day 4: london

it rotates!

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Monday was a bit grayer and wetter than the weekend. I finally dragged myself out out of the flat around 12:00, to meet Andrew for lunch around 1:30 in Piccadilly Circus.

Stopped by a Starbucks for a chocolate croissant and latte, and sat next to a Swede who seemed to be on the verge of buying display space for her jewelry products in London, Germany and Sweden, all from a comfy chair.

Got to Piccadilly a bit early, wandered around in the grayness and then met up with Andrew to see his office. The office was pretty small – it fit 5 people and their desks, barely. And of course, they all wanted to see an iPhone demo … and afterwards all wanted to buy it when it comes to the UK.

One attempted to show me his snazzy Nokia N95, but it crashed after about 30 seconds, and he had to reboot it by removing the battery. Ah, technology is grand. Oh, and the battery only lasts 1/2 a day or so.

Then it was off to Wagamama for lunch where the waitress had been hoping for a quick order from me and looked a bit perturbed when I asked a few questions, looking for suggestions. But the meal was good, whatever it was.

Andrew wandered back to work, I just wandered. Went to a starbucks for another latte, and then decided I’d see if Nathan wanted me to get a pair of drumsticks at Hard Rock Cafe since he’d been unable to get them on Saturday.

It was quite the quest. No one seemed to know where it was, but people were utterly certain it was vaguely in the direction from which I’d just come. In the National Portrait Gallery, one woman tried to tell me where the Planet Hollywood was, while her colleague told her that “the gentleman is referring to a different location.”

Finally, I just spoke with Andrew who gave me the address — near Hyde Park Corner — so I wandered down there, got the drumsticks and a t-shirt, and wandered back to Piccadilly Circus, after another (non-caffeine) visit to Starbucks.

Met up with Andrew again, gave another demo of the iPhone, then met Ryan, and it was off to Nando’s for a chicken dinner, where Andrew kindly demo’d my iPhone for Ryan. They were quite fun to watch – a pair of bantering geeks. I appreciated all of it — and understood most of it despite Ryan’s northern accent.

Back to the flat, the flatmates were packing up to head to Spain for a few days, Morocco for a couple of weeks, and then back to London briefly before heading back to New Zealand. Then off to sleep, and woken up a bit as they were preparing to head off at 4am for a cheap flight …

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day 3: london


Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Sunday was much less complicated, as we were just meeting Andrew. Danny and Eva left by scooter to stop at some shoe shop to get Eva’s wedding shoes; I left around 12:30 on my own to meet Andrew in Trafalgar Square.

The sun had come out by the time I arrived, and the place was thick with pigeons and tourists. Andrew and I found each other easily enough, and we took a few pictures while waiting for the other two to arrive.

Danny called to say they were running a bit late, having stopped a some other shoe shop, so we wandered up to an EAT on Regent Street not far from Piccadilly Circus. The employee suggested the chocolate cookie over the chocolate brownie, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

We met up with Danny and Eva easily enough (after a phone call consisting most of “is that you waving? no … look to the right” etc.), and then walked down Regent Street. We went past the Apple store to stop at a Starbucks on a side street for a caffeine fix.

Andrew played with Danny’s new 135mm f/2.0, and I tried his “unlimited” internet SIM in my iPhone. I wasn’t able to get any internet, but the iPhone did manage to muck with the settings on his SIM, but I guess he’s gotten it back to the normal state.

Back to the Apple store, we wandered around a bit, watching the security guards and other staff watch customers taking photos and video, without comment. There have been reports of staff giving photo-taking customers a hard time — but we didn’t see any of that here.

Outside, we decided to head to Greenwich via the DLR — Dockland’s Light Rail — a driverless train which nonetheless had non-driving staff. We walked up to the observatory at the top of this hill. It was closed, but there was a great view of London off in the distance.

Down from the hill, we stopped at GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) for a bite to eat, then headed back to our respective abodes so the non-vacationing group could get to sleep for work the next day.

