barcelona, 2014


This year was my first time attending MWC and it was quite the experience. I’ve been to some conferences before, but the sheer scale of this one was amazing.

And although it was my first time attending in person, it certainly wasn’t the first time I helped the team prep for the show on the technical side. A hectic several weeks of landing fixes and features, to an installation party on Sunday night, and rushing to the booth early Monday morning to do a final pass of updates before doors opened at 9am, the team on the ground with super support from the team on the homefront worked until the literal last minute to produce the best software build we could for a week of intensive demos. It wasn’t perfect, but no demos ever are, and I was extremely proud of the end result.

My job was to be a booth babe and give demos of Ubuntu phones and tablets to interested passers-by, but I lost my voice on Monday (possibly laryngitis) and was thus relegated to back room tech support for the rest of the week.

typical euro lovers' room
note how close the bathroom on the right is to the beds

There was also an unfortunate incident with mussels and food poisoning that I’ll not expand on here, but if you want full details, talk to my hotel roomie Cimi who got the Full 3D/HD experience at 4am. Sorry Cimi!

After the crazy week, Cimi and I spent the weekend decompressing by taking in the sights, before starting our second week in Barça, where the plan was to work remotely whilst eating as much jamón ibérico as humanly possible.

parc guell

The last time I was in town, I saw quite a lot of the major tourist attractions (thanks to turbo-mom who just pushed our family to maximize every moment), but two things we missed were the Miró museum and Montserrat. So that was Saturday and Sunday, respectively, and I’m pleased to report both were worth the wait.

In fact, I hadn’t realized what a fan of Miró I was, and speed-bingeing on the Wikipedia article on the Spanish civil war made the experience all the richer.

giant vending
world’s biggest vending machine

The remainder of the week was fairly nondescript. We enjoyed hanging out in the quiet Sant Andreu neighborhood and doing our interpretation of local life, namely sleeping in until 10am, working a bit, enjoying siesta from 1500 — 1800, eating tapas, maybe working a bit more, and saving everything else for mañana.

All the photos from the trip are in barcelona 2014, and to wrap it up, my first ever attempt at video creation is below.


how to visit the united states in 4 weeks

I’m recycling a comment I made in a fun thread on google+. How would you plan such a trip, where there’s only 4 weeks to see everything? My best shot is below. It’s opinionated but meant to only be mildly controversial… Comments?

Weeks 1 and 2: start with an east coast “great cities” trip.

Fly into Boston to: learning how we beat you guys back in the day. ;) (nb, original post was from an English bloke) A proper kickoff to the rest of your trip. Regional food specialty – seafood (chowder, lobster). Stay about 2-3 days, then…

Drive south to NYC. Greatest city in the US. The things to do are too numerous to list, but it has one of the best food cultures, excellent museums, Broadway, etc. I’d budget 3-4 days as a minimum,but could easily fill 5 if so inclined.

Skip Philly (much of its charms are similar to what you’d get in Boston, read: small, old city) and drive south to DC. The monuments and museums there are truly beautiful. About 2-3 days should be enough.

A trip to the US could be completed without seeing the Southeastern states, but as a unique and weird culture, it needs to be seen to be believed. A hoot for English tourists, I’d say. But where to go and what to do? Here’s my strategy: road trip the 9 hour drive from D.C. to Atlanta. Break the trip into 2 days, experiencing Americana, southern accents, vinegar-based BBQ, and whatever roadside attractions you may find. Plan on spending 0 days in Atlanta (the drive should give you your fill of our south), and just use it as a portal to leave the east coast.

By now you’ve spent 9-12 days of your budget. I say skip Chicago (fun city, but nothing truly unique vs. Boston/NYC) and skip Texas (the southeastern road trip will be “close enough” to southern culture that a special trip to Texas doesn’t seem worth it).

Instead, fly to Denver for your gateway to our national parks. Rent another car (optimize for gas mileage and comfort, not ruggedness, as car access to the parks is actually quite good).

