The strange world of shipping

A few somewhat odd things happened in the world of shipping this week here in Shaneville. It’s mind-boggling to think how many goods travel around the world every second with modern shipping companies. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to make common sense.

  • Ordering new winter tires from TireRack this Tuesday, I proceeded to the shipping stage. I was offered three choices of shipping – UPS, FedEx, and FedEx guaranteed 2 day. Guess which had both the lowest cost and earliest delivery date of the three? UPS, buy one or two days!
  • Those same winter tires are already here. Working at home I heard some large thumps outside and went to investigate, and those magic UPS elves had already dropped the tires on my doorstep – barely 24 hours after UPS actually got the tires. It’s almost as if I had my own personal UPS delivery truck. (In this case, TireRack appeared to have a local regional supplier – makes sense for the northeast).
  • Likewise a small electronics purchase I made on Monday and assembled in (yes, I know!) China, is currently in a FedEx airplane somewhere over the middle of the US. It’s only one more short step before tracking numbers have a little “show live map” feature, kind of like flight trackers. You could watch your package overfly you to the nearest shipper’s airport hub!

The two put together are also quite amusing, given that the tires – quite bulky – arrived far faster, even accounting for proportional distance – than the electronics will. So much for common sense.

Tip: several reliable friends have confirmed that ordering cheap HDMI cables is fine – no need to spend more than a couple of bucks for the vast majority of HDMI applications. I’ll be needing some of those in the after-Christmas shopping season at home, methinks.

New Orleans To-Dos

A laundry list of things I’d like to do this week. The normal ones, not the conference ones.

  • Go shopping. Anyone up for a Whole Foods run, or is there any place else to get healthy snacks?
  • Visit the WWII museum, which is right down the street almost.
  • Try a ‘muff, a hurricane, and a few other local delicacies. I especially want to try some Café Brûlot Diabolique, which I’ve always wanted to try since reading The 100 Greatest Dishes of Louisiana Cookery.
  • Have a great dinner with good friends every night. At least every other night needs to include healthy food, however.
  • Walk through a couple of famous places in the French Quarter. Whichever ones the group I’m with trys out first.
  • See at least one of the levees. The whole concept of living in some land that’s below the local sea level is just… alien to me.
  • Have a great conference, and help out on next Saturday.
  • Have a small party in my hotel room. I got a really nice room this year.

MSY Airport Tip: There are two separate baggage claim areas. Bag claims 1 – 11 are at one end of the airport, claims 12 and up are down a loooong hall the other way. Ooops.

See everyone at ApacheCon soon!

Everything About ApacheCon US 2008

Social Networking
Sign up on CrowdVine; it offers discussion boards, photo streams, and blog feeds of everyone who’s filled in their Profile. Then use the My Schedule feature to select talks you like, get personalized iCal; session evaluations will be there during the conference. A full iCal is available.

Add ApacheCon to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, Upcoming!, SlideShare profiles. Signup on the BarCampApache wiki. Read PlanetApache blogs.

Tag Your Photos: ApacheConUS2008
See the flickr ApacheCon and ASFPeople groups; or on Picasa. Blog with our banners.
Local Weather, Food, Fun
It’ll be sunny and 74F days/55F nights. Local and Wunderground weather reports. The local paper has neat art all around town. Some great restaurants prefer proper attire. SeeWatchStrollHear or find NewOrleansTips.
How To Get There
New Orleans Airport (MSY) has ground transport options; cabs are ~$28 and hotel shuttles (866-596-2699) are ~$15. Head to the Sheraton New Orleans (504 525-2500) at 500 Canal St.; be sure to tell your ride the address (there are two Sheratons). Register on the 3rd floor.
Special Events & Saturday Voluntourism
Overviews: Schedule and Special events; get a tattoo; Signup for Tuesday BarCampApache; write your Lighting Talk for Thursday evening; win prizes for Hadoop Hacking; stay Saturday to help Volunteer.
Can’t Come To ApacheCon?
Watch it! Streaming video available; keynotes are free.

Like this list? Link to it, and then make sure to participate in our many social networks!

French Toast Alert? Not in the French Quarter!

  Actually, I am affected by the recent French Toast Alert, which was just upgraded to Guarded as the result of the forecast for snow, albeit mostly in the ‘burbs, and not in the Hub proper. I’d say that it starts earlier every year, but then again, this is New England, so it could snow at any time. I fondly recall a foot+ snowstorm one May long ago, which thoroughly covered the bright pink azalea bushes my father had in the side yard at the time.