Monday dawned grey and cloudy; hopefully it’ll be turn a bit sunnier as it has the past two days…

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day 2: london

tribute to abbey road

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

It was a fun-packed day of waiting, walking, meeting, and eating.

The original plan was to meet Adam, Nik, Andrew and Ryan around 12:00, then Nathan and Jimmy around 2:30. Andrew noted earlier that Ryan was out of town this weekend, so he was scratched out early. We planned to meet at Starbucks in Leicester Square, then proceed to a dim sum brunch in London’s micro-Chinatown.

As the morning ground on towards noon, Adam texted that he was on his way. Andrew texted that he wasn’t feeling well and would meet us around 2:30. Nik texted that he wasn’t feeling well and would likely get in from Manchester at 2:30 or so. As we left Danny & Eva’s flat at 12:00, I texted Adam that we were on our way…

Exiting the tube at Tottenham Court, we walked to the Leicester Square tube stop to find Adam, who couldn’t find the Starbucks which might have moved to a different location. A couple of Eva’s friends, Tina and Robin, were going to meet us for dim sum, but cancelled, so we instead headed to an EAT, which had no available seating, so settled on Cafe Nero across the street.

Tina (from Australia on holiday), and Robin (from South Africa and currently working in London) joined us, and we had a merry time. I tried to use my Rolleiflex, but just managed to mis-load the film and waste a roll. Adam played with my iPhone, and then Eva and I started shooting each other with our d70s and d80.

Andrew texted that he wasn’t feeling well enough, and would meet us on Sunday. Nik texted that the earliest train would get him in at 3:30; Nathan texted that they were eating in a subway… and we decided to meet at the Leicester Square tube station.

Eva, Tina and Robin went shopping; Danny, Adam and I trooped off to Leicester Square to find Nathan and Jimmy without problem. We wandered into a less busy back alley so Nathan and I could exchange a 40D for cash, without too many prying eyes.

From there, we went to Paul Frank so Nathan could shop. As Danny, Adam and I were sitting outside the shoppe taking photos, a couple of older gentlemen walked out, and one asked me if there was “someone famous” inside the store that we were waiting for. er … Nathan? 😀

As Nathan and Jimmy were finishing up, Danny went off in search of another friend, Matt (dude with the crazy eyes) who he’d recently met. The remaining four of us met up with them a few minutes later.

By then, Nik had arrived in Euston, and after a couple of texts, we agreed to meet at the Tottenham Court tube station. After a bit of waiting, Danny and Matt decided to get a beer in the pub across the street, while the rest of us waited for Nik. Jimmy played with my iPhone. And yes, of course he and Nathan are waiting in line to buy one when they appear in the UK.

Nik arrived, and the now five of us crossed the street to collect Matt and Danny in the pub, and we started off to the Regent Street Apple store. Along the way, we found a protest at the Playboy store, so stopped there to take some photos, and be amused by angry people in bunny suits.

The Apple store was immensely packed; we headed upstairs to meander about and take random photos. Nathan finally played with his new camera, Adam left to go home, and Nik, Jimmy, Nathan and I did a little Abbey Road tribute as a group photo, with Danny providing direction and taking the shot.

From there we were off to Piccadilly Circus, with Matt taking some crazy burst shots of Danny. After a bit of gawking, it was off to happy hour at On Anon where we met Eva, Tina and Robin. Various pitchers of mixed drinks arrived, but I barely noticed even the hint of a buzz, and Danny later chuckled and referred to them as “flavoured water.”

Two more friends of Danny and Eva showed up – St. John (who I’d met here in January) and his girlfriend Maria, from the north of Spain. Nathan and Jimmy left to stop by the Hard Rock Cafe before heading to Euston to catch a train back north; Nik left a few minutes later to leave directly to Euston.

A bit later Tina and Robin left for parts unknown, leaving just 6 of us: me, Danny, Eva, St. John, Maria and Matt. We chatted for a bit over another pitcher of flavoured water; St. John played with my iPhone. Then it was off to micro-Chinatown to have dinner at the HK Diner. Matt left not long after seeing cooked geese being hacked up (he’s vegetarian). I found that I did have a little bit of wifi access to The Cloud, which I’d arranged before left the US, but it was pretty limited in the restaurant.

