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Freezing in San Francisco

I missed blogging Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, because the days were rushed and we all enjoyed our first break all week. So, to catch you up, here's Friday:


For us, OSCon kind of fizzled out: we had a busy day on Friday, going to the Women in Open Source talk (you'd be surprised how many attended!), then the EU Software Patents talk with Marten Mickos (MySQL), Michael Tiemann (Red Hat), and Hartmut Pilch (FFII).

The patents talk was interesting for two reasons. First, Nat Torkington (the chair of OSCon and all-round important person) greeted Hartmut in a very interesting way: "Congratulations on your success, if you call it a success. Do you call it a success?" Nice to see O'Reilly remain on the ball.

The other interest was the quotes - when not competing with each other for the best simile for software patens (Pilch, "Patents are like a ladder"; Mickos, "Patents are like tobacco"), they actually had some worthwhile things to say:

Tiemann: "The scariest thing for [US companies] in all the world is that Europe might build a better Olympic team because they aren't doped up on patents."

Tiemann 1, Mickos 0.

Mickos: "There are patent trolls out there, and they can kill any open source company or project."

Score one for Mickos.

Mickos: "When Americans come to Europe they said, "why do you guys smoke so much?" Now it's the other way around - Europeans can come to America and say "Why do you guys have so many patents? Can't you see they are killing you?"

Tiemann 1, Mickos 2.

Tiemann: "I wouldn't say we have won the war, but we remained standing."

He snuck that one in off the post.

Tiemann: "We haven't put all our eggs in the "absolute eradication of patents" basket." `

Tiemann: 3, Mickos 2. They think it's all over, but...

Mickos: "When I talk to my CEO friends, they say "No, we can't oppose this. The US already has patents, so if Europe doesn't have patents we'll be in trouble". That's utter bullshit."

Three each at full time, and most entertaining for a change.

From there we met up with Larry Wall, his lovely wife Gloria, and three of his four children. The plan was to have lunch then do a quick interview and photo shoot, but instead we ended up talking for almost three hours. For the photo shoot, I was somewhat pleased that Joby used my idea - we cruised around on the free tram for half an hour or so, chatting about church and life in general. We had to get off in the end, as some nutters had a go at Joby for using his camera - they seemed to think he was photographing them!

Larry's a really nice guy, and I'm really looking forward to how the interview comes out in print.

Tonight we went out to the Hawthorne district; Joby says there's a theater there called the Bagdad, where you can sit on a sofa, eat and drink pizza and beer, and watch a movie. According to the paper, the new Hitchhikers' Guide movie is on tonight, so we went there. Sadly when we arrived we discovered it was the Enron documentary they had showing, but as we were really here for the experience we didn't mind.

The showing wasn't for two hours, so we went to an alehouse nearby. The beer here continues to be very impressive: the Blue Heron Pale Ale was most impressive, but my favourite was the Amber Ale. Anyway, once the theater opened up, we went on in to get tickets - at $3 each we figured we couldn't go wrong. Sadly, they wanted photo ID, because they serve alcohol inside; Joby flashed his driver's licence and was waved through, but Ildiko and I had nothing of the sort, so we got turned away. Joby very sportingly decided to come with us, and we got a cab home. D'oh!


Big plans for today: it's my first chance to look around Portland. So, the three of us arranged to meet at 10am by the convention centre to go to the zoo. When we met up with Joby, he said he decided he'd rather go to Powell's book store (quite rightly, as he hadn't seen it yet), so Ildiko and I went along by ourselves.

The Oregon Zoo is quite sizeable, so there's a lot of space for the limited number of animals they keep there. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say we went to see the penguins...

Penguins at the Oregon Zoo

Then went to see the primates...

Primates at the Oregon Zoo

And also saw the various other flora and fauna around. Near the zoo is the Japanese Garden, which is a fantastic collection of zen gardens, waterfalls, and artfully arranged stones that's built high on the hillside overlooking Portland. Not only does this bestow tranquility to the place, but you also get a great view of the town with Mount Hood behind it.