I recommend: Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches/Canyonlands, and Grand Canyon. It pains me to elide the Grand Tetons, but your parents aren’t here long enough to justify it and “mountains” are covered by RMNP, whereas the southwestern desert states are simply more unique.

On the way to RMNP, consider taking an extra day in Fort Collins, CO which is one of the best beer cities around. This is where you shake off that annoying inaccurate stereotype of crap American beers and see the innovation that’s happening here and nowhere else in the world.

2 days in RMNP, 2 days in Arches/Canyonlands, 1 day at the Grand Canyon is the absolute bare minimum they should spend at those places, and even then, that is kinda rushing things. It takes about a half day to drive between each of those places so by the end, they’ll have spent ~8 days seeing crazy beautiful natural wonders…

End by driving to Las Vegas and be sure they stay at least one night there. I’ve never been to anywhere else in the world like it (for better or worse) although I admit I’ve never been to Hong Kong. Be sure to gorge at a buffet, see a show (Cirque du Soleil), and wander the strip.

Next morning, fly to San Diego and experience what nice weather feels like. ;) Perhaps a beach. Some sort of R&R will be nice after a hard 10 days on the road. A side bonus, they could quickly pop across the border to Tijuana and experience some fun there as it’s only a 20 minute drive from SD.

Time’s running out, so after a day or two to unwind, fly to San Francisco, and that’s the rest of your trip. There are city activities (museums, etc.), it’s the other center of the food revolution, and there are some good 1 and 2-day trips that could use SF as a launchpad (wine country to the north, drive the Pacific Coast Highway to the south).

Fly back to Blighty from SFO, there are numerous, cheap, direct flights.

That wraps up a very fast but chock-filled 4 weeks.

You could expand to 6 weeks by doing (in order of preference):

1) spend more time at national parks. I’d either spend more time at the 3 that are recommended or tack on Yosemite (from your SF base).

1b) Add the Grand Tetons to the parks portion, but if you have to choose, I choose Yosemite over Tetons.

2) Fly to Seattle after SFO and spend ~3 days there.

3) Fly from ATL to Dallas instead and experience the weirdness of Texans (~3 days, then continue by flying to Denver).

3b) Alternatively, add a “midwest tour”. Fly from ATL to Chicago, spend ~2-3 days in Chicago, then a moderately long drive (5h) to St. Louis. A day there to see the Arch, and continue flying to Denver. The drive from Chicago to St. Louis will give a taste of how big, flat, and empty much of the interior of the country is.

Of course, this is a fairly generic itinerary, and could use some tweaking especially depending on what time of year they visit.

Finally, a plug for AirBNB. Stay at AirBNB places in the cities, not hotels. Staying at real American homes will be much more interesting than staying in sterilized, standardized hotels.

scenes from south korea

South Korea is a land of details. From motion sensor escalators that only turn on when someone steps on, to elevator user interface, where pressing the button takes you to the floor, but pressing it again cancels the action (how often have you wished for something like that when obnoxious children mash all the buttons for fun).

There is minimal Engrish, for the most part, signage is well translated. The strange paradox is that for many people — I’m talking about young people — their command of spoken English isn’t that great. This was somewhat surprising to me, considering that to interact with much of the business world today, English is the standard.

Upon a bit of reflection, perhaps I am guilty of misunderestimating the vast, sheer, numbers of people in Asia, a region in ascendancy. It was a bit of a reality check on where the west currently stands in relation to the east in terms of importance. It’s a little early to claim we’re in the death throes of pax Americana but it’s still food for thought.

Another surprising aspect for me was how dirty the air was. Nowhere near as dirty as the air in Beijing, Shanghai, and Nanjing — visibility in those cities averaged approximately 400m when I was there, whereas you could see several km into the distance in Seoul. Still, the omnipresent haze was jarring to someone who spends a lot of time in the American Rockies, where visibility is essentially limited by geographic features, such as ridgelines or say, the curvature of the earth.

