ICN-NRT-LAX-SFO-ORD-DUB

Twenty some odd days of San Francisco, Wofford Heights, Magic Mountain, Korea, a little more SF and many more airports later, and I’m back in Dublin only suffering mildly from the effects of jetlag. With the nap from 1600 to 2230 my first day back and the subsequent waking up at 0400 I’ve done the last two days — and with attempts at work feeling like my brain’s still in Korea and the latency is terrible — I suppose arguments could be made that this qualifies as “moderate” jetlag; but I like to think I’m good at traveling, so I’m sticking with “mild.”

While rattling off “ICN-NRT-LAX-SFO-ORD-DUB” is enough by itself to make people look at me like I’m crazy, it still doesn’t do the two red-eyes plus the overnight in San Francisco that were involved any justice. But really, the flying itself was just dandy: there were 7 lounges involved (look, I had to check out all of the options in NRT, and the lounge with the showers in ORD doesn’t have the free alcohol), and even the ICN-NRT segment was sort of upgraded as JAL seemed to be using their business class seats as “premium economy.” (And the rest of that itinerary was upgraded with one coupon, so I was well taken care of.)

But I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to talk about Korea, as opposed to the “there and back again.” I’ve been trying to process the pictures since 4 am this morning, but it already seems so far away — even beyond the 12,258 miles and 40 some odd hours of flying that it literally is distant.

So let’s see: I’ll spare you the flight delay dramas that resulted in me getting to my hotel at 2am and Rick arriving a day late, other than to mention it meant I was on my own in Seoul longer than planned.

For a few days, I was feeling like Seoul was one of the hardest places I’d visited so far: I was having a hard time with the Korean alphabet (much less the language); when I could read something off of a menu I had no idea what it was; half the time what I tried to order wasn’t available to individual customers because it would involve some sort of grill or giant cauldron of boiling red stuff and I had to try to quickly find something else to order; even trying to pick out a restaurant or bar was a problem because thanks to a little more jetlag I was eating at odd hours and the “eat at popular places” rule didn’t work since no one was eating; even worse, so many bars and restaurants were either in basements or up off the ground floor that I couldn’t even see in them to see if I liked the looks of them; many of them didn’t even post menus so I could pre-translate what I wanted to order.

But then I kinda got my bearings and realized Seoul was actually a pretty rad place: I got a bit of a hang of the Korean alphabet (and actually kind of came to love it); I still can’t speak Korean for anything but it turns out enough English is spoken that I could skate by like I always do (yes, I am a bad traveler in some ways ;-p); worrying too much about what I was going to be eating was just a waste of time since it was almost all good, and it almost always worked out; even worrying about restaurants wasn’t worth it as they were all pretty good, and for the first time on a trip I don’t think I intentionally went to a single restaurant out of a guidebook. And then I realized Korea was actually a pretty easy place to visit, all things considered: it’s extremely safe, the people were very friendly and nice and willing to put up with my lack of Korean, and there’s plenty of English signage if you look for it.

Other things happened: adventures (and moderate success) in deciphering Korean bus schedules before just getting on the next bus that came anyway without knowing where it was going (and resulting success in that it did exactly what we wanted it to do); the most insanely kitschy P.O.W. museum you could imagine on Geoji-do; climbing over some walls, walking across a patch of farm, and discovering a crosswalk that was there clearly for just that purpose; crazy spread of sashimi and other raw seafoods and wait was that thing still moving, I swear it was still moving; climbing halfway up a mountain; yes, it’s still moving!!!; hey, it sure is cold here, isn’t it? And the DMZ, getting to stand in North Korea, craziness.

The last notable event I’ll leave with was that we got food poisoning, both taken out by a mere vegetable bibimbap. We were somewhat indignant about this. “Given all the spicy and raw things we’ve had, vegetable bibimbap??” Traveler’s food poisoning probably isn’t that notable, really, but it felt notable to me because — well, I was going to say this is the first time this has happened to me, but it isn’t: I just remembered that awesome day I spent in the hotel in Delhi, the day before leaving India, and I’m reminded there was a bright side to this Korean food poisoning incident: I was actually able to get out of the hotel and see a temple and a museum that afternoon, and was feeling mostly better within 24 hours (Rick was a little worse for the wear for some reason, but he also made a pretty quick recovery).

