Tags: florida



American Odyssey

I’ve been back in Brighton for just a couple of days and now I’m about to embark on a fairly lengthy trip away to the States.

Tomorrow I’m flying to a somewhat chilly Chicago. I’ve only been there once before, but I absolutely loved it. The architecture! The hot dogs! Cheeseborger! Cheeseborger! Cheeseborger!

I’m going there for Drupalcon. I’ll be leading an HTML5 workshop on Monday. I’d love to try to Abe Froman my way into the Web Science Workshop the day before, but I’ll probably be too busy finding somewhere to print off workshop materials (a service the conference organisers are unwilling to provide …it’s like the opposite of how Sophie runs UX London).

Right about the time that Drupalcon is wrapping up, I’ll head down to Austin for the annual geek pilgrimage to South By Southwest Interactive. I should really pay close attention Tantek’s SXSW packing and check list.

This year, I’m not giving a presentation or speaking on a panel so I can relax and enjoy myself. If you’re heading to Southby, I look forward to sharing a Shiner Bock or three—one of the reasons I like going is not just to see people I haven’t seen in ages, but also to meet new people who equally geeky about the web.

After the craziness of Austin, I’m going to unwind for a while with the in-laws down in Saint Augustine, Florida, which should be nice and relaxing.

After that, I’m off to Portland, Oregon; a place to which I’ve never been but about which I’ve heard plenty of good things. There’s geek meet up planned for March 24th. Come along for a beer and a chat.

Finally, I’ll finish up in Seattle for the first Event Apart of the year. I have no doubt that the conference will be excellent, as usual. I just hope that the presentation I’ve got planned can meet the high standards set by the other speakers.

If you’re going to be in any of those places—Chicago, Austin, Saint Augustine, Portland, or Seattle—I look forward to seeing you there.

To Cape Canaveral… and beyond!

I’ve always been a space geek. Therefore, I’ve always wanted to go to the Kennedy Space Center. There’s a museum there and a bus tour you can go on. The tour stops five miles away from the launch area and while you can’t go into any buildings, the activities within are explained to you.

I fulfilled a fantasy this week. Not only did I go to Cape Canerval but I managed to get an “access all areas” look around the place.

It’s all thanks to an engineer called Benny who listens to Paul Boag’s podcast. In a startling revelation, it turns out that Paul’s listeners are in fact rocket scientists. The NASA “friends and family” day just happened to fall right at the end of Refresh Orlando. Benny invited Paul along. Andy and myself invited ourselves along.

As it turned out, there hadn’t been one of these open days since 2001. We were very, very fortunate and privileged to be allowed behind the scenes at NASA.

In contrast to the regular tour, we drove right up to the launch pads, including launch pad B, which had Discovery rolled out and ready for launch on December 7th. We also got to go inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, something that is normally not allowed. It’s incredibly huge. I mean this is seriously big. Imagine a really big building and then imagine it being bigger.

Best of all, we went inside the orbiter hanger. Endeavour was inside. A space shuttle… a freakin’ space shuttle! That was just so incredibly cool, I can’t even begin to describe it.

I hope I’m not coming across as gloating here: I really just want to share my excitement. It was quite an experience to get so close to the ultimate geek toys. The only way it could have been any better was if Jessica could have been there. Soulmate that she is, I think she might be an even bigger space geek than me.

Clearly, my descriptive powers aren’t up to the task of cataloguing the day’s sights, so I’ll just point you to this photoset on Flickr.

Holy freakin' crap!

Thanks, Benny!


Whereas the first day of Refresh Orlando had a lot of good inspirational talks, day two had a lot of good hands-on practical advice. The mobile Web, accessibility, JavaScript, and UI design were all covered thanks to Brian Fling, Jared Smith, Nate Koechley, and Cameron Moll. Excellent stuff all ‘round.

