Thursday, November 08, 2007
TechEd day 4
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
TechEd day 3
[[Add stuff that I did]]
Justin wanted to take in the Champions League match but there was no way we would get any tickets so we settled on finding a pub with a TV after grabbing some food.
As I was walking along Carrer de Jaume I on the way to meet Justin, around 7pm, I entered a very noisy Plaça de Sant Jaume. There seemed to be dozens on young women with flags and whistles singing and, I assume, protesting about something outside the Oficina de Turisme. Any ideas what they are doing would be much appreciated.
This part of town is great for little side roads (like Carrera de la Boqueria) with shops and people but I was in a hurry so didn't have much time to browse. Soon I was on La Rambla and meeting up with my colleague. Food was a little hard to find as some places didn't open up their kitchens until 8pm but Justin soon found an Indian Restaurant for us. I was a bit wary as the menu outside had a nice, large UK flag on it to attract British tourists but we went in anyway - how different could it be?
On the whole, not too much - they sold Kingfisher and Cobra just like back home. And popadoms too but these arrived as crispy tubes rather than flat disks with only one bowl of spicy raita? Where's the right orange stuff or the mango chutney, chopped onions and lethal lime pickle? After mixed pakora starters, we had a main. I'd asked for mushroom rice to go with the fish dish and that got a surprised look but the waiter quickly put something together for me. On the whole a safe experience, especially as there were no proper tourists in there to embarrass me.
Next was a hunt for a sports pub and Justin, who seemed to have a knack for this, pulled us into a Paddy Pub jam-packed with 'Gers fans - or at least it seemed full as they were all clustered in the doorway leaving a lot of space at the back. I say "a lot" with reservations - the pub was quite small but still sported three large flat-screen TVs (two for the downstairs audience and one for the small balcony which also hosted cublicle with the token urinal). Quite a cosmopolitan affair - Justin and the owner of the bar were from the US, the fans were Scottish and Italian, and I was English, all in an supposedly Irish pub. Drinking Bulmers from large cardboard cups.
Justin did ask me to teach him some football songs but I didn't really know what the Rangers fans were singing (apart from "Rule Brittania" and the National Anthem). Had to explain unionist/protestant demographic of the club as a fan draped in a Northern Ireland flag staggered past us.
The Barca-Rangers match wasn't too exciting. The Scots didn't really have much chance - I'm sure that if they had scored it would have just irritated their hosts into putting even more past Allan McGregor.
I decided to hang around while Justin went back to his hotel so I could soak up some of the atmosphere. In this case "atmosphere" started off as the unwanted attention of prostitutes and guys selling loose cans of beer but it improved as more Scottish fans arrived from the ground. A couple of beers and it was off back to the hotel, trusty AutoRoute map in hand...
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
TechEd day 2
This meant I had to fall back on my "pretty" blue Adidas trainers - they're OK to wear (or seemed to be anyway) but the laces have little grip and keep coming loose over time. After walking miles in airports, between the hotel and the conference, around the conference, and then carousing in Barcelona last night, I find a nice set of blisters. Walking to the conference this morning was not as fun as it could have been...
On top of this the three bottles of beer at the opening of the Ask The Experts area, the rioja, the booze at the Marley bar and the minibar cans meant that I didn't feel great in the morning. For some reason, I didn't think of taking the aspirins I packed for this precise eventuality until I was at the conference (and they were not). Additionally there is a chemist on my route which didn't sink in either. So from 8am to 8pm (when I got back to my room and spent 10 minutes searching for them) I felt not 100%. Yes, I did skip breakfast.
One thing I had forgotten is that it is not always wise to drink a lot of water in the morning to rehydrate yourself. What this seems to do is awaken whatever you drank but your body hasn't processed yet so the stomach starts to decide it isn't too happy at the moment. Just how far are the toilets from the Ask The Experts area? It didn't seem that far yesterday ....
The helpdesk stuff is going OK.
1 They ask me an ITPro-style question (Dev questions get tefloned to someone else)
2 I exhaust my knowledge on the subject (varies from seconds to tens of seconds)
3 I ask them for their email address
4 I research question
5 I email them the answer/response
After lunch I scanned the schedule for the useful or the interesting.
"WIN201 - Next Generation Networking in Windows Vista"
This was a good overview from a Polish expert by the name of Rafal Lukawiecki who's working in the UK. The focus was on IPv6 which we need to implement world-wide in the next 3 years before all the existing IP addresses run out, 70% of which are allocated to US companies and as a result most of them don't see what the problem is. China, on the other hand, have a different opinion.
