From: Chris Nelson (
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 1995 12:02:25 -0700
Subject: Yawn

Here is a report of my trip to Italy and back
Chris's quest for food and sleep

Tues. 6/20:

Got up 'round 4:00 am. Drove to airport. Saw Ferrari on road to airport.

Checked in. Got vouchers for free drinks on domestic part of travel on Delta.

Got on plane. Plane left 7:45 am.

Plane had navigation-type displays on video monitors. Cool. 170mph tailwind! -72 degrees Fahrenheit! Made good time to NY.

I was in the very back row of the 767, in seat 43F. Suck.

Got breakfast.

They didn't have any good microbrews on the flight, so I had one of their "wine splits," a Chardeney. It didn't taste very good, and it gave me a headache.

During the flight, they asked if there was a physician on board to please go to the aft galley. No one went.

Soon after, they asked for someone who spoke Greek and English to go to the aft galley. A couple people went.

Changed planes in NYC JFK. What a sucky airport.

Changed money there, too. To convert lira to dollars, drop three zeros and multiply by two thirds.

Italian lira are all different sizes and colors. They are also more slippery than $. I tried to count my lira and ended up scattering 600,000 lira all over the floor.

Wandered around airport. Boring. Accidentally wandered out of secure area, so had to go through security again. No big deal.

Got on plane to Milan. Boring flight.

Was in seat 46E of a 767. I guess this one had a slightly different configuration, allowing more seats. I was in the very last row again.

Got lunch.

Had a Coke, which erased my headache.

Slept a little. Didn't feel like reading.

Somewhere around here I guess it got to be Wednesday.

Wed. 6/21:

A couple times the stewerdess brought around a cart full of alcohol and cigarettes and other vices. She certified they were "doodie-free".

Got off the plane ~8:30. Found where the baggage was coming out and got my suitcase.

First advertisement I saw advertized Philips products. Cool.

Another advertisement told me how to make USAdirect calls with my AT&T calling card. Cool.

Went through Italian customs, which pretty much amounts to reading the signs (which are printed in a variety of languages, including English) and walking through the aisle for non-EEC residents, nothing to declare.

No one stopped me except at a later checkpoint where they glanced at my passport.

Wandered around the airport some more until I found a place to buy bus tickets to the train station.

Got on bus, second deck. About an hour to the train station.

I was in Italy, so I kept an eye out for Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

Yeah right. Fiats, Fiats, Fiats, as far as the eye can see.

A 1.3 liter engine gets the "Sport" badge.

Also mopeds. Without mufflers. And with smelly engines.

Even DHL, which advertises the quality of their international vans, was using a tiny Fiat station wagon.

There's a lot of backyard agriculture in that area of Italy. I even saw some people making hay in their yard. Uh, harvesting it, that is.

Our bus passed a dead BMW motorcycle in the middle of an intersection.

It even had a chalk outline around it.

"Punto GT. Li Riposta."

The gas stations are as tiny as the cars. Some of the stations are even tucked beneath apartment buildings. Ug.

Got to train station. Wandered around until I found the information booth. Suitcase got heavy.

I went to a counter where the worker could speak English (as represented by the British flag sign above his head). Got information on what trains to take to get to Santa Margherita Ligure.

Wandered around until I found the ticket counter. Bought tickets.

Sat around waiting for train.

A guy kept driving around the train station on a motorized floor buffer. He was smoking, and would drop his cigarette butts on the floor behind his machine.

The train boards were those quaint digital-mechanical devices which rotate through all the letters to get to the set they want to show. Kinda fun to watch.

Got on train to Genoa (Genova).

Gave ticket to conductor when he came around. He yelled at me, but he didn't know English and I didn't know Italian, so I didn't know what he was saying. A guy across from me in the compartment leaned across and showed me that his ticket had been computer-stamped on the back.

So I knew what I was supposed to have, but I still didn't know how to get it.

They didn't throw me off the train.

I changed trains in Genova around 13:00.

Actually, I was supposed to change in Genova Br., but I changed in Genova P.P. instead. Not that it mattered.

I didn't see any place to stamp my ticket, though.

