Hypertext 2004 so far

Finally seem to be acclimatised to local time, and I’m sitting in a
live hypertext reading session at the conference, more of which
as we go along.

The flight over was fantastic. I’ll type that again, but louder:
FANTASTIC. Our route took us over Iceland, Greenland, across northern
Canada and down through the Dakotas, Montana, Utah and Nevada. The
weather was clear with only a slight haze for most of the journey, so
got some stunning photographs of glaciers, icebergs, the Grand Canyon,
the Mojave Desert, Lake Mead, and so on. Photos will have to wait
until I return, since I am an IDIOT, and forgot to pack the USB cable
for the camera. Landed in LA for the commuter hop to San Jose. LA from
the air is deeply, deeply scary. Saw a sixteen-lane highway. Enough
said.

The drive from San Jose to Santa Cruz was uneventful. Failed to get
a photo of the only good bumper sticker I saw (“YOGHURT KILLS”), which
was a shame. The final stretch into SC would have been a lovely,
winding forest road, had it not been a four-lane highway. As it was,
it was a lovely, winding four-lane highway surrounded by trees. Is
this normal for Northern California

Santa Cruz is rather pretty; my first night was spent in a hotel
right on the shore, so I had a good view of the whole of Santa Cruz
bay, the wharf and the boardwalk. As an aside, it has been pointed out
to me that having Santa Cruz as my first exposure to California is a
sure recipe for future disappointment by the remainder of the
state. However, since my first and still only experience of Italy has
been Florence, I’ve already set a precedent for this sort of
let-down.

When the fog burned through the next morning, I could just
about see the far side of Monterey Bay. Lovely. Was woken up by the
sound of the surf, and the honking of sea lions. Noisy beasts.

[ the first hypertext reading has just finished – a
presentation of the Soothcircuit.
Jolly, but a bit too reminiscent of the web toys that we’ve been known
to knock together for totl.net
]

Monday was a free day for me. I wasn’t at any of the tutorials or
workshops, so Dave (who did his PhD at the same time as me) and I hit
the tourist attractions. Following a light breakfast of huevos
rancheros (!), we went for a stroll on the pier to help digestion,
before hitting the boardwalk for a few hours. I haven’t been to an
amusement park for YEARS – I think the last time was Alton Towers in
1993. The Santa Cruz boardwalk has a big wooden rollercoaster which
was built in 1922 and is FAB, in addition to the usual selection of
other rides, so there was something for everyone. We had decided to go
on a boat trip around the bay at 3pm, and since two $25 all-day passes
seemed a bit extravagant, we settled for $30 of tickets between
us. Little did we know that Monday was 1907 night, in which all rides
after 6pm cost only 65c each. $30 goes a long way under those
circumstances. Also of note on the boardwalk were the video
arcades. I’m a sucker for retro video games, as will
attest. I think that video arcade games went through a low point of
playability and creativity during the 1990s (wall-to-wall beat-em-ups)
which they’re only just starting to climb out of, largely thanks to
the importing of wacky Namco titles. The arcades on the boardwalk were
a goldmine of late 1970s and early 1980s games, from an early Pong
clone, through Asteroid, Space Invaders, Centipede, Galaxian, Gorf,
Tempest, Battlezone, and a host of others. I have not lost my touch at
some of these, which is most pleasing.

[ the second hypertext reading has just finished – Judy Molloy
reading Canto
Seven
, which was rather good ]

The trip round the bay was fun, with good closeups of sea lions and
sea otters. No dolphins, alas. The change in temperature on the water
was also pleasantly refreshing. The morning had started out quite cool
and misty, so I was wearing my usual black 501s and big boots. By
lunchtime, the temperature had hit the high 70s, so I went off and
bought a panama hat (essential) and a pair of shorts. Unfortunately, I
could have done with the hat a few hours earlier; I had assiduously
been slopping on the suncream everywhere else, but managed to get a
rather nice case of sunburn on my parting that’s only just beginning
to fade.

[ we’re now onto the third hypertext reading, by Jim Rosenberg,
which I’d swear was a homage to the beat poetry cafe in Grim
Fandango
, if only it weren’t being presented in such a
deadpan manner. There’s a Java version of this hypertext online, which should give you an idea of his work ]

Went out to dinner with some of the other Southampton folks (Hugh,
Les, and Dave) and Mark Bernstein of
Eastgate Systems. Finally got
to campus to check into my campus room at 11pm, by which time the
conference office had closed and the campus was deserted. Walked the
half mile back down the steep hill to the security gate with my
suitcase in tow (the security guard was the only person I’d seen on
campus), then half a mile back up a steep hill to the college where I
was staying to be let into my room. To cut a long story short, I
didn’t get settled until ong after midnight, by which time I was well
and truly shattered.

[ the last hypertext reading now, which is a video of an
immersive CAVE 3D hypertext by Noah Wardrip-Fruin involving flying,
spinning words that peel off a text and break apart when you swat at
them with your hand. Cool, but bewildering. I want one of these to
play with. ]

Tuesday was back to work, since I was giving a full day of Semantic
Web tutorials at the conference. Was woken up at 7.30am by Sigi, an
Austrian who was a visiting academic at Southampton a few years ago,
and who had managed to lock himself out of his room while wearing only
his pants and a t-shirt. Must be the effect of living in student
accomodation. The tutorials went well, although I really want to
revise the advanced tutorial to make it more interactive. Ended up
drinking on campus at the scheduled social event in the evening, which
was good beer (Anchor Steam and Sieraa Nevada Pale Ale) and nibbles
(reasonable guacamole, olives and cheese). Finished off by going round
to a flat full of Nottingham people who had more beer. Been regretting
this decision for most of today. Beer is good, hangover is bad.

Enough for now, since the session is over…

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