Gegenschein 101 June 2004

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Friday 30 January 2004

Up at 5 a.m. so we could drive off towards Townsville before 6 a.m. Jean had a medical appointment. Although the timing was now inconvenient, so too was any date we could imagine shifting it to.

The trip was boring, as you would imagine with 300 km on a road we had seen many times before. Made good time, with a brief stop for a snack, and pulled into Stocklands shopping centre around 10 a.m. We were able to get rid of various paperwork at the medical insurance places there, and I was again impressed by their efficiency. We also found a champagne bottle stopper at the first kitchenware store we tried. That should ensure the missing one turns up soon. I at least had the pleasure of getting a few books at the sale in the mall before we drove off to Jean's appointment.

Medical appointments are much the same. Arrive on time and sit and wait way past your schedule. We both had books to read, of course. We got away about two hours after the appointment was scheduled, which was actually a little earlier than our plan had called for.

This left us time to visit Dick Smith, where I bought my annual bulk supply of AA alkaline batteries while they were on special at $20 for 40. The temperature in the carpark would fry eggs. At the Castletown shopping centre we tried the Target for swimming costumes, but again had no luck. Even the newsagents didn't have much of interest. By then it was after the lunch rush, so we headed for the nearby Sizzler. Luckily I recalled Jean had a seniors card, so we got a nice discount. Unfortunately, we both think the salad choices are in decline (or at least, no longer to our taste) so I think we may lessen our enthusiasm for structuring long trips around a Sizzler meal.

Back to Stocklands shopping centre for the remaining medical paperwork. Then it was the long drive home. As we got away from Townsville just after 3 p.m. we were home before 7 p.m.

No space for parking the car in our usual spot. The last space under the building was very confined, and it took me several minutes to get the car into it. This was not helped by a badly parked car alongside the last space. However it is a reasonably good spot to leave the car for the next few months.

At home we did last minute packing. I finally managed to get my ISP account cancelled. The prospect of returning to something like 8000 spams (plus two monthly accounts as the only genuine email) somehow didn't appeal! Of course, that optimistically assumes the spam doesn't increase again. I'll worry about how to connect to the internet again after I return home. We may have so much travel to do it isn't worth connecting again soon.

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Sydney, in transit

Saturday 31 January

We spent the morning on last minute packing and errands. I made a couple of trips with our large bags to deliver them to luggage storage at reception, in case it rained when we were leaving. The other errand included getting a Subway so we didn't starve during the flight. The really unfortunate thing is that we didn't have packing space in our bags for additional normal clothes, so we were wearing long trousers and shoes. This is totally inappropriate to the Whitsundays in what is the worst possible time of the year. Luckily the airport bus was airconditioned.

The Proserpine Airport was stinking hot, and about as humid as a sauna. Not having airconditioning is fine 80% of the year, but today was exceptionally bad. We had about an hour of that before we could board the plane. As usual I had problems with security, as my shoes set off their detectors. I'm totally pissed off with airport security, and strongly suspect my encounters with US airport security will be enough to make me decide not to travel there again.

Our flight was DJ674 on Virgin to Sydney. I decided that despite looking wonderful, the seats in the Boeing 737-700 were the most uncomfortable I'd encountered. Just totally wrong for my body. My left leg was giving me a lot of trouble within minutes of sitting down.

We got very lucky at Sydney, getting the hotel shuttle within minutes of emerging from the airport building. Here at least street clothes were fine, as it wasn't all that warm.

All the phone calls we got were at bad times. On the (noisy) bus to hotel, just as we reached the reception desk and were trying to book in. My phone didn't seem to be receiving SMS, or at least Jean got an SMS that was originally intended for me.

We stayed at Pacific International Hotel, 717 George Street, Sydney. We hadn't been here before, but it seemed pretty comfortable, very convenient to Chinatown, just around the corner from Aarons where we usually stay.

Jean made her own arrangements for her Sunday afternoon entertainment.

We had dinner with Kerrie Dougherty at a nice Italian place on Harris and MaryAnn Streets, near the Powerhouse Museum. Like us, Kerrie was about to travel overseas, however she was doing things like space university. It was great to hear all she had been doing on space projects and at the museum. The food was sufficient that I could hardly finish my pizza.

Sunday 1 Februry 2004

We gave up on checking Manly, and instead went Penjing (Chinese scenery in a pot) hunting at the Teahouse Pavilion, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Darling Harbour. They had an exhibition by Phil Tot, called Big Garden, Small Garden. The Chinese Garden is a wonderful little maze of tranquility and calm in the midst of the city. The meandering paths by slow moving streams and open pagodas a distraction from the bite of mosquitos that breed in droves in the stagnant water.

At 11 a.m. many streets around Chinatown were closed for the Chinese New Year Parade. We had a good vantage point to see many of the dragons, big and small. There was some nice footwork by many of the marchers, including a two person dragon doing rolls, and others where the dragon head stood on the shoulders of the next person. It made a very colourful parade.

Jean went off to her appointment. I had lunch with John August and David Bofinger at Italian place on Mary Ann. It was good catching up with them, especially David who had been in the UK for a year. Stayed talking for a while, and then went with them to where John had left the car by a park about three suburbs away. A bit of desultory Frisbee throwing followed, but it was too hot. I was astonished to learn of a fitness test for work including 20 sit-ups, 20 pushups and 2.5km in 15 minutes.

I noticed a road to Broadway shopping, so I visited and found the Collins Book super store on the top floor. It certainly was impressive, and I got myself several books. Jean subsequently said one of them we already had, but it isn't on my lists.

Visited a Telstra store to check on potential replacement phones for my clunky Ericsson SH888. The tiny Samsung S500 GPRS has a clock on the outside, and a fancy 128 by 160 colour screen inside. It specifically mentions IrDA, but does not say it has a data adaptor. The even fancier triband Nokia 6600 has a VGA camera and video, Symbian 7 OS, Bluetooth, infrared (IrDA not mentioned), a WAP browser, Java, SyncML, PC Suite, with a 176 by 208 two inch 65k colour screen and MMC memory card. I think I ended up more confused rather than less. The stores keep assuring me all sorts of things, like Bluetooth, work flawlessly with everything. However that is not what I hear in reviews.

Read books, and got through my second one since the trip began. Just as well I'd bought three more.

Monday 2 February 2004

Bus to Circular Quay on a DayTrip ticket, which Jean had discovered on the internet described as the best value. Confusion at ferry wharf, as sign says the Parramatta ferry leaves at 9, however the River Cat at the wharf went only as far as Rydalmere (the first stop on the Parramatta ferry). The RiverCat next in the queue did however go to Parramatta. It made a very pleasant trip along the river, and we had seats on the outside deck at the front, so we had a great view.

Graham Stone phoned while we were travelling, so I'll see him at the restaurant this evening.

Our Parramatta visit was for financial advice, and went very well. Much better than the previous few disaster years of stock market declines. Must have been some sort of birthday present to me.

Visited the Lifestyle store in Riverside shopping centre to look at sound and video systems, but wasn't real impressed. I did get the chance however to see what the Henry Koss radios looked like. They were certainly larger than I had imagined. Interesting they attract the prices they do. I was soon dragged off for lunch at Riverside, where as a birthday treat I had a slice of chocolate mud cake instead of a sandwich. Actually an increasing number of stores sell strange (to me) fancy foods, but can't seem to put together a decent sandwich. Luckily I'm having a healthy dinner.

Rivercat back to city. At the Harbour Bridge we could see climbers from a tour group on the arch. Rain as we left the bus back through town at 3 p.m. However at least that all moderated the temperatures.

Visited UTS, to see about organising a lunch on Tuesday. Found Ron S was away at a conference. Saw Yakov Z, who filled me in on the news, like Jeff H, Graeme C and Gordon M having retired, and Geoff S being head of department. Saw Brian S, Layna G, Lindsay B, Narelle S. Seemed that Lindsay was running a new research area on ultra high speed (100GHz) optical communications. That should be a nice fit to all the communications activity happening all over the world.

Visited another hifi dealer on the way back to the hotel. I noticed more LCD TVs that doubled as computer monitors. That sounds attractive to me, in terms of decreasing the quantity and size of gadgets around the apartment. Also noted many of what appeared to be DVD players now also did MP3 and a half dozen other sound formats, most of which I've neither heard nor heard of. Guess I'll have to learn more about what is out there when it is time to replace any broken gadgets. However basically I remain unimpressed by sound players of any sort.

Dinner on my birthday was scheduled to be in the Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ at 469 Kent Street. When we arrived at 6 p.m. the place was empty, as I expected. Organising a table for six was easy, with space to expand. John and Diane Fox arrived first, then Graham Stone, closely followed by Warren Nichols. Having filled that table Sarah Murray White got us the adjoining table, while Womble and Gerald Smith arrived last. I thought the location went well for the nine of us. It appears Mongolian warriors do not listen to background music.

Sarah asked about digital cameras, so I showed her my Pentax, and encouraged her to photograph everyone at the table. I thought that worked rather well. Graham told of his sad decision to get rid of the bulk of his book collection, a task that often proves difficult. Not just the decision, hard enough though that is, but also in finding anyone willing to buy such large collections in a timely manner.

Diane detailed two pieces of fan fiction using every fantasy cliche ever used, plus fetishes. When Jean asked if she had missed any cliche, Diane considered this and allowed that she didn't think she had missed any. Since Diane had also talked about her karate, I thought it wiser not to say anything cutting about fantasy. Warren told of his children's education. Jean harassed Gerald about the tax department. I think we stayed talking until well after nine p.m.

Tuesday 3 February 2004

After breakfast I left Jean to her own meetings and went wandering about to find computer places in George Street. The best collection of computer places were in Central Plaza, on the floor above the street. It was like a miniature Hong Kong street, with narrow passages, and ill lit stores all piled high with boxes of gear. Great stuff, and startling prices for someone more used to country prices. 80GB hard drives under A$100, plus much more. If we get to Sydney by car, I may go on a shopping spree.

I visited my former workmate Martin at Disney. As predicted his office had moved to a much nicer corner of the building. Despite his claims it was as messy as when we worked at UTS, it actually seemed a very tidy and well organised operation. I was impressed by the control the pressure sensitive touch screens gave to an artist, with the width of a brush stroke depending fluidly on the pressure they exerted. I must check to see whether the touch screen on this Psion PDA provides pressure information, or only position.

Martin and I walked over to UTS, via the much revised rail tunnel. I had no idea where it extended, and was surprised to find an entrance at the UTS Design and Architecture Building. When we crossed the air bridge to Building One, Martin spotted Helen in the lobby so we had a chance to chat with her. My old boss Barry came through the lobby, hurrying to the lunch we hadn't yet gone to. On the 15th floor we found Brian and Layna collecting people, dragged Lindsay off (just like old times). I phoned John and also Gordon who arrived a little later, as did Narelle, so we all ate at DAB cafe.

Had a long talk afterwards with Gordon on detecting student cheating in programming assignments automatically, something he has worked on the past few years, and now for a PhD. He seemed very happy to have gotten out of the PC support area. Well, who could blame him?

After five I met Andrew Baluk and Mark Lovelock and talked while they had dinner at the Chinese Market. It was interesting noting how esoteric some of the PC technologies now seem to me, now that I no longer see nor care much about what is happening in the hardware world.

Rushed off to my dinner at 7:30 with Cathy Hardman, Brian Spilsbury and his wife, plus Jean and I, again at the Italian place, where we stayed until about 10 p.m.

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Wednesday 4 February 2004

Raining in the morning when I took a walk. We didn't do much. Just prepared for the trip, packed bags again and silly stuff like that. We got the shuttle bus to the airport at 11:25, which seemed really silly for a 3 p.m. flight. The very small bus was crammed with very small people, which was better than being crammed with very large people, I guess. Being the last passengers, we had little choice of seats. Jean got the good one, and I crammed into the back with four of us across the seat. Luckily the airport is close.

The queue at United wasn't large, but neither were the number of staff at the counter. I think I was probably there for about a half hour. Jean, having upgraded to business class, was through her (segregated) queue in about a quarter the time. The customs entry and then the security check went pretty quick, not that many passengers were there.

