My Journey, California to Pennsylvania, July 2009. Part 3 of 3, Missouri to Pennsylvania

In July 2009 (this year) I left my beloved California and moved to Pennsylvania. I wrote about leaving California in my blog post “Leaving My California” – http://amarez.com/2009/07/19/leaving-my-california/

My first travel post describes my journey from California to Sedona – http://amarez.com/2009/12/05/my-journey-california-to-pennsylvania-july-2009-part-1-of-3-from-california-to-sedona/.

My second travel post describes my journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Oklahoma – http://amarez.com/2009/12/05/my-journey-california-to-pennsylvania-july-2009-part-2-of-3-santa-fe-to-oklahoma/

After Oklahoma, I drove east to Missouri,  continuing my journey to Pennsylvania.  I’m including my tweets (twitter posts), from that time.

July 26, 2009.   In Joplin, Missouri for the night – currently having dinner at a local place recommended by my motel – just down the street!

July 26, 2009.  So much for SF food snobbery. Grilled tilapia at a place called Whisky Creek, and it’s really really good!

July 27, 2009.  Staying in Rolla, Missouri for two nights. I need a break from driving. The Ozarks are pretty.

Ozarks from Highway near Rolla, Missouri, July 2009

























July 28, 2009 .  It rained here in Missouri. I miss the weather in my California – only rains in winter, no thunderstorms, no snow. Not a fan of weather.

On to Illinois.

Water Tower, Casey, Illinois, July 2009






























July 29, 2009.    Just west of Indianapolis. I saw fields of corn, being that I’m in the midwest.

July 30, 2009.   Stayed at the Hampton Inn – great rate with AAA and business travel is down so room rates are good. Reminded me fondly of business travel.

Hampton Inn, Plainfield, Indiana, July 2009























July 30, 2009.  In Ohio – not much further to go

The highways got more crowded.  Ohio had great highway rest stops, very nature oriented.  There was  a wonderful wooded area, with picnic tables, at the place where I stopped.

Wooded Area, Highway Rest Stop, Ohio, July 2009























July 31, 2009.  In Pennsylvania – not much further to go

Driving on Highway 70 through  West Virginia (briefly) and western Pennsylvania, the scenery was spectacular,  a winding road,  mountains, trees, very dramatic.  Sadly, I did not get any pictures.

I stayed at a hotel in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  While a bit on the faux “old timey” side, the hotel was confortable and had a certain charm.   The lights in front of the hotel were interesting.  The morning the fog was mysterious.

Street Lamps, Bedford, Pennsylvania, July 2009

Morning Fog, Bedford, Pennsylvania, July 2009





















































Continuing on the Pennsylvania highways.

Pennsylvania Highway, July 2009

























August 1, 2009.   2900 miles, 13 days and I’ve reached my destination! My road trip is over.

The miles are wrong — I was looking at the wrong thing.  Per google maps, the journey was 3112 miles!

Beautiful Garden, Family Home, Pennsylvania, August 2009

My Four California Plants on the Porch with other Family Plants, Pennsylvania, August 2009






























My journey ends.

My Journey, California to Pennsylvania, July 2009. Part 2 of 3, Santa Fe to Oklahoma

In July 2009 (this year) I left my beloved California and moved to Pennsylvania. I wrote about leaving California in my blog post “Leaving My California” – http://amarez.com/2009/07/19/leaving-my-california/

My first travel post describes my journey from California to Sedona -  http://amarez.com/2009/12/05/my-journey-california-to-pennsylvania-july-2009-part-1-of-3-from-california-to-sedona/.  After Sedona, I drove east to Santa Fe, New Mexico, continuing my journey to Pennsylvania.  I’m including my tweets (twitter posts), from that time.

July 22, 2009.   Rolled into Santa Fe several hours ago. Hotel is great. Will explore tomorrow.

July 22, 2009.   Note to self – drive from Sedona to Santa Fe, while spectacular, is rather long.

July 23, 2009.   Santa Fe – having green chili chicken tamales for dinner. Does it get any better than that? Santa Fe is a great place.

Downtown Santa Fe is small and very walkable.  Given the consistency of the architecture, one is tempted to think it’s too cute, too contrived, but it’s not, really.  Everything seems to fit.  Given the high elevation, it’s very comfortable in summer, though I made sure to drink plenty of water.  It was nice to just wander around.  I want to come back.

San Miguel Church, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2009. Oldest Church in the US.

