All my life I have used Apple computers. My family’s first computer was an Apple LC II. For a long time I only wanted to use Apple computers because that was what I was used to. Most people I knew used machines running Windows, but I knew a few fellow Apple users as well. Notably, my elementary school used Apple computers throughout the 90s. When OS X was first released, I was overjoyed that Apple now not only had the slickest hardware but also an arguably much better operating system than Windows. When I started to learn more about Unix in college, I was conveniently able to apply what I learned to my own Apple machine without leaving behind to elegance of my Mac OS for linux. So, my loyalty to Apple continued to grow. I felt proud to support the underdog against the dominance of Microsoft.
Unfortunately, my opinion of Apple has changed in the last couple years. I still think they make good machines. My Mac Pro definitely stacks up against almost any other workstation. But, it is in two specific areas that Apple has made poor decisions recently. For a while now, the whole iPod/iTunes situation has really bugged me. I think iPods are nice little devices, but the way in which Apple tries to control what users do with their music is downright wrong. It irritates me that the way iPods interact with iTunes is designed to be unidirectional. There is no way to move music from an iPod to the music library on your computer through iTunes. If I really want to get music files from my iPod onto my computer, the only way I have found to do it is to use the Terminal to access the files and copy them to the hard drive on my computer. Of course, there are all the DRM issues that Apple has gotten some flak for. It seems like Apple might be slowly moving away from DRM.
My more recent issue with Apple is my realization that they no longer act like the “friendlier, underdog” type company. The writing of this journal post was inspired by John Lilly’s post (COO of Mozilla) about Steve Job’s announcement of Safari for Windows. It is odd to see Apple trying to side with Microsoft against the “threat” of other companies like Mozilla. Personally I like Firefox better than Safari. That is just a result of trying both browsers for a while. I have nothing against Safari and I agree with John Lilly that I like having more options available. I just don’t understand Apple’s attitude. Why not side with companies like Mozilla to try to get more people to realize that there are other (better) browsers besides Internet Explorer?
To explain the “Big Wheels” part of the title of the last post, this morning Dad and I walked over to the other side of the river to check out the London Eye. The crowds were a bit insane, but we managed to get tickets and get through the line. The ride itself was pretty cool. I rode the Eye a couple years ago, but it was definitely worth doing again. The view of the city, particularly Westminster Abbey and The Parliament Building is spectacular. I wish the capsules weren’t completely enclosed in glass though because I think most of my photos have some glare from the glass in them.
After the Eye, Dad and I ate sandwiches at a French cafe. We also split an awesome piece of white chocolate cake. With the cake I had the only decent cup of coffee this whole trip. For the most part I haven’t even tried to drink coffee on this trip because the tea is so good and the coffee is generally so crappy.
After lunch Dad and I split up for a while. We were near Trafalgar Square, so I decided to check out the National Portrait Gallery. It was worth seeing (especially since its free). But, if I hadn’t limited the amount of time that I spent on each portrait I probably would have gone crazy. Since the Gallery, I have just been sort of wandering around Covent Garden.
Yesterday I didn’t get a chance to write an update about the trip because we spent pretty much the whole day in Oxford. We saw a ton of stuff. In the morning we got a good start and made it to Paddington Station a little after 9. We ate some breakfast and hopped on a train that got us to Oxford by 10:40ish. Dad’s comment at the end of the day, and I agree, was that Oxford lived up to his expectation of how it would look. We walked among colleges and churches and museums that are hundreds of years old. The oldest of the colleges dates back to th 13th century, or possibly even earlier I’m not sure.
We first went inside the museum of the history of science. It is packed full of old microscopes and navigational devices. It was interesting to quickly look over these things because of how old some of these things are. The most interesting things to me were a collection of early calculating machines and some old equipment for producing penicillin. They also have a small piece of chalkboard that Einstein wrote on when he gave a lecture at Oxford.
After the museum we went for lunch at an old pub that claims to date back to the 13th century. For several reasons, this was one of my favorite meals of the trip. First of all, the pub claims to have had several famous regulars over the years including Bill Clinton when he studied at Oxford. When we first walked in, I was presented with an array of tantalizing beer options. The bartender offered to let me try a couple which I did. They were both pretty tasty, but I ended up getting a pint of a third ale that the bartender recommended. It was a great light-amber ale with significant hoppiness. The pub experience was rounded out with grilled chicken baked with camembert in tomato sauce.
After the pub, we visited the natural history museum. We were quite entertained by the stuffed animals and skeletons all packed into a ornate victorian metal farmed building. In the afternoon, we had a short window in which we would be able to visit one of the most famous of the Oxford colleges Christ Church College. We saw the hall which was used in the filming of the Harry Potter movies. After walking around Oxford a bit more, we had some tea and then grabbed a train back to London.
This morning, Dad and I hiked up to the British Museum. We saw their special exhibit on Britain’s early interaction with the New World. We also saw some of their permanent colection, including John Dee’s equipment and the Egyptian and Greek artifacts. All amazing stuff. The British Museum is such a huge museum.