I was randomly selected for checking for bomb making. I think perhaps because the security guy liked my "You are here, your luggage is over here" T shirt. Very neat little gas chromatograph detection setup, and remarkably quick at scanning the filter paper when the guard fed it in. Any terrorist with more than two brain cells (possibly a tautology in itself) would be looking at non-nitrogen based explosives, I'd imagine (and no, I'm not going to give any hints, even if they occur to me).

Jean managed to talk me into the United Red Carpet Club, which was a welcome haven from the general airport ambience (blaring loudspeakers giving messages I had no interest in). Since I'm trying to lose weight (the long trousers I packed for the trip, and never wear at home, were too tight for me), I restricted myself to having a slice of ham on a slice of bread. I hoped that will carry my through from cereal at breakfast to whatever culinary delights the flight provides.

The meal wasn't bad. I always like a meal that includes a piece of chocolate mud cake. The flight was not very full, although not such that there were whole rows empty. No wonder United offered companion fares on it. The space between seats was much better than on say the Virgin aircraft. As expected, I had a lot of trouble with cramps in my left thigh. Certainly couldn't get any sleep on the long flight.

Immigration and customs at San Francisco had only the one flight arriving, so passage through them was quick. Baggage collection was less quick, since my bag had probably been loaded very early, and thus unloaded last.

Lacey - Wednesday 4 February 2004

By the time we reached Seattle I was almost asleep. Luckily our luggage soon arrived, and we scuttled out via very convoluted paths known to Jean to the parking floor where the shuttle bus was expected. Our timing was perfect, with only a few minutes to the hour. The drive down I5 seemed very long, but was probably not more than 90 minutes.

Upon arriving at her mother's place, Jean quickly located all available food supplies, and set about making a meal of some frozen chicken and vegetables. Someone has her priorities. We talked about what we could remove from the house, and what we could pack for her mother's move.

Thursday 5 February 2004

After breakfast we gathered a world globe to give to the Panorama City library, plus art materials for the art room. Luckily the car (a Suburban) is large. Indeed, it is so large that Jean can't open the passenger door from the driver's seat, but has to use the key from outside.

While we visited Panorama City we inspected the apartment Jean's mother was to occupy. Several people were still working on it, with cupboards being repaired. It looked in good shape, but we were probably trying to fit a quart in a pint pot to judge by the quantity of material in the house. We all took notes, but still missed some items (what material was the kitchen floor and bathroom made of?)

Our plans to collect cardboard packing boxes and paper padding were set back when the house where they were stored was discovered to have a changed lock. Fran, the Panorama City person, was not amused that she had not been told.

We had lunch at the restaurant at Panorama City, which was pretty good, and convenient for residents in the apartments, since you could reach it without going outside in the cold.

After returning home, Jean and I set out to Fred Meyers to do some food shopping. Some themes don't change with Jean. By then it was getting late, but after unloading the food we did find we could collect the cardboard boxes and packing supplies. That just about filled the Suburban.

Friday 6 February 2004

We managed to get about 9 boxes assembled, filled, sealed and recorded by lunchtime. Little green stickers, indicating this was to be moved, littered the furniture. We had about 14 boxes done by the time we ran short of tape. There was also a pile of goods for a charity, which came that afternoon and removed a nice pile of stuff.

Jean and I went to Office Depot for mass supplies of tape, and then continued via a convoluted route to a furniture place nearby. To our delight, this seemed to have suitable stuff for the new apartment (smaller furniture, to replace massive furniture). We returned home and collected Jean's mother so she could decide whether they would work for her. About an hour later we had that all arranged.

Now we just need to know when the move can take, which I guess mostly depends upon the carpenters and other people working on the apartment. Also, we have to hope we can get all the packing done before the apartment is ready. We are doing better than I expected, as I recall how much work I put in before I moved (mind you, I had 157 boxes of books), and how very long it seemed to take to gather things to move, and get rid of things that would not be moved.

We celebrated progress over the two days with a glass of champagne before dinner. Given our jet lag, that probably wasn't the smartest thing to do.

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Saturday 7 February 2004

More packing of boxes, despite Jean and I feeling wrecked from jet lag. Things were much slower now that the previously selected things were running out. We got to box 26, but that included bulk stuff like the computer, before giving up around 4 p.m. Had a visitor that evening who took a few books away.

Sunday 8 February 2004

We are now trying to concentrate the full boxes into a few areas. We especially need to move things hidden in cupboards out into the open, but that leaves us far less space in which to move and pack. So we are also trying to get things that will not move back into any empty closet spaces out of the way.

Jean contacted various fans by phone in the evening, since she said they would be home Sunday evening, to help organise my travels.

Monday 9 February 2004

The packing has slowed right down now we are doing things like kitchen crockery, all of which ends up individually wrapped. Not that we can do it all, as some we need to keep out for use. We got to box 33. The moving day is now scheduled to be Tuesday 17th February, which is the day I am booked to leave for San Francisco.

In the afternoon we went over to Pan Hall, mostly for banking, and luckily were able to get into the apartment, which is still being worked on. This let us take notes and measurements of things we had previously neglected or missed. Luckily in many cases it confirmed furniture would be a tight squeeze, but would actually fit. For a while there we thought otherwise.

Tuesday 10 February 2004

The electric blanket has partly failed, not good in a house in which the furnace seems to be on a very strange heat and freeze cycle. You can tell when the heat is working, as you hear a blast from the heater igniting, followed by a roaring in the ducts as if a nearby cyclone has hit. This is of course much worse when it happens in the room you are trying to sleep in. Meanwhile, the ducting makes a singing sound that leaves my sleep fogged mind hearing it as Indian music.

I wandered off in the morning sunshine for a walk into Lacey. Found about cell phones for Jean at Radio Shack, where a helpful young chap enthused about the Macintosh OS X operating system, and asked about tech jobs in Australia.

Jean and I located and inspected a storage facility, not so much for the overflow as for furniture intended to go on the small balcony when it is finally enclosed and no longer open air. Took some dodging traffic to locate the place. We completed that trip with food shopping at Fred Meyer.

I seemed to be suffering the sniffles again. Can't tell if it is a cold or this miserable climate getting to me. The heating in the house dries my throat.

Wednesday 11 February 2004

Some people came and collected stuff for the Patio Sale. Later they returned for more stuff, and to drop off extra boxes for us. More packing today, ending with box 38 so far.

In the mid afternon sunshine I went for a walk to the K Mart in Lacey, with a stop at Office Depot. I do like these all in one printers than can handle digital camera memory cards. Now, if I could just entirely replace Windows with embedded devices that didn't crash ...

The Cingular phone store tried to be helpful, but didn't seem to have any suitable instant cell phone cards or equivalents. I wonder what backpackers do? It all seems so simple in Australia to just get a one month pre-paid cell phone plan from any of a half dozen places in our little home town.

Thursday 12 February 2004

More packing, but alas we are only at box 41. Still, many cupboards are now empty. We went to Red Lobster for a late lunch, and as usual thought it was pretty good. More food than I would normally eat in a day, especially with the key lime pie. Jean and I went for a walk afterwards, and checked Pan Hall to ensure we could get the key to the apartment on Friday (we can, time unknown).

Friday 13 February 2004

Doom! Today I must try to get some postcards to send back to Airlie Beach. Still didn't find any at Fred Meyer. Will have to try on Saturday at Panorama City.

We went shopping. Jean got a cell phone at Radio Shack, although the young helpful fellow who had given me all the details previously wasn't there. Still, we now knew what to look for. Plus food at Fred Meyer. Australian wine was on special, cheaper than in Australia.

At Panorama City, the key to the apartment wasn't ready at 4 p.m. Fran at their office chased it for us, and eventually it turned up.

Saturday 14 February 2004

Collapsed due to having a cold. We did put four boxes of kitchenware (and a large trolly) into the back of the car. This should be about enough to entirely fill the kitchen of the apartment.

Sunday 15 February 2004

Despite some rain, we got the four boxes into the kitchen at the apartment. Took a fair while to unpack them. We also took over the sheets for the new beds. Later in the afternoon we loaded the car with four boxes of stuff for the computer.

Monday 16 February 2004

It rained in the morning, but despite getting a bit damp, we took the computer and the computer desk over to the apartment and unloaded them, and set up the computer. The display was all green, but we couldn't tell if a pin on the monitor lead was damaged. turned out to be a bad connection. We were told the new bed would arrive after 2 p.m. Then we got told it would be in one hour. We took another box of fragile kitchen stuff, plus several lamps over to the apartment. Got back a little before three from that, and went to Sizzler for a late lunch or early dinner.

Packed several more boxes of stuff in the late afternoon and evening. More kitchen stuff, more lamps, towels. There were 52 boxes backed by the time all was done. Jean later told me she made many trips after the movers had done their part, to collect even more stuff.

Tuesday 17 February 2004

I leave for San Jose, California. The movers arrived just before my airport shuttle. Jean stayed to continue helping with the move.

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Silicon Valley

Tuesday 17 February 2004

Southwest ticket machine accepts credit card, spits out a boarding pass very quickly. Cool! I love technology that works (when it works). I also hate technology when it fails to work. The obvious difference between belief in religion and belief in technology is that prayers don't work, whereas technology does work. So when technology fails, I feel my religion has abandoned me.

Very long queues at security, despite obvious extra scanning machines. I didn't like the look of the food available at this airport, and made do with the slice of chocolate cake Jean had given me.

Mike Ward and Karen kindly met me at San Jose airport. In a repeat of fannish flood reports, they reported multiple flooded basement areas at their wonderful house, each from a different cause. I got an inspection of the garden, and got to eat tender young peas from the pod, straight off the bush. I haven't done that in ages.

Mike told me that as a result of the floods, he was starting try to sell off surplus duplicate magazines via eBay. I was very interested in how it was going, despite my book overload being distinctly minor by comparison. Mike showed me his eBay setup, which appeared well organised. But he said buyers were not going for bundles of magazines, even at discounts. Magazines were going as single sales, but each needed to have a table of contents and detailed description. The time involved was something like 30 minutes, even before any correspondence with buyers or organising postage. Ouch! Not a quick solution at all, to my considerable regret.

Tom Becker got away from work early, and came over to collect me and by arrangement stayed for dinner. Spike had been going to come, but was late at an over-catered library meeting. Karen had made a delicious pork roast, with red cabbage and raisins, and apple slices roasted beneath the pork. I really should pay more attention to how good cooks prepare food.

Wednesday 18 February 2004

Tom was off to the bit mines early.

I talked to Spike about HTML, and tried to persuade her that stylesheets were the right way to go (and with word processors to, not just with HTML).

Mike came over around 11, and we had leftover Greek food for lunch. I enjoyed it, despite Mike's comments on processed giros meat.

We were able to get to the 1 p.m. Visible Storage Computer History Museum tour, at their site in the former Silicon Graphics building, which I did with Mike and Spike. Spike promptly discovered Stan, a fan (head of Abacus? software) as tour guide. I had a great time looking at the relics in the Visible Storage room. This is a subset of the museum collection. However it was a worry to see gear that I had used in a museum.

Hand held mechanical wheel calculators, such as we once had at UTS Maths. likewise we had an IBM 5100, with the built in APL and tape cartridge. The Silicon Graphics they had looked identical to the one that was UTS Maths third Unix system (the previous two were a HP9000 and a MIPS). They had some really nice mainframe examples. Parts of a Babbage Difference Engine, a Hollarith Census Machine from 1889, a German Enigma, a SAGE (Semi automatic ground environment), magnetic drums, an IBM System 360, a MITS Altair 8800, a Xerox Parc Alto II workstation. They had a lot of neat gear there.

I was impressed by the computer museum.

After Spike returned home, next stop was Computer Surplus with Mike. I could have probably spent (wasted) more time there. I was able to buy a compact infrared wireless keyboard, the sort that don't have a numeric keypad. I've been using these for a decade, and have destroyed about four over the years (mostly by spilling Coke in them). I've been looking for a replacement for about two years, but compact wireless keyboards didn't seem an option anywhere I could find. I knew some brands, but the distributors did not bring them into Australia. It is worth risking $15 on it.

