Archive for September, 2008

Wheel of Misfortune (or, why I regret staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village)

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

It’s 11:45 pm, and this is the scene outside my hotel room right now:

The Hilton is hosting a Wheel of Fortune taping, and my room is unfortunately right near the set. The crowd is cheering, shrieking, and generally whooping it up. I am a lowly guest in the hotel, so the taping will go on until “sometime soon, but they should be wrapped up by midnight.”

Why, oh why, Hilton, couldn’t you give my room to a cast or crew member, and give me a quiet room near the business meeting I was attending?

Tête au Carré (the “blockhead building”) in Nice

Friday, September 12th, 2008

I’ve saved the best photos of Nice for last. Next to the conference center stands Sacha Sosno’s Tête au Carré, though most of the English-speaking engineers at the TCG meeting referred to it as the “blockhead building.” It’s apparently the administration building for the public library system in Nice, but it has to be the oddest-looking library administration building ever. Really, where else have you seen an 80-foot-tall square head?

In black and white, at sunset. The face looks across the street towards the convention center:

In color, to capture the flower beds in the nearby park:

Capoeira on Cours Saleya (and other street performances in Nice)

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

One of the joys of eating at restaurants on Cours Saleya in Nice is that it was a focal point for much of the open-air street theater and entertainment. A Brazilian capoeira troupe performed one evening, holding athletic poses I can only dream of, like this one:

After one set, a performer gave a short lesson to a visiting child:

One of the performers flipped down a long stretch of Cours Saleya, head over heels:

With a long distance to build up speed on the return, he vaulted over a line held about six feet in the air. (As an interesting aside, I think Henri Matisse lived in the tan building in the right background of this photo.)

After dinner, I wandered around Vieux Nice, and found an informal concert near Glacier Fenocchio at 2 Place Rossetti. Place Rossetti was the site of my favorite moment in Nice. I was visiting during the Euro 2008 Cup tournament, and Spain and Russia were battling in a scoreless game as I approached Place Rossetti. Suddenly, a roar went up and the ground shook from cheering. The shock was enough to set off car alarms. Spain had scored to take the lead against Russia, and the people in Nice were cheering on Spain almost unanimously.

In the background of the photo is the lit bell tower Cathédrale Sainte Réparate, which makes a stunning background for an open-air concert.

Just as with street performances the world over, the concert ended with a hat being passed around to collect donations.

The port of Nice

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Colline du Château is between Vieux Nice to the west and the port of Nice to the east. One night, I ate dinner near the port, and couldn’t resist taking a photo of the scrambled departure board:

The port is sheltered from the sea by a long jetty that juts out into the harbor. Protecting the ships is necessary, and I couldn’t help but notice that the ships moored came from all across the world and flew many different flags. This photo was taken from the jetty facing Colline du Château. The massive monument in the background is a memorial to the war dead of Nice.

Eglise Notre Dame du Port is located at the edge of the harbor. It’s one of the smaller churches in Nice, and was unfortunately closed by dinner time.

Colline du Château, Nice

Monday, September 8th, 2008

The early settlement of Nice occurred on a rocky outcrop next to what is now the old town. Colline du Château (“Castle Hill” in English) offers sweeping panoramic views of the city, its shoreline, and the deep blue sea. Steps away from the beach lies Cours Saleya, a traditional square lined with cafes and shops, and a daily flower market. In this photo, Cours Saleya is the diagonal area with colored awnings sheltering the flower shops.

From Colline du Château, Vieux Nice stands out from the rest of the city because of its orange roof tiles, which are a visually striking contrast to the nearby sea.

There are many places to look out over the city from the hill. This shot shows a view over the Promenade des Anglais.

Vieux Nice

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

In June, after being in England and visiting Stonehenge on the summer solstice, I went to Nice, France for a Trusted Computing Group meeting.

After arriving, one of the first things I did was head for View Nice, the old part of town. Old city districts are easy to explore on foot. As one book I read several years ago put it, cities reflect the dominant form of transportation used at their construction. Walking means you get crowded districts with small paths, like Jerusalem. Horse riding leads to wider streets but often in a jumble, like Boston. Finally, by the time the car comes along, you get wide streets all intersecting at right angles with excellent visibility for drivers. In other words, you get Los Angeles.