We’re experiencing a gigantic wildfire right now, and people in Fortlandia are rightly complaining about the air quality.

Imagine if you woke up to the above every single day.

Finally, axolotls are some of the best animals on earth. Ever.

I’m since back from my week-long work trip there, stopped in at Summit County to do laundry, and then off again. This blog post comes to you from London.

Some useful links:

  • the rest of my Korean photo album — enjoy
  • Learn to read Korean in 15 minutes — driving along in South Korea is actually a great place to practice this, because the signage is dual posted in both Hangul and English. I impressed my hosts with kindergarten reading proficiency (although of course I was just sounding out the words phonetically with nary a clue of what I was actually saying)

roaming in recoleta and uruguay

It’s only an hour’s boat ride from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay. On Sundays, when everything shuts down in BA anyway, popping over to Colonia for a lazy afternoon is the perfect way to idyll away one of the last days of summer.

The street signs are beautifully painted tiles, there’s a lighthouse, and it’s a UNESCO site. What else could one want?

Colonia photo album

Some midweek shennanigans were had as I taught my mom how to use G+ chat.

And yesterday, we wandered around my neighborhood, taking in the sights, and of course, eating ice cream.

Recoleta album

The Koltsanos left for Salta today, an event that makes me sad. They really made slipping into the expat transition worlds easier and of course they’re just superfun folks. After Salta, they’re headed to Bolivia, and I hope Jeneral will be able to find the parasite she’s been longing for to help her drop the extra kilos she mysteriously picked up along the way.

Happy Monday.

settling in

My plan to spend two weeks in Fortlandia was thwarted by a last minute trip to London. So instead of a nice relaxed transition to temporary expat status, I spent it jetlagged and cranky.

But the actual move was pretty pleasant (modulo some last minute hassle from my new landlord threatening to rent the apartment to someone else due to confusion about my arrival date).

And, as a special bonus, superfriends Jen and John, who are on their extended, delayed 6 month honeymoon have moved in for a few weeks, making my transition even easier.

I’m settling into a nice rhythm here, working long days while the Koltsanos make delicious meals, and we explore the city at night. Thus far, we’ve found the best salad bar in BA (obviously in addition to expectedly fabulous meat) and delicious empandas at La Americana.

My personal clock has been shifting later and later, starting off relatively gringo, but by the end of the week, embracing the late-night dinners. Below is the scene of a relatively sedate section of town when we left the restaurant at 2AM. The locals showed no signs of slowing down either.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, we take a day trip to Montevideo, Uruguay. And then it’s back to the grind for me, resume-writing and cross-fitting for Koltsanos.

A quick note here: obviously my blogging frequency has fallen dramatically in the past few months. Partially I’ve been too busy and tired to find energy to write more at the end of a long work day. Partially, it’s because I’ve found another outlet over at Google Plus.

So if you want to see some of my more ephemeral and timely observations, check me out on G+.


life changes

SF prep #1
forsooth, a brake!

I’m moving. Travelling, really.

Around the world.

In 3 to 4 month chunks.

A city at a time.

Really, it’s about time. I’ve been thinking about it for several years now, planning piecemeal, laying down disjointed bits of foundation. But it’s happening. For real.

One of the best perquisites of Canonical is the inherent assumption of remote working. As long as you have a laptop and wifi, you could really work from anywhere in the world (modulo a tiny bit of reality, but for the most part true), assuming you remain productive and available for your colleagues.

It’s time to get while the getting’s good, and take advantage of the freedom. Have laptop, sense of adventure, and strong GI tract; hitting the road, in search of wifi and the perfect bánh mi (or empanada, I’m not terribly picky).

I love Fort Collins. It’s the perfect Pleasantville, and I’ve never been happier living here for 8 years. But Penelope claims that you cannot have both a happy life and an interesting life; you have to choose one.

So, I choose interesting.