Well sated, we all went our separate ways, and now it’s time to start another day…

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day 1: heading to London

Mike on Rails.

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

I arrived at Boston Logan airport about three hours before my flight to Manchester, UK. The check in line was immense and I stood more than 90 minutes before I was able to check in.

American airlines was clearly understaffed — periodically, someone would wade through the crowd looking for people on particular flight so they could be brought to the head of the line to check in for theirsoon-to-be-late flight. And that just made the rest of us later.

I waited in line with a family of 5 originally from Manchester who’d been living in the US for several years. When I asked about the kids’ accents, the mother laughed and said the grandparents in the UK found their American expressions “cute”. They kindly provide some suggestions for restaurants they’d like when they lived there, but I checked on my iPhone only to find that their suggestions no longer existed.

The flight was fairly boring. I did manage to get an exit row, and sat next to a lovely peripatetic British couple who were had most recently lived in Oregon, but had spent years in Germany as well. We all chuckled over regional accents, and reminisced about our various travel adventures. And I provided a well-received demo of my iPhone.

At passport control in Manchester, the line for americans was 1/10 the size of the line for everyone else, and moved at 1/5th the speed. The questions were sort of amusing — who was I staying with, how did I know them (“erm, flickr.” “oh, right!”), etc. I quickly found my bag and was off to The Station (as it was called on all the signs) to catch a train to Piccadilly station in town. I paid the ¬£3.40 fare with a ¬£20 bill; ticket machine gave me ¬£16.60 change with heavy, single-pound coins, rather than bills. I then clanked my way to the train.

After a short ride, I dropped my bag at the Left Luggage site – ¬£6 for up to 24 hours, after it was x-rayed by a fellow who was on the phone before, during and after x-ray – and then wandered off to Starbucks to wait for a friend. Conveniently, they were offering free wifi that day, so I caught up on news, mail and flickr (not necessarily in that order), while nursing a nice latte to help recover from jetlag and lack of sleep. I could have been in the US for all I knew but the, ah, wide variety of interesting hair styles kept reminding me I wasn’t.

We’d planned to head to the Arndale to the Carphone Warehouse to get a cheap SIM for my recently unlocked iPhone, but we managed not to meet: I did notice some milk-froth on my nose, so I might have fallen asleep into my latte, and not been recognized ;). I decided I didn’t want to wander off to the Arndale, so I just walked across the hallway to Vodaphone to get a SIM. The fellow kindly allowed me to test the iPhone with a SIM he had in his pocket, though I had to use a bent staple – rather than a paperclip – to get the AT & T SIM out.

The right text plan was a bit difficult to discern: my choices were £15 for 500, or £10 for 200, with 10p for additional ones. I figured I might send more then 200 Рwhich made the £15 the better choice (2 x £10 gives me fewer texts for more money, and £10 for 200 plus 50 x 10p give me far less for the same price). And a I added on a bit for voice as well.

Back to Left Luggage to retrieved my bag, I was then off to find the train to London Euston. The train ride was generally uneventful, though I did send a bunch of texts to friends to let them know I had a phone. Conveniently the international numbers (e.g. +44 7123…) which I had in my address book worked fine so I didn’t have to re-input local versions (07123…).

One passenger near me caused a bit of excitement by neglecting to have a valid ticket. The ticket fellow asked for payment and identification, neither of which the passenger provided. He threatened to call the transit police, but since we all left the train without mishap, I guess there was no followthrough on that. There was some debate by my seatmates about whether it was “fair,” but of the ticket guy, an older woman merely said “he’s just doing his job.” Indeed: is it so hard to travel with a non-expired ticket?

In a rather long taxi queue, I had a pleasant chat with the people near me about how they thought American was expensive. Sort of amusing. The cab driver didn’t know how to get to my destination offhand, but he pulled out his trusty book of streets, he found it, and off we went. ¬£20 later, I was deposited at the right address in Shepherd’s Bush.

