Aug 292004

I am too tired to write more now, but in short, I went to closing ceremonies and had a good time. Then I went back to process digital cards. Tomorrow, we start packing for a drop dead time of 2 pm on Tuesday.

Closing ceremonies

There were a lot of tables in the Closing Ceremonies. They also harvested wheat.

Closing ceremonies

Each of the small blue lights in the above photo is someone taking a picture with a digital camera or a cellphone. In addition to the ubiquitous flashes you see at these events, you also see red beams generated by the camera for auto focus.

Closing ceremonies tickets

 Posted by at 6:51 pm
Aug 292004

SI Party passSports Illustrated is roughly divided into two major division: editorial and publishing. Or, as they are known in the trade, edit and pub. Or, as they are known at Time Inc., church and state. Basically, the idea of the two distinct divisions is that you keep the editorial and publishing sides fairly separate so that advertising would not unduly influence the editorial content. My department, technology, works for both the editorial and publishing sides. This wasn’t always the case; there used to be two technology departments for each magazine. And another set of technology departments for the core Time Inc. groups. But that’s like having different janitorial staffs for each magazine division. It was a little nutty.

One of the major undertakings of Sports Illustrated at the Olympic Games in Athens is the publishing division’s hospitality program. The idea behind the hospitality program is to provide guests with dream vacations to major sporting events. Guests do not have to worry about anything on these programs. All of their tickets, meals, and rooms are set up before they ever arrive in Athens. It’s a really nice vacation, and the pub side does a great job of making people happy.

One event of the hospitality program is the SI party. Keep in mind that it is part of the dream vacation, so there is an open bar, good food, and scenic settings. Athletes are invited to have a good time, and they get to mingle with the guests.

I went to one of these parties on Saturday night. I got there after work at around 1 am, but had a great time. Almost all of the events at the Olympics were completed, so there were many athletes in attendance in the party. I met a couple of quite famous athletes and really enjoyed myself. Athletes are generally in excellent shape, and there is nothing quite like being in a party full of happy dancing healthy people. There was very little smoking and a lot of dancing.

Australians on the bar

A party without Australian athletes dancing on the bar just isn’t a party.

DJ on the move

The DJ was quite good. He changed musical styles quite a bit, and mixed in different albums from around the world. A good call considering that many people at the party were not from the US or Europe.

DJ on the move

A woman dressed in mirrors danced to a techno beat while lasers shot at her.

I didn’t get home until 7:30 am; I’m still bit tired right now. It was a good party.

 Posted by at 6:09 pm
Aug 282004

I was only in Athens a little over a week the first time I got here. It was a bit hectic; I had a lot of programming and other IT work to do. I ended up writing a major application and making significant changes to a couple of other applications. I was a bit concerned that there were a lot of bugs in the programs I worked on. Fortunately, everything has been going quite smoothly.

Of course, it is one thing to hear that everything is going smoothly, and it quite another thing to experience everything going smoothly. I got here late yesterday afternoon, and I cannot believe how relaxed all of the technical people are. Everyone who is working here is tired and stressed out, but no one seems to have the deer-in-the-headlights-end-of-their-rope-about-to-go-postal look that typifies people who have been screamed at one too many times.

A true metric of how things are going can be determined by looking at what I did today. Rather than having to sit in the press center banging on the keyboard all afternoon, I was able to go through the Olympic park and visit the SI hospitality tent. The Olympic park was a lot of fun to walk around. It is really great to see fans from all of the different countries dressed up in their country’s colors and flags. The babble of languages is comforting, and it truly makes you feel like a citizen of the world.

The architecture of the Olympic venues is impressive.

Olympic Stoa

This is called a stoa. Here is a description of the stoa from a sign in the Olympic park:

Built around 460 BC, the “Stoa” was the seat of the Royal Archon, thus it was also known as “Royal Stoa.” In this Stoa, the council of Aeropagus held its meetings and the laws of Solon, which are credited with the founding of Greek Democracy in ancient Athens, were displayed.

I fixed the punctuation in the preceding quote, but I think it is a bit clear that it is translated.

Olympic Stadium torch

I know that some readers of this page may think that this is a giant joint. Do not attempt to smoke the Olympic Stadium torch. The torch is made out of metal and fueled by some oil-based liquid. It is not made out of paper and fueled by pot.

 Posted by at 10:29 am
Aug 282004

I have Google supplying advertisements to my blog now. It’s very exciting. Right now, I see an advertisement for backgammon supplies and one for Greek web developers. I don’t know why I have the backgammon advertisement. I clicked on it, thinking the site may also have games besides backgammon. But it doesn’t. It is a site dedicated to backgammon.

 Posted by at 8:05 am
Aug 282004

The Olympic banners in front of Selete media housing

I have been staying in the media housing during my stay in Athens. Our facility is called Selete. It is a secure facility and brand new construction. The rooms are small and simple, but very functional. Every room has a desk, a single bed, and a small television. Most rooms, including mine, share a bathroom with a small shower.

The building has marble everywhere. The floors are all marble. The facade is marble. Pretty much everything except the furniture is marble. The front of the building is very sunny and pretty. You can walk to the media center, but you don’t generally want to. It takes a half-hour in brutal heat.

I am going to try to stay downtown for my last couple of nights in Athens; I think I will get a better opportunity to see all of the tourist attractions.

