Traveling

« Previous Entries

An exercise in driving efficiency

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Having just driven downtown to pick up Mike and give him a ride to his car I was struck (brutally and repeatedly) by the fact that American drivers suck. At least in the small corner of Berlin that I saw drivers were efficient, courteous, attentive, and knowledgeable of the rules and customs of the road. Cars, bicycles, and pedestrians shared the road with very few slowdowns and no rudeness or sense of danger for those not protected by thousands of pounds of metal car frame.

For such a relaxed people the inhabitants of Berlin all seem to have the German sense of efficiency drilled into their very cores related to driving resulting in quick and productive transport.

P.S while on the topic of cars, I want one of these:

The definition of fast

Back from Berlin

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Sunrise church

I’ve been back in the USA for about 36 hours and I’m finally pretty much caught up on sleep and free of jet lag. As great of a time as I had in Berlin I’m quite glad to be home. I’ve finally got the last of the photos from the trip that are worth posting uploaded to my Berlin photoset on Flickr.

The HP event was actually really fun and informative to attend. To be honest I was a little worried that it would be a pretty mundane event announcing 5% faster this, and 8% smaller that but my fears turned out to be unfounded. HP launched both a massively improved Touchsmart as well as the stunning and lustworthy Voodoo Envy.

Another one of my 101 goals is completed and I’m left with a desire to return to Europe and explore more of what it has to offer.

German toilets: torrential downpour

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Admittedly I’ve only seen toilets in 5 or so buildings in Berlin, but so far they all flush like this – without a whirlpool, and apparently using gallons of water per flush.

Berlin in brief

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Berlin is awesome – I suspect that is a condition which actually applies to much of Europe as well, but as I don’t have time to go personally verify that statement I’ll stick to Berlin for the time being. The culture here is delightfully efficient while maintaining an easy going pace and a friendly atmosphere. Every German I’ve met has smiled at me when speaking, and seems genuinely happy to see me – certainly not something you could say about the States.

Hotel Concorde at sunrise

HP has put us up in the Concorde, a beautiful 5 star hotel in the West German town center. It’s a great location which makes walking hither and yon an easy task. As busy as I’ve been I’ve taken every effort to get out and explore, taking photos along the way. I’m way behind in posting those photos, but I’ll try to catch up in the next few days and get another batch uploaded to my Flickr stream.

Ciao for now – off to get ready for the first day of interviews.

Best bank ever

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

James, this one is for you:

Sparkasse

The Sparkasse bank, Berlin, Germany.

International mid-flight bloggery?!

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

First international trip ahoy! While watching a few DVD rips on the flight over I’ve decided to kill some time writing both this entry as well as the bulk of the first draft of my HP Mini-note 2133 review for Gear Live.

Getting on the flight was also an interesting experience. I’m not sure if this is normal for international flights but they had a long line of customs agents lining the hallway to the plane as I entered and were pulling every other passenger or so off to ask them conversational questions about their trip and duration. I suspect given the way the conversation happened that they were looking for nervousness or other signs of illicit activity.

While Northwest Airlines is no British Airways or Virgin it does manage to impress with a few amenities. Most notably is the inclusion of standard united states AC power outlets for each seat enabling laptop usage during the entire 12 hour flight without the use of additional batteries or proprietary charging adapters.

Aside from the availability of power (sweet, sweet power) the Airbus plane I’m on features a small screen embedded into the back of every seat. Coupled with a wired remote control in the armrest this screen is theoretically supposed to offer on-demand movies, in-flight information, games, and a variety of ways to part from one’s money. However the particular linux-powered system in my (rather the row of seats I am currently occupying) seems to have some problems as after three hard resets they still can’t get movies working. The attendant offered me 5,000 air miles for my trouble, but as I fly about once a year it wasn’t really worth the trouble of filling out the paperwork to claim them. Poor me.

*** time passes ****

I’m currently hurtling above the Atlantic ocean near Greenland at approximately 580MPH. As such the flight has been blessedly uneventful. The food service is average at best, but not so bad when I factor the fact that it’s being served to me 36,995 feet in the air while hurtling along at nearly the speed of sound.

I’ve been struck by how many male flight attendants there are on this flight. In my past experiences most flight crews have been predominately female – a stark departure from this 2:1 male to female ratio I’m seeing for this one. I wonder if that’s because this is an international flight, because this is a Northwest flight, or if I’m just lucky to get some decent eye candy on the 10 hour leg of my journey.

*** more time passes ***

While whisking along through the air I decided to flip through my download of Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s latest book. It’s actually a fairly creepy book to read given how close it smacks to the truth. The subject of the book is a kid, barely 17, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is detailed and questioned for potential involvement in a terrorist act. Having just been questioned needlessly by customs while leaving the country I’m suddenly even more aware at how the United States government has become just a little too Orwellian of late, all in the name of protection.

