

If you’ve ever been around us, you know our fondness for confetti eggs.  Chris’ family mails them up from Texas, and we usually have a carton or two kicking around the house JUST IN CASE. When our friends Kim and Brian had their daughter Anika last Easter, we brought confetti eggs to the hospital and cracked them all over the room, to the horror of the nurses. Kim swore we almost got her bounced from the maternity ward.

So for Halloween, Chris was Number Six and I was the new Number Two. We finally finished watching all the episodes of 60’s tv show The Prisoner, and wanted to pay costume tribute. Clay and Mike helped us carve scary pumpkins. Owl the cat obliged everyone by hopping around with his back fur up and looking extra halloweeny. I carried him to the door and offered to put him in the kid’s bags a few times. And at ten o’clock the ceremonial Four Teenagers Without Costumes showed up to finish the day.

Cornell Catering is trying to kill me Part II

deadlycateringI was leaving work, tired and hungry, when suddenly a uniform-clad minion appeared at my elbow and offered me a snack. This happens occasionally. The Lab rents out its atrium to various groups on campus who bring in the caterers and the cashbar. We’re usually not invited, but this day I had decided to exit the building next to the caterer’s kitchen.

Big Mistake.

“Have some chicken”, she said “It’s encrusted with almonds!”

Note to self: when the devil tries to get you, he uses words like “encrusted”.

“Are you sure those are just almonds?” I asked, thinking back to dozens of near-death moments brought on by my stupid peanut allergy.

“Oh yes”, she said “Toasted almonds!”

At which point my stupid Lizard-brain caused me to reach out and grab one. I took a bite as I walked to my car, thinking “How nice to be offered appetizers at work”.

By the time I got to my car I was trying to subtly vomit as well-dressed elderly women passed me on the way to their party. My lips swelled, my throat became a piece of granite. The usual.

I’ll spare you the really graphic details (trust me, it gets worse), but suffice it to say the Epipen came through again, along with some medical attention from my handsome EMT boyfriend. Hi guys! Thanks for the life-saving! Again!

All of which leaves me with the growing suspicion that a) I am really stupid for once again eating food of unknown provenance, and b) Cornell Catering really is trying to kill me.

Why, Cornell Catering? Why?

Oxford


shannon Says:
October 18th, 2005 at 1:47 pm e
Awesome! If you make it to Oxford (hours train ride from London) you can go to the Bodleian Library and visit the various haunts of people like Lewis Carroll, Tolkien and all sorts of famous literarys (as in pubs).

Believe it or nay, fair reader Shannon,  I have BEEN to the Bodleian library in Oxford. I was studying abroad in Dublin. I had two days in the UK. Where did I go? Oh yeah. The only library in the world that makes its patrons vow not to set the books on fire.

En route, I was lectured by an unamused train conductor on the correct pronunciation of Oxford. According to the man in the hat, it is not pronounced (imagine a thick midwestern accent) AAHHXFERD, as we kids insist, but rather (imagine a thick plank lodged irretrievably netherward) UHXFERD. This remains my only real memory of Oxford, so perhaps I should return.

Anybody want to hook a sister up with Bodleian backstage passes? In return, I promise to tell you the (two-drink minimum, not work-safe) story about my deadly encounter with the MSU library masturbator.  

Recent goings-on, presented in rhyming couplets

1. An identity crisis might ensue,
Skipping the SLA meeting for a workshop on XHTML2.
*Sorry SLA. You’re great and all, but semantic, accessible, device-independent webpages whoop your ass.

2. A morning dogwalk at six.
Instead of eating the cat, he just licks.
* Dogfriend Odin has been staying with us. He thinks the cat is veeeery innnnteresting.

3. While lining the attic with insulation,
Five thousand spiders in formation.
* Bravely, I battled on.

4. Attempting to recall possessive case,
I call the hotel in Spain. Hablas Ingles?
* I apparently suffer from Fear Of Spanish. Que Oy.

I’m going to see London! I’m going to see France!

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I’m going to London! And Spain! (not France – that was just to make the title funny) There’s a nifty-looking XHTML2/Xforms workshop in northern Spain next month, and we’re going! To Spain! And London! For two weeks!

I love mixing vacation with geeking!

If anyone wants to meet me in London and spend a few dozen hours drooling on the British Museum’s documents room, let me know. I’m making a beeline for the handwritten Jayne Eyre manuscript, and I’m not leaving until I achieve enlightenment. Or at least a higher state of consciousness. Or a sore butt. Whichever comes first.

Chris is also going to a Neilsen Norman Group workshop, hence the London stopover. I’ll just be sponging off the hotel room and bopping around for five days trying to drink as many IPAs as I can wrap my head around.

More on all of this later. Right now, I’m going home to celebrate by putting up some storm windows and raking leaves.

Two Sentence book review: The Wisdom of Crowds

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You, sir, are no Malcolm Gladwell, and thus I fell asleep several times as I waded through your social-studies-report caliber prose. Still, kinda cool how you dig up research vindicating diversity as a factor in successful decision-making and how you stomp all over the idea of group consensus.

Serenity

serenity.jpgGet thee to Serenity. It required some monumental orchestration, but we got there Saturday and spent the rest of the evening saying things like "Woah" and "Damn".

Go. Go now. Then go again. Then buy the Firefly dvds in case you haven’t already. Ogod this was a cool movie. What are you doing sitting there? Look up film times!