The 2:45pm slot didn't have anything that appealed so I tried one of the WCF hands-on labs. The combination of my groggy head and the dry qualty of the lab led to me giving up after a while but with a little more practice under my belt. Another 40 hours should do... :-)
"MED204 - Microsoft Robotics Studio"
Although something that felt like a meeting of model aircraft enthusists, there's a lot of serious work going on with robotics (e.g. NASA space exploration).
Afterwards I hung around until 8pm reading email and generally taking it easy. Back at the hotel, once the aspirin kicked in, I had a bath and then some more Halo 1 on the PC. Boy, do I suck at Halo on the laptop (and I'm playing campaign, not online) but it passes the time.
Monday, November 05, 2007
TechEd day 1
The conference starts later today so after a good breakfast I'm walking down the palm-tree lined beach road to the centre wishing I still had a pair of sunglasses [[must find a shop]]. The air is warm enough that I leave my fleece in the rucksack.
I have no idea what the internal theme was for this restaurant as it seemed to be closed down (not just shut) and it was difficult to look through the windows. What a pity.
This part of Barcelona is full of building sites although most of the huge tower blocks seem fully built if not nearly finished. Looking out of my hotel window, I managed to count TWENTYONE huge cranes in a 180 degree view of the city.
and this building looks familiar...
Here is my home for the rest of the week (well, 9 hours of it anyway).
First thing I receive is a pair of fetching green Ask The Experts T-shirts because after four-five days just one top tends to get a bit whiffy. The workload back home seems to be looking after itself so I watch the 4pm "Think Big - Vista Media Centre" session, just in case it comes in handy to answer customer questions.
After the break I take in the 5:45pm "Introductory Walkthrough of Windows Communications Foundation (WCF) and Visual Studio 2008" as this is an area I really need to get into. My developer skills are amazingly poor considering I work in the developer unit in PSS but I'm starting to understand what WCF is doing.
What a great cloakroom ticket to have at a tecky conference. Well, I found it funny...
The Ask The Experts area doesn't open until 7pm and I'm not scheduled to work but I turn up anyway to meet Justin from the MSMQ group in the US. It is supposed to be a developer-oriented conference but all the questions are about usage and troubleshooting (which would be better handled next week when the IT Pros have their event).
At 8pm, Justin and I slope off across the road to talk shop over tapas and rioja. Very civilised. And much later, ten fortyfive maybe, we get on the tube to find a bar in town. Not surprisingly, at this time of night on a Monday, there doesn't seem much going on but we do find a Bob Marley pub where I introduce Justin to Magner's cider'n'ice. There's only time after that for a brazilian sugary cocktail before leaving Justin to find his hotel while I catch the last tube back to find mine.
This is where I find Spanish road signs suck. I managed to get home tonight by luck and the fact I had Autoroute on my laptop. Coming out of the tube statiom, I looked around for road signs and, finding none, looked at the roadmap next to the station. Taking the big red blob as a hint, I calculated my route home and set off.
In fact I was 90 degrees off.
The road did look decidedly long as it seemed to stretch off to infinity (where I was expecting the sea) and while phoning home I decided that now was a good time to bring out the laptop. The area was very quiet - one person every 5 minutes, sort of thing - so I didn't feel too worried bringing out a thousand Euros worth of kit that could be ripped out of my hand.
And I soon worked out that I was walking parallel to the beach and actually at the crossroads with the road that had my hotel on it. Infallible male sense of direction came through in the end.
Now some quality time to raid the minibar and put in a couple of hours of Halo on the laptop...
Sunday, November 04, 2007
TechEd Day 0 - flying out to Barcelona
The trip was pretty uneventful. The RailAir bus left on time with my tearful family waving me off. Sat in front of a pair of well-off old biddies who were trading stories from their lives and travels. I was amused by the fact that one of the ladies had to regularly phone her local pub to pay up because her husband and friends would frequently enjoy themselves so much that they would forget the bill and go home. The pub didn't seem at all annoyed as they knew she would phone eventually.
Having already checked in, it took about 15 minutes to clear through to departures. Had to resist laughing when the woman in front of me in the Bag Drop queue told her travelling companion that she had left her passport at home. [[I was mean enough to sneak a picture though I did later accidentally delete it while trying to free up space on the phone for email.]]