Next place Mike and I visited was Frys. This gigantic store is a bit overwhelming. Mike was checking hard drives, and got distracted by fancy cases. I failed to find Compact Flash larger than 256MB. I also failed to find PCMCIA ethernet cards with a Lucent chipset (not that I really expected them). I was delighted by the discovery of a stand alone FTP file server. Plug it into your ethernet, configure via its web server. The price was too high ($300) and the drive capacity too low (a single 120GB drive), but the idea is exactly what I need! Something that is OS independent.

Back about 5 p.m., well in time for the evening. We went off to meet Alan Rosenthal (in town regularly on business) at Tied House. This was as usual incredibly noisy, to the point where shouting was an inadequate means of communication. Nice beer however. We dined at a new Chinese restaurant in Mountain View that was very good. One piece of news to me was Janice's father had died very recently.

Fan Trap at San Jose Museum of Technology was our last stop, as we dropped Alan off at his hotel. Must mention the automated self cleaning coin operated toilet in the park nearby. It lacked one feature of the one at the township of Ayr, 200 km north of us, namely the horrible music.

San Francisco - Thursday 19 February 2004

Missed the best timed CalTrain to San Francisco, because of inadequate planning on my part, but got in around 11:20.

Mike McInerny, who is also a member of FAPA, kindly met me at the CalTrain station. He told me he and his wife are taking a holiday in Hawaii later in February, just before he commences a new job.

Mike drove to many of the places I'd considered going by bus, based on suggestions by Tom. Along Embarcadero and various good views of the waterfront.

We went first to a fine bookshop at the former Fort Mason army area, which was converted to civilian use in 1972. I was surprised and impressed by the number and variety of art and cultural bodies in the former army warehouse buildings. Five museums, six theatres, and great restaurant. There were also great views towards the Golden Gate.

Views of Golden Gate Bridge from Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the Presidio, past Crissy Field, after climbing up Battery East, a former gun site protecting the bay.

We had lunch at the Warming Hut cafe and bookshop (the bookshop part is a bit wimpy)

Mike took me down the Most Crooked Street (Lombard Street) in world, from which we had a fine view of Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower.

The parking lot wasn't full, so we were able to park at Coit Tower, rather than walk up the long flights of steps from a lower street. We had to take the elevator (the 400 or so steps were closed) to the top. I hope my views of the tall ship Balclutha, Washington Square, Saints Peter and Paul church, and San Francisco generally come out. It was a great place for a view. The 63 metre reinforced concrete Coit Tower is on top of the 87 metre Telegraph Hill. The fluted columns by architect Arthur Brown have an interesting appearance.

I had a quick look at Mike's photo album while we were stopped for fuel, with photos back to the 1960s, plus some more recent ones. They included the Corflu at Las Vegas in 1997 where we concluded we first met. I really must try to find a way to put a large bunch of fan photos up on the internet. We have the technology to share now, but not as yet the file space for photos. Well, I also don't have the bandwidth.

Last stop was the Fisherman's Wharf area Pier 39. Wild (or at least non-captive) sea lions lounged on floats at Pier 39, and did little dominance battles for flipper space. They are a protected species in California. The booklet says the males, distinguished by a bump or crest on their head, can reach 7 feet in length, and 850 pounds weight. The females grow to 6 feet, but only 300 pounds. There were several smaller sea lions, although I have no idea how old such pups may have been. They are said to be born in June or July usually. The sea lions apparently started using the dock area after the 1989 earthquake, and the population can reach 600. Personal comment. They smell. Bad.

Mike gave me a copy of his FAPA zine Number One 5 and 6, which cleared up many details of what had been happening to him over the past year.

There were lots of shops on the pier area, in a general amusement style, or comfort food. I should have entered the chocolate shop! Managed to get a slightly earlier CalTrain back, which is good because I want all the help I can get from good light in navigating back to the house. Spike had told me I needed to match the Plokta mob at navigation.

Friday 20 February 2004

John Bartlet and Jim Young and I were taken by Spike and Karen on an exceedingly well organised wine tour. I must contact Leigh Edmonds and pass along note of Jim.

A very traditional looking wine tasting room at Guglielmo, Morgan Hills where I got various Emile's, some for the following party.

At Kirigin Cellars we found an Australian lass behind the counter, with a ferocious dog about ankle high. I think it was here that the Malvasia Bianca song was started by Jim. This was because the wine title sounded like a David Eddings or Robert Jordan fantasy novel, so we worked on their national anthem.

Sarah's Vineyard had some nice drops. We failed to attend the very strange Bonnie Doon winery only because they were closed for renovations. They seem to send out the weirdest newsletters, and their wine labels are pretty strange also.

I seem to recall our last stop was Hallcrest and Organic Wine Works, in the same general area. That proved most interesting. Lots of chatter about the local area.

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Saturday 21 February 2004

Andrew and Kathy collected me from in front of the apartment around midday, As I expected, the children Victoria, Michael and Matthew, were all way taller than I imagined, given I'd probably last seen them over five years before. The basketball game Matthew was playing in was very fast paced, although I had trouble telling who was winning. Nice to see all that sporting energy in the young. I seem to recall I had my nose buried in books at that age.

After a fine lunch gathered from the deli section of a store, it was time for the children (and Penguin the dog) to take a long walk, so they could play an Xbox video game. My first look at it, and I thought it had some pretty horrifying themes, although Andrew assured me children could separate fantasy from reality. I guess it was no worse than the books I read at that age, but I still find the violent video games and violent films something I think is probably socially undesirable. Grand Theft Auto was the title.

I think Andrew said he was seconded from Digeo to Open Source Language Development (OSLD). He gave me a good idea of how the Linux 2.6 kernel development was going. Faster and more stable seem good things. I got to see Linux Central, as it were. I should have taken a photo of the assorted computers, I guess, for all the Linux fans out there. Although Andrew had little to say about how desktop distributions might be, I think it will be very interesting to try one of the desktop distributions with the 2.6 kernel in say six months or a year. Maybe that is my long term replacement for Windows. Certainly it would be better if you needed a server.

After dinner Andrew and Kathy dropped me off at the party address. I had Alan and Donya's old address in my PDA, but not the address of their newer house pretty much next door (I later discovered a note Spike must have given me of the new address). It didn't take long to discover my error and knock on the correct door.

I gave Bill Humphries a little present (the winery tour had proved handy for this for several people). He was looking relatively unchanged, although this was the big 40 (well, actually Sunday was).

Donya had tried to send me email to tell me of the sad loss of her father. Rich and Linda McAllister soon arrived. Alison Abramowitz arrived with political forms for collation (she is up for re-election soon). Tom and Spike also arrived. Mike and Karen. John Bartel.

There were a small number of people I didn't know, and whose names I neglected to note. At some stage Bill gave me a slice of his birthday cake, which was a wonderfully rich chocolate cake. I thought it an excellent party, and hope Bill enjoyed it, and that Alan and Donya didn't have too much work afterwards.

Sunday 22 February 2004

San Francisco

Gary Mattingly and Patty Peters met Spike and I at the Amarin Thai restaurant in Mountain View, after a reasonable walk there with Spike. I recall being impressed with the milky green Thai tea, but although the food was enjoyable, didn't eat a great deal.

Gary and Patty took me on an exceedingly extensive and interesting tour of San Francisco and the area surrounding it. The views from the other tall and strange twin peaks TV tower over San Francisco were even more extensive than from the Coit Tower. It was mentioned in a Fritz Lieber novel.

Despite the overcast I took photos of the area, and hope I can eventually identify all that is shown. We also took a long trip to the other (green) side of the Golden Gate bridge, where there were also wonderful views of the entire city from various ancient gun emplacements. Got to see the crookedest Street in San Francisco (sorry Mike, this was more crooked) near the hospital.

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor museum, which had a concert by John Karl Hirten, Director of Music at St Stephen's Church, Belvedere, using the fine organ built into the room. Saw the sixties icon Haigh Ashbury.

On the way to Gary and Patty's place we also crossed the other bridge, which goes through Treasure island. I'm sure I've been over that several times before. I was sort of surprised at the distances involved. Gary said he had about a 35 mile commute. While I used to have a 50 mile commute, mine was by train rather than driving. It was amusing to note that when I next saw Patty at Corflu, her hairstyle was so different that I initially failed to recognise her.

Gary had far more CDs at home than I ever recall seeing in one home. Good choices of music also, at least for my taste, with classic in the car, and solo acoustic guitar at home, and a fine Italian singer for the return trip.

At Gary and Patty's spacious home, we were greeted by one of the most excitable and frisky Labrador dogs I've ever met. Despite being a little dark, I also looked at their large garden. It was impressive. I was able to talk with Gary about chip design, leaving me feel a little less out of date than previously. I'm glad I don't have to cope with the complexity of modern chips, not that I think I'd be able to.

Gary dropped me off at Spike and Tom's a little after nine, where Karen collected me when she, Spike and Tom returned from their trip.

Monday 23 February 2004

Monterey Bay and the Aquarium

Karen took me (once you left the freeways) past artichoke and garlic growing areas down the beautiful coastline to Monterey Bay and the Aquarium. This is built at the old Cannery Row that John Steinbeck made famous in the 1940's, although now everything is rebuilt and refurbished as a tourist area.

They had some great exhibits of beautiful jellies (jellyfish). I was interested because of the trouble the stings of some of these marine drifters cause for incautious swimmers along the Barrier Reef resorts. There was also an exhibit of art, and beautiful blown glass objects based on the jellies.

The walk through aviary gave a great view of the birds of the area. The giant three story kelp tanks gave a wonderful view of many fish. Identification was plentiful, so it was easy to match names and shapes for many. The most playful animal seen were the sea otters, who even had toys in their tank. As a science fiction connection, this is where the aquarium scene from one of the Star Treks movie took place.

We had a very fine fish lunch at the restaurant there overlooking the bay. Apart from good food and service, they also supplied each table with a pair of binoculars and an identification card, so you could look at the sea life around the bay.

Among the perils of the area were a Ghiradelli chocolate store, and a Rocky Mountain chocolate store. This led to another expedition on another day.

We went for walks along the shore. The scenery was so nice I ran my digital camera out of memory, and ran the battery flat. Karen seemed to locate every tiny rock pool and spot every hermit crab in the area, but luckily pointed them out to me when I didn't notice them.

Back home Karen had done a beef roast in a crock pot. Came out real nice, although the lunch had been sufficiently large that I wasn't sure I'd do justice to the fine meal. I thought the Hallcrest Vellig red went nicely with it.

Listening to Foremen Folk heroes. Just like I did on my last stay here half a decade ago. This time organise myself to get a copy of the CDs, like I list in my ToDo list! I didn't note down the other songs Karen played, having done so poorly in getting CDs from the notes of the last trip.

Charged my camera batteries, since Mike had an AA charger available. Although that worked well, having my Psion 5mx cold boot when I removed the batteries to check the voltage level of the camera batteries was not so good. I'd forgotten to find some cardboard to ensure the backup battery connections were unable to flex. As you can tell from these notes, I do very good backups while on the road, so it only took a few minutes to restore from the backup.

Tuesday 24 February 2004

Mike and I went into San Jose to the Museum of Technology. The presence of large numbers of school children quickly convinced us not to try to enter. We did get a good look and photos of the Fan trap, a large kinetic sculpture in front of the building. It was also interesting to see trees in colourful bloom in front of the building.

We changed plans and headed off to Halted, off Lawrence. If anything, this warehouse of weird stuff has become even better and more interesting. If you had a large shed, and lots of time, you could get some really nice ancient gear working. I kept wondering about the $50 RAID controller, since I knew Computer Surplus had lots of $10 20GB SCSI drives. I was exceedingly tempted by the cheap bar code readers, but alas failed to get any. Soon after returning home I came upon a detailed description of how to convert these custom readers into a standard model.

Back at the house at midday, Karen had returned from her gardening meeting. Spike soon arrived, and we all headed in her car to Berkley.

The aim was the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory, opened by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg a few years before. We had lunch at the newly opened (14 February) restaurant. They were still somewhat in shakeout mode, but seemed pretty reasonable. The hot chocolate was excellent, as one might expect. The toasted chocolate sandwich (which we all shared as a dessert) was strange but actually worked.