Street Scene, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2009. I sat under the umbrella and drank a lemonade.

Street Scene, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2009

Tia Sophias, Santa Fe, New Mexico, July 2009. Santa Fe style Mexican breakfasts, incredibly wonderfully good.






















































After Sedona and Santa Fe, I had no specific places I wanted to see.  I took the most direct highway route northeast.

This is from a highway rest stop, the Llano Estacado, or “Staked Plain”, a large mesa straddling New Mexico and Texas.  A “mesa” is an elevated area of land with a flat top and steep sides (thanks to wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesa, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llano_Estacado).  The sense of distance was amazing.

Llano Estacado from Highway Rest Stop, Texas, July 2009
























July 24, 2009.   In Amarillo for the night. Listened to a really good alternative music station on the way into town. Swam in the hotel pool.

July 25, 2009.   Light travel day.  I’m in Oklahoma.

July 26, 2009 (posted this tweet after I left Oklahoma).  Favorite highway sign on I44 east – Oklahoma area – do not drive into smoke. What kind of fires do they have in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, I ended up briefly on Route 66, the famous US highway which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles, started in 1926, paving completed in 1938. (http://www.legendsofamerica.com/66-Mainpage.html)   I stopped at a fantastic commemorative rest stop.  You can also see views of the Oklahoma plains.

Route 66 Commemorative Rest Stop, Oklahoma, July 2009

Tile Picture, Route 66 Rest Stop, Oklahoma, July 2009

Oklahoma Plains



























































In my next blog post, I head on to Missouri.

My Journey, California to Pennsylvania, July 2009. Part 1 of 3, from California to Sedona

In July 2009 (this year) I left my beloved California and moved to Pennsylvania.  I wrote about leaving California in my blog post “Leaving My California” – http://amarez.com/2009/07/19/leaving-my-california/

I drove across country, from California to Pennsylvania, keeping people updated (mostly) via twitter.  Thinking about what I wanted to see the most, I picked Sedona, Arizona and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  So, south from Palo Alto on Highway I5, stopping off at Gorman, California, as I always stop there on my way to Santa Monica.  Then, east through the desert to Sedona, Arizona, east again to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and northest to Pennsylvania.   I’m not a long distance drive and I stopped for two days, twice.  So, around 3000 miles, in 13 days.  Here’s the journey.  I’ll include my tweets — twitter posts.

My Apartment Pool, Palo Alto, California. I loved this pool.

Courtyard of my apartment complex in Palo Alto. I could not take the two trees I was growing, in pots.

Some plants from my container garden. Four plants made the journey with me.


Google Map of My Tip, July 2009





























































































July 20, 2009.  I5 to Gorman, California. Very hot. Econo Lodge kept the chandelier from the former Caravanseri Motel!   

Econo Lodge Hotel, Gorman, California, July 2009. They kept the chandelier from the Caravanseri Motel.































Drove east through the Mojave Desert, on to Arizona, highway through the desert.  Lots of space.  It was very hot.  The Mojave desert had a stark beauty.  Continued on through the Arizona desert, which was beautiful.

Mojave Desert from the Highway Rest Stop, California, July 2009

Arizona Desert, West of Sedona, July 2009
















































July 21 , 2009. From what I’ve seen in the dark, Sedona looks like all kinds of wonderful, my kind of place.

July 21, 2009. Looking forward to actually seeing the red rocks of Sedona, tomorrow, as I head out of town.

July 22, 2009.  Eating breakfast (huevos rancheros, yum) at a cute place down the street. The red rocks of Sedona are everywhere – dramatic, beautiful.

View of Red Rocks, Sedona, Arizona, July 2009

Tile Picture, Kaiser's West Restaurant, Sedona, Arizona, July 2009. Great Breakfasts

View of Red Rocks of Sedona as I Leave Town, Sedona, Arizona, July, 2009






























































Next Blog Entry, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and east.

Interop 2009, Web 2.0 2009, New York City

On November 18th and 19th I went with a family member to New York City to attend Interop 2009 New York (http://www.interop.com/newyork/) and Web 2.0 New York (http://www.web2expo.com/webexny2009).  We stayed at one of the conference hotels, the Wyndham Garden Hotel Times Square South, Hotel, in the garment district of Manhattan (http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/NYCMT/main.wnt).  It was a short walk to the convention center.