I found some other ISCA attendees on the train to Santa Margherita Ligure. They had also gotten yelled at for not having their tickets stamped. In fact, everyone I later talked to had gotten yelled at for that.

The conductor on this train also yelled at us and warned us of a 40,000 lira fine. He spoke English, so he could explain to use the little yellow machines. OK.

5 minute walk from train station to hotel. Suitcase even heavier.

It was a four star hotel (out of five), but I think that was just due to its location and its snotty employees, not its rooms.

I tried to have some sort of lunch/dinner, but I was too tired to eat. Pissed off the waiter for not finishing my spaghetti. I finished my bottle of water (no gas), though.

Looked around for the topless sunbathers that were pictured in the hotel's brochure and found them lying out behind the next hotel over.

Went to sleep some.

Thurs. 6/22:

Woke up around 1:30. Turned on the TV for a while. SuperFriends dubbed in Italian.

Monty Python dubbed in Italian.

T.J. Hooker dubbed in Italian.

SkyTel, an English channel, telling me the news of the ongoing cricket match.

A German channel with gratuitous breasts.

Some Italian shows specializing in amateur stripteases.

Italian broadcast TV is, uh, rather racy.

Went to sleep some more.

Woke up again around 9:00. Went to get registered at the symposium.

Saw a newish looking Testerossa parked by the beach. Later in the trip I saw a 308 on the highway. So I just barely saw more Ferraris in Italy than in SF.

Went to some presentations. Very sleepy.

Grabbed a couple of little lemon cakes during a coffee break. The water (with gas) tasted disgusting.

Wandered back to my hotel and took a 3 hour nap, skipping some afternoon presentations.

Wandered back to the symposium hotel and missed the last of the days presentations by engaging in discussion with John Shen (my former advisor) and some Intel folks.

Got some ice cream with John and Trung Diep (my other coauther).

Did a dry run of my presentation for John at his hotel.

Fri. 6/23:

Wandered back to my hotel about 1:30. No concierge to ask for a wake-up call. Just a night watchman who didn't speak English.

So I dragged out the alarm clock I had packed just in case. But I guess Italy goes on 220 volts. Or at least, its plug design is completely different.

So I set my watch alarm.

Didn't get to sleep until about 4:30. Then slept 3 hours until 7:30.

Got up. Put on my suit. Walked to the symposium hotel in the rain.

Good thing I packed my umbrella.

Did my presentation. I think I was the first one to get the clip-on microphone right so that people could hear me and it didn't keep falling off.

People asked me stupid questions, which I politely rebuffed.

During the next coffee break, an IBMer seemed mad that I had used the Motorola compiler instead of IBM's. Whatever. He didn't push too much, though.

Talked to a lot of Intel folks about my methods and results.

No one was at the symposium from Motorola.

I had an annoying blister on my right little toe from my dress shoes.

Had lunch about 13:00. Pizza Americana. A white pizza with salami and boiled tomatoes. Whatever.

Got on boat for symposium-organized excursion around 14:00.

It rained while we were on the boat, so I stayed inside where it was (relatively) warm.

We had to remove the portion of the trip that involved wandering around a coastal village for an hour because the water was too choppy to land.

Got to the village where the busses were supposed to pick us up, but we were about an hour and a half early then.

But we really didn't know when the busses were going to arrive, and their union regulations or whatever wouldn't let them stop to wait for us, so we had to wait around under a ice cream shop awning out of the rain.

My advisor and my former boss from IBM got into an almost shouting match about my paper. My former boss from IBM (Pradip Bose) seems to have turned into an asshole all of a sudden.

Got on busses. Went to resteraunt for seven-course dinner. Most of the courses sucked, especially since I'm not really into salad, seafood, green pasta, or coffee. Or water (with gas), for that matter. The cake was pretty tasty, though.

Took busses back to Santa Margherita Ligure.

Sat. 6/24:

Was again too late to ask for wake up call.

Overslept watch alarm and missed a few presentations. Whatever.

Went to the last part of the last presentation before lunch. Kinda interesting.

Went to awards luncheon. Main course: scalloped salmon. Bleah. The pasta was edible, though.