After the museum, we made our way up to Drummond St. which is famous for its Southern Indian food. We ate a fantastic vegetarian buffet. After lunch, we went back to the hotel. I had been planning to go back out and see more stuff, but I ended up passing out. Oh well, it was good to get some rest. Today was still a lot of fun. The best part for me was just wandering around London. We walked through University of London and University College. We also walked through several stately residential neighborhoods and some busy commercial areas.
When I left off yesterday, I had just finished drinking a beer. Dad and I met up again and we decided to grab some tea and sweets. We walked by a place called the Queen of Tarts that had been recommended, but it was packed. We kept walking and found a calmer cafe outside of the Temple Bar area. We both got tea and ice cream. After knew that we wouldn’t be hungry for dinner for a while. There weren’t really any more sights that we wanted to see, so we decided to check out the movie offerings at the local CineMovie. We were disappointed to find that they weren’t showing “Once” which would have been appropriate given that we were in Dublin. Instead, we decided to see Spiderman 3. The movie was enjoyable. Overall, we both had a good time doing something “normal” after a few days of intense tourism.
This morning we woke up fairly early and made our way over to the Dublin Airport. The flight to London was a piece of cake. Like flying from Berkeley to LA. It was exciting taking the tube into Covent Garden. Dublin is a fairly urban city, but London is on a whole different scale. It is such a great city. Bustling with fashionably dressed people. It is awesome to walk among endless blocks of huge old buildings.
We haven’t had time to do much here yet, but my enthusiasm for travel has been rejuvenated.
This morning it was a bit rainy again. There were only a few more things that we had wanted to see in Dublin, and since it is our last day here we decided to try to see as many of them as possible. Unfortunately, some museums are closed because it is Monday and it also turns out that it is a bank holiday today. The Natural History Museum was closed. The National Gallery was open. There is one amazing room that is full of Van Goghs and Monets and other similar artists. The rest of the museum had some other famous works by Caravaggio, Rubens, Rembrandt, etc. There is also an interesting room that contains some works by the poet Yeats’ father who was quite an impressive artist in his own right (although a painter not a poet).
The National Library was closed. We stopped in one of the many bookstores in the neighborhood east of Grafton Street. I picked up a copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls. I’m not sure exactly what inspired me to read some Hemingway. We grabbed some lunch at a great old three story pub on Dame Street.
Dad and I split up for a bit. This whole time in Dublin I have been somewhat disappointed with the variety of beer that has been available at the pubs. They have all had Guinness, maybe an Irish cider, and then a collection of beers from other countries. Often American beers such as Budweiser, Miller, and Coors are not only available but featured! This is surprising to me. Where are all the local brews? Do they not exist? This afternoon I finally found a local brewpub. I decided to try their porter to see how it compares to Guinness. It was a million times better. In fact, one of the best porters I have ever had. I’m not a big porter fan in general, but this one has inspired me to try more porters. Anyway, it was satisfying to find some quality beer in Ireland.
Last night Dad and I went for a long walk way out of the city center. It was good to get away from the other tourists for a while. We walked along a pretty canal-side path. Today we woke up to pouring rain. After eating breakfast we grabbed our umbrellas and set off for the two mile hike to Kilmainham Gaol. This is an old prison which is notable for being the place where many of the rebels from the early 20th century uprisings were executed. It was interesting, but surprising crowded for such a rainy day.
After that we grabbed a great lunch at a pub in the area. I had a huge plate of chicken pot pie with lots of veggies. Definitely one of the best meals I’ve had so far. Well nourished, we went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The first exhibit I found to be somewhat boring. It was mostly film-based art. The second exhibit was much better. It was photographs by Thomas Demand.
After the museum, Dad and I split up and I went to the Guinness Storehouse. It was impressive how much they had put into this thing. But, it quickly became overwhelming. My guide book describes it as Disneyland for beer drinkers. I found this to be an appropriate description.
After my pint of Guinness I decided I might as well continue the theme and go to the Old Jameson Distillery. I found the Distillery to be a somewhat classier establishment. It was still just a bunch of marketing for their product. However, we were led through the process of making whiskey by an entertaining and knowledgeable guide. I am proud to say that I was chosen out of our group of about 40 or so people to be on a panel of 4 “whiskey tasters”. So, in front of the whole group I tasted five whiskeys: three Irish whiskeys, Johnnie Walker red label, and Jack Daniels. Of the Irish Whiskeys I like Jameson the best, but in the end I chose the red label as my favorite whiskey. Honestly, I thought the red label and the Jameson were similarly smooth and the red label a more interesting flavor. But, I think my decision was somewhat driven by my desire to overcome the effects of the Jameson marketing that I had just been subjected to. The tour guide was displeased with my decision, but nonetheless still granted me my “Irish Whiskey Taster” certification. Unfortunately, they spelled my name “Chris Reever”, but I will still hang it on my wall and add it to my CV (… well, maybe not add it to my CV).