The Japanese Garden in Portland, OR

That evening we went back to the Hawthorne District, this time with passports for Ildiko and I so we could see that damn Enron film. This time it was Joby that let the team down - Ildiko and I had our passports, but Joby only had his driver's licence. Sadly that wasn't classed as good enough despite the opposite being true last night, so we were home by 11pm. Not a bad thing considering we're flying tomorrow!


An early morning rise has us checked in at Portland airport by 8am, ready to fly to San Francisco at 10am. Portland airport is cool for two reasons: they serve odd food (I had Cinnamon Apple French Toast with maple syrup), and they have a miniature Powell's book store. I picked up a copy of "Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by Sedaris, which should make for good reading when I finished Carter Beats the Devil.

Having managed to sleep on the plane, I woke up feeling lost somewhere between cities. Portland was warm and windless, but the bay area in San Francisco is cold, wet, and cloudy - as you'd expect in the middle of August. Ildiko and I are right up on the 28th floor - with a zoom lens the view looks something like this:

People\'s heads from the 28th floor

Still, our hotel is right next to the Metreon - there's a huge Playstation shop here (Graham: there's a ton of cheap PSP games here; if you ask nicely I'll take a picture of one for you!), an IMAX cinema, plus various restaurants that are way over my budget.

The three of us walked over to Union Square to have a nose around Macy's, and of course got the lift to the 8th floor to go into the Cheesecake Factory. Sadly - and it's their loss, if you ask me - they had waiting times of an hour, so we left.

In the evening Ildiko and I wandered over to Port 39, which is the tourist centre of the north of the bay. This place is most famous for its sealions, which seem to have figured out that they can get dry land, safety from any predators, plus bits of food if they just mooch around the bay. Clever buggers!

San Franciscan sea lions

It was about this time that the wind really started to pick up. A seagull tried to fly overhead, but basically got halted by the wind - he just hovered above our heads for a good ten seconds or so. It was fortunate for us that he wasn't incontinent...

The hovering seagull

August in the bay means thick cloud, and the wind didn't help matters. Still, Ildiko and I braved a bay cruise around the Golden Gate bridge, past Angel Island, around Alcatraz, and back to port.

The bridge itself was quite a view to behold close up: the thick cloud made it almost disappear on both sides, so the fog horns were blaring away every few minutes to keep ships safe.

The Golden Gate bridge in August

Alcatraz island is a cold, lonely looking place. San Francisco bay is the largest natural harbour on the west coast of the USA, and the gold rush of 1849 brought a lot of people here very quickly. So, Alcatraz island got turned into a huge military base, culminating in over 100 cannons circling the island to fight off invaders. Off course, the closest Alcatraz ever came to seeing off foreigners was when it was part of the US Civil War - d'oh!

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco bay

Of course, nowadays everyone knows Alcatraz as the jail that housed Al Capone, but it only served as a prison for 30 years or so. Still, you've got to admit that it looks pretty inhospitable - I'd like to try to get a land tour while I'm here.

As you cruise by on the boat, you get a chance to see a sign that says only government boats are permitted to approach the island. This is made more interesting because a group of American Indians invaded and occupied the island for almost two years between 1969 and 1971, and they left some graffiti behind...

Alcatraz sign, Indian graffiti

We got a taxi back to the hotel. The driver said he was an Apple fanatic (he had an iPod attached to his radio), and that he had just registered so he could set up a podcast from his taxi as he drove around. The only thing between him and setting up the website were California's strict privacy laws - I wish him luck!

Up to Speed

I think that brings you back up to speed on the trip. I've written all this from the media room at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, where LinuxWorld is based this year. It's pretty quiet right now, because the expo only starts tomorrow. Still, I met up with Lynda (the LXF publisher) and Di (ad sales), who seem to be doing well.

Now, I need to skedaddle to interview Bruce Perens. Catch you later, dudes!


Okay, so I need to work on the San Francisco accent ;)

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