Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Taiwan Travelogue

In Taipei we had probably the best Gecko work week I've ever been to. It was also, for me, the most draining. Apart from getting the regular Gecko teams together for work and fun, we also got to meet many of the new Mozilla developers in Taipei. This was very helpful and a lot of fun. However, as a senior Mozilla figure I felt a lot of responsibility to educate and generally facilitate the interactions of all our teams, 24/7, and since I'm not naturally gregarious, my social skills were plain worn out by the end of the week. It was exacerbated by the sheer number of people, and the cultural and language barriers. I also have to struggle against the urge to strut before Chinese women. Fortunately I have considerable experience dealing with these issues, otherwise I probably would have imploded.

That aside, it was all very very good. The food was amazing. The breakfast at the Grand Hyatt is the best hotel breakfast I've ever seen, by some distance. The Chinese banquet dinners were over-the-top great (bar the shark's fin --- gah). The mango dessert in the Taipei 101 basement food court --- mango chunks, shaved ice, condensed milk, brown sugar syrup, and mango ice cream --- was so good I had it twice. The extracurricular activities included visiting the National Palace museum, board games at night, and two trips into the hills. The day after I arrived, Sunday morning, I completed my first ever organized running event, a 10km trail run in the hills on the north side of the city, with a few other Mozilla staff. It was hot and humid, but the field was pretty weak and mostly walked up the steep bits, which worked to my advantage since I have long legs and walking fast uphill is my specialty, so I came in 18th out of 88 male-over-40 finishers. On Saturday morning, just before we left, a group of Mozilla people went for a hike to and beyond Elephant Mountain. That was lots of fun.

During the week, I led two sessions not related to specific technical issues: one was on "Mozilla culture" --- what we do, why we do it, how we should change it, specifically targeted at people relatively new to Mozilla, especially those from companies with very different cultures. Part of that was about code review, and stimulated another session specifically about code review, and how to do it better. I have videos of those sessions, and once I've scrubbed them to remove one or two unfortunate comments I'll put them online :-).

It turns out that currently the only place you can buy official Mozilla merchandise is the Taiwan office's online store. Anticipating this, I brought a half-empty suitcase and placed the biggest order the store had ever seen. Now I have a stockpile of gifts for friends and family that should last a while :-). We desperately need an international Mozilla gear store, though.

Since I'd seen most of the good Air New Zealand May movies earlier this month, the plane movie selection was a bit random...

  • The Last Stand: Schwarznegger vehicle, so I had low expectations, but they were exceeded. Not a great movie, but not a bad one.
  • The Assassins: Borderline incomprehensible Chinese movie. I missed being able to pause the movie and ask my wife what on earth is going on.
  • Taken 2: Such a bad movie. Utterly boring and predictable, none of it makes any sense at all, and embraces a number of common movie failures: classic combination of the bad guys being both supremely brilliant and completely stupid; classic assassin-idolization main character who kills people without feeling but is also a really great guy; classic divorced couple who are so right for each other it's incomprehensible why they got divorced in the first place. Avoid.
  • Remembering 1942: Really really good. Got mixed reviews, but I think it's a great movie. It's a litany of human suffering, set in the Chinese province of Henan, trapped in the vice of war and famine. Watching movies like this periodically helps me keep a sense of perspective.
  • Ripper Street (series): Victorian police procedural. I had low expectations, but was actually quite impressed. Conveys a real sense of the times --- and they were interesting times indeed.

It was a great decision to have the work week in Taiwan, and I hope we get back there soon.


John Dowdell
Welcome back... if you're ever on Orchard Road, the Hyatt buffet there is also startlingly good: http://www.singapore.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/StraitsKitchen.html