Old city districts are built around foot transportation, and they have a small scale that really helps me as a photographer. It’s easier to fit a lot of action into a frame without using a super-wide angle lens, and it’s easy to move around. Vieux Nice is no exception. Here’s the bustle on one of the main roads leading in:

One of the challenges walking around Vieux Nice was the lack of street signs. There were, however, several plaques commemorating French citizens who fought in previous wars. I was particularly struck by this plaque, which recognizes a young man executed by the Nazis at the age of seventeen:

Streets in Vieux Nice are narrow, even for pedestrians. Here’s a typical street size, and the width on offer shrinks even farther when cafe tables or shop displays are put out in the street.

In spite of the narrow streets, there were a few cars that wandered the cramped streets of Vieux Nice. Here’s a tiny car trying to make its way by a pedestrian who seemed perfectly content to walk in the middle of the street.

However, the prize for showing how difficult driving in the old city came one night as I was dining at Nissa Socca. It’s a bit off the beaten path, on Rue Ste.-Réparate. As I was sitting outside, a Smart car crawled by and made a turn off the “big” street of Rue Ste.-Réparate on to a much smaller side street. At the right edge of this picture, you can see the small street, barely bigger than an alley. In fact, to make the turn, the Smart had to attempt it a couple of times and back up to get a better angle.

Just for fun, I grabbed a picture of the Smart after it made it into the alley. Smarts are tiny cars, and yet the small size of the streets in Vieux Nice required it to make multi-point turns.

Segways allowed back on BART

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Last month, I attended the public meeting of the BART board of directors. After an incident in June, BART temporarily banned Segways on safety grounds. After the accident, BART imposed a blanket ban on all Segway use while a more permanent policy could be developed.

The BART Accessibility Task Force recommended reinstating access for all riders, with some restrictions on the able-bodied. BART staff ignored the recommendation and proposed a policy that banned Segways permanently for all non-disabled users, while disabled users would be required to dismount and push their devices inside the stations. Restrictions were justified on the grounds of safety, with the exemption for the disabled required to avoid a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a listener, I felt that if a blanket ban had been legally feasible, staff would have elected that option.

Seven members of the public, including me, spoke against the policy as an unnecessary restriction. Although I am not a Segway owner, I attended the board meeting to speak against the policy. For the past few years, I have considered buying a Segway to make short-range trips from my home to BART and nearby business areas.

After public comment, the board members discussed the proposed policy. Tom Radulovich was by far the most articulate speaker, and he had clearly thought more about the various issues involved. (I suppose this isn’t surprising, given his work with Livable City.) His common-sense idea started with the statement, “let’s treat people like adults.” With the increasing cost of automobile transportation, BART parking lots are getting full. By allowing riders to arrive at stations on bicycles or by Segway, BART could potentially reduce demand for costly parking. For many riders a car is the best option, but alternative vehicles are especially useful for the one to three mile range. Radulovich also argued that BART needed to avoid a situation where they made rules so restrictive that they would be encouraging riders to turn to cars instead.

Other directors supported Radulovich. Lynette Sweet pointed out that non-disabled riders were not creating problems and there was no justification for the ban. President Gail Murray mentioned a knee problem, and said that the morning had been eye-opening because she had learned about the Segway as a transportation option for her. Tom Blalock mentioned letters from other users, some of whom I recognized from the Bay Area Segway Group. One director has never seen a Segway on BART, and can’t believe that they are so numerous to be problematic.

The lone holdout was James Fang, who tried to get the staff policy adopted while promising to revisit it at a future meeting. However, he made it clear that he supported the restrictive policy as written. Bizarrely, he compared a restrictive Segway policy to airport shoe screening, arguing that both were conservative policies designed to prevent great harm. (Many security experts disagree with Fang on the shoe-screening policy, and much else about the TSA.) He also argued that it was appropriate to restrict able-bodied users more than disabled users, as a kind of affirmative action for past discrimination by BART against disabled riders.

After discussion, the BART board adopted a policy of permits. I applied for permits on the second day they were available, and I received permit #7. Now I just need to rent a Segway to see if it works for my commute. Further bulletins to follow…