We were booked on the 2:30 factory tour, which was a very educational (and tasty) event. The way good quality chocolate is produced was clearly explained, as were the things to look for in good chocolate. This was reinforced by photos and samples of the various precursors plus varieties of the final product. We were able to freely photo the factory workings, which made a lot more sense after the talk. I guess I'd known in outline how it was done, but some of the details, especially concerning the exact temperatures that generate blooming, were certainly new to me. The factory and Cafe Caca is at 914 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley. You are invited to guess which tomato sauce was formerly manufactured in the building.

The standard original product is the 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Head chocolate maker developed an 80% extra dark chocolate to suit demands of loyal fans. Robert Steinberg found an organic Wisconsin milk for the 41% cacao milk chocolate released at the end of 2003. The % is the amount of ground cacao beans in the chocolate. The cacao bean is about 54% pure tasteless cacao butter fat, and 46% fat free cacao solids that give chocolate its colour and flavours.

Chocolate manufacturers add small amounts of extra cocoa butter (derived from cocoa powder manufacturing) to improve the way it flows and melts. You can calculate the cocoa butter content percentage by dividing the total fat by the serving size. Subtract this from the % of cacao to get the % of solids.

Cocoa powder can be manufactured from the fermented beans naturally or Dutch processed (developed in 1828 by Van Houten) with added alkali (usually potassium carbonate). The beans used for cocoa powder are usually lower quality, as the alkali process adds colour and masks the weak or harsh taste of inferior beans. Scharffen Berger find using high quality, well fermented beans gives good results without alkali.

Next stop was the Takara sake factory, tasting room and museum. In the upstairs foyer you could see through a window wall to the bottling plant below. We were led into the most spacious and tastefully furnished tasting room I have ever seen. There we had a very nicely structured tasting of the various styles of sake, from the driest to the sweet. The temperature ranges at which to taste were explained, and the dry sake bottles were kept in heated water to ensure they were served correctly.

The adjoining museum was also interesting, showing the implements and tubs used for traditional sake making. The process can take three months. The milled rice is washed, then steamed in three phases. Koji spores are added which converts starch to glucose. Yeast and water are added in the Moto step to convert glucose to alcohol, then the main fermentation process or Moromi takes about 20 days. After that comes filtering, settling for 10 days and pasteurising at 70 degrees. Ageing takes four to six months.

We visited a variety of garden and furniture stores. The garden arches we saw were a bit fragile in design, in a needless way. Just seemed the wrong design to me. I'm looking for a garden arch for my balcony at home, but suspect I will not find anything suitable.

The furniture store that most impressed me for weirdness was one featuring upmarket 1950's replica materials. I gather it is part of a chain, all called Restoration Hardware. I guess if you had whole rooms of 1950's furniture it would be OK, but I can't really see myself buying say a replica 1950's radio. I did like some of the hand gadgets, being owned of a hand powered ice crusher. Mike and I made plans for a USB powered (mechanical) music box for silly birthday presents. However I've just seen a USB ash tray (with fan) that is probably sillier.

A Change of Hobbit was closed when we drove past, so I've actually done very well at dodging bookshops. Given my luggage space and space at home, this is probably just as well.

We had dinner in a Turkish restaurant, taking the banquet as the easy option. That made for a very relaxed and economical meal. As usual I can't do justice to the quantities of food at restaurants.

Wednesday 25 February 2004

Today is Jean's birthday, but alas I won't be seeing her until Friday.

People I also didn't manage to see included former Nebraskan Randy Smith, who emailed me about a potential fannish dinner or party from RSmith2678 at or randysmi at However none of the fans I mentioned this to knew his phone number or location, and I haven't had any stable email access this trip.

Off to the airport with Mike on a wet and very windy morning around 7:15 a.m. Luckily some fans are early risers, although that was probably a little too early. To my delight, there were Southwest check-in machines at the entrance, so I had my boarding pass within a few minutes of arrival. There were in any case so few people at the counters that it wouldn't have taken long to get through there. Must remember I can perhaps risk leaving less time at San Jose, at least early in the morning.

There was plenty of room to sit and wait, and I found a MobilePC magazine to buy at one of the new-stands, while in search of gadgets.

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Seattle - Wednesday 25 February 2004

The flight was a little bumpy, but otherwise no problem. At Seattle, I noticed what appeared to be a waiting area by the entry to the B gate area. Didn't see Marilyn there, so I looked in the baggage area. Then I went looking for where ground transportation might circulate, but that looked rather difficult. On my second circuit, Marilyn found me at the baggage area. I'd travelled light so I didn't have to wait for baggage.

While we drove, Marilyn suggested we get lunch. The place was one I recognised from previous visits, with an excellent view overlooking the sea. The name is Ray's Cafe, over Ray's Boathouse. Despite the wet weather the view was fine, as was the food. I thought the soup and half sandwich might be something I could handle, but after an entire bowl of clam chowder (I'd expected a cup), ended up taking the sandwich out for the next day. I continued to get defeated by US restaurant meals all through the trip.

Marilyn talked about farming problems, and about her growing list of allergies. That at least is something that many people seem to be finding an increasing problem. I had no idea that many breads contained rice, for instance.

We stopped at a food store, Ken's, where I was astonished to find Weetabix. Spike had found me some of these while we were shopping in California. Naturally I bought some, as the closest thing I could get to the Australian Weetbix from Samitarian Health Foods. I still don't know whether Spike has tried them, although Mike and Karen did. Cliff remembers the Weetbix (unfavourably) from Australia, in much the terms I explained them to Spike. Like crunchy cardboard, until you put milk on them, then like soggy cardboard. I guess you have to grow up eating them to like them.

At home I was introduced to the cats, Inca I recalled, and the new one, Coco, seemed happy to see me. I got instruction on how to entertain her with a feather duster, and she entertain me with her leaps to catch it. Inca seemed much the same as several years ago. Marilyn had a meeting scheduled, and departed after we had chatted some more.

Around six Cliff appeared and we chatted for a time before ordering hamburgers from Red Mill just up the top of the hill. I must by then have been hungry, because I downed a fairly decent sized hamburger without pause, and finished the shake. On the way to Red Mill, Cliff drove up and down the street it was on, which showed an impressive number of cafes, and indeed other stores. Seems a cosmopolitan neighbourhood.

Cliff and I sat and talked until it was time for him to leave for his evening shift. It was very relaxing, after all the running around in Silicon Valley, although I had enjoyed that very much also.

Marilyn arrived home after a meeting, and sat around talking until midnight, at which point I collapsed. Throughout the entire evening the cats pointed out that they had not been fed, stopping to sleep only for instants after each successful plea.

In one of Cliff's Cyberguys magazines, I saw the Triton 120GB network attached storage unit I'd seen with Mike in Frys. Connects via Cat5 cable, and has an FTP server built in. An even more elaborate one, Iogear Boss, also had a 120GB drive. It had network attached storage, a cable DSL router, an Ethernet switch, FTP server, web site hosting, a firewall, and virtual private networking. That sounded really good. I like this direction computer gear is going.

Thursday 26 February 2004

I slept well. After breakfast I helped Marilyn move bookcase contents and furniture ready for some tiling. Actually, most of the moving was moving thing off furniture so the furniture could be moved, followed by putting the stuff back on the furniture, for lack of any other convenient place to put it really. Sort of like one of those 15 puzzles, with only one missing space into which the pieces can be placed in their turn. I'm used to that sort of situation.

Cutting out the water leak ruined carpet took us most of the day, with the wood that holds the carpet down a lengthy removal process. The nails in the concrete were a pain also. It was so messy that my clothes needed washing after. Still, it did seem a worthwhile result for all that work.

We all headed for the Potlatch bag stuffing at Marci's place around seven p.m. Cliff and I stopped to shop for goodies to eat at the party, but arrived after most people had eaten. I recall seeing Marci, whose diet alas wouldn't allow her to eat the chocolates I'd brought her from the California wineries that week.

I talked with Victor for a while, with him putting forward the idea for a fannish blog run by fans, as a central information point for fans. Not a bad idea at all. This actually appeared soon afterwards, as

Art Widner was there looking great and seemed to be having fun. We had creative bag packers, Ursula LeGuin and Vonda McIntyre. Lots of people there. Janice and Alan came in much later. A few of us ended up at their place for a few minutes after the bag packing and the party. I note one advantage of participating in bag packing is you have first choice of which book goes in your bag. I went for Greg Egan's Schild's Ladder.

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Potlatch 13 - Friday 27 February 2004

Marilyn and I eventually dumped the removed carpet, which luckily hadn't got water saturated by the rain. This was followed by visits to a computer shop to seek information on repairs to a broken laptop. I noted a second hand Apple G3 notebook, which seemed an interesting possibility, given my ever increasing dislike of Windows.

A lamp store was less interesting to me, mainly because I never seem to see much that I like in lamp stores. Most seem to specialise in weirdness and art rather than what I think of as function. Maybe it is just me, but I put lights in so I can see to read and to work with fine detail. I like heaps of light! I noted their list of how to light interiors seemed to suggest results much like my fluorescent lights on top of the bookcases.

Marilyn and I ended the morning, and most of the middle of the day, with a hamburger lunch at the Ale House. It was really good to have a chance to chat with her. I don't often get to chat with people with a sensible business oriented view of the world, and a background that backs up their views.

Ron Drummond's subscription project to reprint a deluxe edition of John Crowley's Little, Big involved us collecting Ron, and then going downtown to an art gallery to collect a pair of large fine art prints by the relevant cover artist. These made it a little hard to see some of the Seattle town sights from the rear seat while peering over the top of the picture frame.

We did get to the convention around six. Lots of people I knew in the con suite. I had realised that Jean would have beaten me to the hotel, so I asked reception for her name. Not there. Since Alan had booked the room for us, I asked for his name. Not there. I gave up and went to Potlatch convention registration. Suzle promptly gave me my con badge, and a room key Jean had left for me.

I took the room number back to hotel reception and asked whose name the room was in. It was Alan! They explained the list of people who have registered is different to those had not yet arrived at the hotel. Doh!

The hotel looked out on the Space Needle, and also the very topologically challenged music museum nearby. Very science fictional view, which added to my enjoyment of the Potlatch location.

That evening Jane Hawkins presented Terrascaping Jane's Head, a fine list of books that had changed her mind and world view. Others added to the list. It made a great panel item. I think Potlatch may have put some of the booklists on their web site. I hope so.

Ron Drummond did his Little, Big presentation, also in the con suite.

I talked with John D Berry for a while, and as a result got invited to Jack William Bell's preliminary whiskey tasting. Some fine drinks there, and Jack seemed to really know his whiskey.

Saturday 28 February 2004

We were up late, but had to be at our panel Life After the Singularity. Panelists were Alan Baum, Blunt Jackson, Jean Weber, Eric Lindsay. We didn't do much about after the singularity, because we couldn't see how you could predict that. However I thought the panel worked well, with lots of audience participation. We had several discussions after the panel. There was a fair bit at the con about future shock, and the like, as the late John Brunner was the featured writer, and Potlatch is thoroughly oriented to literature.

The con handbook had an article by Jack William Bell that mentioned Tofler and the 1970 Future Shock, and of course John Brunner's 1975 ultimately optimistic distopia The Shockwave Rider. Victor Gonzalez pointed out Brunner's concept of the merits of financial futures markets as a predictor of the future. Little concentrates human attention like making money. Victor pointed to government intervention and manipulation in the terrorist prediction market in Brunner's novel. The other Brunner concept was the data-net, Brunner's version of which predated even Darpanet. Not unreasonably, Brunner still thought in terms of Big Iron, and missed the idea that computers would become dirt cheap and ubiquitous.

No lunch, due to too much running around.

Did some CD burning of digital camera cards for myself and Jack William Bell, using my standalone Addonics MFR Multimedia recorder. That gadget was my version of what I wanted an iPod style device to be able to do, namely save my digital photos or music in a form that could be given to other people, as well as being a music player and to a more limited extent a DVD player (it can't handle copy protected DVDs). It really pleased me to be able to assist Jack with that, especially after the whiskey tasting.