I’m not fond of New York City, which I describe as “Gotham City and not in a good way”!  I don’t like the concrete canyons and the crush of people.  This time I really enjoyed myself.  I loved the hotel.  I liked my block in the garment district.  I liked the walk to the convention center and the wonderful Thai restaurant across from the hotel, Royal Thai Cuisine II (http://www.royalthainyc.com).  We saw a Broadway play, The Thirty Nine Steps (http://www.39stepsonbroadway.com/) and that was wonderful. I had a great time at both conventions.  I had a great travel companion.

I had expo passes to Interop and Web 2.0, which gave me access to the keynote speaker presentations, selected conference talks and the expo floor.

Interop is about business computer “stuff”, hardware, software, networks.  It’s targeted to the IT professional who has the authority to make decisions on the technical architecture and products for their company.  Web 2.0 is about “the web”, with a more inclusive definition of web stuff.  Think of the web as being at the center of what you do on the computer, both personally and professionally.  Web 2.0 is also about collaboration, social networks, updating information on the web in “real time”.  I think the term “Web 2.0” is also used to differentiate between companies that failed during the “dot com” bust, and companies still in existence doing web stuff, but that’s a personal opinion.

“Compare and Contrast” follows.

Keynote Presentations:  polished and professional, both at Interop and Web 2.0.  Interop had one main theme, cloud computing.  Web 2.0 had no overall theme.  The Interop presenters were senior executives at tech companies and other institutions.  The Web 2.0 presenters were a more varied group, writers, comedians, publishers, researchers, government types.  Interop did have one tech columnist, David Pogue, who was really good.

The presentations were all good, though the Interop presentations were consistently more compelling.  I think that’s because the world has changed.  Senior executives at big tech companies – they really know how to present.  Along with knowing their stuff, and wanting to sell it to you, it’s a media job.  Web 2.0 had more “talking heads” kinds of presentations (some funny ones too), also less polished slide content.  There were some gems at Web 2.0.  One of the most interesting presenters at Web 2.0 was Gentry Underwood from the famous design firm IDEO.  Gentry talked about designing for the web.

Focus:  Interop is focused on what I would call “things”, big things – electronic pieces of equipment, and the stuff to run them.  Web 2.0 is focused on communication.  This carried over to the personal space.  The fun presenter at Interop was David Pogue, who talked about and gave demos of fun applications for the iPhone, a piece of equipment, a thing.

Naivety:  Web 2.0 had the idea that, somehow, a speech, even a speech in front of 2000 people, was a collaborative event.  At the keynote presentations a background screen behind each speaker displayed live tweets about the presentation from the audience, displayed during the presentation, real time.  (Tweets are electronic posts over the internet, using Twitter).  The tweet screens were distracting and annoying, and of course it went bad.  At a presentation I did not attend, the tweets become personal and disruptive.  At the presentations I went to, the day after the bad incident, the tweets were displayed behind the speakers, but the tweet stream was moderated, with a small time delay.  I thought the whole concept of a live commentary was naïve, also a misrepresentation of what it means to give a talk in front of thousands of people.  The keynotes were speeches at a conference, not a dialogue, even if people felt compelled to talk about it, electronically, as it was happening.  Electronic forums have their own challenges; when unmoderated, they almost always become antagonistic and disruptive.  There’s also the “class clown” syndrome.  It’s human nature for people to try to get attention.  Given an opportunity, one person will try to outdo the other.  Generally, at a conference, you set up a presentation to maximize people paying attention, given the distractibility of convention goers.  At Interop there was no attempt to make the presentations “collaborative”.  For one thing, no Interop presenter would agree to such a disruptive element.  I found the straightforward attitude at Interop refreshing.  The attitude of the conference and presenters appeared to be “I’ll do the best job possible presenting, and I hope you’ll listen”.

The Expo Booths:  Web 2.0 and Interop shared the same exhibit space, Web 2.0 on one end, Interop on the other.  This was good for companies that wanted to address both audiences, such as Microsoft and IBM.

Expo booths are designed to display products and get you interested in buying the product.  At the tech conventions I’ve been to, I’ve found the booths to be colorful and well designed.  Both Interop and Web 2.0 had good booths, but the booths at Interop were better, better as in more dramatic, eye catching, bigger, with better free stuff.  The best booth was the booth for Qwest – http://www.qwest.com/business, a telecommunications company.  Advertising their “rock solid network”, you could get your picture taken as a rock star.  Qwest had all the requisite props to make you look like a rock star – tattoo sleeves, guitars, mikes, hats, dark glasses, feather boas (think 70s rock).  It was so much fun.

