Canonical Voices

What Alex Chiang talks about

Posts tagged with 'travel'


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.


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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)

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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.



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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

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