But then, just as I was thinking about how much I’d enjoyed Korea, and was contemplating trying to learn more Korean, I arrived in NRT: I made a mad dash for lunch in Narita town on my five hour layover, only to be greeted by the lovely smells of so many Japanese foods I recognized, the excitement of a new place with no map and no phrasebook and a goal of finding food, my one semester of Japanese rushing back to me — being able to recognize words both spoken and written — and with that all thoughts of Korea left my mind, I was in the middle of a new adventure, and I was left wanting to actually visit Japan more than ever.

This is how it is with me, see: as soon as one trip’s done, I’m off to planning my next one. In this case, I’ve already got a weekend in Madrid booked for February, but that just raises the question: where next?

Amtrak Scheduling 2008.

It’s somehow reassuring that after a year it looks like Amtrak’s made even less progress on their scheduling algorithms than I have in blogging (where last year’s post about this is still on the front page):

Bad Amtrak Schedule 2008

That’s right: the default selection it’s now offering is a worse schedule that costs more than the train I actually want (714).

I’ll make you a deal, Amtrak: if you fix this in 2009, I won’t blog at all. ;-p

Damn knackers.

Now the parts of San Francisco I frequented weren’t exactly known for large populations of children, so when I started encountering the kids in Dublin, I wondered if all kids were such punks, or if the kids in Dublin were special. I eventually noticed people were calling them “knackers,” and while the Dublin variety seem to be a variant of what’s described in Urban Dictionary, that definition comes close enough. Often wearing track suits, usually walking around in groups of 3-5, and generally causing trouble.

What kind of trouble? The initial incidents all involved things being thrown at me [1], mainly rocks. Two groups of kids would be throwing rocks at each other, but when people would walk past, they would alter their trajectories and start to “miss.” “Sorry mister!”

There was one other incident involving the throwing of things, though: I was standing near the edge of temple bar spacing out and looking at a restaurant’s menu; I was vaguely aware of a group slightly older boys [2] arguing with each other off to my right, but suddenly, an open packet of biscuits hit me in the side of the head. I kinda looked at them with a “what the fuck?” Their arguing had stopped and they were looking at me but didn’t say anything; I just walked away.

Keep in mind: Temple Bar is an incredibly busy area. If I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they were arguing over the pack of biscuits and in the ensuing tussle it was knocked from someone’s hands — but see above re “benefit of the doubt.”

And with regards to benefit of the doubt, it doesn’t help that on my walk to work, I regularly see a group of kids being lectured by a couple of Gardai.

Seeing an 8 year old kid in handcuffs is something I’m not sure I’m ever going to get over.

~

In some conversations I’ve had with some locals, I’ve found out a few things. Apparently “knackers” isn’t exactly a polite thing to call them — they’re just unsupervised working class kids with nothing better to do than act out. Fair enough, perhaps: it’s not like I’m shouting “damn knackers!” at them from my rocking chair or something, but every time I see them doing something, I kinda can’t help but think it.

~

And then there was tonight’s incident, which certainly didn’t endear them to me any.

I had just left Dunne’s Grocery and turned south onto Great George — I’ve been trying to keep my wallet in my front pocket but I hadn’t remembered this time and it was in my back pocket, and my bag was still only over one shoulder since I was still getting myself together. I heard some feet running towards me and then “Scuzemescuzemescuzeme,” as this damn knacker ran into my back and pressed up against me for several seconds before pushing me into the wall and running on.

I immediately checked my bag and wallet and everything was fine, but still, what the fuck? That stretch of Great George isn’t quite Temple Bar, but it’s still pretty damn busy.

But then the kid ran towards a guy carrying a guitar and pushed him into the street, almost in front of a bus. The guy looked at the kid, grabbed him with one hand, and pushed him off his feet into a pile of garbage bags on the curb.

It was about at this point that several more kids caught up with the first kid, and a couple of them walked towards the guitar man as the first boy picked himself up; they all approached the guitar man, who gave them another look and then jaywalked across George — something I wouldn’t do at the best of times — followed by the kids.

One of the kids left on my side of the street asked the other “What’s he trying to do, get himself arrested?”