Why the difference?  I think the difference is due to the audience and the products.  Exhibitors at both conferences were showing their products so you’d get interested in their products and spend money, but there are differences in the nature of the products and the participants. Citrix, who had a booth at Interop, can sell you something small, but they really want to sell you big stuff, in terms of price and breadth — big computers (servers), virtualization software for your whole company.  So, they make a booth that looks like a spaceship.

I’ll conclude with some pictures:

Javits Convention Center, New York City, 2009. I like the space.

Citrix Booth, Interop 2009, New York City. Looks like a spaceship.

Expo Floor, Interop 2009, New York City

Qwest Booth, Interop 2009, New York City. We got to be rock stars!

Interop 2009, Keynote Stage, New York City

Web 2.0 2009, Keynote Stage, New York City

Wyndham Garden Hotel Times Square South, New York City, November 2009

Building, Garment District, Manhattan, New York City, November 2009

Farmville – Fantasy Farming, a Spaceship, a Picture, Issues

Farmville — a fun casual simulation game, played in your browser via Facebook. The look of the game is a bit cartoony, but it’s pretty and appealing. Your goal is to build and manage a farm — couple of clicks, nothing hard. You grow crops and trees and keep animals. When you harvest the fruit trees, the crops, collect eggs (all with a click on the item) you get money to expand your farm.  “Farm” is loosely defined. My “farm” has a crashed alien spaceship, green cows (think spaceship radiation), a Ferris wheel, a variety of farm animals, some reindeer, nine small plots of land, a citrus orchard, and more. On the animals — you do collect eggs, but that’s as far as it goes. There’s no animal killing.  When your pigs are ready to produce something, they give you truffles!

What makes Farmville manageable is that time progresses when you aren’t there, and what you do in the game is limited.  If a crop is ready to harvest in two days, it’s two calendar days.  Farmville is a nice complement to Facebook. The social aspect happens when your Facebook friends give you Farmville “gifts” (trees, sheep, etc), and when you go help out on your friends farms — simple clicking to get rid of weeds, all that. Advancement is based on two things, making money, and gaining XP, experience. As you progress in experience, you unlock more levels and can buy more stuff.

The trick in playing Farmville is to limit the amount of things you pay for, using real money.  The game is free to play, but there are some things that take a long time to acquire, and some things that can only be bought with real money. Zynga, the developer, is an expert at the microtransaction business — getting you to pay for stuff. You can have a perfectly great time without microtransactions, but it’s hard to resist, since the extras are very appealing. I have not completely resisted — I really had to buy that spaceship and the Ferris wheel! Farmville also has seasonal items, some of which you can buy with cash you earn in game, while some, as far as I can tell, requires spending a little “real” money.

Zynga, the developer, structures it so that, if you let it, you end up automatically posting your progress on Facebook, a lot.  That’s the whole point — it’s social and it’s also an advertisement for the game. The posting is optional. I tend to limit what I let Farmville post on Facebook. Unless your Facebook friends are only there to play Farmville, they will get tired of seeing all your Farmville posts, if you let Farmville post every one of your accomplishment.

Most of my Facebook friends do not play Farmville, but enough do so that I have Farmville “neighbors”. I like it. It’s also a fun way to reconnect with people you haven’t seen in years, people who would never play any other kind of video game.

As for the company itself, Zynga is the darling of the business world — their casual browser based games bring in money.  Unfortunately, Zynga does have questionable business practices. There are a several articles about their practices.  The Wikipedia article isn’t too bad. Techcrunch also has some good articles. Here’s an interesting article –

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/10/31/scamville-the-social-gaming-ecosystem-of-hell/.

The issue isn’t paying for extra items — that’s all up front, nothing wrong about that. The issue is in getting your Farmville “cash” for things you need for Farmville, Mafia Wars, Fishville, or other games via lead generation practices. As long as you stay away from signing up for questionable services, Farmville is fun and safe to play.  To give he Facebook people credit, they’ve been responding to the issues.

Getting back to the fun of Farmville, here’s a picture of my farm.  I’m trying for the European villa look, but I got distracted by the Roswell specials, as well as the festival specials.  I like the look of my orchard, which rings the farm.  I like my big pond and my little pond.  I like the science fiction touch. It’s a fantasy farm, so all my animals roam freely, and there’s no mess and no predators.  Even the cats are nice to the other animals in my Farmville fantasy!

My Farmville Farm, December 1, 2009