She was having an interesting chat with the Bag Drop man although he seemed to be shaking his head a lot which couldn't have been good :-)
Security wasn't too long a wait so I had an hour to kill in The Tin Goose before the gates were open for my flight. As I was off for Spain, a couple of pints of San Miguel seemed in order.
The plane was only a little late taking off because a member of the flight crew decided to go off sick at the last minute and a replacement had to be brought over from some storage area that they keep them in.
In-flight entertainment was playing X-Men 3 on my laptop. The playback isn't great for DVDs - a bit juddery at times and the sound sometimes gets ahead of the action but I managed. Hopefully my next laptop - which is designed for Vista unlike the faithful machine I'm currently using - will do a better job.
Once in Barcelona Airport (which I remembered from my trip with Samantha to Andorra) we had to walk the entire length of the airport to get from baggage area A (where we exited the plane) to baggage B (where our luggage went). I think this is just a ploy to make you walk past every opportunity to spend money at the concessions.
The conference had laid on a shuttle so I decided to take that to the CCIB instead of queuing outside and dealing with a taxi driver when I had no money and precious little useful Spanish left in my head. Very lazy, although it did mean a 1500m walk from the conference centre to my hotel on the beach.
I had checked out Google Earth for the location of my hotel and saw there was a building site next to hotel. I had hoped the image was not up to date but when I opened the hotel window I found I was wrong.
Reading the book that comes with your room, I was pleased to see that there was a wireless network. But there wasn't, unless you count the access point running on someone else's machine. So I talked to reception and they gave me a network cable. I now had an IP address! But still no Internet. Time to leave it until tomorrow.
Caught some Spanish news as I was browsing the channels. "Hmmm, that looks like Gibraltar" and so it was - the raising of sunken treasure from a British warship is big news in Spain and Gibraltar (Spain's version of Las Malvinas) was used to fly out the loot. Although I couldn't really understand what they were saying, they definitely didn't have happy faces.
Spent a long, slow hour in the hotel's restaurant watching some local youths drawing on a seat in the park outside the window. Must pop by tomorrow and see what they were up to - I've found the graffiti in Barcelona to be top notch :-)
Note to self - if the restaurant shuts at 11pm, don't expect great service at 10:20pm.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Demonstrations - Madrid style
to control a demonstration THIS big...
I reckon there must have been forty armed police in attendance to watch similar number of people old enough to be their parents. Not sure what the demo was about - the banner (No sabes gobernar pero sabes robar. Accomplice) translates something like "You don't know how to govern but you do know how to rob. Accomplice."
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
At lunchtime I (and the TAMs working with me at the customer site) walked past the Museo Nacional del Prado, an impressive looking building hosting a Picasso exhibition. The area was pretty busy with coach loads of visitors but I assumed it would be closed by the time I'd finished at the customer site, thinking as I was of such places as London's National Gallery (9:00am-5:30pm). Sadly, when I did later walk past the museum after a gentle stroll through the Jardines del Buen Retiro, I discovered that a more tourist-friendly 8pm was the norm (and even later for special events). Nevertheless, I paid my 6 Euros and spent a pleasant hour inside amongst the Rembrandts and Ruebens.
Highlight for me was the La familia real de Felipe IV, an imposing work at 318 x 276 cm that took pride of place in the central hall of the Salon de Actos on the planta primera. Diego Velázquez de Silva (1599-1660) had created an interesting work where the observer of the painting was in fact an alternative subject. The image below doesn't really do the picture any justice but it was the best I could find on the Internet. The painting was certainly one where you just wanted to stand in front of it for as long as it took to try and take it all in. I did refrain from taking any photographs myself while I was there - partly for fear of being kicked out but also to protect the pictures from flash photography (assuming that IS something that damages oil paintings). Maybe I'll find a copy I can buy in the museum shop next time I'm there. All the on-line commentary about the picture seems to be in Spanish so I'll need to dust off my GCSE and get translating so I can find out who's in the mirror.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Eating out in Madrid
The Spanish certainly know how to dine out! The Restaurante Bolivar is a nice place on the Calle de Manuela Malasaña near central Madrid. The price for our party was ridiculously low (equivalent to £20 ahead?) considering the number of courses and that the bottles of wine were included. There was also an endless supply of bread rolls! No scrimping here - UK restaurants, take note.
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