Nope, I’m still wearing shorts today, and am looking forward to wearing them at least part of next week too, for I shall be next to the French Quarter enjoying 70F days next week attending lovely ApacheCon US. If you’re attending too, please add your favorite links to our handy ApacheCon wiki, where everyone can participate. The famous Sally has already done her part in adding a ton of suggestions for FoodNewOrleans, and we still need more BOF Proposals too.

In any case, even if it does blizzard tomorrow, we’re fine: I bought eggs, bread, and milk yesterday, so my family is secure even in the case of Weather.

How to get home from ApacheCon Europe

A few tips for getting home. I had a whole list ahead of time, but it’s been a bit hectic, so this is all I’ve got for the moment.

  • Packing: don’t forget to save space for your extra t-shirts and goodies. Be sure to pack your souveniers, stroopwaffles and the like safely too. Yum.
  • Hotel Shuttle: the Moevenpick has a white shuttle van that leaves approximately every 30 min; you can call the desk to ask when. They to to Centraal and will go other local places on request, usuallly.
  • Walking: weather today and tomorrow is nice, so if you’re hearty, just walk to Centraal. By now you should be used to the bridge and have no problem.
  • Tram: the 25 & 26 (ones across the street from Moevenpick) come reasonably often; there is a schedule, but as with any major city tram system, it’s not always reflective of reality.
  • Get your train ticket at Centraal. Most trains for Schipol seem to leave from tracks 13/14, but you can always look at the train schedule. The train conductors are used to people with luggage asking silly questions.
  • Or, don’t buy a train ticket. Mid-day, I haven’t seen a single conductor on the train checking tickets. There is a hefty (reportedly 35EUR) fine for being on the train without a ticket.
  • If you have time at Schiphol, definitely walk around the airport. The shops are fairly nice – the Etos? toiletry shop has a great selection from Europe and the US, although unfortunately they have no travel sizes, only normal sizes.
  • Schiphol’s roof observation deck is definitely worth the trip if you have time.
  • Clearly, you’re in a rush to be on time for your international flight. Look on the monitors just inside the airport: one number is the terminal (1-4) the other is the checkin line (1-20 or something) where you can e-checkin or talk to a human, check your bag (with passport) and etc.
  • Then comes passport control. Be sure to find the right line; sometimes the non-EU passport line is only on the far end
  • You checked with your airline before going to the airport, right? Some international flights open up the boarding area surprisingly early, so be sure to allow for plenty of time
  • Sit back, collapse, and sleep through the flight if you can – you’ve probably had a very busy week – and a fun one, we hope!
  • Be sure to check our website for details on ApacheCon US, November 3rd – 7th, in fabulous New Orleans!

– Yr host, Shane, ApacheCon US 2008 Conference Lead

Amsterdam Travel Tips for Americans at ApacheCon

I know, it’s probably a major bit of hubris for me to try to provide travel advice for most folks who come to ApacheCon, but if this helps even one person to not forget their conditioner, my job here to occasionally inform while entertaining (at least myself) will be complete.

Pack

  • Pack your favorite toiletries! The Moevenpick‘s supply of soap and body wash is much less “designer” than you would find in a US hotel of similar price levels.
  • Pack your rain coat, or at least a good hat.
  • Pack comfortable shoes. Remember, this is the rest of the world, where people walk places, bicycle, or take the tram, or a bus, or a canal boat. I love coming to Europe because all the trucks are so cute compared to US trucks.
  • Pack a life preserver. No, just kidding. But the relationship of this country to water is definitely interesting. Half the time you’re crossing a road, you’re never realize if it’s got a canal alongside it or not.

Arrive

  • Take the train to Centraal, and then walk east to the Moevenpick. Or read our much more detailed instructions (including taking the tram if you have lots of luggage).
  • Don’t forget (if you have time): at Centraal, on the lower level, find the Kiosk or other shop, and buy a strippenkaart, or multi-ride subway, excuse me, tram ticket. This will prove useful later.
  • The train to Centraal leaves regularly (at least during daylight hours) and takes 15 min. It can be crowded, so watch out for your luggage.
  • Walking will take another 15 minutes. Google Maps readers, take note: there has been some construction and slight canal changes around the Moevenpick since the last satellite shots.

