Geeks on the Half Shell 2.0: Cruising the New Dominion with Linus and Friends, Part 2
Day Five (Thursday) brought us to Ocho Rios, a town on the north coast of Jamaica. Here we met early in the morning with the Jamaica Linux Users Group (JaLUG), where Linus and other speakers from the cruise answered questions in a wide-ranging Q&A. The setting was The Ruins Pub & Internet Cafe, which sits beside a perfect waterfall and a patio shaded by palms and banyan trees.
Later, most cruisers found their way to Dunn's River Falls. Here a cool mountain river cascades over limestone boulders for hundreds of yards on its way to the sea. Pretty as it is to watch, Dunn's is basically an interactive river. The main idea is to climb the falls upstream from the bottom to the top. It's a bit scary, but most of us had no trouble with it, thanks to experienced guides and pink rubber booties the park rents to visitors who don't trust their own bare feet or sandals.
Guides aren't required for the trek, but they are highly recommended. When we saw the size of our guide's crowd meeting down at the beach, we accepted an offer by a rogue guide to take our small group up ahead of the huge one. About a hundred feet up the first course of waterfalls, the official guide got into a big argument with our unofficial one, ultimately coming to a settlement: our group should take on at least one climber from the big crowd. We chose Cathy Raymond (for those who don't know, Cathy is the wife of ESR).
At this point our group included Greg Haerr, myself, my wife, our six-year-old son, Cathy and the guide. We arrived at the top a good twenty minutes ahead of the crowd. At the exit point there's a pool fed by a wide and smooth waterfall about six feet high. Standing in that falling current is a profoundly refreshing experience, even if you don't get sweated up by the long climb.
On the way back, our taxi driver, Donald, gave us a terrific tour of the town and countryside. Along the way it was fun to discover that Donald knew Jah Shaka, the reggae music figure and open-source effects developer. I had hoped Jah Shaka would be able to join us that morning at the JaLUG meeting. It turned out Donald knew what Jah Shaka had told me earlier in an e-mail: that he'd be busy at a recording session that day—small island.
That evening's talk was a wide-ranging Q&A with all the speakers on stage. It turned out to be an egalitarian affair, more like a conversational circle, with an even balance of power between audience and stage.
Day Six (Friday) was a full day at sea, as the ship threaded the straits between the east end of Cuba and the West end of Haiti. That morning Eric Raymond talked about “Twenty Years Among the Hackers”, while Guido van Rossum covered “Application Development with Python”. Steven Oualline's “Bullet Proofing, Paranoia, and Mucking Out” followed, along with ESR's “The Great Brain Race”.
At lunch I interviewed Lincoln Durey of Emperor Linux. We got off to a late start when we were upstaged by a natural phenomenon. Outside the window we saw some kind of stirring out on the calm waters about a mile away. Then we noticed a line connecting sea to sky: a funnel cloud had dropped down from a squall line behind the boat. When we went up on the stern deck, we saw at least three (I counted four) funnels snaking down from the clouds. At sea these are called water spouts; on land they're tornadoes. Either way, watching them beat dodging hurricanes, which is what cruises like this often do in the Caribbean this time of year.
That afternoon's sessions were “Code Inspections and Reviews” (Steve Oualline), “Introduction to Zope” (Guido van Rossum), “GUIs and Embedded Linux” (Greg Haerr), “Digital Forensics Using Open-Source Tools” (Brian Carrier) and “Building Ad Hoc Serverless Communities” (Brandon Wiley). The evening session was a lively and fun quiz show moderated by Steve Oualline: “How Not to Program in C++”.
On Day Seven (Saturday), we took tender boats to Half Moon Cay (formerly Little San Salvador), which is uninhabited except when the big boats come visiting. The long, protected C-shaped beach is lovely and remarkably uncrowded, considering the large population ferried from the ship. Here we had a whole day to scuba, snorkel, take out sailboat or kayaks, or just drink and hang out.
The party master for the cruise, by the way, was Randall Schwartz, who has been on all thirteen Geek Cruises. I asked Randall if he felt like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, waking up each morning ready to repeat the same experiences, over and over again. He said no, each cruise was different and new.
The next morning we were off the boat and back to our ordinary lives.
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