Hixie's Natural Log

2003-11-07 00:41 UTC San Diego 2003: Part 1

As I write this, I'm sitting in San Francisco International Airport (SFO), terminal 3, gate 69, waiting for the 20:25 flight UA785 to San Diego. That's not where I was when I posted this— or should I say that's not where I will be when I posted this? This is not where I will have been when I posted this? Obviously I posted this in the past, otherwise you wouldn't be able to read it. But obviously it is simultaneously in the future, since I haven't posted it yet either, as I'm still writing it. That's not where I was-will be? Maybe I should just edit this sentence when I post this entry, so that it becomes accurate. But then the narrative tense would be inconsistent. A use for the ins element maybe. I could add it in now, but then it would be as much of a lie, so I'll have to add it later, but clearly then I'll forget. Hmm. Why don't I start over.

I'm at SFO, but SFO is not where this entry was posted, because although I am technically on the internet as I type this, the only thing I can do is DNS queries. I need a credit card to be able to do more. I don't have one of those at the moment, because I like having credit cards that are really debit cards linked straight to my bank account, and I don't have a bank account at the moment. I don't have one of those because to get a Norwegian bank account I need a Norwegian tax card, and I don't have a Norwegian tax card at the moment. I don't have one of those because to get one you need a work permit, and I only get my temporary work permit last Wednesday.

To put this in perspective, I applied for my work permit at the very start of July, about two days after I moved to Norway, and I come from a country that is also a member of the EEA, which is supposed to make moving jobs between countries trivial.

And it's only my temporary work permit.

This even made the news in Norway. I'm famous!

So. No network access except DNS. I'm quite impressed though, almost every airport I've been in since the start of my trip has had wireless 802.11b networking detectable. I should get myself one of those DNS tunnels. I wonder if that would be illegal. Probably.

At this point, since you're still reading, you're probably wondering what on Earth I'm doing waiting for a US domestic flight when I live in Norway. It's a quite valid question. I think I'll answer it by giving an account of the last four or so days.

It all started on Friday. I spent the evening finishing off the list of CSS2.1 Last Call Comments. There are some 200 or so comments that the other CSS2.1 editors have hopefully been dealing with since then. We have a face to face meeting starting Wednesday, and our main topic will be ratifying the tentative decisions that the editors made based on the list of comments I provided. The upshot of this, incidentally, is that if you sent us anything since then, it's not on the list and will probably not be discussed before we reach CR stage. What that means is that unless the changes requested correct obvious errors, they will never see the light of day. (Errors found during the course of the CR period will of course be dealt with by errata and merged in just before the PR stage.)

While I was writing up those comments I was also tidying my room and packing. The next day was Saturday, and I woke up refreshed, and ready for my long journey ahead. First a walk to the tram stop, then the tram down to the train station, then the train to the airport (where I could buy internet access for an hour without using a credit card — but only in the international lounge, for some reason I can't buy connectivity in the check-in or domestic lounges, go figure), then a trip to Copenhagen.

Two points of note. First of all, air travel is getting to be sensibly easy now. You can check yourself in, no need for any standing in line. Second, Copenhagen is written Cøpenhavn or something in Norwegian, and Oslo airport seem to make a point of using both Copenhagen and Cøpenhavn but never both in the same place. This isn't that unusual. Oslo airport employees seem to randomly decide whether or not to give their announcements in Norwegian only or English only or both Norwegian and English. I'm getting pretty good at recognising the facial expression associated with each of "would people in rows one to fifteen please board now", "your flight has been delayed by ten minutes", "due to technical problems this flight will now be leaving from gate sixteen instead", "people with standby tickets don't stand a chance of getting on this flight and should leave us alone until we call for them", and "an incoming plane has crashed on the runway and all flights have been indefinitely cancelled".

Ok, so I haven't got any reason to believe I've ever seen the expression for the last one. But I think I can extrapolate.

Where was I. Oh yes. So, Copenhagen. Copenhagen felt a lot more like Heathrow than any airport I've been to in a while. That is not a compliment. Eventually I made it to the next aircraft. It was a nice plane, an airbus if memory serves me right. Each seat had a personal display with multiple movie channels (I watched Johnny English, which was moderately funny; some of The Hulk, which I first saw with Eira and thus associate with her; and Le Divorce, which is very good and pretty funny if you speak French and are familiar with French culture), numerous radio channels, some boring arcade games, and even views from cameras installed on the fuselage (one facing down and one facing forward). My seat cushion was not very straight but I didn't really notice once I was sitting. What I did notice was our landing in Chicago.

Or rather, the two non-landings.

Apparently the air traffic controllers were vectoring us into oncoming traffic, and we had to abort the first two landing attempts. The first one we aborted on the approach, the second we aborted within metres of touchdown. I could see the runway just outside my window. I had no idea aircraft this size could change direction and accelerate that fast. Goodness gratious. We went from a graceful nice and slow landing flight path to a sharp take-off angle at full clip. Quite impressive.

Chicago is completely crazy. Apparently it's the busiest airport on the planet, and believe me, it shows. As aircraft taxi down between terminals, baggage handler carts criss-cross underfoot, rushing baggage from one flight to another. I went through customs ("No baggage except your backpack?!") reasonably uneventfully (hint: the best way of going through customs is to be completely cooperative and completely polite whatever happens). No, I don't intend to join the drugs trade. No, I don't want to commit genocide within the US. No, I haven't touched any European cows recently.

