Category Archives: travel

Getting ready for the Emacs Conference

I’m in London for Emacs Conference 2013 (squee!!), which is tomorrow. John Wiegley and I are starting the day off with a whirlwind tour of Emacs’ past, present, and future. The program looks excellent, and I can’t wait to learn from all these wonderful people. Let’s find out what sketchnotes of an extremely geeky conference look like! =D

I’d worked on this presentation about 9 hours before leaving for London. I wrote most of the presentation code on the airplane (functions to go forward and backward, and to process the current slide).

I finished the rest of the content this morning, then headed out with Alex and his wife Tina. Today I got to experience a slice of regular life over here: a walk through the market, a grocery trip, a yummy home-cooked meal. Alex and Tina have been fantastic hosts! =)

After dinner, I worked a little more on the presentation. I made slides and a PDF just in case my Org presentation doesn’t work out, and helped with nametags and the list of people attending.

I’m looking forward to the conference. I think this will be an excellent adventure! I’ll post my presentation afterwards, so subscribe to my blog or follow the #emacsconf hashtag. If you’re attending tomorrow, come and say hi! I’ll be the short Asian girl bouncing around and possibly hyperventilating at all the awesomeness. I’ll also be drawing sketchnotes on a tablet PC, assuming I don’t give up and stick everything into org-capture instead. =)

Tech report: Living on the T-Mobile 2G network

I was going to be in the US for 14 days, so I picked up a free prepaid SIM card for my phone in order to avoid massive roaming fees. My Samsung Galaxy S3’s compatible with the T-Mobile network, so I opted for the $2 Pay by the Day plan that included unlimited talk, text, and 2G web. A $30 load covered my 14-day trip with a dollar to spare. My parents were going to be there longer, so the $50 unlimited talk/text/web (100MB at 4G speed) was a better fit for them. 

After I put in the SIM card, I confirmed that phone and text worked. The Internet connection wasn’t working, though. The call center agent asked me to make sure airplane mode was off (yup) and packet data was enabled (yup), and she tried resetting my connection to the network. Still no luck, though. Some searching turned up the fact that the 2G network is GSM. The following setting made it possible for me to connect to the Internet using my phone:

Settings > Wireless and networks > More Settings > Mobile networks > Network mode > GSM only

2G was fine for quick map lookups and the occasional web search. I didn’t need to stream video or anything like that, so I didn’t miss the data speeds.

If you’re going to be on a short US trip and you don’t need a lot of data, it might be worth checking this out.

Raiding San Francisco’s Japantown for bento accessories and pens

Japantown was a thirty-minute walk from Union Square along a route that reminded me that yes, San Francisco is built on hills. It was quite a pleasant walk, actually: sunshine, a breeze, and conversation. I wanted to pick up some bento accessories for J-, whose love of all things Japanese might motivate her to prepare and enjoy more creative and healthy lunches in high school. I also wanted to check out the stationary store at which it was rumored that one could find nifty little fountain pens and other imports.

There were lots of cool bento accessories at Ichibankan and Daiso. I promised W- that I wouldn’t go overboard, so I bought just a few items: a few silicone food dividers and cups, a nori punch, and some sauce bottles. That should make the bento box much more fun to fill.

I’d also been looking for an extra-fine fountain pen, and the Internet recommended checking out Maido. When I went to the address given, though, I was somewhat disappointed to find a character stationary shop filled with cute gifts but a tiny selection of pens. Fortunately, the Kinokuniya salesperson directed me to the second floor, where I found the real Maido stationary shop. It was awesome! I got the Pilot Penmanship Fountain Pen and the CON-50 converter. That doesn’t seem to be listed on the Maido website, but here it is on Jetpens.

There’s a small J-town complex in Markham, but it’s nowhere near the scale of the one in San Francisco. =) Glad I got a chance to check this one out!

Stories from the trip: Terminal 3

ccattrib_naia_3_2009_michael_francis_mccarthyFrom October 15: After many hugs, we piled our luggage onto a cart and headed briskly into Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1.

The security guard looked at our tickets and said, "Congratulations! You’re at the wrong terminal!" – but so cheerfully that it took the edge off my panic.