I was greeted at the door by a smiling Danny who had taken the day off from work to wait for me. My memory is a bit bit fuzzy for the rest of the evening due to lack of sleep and jetlag, but some of the high points were: getting the wifi to work on the phone (with WEP) immediately – but spending more than an hour with macbook before Danny shut off security; being invited to Danny & Eva’s wedding in Slovenia at the end of November (“we need a photographer”); trying to figure out a plan for Saturday via conversation, IM and texting; and playing with a bit of camera equipment.

I took a short nap; Eva returned home from work, and the rest of the evening flew by as we (re)made plans for Saturday, and discussed how best to get me to Ljubljana in November. We pumped up the air mattress, which apparently started deflating moments later after I’d fallen deeply asleep: I awoke nearly flat on the floor.

Saturday has dawned (at least behind the clouds), but I’m sure the day will be sunny enough meeting some of my London friends – and a few Mancunians as well – who have wandered down.

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Apple Books – great customer service

Exceptional customer service really sets Apple apart from any other book printing services I’ve used so far. And while they may not get things sorted out the first time, they always have on the second.

One book I had printed had an ink smear on a page. I emailed Apple: the money was refunded, and they offered to reprint (and recharge) if I so desired. I did, but the second book had a different colored smear on a different page. I emailed Apple again, and 49 minutes later the money had been refunded, with an offer to reprint if I wanted. I did, and the third book came out perfectly.

The refund is key. All other services have offered to reprint (though Blurb took a month), but none have refunded first, then offered to reprint.

Wednesday, I tried to print some softcover books through Aperture and ran into a bit of a problem. I’d only done hardcovers before, and didn’t know where the soft/hard cover option was. I hadn’t reviewed the manual, but I assumed that it was somewhere at the end of the process. It wasn’t, but by the time I realized that, I had uploaded with 1-click purchasing, and had received an email confirming my purchase.

Well, no problem: it stated I had 90 minutes to cancel my order. When I got to my order page, no orders were listed.

No problem: I just emailed support, including a link to a couple of screen captures showing my username in the confirming email, and my username with no orders on the order page. But four hours later I received an automated email that delivery was temporarily suspended because a connection could not be made to

No problem: I figured Apple would just sort things out somehow.

Thursday morning I received a reply from apple, which in part reads:

Thank you for contacting Apple Photo Services Customer Support. I’m very sorry you had difficulty selecting the Softcover book option for your order.

I apologize for the inconvenience, but I am unable to cancel or modify your order at this time. Book and print orders are processed after a 90-minute waiting period, after which Apple is unable to cancel or modify them.

If you need to cancel or modify a future order within 90 minutes from the time of purchase or would like to check the status of your current order as well as your order history, please visit and sign in using your Apple ID and password.

For future orders, please be careful to choose and review your order before finalizing it. Once you open your book in iPhoto, justclick on the Themes icon at the bottom of the screen, and select the Softcover option.

Clearly the person had not read my email, since I’d tried to cancel my order, but couldn’t, and was using Aperture, not iPhoto.

I reviewed the manual and determined that the cover option was selected via one of two similar buttons within aperture. There’s not really any indication that one is selected, other than text no where near the buttons.

I wrote back to apple and explained the problems again, provided an image of the soft/hard cover option buttons for future reference, and then suggested that actually reading the email would be helpful prior to replying.

Friday I received an automated message indicating that my three hardcover books had been shipped.

Saturday afternoon, I received a reply from Apple:

I’m very sorry that you were unable to cancel your order because it did not show up in your order status. I also apologize that we sent you steps to change your book in iPhoto when you are using Aperture.

I have issued a refund for your order in the amount of $154.36…

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you. If you have any questions, please reply to this email and we will assist you further.

Thank you for being a loyal Apple customer and have a great day.

er, wow?

I’ve been refunded for books which I have yet to see, for a mistake which is essentially mine.

Pretty amazing, and a key reason why I’ll continue using Apple for any future books (the first being quality, of course).

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day 6: life’s a beach

ready for adventure
Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Tuesday is it? More of the same – good food, good friends, great weather. oh, and screaming children.