Enjoy

  • The staff at the Moevenpick, and at most shops, speak a fair amount of English.
  • Many signs, of course, are in Dutch. Getting around is fine, since street/straat names and tram numbers are pretty obvious. Don’t forget kanaals, too!
  • Moevenpick rooms are very nicely appointed, but small. Don’t forget to put your room key into the room’s light switch immediately after you enter the room.
  • Moevenpick rooms include a private bath w/shower (no tub), TV, mini fridge, just enough storage space cleverly hidden in the cabinets, and a water heating pot. The Idee Kaffee packets are make better instant coffee than at home.
  • For an additional 20EUR or so, you get a full buffet breakfast in the Silk Road restaurant. I’ll report on that later

Hope you got more sleep on the flight over than I did!

I forgot! Voltage! If you have modern electronics, you may not need a voltage converter. My Lenovo laptop and iPhone power converters are both happy with 240 volts, so I’m all set. However you will need a plug converter to the two thin pin plugs they use in most of Europe. The plug converter will be much cheaper than a voltage converter. The Moevenpick also lists plug converters as items available at the front desk, so no stress if you forgot.
Oh, and double-check that your power converters list 240 volts before plugging them in.

I came home to do the dishes

Well, not really, but if felt like that for a moment. Spent the past couple of days in lovely (if humid) Austin, the city that just happens to be surrounded by Texas, but is not in Texas (as a co-worker said). It was actually a lot of fun with half of my whole team at work – good brainstorming, and great food.
We also followed V’s recommendation for a movie at a nifty dinner-and-a place, where you can order food and drinks in your movie seat. The menu wasn’t huge, but had some really interesting stuff, including a decent port, a $5 super milkshake, and some very nice champagne (as a split). Oddly enough they didn’t have much popcorn on the menu.
We saw Eastern Promises, which sort of falls into the category of movies that I’m glad I’ve seen, but really don’t ever want to see again. The cinematography and acting were excellent – at being dark and foreboding. I think it was the brief but ultra-realistic violence that was the turnoff – plus the basically depressing mood that gets set throughout.
Vigo Mortensen and Naomi Watts were both great. You could almost even list the nude Vigo scene as a bonus to the movie (for people who’d find that interesting) except for the aftermath of the scene, which is definitely not very fun. All in all, it’s worth seeing on video someday if you want a dark and moody Russian mafia film.
Oh, and yes, it was me that got the outbound JetBlue flight free movies. Silver Surfer was playing, which I wanted to see but I knew few others who would. But my credit card wouldn’t work in my seatback video screen – nor in my seatmate’s screen. Luckily, she was a JetBlue pilot deadheading, and was nice enough to bargain with the flight staff – who had already heard of problems with purchasing movies – to give the whole plane free movies.
Oh, and Silver Surfer again is a movie you should see on video if you really liked the Fantastic 4. Otherwise, skip it. Pretty simplistic, although he was fairly shiny throughout.

Oh, and as is often the case, going to my meeting was a lot of fun. But coming home was just as nice, especially to a nice home-cooked dinner and some stories of what Roxanne had been doing while I was gone. That included drawing out a (recognizeable!) scene from The Big Hungry Bear, and learning to type her own name. And then after dinner, I got to do the dishes. Ah, back to normal life.

Mainely Statistics

It’s almost a shame that MasterCard has made the list-of-statistics schtick priceless – but it’s still a good schtick.

  • Days spent at the cabin in central Maine: 4
  • Door-to-door hours spent driving down home: 3.5 (DD once)
  • Door-to-door hours spent driving up there: 5 (rush hour -duh!, DD twice, Rite Aid once, finding an unlocked window once)
  • Cats brought along for the trip: 1 (Lucas – he loved it!)

  • Number of canoe rides: 3
  • Number of times Roxanne got wet: 3
  • Number of times Roxanne fell out of the canoe: 1 (while the canoe was still half on the beach, mind you. Still got my heart racing though.)
  • Length of canoe ride after Roxanne got wet: 15 minutes (she insisted on still going out, even though soaked.)

  • Minutes drive to the nearest paved intersection: ~ 10
  • Times we all drove anywhere: 3
  • Surfaces of car splashed by mud puddles: all 6

  • Books read, each adult: 2
  • Worthwhile books read, each: 0
  • Beds slept in: 3
  • Frogs caught: 2 (unrelated to any beds)