All 8 entries tagged Holidays

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July 07, 2004


Pretty. Hadn't noticed this effect when i took the picture, but I guess photography is a bit like that at times. The pillar this statue sits on was made of a black, marble like stone which was very reflective and the camera has actually picked up quite a lot of detail that I missed when I took it (probably because the camera wasn't walking around with a squint because of the bright sunshine!).

The shot has ended up capturing the reflection of the trees in central park – this statue sits on the entrance where central park south hits avenue of the americas and is of Jose de San Martin, an argentinian general and south american liberator (click on the image for a larger sized version).

July 05, 2004


When I was younger, I used to go to 5th of November fireworks displays not far from home (which was Hatfield, in Herts) at a park in Stanborough. I remember these quite vividly, since perhaps due to my age (very, very young – they stopped when I was around 7 years old) seemed to be huge affairs. I also remember burning my hand on a sparkler (do they even sell those these days?) which helps slightly, I suppose.

Last night (4th July being Independence Day) I wandered down to the east river to join the crowds watching the Macy’s annual fireworks display. This was a truly grand affair – there were three different launching sites (one on the east river not far from UN plaza, one further up and for the first time for quite some time, one near to the statue of liberty) firing off in total around 32,000 shells. I was down by Trump tower watching the display from there (it’s a few blocks down from my hotel so rather convenient) and it reminded me of those earlier displays. There were thousands of people watching the display, crowding out most of the local streets, and the atmosphere was pretty electric. I ended up giving a piggy back to a kid whose mother had her hands (or more to the point, shoulders!) full already. Definitely the highlight of my trip – a few more photos are up in
one of my galleries.

Can’t believe I am leaving tomorrow – still so much I’ve not managed to do. On the bright side, gives me an excuse to come back again, of course!

May 29, 2004

Return Flight

So, my powerbook died shortly after my last posting – the screen blanked, the box itself became very ominously quiet. After a couple of attempts at reviving it, I gave up and instead headed for the Apple Store downtown first thing in the morning to see if they could help. Thankfully, it's still under warranty (which they could tell) and after a little pleading they took it in to the service centre. I picked it up late yesterday afternoon (Friday) – the logic board had died, apparently – freshly replaced it's working fine (this made for an interesting discussion at check-in, since one of the security questions is whether or not any of your electronic devices have recently been repaired!)

So, I have a whole batch of photos still to upload – I went to the Golden Gate on Tuesday, and Yosemite on Thursday. Yesterday (Friday) was shopping day and I think I managed to melt all of my credit cards.

It's now only about 10 minutes before I board my return flight; am currently at SFO International using the t-mobile wireless provided here, which is pretty good in comparison to the services I've used at Heathrow and Birmingham International. Here it costs $9.99 for a days unlimited use – at Heathrow, by contrast, it was 4.99 for 30 minutes use!

May 26, 2004

21/5 (Day 4) Afternoon

After wrapping up at HP, we departed for our afternoon trip to the Napa Valley. We headed back into San Francisco and then straight out across the Bay Bridge (connecting SF with Oakland) heading towards wine country – the Napa Valley. Crossing the bridge our tour guide told us about the major project (already underway) to replace it with another bridge in approximately the same location, more like the golden gate bridge – the bay bridge is a two storey construction (from SF to Oakland you drive on the lower part, in the other direction you return on the upper part) and it's being replaced with a side-by-side bridge (the golden gate has three lanes in each direction). The replacement bay bridge is costing a mammoth $4 billon – it's a big engineering undertaking and as you cross the current bridge, you get some appreciation of why the replacement is this expensive.

Our first stop was the Artesa Winery in Carneros; this was founded in the early nineties to create sparkling wine but has recently shifted to producing mostly still wines. We had a tour of the winery as well as some obligatory tastings.

Second port of call was the Domaine Carneros Winery , owned by the Tattinger group. This is housed in a replica of the country home of the Tattinger family, Chateau de la Marquetterie – although unlike the Chateau most of the building is taken up with wine production and storage facilities. It doesn't look as out of place as you'd expect, either!

Here they produce more of a mix, including champagne-like sparkling wines (produced using the method, but not in the region so not entitled to the name). One thing I hadn't realised was that whilst Dom Perignon made the first champagne, it was a cloudy drink – the sediment wasn't removed. It was down to another winemaker, Madame Clicquot (Veuve Clicquot), to devise the process of 'riddling'; storing the bottles neck down, gradually rotating them and finally freezing the liquid in the neck of the bottle to remove the sediment (which had settled there) – resulting in the clear drink we recognise today.

Finally, we headed into Sonoma itself for our dinner, at the 'Generals Daughter' restaurant, which made a nice end to the day. I actually managed to eat my entire meal here (which included fantastic Fillet Mignon) – probably more to becoming accustomed to the oversized portions of everything they serve here rather than anything else!

Bill and Dave's Excellent Offices

While I was at HP labs in Palo Alto, what struck me most was how 'retro' the interior of the building was (okay, that's a polite way of saying it looked like chunks of our campus did in the late '70s if the pictures I've seen are to be believed!) – a marked difference to the highly polished corporate style customer centre in Cupertino.

It turns out that to some extent this is deliberate.

Where this is especially the case is in the offices of the founders of the company, Bill Hewlett and David Packard (it was, apparently, down to nothing more than a toss of a coin that resulted in 'hp' rather than 'ph'). When hp's corporate HQ moved from the labs both decided to stay and make the transition into retirement, rather than relocate. They also declined to have their office's renovated when parts of the rest of the labs were done – they felt it was an unnecessary extravagance.