Waiting for the Electrician, with Eileen Gunn and John D Berry, about where publishing is going, if paper will survive at all.

Tiptree Bakesale, featuring way too many chocolate goods. Yum!

Shock Treatment, with Andy Hooper, Jack Bell, Jordin Kare, David Marusek. Alvin Toffler's Future Shock infuences John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider. Takes note of the episodic nature of Brunner's major works, although I'm not sure whether John Dos Passos was mentioned. Brunner brought the notion of a computer network to fiction, and foreshadows the phone as a PDA. The overload reflex. Sociological factors. Why, with so many possible choices, do people choose to conform? China controls its own internet routers, and may be a better example of what Brunner wrote about in regard to government control.

Dinner at hotel restaurant, with Alan and Janice, Cliff and Marilyn, Jean and Eric, Marci, and Doug Faunt. That was fun.

Magnificent cakes with Ursula LeGuin book covers on them. This was to celebrate Ursula leGuin being made Grand Master in 2003, an award that had not reached Ursula (who travels a lot).

Jean washed down her tablets for the evening with wine. Eric: I didn't think it was a very good wine. Jean: Well, It tasted better with tablets.

Jack's fine Whiskey tasting was the last event of the evening for me. A very goodly number of different styles, with more and more peat influence. Some I thought just didn't work, like the one that tasted of seaweed. There were also wee nips of some rare varieties, most of which I've never seen on shelves in Australia. As usual, the ones I enjoyed the most were also the ones that were towards the end of the cost scale. Well, back to beer for me, I guess.

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Organisations mentioned in flyers.

Sunday 29 February 2004

Up late, drop bags in hotel storage. Hang around in hallway talking with people until Jean got a chance to be the the first in the queue for the banquet. I was way back at the back of the line. Not that it did much good for Jean, as our table was one of the last to be called to the line for food.

Experience SF was a presentation about progress and plans for the new science fiction museum (initial funding by Paul Allen, who was also funding Bert Rutan's SpaceShip One) that was due to open in Seattle (just across from the hotel) in June 2004. The first exhibit was to be Exploring Mars. Greg Bear and Astrid Anderson Bear struggled with technology in the form of a reluctant audio video projector, but they had the technology. If I recall right, Donna Shirley of the Mars Pathfinder mission provided a lot of the material. I thought it was great, and would really like to visit the museum when it opens.

My congratulations to Luke McGuff and his committee of the usual Seattle regulars for yet another really fine convention.

Staggered around afterwards, exhibiting peopled out, sleep deprived mode for several hours in the con suite and nearby. Not sure I made any sense at all.

I eventually realised the con suite WiFi network that many fans had used was probably my best (and possibly last) chance to see if my old Psion PDA and its equally old Cisco wireless network card worked in a real working hotel WiFi network. I'd tried it at home from a PC, but not having a WiFi base station, could only try ad hoc mode, which didn't seem to even be detecting any transmissions.

My Cisco card now at least showed a flashing green status and activity lights, which was a great leap forward. I thought I needed more details than just start an ethernet card running, which didn't do anything. Tom eventually told me the name of the network. Didn't actually connect to anything, but did take over two minutes to time out while Opera was searching for a domain name server, something that normally times out in seconds.

We went off with Alan and Janice after five. After some rest, and moving some furniture, we had dinner at 125th Street Grill. I can certainly see why Alan and Janice like it there.

Monday 1 March 2004

A plasterer arrived, and did plaster type things to part of the ceiling above where we had removed furniture. I was impressed by the tent like plastic structure he put up to reduce dust in the living room.

Jean basically alternated between scheming about her book and sleeping. I typed up notes on my PDA while Alan and Janice were away. It was a really nice relaxed day. Janice later pointed to a power point that needed fixing, which she demonstrated by producing a shower of sparks and a loud snap. That result was clearly unexpected by all, including Janice. I was impressed at how Janice could make an old electronics experimenter feel at home.

We somewhat belatedly celebrated Jean's birthday at Ivar's salmon restaurant, and then had an early night.

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Florida - Tuesday 2 March 2004

Marci kindly drove us to SeaTac airport, despite it meaning a 6:30 a.m. start for her. I was surprised at how heavy the traffic was, even at that hour. I was also surprised at how nicely appointed her seven seat VW Eurovan was. Jean was heading back to Lacey to continue to assist her mother settle into her new apartment.

American Airlines had lots of electronic ticket machines at their counter, however they didn't recognise my credit card, despite trying at two of them. Fortunately the queue was pretty short for getting a ticket issued by a human. The service staff suggested that non-US credit cards could cause problems. Given Southwest have solved that problem, maybe AA should do so also.

The line through security to the C area was pretty long and fairly slow moving. Not enough to make me late, but I had only a little wait before the boarding of AA1966 commenced.

Alan had suggested that I'd get a stale I can't believe this is yoghurt, and that I wouldn't believe it was yoghurt, because it was chemicals. The snack I collected from the cooler at the entrance to the aircraft wasn't exactly that bad, but it was very minor as a meal. Yoghurt, raisins and an energy bar. Could have been worse however.

I changed planes at St Louis on this trip, to AA1864. Less than an hour at the airport. I tried a sandwich from an airport store, but didn't think very much of it. At least it was more to eat than the airlines provide these days.

I'd had email via Jean saying Pat and Roger would meet me at the baggage area in Orlando, so unlike Seattle, at least I knew where they would try to find me. I did a few rounds of the area between baggage and curb, and soon saw Roger pull up. After dumping my bags in the car, I returned inside the terminal where Pat was waiting, having entered via a different door.

As we drove off, Pat and Roger pointed to the various theme park sites visible around. They also pointed to the area in which the Ditto hotel was located, for the forthcoming 2004 Ditto, the first flyer for which is out. Ditto 17, 8-10 October 2004, Quality Suites Universal, 7400 Canada Avenue, Orlando Fl 32819 1-800-228-2027. Suites $71 Memberships $35. Pat Sims for memberships. roger.sims at att dot net I would love to get to their Ditto, but fear our Australian trip will chew up all my money for this year.

Pat kindly supplied a cake, strawberries and icecream as a supplement to dinner, which really suited me, as I didn't want to eat much.

I got to look at the manual for Roger's new digital camera. I sure hope he has good luck with it on their cruise. I set it up for the date and time, but didn't get time to read the entire manual, so there was a lot about the camera that I couldn't tell Roger. Seemed to at least have all the standard mid level digital camera gear, but each always has unique features that are hard to find without reading the manual.

The evening entertainment was watching Judging Amy, a TV show I'd never seen. Given the three hour time difference to the west coast, I thought I slept well, although I couldn't figure out how to turn the overhead fan off (answer - the wall switch, but only slowly).

Wednesday 3 March 2004

We were up at a reasonable time, around seven. After breakfast, we headed for the YMCA for an exercise session, which Pat and Roger go to regularly. They had kindly arranged a guest attendance for me. It had been a long time since I had been to a gym, so I was very moderate, and just did a two mile walk with a gentle slope in the 30 minutes on the treadmill.

My heartbeat seemed all over the place, but I was a little surprised that all the treadmill machines had pulse detection in any case. They were actually far more elaborate treadmills than anything I'd used or even seen before.

The gym itself was air-conditioned, had lots of overhead fans, was way larger than say the one three or four kilometres from where I live. I was most impressed by the variety of machines, all of which had very clear instructions attached. My biggest difficulty in using them was translating pounds into kilograms. The machines seemed to have login keypads, which automatically accumulated the efforts members made, provided they put in their member numbers on the keypad on each, and logged out afterwards. Dick Spelman was there, doing very well on his exercise, and looking very slim.

After we changed (into civilised beings) and collected Dick from his home (near a Barnes and Noble bookstore) we headed off towards Gainesville.

We were to meet Joe and Gay at what Gay described as a funky winebar and restaurant. This was Julie Atkinson's Ocala Wine Experience, at 36SW 1st Street, Ocala. The storefront was a strange wine shop, with some nice wines. It was a great choice of places to eat and talk.

The upstairs restaurant was really strange in furnishings. Only a small range of choices, service a little slow since there was only one person to do it all. However the food was great. The two pizzas were unique and far more filling than I expected, although the duck pate probably helped on that score. The chocolate fondue for dessert was a real treat.

The musician who arrived to play for us was a pretty good, at least partly because he was softer than the music from the loudspeakers. His selection of music and songs for guitar suited us well. Lots of entertaining conversation, encouraged by the nature of the surroundings.

After this late lunch I transferred my bags to Joe and Gay's van, and we drove back towards Gainesville. The prairie from which a lake had disappeared was an interesting story. We stopped at a boardwalk, and spotted a largish turtle to photograph.

Once in Gainesville, we failed to find visiting cranes, but did visit an amazing variety of food and other stores. Why a duck? All the better for eating. Mind you, it has to thaw, so tonight we had bangers (Italian turkey sausages) and mash, possibly even to excess. There was a lot left over for afters.

The late night TV entertainment included The West Wing. Despite not normally watching it, I have to admit on a large TV it seemed very viewable. I liked the quick dialogue. Some of the political views seemed shallow, allowing the goodies to win far too easily. For example, a defence of the openness of scientific research does not preclude funding medical research on the basis of how many victims may be saved, or how many person years may be recovered.

Rather late at night was Jon Stewart's DailyShow, a political commentary on news shows. It was pretty funny, although Gay said lots of people were using it as their only news show. That seems a little unfortunate.

Thursday 4 March 2004

I woke around 3, and didn't get back to sleep until about 5, but then slept well again. Might have finally caught up on sleep. Phoned Phyrne, who I think I'd last seen around the time of Torcon Two, or 1973, to see if we could catch up with her.

Gay was hanging bananas vertical on a stand. Said it helped preserve them significantly longer (attested to by Rusty). I seem to recall stalks were hung when I spent a week working on a banana plantation during my teens. I guess I should suggest to Jean that we try it.

After breakfast came a frenzy of tidying up, before a gaggle of cleaning ladies appeared. We all scattered to parts distant from vacuum cleaners so as to hide from the noise. Didn't entirely work, as they sought us out. Joe glued up the broken wheel of a barbecue, possibly as a way of keeping away from the noise.

After a chilli lunch, we went off to a sale, to a bank so I could deposit a check, and then dropped off Joe at the art studio to work on his H G Wells prints.

Gay took me to a wonderful wetlands area that was formerly a lake (until a sinkhole drained it mostly away) very near Gainesville. There we saw heaps of birds, cormorants, blue herons, storks (we could hear cranes). We saw a bunch of turtles, but mostly just heads and necks, or at such a distance a photograph wouldn't work (despite which, I took photos). While walking past various water-holes we came across a very reasonable number of alligators. Some posed rather nicely for me. It was a very nice spot, and remarkably close to town.

We tried to work out when we first met. I think 1974 at the Worldcon, but Gay thinks it may have been 1973.

We dropped into Books Inc. This had moved since the last time I'd been in Gainesville (which may be longer ago than I had believed). Looked very attractive, with a small vegetarian cafe as well as a maze of book rooms.

After collecting Joe from the studio (copper plates bent when using the impression roller, zinc had not), we went back to the bookshop. I was able to resist all except one book. The bookshop was having an art exhibit and reception, with what seemed really nice snacks (I managed to resist all except one very small piece of home made chocolate cake). My life these days seems to consist in resisting temptations to which I once gleefully succumbed.

Today was the day the duck got cooked and eaten. Joe rescued duck fat and stock makings for future repasts. A swag of vegetables, and corn on the cob. It was a wonderful meal, although I couldn't eat as much duck as I'd have liked. I can't eat as much of anything as I'd like.

Gay told us that the reason ducks were mostly red meat was that they fly, and have muscles that really work, while chickens did not have the red flying muscles, and so are a mix of red and white meat. This idea is new to me, but ducks certainly have more of the taste I associate with animals that use their muscles. Think open range cattle vs feedlot cattle. Australians will know the difference, although perhaps it isn't as obvious in the USA. Think venison vs beef.

After the news commentary we watched some Survivor show on TV. While I'm glad to have seen this show, I can't think of it as my sort of viewing. However I have to admit to I've been so down on TV for several years that I have figured I wouldn't replace my TV when it breaks, nor will I move to high definition TV.