*** even more time passes ***

Well, Little Brother is done, and an excellent book. Bravo to Cory for writing in a language that the up and coming generation can understand bringing light to an issue that often adults find confusing. I highly recommended reading it – wether from a free download from Cory’s website or by purchasing it from your local retailer (and thus supporting Cory).

On a less related note I’m very glad that this plane has AC outlets. I’m already more than 8 hours into this flight and think that without the digital comfort provided by my laptop in the form of books, movies, and music I would have gone stir crazy by now. As is I think I’m on the verge of stir crazy just based on the fact that I’ve essentially been sitting in the same cramped and uncomfortable seat for 8 hours straight without standing up now. I can’t wait for the flight to land (less than 2 hours now) so I can stretch my legs and get some circulation going again.

*** time passes, but not much ***

Although walking about is discouraged I finally couldn’t take it any more. I managed to do a few laps around the plane (and hit the frighteningly small bathroom). It wasn’t much, but after 8 hours I’m not too picky when it comes to stretching my legs.

I’m now struck by the prevailing fact that I’m further from my home (or my birthplace) than I’ve ever been before. In the grand scheme of things it’s pretty trivial to be 4,037 miles away from Seattle (if the in-seat entertainment unit is to be trusted) given how man is on the verge of exploring the universe and expanding our horizons on a cosmic scale, but it’s still a big deal for me.

I’m very interested to see what my personal take on Europe is going to be. Somehow it now seems strange to only have a single viewpoint on life, to have only seen the American way. From what I’ve heard the rest of the world is a very different place – I’m eager to see how different (and how the same) it really is from the reality I’ve known my whole life.

*** 700 miles remaining to Amsterdam ***

As I’m sure my mother could attest I’m not so good at sitting still. I’m not so good at traveling either. I guess combining the two is one of those little personal tests one must go through to experience the world. Weird thing is that if my 101 goals are to be believed then I’ll be doing this all over to visit Japan, and then a miniature version of this to see the east coast of the United States.

Side note: I wonder what kind of coffee will greet me at the Amsterdam International Airport. Regardless of type, quality, or concentration I can assure you that immediately upon landing coffee will be consumed.

*** 48 minutes remaining to touchdown ***

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How about now? Now? Soon? Are we there yet?

Further side note: The iProduct is ubiquitous. Of the approximately 30 people I can see from my vantage here in the bowels of a giant plane I can count no less than 18 of them using the signature white earbuds. Sadly I myself am in this lot while I wait for my Vibe Duo’s to come back (yet again) from Vibe after their last failure.

*** the second leg ***

I’m currently on the second (and much shorter) leg of my journey. Nate and I made it to Amsterdam and got a chance to stretch our legs and wander about the Amsterdam airport for a few hours. Now that we have boarded our final leg we have less than one hour remaining until we land in Germany.

I’m busy cramming Learn German 101 podcasts trying to brush up my vocabulary to a meager minimum to allow me to get by. Yes – I realize that on the plane to Germany is likely not the best time to be learning German, but really when it comes right down to it I think this falls into the ‘better late than never’ category.

I’m quite looking forward to landing and getting checked in to our hotel. We will be landing at roughly 2pm local time and have the rest of the day free. After a quick shower I’m hoping to get out into Berlin with my camera and get in a little tourist time before the HP PSG event starts and I get sucked into work related stuff.

And I’m off!

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Bags packed, puppy loved, and more portable computing power at my beck and call then anyone would really consider neccesary. Waiting now for Brian to show up so we can swoop north for Nate, then south to the port of air.

Wish me luck in Berlin!

Crown of pain

Friday, June 6th, 2008

This morning brought an early morning dental appointment to fit my latest crown. This is the first time I’ve gotten a crown over a live tooth as opposed to one that that had either died of (un)natural causes, or had been subject to a root canal.

I now see why people cringe at the thought of crowns – putting a ceramic cap on a live nerve certainly makes for a tender mouth. My dentist said it was actually due to a galvanic response which between my naturally saline saliva and the metals used in crown construction can create a weak battery and thus current to stimulate the nerve ending with. Luckily this should fade within a day or two and I’ll be left with yet another ready-for-anything ceramic chomper with which to chew for the rest of my biological days.

Also: squeeeeeeeeeeeee! Berlin in 12 hours!!!one!

Berlin confirmed

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Squeeeeee! It’s all confirmed: from June 8th through the 12th I’ll be in Berlin Germany covering an HP product launch. That’s right, me in Germany! It had been tentatively confirmed up until now, but I just got travel confirmation in my inbox and that’s as good as gold when it comes to confirmation as far as I’m concerned.

Update: Oh yeah – as Andru pointed out, I’m going to cover the HP event for Gear Live. Fun tech coverage for all!

« Previous Entries