Ten days (and only 2 dives) later, I'm leaving the country again. I have a gruelling five day conference under the punishing backdrop of a five star beach resort in Goa.

I was actually pretty impressed with the conference. It turned out to be a good event, as well as an effective opportunity to show off the university.

Posted Thu Dec 16 00:00:00 2010 Tags: work

Another whistlestop tour of the country. I must stop doing this. Top of the attractions is Runcorn. Well, first at least.

Yep, actual work again. The Machine Evaluation Workshop is Runcorn's premier supercomputing conference, and all round excuse for meeting sysadmin types. It's still a good conference, and I remember very little of it.

The Tour hits Liverpool, Durham and Edinburgh on consecutive days, while the country is under biblical levels of snow. And because the country in question is England, the public transport system falls apart. My TransPennine Distress "service" across from Liverpool to Durham is replaced with Gloom, Delay and Waiting In Station Pubs.

My tour of Durham's rustic IT Service facilities is definitely work too.

Edinburgh of course looks lovely in the snow (compare Liverpool, which just looks like it stole it). I take the opportunity to have another go at the panoramic photo I attempted last year from the top of the Scott monument. One year on, I'm capable of using the little tricks my camera offers like actually getting the thing in focus. Unsurprisingly, it's perishing up here and I can barely see out of my right eye by the time I finish.

And that's it for this outing. By the evening, I'm in Heathrow waiting for a dude to finish spraying steaming deicer on a 767, and the following morning, I'm back in work in the desert. In body at least.

Posted Sun Dec 5 00:00:00 2010 Tags: work

Conference wrap-up:

Supercomputing is the big annual conference for my industry, and this was my first visit. We were there to get ourselves noticed, as usual, and the toys brought along by our partners at CalIT2 did a pretty good job.

My interest here is in two main areas: the sysadmin track (which is a pretty minor part of the programme) and in gateway computing, a term which is used to mean alternative ways of accessing supercomputing. The latter delivers an interesting workshop, but the most I get from the former is a dried alligator head as a prize for my contribution.

And that's pretty much it but for the closing night party. The venue was Mardi Gras World, which is basically the warehouse where the floats are stored. The entertainment was a local jazz band and very good they were too.

So this morning I'm flying out again, back to Chicago to meet friends.

Posted Fri Nov 19 00:00:00 2010 Tags: work

It's time to leave the Kingdom again. I flew out a couple of days ago, on the usual early o clock flight to Heathrow. The Saudia alternatives to this BA flight are at more civilised hours but there's a good reason to pick this one. Once we get over Egypt, BA has beer, and that's crucial for coping with the small child intent on destroying the back of my seat.

I've got a few days in the UK to do shopping and a few other errands. The important one is opening an offshore bank account, and I appear to have achieved that. I also crack after months of not having a watch, and invest in one that I hope is too nice for me to randomly destroy through neglect. Also, beer and curry.

So today will be a long day, flying from Heathrow to New Orleans. Crazy 7am start to get to Heathrow on time. I've picked American Airlines for my transatlantic flight because I've got a tight connection in Chicago, and I want to make it the airline's problem to get me on the second leg.

I've naively assumed that all transatlantic flights are much the same - where my experience is BA - but I'm not right. American is a proper trial. The in-flight entertainment is pitiful. There's no video on demand at all, and the choice is extremely limited. Even more shockingly, there's no free booze. The journey is as long and tedious as this post. Peering out of the window at Canada's frozen wastes does little to alleviate the boredom.

Happily, O'Hare is functioning better than I have been lead to expect. We land on time, immigration are swift and even polite, and I'm admitted to the country. My bags are soon re-checked onto the next leg of my journey and I'm on the way to the domestic terminal, which is where it all goes wrong.

The line for security is long and slow-moving, and uses up most of my remaining time. I'm getting twitchy as I finally reach the front of the line and dutifully undress in order to be violated by the hired goons.

I leave the security area in my socks, and hustle towards my gate, where my flight is ostensibly boarding. In reality, of course, it's not and they've just flicked the sign to "Last Call" to get all the sheeple in line before they open boarding.

The flight itself is uneventful and by the end of the day I'm ensconced in the disappointing Hilton Garden Inn with my colleagues.

Posted Sat Nov 13 00:00:00 2010 Tags: work