Category > Travel

May Wrap-up

02 June 2009 » In PHP, Talks, Travel » 5 Comments

May has come and gone and for me almost half of it was spent on the road. SFO-DEN-BNA, BNA-ORD, ORD-ZRH-TXL-ZRH-ORD, ORD-SFO. To decipher that for you, I first went to Nashville to visit my friend Raquel and see the land of the honky tonks. I was surprised to find an almost full-sized replica of Parthenon there, as well as a really great ƒood/drink scene. Some highlights include Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack (I dare you to order something more than medium hotness), a great beer place called The Flying Saucer (150+ beers on the menu), and especially The Patterson House (recommended by the awesome Steph Dub), where we spent a few hours snacking on tasty bits from the menu and drinking the awesome cocktails that the bartender mixologists prepared in front of us.
Then it was off to Chicago for php|tek 2009 conference. The first two days were dedicated to the first real PHP developers meet-up since November 2005. On Monday we discussed technical issues with regard to PHP 5.3 and 6, and on Tuesday the topic shifted more towards potential features aside from Unicode to entice people to move to 6 and how to ease this migration. Overall it was a productive meeting and the notes should be posted soon. The next day I gave the opening keynote on the present and future of PHP. I managed to throw in a few inside jokes and funny photos in there to lighten up the morning mood. The rest of the conference was productive as well—there were great talks on everything from utilizing HTTP status codes to multi-level caching to a talk that Cal gave on telecommuting. After the conference hours we stopped by the Map Room a couple times for some excellent beer flights (La Folie on tap, OMG).

@tychay is not happy

@tychay is not happy

After Chicago, I flew to Berlin for the International PHP Conference Spring Edition 2009. This year they accepted all 3 of my proposals, so I had my work cut out for me. Miraculously, I managed to make the German audience smile and even laugh a couple of times during my keynote. Success! The other two talks intl me this, intl me that on localizing and translating your pages, and All the Little Pieces on using PHP with memcached, mogilefs, and Gearman went well too. Funny enough, the RailsWay conference was going on at the same place—didn’t they know that Terry Chay is coming to town?! This was my first visit to Berlin, so Terry and I played tourists for a bit and went to see Checkpoint Charlie, the remaining pieces of the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, and Reichstag. It is really amazing to consider that the Berlin Wall used to be 150 km long and embedded a piece of Western Germany in the middle of Eastern one.
Finally, I had a long series of flights home, and despite a mishap at the immigration in Chicago, arrived to my apartment safely and almost on time. It was great to see old friends and new faces and to talk to the best development community out there.
For those of you who wondered where to get the I � Unicode t-shirt that I wore during my keynote, I put the design up on Zazzle, so you can get your own for the next gathering of the Unicode-minded folks.

Day 1: In LAX

29 May 2007 » In Travel » 2 Comments

Having forgotten to check my baggage all the way through to Rarotonga, I had to pick it up in AA terminal and go over to Air New Zealand one. While standing in the check-in line, I realized with absolute and frightening clarity that there was another small, yet vitally essential thing I forgot at home. My green card. For those of you lucky enough not to need one, I’m required to have it with me at all times, especially when entering back into USA. The green card was tucked into the back pocket of my Uzbek passport cover, and I completely forgot about it, since I took my Russian passport on the trip.
I could just imagine the kind of hassle I’d have to go through at the immigration checkpoint; that is, if they let me into the country at all. My mind was in overdrive, as I walked through the security in haze and went up to the Air New Zealand lounge (that Premier Exec status sure comes in handy, thanks to all the conferences). The lounge had phones (remember, no cell phone with me), and computers (with Firefox on them!). While talking on the phone to my Mom, I hit upon a possible solution.
Observation of the day: Web Messenger is the coolest thing since the ice hotel in Sweden.
I fired it up, saw that my friend Brien was online, and asked him a favor: go to my apartment, enter the code into the lockbox to get the key, come in, find the green card, and fax a copy of it to me in Cook Islands. This was a tall order, but Brien didn’t even think twice. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have some sort of proof that I’m not faking being a permanent resident. Not sure if it’ll be enough to reduce that hassle, but it’s better than nothing.
With that completed, I could finally go and enjoy the lounge, get some food (the crab salad at the buffet was fantastic), and some New Zealand wine (best one was Ngatarawa Glazebrook Merlot Cabernet). I have to say that this lounge is way ahead of the ones I’ve been to in SFO, HKG, or FRA. Kudos to Air New Zealand.

