Posts in the Travel Category

How to Avoid Jet Lag

Published 12 years, 10 months ago

Inspired by some recent conversations and a post by Dave Shea, I’m going to share with you my Sooper-Dooper No-Patent-Pending DIY Anti-Jet-Lag Technique.  I used it in my trips to and from the UK, Japan, and Australia this past year, and I didn’t have jet lag going either direction for any one of those trips.  The technique is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first.  Unless you did, in which case you can feel all smug.

Here it is: after getting your usual amount of nightly sleep, wake up at your normal time in the target time zone.

All right, maybe it doesn’t sound simple.  What I mean is, figure out what time the day starts at your destination.  Then modify your sleep schedule to synchronize with it before you get there.  So if you always get up at sunrise, arrange things so you sleep your usual time and wake up at the same time the sun is rising at your destination.

I’ll use my trip to Australia for Web Essentials as an example.  Going there, I flew across America to Los Angeles and then had nine hours before my flight across the Pacific.  The United flight from LAX left at 11:15pm, and arrived in Sydney at approximately 7:00am Sydney time.  Perfect: that’s about when I get up anyway.  I need about six hours of sleep in a night, and the flight was 13.5 hours long.  So I kept myself awake for the first half of the flight, and slept for the second.  When we landed Tuesday, I was all ready to go.  Sure, I was tired, but I was completely synched up with Sydney’s time zone. 

Coming back was tougher, because we departed Sydney at 1:30pm and landed in Los Angeles at 11:15am the same day.  Still, I knew what I had to do: wake up around 7:30am Los Angeles time (give or take an hour; I’m not overly picky about the time I wake up).  So I slept only an hour or two the night before leaving, in order to intentionally shorten my waking time during the flight.  Part way through the flight, I went to sleep, and woke up a few hours before landing.  While I was exhausted all that day, I was in step with LA’s time zone.

As I say, I did the same going to and from Japan, and when I went over to London.  Synching to the UK was actually pretty simple, because going there was a seven-hour direct flight that landed at 7:00am.  I just made sure to sleep for as much of the flight as possible.  The return flight was a special case, as it left in the late morning and landed in the early afternoon, Cleveland time.  So I just kept myself awake until my usual bed time, and got a full night’s sleep.  Ta-daaa!  No jet lag.

It is no shame to support this technique with medication; I do it myself, in fact.  Tylenol PM works well for me, as does Ambien.  I do not, however, medicate myself into wakefulness upon arrival.  No melatonin, which never has any effect on me anyway; and no caffeine, which I basically never consume in any form.

If you use this approach, odds are that you’ll be pretty tired on the day you arrive.  Just keep going until whatever time you’d normally go to sleep, and then sleep until your normal wake time (or maybe an hour or two later, if you’re feeling indulgent).  The next day, you’ll be back up to speed and still in synch with the local time.

Admittedly, this does require some forethought and planning, but it works for me every time.

No Room at the Inn

Published 13 years, 2 days ago

Boy, Dave wasn’t kidding: available hotel rooms for SXSW are mighty few and far between.  I ended up at the Radisson, just like Dave and a few other people I know, and that was only by calling the Radisson directly instead of going through the SXSW housing desk, which doesn’t have any more rooms available there.  The direct booking was more expensive than the SXSW rate, but at least I’m on the north side of the river—oh, excuse me, the lake.  Plus I got a king suite for only a few dollars more than the conference rate for a single room in the Hilton, and there’s free wifi in the lobby.

I called a number of other hotels directly, and most of them were booked up solid.  Apparently, there’s a very large writers’ conference ending the day before SXSWi begins, and that’s thrown extra monkey wrenches into the gears.

So if you still haven’t booked your room, don’t wait any longer, and try calling places directly even if the SXSW site shows them as sold out.  Otherwise, you’ll be a mile or more away, pay through the nose, or both.  I’d have booked sooner, except I wasn’t even certain that I’d be going until a couple of weeks ago, and in the chaos of prepping for AEA and our annual holiday party, I didn’t get to booking until today.  Hopefully, you’ve avoided my mistake, but if not, don’t compound it.

So… anyone else staying at the Radisson?  We could all geek out in the lobby some night.

