27 July, 2005

This is a typical street news agent. Different papers are featured at different stands and the headline can change throughout the day.

This is the seat I got on the Eurostar. I requested a window seat. Real keen sense of humor down at Eurostar headquarters.

This is one of the Dutch transfer points at Roosendaal. One of the many cool things about the rail system in the Netherlands is that three different trains can stop at the same platform and then pass each other as needed using a third track running down the middle. The sheer amount of trains here has always been impressive.

27 July, 2005

Day 11. I finally left London today to make my way over to Holland and What The Hack. I killed a little time by hopping onto the Internet at Caffe Nero and walking through some of the surrounding streets. They supposedly caught one of the bombers earlier this morning. I learned this by seeing the headline posted by news agents on nearly every corner. It's really impressive how quickly the news gets out in printed form. This is something that happened in the middle of the night and by noon it was in the papers.

Something else that struck me about British culture was the acceptance of surveillance in so many places. No matter where you go there are cameras. The fact that these cameras were invaluable tools in tracking down the culprits of the 7th and 21st means that they won't be going anywhere anytime soon and in fact their presence will probably increase. I would also expect to see these begin to take hold back in the States in the very near future. It's getting increasingly difficult to argue against their implementation. But the fact remains that while they can certainly be used for the public good, their potential for misuse is staggering. And when that finally becomes apparent to most, it will be very difficult to reverse the pattern.

I headed down to Waterloo where my afternoon Eurostar took me to Brussels. I'm still amazed at the low price I got on the ticket by booking a round trip I'm never going to use. And I managed to spend all of my remaining British coins on the train buying wine and snacks. Even though I was a little hammered getting off the train, it was no problem at all getting a ticket to Boxtel. In fact it happened so quickly I was sure I hadn't gotten the right ticket. It literally took under ten seconds to accomplish the whole transaction. Belgian train people really seem to know their stuff. The guy in the information booth was able to tell me not only how many trains I needed to take (three) but exactly what platform each one would be on in cities and countries I wasn't even in yet! How do they do this? When waiting for the Long Island Railroad in Penn Station they often don't tell you what track a train is arriving on downstairs until after it actually gets there.

Even though one train was two minutes late resulting in a missed connection (which was admittedly a very tight one to start with), it wasn't a big deal to simply get the next train a half hour later. So I arrived in Boxtel at around 9:30 pm and caught the shuttle to the campground.

This will be my home for the next four days. I'll be in a small tent on a field as will thousands of others for what will certainly be the most interesting hacker event this year. Comparing it to HAL 2001 (the last Dutch hacker conference), there seems to be so much more space and a great deal more places to go. Of course it was dark by the time I started wandering around and I have a talk to prepare for tomorrow so I'll have to explore more in detail on Thursday. But I got the overwhelming sensation that history was about to be made in this place. And after traveling for nearly two weeks, it was great to see so many familiar faces including quite a few from New York.

One bit of potentially bad news involves my iRiver which for some reason has stopped working. Whenever I turn it on, I get a message saying "Check HDD Connection" and then one which says "Check HDD." As near as I can figure it can't see the hard drive. This is the second time something bad has happened to my iRiver in the few months I've had it compared to nothing bad ever happening to my iPod in the years I've had that. I'm hoping it's just a bad connection somewhere (nowhere is it explained just where this "HDD Connection" actually is) and we'll have to open the thing up and pray for the best. It would really suck if the thing stopped working as this is my means of recording "Off The Wall" and it's also where I have thousands of songs stored. It would have been nice to have music on my day of train rides. So far I have to say I can't recommend the iRiver because of such flakiness even though it has some really good features, like a microphone input. I'm also rather peeved that if it needs to be repaired, I won't be able to get that done until after I get back and find all of the paperwork which no doubt will be beyond the warranty period by that time.

I guess things could have been worse. Other than a delayed arrival of a microphone for the movie, there have been no other hardware or software issues or failures and I seem to be accomplishing everything I've set out to do. But I'm sure there are many more challenges and setbacks on the horizon. The thing is to not worry or obsess about any of them. It's all part of the story.