Archive for the 'Travel' Category

May 23rd, 2007

I Know What I’m Doing This Summer

If you’re one of the few people who read this blog with any regularity, you know that there are periodic dry spells. It’s the same with all our sites: as much as I’d love to have new posts on each of them every single day, I do have a few other things to think about, and so the projects that bring in the least amount of money tend to be the ones that spend the most time on the back burner. You know how it is. More than once I’ve written a little blurb here saying that the reason I haven’t made an appearance in so long is that I was finishing up this or that book, a bunch of Macworld articles, or whatever. And sure enough, I have been working on new books and articles in the last month too. But that’s not the real reason I’ve made so few blog posts, written about so few interesting things, and posted so few lists recently. This time I have a really good excuse.

For the last year and a half, Morgen and I have been working on the Next Big Thing, and it truly is extremely big. We haven’t said anything, except to a small number of friends, family members, and colleagues, because the outcome of our planning was too uncertain—and beyond our control. Well, today it officially crossed over from dream to reality. And the news is: We’re moving to Paris! We leave on July 1.

If you’ve ever noticed how frequently we mention France on Interesting Thing of the Day, the fact that we’re moving to Paris may not come as a total surprise. But the story of why we’re doing this, how we managed to pull it off, what we’re going to do while we’re there, and all the rest, is a long one. So we’ve been working on a whole blog about the process of moving to France and living there. We’d hoped to have that blog up and running long before now, and it’s almost ready, but we’ve been too busy actually working on making this happen to finish writing about making it happen. Stay tuned for all the details you could hope for.

The significant event that occurred today was that we finally received our long-stay visas from the French consulate. The process of applying for these visas was dauntingly long, complex, expensive, and full of ambiguities and uncertainties. But it’s necessary for anyone wanting to live in France for more than three months. We spent about a year just getting ready to apply, and we spent the last seven weeks on pins and needles wondering whether the visas would be granted or not. But, under the assumption and hope that they would be, we’ve also spent this time sorting through and packing up all our worldly possessions and making all sorts of other moving-related arrangements. Not that we’re finished yet, or even close—we’ll need every second between now and when we leave to get ready!

We are unbelievably excited about this move (though also somewhat terrified). We look forward to sharing all the details, in our forthcoming blog, in the extremely near future. And, now that we’ve overcome this big hurdle, we hope to start catching up on all those delinquent blog posts.

Just to head off a few of the most obvious questions, here are some helpful facts: (1) I will continue writing for TidBITS, Take Control, and Macworld, and we’ll continue running all the alt concepts sites (such as Interesting Thing of the Day and Spectatrix), while in France. (2) We’re taking our cat with us! (3) We have already rented an apartment; it’s located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. (4) Our current plan, subject to change, is to spend three years in France. (5) We both speak some French, but not nearly enough. We’ll be brushing up before we leave and working on it much more after we get there.

January 2nd, 2007

New Year’s Update

Hello all. Over the past couple of months, this blog hasn’t seen much action, and the other alt concepts sites have also been pretty quiet in recent weeks. Apart from the holidays and related travel, Morgen and I have been frantically preparing for our upcoming trip to Indonesia and Hong Kong—we leave in a matter of minutes! There’s been so much to do that a few things, such as actual work, have gotten put on the back burner. However, I did want to provide a few updates before I head off on my big 40th Birthday Trip.

Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac: A couple of weeks ago, we released version 2.0 of this book, which reflects the huge number of changes in the Windows-on-Mac world in the last several months—major updates to both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop, the release of CrossOver Mac, and the sort-of release of Windows Vista. Of course, no sooner did we get the new edition out than VMware went and released a beta of Fusion, yet another interesting way to run Windows on your Intel Mac. So I’ll update the book to discuss that at some point after I return from my trip. In the meantime, I think all the information there is still solid and reliable, and it’s a great improvement over the first edition.

Take Control of Mac OS X Backups: Version 2.0 of this book—a significant expansion—is also pretty much ready to go, and has been for weeks. But because of the holidays and preparations for Macworld Expo next week, it may not be released until mid-January or so. This new version discusses Time Machine to some extent, but after Leopard is released, I’ll do another update that covers it in detail.

Interesting Thing of the Day, SenseList, and The Geeky Gourmet: All these sites will be running on a greatly reduced schedule during January. We plan to collect lots of interesting things, lists, and food stories on our trip, and will be back with fresh content in February.

Macworld Expo: This’ll be the first time I’ve missed the show in I can’t remember how many years. But it’s for a good cause: you only turn 40 once. I’m sure I’ll have 32,768 email messages awaiting me on my return, informing me of all the cool things that were announced and that I must immediately buy. And, of course, there will inevitably be all sorts of books requiring updates .

So that’s the update. If there’s anything I forgot, I’m sure it’s on my list somewhere, and I’ll attend to it in February. See you then!