Post WE05: Matrix Madness

Published 13 years, 1 month ago

Sunday in Sydney was a day of truly beautiful weather, and after breakfast I accompanied Tantek, Amber, and Derek on a “makeshift Matrix” tour of Sydney.  Amber had done some digging online and found out where a variety of scenes from The Matrix were filmed in Sydney.

Now, you have to understand that Tantek is a major Matrix fan—he’s one of the few people I know who actually liked the sequels, and having discussed it with him, I understand why he did.  As anyone who knows Tantek will be unsurprised to learn, he liked them for some very deep philosophical and intellectual reasons; and yes, he has solid ground on which to base those reasons.  Now consider that Tantek and I are both perfectionists, and that he had a 12″ Powerbook loaded up with his DVD of The Matrix along for the tour.

Yeah.  We geeked out.  Big time.

Thanks to Amber’s research and our obsessive analysis, we established fairly exact shooting locations and angles for:

  • The “Adams Street Bridge” sequence, including exterior shots seen during the car ride after Neo gets picked up.  It turns out that he tried to get out roughly seven feet further on from where he was picked up, despite having ridden in the car for a minute or so.  See Tantek’s posts “Then go to the Adams Street bridge“, “Stop the car“, and You know that road” for pictures and more commentary.
  • The fountain sequence, from the crossing of the street at the beginning of the sequence to the walk through the crowds and the side angles on Morpheus, Neo, and passers-by (including my finding a slice of the Sydney Harbor Bridge just barely visible over a series of green scrims); and, of course, the fountain itself, which is kind of hard to miss.  We think someone should do a flash-mob recreation of the “freeze program” bit and document it.  (Further, we acknowledge that convincing the pigeons to freeze will be a bit of a challenge.)  See also Tantek’s post “Agent training program, part 1“.
  • The exterior shots of the building where Morpheus was being interrogated.  See also Tantek’s post “Agent Training Program part 2, Westin Sydney stairwell, Morpheus interrogation.

We also noted where the urban landscape had changed since shooting.  For example, there’s an entire building missing from the background of the initial Adams Street Bridge shot, and we deduced that construction had just started when they filmed.  You can see the construction fencing in the background, but no girders or walls.  Similarly, the building across the street from the interrogation building has either changed or been replaced; also, none of the lobbies of the building look anything like the lobby where the shootout took place.  I was able to identify the building visible through the window of the interrogation room, but we were unsure of the location of the room itself.

We also determined that it’s incredibly unlikely that the spiral staircase scene where Neo experiences déjà vu was shot in the Sydney Westin.  Several web sites claim that it was, but while we found a number of staircases that had similar tile patterns (only rotated 45 degrees), none of them were even close to being a match with what appears on-screen.  (See Tantek’s post Sydney Westin: Not the Matrix hotel” for more.)  And we seriously plumbed the depths of the Westin, at one point getting onto a guest floor without having the required guest card and, at another, taking a service elevator to the kitchens.  We also found an unlocked, unguarded Ethernet router with a number of open ports.

So that was fun.  On the spot, I dubbed it “urban spelunking”, which is no doubt a completely unoriginal formulation but I was proud of it anyway.

It’s too bad that Google Maps has such low-resolution images for downtown Sydney, or else we could combine screen captures of the movie with some GMaps API magic to create an interactive virtual shooting tour.  Oh well.  Some day that problem will cease to exist.

After a very lovely and enjoyable dinner at Circular Quay, a short wandering tour of the Sydney Opera House, and a few hours’ sleep, it was off to the airport for the long, long flight back to the United States.

[Updated 10 January 2006 to include links to Tantek‘s blog posts.  Also: Hi, Kottke fans!  Nice to have you drop by.]

Post WE05: Manly Jazz

Published 13 years, 1 month ago

On the Saturday after WE05 concluded, I took the ferry over to Manly Beach with Doug, Kelly, and Erik.  It just so happened that the Manly International Jazz Festival was being held that weekend, and with weather so beautiful and clear, it was impossible to resist heading over.  Once we got there, I kept snickering to myself at all the localized signs; I simply could not resist repeating them in a deep, booming voice: “MANLY T-Shirts!  MANLY Boatshed!  MANLY Frozen Custard!  MANLY Ocean Foods!  C’mon, try some!  It’s MANLY!”

