Arrived!

I’m sitting in the United Airlines executive lounge in Sydney, Australia now, awaiting a connecting flight to Melbourne, where I’ll be spending the first few days of my trip. It’s now 8:30 AM on Sunday the 17th, after having left Vancouver at 6:30-ish PM on Friday the 15th. Travelling across the Date Line is odd.

It started pretty eventfully. When I got to the airport, I wasn’t allowed to check in, as the plane ‘was in suspension’. Apparently that’s the term for when there’s something wrong with the intended plane, and they have to get another one. So instead of an airbus, I flew out on a 767. Worse, while sitting at the gate, there was a further delay, as the pilot ‘wasn’t happy with the condition of the plane’. Eventually, however, we all boarded, and I settled into a comfy business class seat for the trip to Hawaii. It’s quite the difference: getting on the plane, I’m immediately offered a choice of champagne, water or orange juice (I chose juice: I don’t like to drink while flying, I dehydrate enough as it is). The saeat is large, although I’m annoyed that the footrest is slightly too short, meaning my ankles and feet dangle off the edge. Also, this being an old-ish plane, we don’t each have little individual tv sets, just the big ones in the middle, both of which are having some serious color issues. But anyhoo. The flight, some 6 hours, passed uneventfully. I watched parts of The Bourne Identity, which I’d seen before, played some Civ 3 for a while, then settled down to read my book (Rick Moody’s Demonology, which so far, has proven excellent), listening to some music.

Arriving in Honolulu, I had to clear US customs for some reason, seeing as I was going to be there all of 1.75 hours. I was to meet my dad here, and did so, while waiting in line to get into the gate for our flight on to Sydney. Honolulu’s airport is a little creepy: it’s open air. It’s also feels like the set of a 1970’s surf movie, with weird wood panelling everywhere, and super laid-back staff. Also disturbingly, there was a sign as we were going through the little x-ray area that the FTAA has determined that the security here is not up to snuff, so procede at your own risk (I paraphrase here).

The next leg was a 10-hour flight, which fortunately, is long enough that one can get a good 6-8 hours sleep, and read your book, which I did (they gave out those nice little travel cleaning kits, with eye-covers and earplugs, which really help too). So that flight, despite it’s length, actually passed pretty quickly (the being in business class with excellent room helped).

I’m being called to board my next flight on to Melbourne, so I’m outta here for now.

Downtown Disney

When I heard about ‘Downtown Disney’, I’d imagined that there would be some streets, many, many hotels, some restaurants. Essentially, a small community geared for tourists in the middle of the Disney World acreage. It would look, I thought, like a strip mall, only perhaps a little Disney-fied. But I was totally wrong.

Downtown Disney is a massive, sanitized outdoor mall. It has restaurants (all themed!), stores (some touristy, some practical), theatres, etc. It is a crushingly Capitalist experience, where every aspect you feel has been commoditized, market-tested and is now being brought to you by the friendly folks at Disney. There is a dull uniformity of the buildings — no two look alike, yet they somehow all blend into each other seemlessly — but not in a pleasant, Old World kind of way. There are 2 lynchpins holding the place together: at one end, the massive, permanent, faux-big-top that houses the Cirque de Soleil’s ‘La Nouba’ production. At the other end, is the ‘World of Disney’, a Wal-Mart sized store that sells nothing bu Disney-branded merchandise. The store itself is divided up into themed rooms (“I’ll meet in you in the Villans Room” (Where they of course sell jewellry, à la Cruelle DeVille), or “Mommy, I want to go to the Pooh Room!” (which of course is full of baby apparel)).

Sequestered in this mall is Pleasure Island, aka ‘Disney for Adults’. It is a collection of nightclubs, each featuring a different genre of music, geared to be safe for middle-class, suburban America. You pay one cover price before entering Pleasure Island, and then can club-hop all night long. Neither Leah nor I had any interest in venturing within, but we could see the buildings all had the same look as theme park themed buildings do: an incredibly designed fake, where if you wanted, you could pretend momentarily you’re somewhere else, without ever losing that safe, I’m-at-home-in-America feeling.

Noticeably, I never once felt unsafe there. It was so … perfect. It was crowded, there were throngs of people milling, I only saw one security guard, and there were no signs anywhere telling me to watch my purse or camera or what have you. There was none of the fear/alertness that comes from wandering around the downtown core of any real city, which while at one level was comforting, I found mostly too disturbing. With Celebration just a few minutes down the road, I realised that I was in the mall/shopping district equivalent of a gated community.