I got some shots of the offices whilst I was there. The top row are of Dave Packards Office. He was a staunch republican (in one there is a signed photograph of George Bush senior, thanking him for the work he did serving on various DOD committees. There's also a signed photograph of the Queen and Prince Phillip beside it). He had a deep love of nature (both owned a ranch in San Felipe); the floor in both offices is natural cork. Not visible from the pictures is the evidence of the 'open door policy' that was one of the hallmarks of the 'hp way' – the wood behind the open door is several shades darker than that in the rest of the room, having not been exposed to the sunlight anywhere near as much as the rest of the room.

The bottom row show Bill Hewlett's office. On his desk is loose change; one of the stories that's told recounts an occassion when Bill left some loose change on his desk. A visitor asked him why he didn't pick it up – assuming it would be stolen if just left there. Bill left the change, saying that he trusted the people he worked with. Sure enough, it didn't get stolen and it's now traditional for visitors to leave their spare change on the desk, which is collected up periodically and donated to charity. On one of the walls is a reproduction of a quilt commissioned by Bill's family which used to cover the entire wall – this was returned to the family after his death.

One other snippet we picked up while there – you may have noticed of late that hp don't brand themselves as Hewlett Packard anymore. This isn't an accident; the merger with Compaq was massively unpopular with the two families (Compaq has a corporate culture which is almost the antithesis of that of HP) and once it went through, no longer wanted the family names associated with the company.

21/5 (Day 4) Morning

This was the last full day of the trip for most of the group (actually, all of the group except for lucky me!). In the morning we headed off – in somewhat overcast weather – for our final trip to HP Labs @ Palo Alto. There were a couple of different sessions, this time very focused on the education sector. The best of these was the final one; a video conference / discussion with the CTO of Georgia Tech University. This was about their campus wireless network (called LAWN, Local Area Wireless Network) and how they've developed it over a period of years.

What was most suprising was that we (Warwick and a good few of the other Universities represented there) are not very far behind them. Where they are ahead is in scale (they have over 500 wireless access points; we're going to be at about 100 by the end of the year) and in having a rather clever setup for visitors/guests done in conjunction with a commercial partner. They use a feature of the Cisco basestations they have installed (we use the same range at Warwick) to run two different wireless networks each over different vLANs. One of these is their 'University' wireless lan (protected with a wireless gateway much like our own, albeit a homegrown one rather than an off the shelf product); the other traffic is sent back to a commercial provider who provide all the authentication, billing and (more importantly) support infrastructure. This sounded like a model that would suit us very well – something else to look at when I get back.

We wrapped up after a short discussion amongst the group about one of the major issues most University's in the UK are facing (student ownership of PCs and laptops in particular) and then bade farewall to the labs, heading off for an afternoon in the Napa Valley – by which time the weather had picked up (phew!)

May 21, 2004

19/5 – 20/5 (Day 2 and 3)

A roundup of the past two days (it's 5:30pm PDT now and we've just got back to the hotel). On the trip there yesterday we were each presented with the obligatory NDAs to sign, so details here will be necessarily sketchy, except for things which are public anyway.

Yesterday was spent at HP - morning in their Cupertino offices, afternoon at HP labs in Palo Alto. Without a shadow of a doubt the afternoon was the highlight of the day. HP labs appear to have survived the merger relatively unscathed – at least outwardly – and are carrying on with some really innovative (and in some cases genuinely 'blue skies') research activities. Amidst these were some signs of developments that we really need to get a handle on soon (machine virtualisation being one in particular) as well as some we already have (a bit reassuring!).

Aside from the various presentations and demo's, we also had a quick tour of the labs including visiting the offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. The day was wrapped up with a presentation about HPs nano-scale computing research, which was fascinating stuff.

Today, back to HP labs again this morning for more stuff; this time about rich media – video conferencing, streaming, coding/encoding and the infrastructures they are researching to support the potentially explosive use of these technologies. This was followed by a talk about their work researching different types of new mobile computing devices and their possible uses (do a search for 'cooltown' on the HP labs site to dig out some papers on the types of activity they are working on).

Then, it was off to Santa Clara to BEAs head offices; the three presentations on their 'web infrastructure' platform (weblogic) were okay, and they did have a tough act to follow. Not sure how relevant this was to us – there were some interesting messages buried in there, but BEA themselves admitted they haven't yet worked out their strategy for the UK education market yet so it was perhaps a bit too generic. There are only so many times you can be told about how a bank managed to save $5 million dollars on a project before you start to switch off!

Tomorrow should be good – we are back at HPL in the morning, but in the afternoon we depart for the wine country; into the Napa Valley to visit some vineyards and off to Sonomo for our final evening meal. With any luck I should get a chance to take some photos tomorrow with my new HP digital camera!

May 20, 2004

18/5 (Day 1)

Got here! Flight was fine (thanks in no small part to the magic of antiference – thanks John !) and airport security no big shakes – certainly not as bad as I'd feared or been told, although I did redo my visa waiver form on the plane when I realised I'd messed the original one up!

Arrived at hotel by about 3:00pm PDT and after dumping luggage I met up with the rest of the party at a sports bar down the road to recover. About 6:45 we headed out for dinner at a local seafood resturant, with a fairly stunning view of the bay and Alcatraz (which looks much smaller than I'd always imagined – I'll see more when I go on the tour this Sunday).

Hit the sack at 10:00pm – largely prompted by a combination of sleep deprivation, alcohol and having to be in the hotel lobby at 6:40am this morning to get the coach to HP's Cupertino offices (more on this in the next post). More later!

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