As a result, I got curious about the origin of the name, so I asked a couple of locals.  According to them, the beach got its name because the aborigines who lived there were very manly, and enough so that the invaders gave the cove that name.  This, to me, sounded like the kind of jokey answer you give foreigners to find out how gullible they are, but if that’s the case, then it’s a joke they tell to each other as well.

The first act we caught was a Dixieland quartet that was filling time between stage acts.  I thought they were pretty good, especially considering they were all playing to a single microphone.  Then we saw Peter Ind from the UK, as well as some of his supporting players, The Ozboppers.  At least two of which were from America, but never mind that now.  Mr. Ind was really very good, but I took one look at him, turned to Kelly, and said, “Ladies and gentlemen—Gandalf on the bass.”

Seriously, that’s what it looked like.  I guess he would need a new gig after Sauron’s defeat.

Wandering onward, we stumbled across a small side-street stage where this absolutely incredible singer was belting out some jazz standards.  I was transfixed.  I mean, not only did she have this whole “hot librarian” look going, but her voice was simply unbelievable.  I can’t even properly characterize it, but my best attempt is the smoky expressiveness of Billie Holiday combined with the range of Ella Fitzgerald and the nimbleness of Anita O’Day.

It turned out we were listening to Elana Stone, who continued to transfix me and everyone around her through a few more numbers.  Afterward, I bought a CD (“In The Garden of Wild Things”, which she signed for me) and tried not to be too much of a gushing fanboy.  If Ms. Stone doesn’t become a major star, it will be a crime, although a part of me thinks that she was born several decades too late.  Had she been singing in the 1930s and 1940s, she would have been a sensation; her name would be up with those I mentioned previously.  I have this fear that her voice won’t have as big an audience as it should in the 21st Century.  At the same time, I very much hope that fear is misplaced.

The ferry ride back to Sydney was illuminated by a perfect (if cloudless) sunset and a dusky gloaming sky behind the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and marred by a terribly assembled Elvis impersonator and his even scruffier companion singing a number of Western ballads rather gratingly off-key, and twice nearly brained me with their guitar’s tuning pegs.  Even without the contrast with Ms. Stone, they would have been bad; so soon after hearing her, they were just short of abominable.  I’d have said something, except they appeared to be rather soused, and I try not to tangle with pickled Elvis impersonators unless there’s life and limb at stake.  It’s just one of my little guidelines in life.

Fortunately, the remainder of the evening was redeemed by a fine dinner overlooking Darling Harbour with assorted speakers and conference staff, great conversation about web design work and Australia going late into the night, and a leisurely walk back to the hotel with a friend.

Overall, a lovely day.

Out of the East

Published 13 years, 6 months ago

A partial braindump from WWW2005.  I’ll get to the professional stuff in another post.

  • A staggering majority of the personal vehicles on the streets in the Chiba and Tokyo areas are black, white, and varying shades of gray.  Even dark blue is a rare sighting, and forest green seemed to be Right Out.  There were, however, the occasional splashes of color, like red sports cars and yellow Beetles.  Were those the rebels of Japanese society?  I don’t know.  I just know that any time I turned to look at the cars, it was a very monochromatic affair.

  • On a related note, I did see three Hummers—all in very dark colors, by the way—and two of them had those thin tires that the street kids love so much.  Because, after all, nothing screams “please lower my gas mileage” quite so much as a Hummer.

    (I wish I were rich enough to buy a Hummer and have it completely painted with a “My Little Pony” theme, complete with stuffed ponies on the dashboard and an all-pink shaggy carpet interior.  That would be totally bumpin’.)

  • The Japanese are really, really serious about their fresh seafood.

  • Tim Bray says I’ve been one of his heroes for the longest time.  Whoa.  Tim Bray said that.  I mean, Tim’s long been one of my heroes.  Mutual heroism?  Whatever.  I remember hanging around him like a fanboi at WWW7 while he talked to someone else about stuff I’m not smart enough to understand.  When I finally got a chance to introduce myself, he had to leave as he was already running late.  Despite my feeling like a rube for imposing on him when he was clearly intensely busy, I still walked away from it thinking, I got to shake Tim Bray’s hand.