At least some of them have some smarts, I suppose.

[1] Somewhat deflating my original premise, I did just remember that I had rocks thrown at me a couple of times while riding my bike through Western Addition, but that’s a whole different problem.

[2] Now when I say “slightly older,” I’m talking 12-13; most of these incidents involve kids who appear to be in the 8-12 range. Seriously.

On Irish electricity.

“You know, you’d think that after all of those conversations we’ve had about voltage and electricity…” I said on arrival at work the other morning.

“What’d you blow up now?” Jeff asked.

But back up: I was so excited when I got my air shipment that I immediately pulled out my backup hard drive so I could run a backup [1]. As mentioned, we had had a lot of conversations about electricity, but most of them had included mention of “but pretty much all of your electronics will be fine,” so I didn’t even think twice about a hard drive. Unfortunately, my external hard drive turned out to be a bit on the cheap side.

Three trips to Maplin’s and €75 spent on a voltage converter, a neat but SATA only USB hard drive mount, and an exchange for a SATA/IDE enclosure when it turned out my cheap hard drive was either cheaper or older than I thought, and I had my backup drive back online.

The disk was fine in spite of Josh’s joke that dumping 240 volts into a 120 volt power supply would just make the hard drive spin twice as fast, and Jeff already knew about all of that. Here’s what I had to tell him that morning in the office:

No more than a score [2] minutes after I got my drive back online and finally got my backup started, I decided I’d do some unpacking and setting up of things. The closest box happened to be the Wii.

Of course, as soon as I plugged in the power brick, the thought that “I should probably check the voltage on this…” crossed my mind; I turned the brick over in my hand and leaned over to read it just in time for it to almost literally blow up in my face. Flash and poof of electric smoke, brick thrown to the ground, circuit blown (of course interrupting my long sought after backup), god damnit chaeap ass Nintendo.

The Wii is fine as I hadn’t plugged the adapter in, but after trooping around Dublin looking for a replacement adapter, it looks like I’m going to have to order the damn thing from the UK on eBay. At least it’s cheap.

~

“You know, you’d think that after all of those conversations we’ve had about voltage and electricity…” I told Jeff when I called him the next day from home, ostensibly waiting for my internet installation.

“Oh no, what now?” he asked.

I told him how I’d woken up that morning and my MacBook Pro was dead. But after noticing that it still chimed and the drive grumbled a little, I tried FireWire Target Disk mode on a hunch and sure enough, it appears to just be a dead screen. Sure a screen won’t be cheap to replace, but at least all the data is safe thanks to the fact that I was so insistent about getting that backup hard drive up and running. [3]

Epilogue: I spent that afternoon mooching internet with my work laptop at Havana before stomping around following leads on service in Dublin, and amazingly, it appears that there isn’t anywhere in the city center I can just drop it off. Rather than testing my luck with Apple, I opted to spend €30 in courier fares to have the promising sounding Mactivate pick up my MBP, where it still is.

Long story short: triple check your voltages and wattages, at least twice.

[1] Look, I know that’s probably not the first thing you would have expected me to do, but Time Machine had been bugging me about doing a backup and I’ve taken on the order of 30 gigs of pictures since I’ve been here (look, there’s a DSLR involved) that I wanted to archive.

[2] Bear with me; I’m trying to reclaim “score.”

[3] Who’s laughing now? See [1].

The sound of settling?

One of the questions people seemed intent on asking me immediately after my arrival in Dublin was “how are you settling in?”

“You mean to this place where I’ve only been living for a week?” I’d retort.

For the better part of my first month here there were a lot of obstacles to settling: I was living in a temporary apartment; I stubbornly resisted “unpacking” my limited belongings and was hence living out of three bags; to make matters worse, I suffered a pretty severe failure of planning when I only packed 4 t-shirts and 3 pairs of socks (though thankfully the socks were resilient smartwool); I was feeling constantly overwhelmed worrying about little things like money and bank account setup and utilities and on and on; and for a variety of reasons, I also didn’t want to start buying groceries at the temporary place, so I was eating out every meal.

I felt extremely transient my entire first month here.

But, I’ve got my apartment now, and my first batch of stuff arrived a week ago, and all of my IKEA furniture is now built, and so it’s getting better.