As a compromise, since I do like news, and some movies, I'll probably seek an LCD computer display that incorporates a TV tuner (or at least baseband video input, since I get cable feed anyway, not broadcast). Mind you, I'd want both analog and digital inputs for the computer feed as well.

After this relaxation we tidied up the kitchen, a chore that takes something like the time spent watching the TV show. Joe makes more of a mess than any three other cooks I've ever met, but the results are sure worth a little cleaning up afterwards. It was also interesting to note that some characteristics like that don't change.

Gay phoned Rusty, so I had a chance to talk with him for a while. I was disappointed that his cast and medical hits made it too difficult for him to travel. I'd really been looking forward to having Rusty visit. Perhaps I can catch him some other time. At least he was recovering.

Friday 5 March 2004

Around 11 an old fan correspondent from the 1970's visited to take me to High Springs for lunch at the Great Outdoors Trading Company and Cafe. I figure I must have been correponding with Phyrne after meeting at Torcon Two in 1973, and for several years thereafter. I remember her writing the most fascinating letters.

Phyrne said she had been using a Commodore 64 until very recently, and was looking for a word processing program as keyboard and shortcut friendly as the one she was using, but on Windows. Since her PhD was in mathematics, and she wanted to handle equations, I suggested considering moving to Donald Knuth's TeX, or perhaps LaTeX, despite the learning curve.

On the drive out we passed a statue of a alligator, one of many formerly in Gainesville. Who could resist an alligator pushing fibre optics.

High Springs (population 3400), northwest of Gainesville, is an historic town, founded in 1844, now much covered by antique and curio stores, art galleries, and 23 churches.

I was particularly taken by Ruth and Bill's His and Her Hobby Shop. They had some wonderful looking kits and model aircraft engines. It has been ages since I had seen a hobby shop in say Sydney, and I'd assumed the shops had moved to cheaper premise in the suburbs. Bill said his shop served towns 120 miles away. hhhobbyshop at aol dot com.

The town had a small museum in the railway station (one train a week), and was once an important steam railway workshop town in the first half of the twentieth century.

Upon our return I got to briefly see Phyrne's home in Gainesville, crowded with kipple in a very typical fashion. I must make sure I try to keep in contact a little better. Of course, I keep saying things like that whenever I encounter old friends.

Joe and Gay were planning their usual Friday movie session. We saw Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, by the director of the controversial 1972 Last Tango in Paris. I guess the considerable nudity will ensure this film is also controversial, while the setting in the student riots in Paris of 1968 will provoke comparisons with Last Tango. In many ways it was a tribute to the influence of film (and indeed any popular culture) on the lives of young intellectuals, while highlighting the triviality of film in a larger political context.

I thought at first it may have been aimed at a student audience, but now think it wouldn't make as much sense to an audience unfamiliar with the conflicts of 1968 and unfamiliar with a wide range of older films. It was a fairly weird films with its strong hints of brother sister incest, and the somewhat needless restatement of obvious views by the US character.

At dinner at the Hilton (selected because it was not noisy) were Robert (of Chickenhawk fame), Patience and mother Connie. I enjoyed it, although I'll have to check just which digital video cameras have 9cm DVD but lack Firewire. My impression from Australia was basically that Firewire was nearly dead. This distresses me, because a peer to peer streaming communication system like Firewire just seems to me so obviously superior to a dead end, buy a WinTel Master Slave system like USB, the fixing of which is like polishing a turd.

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Ormond Beach, Florida - Saturday 6 March 2004

Joe bicycled off mid morning for his painting session while Gay and I loaded the car in the midst of people rushing around doing yard work. We were in no rush, as we were not scheduled to collect Joe until midday.

We went through some pretty countryside with a lot of vegetation, diverting to drive the main street of some tourist towns packed with antique shops. Saw a number of birds, some like osprey with nests on power poles or radio antenna close to the road. Rocky's roadside cafe for lunch was curious. I'd never thought of Mexican Italian as a likely combination. The food was fine however, and Joe and Gay had been there before.

I guess it took until nearly 4 p.m. before we reached Ormond Beach, as we also stopped to do a little last minute shopping. We diverted to ensure we checked out Joe and Gay's former house. That was interesting, as despite the new paint scheme and minor repairs, even I recognised it from many years ago. I also kept recognising bits of Ormond Beach, although there seemed a lot of new buildings in the area, especially large hotel style ones.

I think I had met Gay's sister Wendi before, when they headed through Sydney on the way to Heron Island many years before, but I hadn't met Mark before. Jim, another visitor, was here. It as a really nice crowd, and the afternoon seemed to go pretty quick.

Mark showed some photos of some of the custom or strange motor cycles he had seen during the race week at Daytona. Some fascinating stuff, way beyond anything I recalled from when I rode back in the 1960's. Mark seemed to know heaps about them, and certainly made the photos more than just exotic pictures of unknown vehicles. Before long, Mark was encouraging me to get myself a motorcycle again. I have to admit it is a very tempting thought in some ways, given like Florida we have the right climate for motorcycles, but I don't need more toys.

After dark we all headed off in Joe and Gay's people mover (I hadn't realised it could seat six with ease). Traffic was dense once we got anywhere near Daytona Beach. Home owners were selling parking spaces on their lawns. There were people selling parking all over the area, as traffic stalled. We finally used the large parking garage in town, finding a spot in it after going up four or five levels.

That put us close to the main street motorbike parade, although the crowds meant it took us a long time to go even a block. Mark organised our progress, and insisted we check we were all together at the end of each block. He has done this before. Worked pretty well.

Mark commented on various bikes, which made it much more interesting for me. The engine sizes of some of the production motorcycles staggered me, with 1800cc engines in some cases. I've since read here of engines up around 2300cc! The weights of some sportster bikes were also very reasonable given the astonishing horsepower available.

As for the outright racing machines, I don't even want to think about the level of skill needed to control them, given how inadequate the tyres must be relative to engine output. The fancy custom bikes were interesting, but in many cases must have sacrificed both comfort and stability to get the extreme rake of some, or the fat rear tyres of others. The entire street theatre aspect of the bike parade was really neat. Some must have taken vast amounts of custom work to produce, although Mark says you can just buy some of that off the shelf.

The crowd seemed dense but cheerful, and I didn't see any brawls. The parade of bikes down the main street seemed endless, with many riders wearing interesting headgear or costume. I guess the parties at the bars continue all night. Sure didn't seem to be slowing down while we were there.

When we got away, we stopped for pizza nearer home. First real garbage (everything) pizza I've seen, as most US supreme pizzas seem to me to lack variety compared to what I expect.

Sunday 7 March 2004

Mark and Wendi rode their motor bikes while the rest of us piled in the Haldeman people mover for the long drive to St Augustine.

We had a stop to collect Barbara, from some nice apartments further along the highway.

Lunch was at the Conch House. I decided to try their name dish, a conch chowder which was very different to most chowders I've tried. A giant key lime pie for after, and luckily most people helped with that. Indeed, the restaurant brought a bunch of utensils for just that purpose. Given it was twice the size of any key lime I've ever before ordered I certainly couldn't have eaten it alone. Do I need to mention that I'd put on weight by the time I'd returned to Australia?

The oldest town in North America, St Augustine has an old Spanish fort (Castillo de San Marcos National Monument) on the waterside. A drawbridge, and lots of funky narrow streets. It was a delightful place to visit as a tourist.

The place was full of art stores. Mark and Wendi seemed to know all the best of them, as well as seeming to know the owners. I guess their house didn't turn into something out of an interior decorator magazine without a lot of artistic input, so it isn't surprising they looked carefully at local art. I really wish I could manage to make a home look artistic and like a fashion photograph, instead of like a garbage dump.

Back to Ormond Beach and collapsed. Mark showed me some of his wood carving, thin shells of paper thick wood, hand sanded down until you could almost see through them. The time and patience he put into them astonished me, especially given wood is an unforgiving material when taken so thin. Mark also showed me a book about carved wood. That had some astonishing photos in it. Wood shaped and thinned to the point of translucency.

Some time spent at the table with Joe, talking about fountain pens and food. Good combination.

Monday 8 March 2004

Jim left today for a day or so of motorcycling.

We drove to New Smyrna Beach, where the older infrastructure has been redeveloped. Collect Wes, a younger local bike rider, on the way. The views along the coast were great, although the strip development is much greater than at home at Airlie Beach. Did remind me somewhat of the Gold Coast.

Beach Buns had chocolate cookies and much else, and was highly recommended. We collected some supplies for later. We dined at Sea Harvest, where Gay and I shared a grouper sandwich. Half was larger than most meals I eat, and Gay and I often shared, since we are both attempting to look at our diet.

Gregg and Joy Badder's Jewelry of Joy on Flagler Avenue had some absolutely fascinating hand made jewellery, including music boxes with lots of moving bits. We completed our visit with a walk to Canal Street, before returning to the house.

Charles and Karin arrived just when Wendi probably thought she finally had the house to herself for a brief fleeting moment.

Mark and Joe were off for a long bicycle ride, which sounded too strenuous to me, given they were both regular riders.

I went for a walk along the beach with Gay, who claimed we did a couple of miles in the 45 minutes we wandered. Many varieties of sea birds along the shore just out of the water, often in clusters that included five different species.

At sunset Mark led us off to view the sunset at the river. I did discover my $1 Florida sandals were not a good shoe for running (we were at risk of being late for the sunset). It was a very nice sunset, with a decent amount of bird life around the river.

Sitting talking and drinking. Charles and Karin are planning a trip to Australia in September 2005, including 10 days of a diving boat trip from Cairns, so we talked about potential places to visit. Glen Helen Gorge, Kings Canyon, Ayers Rock seemed possibilities.

Tuesday 9 March 2005

Concrete trucks arrive across the road and make lots of noise starting at 6:30 a.m. I was distinctly not impressed, and don't think I was the only one. At least back home the construction work isn't allowed to start until 7 a.m.

After breakfast we loaded four bikes on the back of Gay's car, and headed off to Bel Aire. Joe, Gay, Wendi and I got to ride the bicycles 5 miles along the beach and then up Daytona main drag. I wasn't impressed by the traffic, but the beach ride was great fun. Been a long time since I've been on a bike. Probably last time I visited Joe and Gay actually.

Lots of students on spring break playing catching games (mostly with frisbies) on the beach.

We ate at Avocado Kitchen. Meet Mark and and Wes, who had bicycled the entire way, some 14 miles? Charles and Karin eventually turn up, having had slight problems collecting their A frame camper trailer.

Gay and I share an avocado melt, and then ruin respective diets by having a Mississippi (sp?) mud pie. This was gigantic, and totally negated any calories lost from the bicycle ride.

Ride 5 miles back along beach. I thought I might feel the effects of that later on my leg muscles, but my main problem was pressure on my damaged tendon on my left hand. I just don't have much grip left in that hand, or more accurately, it hurts too much to exert much grip.

The evening activity was to paint the wooden fish theme napkin rings that Mark had made. He had provided a bunch of different acrylic paints. That was a lot of fun, and a very different activity. Wish I could paint a bit better, and that I could remember the colours of some tropic fish a little more accurately.

Wednesday 10 March 2004

We had to arise early, and then two car loads of us headed off from Ormond Beach towards distant Orlando. It took us about an hour and a half, and despite being separated early in the trip, both cars reached the Winter Park turnoff at the same moment.

We made a visit to the Morse Museum in Winter Park. Charles Hosmer Morse was a turn of century industrialist who retired to Winter Park and became a major benefactor in the town. The delightful Central Park in this attractive town is the largest of his contributions. The town is also the location of Rollins College.

The Morse museum was founded by his granddaughter, Jeanette Genius McKean (1909-1989), with her husband Hugh F McKean. In 1930 he had studied as an artist at Tiffany's Laurelton Hall estate. He was director of the museum for 53 years, and President of Rollins Collage from 1951 to 1969.

We were there to view the extensive Louis Comfort Tiffany collection. As well as the lamps, there was the restored chapel interior created for the 1893 Chicago exhibition, paintings, plus salvage from the burnt down remains of Laurelton Hall. I noted a small collection of Maxfield Parish paintings, which I really like. A wonderful museum, with samples from the 4000 item collection in 19 galleries.