    Before you start to project too much creepiness into this little scenario, be assured that I did not (then or ever) resolve to leave my shaking hand unwashed.

  • I did manage to get into Tokyo on Sunday, tagging along with Rohit Khare and his wife to meet up with their friend John in the Ueno area.  We had lunch at an unagi place, and after they all left I took a river ferry toward the bay.  A thunderstorm rolled through the city as we sailed, shrouding the buildings and the radio tower where Mothra cocooned.  After disembarking at a transfer point, I watched a rainbow form over the river, with the far edge of the Rainbow Bridge as a backdrop.

    Later the same evening, making my way back toward my hotel, I was standing in a JR Shinbashi station looking for the Yamanote line to Nippori, where I would catch the Skyliner to Narita Airport.  Frowning, I peered at various maps as I searched for some sort of indication that I was even in the right station.  As I leaned in close to one, a voice to my right said, “Oh, hey, Eric”.

    My head snapped around and I found that I was standing next to Richard Ishida of the W3C, who I’d met just a few days before, and who was studying the map trying to find the line that would get him to Keio University.  When I told him what I was looking for, he pointed me toward the right line.

    I still believe that the universe is an essentially random place, but it’s days like that when I completely understand why many people believe that there are no coincidences, that everything happens in a time and a place for a reason, when I come closest to knowing why they believe in angels.

  • On the flight back to the United States, there was a dim glow on the horizon that I thought might be the Aurora Borealis.  The last time I saw the lights, I was seven or eight and my parents woke me up at three in the morning so I could see them.  The memory is dim with so many years gone and the sleep that filled my eyes that night, but what I do remember has always stayed with me.

    The glow turned out to be the ‘top’ edge of the terminator, something I have never seen before.  I wonder what of it I will remember, thirty years from now.

Continental Yin/Yang

Published 13 years, 11 months ago

Since my father moved to live an hour north of Orlando this past spring, and Kat’s parents moved to the West Palm Beach area in the fall, we headed south for the holidays.  Our flight down left two days before Christmas, so that turned into a bit of an adventure.  My fellow Americans might remember what it was like two days before Christmas.  The top news story of the day was, in fact, the bad weather and how it was messing up everyone’s travel plans.

For years, I’d shaken my head and chuckled ruefully at all those poor suckers who were trying, against all reason, to fly at the busiest time of the year, which was in the dead of winter to boot.  Now I was one of those poor suckers, and my family as well.

When we got up that morning, things looked pretty bad, but the Continental web site said our flight was on time.  I didn’t figure that would hold true, but thought it a hopeful sign that we’d depart fairly close to on time.  Just before we were to leave, the site updated the flight status to say it was being delayed an hour.  We decided to head for the airport anyway.  Once there, we checked the boards and talked to someone who said that, yes, our flight was probably going to be delayed an hour or so.  We got through security and down to our gate… and that’s when things started to go south, and not in a good way.

What we found out was that Hopkins had in fact been closed to flight operations all morning, and so all the planes that were supposed to be there were in other cities.  Our plane was still in Newark, for example, and still ground-stopped.  So in order for our flight to happen, the flight from Newark had to happen; that way we’d have a plane for our flight to Orlando.  Thus, the absolute soonest our flight could leave was two hours after it was allowed to take off from Newark.

And when would that happen?  Nobody could say.

So we found a play area with some other kids and let Carolyn run around.  Every so often, we’d check back in with our gate to see what was up.  No change; our plane was still in Newark.  The projected departure time for our flight kept being pushed back, hour by hour.  A 1:30pm departure become 2:35pm, then 3:35pm, then 4:30pm.  And it was still only 1:00 in the afternoon.

Somewhere around 2:15pm, just as I was about to go check on the flight again, Kat wondered aloud if anyone had gotten out yet, and if maybe they could switch us to an earlier Orlando flight.  So I asked about our plane (still in Newark) and asked if they could switch us to an earlier flight.

“The only flight before yours was a 9:00am flight”, he said.

