Travelling Incognito

You may be wondering what I'm doing up this late, well it's not insomnia or too much caffeine nor a badly set clock, I am in fact sitting some 6000 miles away from merry old England in Sunnyvale California. At the moment it's hardly living up to its name and I think the weather is probably better back home since it is unseasonably cold and wet with temperatures sub 10 degC and fairly heavy if infrequent rain. I even heard mention of snow!.

Still being a brit I am of course hardened to such conditions and since I'm spending almost all my time in an air conditioned office building it only has an impact when walking to lunch, dinner, or back to the hotel.

I've not done this sort of trip that often maybe three times total since I started work and some have been better than others. One trip I was basically left to fend for myself in the middle of an industrial estate with no car in a country where legs are used exclusively for pushing gas peddles and where so few people walk they don't bother to have pavements and the equivalent of the green cross man doesn't actually stop the traffic it just means you only get run over from one direction. The more recent trips have been better with more conveniently placed hotels and people actually making sure I get taken out for a meal rather than having to dodge traffic on a busy interstate to get to an all night gas station where they stock some unappealing sandwiches and packs of ham flavoured breath mints.

It's funny when people see this sort of thing as a perk, it's not really. You loose a couple of days of your weekend to travelling and or jet lag. You loose several days of productive work just from getting ready and so forth which then puts you behind making any tight deadlines even tighter. You spend the best part of a day bounced around in a tin can, in my case drugged up to the eyeballs on Jimson Weed derived travel meds, with the amount of space and comfort that would have animal rights protesters calling for blood if they shipped cattle that way. Then you suffer through US immigration at the other end (Though San Francisco is massively better than LA if you can help it never fly into LAX it is as close as you can get to hell on earth. SFO was speedy and polite). Once you are done with that you spend a week living out of a hotel room and working most of your time. It's assumed you work weekends and overtime since you have nothing better to do. The only good thing is you can get a few nice meals out of it, though not always (see above mmm ham!). And you do get to meet face to face the people that have been making your life difficult for the past few months and pay them back in kind (by ordering the most expensive thing on the menu when they take you to lunch and then stealing all their coffee cups pens equipment and in extreme cases furniture).

At least this sort of thing is the exception rather than the rule for me some people do this sort of thing for a living constantly travelling about. It's a bit of fun if it's a few weeks out of the year but I can't imagine what it would be like full time.

I also get to see some of the films I couldn't be arsed with or missed at the cinema this trip I saw "30 days of night" which I liked as a comic book but I'm not sure works as a film, "Stardust" that was quite fun, and then the simpsons movie just to get something I knew was good under my belt. Modern video on demand systems make flying just a little bit more tolerable than they were back in the 7 looped vhs machines days (Which BA still operate on some of their long haul flights and last time all they had was Ghostrider!). I also got to see some new Mythbusters and some of the new band wagon shows like "smash labs!" a show for people that find Mythbusters too intellectual and want to cut straight to the explosions yet still pretend this is science.

So you have to take the rough with the smooth.


Even though I know you are there to work and not have a cracking time mooching about I still can't help but be jealous. It's only 2 weeks until I go to Athens and I wanna get out of Reading NOW goddamnit! I will conceed that a cold and rainy Cali is not the most appealing of choices though.

So what are you actually doing out there?

Nibbles's picture

My one experience of corporate travel was a very lovely one. A Business Class seat to and fro and all the lounges and so on. The people in the US looked after me really well. I think there were only 2 nights I fended for myself - in those cases I went to a random local bar and just blatantly introduced myself.

Do you suffer from airsickness, mate?

brainwipe's picture

Never flown Business Class but did go first class to SFO which was entirely lovely. Certainly made flying back in steerage much more of a chore.

Nibbles's picture

It would probably be better in business or first class though my company is too cheap to pay for that.

I get air sickness sea sickness car sickness and probably train sickness given the right conditions ;)

It's not so bad now I have found pills that work it makes the trips just uncomfortable rather than genuinely unpleasant.

Currently I am fixing some issues with a new seagate product.

Evilmatt's picture

Bah they've nabbed me for another week. Oh well maybe I can get over to San Fran for a bit on the weekend.

Evilmatt's picture

San Fran is great. It's definitely worth the trip. There are lots of hills.

brainwipe's picture

I've been there once before a long time ago and it seemed like a nice place. The weather has been somewhat changeable but today seemed nice, then again even when it is raining what they call cats and dogs it is barely drisselling by English standards.

One of the US guys also offered to take me out shooting which might be a laugh.

One advantage to this place is since the us dollar is worth nothing and food is cheap anyway you can get ridiculously cheap meals. I paid for lunch at a Japanese restaurant yesterday that came to 14 dollars for two people and that was for a pretty large lunch that's what about 7 quid. You wouldn't get one meal for that in the UK it's madness it really is.

Evilmatt's picture

I am truly jealous now, well I will be if you go to 'frisco! Check out Haight Street, there is a cool bar down there called Noc Nocs and on Upper Haight a cracking place to eat called the Asqew Grill.

Have fun!

Nibbles's picture

I went up there this morning, it absolutely chucked it down all day and when I got back I found the hotel had decided I had checked out on Friday, which wasn't ideal. Still I had a nice meal on fishermans wharf and saw the sights for a bit. The weather was too lousy for much walking about.

Maybe it'll be better tomorrow and I can have another bash at it, the train is pretty good like ten bucks for an all day pass and takes an hour from sunnyvale to san fran pretty good beats the hell out of our trains.

Evilmatt's picture

Looks like I get to come home this Friday and not before time.

Working long hours and living out of a hotel room does strange things to your brain. You start thinking, "Hmm that hitman film is on the pay per view it might be worth watching"

It's a slippery slope.

Evilmatt's picture

So I'm back in the UK again Jet lagged to hell but home. The flight back was good the plane was pretty empty I had a row all to myself and there were plenty of others with similar luxury.

When I got home I found that rather unfortunately both my main computers seem to have died. One rather spectacularly with a loud bang which flipped the main 32 amp breaker. One my little media machine seems permanently dead I think its bios is broken the other my main gaming machine might just have fried the psu (hmm didn't byrnie point to a review of an excellent new power supply ;) ) I've pieced together a replacement for the media box at the moment it is almost running just needs to install the drivers for the replacement motherboard. In a catch 22 of sorts I'm using usb keyboard and mouse and of course it won't install the usb root hub driver without clicking OK which I can't do without a working keyboard or mouse. I had hoped I could VNC to it but it hasn't installed the Ethernet driver yet so I guess I'll be off to PC World to get a cheap ps2 keyboard.

Anyway my little laptop is once again proving its worth by allowing me to complain about things on the internet from the comfort of the armchair.

Evilmatt's picture

Hi mate. Good to hear you're back, not so good to hear of the explosions afterwards.

You might be able to get away with the USB keyboard... go into the BIOS and switch on USB keyboard support, which should enable the keyboard emulation. That might let you hit OK....

On the main machine, its worth a go replacing the PSU, but I'd strip the machine down to the basic components first, to limit your losses if the mobo was damaged and decides to pass it on...

Mini-laptops are rather handy aren't they ;)

byrn's picture

I'd been meaning to pick up another ps2 keyboard for a while since usb ones don't work with my KVM so it's a convenient excuse.

Anyway some probably extortionate chunk of money later and a load of fucking about I have two machines running again.

One issue I had was the new psu is almost too long to fit in my case even after I had removed everything it was a struggle to get it into place.

I wonder if some of the issues I'd been having with my main machine were that the psu was on it's way out, it wouldn't surprise me.

Evilmatt's picture