Went to some more presentations.

Went to train station and bought tickets for next morning. Managed to figure out that I needed to take the very earliest train from Santa Margherita Ligure at 4:34.

Went back to hotel and paid for stay. Since I figured I had bought everything I'd be buying in Italy, I paid with all the rest of my lira, then topped off with my credit card.

I thought I had been pretty clever until I remembered I was going to need to buy a bus ticket. Sigh.

Asked for a wake up call and went to sleep around 18:30.

Sun. 6/25:

Woke up around 24:00 (or is that 00:00?) Watched some TV.

Informazione Esoterique: Tarot cards, assembly language programming, and something incomprehensible on a chalkboard were all being tought by very boring Italians on late night TV.

Slept some more until my 3:15 wake up call.

Got up, dressed, dropped off my key, and went to the train station.

Met some other people leaving ISCA, so we all figured out together how to work the little yellow machine and switch trains and stuff.

Got one to give me 12,000 lira in exchange for $8 at the bus terminal.

Took bus to airport.

Wandered around (no signs at all in airport) until I found the Delta check out line.

"Did you pack your own bags?" "Did anyone give you anything to take with you?" "Make sure you keep your bags in front of you and in sight at all times."

Went through security and passport control to departure gate.

Set my watch alarm for 30 minutes before boarding and slept a little.

Sat around until about 10 minutes before departure time until they finally decided they'd better let us get on the plane.

So ten zillion people all funneled quickly through one ticket taker and went outside and up the stairs into the plane.

Slept some on the plane.

Got lunch twice. I guess that was due to the in-flight time zone change.

Alarm went off again after I set my watch back.

Got off plane in NYC. NYC JFK is really boring.

Went through customs. "Did you pack your bags yourself?" "Did anyone give you anything to take with you?" "Got anything to declare?" "Got any fruits or vegatables?" "What is your business?"

They led a beagle around us and our luggage and it found a lady with a banana in her handbag, but they didn't give her any trouble.

Read some of my book. Slept some.

They delayed our flight because they were waiting for connecting passangers from another Delta international flight.

Got on and waited some more for the last few people. We left the gate about 50 minutes late, but the captain assured us we'd have a good tail wind and get in at about the scheduled time.

Got dinner.

Guy had a heart attack on the other side of my row halfway through the flight.


He recovered OK, though.

We weren't diverted, but we had to wait before disembarking while the paramedics got on and checked the guy out.

Got off the plane. Was rather disoriented for awhile until I realized that this wasn't Pittsburgh and that nothing should look familiar since I'd never arrived in SFO before.

Found my suitcase.

Looked for parking ticket (upon which I had also written where I was parked). Couldn't find it.

Took shuttle to where I thought I had parked, and got it right exactly. Nope, no ticket in the car either.

Tore apart suitcase and bookbag looking for parking ticket. Nope.

Went to exit, where it turned out it didn't matter a whole lot since they keep track of cars daily, so I only needed to pay the maximum amount for 6 days. I probably would have had to pay that much anyway.

It took them a while to find the record for my license number, which probably pissed off the people waiting behind me.

Drove home.

Car felt funny after all those planes and trains and busses and boats.

Also I was very tired.

Got home. Went to sleep.

Mon. 6/26:

291 mail messages (291 new).


Date: Mon, 26 Jun 1995 13:39:18 -0700
From: (Drew Olbrich)
Subject: Yawn (was: Yawn)

Do you commit all this stuff to memory, or do you take notes?


From: Chris Nelson (
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 1995 14:34:58 -0700
Subject: Re: Yawn (was: Yawn)

Most of it is from memory, though I did make a few notes throughout the trip to keep the timeline straight.

Since most things that happened were unique to my experience, it was pretty easy to remember them without getting them confused with something else.

You'll notice I didn't call my narrative a stream of consciousness report. If I had done that, it wouldn't have been nearly as chronological, and it probably would have been ten times as long.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention that I tried to use ISCA's internet connection to send out some mail to d&e, but it was so incredibly slow that I killed it. Unfortunately, you all got an empty piece of mail because of that. Sorry.


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