Day 1: Over LAX

29 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

What a sprawling, flat, monotonous, all-consuming monstrosity of a city this is. It lies below our wings, stretching as far as the eye can see, which is to say, not far at all, because… Oh man, the smog, the ever present smog, blanketing the city in its suffocating embrace. It’s next to impossible to imagine what things would look like without it.
The city seems organic; the veins of its highways pulsing with steady (it’s a Sunday) flow of cars. And yet it is mechanical, in the way its semi-regular grids of housing units resemble nothing so much as the intertwined components of a circuit board. Or maybe this is what a nanotech colony looks like under a microscope, steadily advancing on its surroundings, manufacturing more of itself with every minute, and belching up the byproducts of its creation.
The Star Wars character this city most reminds me of: Jabba the Hut.

Day 1: Onboard AA flight to LAX

27 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

Preparations are over. Whatever is left behind stays there for sure. So far it’s only NoJetLag, and I hope that it’ll be the only thing that I forgot. The big suitcase turned out to weigh 49.5 lbs. Precision — ha! Maybe I overpacked, but you never know what you may need in a brand new destination over the course of 3 weeks. A Frisbee, for example (count: 1). Or Shout detergent wipes (count: 4). If I followed Lonely Planet’s advice, however, the weight would probably be twice as much. Just the list of medications it recommends would warrant a separate bag. And, seriously, half of the list is prescription only. What the heck? Who’s going to give me antibiotic steroidal eardrops or Tinidazole ahead of time, just in case? Guess I’ll have to avoid contracting anything requiring such a prescription, which includes, but not limited to: swimming in the pool (swimmer’s ear), walking on the beach (coral cuts), swimming in the ocean (coral ear), lying on the beach (sunburn), eating reef fish (ciguatera poisoning), swimming in flooded areas (leptospirosis), enjoying the sun (heatstroke), sleeping (mosquito bites leading to dengue fever), taking a crap (traveller’s diarrhoea), touching stuff (poisonous cone shells), eating (eosinophilic meningitis), and, quite possibly, breathing (hell, I don’t know, but there’s got to be something, right?). I’m good at being cautious and considering contingencies, but at some point you have to stop worrying about what might happen in the course of everyday life and just live it. I did stock up on sunscreen and insect repellent, however.
One thing that has me worried a bit is weather. The rain season should be over by now, but the 10-day forecast ominously portends “cloudy” and “showers”. Damn it, I don’t want to spend my vacation bundled up in raingear. So come on, Rarotonga and Fiji, show me some sunny love. I intend to hang out in the sun and drink piña coladas, or whatever the local frozen fruity alcoholic drink is. I want to climb a coconut tree and possibly fall from it. My goal is to come back with a world-class tan, and possibly partially damaged liver (it regenerates, from what I heard). I’m really looking forward to it, if the weather is nice. No TV, no phone, no radio, no newspapers, no bloody laptop! My cameras and iPod Nano are the only electronics I am bringing along. Books, nature, and people will occupy the rest of my time. But first, let’s get to LAX, where I’ll have to pick up my bag and go check in with Air New Zealand.

South Pacific Vacation, <hiccup>, Journal

27 May 2007 » In Travel » No Comments

I took a notebook along with me on this trip, simply wanting to have a place to jot down some thoughts and observations that may enter my sun drenched (hopefully) and inebriated (most certainly) mind. But, after a couple of pages I realized that I was subsconciously writing a blog entry, addressed to you, exalted readers (click on an ad link, won’t you?). So, hell, might as well just post this publicly. I’ll try to do it whenever I have an Internet connection and enough time to edit those drenched thoughts into a form suitable for Internet (bwahahaha). Shouldn’t be much private stuff in there, and if there is.. well, that’s for the paying readers.
P.S. That “paying” thing is just a joke. Or is it?

