SD West

I’ve been out here in Santa Clara, CA, the last couple of days at SD West, a developer conference. There have been a few good classes (I finally met the hyperproductive Elliotte Rusty Harold for the first time), and a couple of great events. David Platt gave a hilarious and insightful talk based on his book, Why Software Sucks, and Google dominated at the geek-themed quiz show, Developer Bowl. 6th Sense was a finalist for the Jolt Awards, which were announced here last night, and I stood in for our marketing guy, since I was going to be here anyway. We didn’t take away the grand prize for our category, but we were one of the runners-up; we got a nice little plexiglass plaque.

I’ll be holding my own class on SVG tomorrow afternoon. I don’t know how well attended it will be… the last day of conferences tends to have a lot of attrition. But it will be fun anyway, and I always enjoy evangelizing SVG. I whipped up a little presentation app in SVG… it uses the powerpoint idiom, but slides around a large canvas between text and interactive examples. I’ve been using SVG slides for a while, but this is a little more interesting… well, interesting to make, I hope it’s interesting to watch. The class will center on workflow using SVG, and I’ll dig into code here and there (this is for developers, after all).

Update:  I’ve put my SVG slideshow up here.

Dining Down Under

I’m no gourmet… in fact, I’m somewhat of an anti-foodie. Dining at expensive restaurants and dedicating one’s self to culinary arts seems like a waste of money and time, respectively. I like good-tasting food, sure, but I don’t think it’s very important. Maybe that’s why I have such an easy time being a vegetarian; it’s just not worth the ethical cost for me to eat meat (also, meat’s kinda gross… I helped butcher my fair share of pigs and deer and, yes, squirrels when I was growing up; I have literally made sausage).

But the very fact that I’m a strict lacto-ovo vegetarian (I eat milk products and eggs) means that I focus on food more than I would otherwise, if only in what I avoid. Is that irony? I guess my exception to this is that while I have a very high tolerance for repetitive meals, I do enjoy novelty in my diet. So, dining in Australia was great for that.

Sometimes when I travel, I find it a little challenging to find food. (My friend Cameron, also a vegetarian, has a pretty sensible policy on this… he suspends his vegetarianism while visiting other countries, in large part to sample the local color; it’s too bad I’m so dang stubborn.) But Australia, for all its meaty reputation, is actually pretty veg-friendly. For one, it has some great Thai restaurants, like the one I mentioned earlier. For another, it has pies.

Yummy, yummy pies…

Now that I think of it, M and I had pies there last year, but we just sorta stumbled on the pie stand. This time, I was with locals, and I was made aware that this was a quintessentially Australian dish. You can get them all over the place. We don’t really have them here in the States… the closest thing we have is what we call “pot pies”, and they’re usually frozen, not something you get in a restaurant. They have whole restaurants that serve nothing else! These aren’t your typical 8-inch fruit pies, but little 5-inch savory pies… and they make veggie pies (also spinach “pasties”). I had these pies for breakfast, and they really hit the spot.

After arching… archerying… shooting arrows, Andrew and I went to another Aussie standby, the sidewalk cafe restaurant/bookstore, where I got (what else?) a gourmet pie. But this one wasn’t as filling as I needed after a bit of a workout, so I ordered a second dish, this one off the kids’ menu. When the waitress served it to me, I kinda hoped she’d say, “Do you come from the land down under?” But she just smiled, and gave me… a vegemite sandwich.

It had butter on it, and was much better for it. Andrew said that’s the only way to eat vegemite. I agree.


My host, Andrew, was around today, and he suggested we engage in one of his weekend hobbies: archery. I’ve always wanted to try archery, and had even signed up for a class in high school (but unfortunately never got the chance… the thuggish coach explained that there wasn’t enough equipment, so the girls would learn archery while the boys “got” to play football; do I sound bitter? I hope so). So we drove to Olympic Park, where the 2000 Olympics took place; the archery range was the site of the Olympic archery competition.

