Facebook: the great online social networking success story of 2007. A few years ago, Facebook was a small and elite little community of American college students, largely unheard-of by the Net at large. Today, it boasts over 60 million users worldwide, and it seems that nobody is free from its ever-expanding influence. I joined Facebook during this trip, in March last year — a mere one month into the voyage — and since then, it's become an ever-more important part of my online life, as well as (surprisingly) an indispensable aid to travelling. It's now reached the point where Facebook has become quite a significant element in the story of this trip. Which is why I feel that the time has finally come to blog about it.
Back in Argentina, I commented on the hi-tech lift ticket system that they now use at Cerro Catedral. At the time, I was quite impressed. However, I now have to say that the Catedral tickets aren't so funky after all: Kitzbühel's redefine the notion of funk altogether. Instead of merely sporting scannable barcodes, the tickets here at Kitzbühel are true RFID devices. No need to pull them out of your pocket, wave them under an infra-red reader, and wait for the beep. No, sirree! These babies require no effort whatsoever: you just leave them in your pocket, and walk right through the turnstiles — they register as soon as you reach the barrier, at which point you hear a little beep, and in you go. As long as you make sure to keep your ticket in your left pocket (as all the sensors seem to be on the left side of the turnstiles), it's as easy as pie.
Last night was a big night — but it wasn't until this morning that I realised just how big. As far as I can remember, all that happened was that Stef and I returned home at around 3am, that I crashed straight into bed (I remember tucking in), and that the adventures ended then and there. My memory is that I slept solidly for the rest of the night, and that I woke up at around 11am, groggy yet otherwise fine. But apparently, there was an additional epilogue to the annals of the night, and one of which I have no memory whatsoever. It seems that for the second time on this trip (and in my life), alcohol has left a gaping gap in my memory. I experienced a Belgian beer blackout.
One thing that's really struck me, during my time in Sicily so far — but I assume it would strike me almost anywhere in Europe — is the amazing way in which old meets new around here. Europe is such an endlessly rich historical region: the cities are sometimes thousands of years old; patchwork farmlands have remained virtually the same for generations; and relics of past civilisations abound everywhere, from lonely mountaintops to musky caves. They've managed to preserve all of this history remarkably well; and yet amidst it all, they've also laid gleaming train tracks, industrial-strength power and communication lines, and wide tarmac freeways. It's a constant, in-your-face contrast and clash of eras, everywhere you go — but somehow, it all fits together — rather than conflicting, the interwoven old-new, natural-artificial tapestry of the European landscape is forever complementing itself, and giving an image of harmony and logic. How do they manage it?
When my flight landed in London Heathrow this morning, I was greeted at the baggage carousel not with my baggage, but with an amusing (if slightly worrying) message. Behold the Heathrow screen of death! What's going on, anyway — one of the world's biggest airports is using Windows? No wonder the terrorists are getting through: at this rate, Al-Queda will be CTRL + ALT + DEL'ing aeroplanes right out of the sky.
My dad and I went for a wander in the Harvard "Coop" bookshop this afternoon — after Paul's tour — and while there, I couldn't resist buying just one more geeky book. The Art of SQL is a very impressive text, that explains practical problems to some of the most common problems related to SQL querying, SQL data manipulation, and database design. The section on dealing with hierarchical data in a relational environment looks particularly interesting. And as with the drupal book that I bought a few days ago, this one also earned a much-coveted Slashdot review.
When I met John and Matt, back at DrupalCon Sunnyvale in March, they were still in the final stages of writing Pro Drupal Development. But now it's out. And there's no doubt at all: this is the book on Drupal. It's so good, it even scored a Slashdot review (and that's no small feat). This book really does have everything the professional Drupal developer needs to know. Pereonally, I like the final chapters most (on security and performance), and I'm confident that they'll be a reference asset to me for years to come. Got the book today in Boston, as it will undoubtedly be more expensive back home than it is here in the USA.
A few days ago, I e-mailed my friend Moshe Weitzman (one of the people that I met at DrupalCon Sunnyvale, back in March), to let him know that I'd be coming to his home town of Boston soon. Well, as it turned out, the Boston Drupal Users' Group (Boston DUG) organised their monthly meetup for tonight! Moshe, of course, was nice enough to invite me along for the evening. So after finishing my jetlag duty today, I headed over to the Berkman Center at Harvard University, to meet and greet the Drupallers of the city of Boston, and to see what's going on Drupal-wise in this part of the world. Oh yeah — and also to catch up on the goss from (unfortunately it was too-far and too-bad-timing for me to attend) DrupalCon Barcelona, which took place about a month ago.
Good news for all of you that like to check the map of the places I've visited: our friends at Google announced on Friday that they have just added coverage of 54 new countries to Google Maps! Of these new countries, quite a lot are in the Latin American region — this means that almost all the countries I've been to (and plotted on my map) now have proper coverage. So if you look at the "locations" page on this site now, you should get a pleasant surprise: all those red dots on the map are no longer in a sea of empty white; you can actually view them in their proper context. I discovered this cool improvement today, and I'm very impressed with how it looks. Thanks, Google Maps team, and keep up the good work!
I already heard that Cerro Catedral is one of the first ski resorts in the world to have implemented an electronic lift pass system. Today, in my first day of snowboarding on the mountain, I saw the new system myself, and it is very cool indeed. Every lift has a little scanner at the front of its queue; and you just stick your ticket in the scanner, and hold it there for half a second; and then the machine beeps, and the turnstiles open for you. Much more funky and efficient than ye 'ol punch-a-hole-in-me tickets, which need to be checked manually (or not) by lifties, and which need to be visible at all times. Catedral has a nice new hi-tech system on their mountain.