I meant to mention one other great thing about San Francisco: Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House, at 1040 Columbus Ave., right where the Powell-Mason cable car line ends. It had everything I could ever dream of in a place to park myself for hours: dozens of microbrews, a great bartender (Max McLean), outdoor seating (the back patio overlooks the cable car terminus; the front, busy Columbus Ave. in North Beach), and tasty dal makhani.
I went there Thursday and Friday afternoons, sat in the sun, drank some beer, ate some curry, and fought off some of the most aggressive pigeons I've ever encountered. (Max told me pigeons are a protected species in San Francisco. This is probably not true, but I still hesitated before swatting one off my book. Imagine the scene below with a pigeon perched on the cover, pecking at my naan: that's what I discovered upon returning from the washroom.)
If they only had WiFi, and if Parker had been with me, I might never have come home.
I believe I figured out why the conference disappointed me. I last went to VSLive in 2003, when I had just started to get really good at my craft. The sessions at that conference hat a lot of information that I hadn't encountered before, and taught me a lot about where I should look to keep fresh and informed.
Four years of keeping fresh and informed, however, has pushed me well past where I was in 2003. So this year's sessions, despite being just as informative as the 2003 offerings, turned out not to be as useful to me.
There are a couple of other factors, some of which I previously identified:
- The conference is in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities on earth;
- Except for Monday, the city has had perfect spring weather;
- I haven't slept especially well, which colors my perceptions and moods.
The last point bears emphasis. I truly love the Hotel California, and I will stay there again the next time I'm in San Francisco; however, I will endeavor not to stay on the Geary Street side. It's too damn loud. Maybe because it's only a block away from the theater district, every night we had some new musical performance:
- The symphonic "March of the Garbage Trucks" started each day at 5:30am.
- Last night around 3am, we got the recitative and aria "O Too-Quiet Street / I am the very model of a modern crazy homeless man," followed by "Officer! Officer!" featuring the SFPD Men's Chorus.
- And who could forget Saturday night's rousing operetta in three acts, Happy Birthday, Fratboy, that also included a guest appearance from the SFPDMC?
Meanwhile, people on the courtyard—or even on the Jones Street side—swear they heard none of this. So much for Room 404.
I'm now going to the post-conference workshop. At least that's my plan; coming out of a miserable Chicago winter, today's sunny, 20°C weather sounds a lot more appealing than a windowless room and "Windows Workflow: a Gentle Introduction."
I have to say, the conference has disappointed me a bit. Many of the panels I thought looked interesting turned out to be somewhat less in-depth than I'd hoped. To make matters worse, I'm in one of the greatest cities in the world, the weather is perfect, and I haven't had enough exercise this week.
So, as irresponsible as it seems, I'm going to take the next two hours or so to cogitate on what I've learned this week, by walking up Powell Street until I hit water. That should get me back to the conference (by Muni, most likely) in time for the next panel I'm interested in seeing.
...the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 today to ban plastic bags at grocery stores:
San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 this afternoon to make the city the first in the nation to prohibit petroleum-based plastic checkout bags in large markets and pharmacies.
On the first of two votes needed for final passage, supervisors approved legislation sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mikarimi that would mandate the use of biodegradable plastic bags or recyclable paper bags. The legislation would take effect in about six months for some 50 large markets in San Francisco and would apply in about 12 months to large drugstore chains such as Walgreen's and Rite-Aid.
I hope to write more when the conference ends, or perhaps if I play hooky from a session or two tomorrow. Today, I would just like to point out that San Francisco offers more food options than a human can count, so I passed up the boxed-sandwich thing and headed into the streets. It's easy to be mostly-vegetarian here, too, especially when you find a good Mediterrenean restaurant four blocks away.
New session starting soon; I'll be back.
I'm sitting in the Hotel California lobby watching rain-soaked buses trundle down Geary Street. I'm in the lobby because the hotel's WiFi doesn't actually reach the fourth floor. This, and the unfortunate confluence of a room overlooking the street and a 23-year-old's birthday party Saturday night that spilled out of the lobby and down the block until the cops broke it up around 4 am, is my only complaint about the place. Old hotels have old windows, so it got a little noisy during the melée
The hotel is truly a gem. From the little perk at check-in—a frozen tequila shot—to the wine and cheese spread they put out every night, to the understated décor, to the lobby it shares with Millenium (a wonderful vegetarian restaurant with a tasty wine list), I love staying here. The bill adds to my pleasure: only about $100 a night, half of what hotels closer to the Moscone Center wanted. Since it's also only about 500 m from there—a 10-minute walk through Union Square—it was a no-brainer.
Of course, I'm in my third-favorite city on the planet (after Chicago and London), sitting in a hotel lobby. The one day that the conference sessions are truly uninteresting to me is the one day that it's pouring down with rain. It's supposed to let up a bit later, so I may have dinner at the Ferry Building or even, if the spirit (and Muni bus) moves me, Sausalito. And they put out the wine and cheese in an hour.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reports that an enormous block of airspace around Washington is off-limits to general aviation tonight because of the State of the Union Address:
During the president's speech to Congress and the nation, no flights are allowed to or from any of the 21 airports within the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, including pattern work. The special ingress/egress procedures for the "DC-3" airports inside the Flight Restricted Zone are also suspended. Only IFR flights to and from Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airports will be allowed.
This is what security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater."
Via AVWeb: An aviation mechanic crew chief at Istanbul's airport got fired for allowing a ritual camel sacrifice on the tarmac:
A crew of mechanics at Istanbul's airport were so glad to be rid of some trouble-prone British-made airplanes that they sacrificed a camel on the tarmac in celebration—prompting the firing [December 13] of their supervisor.
Turks traditionally sacrifice animals as an offering to God for when their wishes come true.
So...does this mean God did not accept the sacrifice?
The New York Times (reg.req.) has finally picked up a year-old article by security expert Bruce Schneier, taking the TSA to task for concentrating more on theater than actual security:
FOR theater on a grand scale, you can’t do better than the audience-participation dramas performed at airports, under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration.
As passengers, we tender our boarding passes and IDs when asked. We stand in lines. We empty pockets. We take off shoes. We do whatever is asked of us in these mass rites of purification. We play our assigned parts, comforted in the belief that only those whose motives are good and true will be permitted to pass through.
Of course, we never see the actual heart of the security system: the government’s computerized no-fly list, to which our names are compared when we check in for departure. The T.S.A. is much more talented, however, in the theater arts than in the design of secure systems. This becomes all too clear when we see that the agency’s security procedures are unable to withstand the playful testing of a bored computer-science student.
Four billion dollars to airport security that doesn't work. Could we expect anything more from this Administration (762 days, 2 hours left)?
Here's a great idea (via AVweb): using Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a training aid:
Here's how Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid helps aviators get the most out of every hour in the air or the virtual skies:
- Student Pilots can use the information in this book to enhance book-learning, review specific concepts and skills, and in preparing for formal flight instruction.
- Certificated Pilots can complement real-world flying with additional hours in the virtual skies, upgrading flying skills and learning about advanced aircraft and procedures.
- Flight Instructors will discover new ways to use Flight Simulator as a teaching tool in ground school classes and pre- and post-flight briefings.
- Virtual Aviators (Flight Simulator hobbyists) will learn more about real-world flying and enhance their enjoyment of virtual flying.
My dad got a copy of the latest Flight Simulator version for his birthday, and even on his old clunker of a computer it looks incredible. On his computer it's a little jumpy as the display sometimes lags behind the simulation, but if you're training to do holding patterns or instrument approaches, the realistic ground display isn't helpful anyway.
Someday, when I have oodles of time, I may pick up a copy for myself.