No Classictouch Limousine anymore

Being picked up by a Limo for your ride to the airport is fun, right? But not being picked up at all, or at least suspecting it, is no fun. I actually decided a while ago to not use the Limo for airport transportation because (1) it’s expensive and (2) inconvenient. It’s actually cheaper to get a rental car and it also saves a lot of time. The Limo people insist on picking you up at least three hours before your flight … so that you ar two hours before departure at the airport. Ridiculous waste of time. And I also often encountered long waiting times on the way from the airport to Bloomington.

For example when I arrived in Indianapolis after a 21 hour travel from Dresden. I arrived a 9:45pm (30 minutes late becaue US domestic travel sucks). I was told that they were waiting for two other passengers … maximum 30 minutes. Ok, so I waited. I asked again at 10:30pm (so far about the 30 Minutes) and they said that we were leaving. We left 9:35pm. Ah kind of … the driver got a call and we returned after 10 minutes driving to the airport to pick up the missing passenger. 10:50pm – we finally left to Bloomington. Oh yeah, and we had to drop somebody off in Elletsville. Great, the drive took more than an hour. I arrived home about 2.5hrs after arriving at the airport. A rental car would have brought me there in about 45-55 minutes for $5 less.

But today’s experience was just great! So they told me that they would pick me up at 5:15. They did not call me the day before as I was told (they probably did not reach me), so I just assumed that this would be ok. I tried to call them in the morning … their phone seemed broken (“call can not be completed”). So I wrote them an email. But it got 5:20 in the meantime. So I tried to call again. The phone seemed to work this time … I was able to talk to somebody. She told me that I was rescheduled to 5:40 *argh* but the driver is already running late, so probably 5:50 *ARGH*. Mentioning my email-attempt was only answered by a harsh “I just got here and we don’t read emails during weekends” WTF! Ok, calming down and waiting. 5:50 … nobody there. I called again – this time an answereing machine. So I called the “emergency pickup
phone” which led me to the answering machine of the “General Manager” (WHAT!?). I tried again, this time I ended up on another answereing machine (yes, their phonesystem is indeterministic). So I called the emergency number again and I ended up with the same women that also handled the normal number. She did not even try to apologize and assured
me that the car is going to show up in a minute. … nothing … 6:15 … finally, a car showed up. The driver warned me that the other passenger was “very aggressive”. Oh fun, aggressive people … but it turned out that he was just pissed by his late pickup. So we had a nice chat, and he was actually some admin person from IU who was really into changing things (cancelling the contract with Classictouch). This all seems right to me (given my bad experience and today’s happenings).

The driver I came with was actually supposed to pick up Tim too. But the “aggressive passenger” *lol* prevented this one. I am wondering how Tim’s experience was today ;). The flights with Frontier were ok and on time *yay*. But Tim’s cool direct flight was delayed such that I’m sitting in the San Francisco Airport right now … oh man. But I like the Frontier “A whole different animal” thing … they’re unfortunately not in any useful frequent flyer program :-/.

I just came back and had a Pontiac Grand Prix as a rental. Freaking buggy car … I would never buy it! But ok as a rental for half a day ;).

Cool rental ;)

I love National. The people in the Bloomington location already know me well and treat me well. They gave me a free upgrade to a Mustang last week :). So I had this cool car to go to Lafayette ;). It is a great car besides the automatic transmission. It made me mad because it made the powerful machine feel really really sluggish by switching in the wrong moment. And it was great to find those wrong moments – pulling out to pass and the stupid transmission switches up :-(. I don’t like automatic cars …

I had pretty bad luck with the airport rental … they gave me Chrysler 300 (this is a freaking tank!) with a broken gas gauge (never showed full). And they wanted to charge me for gas in Indy so that I had to discuss with them … oh man. But it finally worked :).

The small thing next to it is my car … oh man … but the 300 was fun in GTA IV (undistructible).

Chicago downtown – impressions

Some Pictures:

incredibly affordable parking downtown 😉

Nice view

The building where we met (23rd floor, Microsoft)

The Hancock tower.  The building in the left of it is the building behind our hotel. Our hotel is much much smaller … even though it had 15 stories :). See next pictures.

We lived in the Westin hotel … ohohoh, man, this looks freaking small next to the tower.

A church … kind of ridiculous between those skyscrapers.

MPI Forum No. 3

Just came back from the third MPI Forum in Chicago. We finished MPI-2.1 (I guess) … mostly. I think we’ll just have to vote on it at the next meeting :). It’s good that this is finished and we have a nice single document mandating the newest MPI standard. We’ve also been able to fix many bugs (see the ML). This meeting was at the Microsoft location in Chicago … in the 23rd floor of a skyscraper downtown. Pretty neat … nearly. One day, I decided to take the stairs (to not get fat in America) to find the door on the 23rd floor locked, after 7 minutes and 552 stairs. Great … actually, all doors but the lobby were locked :-(. So I walked down again *hmpf*. I complained and was told that this is a security feature – how weird, the lobby exit is right next to the elevators, i.e., one can just exit at the lobby and use the elevator to get to any floor – security, huh? I guess this is typical American security, like everyone has to take his shoes off at the airport.

What’s wrong in this picture? Me or the Microsoft logo?