That’s not to say that I’m feeling settled yet — not by a long shot. Every time I turn around something else seems to go wrong: my bedsheets don’t fit my bed; my internet order got all kinds of messed up and it cost me €25 to fix the order since a person had to do it over the phone and now it’s not coming for another week; it turns out I can’t read power labels [more on that soon]; the fake plant on the balcony blew over my first night here and its pot broke; and insult to injury, my MacBook Pro’s screen died (but hooray for Time Machine and FireWire Target Disk Mode). And then silly minor stuff like the apartment’s TV not actually doing NTSC or the fact that the “furnished” apartment didn’t come with a trash can or my two day old loaf of bread sprouting a nice furry coat prematurely.

Sorry to sound like I’m whining. I know none of these in and of themselves are a big deal, and I know they’ll all work out one way or another, but when all of that happens in a week, you can’t help but feel a little put out.

Things are coming along. The rest of my stuff arrives in 3 weeks (I have no clue where most of it’s going to go, but if nothing else: yay bikes!), I’ve got my first trip booked to Madrid in two weeks, and looking on the bright side, I’ve got a week without internet to do things like finally catch up on some writing or my remaining unpacking or even picking up Ulysses.

Maybe I’ll even try to worry about that social life thing at some point.

2 counties to halt all weddings, gay or not

2 counties to halt all weddings, gay or not,” the headline I read over Rick’s shoulder said.

“Is one of them Kern!?” I asked excitedly, skimming ahead; “Of course it is.”

“Due to lack of resources?” Rick muttered; “That’s a pretty flimsy argument.”

“I think I’d go right past ‘flimsy’ and clear on to ‘transparent.’ I know a judge can’t say ‘I reject your argument because you’re Kern County,’ but, well, it’s true.”

Getting to Europe Is About to Get Easier

Getting to Europe Is About to Get Easier“Ryanair … has said [they plan] to start a new airline that will fly from secondary European markets like Liverpool or Birmingham to a half-dozen American cities like Baltimore or Providence, R.I., for a base fare as low as 10 euros, or about $16 at $1.59 to the euro. Oh, right, Liverpool-Baltimore for the win.

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Mexicana to Join oneworld Alliance

Mexicana to Join oneworld Alliance“Mexicana with the Click Mexicana network will add 26 destinations to the oneworld map — 24 in Mexico plus Bakersfield (California, USA) and Edmonton (Canada).” Wait, really? Oh, right, the highly lucrative GDL-BFL route.

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Snowboarding 2008

It’s kind of hard to believe, but I haven’t been snowboarding in very nearly two years. I’m pretty sure that last trip with Rick and Mark and Tomasz was in February 2006, not very long before I moved to SOMA. And then after two dead batteries thanks to not driving my car for 6 months I went ahead and sold it, and haven’t really had much of a way to snowboard since then. And in the meantime, traveling the world has pretty much filled in the gap as my hobby of choice.

But tomorrow, I’m going on a work snowboarding trip to Northstar and I’m pretty excited. I’m sure I’ll suck for a good few hours, but I’m actually feeling pretty confident that most of it’s going to come back nice and quick, and I’m already sort of brainstorming about taking another snowboarding trip before the season is over.

Colorado anyone?

2008 Prediction 4: PHP Problems

2008 Prediction 4: PHP Problems – “A large part of the problem PHP has is that it’s evolved substantially over time and doesn’t force you to program in a certain way: you never know if you’re getting clean object-oriented code or nasty procedural code” [From Commentor Chris Adams]

The thing I find ironic about this comment is that it forgets functional programming completely, which kind of just emphasizes how bad PHP is at it.

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OS X drag and drop problems explained.

Finder Drag/Drop bug still around? – I had this problem before Leopard, but Leopard certainly exacerbated it and things deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t drag tabs in Firefox or text within TextEdit; that said, I still didn’t believe it was Quicksilver’s fault until I read this. I’m already missing Quicksilver.

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Amtrak scheduling.

Really, Amtrak? How did you decide to pick the trip that requires a transfer, takes significantly longer, ultimately transfers to the train I wanted anyway, and is the same price as the default option? And don’t even get me started on your session handling.

Bad Amtrak scheduling