Another lazy morning, fading into a lunch of leftovers after the kids were taken down to the beach at low tide to check out the tidal pools.

At some point, I realized that we all had video cameras, so I pointed out out that we could video chat. Steve and John had MSN, of course and so I installed Mercury, a not so great MSN client with video for the Mac. If failed to work, as they were using some newer version of MSN video which Mercury didn’t support. I convinced John to try skype, which eventually downloaded after we rebooted the toaster. He grumbled through all the installation screens, hoped he didn’t have to publish the contents of his PC due to some obscure GPL requirement, and then we had a video chat from across the table 🙂 he chuckled that he’d tried to establish video chats using MSN with his in-laws, but had always failed. “Why is it, ” he asked, “do microsoft products suck so much?”

I opened photobooth – which no one had seen – and the kids (and adults) had a great time with that. Daddy never looked so funny…

After lunch, we all headed down to the beach for some short-duration kayak trips for the kids, which were fun to watch. Steve’s gift of a reflector for my flash was quite helpful for producing better-lit photos. Really quite a lot of fun.

Back at the the house, the kids were mostly fed. I consumed a piece of pizza destined for one of the little ones, but she managed to find some other source of food. And then it was again time to to start preparing for dinner, which was fairly straightforward: bread from the day before with the usual spreads. Cherene made scallion biscuits and with Annette’s help the chicken with sticky sesame sauce; Steve made yellow-pepper soup from several incorrect recipes (which I eventually corrected, once I realized), and I prepared the pomegranate-glazed carrots. And we finished with a strawberry gelato I’d made earlier, from slightly overripe strawberries.

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day 5 – gotta reboot the toaster

Originally uploaded by mikefranklin

Monday rolled around and was much like Sunday – food, friends, computers, cameras and kids

Up early, I found that the there was no internet access. We’re not sure why, but the DSL modem gets screwed up as the day goes by and needs periodically rebooting. Problem is that it’s on the ground floor, and is a bit of an effort to get to. John found last year that it was on the same Ground Fault Circuit as the toaster oven was in the kitchen, so just popping that switch powers down and up the modem. Convenient, since I spend most of my time in the kitchen anyway…

Breakfast was late in the morning, and after a bit of menu adjusting, I presented a shopping list to Annette who was heading into town with the other two women for a bit of shopping. John and Steve went kayaking, and the au pair looked after the kids. I was left (mostly) alone to prepare lunch “for 2pm.”

I prepared the “mongolian marinade” for the beef we were having for dinner, finished the bread Annette had started, and made a red sauce for pasta – 4 onions sauteed in butter and olive oil for about an hour, to which I added finely-diced carrot, garlic scape (the flowering part), and two cans of peeled plum tomatoes. And then made pasta dough – eggs, flour, spinach. Also made some “british cookies” – not sure why they were called such, but they were tasty.

Sometime around 3:15, the guys came back from kayaking; 3:30 the women were back from shopping, and we commenced with the final preparations for lunch. 🙂 The kids ate outside on the deck, so it was fairly quiet inside except for the occasional screaming contest which prompted someone chuckling, “I think that one was mine.”

Lunch over, we commenced with dinner preparations. Steve made the pumpkin-seed brittle; Annette made the chocolate-almond shortbread cookies with the help of two of the youngsters; Cherene prepared the espresso-steeped dates for Tuesday, and Steve made the peppermint-candy gelato. Quite fun to watch everyone working.

The kids ate early, and were shuffled off to bed so the adults could eat in relative peace: appetizers of pumpkin-seed brittle along with pagnotta (bread) and the “standard” spreads of hummus, goat cheese, garlic & olive oil, and muhammara. Second course was the “grilled mongolian beef” (quite tasty), steamed vegetables with a honey-orange vinaigrette followed by salad with a champagne vinegar vinaigrette, and ending with the chocolate almond shortbread, peppermint-candy gelato, and the rest of the “british cookies.”

Quite well received so far, with the only complain being “not enough chocolate.” hmmm… I shall endeavor to remedy that…

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