I scrambled to find my cellphone. I called my parents, who had dropped us off. "Eep! Terminal 3!" Fortunately, they weren’t far off. More hugs, a quick un-pile and re-pile of luggage, and we were at the (relatively) new Terminal 3. We had flown out of and into that terminal for our domestic flights, so I was familiar with it, but this is the first time we’d flown out of it for an international flight.

Anyway, it stuck with me a little. =) It’s fun to see people having fun at work.

Decision review: Metropass instead of biking to work in November

After a pleasant weekend bike ride with W-, I thought I’d get back into the habit of biking to work.

I’d stopped in August because I didn’t want to risk damaging my new laptop. During a bumpy trip to the office, W’s previous laptop had bounced unnoticed out of his panniers and onto the road, where several passing trucks flattened it into a pancake. Fortunately, it was a work laptop, so replacement wasn’t difficult. If I damaged my spiffy new souped-up laptop, though, I’d probably regret it a bit. (Yes, stuff is stuff, but it’s okay to be cautious.) So I commuted via subway, wheeling along a small suitcase with my personal laptop and my work laptop.

The small suitcase’s wheels finally gave out, and I switched to bringing a backpack. It was tough with two computers, but fortunately I received a much-anticipated hardware upgrade at work. Because my new work laptop could handle running my development virtual machines and the programs we needed for work, I started leaving my personal laptop at home. This meant that I could bike into work if I wanted to.

I biked to work once. The next day, up much earlier than sunrise, I thought about whether I should just give in to the idea of getting a public transit pass instead of trying to tough it out and bike for as long as possible in November.

Biking: Exercise; ease of doing errands; will still prefer to take transit when rainy or snowy

Public transit pass (Metropass): $121

Public transit tokens: 40 tokens at $2.50 = $100, plus extra tokens if I need to go to the client site and the office on the same day.

Because a Metropass was not much more expensive than paying for public transit tokens, using the pass is more convenient than juggling tokens, I decided to go for a pass. Work covers the expense, but even if I were paying for it myself, I’d probably still make the same decision. With the transit tax credit of 15.25%, the after-tax cost comes out to around the same as buying tokens for weekday travel, and weekend travel would be a bonus.

I’m going to take the subway this month, although I might still bike if the weekends are pleasant. I’ll use the time to listen to podcasts like the Psych Files (behavioural psychology = hacking your brain) or to draft posts. Maybe I might even pick up a few more books for my Kindle. We’ll see. =)

Decision review: Cat boarding

We were going to be away for a week and a half, so we needed to make plans for our three cats. In the past, J- had done a little cat-sitting for us. I’d also asked a friend before, but that was for a weekend. With our cats occasionally throwing up or pooing outside the litter box when they’re upset, I didn’t want to inflict that on friends, even if I was happy to pay market rates. We wanted to make sure the cats were watched over and played with during the day, so we decided to give cat boarding a try.

Boarding cats is more expensive than hiring a cat sitter. We felt anxious about having someone else come into our house while we’re away, though, so we considered the difference a worthwhile premium for peace of mind – no litterbox accidents or throw-ups to worry about, and no worrying about stuff missing either. We also liked the ability to specify instructions like feeding Neko small, frequent meals – if you give her a lot of food in one go, she sometimes rushes and then throws up.

There was a small risk that the cats would pick up colds, ticks, or fleas from other cats, but we decided we could deal with that.

After calling up a few cat boarding places, we settled on Lonesome Kitty, a nearby cat boarding place. I checked out the location, and it seemed fine. The resident cats looked bright and alert, and none of them were obviously scratching themselves. We decided that it would be better to board there than with a veterinarian because vet offices tend to be busy (and occasionally full of sick animals!), so we e-mailed our confirmation. On the day before our flight, we dropped the cats off along with enough cat food for their stay.

After we got back, Luke and Leia sought attention more often than usual, and Neko had a cold. (The poor dear.) The cats were okay, though, and life returned to normal a week or so after we got back.

The cost of boarding three cats worked out to around $32 per day. A cat sitter would have cost around $23 per day. Lonesome Kitty has since then raised its prices to $36 for three cats / day.

2011-09-25 Sun 09:06