I had planned on going down to Mt. Eliza Thursday afternoon, after the NET lab tour of the tunnels and the ITS server room, but Roxanne called up Wednesday with a bit of a problem – her computer was acting oddly and her files were gone. Long story short it appears her brother ran the HP system restore software on the system, which obviously isn’t good if you actually, say, want what’s on it. I spent a while on Wednesday trying to figure out what the problem was, and then returned on Thursday with various undelete utilities to see what could be recovered. I fired off the first one, GetDataBack for NTFS, and… waited. And waited. I had dinner there with Roxanne and her mum, and watched TV and chatted with them until after midnight, at which point it still was well off being done, so I went home. I returned at 8:30 Friday morning to check on it… and it still wasn’t done. Luckily, it did finally finish in about half an hour, so I was able to start the process. While the app won’t let you use it’s copy function while unregistered, the purpose of which is to copy recovered files out of the program, it has a fatal flaw – it allows you to open the files, for which it stores them in it’s temp folder. Thus I was able to coerce out of it all the files I wanted. Sadly, most of them were corrupt. Only two were unscathed, a few more with only one sector left in them, and a dozen or so more completely gone. Roxanne wasn’t thrilled, but was happy enough to at least get something back. Needless to say, I don’t think her brother will be allowed anywhere near her computer in future.
Anyway, that put rather a spanner into my plans. I eventually made it down to Mt. Eliza at some late hour – nearly 9 I think. I had dinner and then went to bed.
Saturday morning I was up at 7, and after double-checking my packing was off by about 8:45. My parents dropped me at the airport, and while we were supposedly a tad late – getting there at around 10:15 or so rather than the preferred 9:15, there weren’t any issues. In fact, as it turns out the flight was delayed by a good half an hour, and didn’t even start boarding until after it’s scheduled departure time (11:15), so there was certainly no rush. I spent the time staring into space, mainly; I didn’t want to use my laptop or iPod yet, lest the batteries run out too early in the flight. As it turns out though I never got around to using my laptop on the flights, and my iPod used up only slighty more than half it’s capacity in the ten or so hours it was on (pretty good given it’s battery life was stated as 20 hours 13 months ago when I bought it).
I did use my laptop at Melbourne to type up a portion of the U.S. visa waiver form, which for some reason I was given at the check-in counter. That was handy, as I was able to fill it in before I’d been exhausted by ten hours in the air, and thus avoided the normally numerous mistakes made with this bastard of a form (for WWDC last year it took me about four tries to get it right). Anyway, the text is:
Do any of the following apply to you? (Answer Yes or No) A. Do you have a communicable disease; physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict? B. Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude or a violation related to a controlled substance; or been arrested or convicted for two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence to confinement was five years or more; or been a controlled substance trafficker; or are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities? C. Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies? D. Are you seeking to work in the U.S.; or have you ever been excluded and deported; or been previously removed from the United States; or procured or attempted to procure a visa or entry into the U.S. by fraud or misrepresentation? E. Have you ever detained, retained or withheld custody of a child from a U.S. citizen granted custody of the child? F. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled? If yes, when? ______________ where? _____________
Some pretty stupid questions there. Why yes, I am flying to the U.S. to engage in criminal activities. Why, is that a problem? Pfft.
Because we arrived late in Sydney, I didn’t have to spend too much time there. Soon enough I was back on the plane for the longest but last part of the journey.
I should add too that this time around, finally, I didn’t get the “random” searches. Hopefully I have similar luck going back. This made customs and security quite a breeze. Customs in Melbourne in particular was virtually empty – half a dozen people in front of me, if that. I was through in no time at all.
Anyway, the plane flight to San Francisco was pretty uneventful, and relatively pleasant. I talked a bit with the two girls sitting next to me – one was German living in Ohio, the other from Canberra heading to Colorado for the Pike’s Peak Marathon (from memory, anyway) – more info available here. They were both really nice.