Miami wrapup

Ah, I’m back from Miami. It’s good to be home – and good that I made it home. Man, the rental return *sucks*. I was going in circles around the airport for about 20 minutes because they put one sign *behind* a palmtree. Oh man … I was so mad. I barely caught my flight (the clerk told me that I’m too late but checked me in anyway (my luggage delayed the start)). Then I also barely made the connection flight because we arrived late in Atlanta (I ran through the airport … as usual). My luggage delayed the start again … oh man. Anyway, I’m back in Bloomington!

Miami was nice but strange. The city seems to be under complete reconstruction and … dead. There is nearly no traffic (excluding Miami Beach) and no people on the streets. I am wondering who lives/works in all those skyscrapers. Really really weird. And the people I met were strange and most of them only spoke bad English – the official language there seems to be Spanish. How weird (again). I made some pictures :):

Te highway towards the city … sweet palmtrees all over the place!

My hotel room – much better then I expected for the price. A nice tree in front of the window, free 1 MiB/s wireless and great room service!

My uber-cool rental car. Looks silly … but pay attention to the spoiler! It had twice as much power as it needed. Man, this car was just cool!

The conference was downtown Miami … and here it is. Terrible … I did not like it!

I parked about 20 mins walking distance from downtown to save parking fees. I had a very very nice walk every morning. Really enjoyable – this is one of the views I got on the go.

The Miami downtown transportation system – a cute little bus on high rails. Looks weird but is free and kinda nice. Unfortunately only downtown … it’s still US (or maybe north Mexico?).

The conference hotel was right on a river where boats kept coming by. The area was full with draw bridges, as you see here:

People who stayed in the conference hotel complained about the noise this thing made (yes, it was pretty loud).

That’s it … the conference was … hmm, ok. Ask me for details ;). Many very interesting conversations and I met some new interesting people.

Running (to) Miami Beach

Oh man, we ran and ran and ran and ran (way too far) from the conference location (Hyatt Regency Miami) to the Beach. We means Jesper and me … the Jesper who totally outrun me :). How embarrassing 😉 … but he’s a really good runner. We ran about 19km (12 miles) in 1 hrs and 45 minutes. The route is here on google maps (we actually ran to the beach, but google maps didn’t allow the waypoint). I’m done with physical activity for today … good that I can just sit and listen to talks :). Btw. beautiful view/scenery from the bridges of Miami (Beach) … you guys should all run here!

Arrived in Miami (Beach)

yeah, I just arrived here … and I don’t like the city, but the rental I got is *really* cool. It’s only economy (a Saturn) but it has at least twice as much power as it needs :). And the audio is really good too … radio stations in Miami suck though (note to self: burn a CD!!). Anyway, I don’t like the city because it has a traffic problem … I went to Miami Beach and I couldn’t even park. *ARGH* the cheapest parking Lot I found (20 mins walking from the conference location) is still $10/day. It’s way too hot … ah, anyway, the city itself is rather impressing but also depressing.

Another flight … through Washington

Ah, yes, I was stuck overnight last time when I flew through Washington. And I did not learn! I picked Washington again (the Space Trains are way too cool). Immigration at this airport sucks … it’s really terrible. I was standing in line for more than three (3!) hours this time. This was ok, because I had a nice chat with a woman from Suse aehem Novell – besides Aaaaahhhh, my connection flight left 2hrs after arrival. Great! Ok, I missed this one. United only had another flight 10pm, I would have to wait 4 hrs and miss the last shuttle to Bloomington. Hmm, I pulled up rule 242 – they did not care at all – a**h***s. Fortunately I saw that another flight ti Indy was delayed by three hours, so I went back to the clerk and was re-booked to this one. Man, couldn’t they do this by themselves???? I took a space train then and just arrived for the departure of this one :).

A space-train 🙂 (they call it “mobile lounge”).

They even managed to “forward” my bag. Hmm, at least in front of the plane … this delayed the start by 10 minutes. I think it was because there was *nobody* to pick it up *grin*.

When I arrived in Indy, I realized that I would have to wait 1:40hrs for the next shuttle bus. Oh man, so I decided to try the cool agreement that IU has with National ($25 for a rental). It worked (kind of, I was stuck at the checkout for 30 min because they did not accept my debit card together with my Emerald club). But IU – better the contract – certainly rules. I got a free upgrade by two classes and picked the fattest car available. The poor guy I was chatting with in the bus picked an economy about half of the size than my car right next to me (and paid much much more). So I got a Nissan X-Terra (2005 version):
This machine has a lot of power and was thus much fun to drive :). And it was much bigger than most cars on the road (yes, even in America). I was tempted to just ram another car from the street ;-). Including taxes, I paid $32 for the rental and $9 for gas. A very reasonable price (and it’s faster than the limo). I guess I could save on gas with a smaller car … but hey, where’s the fun here? I like National (much more than Enterprise actually)! I arrived after 28hrs travel in Bloomington.

The fabulous “Glueckaufturm” tower

Yeah, I was home over the Easter holidays and we used the time to explore the “Erzgebirge” (ore mountains). Right next to my home town is an old uranium mine, and a huge artificial mountain (all the soil from the mine), actually the highest in a large area. They built a huge tower on this mountain (just for fun).

The tower!

it seems rather high if you’re on the top 😉

Oelsnitz (the town close to my hometown)

Yes! We have wind energy!

MPI Forum in Chicago

Just came back from the second official meeting. I guess I can claim to be a member now (IU has a vote which requires to attend the two last meetings). Not much to say (officially), but it was very very interesting and productive! I’m looking forward to the next one. Here a picture of the crowd (try to find me :)):

(taken by Erez Heba (Microsoft))