“Right.  And has that flight actually left yet?”

“Um, good question!”  He started tapping on his keyboard.  No, it hadn’t, and they actually had a plane on the ground, and there were seats available.  But I’d need to go talk to them at their gate, half the concourse away.

So I told Kat where to meet me and headed to gate 21, wondering how on Earth they could still have any seats on the flight.  When I got there, I made my way to the counter and asked if we could be transferred over.  The man behind the counter told me there were seats available, and he’d get us moved over, no problem.  This guy was a little slow with the computer, and needed some help figuring out how to put in a baggage-transfer order to get our bags from our original plane to the new one.  I don’t know if he was new or what, but I was starting to become concerned that we’d arrive with nothing but our carry-ons… and believe me, when you take a 12-day trip with a 13-month old, you have a lot of checked baggage.

He apprised me that they’d try to get the bags transferred but there was no guarantee, and if any got missed we’d have to wait (or come back) to get our bags from our original flight.  As he worked to assign us seats, I mentioned that we’d been on First Class standby on our other flight, and if he could put us on standby for the new flight, that would be great.  I felt kind of stupid saying it (and said so); I mean, we were probably going to get to Orlando on this flight before our original plane even took off.  And I should still be worried about where I sat on the plane?  But to my surprise, he handed me first class tickets just as the boarding process started.

So there we were, sitting in first class and really feeling incredibly lucky.  At that point, I figured that if half our checked bags and the car seat showed up in Orlando with us, we’d be in clover.  We pushed back from the gate just past 3:40pm, less than an hour after borading had begun, so I figured it was a pretty good bet our bags were on the original plane, not the new one.  For us, this was a three-hour delay from our 12:30pm flight—but the plane we were now flying had originally been scheduled to leave at 9:00am.

As the 737 taxied toward the runway, I couldn’t see it.  The whole airfield looked like it was an unbroken field of snow, including the tarmac over which the plane was (bumpily) rolling.  As we continued to cross the airfield laterally, I wasn’t seeing any exposed concrete.  I started to wonder if we were planning simply to drive to Orlando when I saw it: our takeoff strip.  Except it wasn’t a strip.  It was a stretched-out series of barely-there irregular patches of pavement largely encased in snow and ice.  And we were turning toward it.

“Takeoff’s going to be a bit bumpy,” I said to Kat.  We held hands and our daughter, and said “I love you” to each other, as the plane accelerated down the runway.

(Which sounds all dramatic and fear-of-death-like, but actually it’s just a ritual Kat and I developed over years of traveling together.  At some point we looked at each other just as the engines fired up for takeoff, and said “I love you” in unison.  It was a moment of affection that we decided to continue, at both takeoff and landing.)

The run-up to liftoff was definitely jarring, one of the roughest I’ve ever experienced, and I entertained some half-serious concerns that the plane wouldn’t reach V2 and would slide off the end of the runway, as happens every few winters or so.  Once the wheels lifted, though, the flight was smooth and uneventful.  We got to Orlando in the usual amount of time, and—here’s the part that still blows me away—all of our bags had been transferred.  Every single one.  We were able to load up the car and get to my father’s house in time for dinner, only a few hours later than scheduled.

So while Continental definitely started the day on our wrong side, what with the complete lack of information about the true nature of our flight’s delay prior to our getting to the gate, they definitely made up for it by day’s end.

That Disney Magic

Published 14 years, 1 week ago

For Thanksgiving, we visited Kat’s parents in the West Palm Beach area, where they retired earlier this year.  When we left Cleveland on Thanksgiving morning, it was snowing—the first snowfall of the season for us.  It was clear that it would build up a dusting, and then melt within a day.  Where we were headed, it was in the seventies.  A part of me wished I could have stayed with the snow.

But off we went, and had a wonderful dinner with Kat’s parents and brother Neil.  After dinner, Uncle Neil taught Carolyn how to work the stacking-ring toy we brought along, and his efforts paid off in spades.  She’s been pulling rings off of the toy and putting them back on ever since, although she still hasn’t quite worked out that whole “largest-to-smallest” thing.  It’s pretty amazing to see how fast she went from not understanding to clumsy attempts to get it right to being an old pro.