November 17th, 2006

Indonesia, Part Dua

Two years ago, when Morgen turned 30, we agreed that she could choose any destination in the world for a celebratory trip, and she chose Patagonia. Our deal was that when I turned 40, which will happen this coming January, I could also choose any travel destination. I spent months thinking about this, poring over atlases and thinking seriously about dozens of countries on every continent. (Yes, even Antarctica.) In the end, I settled on Indonesia, so that’s where we’ll be spending most of January (along with a 5-day stopover in Hong Kong).

This will not be my first trip to Indonesia; I spent the summer of 1986 there, when I was 19. The circumstances of that trip were very different, and I was a much different person then. But the experience affected me profoundly, and greatly influenced the course of my life. So it will be interesting to return a lifetime later and see how I perceive things now. And this time, I’m determined not to get malaria again!

I’ve been brushing up on my Bahasa Indonesia, a surprising amount of which still seems to be kicking around in my brain after all these years. And I’ve been trying to reassure Morgen that despite little annoyances like heat, humidity, bugs, tropical diseases, and the odd occasional nightclub bombing, Indonesia truly is a lovely country with friendly people and lots of interesting things to see. And it’s arguably safer than New York, all things considered.

We have some friends in Kalimantan, so we’ll spend part of our trip there. We’ll also visit Bali, and of course spend a few days in and around Jakarta. On my first trip to Indonesia, I spent most of my time in Irian Jaya, or as it is now known, Western New Guinea or West Papua. It’s unclear yet whether we’ll make it back there during this trip, as it’s remote and travel there requires a special permit, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Depending on our time, money, and energy resources, we may visit other islands as well.

Most years—and 2007 will be no exception—my birthday falls during the annual Macworld Expo in San Francisco. That’s been, at various times, a blessing and a curse. I threw myself a big 30th birthday party at the 1997 Macworld, which was nice because I got to spend the day with some people who would otherwise have been far away. And, since I’ve been living in San Francisco, I’ve had an annual get-together for TidBITS folks at my home. On the downside, the fact that I’ve got to attend the show (and, frequently, evening events too) for professional reasons typically limits my birthday options. So this year, for the first time in I can’t remember how long, I’ll be skipping Macworld entirely. Somehow, I’m sure, the show will go on without me!

September 15th, 2006

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Although I write about scientific topics from time to time and fantasize about being a mad scientist, my actual profession is that of a computer geek and writer, not a physicist. So what are the chances that twice, within a one-week period, I would be randomly queried about the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Pretty slim, I’d think…but then, I’m not a statistician either.

The first occasion was last Friday. Morgen and I were on vacation in Las Vegas, and we were having a drink at Quark’s Bar in the Star Trek-themed portion of the Las Vegas Hilton. (I highly recommend the Star Trek: The Experience Backstage Tour, by the way!) When I say “a drink,” I don’t mean just any drink, but the strongest drink in, probably, the entire galaxy: a Warp Core Breach, which contains 10 ounces of liquor (and various other ingredients), plus dry ice in the bottom of the fish bowl-sized glass to make a nice steam effect. (It wasn’t our first one of these, incidentally, though it was the first on this particular trip.)

So we’d gotten about a third of the way through this when a guy in full Klingon makeup and costume comes up to us and starts dishing out the usual “humans are so weak” insults. (We were also visited by an Andorian and, I think, a Ferengi.) We played along as best we could. I don’t remember the exact exchange, but it must have had something to do with the dry ice, and I was presumably making the point that humans could actually be pretty smart on occasion. The Klingon challenged me: “What’s the Second Law of Thermodynamics?” I couldn’t think of it and hesitated, pointing at the drink and complaining that it was affecting my cognition. “Fine,” he said, “What’s the Third Law of Thermodynamics?” I couldn’t think of that one either. The Klingon grunted and moved on.

Now, I would have loved to put a Klingon in his place, and I felt a bit ashamed at my performance there, because I am in fact pretty familiar with the laws of thermodynamics, having written about them in my article on Perpetual Motion Machines. Had my head been clearer, I might have rattled them off, if not necessarily in the right order. But, of course, due to the nature of my occupation, this isn’t the sort of material I generally need to keep on the tip of my tongue.

Then yesterday morning I got an email from someone who’d read the aforementioned article and claimed he’d invented a device that could “escape” the Second Law of Thermodynamics. He explained this little project in great detail, and although I didn’t fully comprehend it, it seemed to amount to a way of recovering otherwise lost heat energy and turning it into electricity. That, of course, is fine as far as it goes, but if it doesn’t go all the way, and clearly it can’t, then it won’t in fact violate the Second Law. Which, for the record, goes like this (at least in one formulation):

Heat cannot be turned into other forms of energy with 100% efficiency.

I’m at a loss to know what cosmic meaning I should attach to this remarkable coincidence, but it certainly reinforces the value of, for example, brushing up on my physics and keeping my distance from Klingons in bars.