When are you leaving?
I leave Ft. Collins on 30 September 2011.

Where are you going?
First stop is San Francisco.

San Francisco is hilly, isn’t it?
Right-o. Hence the recent addition of a rear brake on my fixie. I’m not too scared of pedaling a 54×19 up hills, but I am scared of riding down them without additional stopping power.

For how long?
My sublease runs until 31 December 2011. I’ll probably extend it by an extra month and stay til 31 January 2012 because moving on New Year’s Eve sucks. Unless the world ends, of course, in which case the move will be permanent.

Then what?
I’ll come back to Ft. Collins to make sure my house hasn’t burnt down. Maybe gather a few things, maybe sell some other things, maybe do a bit of skiing (February is the best ski month in Colorado anyway), and figure out where I’m going next.

Oh, you’re not selling your house?
No, I’m too lazy to pack yet, or to fix the small nagging things that need to be fixed in order to sell a house.

Are you renting it out then?
Yes, I’ve some friends renting it out for the first stretch, but nothing lined up after that. Would you like to rent a nice house in early 2012?

How about your car?
My lovely renters will run it once in a while to keep the battery from dying. But I plan on leaving it garaged in Ft. Collins mostly.

Ok, so what’s next?
I’m not sure. I really want to go to Taipei, but it kinda depends on how my current work project is going. We currently have staff in two major timezones, the Americas and Europe. Stretching staff across 3 timezones into Asia is horrible. I did that for my last project, and it meant that someone always had a 2am meeting, which sucked. So, if current project is winding up as expected, Taipei is next. If not, then the next strongest candidate will be Buenos Aires.

What factors into your choices?
I’d really like to improve my Mandarin. I plan on taking lessons in San Francisco, and continuing them in Taipei if I end up there. Otherwise, my Spanish could use some tuning up as well. And I fucking love empanadas. Seriously. A lot.

One factor to consider is the length of the tourist visa. Most countries will give US citizens a 90-day stamp without too much hassle, so those countries are more appealing. But to be honest, this whole trip is an experiment in playing it by ear.

Why keep coming back to Ft. Collins? Why not just a ’round-the-world ticket?
I wouldn’t exactly call myself commitment-averse, but I’ve noticed a common pattern in my life heretofore has involved a lot of hedging. Also see above note re: ear-playing (which sounds a whole lot worse than the longer phrase).

Will you blog? Tweet? Facebook?
Yes. Yes. No.

Email works too.

Will we still get platypus Friday?
I shall endeavor to please.

Don’t you think fake-asking yourself questions on your own blog is a little pretentious?
At times, I hate me too.

And clichéd?
Ok, ok, I get the point.

In any case, if you have travel suggestions, tips, whathaveyou, I’m happy to hear them all.

Stay tuned to this space for the latest and greatest.



uds-o, budapest scenery edition


Those with a keen eye or snoop around in the exif data will note that I made all of these photos with my Canon 10-22 wide angle lens. It’s becoming my favorite general purpose “travel with just one lens” lens in spite of several clear weaknesses. For most tourists who simply want to show they were there, this lens will capture more of “there” than any other, especially the grand buildings that are so prevalent in Europe. And, after a bit of practice, you can start taking advantage of the lens’s distortion to make interesting images of day-to-day life (since the small moments are what actually make travel interesting), but usually end up rather boring.

On the down side, the lens is slow and you’ll occasionally get frustrated with the “all wide, all the time” perspective, but on the whole, it works well for me as my walking around tourist lens, especially when you want to travel light.

Check out the full set here:

Budapest 2011

Oh, and for several reasons, I didn’t take many^Wany photos of UDS itself:

  • “still life of people in meeting rooms” isn’t exactly the most exciting subject
  • I left my Speedlite at home
  • my lens is too slow (F/3.5-4.5 ) for most indoor shooting
  • and anyway, you can see all of Sciri’s fantastic people photos on his site

alberto and mlegris disagree