The conference has now drawn to a close. It’s been a funny little event. It started off looking like it might be your typical formal, somewhat stiff hotel-based mini-conference. But then it also had an ad-hoc grassroots feeling to it, too. On the one hand, there were good facilities provided (Wifi, power sockets, etc.), but on the other hand, it felt like it was kind of self-organising. The organisers took a very hands-off approach, which generally worked fine although there were times when a little more guidance would have been good.

This was the first Refresh Orlando conference so I guess it’s still finding its feet. I suspect any future events will be more clearly geared towards being either more structured and slick, or go the other direction and become more like a Barcamp.

The nice thing about this conference was its intimacy. Like Barcamp, there was a limited number of people (between fifty and sixty) gathered together in the same place for a couple of days. The crowd was smart, eager, and relatively diverse (for a Web conference). As always, it was the conversations that were had after the presentations were done that really made the trip worthwhile. That’s where I usually find most of my inspiration and this time was no exception. Impromptu geek lunches and dinners were the order of the day.

Now it’s time for me to leave the sunshine state. I’ll be catching a flight back to Gatwick later today. I’ve met some great people — some for the first time, some with the pleasure of reunion — and I’ve topped up my creative juices nicely. Time to get back to work.

Or Land O

The Refresh ‘06 conference is underway here in Orlando, Florida.

I flew in with Andy, Paul on Monday (and boy are my arms.., etc.). The next day, we went on a pilgrimage to the Universal Studios theme parks. Seeing as we’re a bunch of big girl’s blouses, we steered clear of the scary rides like The Hulk but we did enjoy the cool simulations, especially the immersive three-dimensional Spiderman experience. This must be a pretty good time of year to visit. There weren’t any big crowds and we never had to wait too long for a ride.

With the fun out of the way, the business begins. Yesterday was workshop day. Andy did a half-day on CSS, which was really informative. I followed up with a half-day on Ajax. I felt a bit bad about jumping right over the JavaScript and DOM stuff and diving straight in with XMLHttpRequest, but time was of the essence.

With that out of the way, the socialising could begin earnest. The geeks began to arrive from all corners of the country. Now those geeks are gathered together in a room listening to words of wisdom from the speakers.

The WiFi is kind of flaky so I may not be able to upload any pictures to Flickr just yet, but there are plenty of power strips which is always a good sign.

The heart of Midlothian

I’m in Edinburgh. Jessica is here for a translator’s conference and I thought it would be fun to tag along for the ride, seeing as I’ve never been here except for an in in-utero visit which doesn’t really count.

My, what a place! The architecture here is extraordinary. Wherever you look, there’s invariably a building or ten steeped in history.

I’m staying in a hotel in the new part of town. New is relative. This is the Georgian part of town. Just about every house is built in that classical Georgian style that Dublin likes to pride itself on (sorry Dublin, you’ve got nothing on Edinburgh). The cumulative effect is like stepping back in time.

Then there’s the old part of town. Here, the feeling is medieval. Stone buildings, narrow alleyways, winding steps, and of course a great big huge castle overlooking everything.

After meeting up with Alan White for a chat yesterday, I went for a wander around the old part of town. There’s a real pleasure of discovery in coming across the house where Boswell met Johnson, or going into the Writers’ Museum in a narrow 17th building.

I haven’t been able to capture much of this city’s splendour in pictorial form because the weather has been fairly drab and rainy. It all adds to the atmosphere, I suppose.

Actually, I’m kind of glad that the weather has driven me back to my hotel room to take refuge. I can stop procrastinating and get on with last minute preparations for the Refresh Web Standards Conference in Orlando, Florida next week. I’ll be giving a half-day workshop on Ajax and a presentation on microformats. If you want to come along, there are still tickets available for a mere $395 — and that includes an open bar at the end of each day!

So tomorrow I fly back from Edinburgh down to Gatwick. Then, the next day, I’ll be back in Gatwick to get on a transatlantic flight to the sunshine state.

Right now I’ve got old buildings and bad weather. In another two days I’ll have new buildings and good weather. It seems that never the twain shall meet.