Journal tags: sandiego



Talking and travelling

I’m in America. This is a three-week trip and in those three weeks, I’m speaking at four conferences.

That might sound like a fairly hectic schedule but it’s really not that bad at all. In each place I’m travelling to, travel takes up a day, the conference portion takes up a couple of days, but I still get a day or two to just hang out and be a tourist, which is jolly nice.

This sojourn began in Boston where I was speaking at An Event Apart. It was—as ever—an excellent event and even though I was just speaking at An Event Apart in Seattle just a few weeks ago, there were still plenty of fresh talks for me to enjoy in Boston: Paul talking about performance, Lea talking about colour in CSS, Dan talking about process, and a barnstorming talk from Bruce on everything that makes the web great (although I respectfully disagree with his stance on DRM/EME).

My own talk was called The Long Web and An Event Apart Boston was its final outing. I first gave it at An Event Apart DC back in August—it’s had a good nine-month run.

My next appearance at An Event Apart will be at the end of this American trip in San Diego. I’ll be presenting a new talk there. Whereas my previous talk was a rambling affair about progressive enhancement, responsive design, and long-term thinking, my new talk will be a rambling affair about progressive enhancement, responsive design, and long-term thinking.

Sooner or later people are going to realise that I keep hammering home the same message in all my talks and this whole speaking-at-conferences gig will dry up. Until then, I’ll keep hammering home that same old message.

I have two opportunities to road-test this new talk before An Event Apart San Diego (for which, by the way, tickets still remain: use the code AEAKEITH when you’re booking to get $100 off).

I’ll be speaking at Bmoresponsive in Baltimore at the end of this week. Before that, I have the great pleasure (and pressure) of opening the show tomorrow at the Artifact conference here in good ol’ Austin, Texas (and believe it or not, you can still get a ticket: this time use the code ADACTIO100 when you’re booking to get $100 off).

Until then, I have some time to wander around and be a tourist. It is so nice to be here in Austin when it’s not South by Southwest. I should probably fretting over this talk but instead I’m spending my time sampling tacos and beers in the sunshine.

August in America, day fifteen

Being a beachy surfer kind of place, it made sense that we spent our last day in San Diego hanging out by the beach. We went to La Jolla. We watched people swim, snorkel, and paddle-board. In amongst the human activity, we also saw the occasional seal pop its head out of the water.

It was another beautiful day in San Diego. It was also my last day in San Diego: tomorrow I head north to San Francisco.

I was all set for another flight until disastrously my Kindle gave up the ghost. The e-ink display is b0rked, permanently showing half of Jane Austen and half of a New Aesthetic glitch. So on the way to dinner at the Stone Brewery this evening, we stopped off at a Best Buy so I could slap down some money to buy a bog-standard non-touch, non-white Kindle.

Imagine my disgust when I get it home, charged it up, connected it to a WiFi network, registered it, and discovered that it comes encumbered with advertising that can’t be switched off (the Amazon instructions for unsubscribing from these “special offers”—by paying to do so—don’t work if your device is registered with a UK Amazon account).

A little bit of Googling revealed that the advertising infestation resides in a hidden folder named /system/.assets. If you replace this folder with an empty file (and keep WiFi switched off by having your Kindle in airplane mode), then the advertising is cast out.

So connect your Kindle—that you bought, with your money—to your Mac, open up the Terminal and type:

cd /Volumes/Kindle/system
rm -r .assets
touch .assets

Now I can continue to read The Shining Girls in peace on my flight to San Francisco tomorrow.

August in America, day fourteen

I remember the first time I was in San Diego in 2008, a bunch of us were hanging out at the Lamplighter, a dive bar that was the scene of my first traumatic karaoke experience. Tess and Erin were extolling the virtues of San Diego. They described it as having all the good aspects of Los Angeles but without the craziness. True enough, San Diego is a pretty laid back place.

Today was a laid back kinda day. Jessica, Jeb and I were in full tourist mode, wandering around the seafront and revisiting the USS Midway. What can I say? I like airplanes. And ships.

We ended the day at a pizza place that I’m pretty sure I’ve been to before. That would’ve been the last time I was in San Diego, which was Halloween 2010. Once again, I met up with Tess and Erin except that this time they were in fancy dress; Scott Pilgrim fancy dress to be precise. Erin cut an impressive figure as Ramona, while Ted came as “Mark Pilgrim as Scott Pilgrim” …possibly the meta-geekiest thing ever.

That was before Tess and Erin up sticks and moved to San Francisco. Coincidentally, San Francisco will be the next stop on my trip so here’s hoping I see them there.

August in America, day thirteen

I’ve been to San Diego twice before. The first time was in 2008 for one of Jared’s conferences that took place on Coronado. The second time was two years later for An Event Apart in 2010. That time I was staying downtime.

This time I’m staying with Jeb in Ocean Beach. I like it here. It’s got a very laid-back feel. People walk down the street with surfboards under their arms. Or else they skate down the street. Probably on their way to get fish tacos. Exceptionally good fish tacos.

Beach scene

As the name suggests, there is a beach here. More importantly, there is a dog beach. A dog beach! A beach where dogs of all shapes and sizes can run free, cavort in the surf and sniff one another’s butts.

I like dog-watching and everyone here has a dog. I particularly like hanging out with these two mutts: Lola and Mesa.

Jeb and Lola Mesa

Like almost everywhere in San Diego, Ocean Beach lies under a flight path—a natural consequence of having your airport right downtown. Jeb told us about “The OB Pause”. That’s when you’re in the middle of a conversation and you pause…


…and then continue right where you left off once the jet has left your airspace.


