Category Archives: travel

Meetups in the USA! with @technokitten & @jamestagg

Yo, America!  I missed you.  I’m coming back.

I’m helping organise and will be attending a series of meetup events in the first week in May.  I’m working on this with Helen Keegan of Mobile Heroes and James Tagg of Truphone.

Helen and James will be in the Bay Area on 2nd & 3rd.  I’m joining them in NYC later in the week and going over to LA with them for an evening do the following Monday.  I’m hoping to see my SF peeps after that as I’ll have a few days holiday before coming home.

All the events are free and fun!  The first is Helen’s world-famous Swedish Beers Party which will be in San Francisco on May 2nd.  The others are talks with James (and other speakers to be confirmed) on the subject of AI and the future of mobile, entitled: “When will our smartphones be smarter than us?”

There’ll be a brunch down in Mountain View the following morning, May 3rd.

We’re doing something breakfast-y in Manhattan on Thursday May 5th.

We will likely do a Tuttle NYC on the morning of Friday 6th but that will be even more informal and become clearer when we’ve booked accommodation.

We’ll be doing the final one in Los Angeles on the evening of Monday 9th.

We’re working hard at the moment to pin down venues but want you to save the dates in your city and spread the word.  If we’re Facebook friends you should get an invite there too, but since FB search is rubbish, don’t bet on it.  All the events are here on FB, please pass on the invitation to anyone who would be interested.

We also still have openings for additional speakers and sponsors so if that’s you, please get in touch (first name dot last name at gmail!)

See you soon!



Inter-city Distances and Rail Travel Costs

Disregarding all of the travelling I did while in each city, I made a total of 15 inter-city journeys.  Legs 3 & 4 and legs 5 & 6 had only an hour stop in between so each felt like only one journey.  Likewise 10, 11 & 12 Washington to Belfast and 13, 14, & 15 Belfast back to NYC.  

You have to draw the line somewhere…  

Anyhow, taking a mixture of Amtrak’s timetable and estimates from Google Maps (since the North Eastern timetables don’t publish distances) and adding in the road journey from Lafayette to New Orleans. I came up with the following distances (in miles)

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    954 
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                2120 
  3. Milwaukee to Chicago                                  86  
  4. Chicago to Austin                                     1223 
  5. Austin to San Antonio                                   82 
  6. San Antonio to Lafayette                             428  
  7. Lafayette to New Orleans (by road)              135
  8. New Orleans to Chicago                             934 
  9. Chicago to Washington                               922 
  10. Washington to Boston                                 460
  11. Boston to Portland                                      125
  12. Portland to Belfast                                      100 
  13. Belfast to Portland                                      100 
  14. Portland to Boston                                      125
  15. Boston to NYC                                           240

I make that 8,034 miles

I reserved them in eight chunks as each next leg became clear.  The 30-day, 12 segment rail pass cost $579 and I had to pay an extra $50 for bus tickets from Portland to Belfast and back because that took me over 12 segments.

Had I paid for tickets individually at the point that I made each decision (discounts are available for advance booking but I didn’t know any of this in advance), they would have cost as follows:

  1. San Jose to Seattle                                    $158
  2. Seattle to Milwaukee                                  $347
  3. Milwaukee to Austin                                   $144
  4. Austin to Lafayette                                       $67 
  5. New Orleans to Chicago                            $112
  6. Chicago to Washington                              $133
  7. Washington to Belfast                                $222
  8. Belfast to NYC                                          $137

That gives a total of $1320 (£858*)

Total actual cost of inter-city travel = $579+$50 = $629 (£408.85)

So buying the rail pass more than halved the cost of travel, saving me $691 (£449.15)

And on average, I paid just under 8 cents (just over 5p) per mile for this travel.

*at the time of the trip the exchange rate was roughly $1=£0.65

Originally posted on Please Look After This Englishman

8 random things about me. Thing the second.

OK, here’s another.

I’m not a railway buff or a model railway fiend but I have always enjoyed travelling on the railway. No that’s not the fact, it’s a bit of flannelly introduction to divert you from the true geekiness of the fact.

The fact is: the final year project I chose for my degree (Computing & IT, Surrey, 1996) was an examination of railway timetabling through modelling and simulation.

I think I’m getting the hang of these random things – they’re things that make me go: “Hang on, is that true or have I just made it up?”, the sorts of things that you have to read a couple of times to be sure you’ve got it right.

Yes, I spent large parts of my final year at University creating a software model that simulated the activity of a railway system. To show my appreciation of the importance of abstraction, I created an algebra of train system elements. The first model was the simplest possible operational railway system. It consisted of two stations, a track, a single train and a single passenger. I constructed a timetable for this system by running a simulation of its activity (the passenger getting on and off, the train running from station to station etc) and thereby constructing a starting schedule, empirically. When I spoke to the people at Railtrack about it as part of my initial research, they said, no, that wasn’t the sort of thing that they did to produce their timetables, though it was a fascinating idea, they simply introduced tweaks to timetables that had “always” existed.

I then added complexity to the model in the form of more stations, longer track (broken down into sections), signalling, more trains, more passengers. I had to deal with the difficulties of shared track, over-crowding, staff rotas etc. Running the simulation produced further timetables. The model was implemented in an object-oriented modelling & simulation package ModSim. It was probably the last time I did any serious coding.

I thought it rocked, most other people though it weird, though I still got my 2:1 Plus ça change…

Ah Roma!

070522 080Busy couple of weeks but I’ve just uploaded a bunch of recent pics starting with an excellent day I spent in Rome working for Policy Unplugged on a internal awayday for a large professional services firm. Johnnie Moore held a really stimulating open space for them and I ran around with my camera, while Roy, Cindy & Chris did the *really* hard work

Johnnie blogged about it much nearer the time. I was really glad too that we made the effort to go into the city even for an hour and enjoy good food and sunshine before experiencing the metro and a slow train to the airport on which we passed some of our time speaking to an interesting young man who called himself “Sami”
070522 084

Walking in an Interesting2007 way

I thought I’d add a widget to the interesting2007 wiki like the following, but it wouldn’t work (it showed up, but threw an error when I submitted it).

I’m posting it here to see if it will work any better, but is sometimes funny about these things too.

If it doesn’t work, Jamie should consider this a bug report 🙂

Enter your starting point (e.g. postcode) to get walking directions

OK, so it’s a great idea – you should get an input box that lets you put your starting point in and then search for a route to a fixed destination (in this case the Conway Hall) but it doesn’t work for me in pbwiki or

My first orange tree

It's an orange tree!I’m ashamed to admit such worldly inexeperience, but last week’s trip to Barcelona was my first to Spain and the second furthest south I’ve ever been.

So I just want to explain that I’m not used to these sorts of things. I went for a little walk at the end of the middle day of the conference and suddenly, there in front of me was a fruit tree… now I’ve seen apple trees and pear trees and damson bushes and blackberry hedgerows but I have never seen a tree with ORANGES on it.

And the thought of being able to just reach up and pick an orange off a tree, for free, without having to go into Sainsbury’s or tear a red stringy bag apart, taking your fingertips with it, took my breath away.

Next week…. LEMONS 🙂