I’d thought that this was perhaps a uniquely Disney thing. But no. On Tuesday night, we went to Universal Studios for a conference do there in the evening. Saddled outside Universal Studios, after a long drive, was yet another one of these weired theme-commerce malls. And it was packed, absolutlely packed. This one featured an Emeril restaurant, the Official Nascar restaurant, a massive Hard Rock Cafe, an NBA restaurant and numerous other things. Again, all very clean and sanitized and safe.

I’m not convinced I can even put into words how and why these places disturbed me so much. Perhaps because of the rampant, crazed commercialism surrounding me. Perhaps because there were simply so many people. Perhaps because they’re so tastefully designed, and absolutely soulless. Perhaps because on one hand, I truly liked that I felt absolutely safe wandering around in them. I knew, immediately, that if I had kids, I wouldn’t worry nearly so much about them hanging out at the mall, if these were the malls that they were hanging out in. Which is sad. Tellingly, the only ‘alt.’-looking kids I saw were a few german punks, who looked as if they were being tailed quite openly by a security guard. Everyone else looked like your average middle-class, conservatively-dressed American.

Orlando, in Brief

I’m back in town!

I’ll probably post more detail things about specific items later, but here’s a glimpse of the things I got up to down in Central Florida:

  • Went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, and enjoyed it.
  • Went to the Kennedy Space Centre, which rocked (I later met the NASA webteam, which was also cool).
  • Spent a day at DisneyQuest, which is too cool for school, and makes Playdium look like your Grandma’s arcade.
  • Actually went to Macromedia DevCon 2002, which was so fantastic — I learned so much; got jazzed by new tips, tricks, features, etc; met some real nice people (and loved sitting down and talking code with other folk); learned about a super cool new product coming out (Project Ringo) that’ll make virtually every web-consultant’s life much easier; and more.
  • Got certified as ColdFusion MX Developer, and narrowly missed getting the Advanced tag on there
  • Generally had a blast down there with my honey.

More later, including hopefully some pics!

Orlando-ho!

Leah and I are off to Orlando today, for the Macromedia DevCon 2002 (well, I’m going for that. Shes’ going because I am and for a vacation). I’m quite excited, and looking forward to learning more about Cold Fusion MX & Flash MX integration, advanced SQL Server tips & theories, coding for accessibility, and the various other topics I’ll be learning about. In addition, I hope to come back a Cold Fusion MX certified developer, although seeing as I go down without ever having used the new version of CF, I doubt I’ll feel ready to take the exam.

Brian has kindly agreed to serve the cats while we’re away, and look for some spiffy updates to his site by me in thanks when I return.

A’s Win!

Yesterday, Stuart and I watched Miguel Tejada hit a game-winning 3-run home run on TV to extend the Oakland A’s’ winning streak to 18 games. With the American league record set at 19 games, we decided that we would go to the game today (despite their streak and the penant race, for some reason, Oakland A’s games don’t sell out in Oakland – indeed, even today, they were probably only half-full). The game was excellent. The A’s were playing the Royals, who quickly built a 5-0 lead, while their pitcher (Hernandez?) no-hit the A’s through 5. then, over 2 innings, the A’s came back to take a 6-5 lead. In the 8th, however, the Royals tied it up, which led to the ninth. Terence Long led off the bottom of the ninth for the A’s with a triple. The Royals then intentionally walked the bases loaded, to get the force out at home. The next batter grounded to second and indeed, the Royals got the runner coming home, keeping the game alive. They were now only one double-play away from getting out of the inning, with Miguel Tejada coming to bat. After yesterday’s heroics, the question was: could he do it again? And with the crowd roaring the M-V-P chant I’ve been hearing on the TV since I arrived here (my brother is a big A’s fan – after watching parts of a couple of games, and this entire one, I can understand why), Tejada came through, smacking a single up the middle to win the game, squeaking through the pulled-in infield (the Royals had even brought in one of their outfielders to plug up the gap, to no avail). The crowd went nuts, the chorus of M-V-P reverberating around the stadium while Stuart and I made our exit. It truly was excellent. I, unfortunately, continued my bad tourist ways in that I forgot my camera for the second day in a row. So no pictures of the game, or yesterday’s zoo visit, but upon my return, a trip summary will be forthcoming, as well as what photos I do have. A warning to potential viewers, however: a professional photographer I am not. Hopefully, I’m at least a decent snap-shot taker.

Image upload test

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That’s a photo from way back when, on a trip up to the Sunshine coast. See the sunshine? Isn’t it pretty. Yes, yes it is. Anyhoo, Perhaps there will now be some pictures uploaded now and then taken by YT. Maybe I’ll get fancy and even give them their own page, like all the cool kids do.

This audacity is the result of an upgrade to MT 2.11, which is swell. But I think I prefered the old icons of the system. These new ones, with their fancy text are far too user-friendly, and I no longer feel like part of the digital elite who could figure out what it all meant.