It was a lot of fun: I paid $20 Australian for an hour-and-a-half session, with a droll lesson included, as well as periodic tips throughout. I used a recurved bow with a 20-lb pull; Andrew had his own snazzy collapsible 40-lb bow. We shot around 10 “ends” (rounds of volleys, with six arrows to an end) at a target 20 meters away, and Andrew assured me that I did adequately. My top score was 41, out of a possible 60 (that’s around 68%… a high “D”. Me fail archery? That’s unpossible!). I missed the target completely on a few arrows, but got at least one bullseye (10 points) and several gold-ring shots (9 points). For the last 4 ends, they attached balloons to the bullseye, and while I missed it the first end, I popped it the last 3 rounds. I was pretty happy about that. My technique definitely got better as we progressed, but my arms and fingers got more sore. It’s a surprising amount of work to hold the bowstring back while you’re aiming, compounded (pun partially intended) by the trembling as my strength sapped away, making aiming even harder. I’m not an athletic guy, but if I went again, I think I could make a decent showing when I was fresh.

I think I got a bit of a traveller’s cold, so we laid low the rest of the day back at his place, doing a bit of work, and then walked to his favorite local Thai place for dinner… amusingly enough, called Sawasdee, the name of my favorite Thai place in Raleigh. I had a delicious green curry noodle tofu dish, with just the right amount of spice to leave me glowing and alleviate the cold symptoms.

Opera (Not the Browser)

I worked all morning on until mid afternoon, but I felt a bit silly sitting in front of a computer all day while Sydney was just a short train ride away. I’d flown all this way, and it seemed a shame to waste the chance to do some Australizing. The same urge made me take a dip in the ocean at lunch on Thursday. The water was nice and warm, and the waves at Manly Beach made for a pretty vigorous splashing around. But today I felt a little less ambitious, so I went down to Circular Quay, walked around the harbor, and saw the exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art (which M and I had enjoyed last year). Then I walked around the Opera House into the park area. After a while, I began to recognize some landmarks from last year. Once again, I was stunned by the giant bats that hung like strange fruit from the trees. After walking around for an hour or so, I stumbled onto a grassy area we hadn’t seen… there was a large pond with little islands, and birds all around. I relaxed and read for a while. Towards dusk, the cockatoos got really active, and were screaming and swooping low over the heads of people lounging on the green, and I took a bunch of pictures of them. It’s so odd to see them common in the wild, a sort of context shift from them being relatively rare pets.

When the park was closing down, I strolled back past the Opera House, and the courtyard was fenced off, with a huge crowd on the stairs. I went by the ticket booth to see what was going on, with the idle thought that I might get a ticket (though I was sure the prices would be too rich for my blood). I was a little relieved when the cashier told me it was sold out. But as I passed by the front gate, I heard a loudspeaker announce that they would be letting people into the courtyard to watch that night’s opera, La Traviata, on the giant plasma screen… which is what all the people outside had gathered to see… and, I gathered, paid to do so. So I figured, what the heck, and loitered a few minutes. Sure enough, they opened the gates to rabble of my ilk, and I lay down 20 feet from the screen to watch the concurrent performance.

I have to admit that I’m not an opera fan, but it was worth it for the novelty of seeing an opera at the Sydney Opera House (even if I wasn’t inside). I wasn’t really taken with it… some of the music was nice, but that style of overblown range-roving singing gets on my nerves. Of course, the plot was inane and nonsensical, and (spoiler) the heroine died “tragically” at the end. I think I’ll stick with musicals for my infrequent music-story-mashup fix.

I kept missing M throughout the day… she would have enjoyed it, but with me in a conference the whole week, it didn’t make any sense to bring her along this time.


Though it’s Friday back home, it’s Saturday here in Sydney, and it’s been a a long week of meetings. Or meeting, I should say… the first SVG WG F2F of 2007, and my reunion of sorts. I first joined the SVG WG last January, and my first meeting was in Sydney. The winter (read: summer) Sydney meeting, hosted by Canon, has become a tradition. I sure can’t complain. As usual for a face-to-face, we’ve been sequestered in a hotel room all day, though with a beautiful view of Manly Beach right out the sliding doors. At night, we go out for dinner, then back to work, and to sleep. Read on for a day-to-day account of my trip thus far…

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