Bula, Fiji

25 May 2007 » In Travel » 1 Comment

In the previous post I mentioned that Outspark publishes casual online MMORPG games. The first upcoming game is called Fiesta, and it’s a new, 3D cartoon style game with simple gameplay and rich graphics. It’s also free to download and play. You can check out a Flash video with demo of the gameplay on the front page of the Outspark site. Closed beta will be launching soon, so go and register for it.
Before starting at Outspark I wanted to take a break between jobs, in order go on vacation, decompress, refresh, and come back ready to tackle any challenges. Since this is a start-up, my manager asked me if I could be here for a couple of weeks to help things along and I agreed. My time here so far has been busy with getting settled in, preparing platform code for the beta, and familiarizing myself with the commuting routine. This coming Sunday, however, I will be going on my trip.
It took me a while to figure out what exactly I wanted to do on this break. I considered doing another Contiki tour, but couldn’t really find any tours in the summer that looked interesting. I also thought about going to Japan or Iceland, two destinations that are the top of my list, but they are fairly expensive and I would not have enough time to prepare for them. Then I finally asked myself: where could I go to see new places, chill out, take photos, and be fairly cut off from any sort of communications. And the answer was: South Pacific. I did some searching and found that Air New Zealand had a special ticket for going from Los Angeles to Rarotonga, Cook Islands, onto Fiji, and back to Los Angeles, which sounded perfect. I could do scuba diving certification, hang out on the beach, go snorkeling, party it up, or just lie in hammock and snooze. So I booked it promptly. I’ll be staying at budget resorts, such as Vara’s on Rarotonga and Beachouse on Fiji. No Internet, no TV, no cell phone, no newspapers. I’ll bring along iPod Nano, my camera, a few books, and maybe playing cards. Should be fun enough socializing with other guests and doing all the stuff that sun-filled islands have to offer.
See you soon.

Hong Kong Photos

12 April 2007 » In Photography, Travel » 1 Comment

I recently returned from my first trip to Hong Kong. I’ve never been to that part of Asia before, so I wanted to check it out and also attend the Rugby Sevens tournament. My friend Chris organizes a group of folks every year for the Sevens trip and he’s been telling me it’s a lot of fun, so I decided to join this time.
Guess what? It was more than a lot of fun. It was fantastic. I spent half the time exploring Hong Kong and Kowloon and the other half at the Sevens watching the game, drinking beer and Pimm’s, and marveling at the dressed-up fans (it was basically Halloween meets sports). Wait was there another half there? Maybe, I don’t remember, because Chris is a dangerous person to party with and I was running on maybe 5 hours of sleep a night.
In any case, check out the photos and see if that kind of stuff appeals to you. If it does, book your ticket now.

First Post, 2007

03 January 2007 » In Books, PHP, Travel » 4 Comments

Mental DNA

Hello and Happy New 2007 to everyone! I have just returned from a trip to Portland, Oregon, where I visited some friends and spent New Year’s Eve skiing at Mt. Hood’s Skibowl (it’s been a year since I first gave skiing a try). Some other highlights of the trip included good food and drinks at such places as Pix Patisserie, Brazil Grill, and Andina, a couple of loooong visits to Powell’s City of Books, and ringing in the new year at a huge house party that must have had around a hundred people.
Tomorrow, the work resumes. I feel bad about not getting the Unicode preview release of PHP 6 out before the end of the year, but there was one crucial piece still missing and having a release without it did not make sense. But rest assured, we are very, very close and I anticipate making the release in the next week or two once we have this piece integrated and all the details ironed out.
I must again confess how much I love Powell’s: it is truly a bibliophile’s dream. Its 1+ million new and used books are organized by the staff with care and evident love and one could get lost amidst its twelve foot high shelves for a whole day. I also had a chance to visit the Rare Books room and flip through the first edition of The Fellowship of the Rings ($1000) and an 1805 printing of a large format Latin dictionary ($1200 for 4 volume set). Too bad they didn’t have Newton’s Principia at the time.
I decided that I would buy only used books on this trip, to avoid carrying back something I can purchase new anywhere. What did I come away with after hours of browsing and a few cups of coffee? 12 books for a total cost of $101.19.

Photos from NYC

24 October 2006 » In Photography, Travel » No Comments

I was in New York this summer to give a talk at the NYPHP Conference and stayed an extra day to hang around and visit a couple of places that I have not seen before, such the re-opened MOMA. I shot some photos there and some on the streets around Washington Square Park. The results are on Flickr.

Photos from St. Petersburg

03 October 2006 » In Photography, Travel » 1 Comment

Finally, I have finished processing and uploading the photos from my trip to St. Petersburg, back in May. Apologies to those who have been waiting for them.