After some efforts to find an uncrowded restaurant we tried Biscotti restaurant for lunch. This was new, but good. Lots more food than I can eat, which doesn't surprise me now.

We wandered through the town, looking at stores. We stopped at Restoration Hardware, which turned out to be highly similar to the one I saw in Berkley.

Said goodbye to Mark and Wendi, Charles and Karin. Mark wanted to get back to Ormond Beach to take a long bicycle ride.

Wine Bar for a last chat with Joe and Gay, before they also went off to visit a friend.

Pat and Roger collected me outside the Morse museum. They were a little late after traffic problems. When Pat first got out of the car in the sunlight I didn't immediately recognise her in the distance, however I soon spotted Roger as well, and crossed over to where they were.

We headed off and collected Carolyn at airport. She had her luggage ready outside the baggage araea, and had been waiting less than ten minutes.

Carolyn reminds me we had dinner at Chez Sims with Dick Spelman. The cold cut ham came from Bill Cavin. Nice to hear of him, even if he wasn't there.

Took a night walk around the Sims' neighborhood and saw a probable planet in the sky, but could not say if it was Venus or Jupiter. Venus seemed the most likely however.

Talk about medical systems, with none of us happy about them in any country. Mostly we recalled mutual friends, and caught up with events since we last saw each other.

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Orlando - Thursday 11 March 2004

Grapefruit knives needed by Carolyn and Pat. Carolyn had never seen them. The one Pat has is single edged, so I'd like to find her a double edged one. Naturally now that I am seeking them, I am finding it hard to locate them here also.

Dotti brought Suzi over around 9 a.m. Dotti at 35 looked very different indeed to what I recall as a kid wandering around conventions with Suzi. Must have been at least 20 years since I'd seen her, however I'd seen Suzi and Kent in the 1990's. Dotti had to leave fairly soon. Suzi looked if anything even younger, providing evidence for her long standing claim to be 29. Dick came over in the morning and talked with us all for a while.

Around midday D Gary arrived in a hire car, and was promptly the focus of several cameras. Somehow this led to attempts to find anagrams for the names of those present. For Suzi we found sensualists, unessential, influenza and sassiest as possibilities.

We made a store visit thanks to D Gary, where Carolyn added more food to the plentiful supplies, and I got some Australian wine. D Gary got some sunglasses, since his were in his own car back at his home.

David and Rose Kyle came over for dinner as did Dick, while Roger did the honours on the barbecue. That was a very good meal. Lots of good conversation and good food, and a lot of silliness.

D Gary drove Suzi back to Dotti's place around 8:30, while Carolyn read maps and Roger and I sat in the back with Suzi and continued to make silly conversation. That meant we didn't return until pretty late.

Friday 12 March 2004

While I was up around seven, there seemed some delay from others. I hadn't slept well on the previous two nights in any case, so I'd been awake for several hours.

Most of us went to the Y gym, and used their various exercise and torture devices, some of which were so complicated that only by studying the entrails ... I mean pivots and linkages could I discover in which direction you were intended to move the various levers.

D Gary resisted this fiendish attempt at foisting exercise on him, and instead fled to the Barnes and Noble bookshop. His attempts to find his freshly missing sunglasses remained a total failure.

We headed off to Lake Wales and the Bok Sanctuary and Tower. The drive took longer than expected, being past where we had taken Suzi. The road leading to it went past numerous churches, with at least one new one being built. I was more than a little surprised at this, as new churches are not a growth industry in Australia at least.

Passed some beautiful flowers around the Pine Ridge nature preserve trail, which is dependent on periodic fires, which are now set by the Bok Sanctuary.

Dutch immigrant Edward W Bok commissioned the fascinating tower designed by Milton B Medary. It has daily 45 minute carillon music by Milford Myhre on the five octave 60 tuned brass bells cast by John Taylor of England. The largest weighs over 11 tons, while the smallest is 16 pounds. The carillon is mechanically operated.

Gary didn't seem impressed by all the walking, being the highest spot in Florida. Just as well it wasn't Colorado I guess. I think Roger also found it a bit tiring, despite his gym walking. We had lunch at the Sanctuary.

The drive back took some time, partly due to moderately heavy traffic. We made one stop at a roadside tourist shop for some item I've not noted. May have been some special food. It was interesting to look around a regular tourist trap store. A lot of similarities to the ones in Las Vegas, only the labels were different.

At downtown Disney we finally found a parking spot, then headed to Bongos Cuban restaurant. That had some interesting food, although I'm uncertain how authentic it might have been. It was a bit noisy, just from the number of people and the open seating. Special thanks to D Gary, who very kindly insisted on treating.

The whole area was very tourist trap, and I cheerfully went into any of the places at which we stopped. I loved the magnet store for instance. Carolyn got us each a magnet, so I now have one on my fridge door reminding me my name is Eric and I live in Florida. One treat during the lengthy walk through the area was running across some Disney employees on Segway transporters. That was the first time I'd seen one live, and I still think they are really neat. Like the motorcycle, I am really tempted by them, except that I just don't need another gadget.

We ended up at the Girradelli chocolate shop, a really dangerous place. We were lucky enough not to have too long a wait in the queue for a table. The sundae was thanks to Carolyn, who treated us. It made for messy eating but was delicious.

Basketball game on TV when we all got back to Pat and Roger's place. I still can't really understand the attraction (or the rules) of basketball. But that is true of almost all ball games for me.

Saturday 13 March 2004

After breakfast Pat and Roger dropped Carolyn at the Orlando airport. When we returned D Gary had just about emerged from his cave. I think he dislikes morning also, which is a real pity as the following day he had an exceedingly early flight out.

We visited the local Barnes and Noble bookshop, conveniently located near Dick. Probably more accurately, Dick is where he is because it is close to a bookshop. I was pretty impressed. I like bookshops that have a snack area, just on general grounds. We spent a fair amount of time there.

I think I managed to avoid buying too much, maybe something to read on the return flight. You have to recall I was carrying only one small carry on bag. Which reminds me of a joke I feel certain Gary told me. There is a man boarding an aircraft, and he has a large vulture on his shoulder. The gate staff say "You can't take that onboard!" So the vulture says "Why not, it is just carrion."

D Gary kindly took me to the airport around 3, on his way out of town. I got through security pretty quick, but hadn't wanted to take a chance on being late, as I couldn't use the automatic ticket machines. Got a tuna sandwich at Dallas. A three hours time change. Met at Seattle by Jean, Janice and Alan. They were on their way back after visiting Lacey, taking Jean's mother out for a meal, and collecting Jean.

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Seattle - Sunday 14 March 2004

After getting to bed around midnight (3 a.m. Florida time), I slept pretty well. Not really converted to Seattle time however, as I was awake at 4 a.m. but did manage some more rest later.

Off with Alan to Pancake Haus for brunch around 10:30. This was a long and complicated drive, but through very attractive land. There were considerable nice landscapes on the drive. Jean and I were most amused by the different attitudes towards distance. We wouldn't really even consider driving to breakfast. We find it hard to consider crossing a room for breakfast.

Sat around talking after brunch. Alan and Janice went to a meal with relatives around five, while we wandered off towards a restaurant nearby. On the way up the street we came upon a 711 and a Domino's Pizza, and decided pizza and wine a sufficient meal. I was astonished at a 711 sufficiently upmarket to stock a range of wines. Beats the variety that have started infesting Australian cities, although even a 711 beats nothing at all, which was the previous situation in Australian city centres when the old shops closed.

Marci phoned to say she couldn't knock on the door. Then she needed to say she had a cold and couldn't come in. That sort of made sense, if you had drunk a half a bottle of wine. I guess.

I sat around reading a novel on my PDA. Must have ran out of books to read (again).

Monday 15 March 2004

Jean gave me a paperback novel to read. Stephen Brust and Emma Bull's Freedom and Necessity. Although it started slow, I was most impressed. Set in 1849, and told as a series of letters and journal entries by the characters.

We went for a walk, to the 711 store nearby, and got snacks and bagels for lunch, and extra milk for breakfast.

Alan was able to get home early (for him) so we got away around 2 p.m. Alan needed lunch, so we stopped for that (rendering our food precautions needless, but Jean and I shared a milkshake).

We had a very fine walk through a ravine I recognised from a previous trip. Not a lot of bird life, but some at least. I had failed to take a camera with me, given the overcast skies. This time we walked as far as the beach, It was most pleasant, although I was cold by the time we returned. My warmest clothes are inadequate for Seattle, or indeed any real US winter day. Actually I get cold very easily these days, with my artificially low blood pressure and slow pulse.

We all dined at Ivar's Salmon House, together with Cliff and Marilyn. We stopped at their house, and thus I was able to see the results of the tiling to replace the carpet I helped Marilyn remove several weeks before. We also got to see a tiny puppy they were minding for someone at the farm. Most energetic (and smallest) dog I've seen in ages. The cats had decided it wasn't snack food, but otherwise seemed bemused by the dog. That was a very pleasant evening.

Tuesday 16 March 2004

I continued reading the novel, as we had been left to relax. Jean of course sat at her computer, and partly as a result of some comments Alan and I made, had found new web pages to alter on her Avalook travel site.

We went for a walk at lunch time, heading up 130th Street to Aurora, where automobile sales yards congregated. We like trying to get at least one decent walk in each day, weather allowing. There was a K Mart centre there, with many fast food places. We had KFC, and I was astonished to find their chicken moist and pleasant, unlike the KFC product I recall in Australia (I stopped eating there long ago as a result).

We checked out a computer store in the area, laughing at the custom cases so very visible. Been there and done that 20 years ago, when I carefully selected colourful chip sockets for the TTL in my Applix 68000 based DIY computer. I should have added more LEDs however. Maybe I'll sometime do so, since it still works. We walked back along 125th Street, and as usual by the time we got back inside, I was cold.

Sat and read the novel until Alan returned rather late. My attempts at getting hot water from the kitchen tap were an almost total failure, so I only cleaned up some cat food tins for recycling. I doubt I'll ever cope with the less usual forms of American plumbing fixtures. I firmly resolve when replacing taps to stick with ones where hot and cold have a handle each, and a common spout. That at least I can handle.

We all had a late dinner at the 125th Street diner Alan and Janice favour. The steak sandwiches were great. We failed to totally avoid the key lime pie, but at least Jean and I shared one.

Wednesday 17 March 2004

Janice drove us to the airport early for our midday flight to Los Angeles. This was just as well, as traffic was heavier than expected. As it was, we had sufficient time to locate a Fresh Express outlet and get fresh sandwiches. Jean also knew a nice TV free place in the N terminal while we waited for our flight. Unfortunately it was directly across from a Dreyer's Ice Cream store. I can resist anything except temptation.

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Los Angeles - Wednesday 17 March 2004

We were met at LAX by Laurraine when we arrived around 3 p.m. Drove through suburban streets, which was much more interesting than the freeways. We stopped where we had a nice view of the Pacific, and I took some photos. In fact, my address book photo of Jean was taken at that spot.

Laurraine showed us how well a high definition back projector TV can perform, given a good cable feed that works at high definition. This was partly in response to comments I'd made about not replacing my TV when it breaks, on the basis of poor programs. I must admit that the display really did impress me. Mind you, a set that size dominates the room it was in. Given the size of our apartment, I'm sure a projector TV isn't even possible for us.

Laurraine, Jean and I went to the Olive Garden for an Italian dinner around 6 p.m. I gather this might be part of a chain of restaurants, although I've not been to one before. Mike didn't come. Nice food, good conversation. I enjoyed the place, but given we had been on an airline, perhaps we hadn't had much for lunch.

Mike got out a very neat 200mm folded optics reflecting telescope, and set it up in the backyard. That took about 20 minutes. The telescope did all sorts of neat motor drive stuff to locate and track objects. Mike also kindly answered heaps of my questions about telescopes. He has a stunningly detailed web site about Meade telescopes. They sure have changed a lot since the books I got on them as a child.

