Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back from New Zealand

Update: Sorry if some of the below reads like too much of a rant. I wrote this entry literally an hour after getting back into town, after spending 24+ hours in airports and airplanes. So I was somewhat grouchy. I had an amazing time in NZ, I really did.

My girlfriend and I just got back from New Zealand. We visited Auckland, Wellington, Napier, New Plymouth and the Coromandel Peninsula, all in a crappy rental car which surprisingly enough did not break down or explode once during the trip (we did mysteriously lose a hubcap, though). The weather was great for the most part, despite it being winter; we managed to go kayaking, visit the Auckland zoo, a farm in Wellington (lovely lambs), do some shopping and various other touristy things, and catch up with many of my old friends (I lived in Wellington for 8 years). I also got a chance to hang out with ├╝ber-hacker Chris Double on several occasions. Mostly just dinner, but we also sneaked in a bit of pair-programming while my girlfriend wasn't paying attention. Chris is a cool guy with a great sense of humor; if you ever get a chance to meet him, he'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know about online poker, the Firefox codebase, and penguins.

My friend Neil Bertram asked me to give a presentation about Factor at Catalyst NZ, an IT consulting shop. Every Thursday, they order a ton of pizza and have speakers, both in-house and from outside give short talks on various technical topics. The day I was presenting, there was a talk about a web-based content man management system, and Sun's ZFS. I don't really dig web-apps much but ZFS looks worth looking into more. I've known Neil since I was 8; we went to the same primary school and high school, and we've mostly stayed in touch since then. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Neil, too. He's a cool guy. If you're reading this Neil, I think you like Asian girls a bit too much, you'll have better luck if you broaden your horizons a bit when trying to pick up in clubs :-)

Mostly I slept my way through the flights and didn't feel jet-lagged upon arrival in Auckland; and I seem to be fine right now as well.

We also had two stopovers on Los Angeles, about 10 hours each, on the way there and back. Since LAX is pretty far from downtown LA, we didn't get a chance to visit the city of Los Angeles, however we did spend several hours in Santa Monica, which is pretty close to the airport (30 minute bus ride on the "Big Blue Bus"). Santa Monica is pretty; there's a (rather crowded) beach, eateries, shops, plenty of very expensive cars, and lots of homeless people.

I'll have some photos from NZ and LA to post later.

The flight from LA to Ottawa was rather unpleasant, for three reasons. First of all, we were within earshot of a number of crying babies. There's only one thing more annoying that an enterprisey Java programmer, and that's a child crying for 12 hours non-stop. I wish that children under 4 were not allowed on airplanes.

Also the entire entertainment system crashed in the middle of the flight, and took 20 minutes (!) to reboot. Chris Double told me that the same thing happened to him recently, so I wonder if this happens every time. Even when it was running, the user interface for movie selection was not very intutitive, and unresponsive. Apparently several passengers did not have functioning entertainment at all. While the whole thing runs on Windows CE, I don't think CE is the fault here, rather bottom of the barrel contractors hired by Air New Zealand to design and implement this thing.

While my luggage came through fine, my girlfriend's suitcase did not make it from LA to Ottawa. Seems that while the 10$/hour federal government employees do a great job of x-raying people's shoes and asking me why I'm bringing a small bottle of contact lens solution in carry-on luggage (hey, Mr Important TSA Guy: I wear contact lenses), they are incapable of placing bags in the correct plane. To make matters worse, the phone number they gave us for baggage inquiries is serviced by a typical cheap third-world call center. It starts off with an automated voice recognition system which asks you about 30 questions and you end up repeating everything 3 times because of poor voice recognition; then you get an operator whose grasp of English is even worse. He asked if we really needed this luggage or not, and he was convinced we missed our flight (when in fact we sat in the terminal for 4 hours). The sod just asks you a bunch of useless questions, then puts you on hold for 30 minutes, says he can't really help you, and asks you to call back tomorrow. Plenty of incompetence all round.

Daniel Ehrenberg did a great job of harvesting patches during my absence, and I will return to Factor hacking as soon as I get some rest. I will be releasing 0.90 ASAP. I'm looking forward to hacking Factor after 3 weeks away from the code!


Brenda said...

it was nice to meet you - sorry i missed your presentation.

Anonymous said...


Babies crying was what you were once and if you have children, it is something you'll have to get use to very quickly.

It is after all their only method of communicating pain, discomfort, hunger, etc. All the things that we as adults can complain and whinge about verbally.


Bruce Rennie
(God's Own Country Downunder)
Husband, father of 4 and now grandfather.

Berlin Brown said...

Cool, you made it to the US, are you going to see Eugene down there?