I recognised Ashley and a few other familiar faces also on the plane. Ashley was one row behind in the centre of the plane (I was at the window), while the others were further away. I watched Ice Age II, A Beautiful Mind, The Sentinel and The Inside Man, all without sound because I was listening to my iPod instead. Mainly music – I got tired of skipping tracks after a while on my full collection and switched to my highest rated songs, which allowed me to drift off to sleep for short periods (no more than an hour at any point, I don’t think; I was trying to stay awake through the flight, but about four hours from San Francisco changed my mind :) ).
Once we landed in San Francisco I collected my baggage, met up with numerous others – including my roommate here, Graham – and headed to the city via the BART. That’s where I started taking photos, which are available here. I’ll add more as I take them throughout the week, although since I’ll be predominantly at the conference where photos aren’t generally encouraged, there may be relatively few.
We finally got to the hotel at about 1:10pm, and were able to check our bags in but not into our rooms – officially check in is from 3pm onwards. About ten of us gathered in the lounge aside the lobby, and in a short time had discovered a free wireless network – courtesy of CNet Networks next door – and soon there were ten shiny Powerbooks polluting the airwaves. :)
A few people got tired of waiting and wandered off, but I was rather looking forward to a shower, and was quite exhausted, so I didn’t. In the end we were able to check into our rooms not long after 2pm, and with everything safely stowed there, Graham and I decided to head out and see the city. Since Graham hasn’t been to San Francisco before, we did all the usual tourist stuff – cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, a quick cruise around Alcatraz, followed by a walk back via Coit Tower, Washington Square and Chinatown. I was happy to see it all again – and surprised at how few people there were, compared with 7 months ago. Graham wasn’t as impressed – he felt a bit underwhelmed by the city in general, he said.
I was glad we were able to catch a cable car. As this is my third visit to the U.S., prior to which I had never ridden on the cable cars, I felt I was rather letting my inner tourist down. No more! The ride was fun – because it was quite full, as they always are; Graham and I stood on the outside hanging on, which was cool. It made it difficult to take photos though – although I also tried filmed a few short clips, which turned out quite well.
The boat ride out around Alcatraz was a laugh – I sat up the front of the boat, on the outside, but back from the rails, trying to hide from the water splashing over. I wasn’t all that successful, but I remained dry enough to protect my camera, and was much better off than some of those who persisted at the railing. While the captain of the boat looked a little bit shady initially, he provided audio commentary throughout the trip and was really quite funny. It was a good trip, all in all. I’m definitely going to try to go on the actual Alcatraz tour next Saturday. I don’t know what else I’ll do for the day… perhaps visit Golden Gate Park (finally!), or hit some of the museums and so forth in the area. We’ll see; I’m not particularly fussed, and in any case there’s always something to do.
I almost forgot, too – on the flight over we swung down over Montevista and up over Sunnyvale and what not. I was just thinking about how funny it would be if I could spot something like the cement factory at the end of Stevens Creek road, and then like clockwork it appeared out of the clouds. I wasn’t able to get my bearings properly – the clouds covered most of the valley – so I had a hard time looking for our old apartment or any other landmark. I didn’t see anything distinctive, apart from highway 280 and the 85, and Google’s campus. And Moffett Airfield, too, with it’s giant hangar. We flew up over the west edge of the bay all the way up to the airport, so I got great views over towards Oakland and Berkeley.
Anyway, we’d run into a few other AUC students during our travels in the day, and had managed to start of a Chinese whisper about meeting in the hotel foyer at 7pm for dinner. I was quite surprised to find not only someone there, but a good ten people or so! We all wandered across the street (literally) to an Indian place, which I was hesitant about – given I’m not especially partial to Indian food, particularly [spicy] hot – but as it turns out this place was really quite nice. The service was quite good, and the prices reasonable – it worked out to about $18 per person, for a dozen dishes (amongst a dozen people) with as much rice as we could eat. And drinks, too. I was pleasantly surprised all up.
After dinner people dispersed. I decided to head down to the foyer with my Powerbook and get something done it – whether this journal, sorting my photos or whatever – but once down there others quickly began to join me, and I ended up talking with them until quite late – 10pm or so – at which time I decided I’d best get to bed. We were set for an early start for Student Sunday, with breakfast beginning at 8.