They live in a site where they are shielded from much of the sky glow from Los Angeles, and viewing conditions were pretty good that evening. We got views of a crescent Venus, Orion's Belt, the Pleides, Jupiter, where a couple of cloud belts could be seen, and an excellent view of Saturn's rings. I was most impressed, and very thankful for the chance to see them.

I'd been planning to check up on telescopes in Australia when we were next in a major city. This was because a chemist shop 150km away had a range of large cheap telescopes with Chinese optics. The prices had reminded me that many things were now more affordable, partly due to the strength of the A$ against US$ (China fix their currency to the US, as a competitive ploy, just like Taiwan used to do).

I did later check on telescopes in Australia. The telescope and binocular shop I visited in Sydney quizzed me on existing and likely use, and on my location. They advised my location and habits would rapidly destroy a reflecting scope, and also the telescope electronics. They suggested I get a compact weather resistant refractor spotting scope that would double as a 400 mm telescopic lens for my digital camera, and use a quick dismount video camera style tripod so I was more likely to put the thing away instead of leaving it out on the balcony.

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Corflu 21 Las Vegas - Thursday 18 March 2004

After breakfast, took the shuttle around 8 a.m. with Laurraine and were driven through heavy traffic to LAX. We arrived in plenty of time. Jean ate her sandwich from the previous day, so she must have been planning ahead.

The taxi queue at Las Vegas was horrible, but very organised. Must have been in it for a half hour. However with three of us, and Jean and I having all our luggage rather than a subset, it still seemed the best option.

Downtown, and we found the Plaza Room was not ready, which came as no real surprise. After dumping our bags we wandered around in the casino. Laurraine and I were hungry, and so we had a meal at the convenient Subway inside the casino.

The first fans encountered were not precisely locals. British fans Ian Sorenson, Yvonne Rowse and finally Julia all turned up in the lobby, waiting for their rooms also.

We finally got our room, at about when the casino estimated. After a bit of unpacking we looked for other fans. Found an impressive list, some of whom I'm not sure I ever saw again.

Moshe Feder, artist Steve and Elayne Styles, Lenny Bailes in registration. Las Vegas fans Arnie and Joyce were in the lobby trying to get their suite and having hotel problems, despite checking the bookings multiple times as the convention approached. Arnie did some fine flowing talking to move the hotel from recalcitrant to slightly more helpful. Of course, he never should have had to do so, had the hotel not stuffed up.

Had a giant prime rib dinner in the hotel with Laurraine. Do I need to mention that it was a struggle to get through it all, especially as I topped it off with a milkshake.

After that I went for a walk (well, more of a waddle) looking for filtered water for tea for Jean. We noted the room had no water heating facility, so we also bought a mug and a strange little $10 electric kettle. I also got some Guiness to have at the party, because I know Vegas doesn't offer much in the way of good ales in most areas.

That evening the showpiece was the Katz party, where Joyce and Arnie kindly threw open their suite for all the early arrivals. It was great to see so many fans early in the con.

The only conversation I clearly recall was Ron Bushyager on Pentium 3 branch prediction. I guess sometimes I just need my fix of tech talk. I did also talk with Jim Caughran, a fellow FAPA member, and one of the few who has visited us here.

Friday 19 March 2004

I went out to get breakfast stuff for Jean at 7:30, which is my usual job when travelling. I got stuck with a cold shower, mostly because I couldn't manage to control the shower controls. I think I eventually either figured them out, or the hot water finally reached the room.

Since most fans are not up early, we went off to the shops. The bus was very crowded and slowed dramatically by a wheelchair boarding. Some passengers grumbled, but I wonder how they would like it were they confined to a wheelchair.

Fashion Show Mall was distracting, but we couldn't find even one of the things we sought (mostly, good tea). That was a bit of a disappointment for Jean. I usually like Fashion Show, for being blatantly upmarket. I like the Brookstone and Sharper Image trendy gadget stores. I like the other fancy stores, as I know I'll probably never buy what they sell, so they become a fancy display rather than expensive stores.

Ceasar's Palace Forum shops, if anything even more upmarket. Alas, the shoe store there had disappeared. We had already seen all the strange fountains. However normally there are no fans there. Linda spotted us. Hope introduced us to Charles. We didn't find sandals or tea there either, but it was entertaining to meet fans.

The bus back was incredibly crowded, but people just wouldn't move to the back of the bus. We wandered some more near the hotel, found tea, but the only brand was Liptons, which Jean dislikes. Did get another gallon of filtered water.

Upon our return to the Plaza we noted a number of fans wandering about. We got contradictory stories about where registration was. Don Fitch said was on the third floor. It wasn't, but it had been. We were told it was at the con suite on the 24th floor. That turned out to be closed. I did take a photo of the nice door sign however. I alos learned from Ken that Joyce had put some tea bags or teas in the con suite, so I reported that to Jean. Naturally they actually turned out to be herbal teas.

There was a report that a cocktail party was to occur on the third floor at p.m. however there was no sign of that when we got there around 3:20 so I guess we missed it. There was a strange game being set up by gaming guru Karl Kreder. Jean and I decided we were probably not likely to be participants. Went back to the room, after being quizzed by Milt about the wetlands tour we missed. Jean and I collapsed.

We eventually revived enough to check the third floor and the con suite on the 24th floor. Got our memberships, and even got to read the program guide. Organisers Ben Wilson and Ken Forman had a neat little program book listing the history of Corflu, with fine cover art by Alan White. I hadn't looked at the web site that Tracy had set up for the con since I left home at the end of January, so I didn't know what was on. I did notice Cathi and Aileen doing an incredible amount of the actual work at the con.

Art produced some whiskey late in the evening. That revived me a little.

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Saturday 20 March 2004

I went out to get breakfast stuff for Jean at 7:30. When I returned with the milk Jerry was waiting for the traffic lights to change. While chatting, I mentioned our problem obtaining tea. Jerry said he was going to Starbucks. I thought this a typical Seattle fan solution. However it did later occur to me that perhaps Starbucks would indeed have better tea than the Liptons at the grocery stores. Jerry later reported that the Starbucks staff may not have had much experience at pouring hot water into cups, so maybe they wouldn't have been a good source of tea.

Con suite around 9 a.m. Cathi Wilson and Aileen Forman did a great job of the hospitality. Sitting listening to various people there, mostly Ron Bushyager earlier, and later Marty Cantor solve all the economic and political problems of the world by being unreasonable (I thought the nuclear devices were a bit much).

We snacked in the con suite instead of being sensible about a meal. As well as the delicious crock pot food, evil fine chocolates from Trader Joe were contributed by Don.

Auction around 2 p.m. Thanks to the generosity of US fans, and Andy, money was raised for both TAFF and GUFF. The auctioneers were Andy, Arnie and Jerry.

Tom Becker got the Carl Brandon The Catcher of the Rye. I was somewhat surprised about the bids for some items, given that this isn't a giant convention. Strange items, a Ditto T shirt that claimed to be a Corflu T shirt, that Moshe bought for $5.

Beer tasting of eight Nevada microbrews in the con suite. I don't think they know how to make a full flavoured beer, although there were a couple of interesting fruity beers, unsuited to long drinking. The divide in the con suite between those who favour a light beer and those who want an ale was rather noticeable.

Aileen's choice for worst and most undrinkable beer was the one that was best received by some experienced beer drinkers. I was highly amused. Pity some of the Brits didn't comment at length. Judy Beamis and I toasted the recently departed Sam Konkin in Guiness.

David Mattingly talks entertainingly on getting into fandom, and his early Tolkien days.

Several of us walk Janice Morningstar back to her hotel at 1 a.m. She later reports gunshots at the Golden Nugget at about the time we returned. We heard nothing, and thus have no adventures to report. Talked with many people. Watched somewhat astonished as Arnie failed to hear Andy on TAFF.

I got back to the room around 2:45 a.m., considerably the worse for wear.

Sunday 21 March 2004

The brunch was a food filled affair. It was more than fitting that Ted White was GoH. Ted gave a fine speech on fandom, and its meaning to him, and on the scarcity of new fans. It isn't a new theme, but is certainly worth restating.

Jean and I made our almost now traditional bid for an Australian Corflu at Airlie Beach. Having tweaked Ted enough, we then we made way for Tom Becker's successful Bay area Corflu, details to be decided. Those who noted we were Australian agent for Tom's bid, and he was US agent for our bid, were suspicious that the fix may have been in. Just wait until they see our next bid!

The rest of the day was basically dead dog party, with some people having to leave that day.

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Las Vegas

Monday 22 March 2004

Up rather late, somewhat the worse for wear. On one of my multiple trips to the laundry trying to get some clothes finished I came across Arnie Katz, and Ben and Kathi Wilson making their way out. Arnie accuses me of being a Las Vegas resident, and thus able to attend the next Corflu. I will be trying to do that.

The laundry was finally done around 10:30. I'd wanted to help with the con suite cleanup, but by the time I got there the door was closed.

Bus to Fashion Show Mall again, check out Sharper Image, Brookstones, lust after silly gadgets. Ask many questions in the conspicuously upmarket Apple store.

Next bus was broken, although we didn't discover that until passengers noted how it was crawling and stalling. Driver reports it in, and stops taking passengers. Someone climbed onboard despite that, and then argued with the driver. He copped an insistent passenger chant get off the bus until he did.

At the Luxor I got the following bus, found my original broken bus stopped one stop further at Mandalay not managing to drive anywhere.

My target was the defunct Vacation Village much further out of town, which now has a large Frys computer supermarket nearby. I did see Ross Chamberlain working at Frys, and talked with him for a few minutes. Books on networking but available as a CD appealed to me (I could get rid of the paper versions). Got a small Ethernet switch for $20, as I knew I would need one at home. An X10 remote switch was less use, as it seems the US frequency may be different to Australian X10 remotes. I wasted lots of time in Frys.

The return journey by bus takes over 2 hours, although by getting on just about at the terminal at least I got a seat back to downtown. I think Jean had a much less energetic day.

Share a Subway with Jean as my only meal for the day. Andy Hooper saw us in the hotel. Carrie Root and Andy visit in our room. Their midday flight was actually midnight, and they needed a restful place to sit. It was great to see them, and actually have a chance to talk with Carrie as well. It was a real pity we hadn't known of their problem much earlier in the day.

Tuesday 23 March 2004

Usual search for milk at 7:30. I don't think I mentioned that the milk we found is Weber brand. We have the photos (on the web site) to prove it.

I headed on the bus to Fashion Show Mall again. As planned, I bought an Apple Macintosh Powerbook, as a symbol of a refusal to ever again buy anything with a Microsoft operating system included. Because I was short on time I made the mistake of not taking the shop up on their offer of updates via their fast network connections.

Not too bad on the bus back, only an hour. Played with the Macintosh until Jean returned (which of course was when I was taking a shower).

Planned to leave on bus at 4, got to Flamingo at 5, changed buses and got to the Palms a little later than the 5:30 specified. The buses are real slow.

A most wonderful dinner at the Palms (perhaps the best I've ever had in Las Vegas) organised by Ron and Linda, with them and their house guest Hope. As usual the dining room was too noisy, so I had some trouble with the conversation. Weird TV in restrooms, so you could watch while using the facilities. I think that took entertainment a little too far, but I'm glad I was advised to check it out. We left at about 8 p.m. We would have liked to have stayed later, and taken up their invitation to see their house. However our experience of the speed of the bus system made us reluctant about travelling even further away from our hotel.

Thanks to Linda's directions, we got the faster 302 bus (we knew about the express bus, but not where the express bus stops were). We caught the somewhat modified Freemont Street Experience on the way to the hotel. They are wiring up smaller, fancier and more numerous lights, but that upgrade is not complete. I thought I could manage to stay up a little, but was collapsed by 10 p.m. Jean had crashed pretty much as soon as we reached the room.

So ended our US trip. Next day we flew to Los Angeles, and then on to Sydney. Jean had a comfortable seat in the pointy end of the plane, and my free seat was in economy. Jean seemed to cope better than I did. We had a day in Sydney before we could get home.

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A science fiction fanzine from Eric Lindsay whose address is changed to fijagh2006 thanks to spammers. This issue reports on our trip to the USA in February and March 2004, taking in fannish conventions Potlatch and Corflu.