 Posted by at 5:08 am
Aug 272004

I arrived safely in Athens. Everything is calm here, and the technology seems to be working out smoothly. I did not have a direct flight, and I did not get a lot of sleep. One hour before my flight left, I had to help coordinate the restoration of a bunch of files for our main office. It went pretty well, and I was able to step through the process before my flight. Still, it wasn’t what I really wanted to deal with just before I took off.

We have already started to plan for Torino, Italy, the site of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Torino is also known as Turin.

The Italian Alps

I took this photo of the Italian Alps from my plane flight to Milan. Torino should be very pretty.

 Posted by at 1:47 pm
Aug 262004

In around 90 minutes, I get back on a plane to Athens. I should arrive there in the early afternoon. I extended my stay in Athens by a day so that I will be able to see some of the sites. I would feel like an ass if I went to Athens and didn’t visit the Parthenon.

The technical side of work has been going quite well. I’m hoping that the last few days of events go smoothly. Then, all that is left is packing up all of the gear. 19 skids of equipment going 4,934 miles. No problem.

 Posted by at 4:38 pm
Aug 262004

I was in Park Slope the other day. I went to get my haircut at Il Camelion, and I checked on my friend Mike’s apartment. (Your apartment is fine, Mike.) On the way into the office, I stopped at Blue Apron Foods, a really nice cheese and meat shop in Park Slope.

I bought a nice goat cheese round and some crackers for lunch. (Note to self: eating only goat cheese and crackers for lunch leads to poor digestion.) I mentioned to the woman at the cheese counter that they were not open when I last visited in early August. She said that they were closed because everyone went on vacation and mentioned that this was the first job she had that gave her a paid vacation.

As a professional computer support and development person, I take paid vacations for granted. I really shouldn’t. Many people in the country, let alone the rest of the world, do not get fair wages and benefits for their work. I’m thankful that I work for a company that not only recognizes the work I do but also rewards me for the work.

The United Nations recognized paid vacation as a right in article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, yet many people are not allowed the benefits of this right. [Full text of article: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.] I’m sure that there are many people who would consider such a right specious. (I think those people are wrong.)

Regardless of how you may feel about the status of leisure as a human right, I encourage you to support companies that treat their workers properly. If you live in New York City, you should definitely try to shop at stores like Blue Apron Foods. In the case of Blue Apron Foods, the owners treat both their employees and products with respect and love.

 Posted by at 4:19 pm
Aug 242004

I had a very strange taxi experience today, and for the second time ever, I called in a complaint to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

If you don’t live in New York City, you might not be familiar with the laws and protocols surrounding taxis. Taxis you can hail on the street are painted yellow. They are ubiquitous everywhere in central Manhattan, and you can hail them any time, day or night. You can’t call for a yellow cab; if you want to call for a cab, you have to call a car service.

Tonight, I saw a friend of mine before she flew away. (Her flight is at 6:30 am tomorrow morning!) I went to the street to hail a cab at around 10:45 pm. A cab pulled up and asked me where I was going. This in itself was a little annoying–cabs are required to take you anywhere in New York City. They can’t ask, and then decide whether or not to take you.

I told the driver that I was going to Brooklyn Heights, and that he had to take the Manhattan Bridge. This is a legitimate request, and, given the street that I live on, the best way to get to my apartment. Of course, if the driver said something like, “the bridge has 30 minute delays,” I might say we could take the Brooklyn Bridge, but I would want to see the delays myself. Drivers like to take the Brooklyn Bridge more because it has less stop-and-go traffic, but it also takes longer and has a higher fare. If you try to get to my apartment from the Brooklyn Bridge, you spend an extra 15 minutes getting spun around in Brooklyn Heights. TLC rules also require that a cab take the route you want to your destination.

The driver said he would not take me over the Manhattan Bridge because of the lights. I told him to pull over and let me out. I opened the door, and said that I would be filing a complaint with the TLC. This is where it started to get weird. The driver started to argue with me. He told me that he would take me, and that I couldn’t get out of his cab. With the door open, he tried to drive, but I told him I was getting out. Then, after I got out, he rushed to the pay phone, called someone on the phone, and indicated that I should talk to the person on the phone. I simply started to write down his license number and hail another cab.

Here is where it got really weird. The license number of a taxi is in six different places: on the sides of the cab, on both license plates, on a lighted sign on top of the cab, and on a license behind the drivers head. The license number is four digits. It is always four digits. Heck, this is what it says on the TLC web site. This license number was six digits. The license plate sort of looked like that, but I don’t think it was limited to six digits. The lighted sign on the cab was unreadable. Instead of dawdling, I wrote down the number and jumped in the next cab.

The first cab driver tried to get my cab to stop, but the new cab just drove me home. This was a good thing. In hindsight, I could have also taken some pictures of the cab with my camera, but I think I did the best thing in getting away from there as fast as possible.

On the way home, I filed a complaint with the TLC. I will definitely show up for a hearing if there is one. However, the license number is sketchy enough that I am going to give the local police precinct in Midtown a call as well. It could be really dangerous if someone is posing as a cab driver.

Followup: I called the Midtown North Precinct and explained that I was concerned about the license number. The police officer asked me the medallion number, and I read it off to him. He told me not to worry, but that it was a new series of license numbers that the TLC was using. It definitely set my mind at ease. It is was good to find out that the cab driver was simply an ass rather than an out-and-out crook.

 Posted by at 11:56 pm
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