San Diego is to Los Angeles as Canada is to the United States—it has all of the good stuff with none of the crap. Among its assets must be counted the fine quality of its geeks. There were only a few locals at the Web Apps Summit but boy, did they ever take good care of the out-of-towners.

Gema from Digital Telepathy acted as both tour guide and chauffeur in taking some of us visitors downtown when day one of the conference wrapped up. After sampling some of the local tiki delights, a bunch of us were finishing up the evening with a tipple in some bar or other when, through some series of digressions that I can’t quite recall, I happened to let slip that I had never experienced the peculiar ritual that is karaoke.

karaoke (karēˈōkē)
A form of entertainment, offered typically by bars and clubs, in which people take turns singing popular songs into a microphone over prerecorded backing tracks.
From Japanese, literally “empty orchestra.”

This was somehow misinterpreted as a desire to engage in said ritual and so plans were hatched for the following night that would result in the breaking of my karaoke hymen.

But before that, there was the second and final day of the conference. While we were all enjoying some excellent presentations, an odd phenomenon was manifesting itself in the cyberspace extrusion of our social circle (that would be the World Wide Web). There was a higher than normal count of rickrolling incidents occuring.

To post a misleading link with a subject that promises to be exciting or interesting but actually turns out to be a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up” from one-hit-wonder 80s pop icon Rick Astley. Allegedly hilarious.
A variant on the duckroll.

One of the finest exemples to date was executed by Daniel when he rickrolled a bowling alley full of geeks. While I didn’t observe anything quite on that level, it seems that Trammell’s mischief-making was curiously timed with Stan’s notice of avoidance. This was duly documented on Flickr which then became the site of a new vector of infection.

Cindy was sitting next to me at the Web Apps Summit and she expressed curiousity about the URL Trammell had posted. I didn’t discourage her from entering the URL in her browser which happened to have quite a few work-related tabs open. She seemed strangely displeased with her first-hand experience of rickrolling and twittered as much. That prompted a failed attempt by Tantek to rickroll me (although some people got caught in the crossfire). Things started to get out of control when the rickrolling migrated from Twitter to voicemail.

While the internet was being traumatised, the conference wrapped up and I began to concern myself with matters of the flesh, namely getting food and drink. There was food aplenty at the microformats dinner but that was quite some distance away. Once again San Diego’s geek community came through with flying colours. Keith, Derek and I were whisked away by Patrick Crowley and Theresa O’Connor. I bet those guys throw a great BarCamp.

The microformats dinner was a most pleasant affair but let’s face it, it was really just the prelude to the main event. The prospect of karaoke was hanging over my head like a Damoclean sword. Throughout the day I had been receiving some consistent advice, namely that karaoke was a whole lot easier to bear when alcohol is involved. I began to test that theory as soon as our gaggle of geeks migrated to The Lamplighter, a suitably um… “character-filled” locale.

The question of what song I should butcher to pop my karaoke cherry had already been raised on Twitter and I was leaning towards the suggestion of doing some Johnny Cash (just as soon as my brain cells were suitably numbed). Then Cindy offered her solidarity: she would be willing to join me in a duet of Don’t You Want Me? by The Human League. A good choice: it would be hard to sing it any worse than the original.

Late into the evening and a few tequilas later, my name was called. Cindy and I went up on stage and I began to psyche myself up to deliver my best Phil Oakley impression. I watched as the wizened karaoke DJ tapped in the numbers to bring up the correct song. That’s when the rug was metaphorically pulled from under my feet. The unmistakable sounds of Never Gonna Give You Up began to play.

I had been rickrolled …big time. I had two options:

  1. Run.
  2. Go with it.

What the hell? I thought, and went for option number 2.


I suppose in one sense, I wasn’t just the victim of a rickroll, I was also the perpetrator as I inflicted the song on a bar full of civilians who were completely oblivious to the memetic subtext. And you know what? I think I do a pretty good Rick Astley impression. That’s not something to be proud of.

Rickrolling wasn’t the only meme that was trundled out that evening. Despite Stan’s warning, we couldn’t resist a spot of flap’n’snap. It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. As I reminded the Twitterspherethe internet is serious business.

Sand E. Eggo

I’m in San Diego for Jared’s Web App Summit. It’s my first time here and I find myself quite won over by the city’s charm. It’s a shiny sparkly kind of place.

The conference kicked off with a day of workshops. I should have tried to gatecrash Luke or Indy’s sessions but with the weather being so nice, I bunked off with Derek, Keith and Cindy to venture across the water from Coronado to explore the city. With no plan in mind, we found our path took us to the USS Midway, now a floating museum. We spent the rest of the afternoon geeking out over planes and naval equipment.

I got my talk about Ajax design challenges out of the way yesterday. It seemed to go pretty well. It might have been a little bit too techy for some of the audience here but I’ve received some very nice comments from a lot of people. As usual, the presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license. Feel free to download the slides but the usual caveat applies: the slides don’t make all that much sense in isolation.

With that out of the way, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. The highlight for me was listening to Bill Scott talk about interaction anti-patterns. I found myself nodding vigourously in agreement with his research and recommendations. But I must join in the clamour of voices calling for Bill to put this stuff online somewhere. I would love to have a URL I could point to next time I’m arguing against adding borked behaviour to a web app.

The conference continues today. Jason Fried kicked off the day’s talks and Keith and Derek will be in the spotlight later on (it’s always convenient when Derek is on the same bill as me because I can fob off all the Ajax accessibility issues on him).

Before making the long journey back to the UK I’ve got a social event I’m looking forward to attending. There’s a microformats dinner tonightTantek is in town too for a CSS Working Group meetup. Come along to Gateway to India at 9520 Black Mountain Road if you’re in San Diego. We can combine a vegetarian Indian buffet with semantic geekery.