Best of all, there was a prize embedded in the center of our trip:  we drove up to Disney World to spend the night at the Contemporary Resort and take Carolyn to the Magic Kingdom for the first time.  We had dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern, an establishment whose name strongly and incongruously reminded me of Thomas Jefferson’s dark aphorism.  After dinner we watched the Christmas parade go past.  Well, actually, Kat and I watched it; Carolyn slept soundly through the whole thing, thus proving my assertion that when she’s fallen into a deep sleep, you can march a brass band past her at full volume and not wake her up.  The parade marched two of them past her.  Snores galore.

The next day, we had breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, rode a few rides, saw the new “Philharmagic!” show (highly recommended), and then headed back to West Palm Beach with my father and his wife, who had met us that morning.

There were two things I observed at Disney that completely astonished me.

The first was that all the children, the same media-savvy world-weary jaded children we keep hearing about in the media, totally buy into the ‘magic’ of Disney.  They relate to the costumed cast members as if they were the real thing; when “Mickey” comes by the table to dance a little jig and pat the kids on the head, they don’t see quote marks.  It really is Mickey, as far as they’re concerned, and even if they know on some level that there’s someone inside a costume, they gladly ignore that knowledge and go along for the ride.

The second thing was that Carolyn, against all my expectations, totally got that the costumed characters were in some way special.  I expected her, even at nearly a year old, to regard the characters as slightly strange people, and not significantly more interesting than anyone else.  Not so.  At first, she was a little hesitant, but with each new character she got more and more excited about them.  You can see in the pictures just how comfortable she became: she’d only learned to give kisses the week before, and by the end of dinner gave Chip (or Dale) a kiss.

At breakfast the second day, she spotted Chef Goofy standing alone near the entrance to the restaurant.  She immediately let go of my hand and toddled toward him.  He sat down, and she went right into his arms for a big hug, then sat down next to him and looked up into his face.  As I took pictures, I heard several people behind me saying things to the effect of it being darned near the most adorable thing they’d ever seen.  A woman sidled up next to me and said she hoped I’d gotten it all on video.  I hadn’t, but that’s okay.  The pictures I did take tell the story well enough.

I don’t know what it is about Disney; maybe they put something in the water.  But it really does create a kind of magic.

All too soon, it was time to head back home.  Like any good parent, we want our child to be as safe as possible, so I was greatly heartened to see her taking the time to look over the important safety information printed on the card found in the seat pocket in front of her.

Carolyn, strapped into her seat on the plane, solemnly looks over the airline safety information card.

Into The East

Published 14 years, 2 weeks ago

Hey, Japan, I’m headed your way and looking for gigs!

I’ve received official confirmation that I’ll be presenting a half-day tutorial at the Fourteenth International World Wide Web Conference, otherwise known as WWW2005, and also delivering a keynote and participating in a panel at the W4A Workshop at the same conference.  WWW2005 will be held in Chiba, Japan, running from 10 – 14 May 2005.  There will be more details on the Complex Spiral Events page in the next week or so.

So here’s the deal: I’m already committed to travel to Japan,  so this is a rare opportunity for any companies, organizations, or other groups that would like to hire me for training, speaking, or other consulting.  My usual fees include reasonable travel expenses such as hotel room and airfare, and as you might imagine, a plane flight from the eastern United States to Japan is just a tad expensive.  (Try somewhere around $1,250 for economy class and $7,500 for business class.)  However, since I’m going to be there anyway, I’ll waive the airfare expense for any consulting engagements.  That’s a pretty notable savings no matter what airfare class I’ll be flying.

Here’s the flip side: I will need to book my flights before the end of January, in order to make sure I can get good flight arrangements.  That means I’ll need to have settled any agreements to consult (in whatever capacity) by that time.  So if you’re in Japan or know people who are there and interested in standards, spread the word!  This is the first time I’ll ever have been to Japan, and I may not be back again for quite some time.  Any assistance in making the trip more productive will be greatly appreciated.

If you have a suggestion on where I could search for leads, feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me.  If you have a business proposal or wish to seriously discuss how we might work together, please contact me via the inquiry address at Complex SpiralDomo arigato!