Friday, May 19, 2000

More Martin

"I was also conscious of being white, and of having bettered my lot in life considerably. Would this lady, with whom I'd worked as equals, now think I was gloating in some way?"

Martin has written a thought-provoking article on race relations. Check it out.

Unfortunately, Themestream is gone, so the above link doesn't work any more. 24 Mar 2005


Slate has an article about Priceline. Only read it if you are interested in the economic theory behind Priceline.

But definitely do read this article it mentions in eCompany about two staffers' experiences with Priceline and Expedia. Very funny.

JOSH: 8:55 a.m. Skywest propeller plane takes off from Salt Lake City. Notice loose plastic airplane panel skittering about on floor.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Out in the Rain

I had a pretty good afternoon. I skipped out on lunch a little bit early to take advantage of the conference's offer of a free boat trip. Good timing, too, as when the trip was over, conference-goers were lined up pretty deep to get on a boat. I found it interesting that the guide found English to be the most appropriate language for the tour, but it seems like the largest contingent of tourists is from the UK, and others are just as likely to speak English as any other language. The trip was very relaxing, especially since the weather has been very warm here. It's a very attractive town, but the trip just confirmed my belief that the "sights" aren't as interesting as the overall medieval ambiance.

One "sight" that I was particularly interested in seeing was the Belfort (or Belfry). It towers over the Markt, and for 100 BF you can climb it. Sounded cool. So I did. Apparently this is where they kept the important city documents of Brugge after the previous place to do so burned down in the 13th century (oops). The views of the city, and the canal heading north to the Black Sea were quite nice. I hope my pictures captured some of the feeling.

After that exertion, I decided to head back to the hotel to cool off. I felt much better after a couple of hours of rest and decided to head out again. As I was leaving, I noticed a few sprinkles of rain. "Good," I thought, "that'll cool everything off." A few blocks later the rain was coming down harder than anything I had been out in in years, and the water running down my glasses had helped me get lost (OK, and my general knack for getting lost was the main culprit). I was going to duck into the first cafe I saw, but a few minutes later, I was soaked from head to toe, and no cafe was in sight. I pulled out my map, which was disintegrating by the minute, and with the help of my trusty compass made my way back to the hotel.

Half an hour and a complete change of clothes later, I headed back out. I did some present shopping, then decided since I'm getting some form of food at tonight's "rump session" (can't tell you what kind of food, since the rain got to that piece of paper, too), I'd have a light dinner. So I got a small order of fries from a street vendor. I've heard many people say good things about Belgian fries, and let me tell you that they're all true. I even decided to go all the way and get mayonnaise on them (I don't like mayonnaise). It was good! I don't think I could do that at home, unless I became a mayonnaise snob ("Oh, American mayonnaise, yuck!"). So I decided that coming here to Bruges Online was a better diversion than going to the poster session -- I'll have a chance to see the posters in between the two parts of the rump session. But I better head out and see what food and alcohol they're offering before I have to sit through the first part...

If It's Tuesday...

Sorry, but I couldn't resist a quick post just so I could make this reference. I'm continuing to enjoy Brugge. Last night I went out to dinner with 3 other people, including an authentic Dutchman. Since we had said Dutchman with us, we thought we'd be adventurous and try to find a restaurant that didn't have "menus in four languages". No such luck, but it was still an enjoyable dinner. I think we had no luck getting off the tourist path because Brugge is just one big tourist town. Hey, given that I'm a tourist, I won't object. Most of the time. But I did read last week that Belgian linen was very nice, so I thought I'd get myself a linen shirt while I was here. No dice. All I found was overpriced tourist stuff; I think I even passed "The Gap." Nothing wrong with that, but why would I come to Brugge to shop there?

I'm learning my way around town -- one of the things about a medieval city is that there seems to be no direct route from one place to another. We have the afternoon off from the conference, so I'm going to try to climb the Belfort and take advantage of the free boat tour they're offering free w/ the conference. They're closing the comptuer center for lunch, so I'll post this and see what conference food is like today...

Monday, May 15, 2000

Sunday In Brugge

I got to the Brugge train station at around 10:30 yesterday morning. I dragged my suitcase around the cobblestone streets of the town and arrived at my hotel about an hour later. Memo to the authors of Cadogan Bruges: the statement "The maps in this book will provide all the detail you need for this small and compact city" might be true if you labeled the side streets. Thank goodness for my compass, but will this push me over to buying a GPS receiver?

When I arrived at my hotel, my room wasn't going to be ready for another 45 minutes, but they provided me with a place to store my luggage and a map with the side-streets labeled. I used the latter to stroll down to the Markt and have lunch. I chose a restaurant that the Cadogan people derisively refer to as one of "the kinds of restaurants that offer menus in four languages." No matter. I was sitting in an outdoor cafe on a glorious sunny day. I had a view of the Markt square, I was reading a book and enjoying Stella Artois beer, mussels and Staffe Hendrik beer. If I had to die, I thought, forget Las Vegas; I wanted to go like this.

Ater a couple of hours, I wandered back to my hotel. My room was ready, thankfully. And it was gloriously luxurious -- huge bathroom, high ceilings and beautiful furnishings. I took an incredibly relaxing bath. Despite my understanding that it's better for avoiding jetlag to stay up until the next night, I couldn't resist crawling into bed and falling peacefully to sleep.

I woke up a few hours later and thought, "If I have to die, please let it be now." I had one of the worst hangovers I can remember having. Only the time I made the mistake of drinking a "Skullsplitter" right before going to be really compares. I noticed that registration still had a couple of hours to go, so I tried to sleep it off. Marginally better. I got dressed and made my way through town to registration. Having done that, I made my way back through the city to the reception, which was being held in the town hall. I didn't manage to eat very much at the reception, although I'm sure everything was good. I chatted with a colleague, excused myself, browsed the proceedings, and headed back to the hotel. I bought a Coke on the way back, and that pretty much settled my head and stomach back to normal. I watched some CNN and, exhausted, fell asleep. I woke up this morning, nicely on Belgium time. So my new method of adjusting yourself to a new timezone: a hangover. I probably won't try that on the way back, though.


Greetings from Belgium

Hi from Brugge, where I'm on a coffee break between talks at the conference. Since I don't drink coffee, well, this seemed like an appopriate use of my time. (Y'know, instead of actually talking to people.)

The flight over was the smoothest transatlantic flight I can remember. These direct flights are really cool. The only new things for me were the 2-3-2 seating arrangement (yay, no center seat for me) and the video monitor on the back of the seat in front of me. I dropped my headphones pretty early into the flight, so I set the monitor to show the map/airspeed/time display the whole trip. I really love that display.

The train ride from Brussels to Brugge was also uneventful. I was suprised that I managed to make the connections without screwing things up somehow. My impressions of the entire country of Belgium based on that one little trip...It seems very generically European. I mean, if you were going to make a movie set in "Europe", I think Belgium would be a great choice. It has no national character instantly identifiable to Americans, like England, France or Germany would. But it has the old buildings, the new, ugly-looking buildings, the signs, the people...the same intangibles that I've come to associate with Europe. The fact that I heard a wide variety of languages...French, Dutch, German, English, only adds to that impression.

Incidentally, I like wandering around in a country where I don't speak the language. I have that same vague sense of not knowing what's going on that I get when I'm in any unfamiliar place. Only I have an excuse...I don't know what the heck anyone's saying. In Brugge, there's the advantage that when I need to communicate, most people actually do speak English. Whoops, time for the next talk. More later.