I can't remember much of my time at Chicago airport... if I recall correctly, I had barely a few minutes to get onto the next plane. Either way, I eventually made it to San Diego, where I didn't see any fires from the skies. I decided as I arrived that I would go to a hotel (I had been considering just staying at the airport overnight), so I checked in to Days Inn, which my taxi driver suggested might be the cheapest in the area. It actually wasn't, but it was still reasonable. San Diego is funny. They have a long strip of road called "Hotel Circle". It basically consists of a long line of hotels, like some sort of hotel showroom.

As I made my way to my room I had to cross the hotel car park, which was basically full of fire trucks. I've never seen that much fire-fighting gear in one spot.

I slept really well that night. It instantly removed all my jet lag. I've often said I don't suffer from jet lag much, but I've never experienced jet lag removal this effective. Who knew that a good night's sleep could refresh one so. I even woke up when I wanted to, without the aid of my alarm clock (which is lucky since I accidentally muted it the night before.)

Incidentally, my alarm clock is a short perl script:

sleep(8.1 * 60 * 60);
$| = 1;
while (1) {
    print chr(0x07);
    sleep(rand(5) / 2);

I've used variations of this script as my alarm clock for several years now. At one point I had a one line bash-script version of this running under cygwin as my alarm clock.

I left the hotel at 08:00 local time (by which time all but a couple of fire trucks had left, leaving the car park almost empty), and took the hotel shuttle back to the airport, where I bought myself some tickets to San Francisco. For some reason my boarding pass was marked SSSS. I have no idea what this means, but I have discovered that the sideeffect of having "quad-S" (as I later heard it being called) on your ticket is getting individual attention at the security checkpoint. Detailed, extensive personal atttention. Including the bags. Still, my aforementioned policy of politely and eagerly cooperating with everything they say is the simplest and quickest way of getting through.

It it possible that SSSS means "this guy looks suspicious, lives in another country, is national of a third country, was born in a fourth, and paid in cash". But I'm just guessing.

While I was waiting for my flight, I decided to check for open wireless networks and discovered I was literally on the very edge of one (my connectivity was oscillating between 0/61 and 1/61). I proceeded to walk around the terminal waving my laptop around keeping my eye on the output of:

watch -n 1 'iwconfig 2>/dev/null'

Turns out the network was bleeding out of the wall of the Red Carpet Lounge. As I mentioned before though, no credit card, so...

I eventually made it to San Francisco, where I then took the Bart to Berkeley (well, the three Barts), where I met Nadia. First stop, her bedroom, for some connectivity (I'm talking about network connectivity!), followed by a trip around various co-op and frat houses in the area where I met the usual crazy Berkeley people.

I'd forgotten how much I missed the Bay Area people. I don't care for the bay itself very much, with the exception of a few places, but I miss the people. Do you guys mind all moving to Bergen? Then we just need to move Opera to Bergen and I'm all set.

Er, anyway. Eventually we collected enough people to go to eat some food, followed by a trip to Moe's. That's not a bar, it's a used bookshop. No wait. It's a used-book shop. I was taken straight to the academic floor, where I ended up browsing the Physics section, and realised that I have both forgotten everything I learnt at university and lost most of my interest in the subject.

I did find two books that I bought though, Flatland and Mr Tomkins in Wonderland. I read the latter a few years ago and really liked it, so I was happy to find it. (Actually one of the other guys found it, thanks dude.)

We stayed there a few hours, and eventually went back to Nadia's, where we then jumped naked into the hot tub. That was nice. It was raining, which was fun too. Naked hot tubbing in the rain is great. Unfortunately it only lasted about 40 minutes.

Finally Ben came round and picked me up and took me to bryner's, where I slept overnight. I have to say, bryner's flat is remarkably clean and tidy. The entropy of his front room more than doubled within seconds of my arriving.

He had a wireless network, too. And it didn't ask for my credit card! Bonus. And a TV. Norway doesn't have TV, so I haven't really watched anything for ages. Unfortunately all that was on bryner's TV was a bunch of reality shows, so I didn't really pay much attention. (I'm exaggerating. Sorry dude!)

We went to Denny's. I don't even dare touch the water there. I mean, blimey. I know rats who wouldn't dare eat there. Still, it's the canonical place where my bay area friends meet for the evening chit chat so that's where we go. Interestingly, Kerz no longer eats there either, sticking to only tap water, but Ben, bryner and long term Mac nut Hyatt haven't yet seen the light and still eat some food there. Less than last time I was here though... Maybe one day I'll go to Denny's with them and we will simply not order any food or drinks.

Finally at 02:00 local time we drove back home. I slept with my laptop next to my bed, and at one point in my sleep I accidentally knocked out the power cable from the wall socket, so my laptop suspended.

I half-woke around 09:20 local time, which was 17:20 UTC, twenty minutes into the CSS working group meeting. I didn't know what the time was, though, and had already said that I was unlikely to attend the meeting anyway, so I wasn't particularly worried. I did notice that I had knocked out my laptop though, so I plugged it back in and vaguely hit the keyboard to wake it. Then I huddled back under my blanket and dreamt blissfully about bidi-enabled pillows.


beep beep.

Curses. Turns out my plugging the laptop back in caused my wireless connection to get reestablished and X-Chat to helpfully reconnect to the CSS working group channel. The beeps were the rest of the group greeting me in the channel and inviting me to call in to the teleconference.

I dialled in, but I was largely asleep during the call. Apparently, according to the minutes and according to reports from others who attended the meeting, I was quite vocal and discussed @font-face and the CSS2.1 test suite, but I don't have any memory of it.

End of part one.

(I've been writing this for ages... I'm now in the face to face meeting, still writing, but David Baron says I should post what I have so far, and send the next bit later. So here we go.)

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