September 17th, 2007

Hugo Sign

Open Source Worldcons

Over on SF Awards Watch, one of the discussions has been about a Permanent Hugo Administration Technology Committee. It's one of the few things to which I've had a chance to comment as I run around Japan, and indeed, it's only because my flight tonight isn't until after 9 PM and I have late check-out here at the Narita Holiday Inn that I'm taking the time to mention it here.

I was particularly tickled by Cheryl's comment that likens Worldcons to open-source software:
Any suggestion that someone might try to copyright the code is met with immediate and fierce resistance, and quite right too, but in the meantime you can’t get anything done without the hard work of a bunch of volunteers, many of the plugins are bug-ridden, and the documentation is crap.
I hadn't thought of it like this before, but I think she's right on the money here.

Okay, back to trying to figure out how to pack these bags and keep each bag under 50 pounds.
Kevin and Lisa

One Track Minds

After checking out of the Holiday Inn, we took our bags over to Narita and put them in storage for the day. Then we caught a Narita Rapid train (Green car available, unreserved) out to Chiba, eating our bento boxes and finally getting to see the Narita Airport railway line in daylight. At Chiba, we boarded the Chiba Monorail, buying a minimum JPY190 ticket each.

We boarded the first Line 2 train that arrived, rode it to the end of the line, then back to the other end, then back to Chiba, where we changed to the Line 1 train and rode out to the end of its (much longer) line and back. Lisa shot vast amounts of video, mostly high-res stuff, and burned through the rest of her batteries and mostly ran out of memory sticks. Along with what's on my PC and all seven memory sticks, she's shot more than 40GB of video during this trip. Editing it into usable form looks to be a winter project.

To economize, we changed lines again and rode one stop out Line 2 before exiting the system and walking the 500m back to Chiba Station. Although we were inside the system for about two hours, exiting where we did meant we were charged only the minimum system fare.

The Osaka Monorail is a SAFEGE type, one of only a few of the French-designed underslung monorails ever built. Because of how it's suspended, you somewhat get the feeling that you are flying over the city at about 20 m AGL or so. It's pretty cool, and no amusement-park ride, as shown by how packed our train was as we headed back toward Chiba Station around 1630 or thereabouts. It's a serious piece of transportation in a country that has to move a whole lot of people efficiently.

I composed this message originally (handwritten) on the 1720 Airport Rapid to Narita Airport from Chiba. Our green car emptied out in Chiba's suburbs, and we ended up with a private car (or part of a car -- the green cars on this train are double-deck between the trucks, and we have the upper deck to ourselves) for our final ride on JR during our trip to Japan.

It would be difficult to work out how much we saved over individual fares for the travel we've done these past three weeks, but we think it must have been substantial. Of cours, part of that was that because we had already bought the passes, we had every incentive to use them as much as possible, whether it was a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hachinohe, the Kamome from Hakata to Nagasaki, or just hopping on the Tokyo loop line for one stop because the station udon was better there than at Shinagawa.

Lisa, who handled our reservations, pointed out to me as I read the above back to her that in some cases, the only reason we got a seat was because we had Green cards, because there were only green seats available. Although not all trains had green cars, if you're going cross country the way we did, I'd have to say that the green card was well worth the difference in price.

It's going to be very difficult to go back to a country with a third-world transportation system.
Conrunner Kevin

Thank You, Northwest

When Lisa and I arrived to check in for our 20:55 flight this evening (having arrived 2 1/2 hours early), they asked for volunteers to be bumped. I reckoned that I could, at worst, just take another day off from work and they'd understand, and asked for more details. They said there was nothing tonight on which they could send us as an alternative. I said, "That's okay, as long as you send us tomorrow and put us on comparable seats and put us in a hotel tonight."

They looked around for a while and noticed that our ultimate destination is Portland, Oregon. They offered to fly us out tomorrow on direct flight to PDX, with a pair of World Business Class seats, put us up in the Radisson Narita, provide dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and give me an $800 Northwest travel voucher. (It's actually 2 * $400, but Lisa doesn't fly much so they made it out to me as a single voucher.) We said, "Sold." In exchange for flying out the following afternoon, we will actually arrive in Portland only about eight hours later than originally scheduled, thanks to not having to do the double-connect thing through HNL and SEA.

Now, it took a little while for them to do the paperwork, and Lisa was starting to show signs of strain, as was I, but eventually it got done. Unfortunately, we had to wait most of an hour for the next shuttle for the 20-minute ride out to the hotel. On the brighter side, instead of a "contractual obligation" airline-crew room, we got upgraded to what I consider a mini-suite -- a room that would be fairly spacious in the USA, let alone Japan. (Lisa has found some faults with it, however, and notes that it's really designed for a single person, despite the king-sized bed.)

Now I need to cancel my hotel reservation at PDX and let my co-worker in Oregon know that I won't be back until the morning after we originally expected. Then we need to pop down to the nearby konbini -- which unlike last night, isn't a bus ride away -- and lay in a bit of stuff that the hotel doesn't provide but Lisa and I want, like milk.