Christchurch, Canterbury Tech Summit, etc.

…and should I really move to Colorado?

Griffith was pissed that they spelled his name wrong.

Arrived in Christchurch on Tuesday morning after a significant delay out of LAX. Seems everybody knew about the thunderstorms to the north except all the airlines with late departures over the Pacific so all were caught flat-footed with not enough fuel when the inevitable departure reroutings happened just as 10-15 large jets left the gate. So a whole bunch of huge aircraft ended up at the remote gates, waiting for the one fuel truck that seems to be on duty at that hour to come by and give us all an extra half hour of fuel.

Which didn’t matter, because by the time we all were fueled and lined up for takeoff 2-3 hours late, the storm had passed and we didn’t need to deviate. But at carrying extra fuel meant we could go faster and make up part of the delay. Still, Griffith the traveling mountain lion was not amused.

Open Source and Christchurch co-working

I managed to end up with a full row to myself, so slept well. Tuesday night was the Christchurch Free and Open Source Software meetup at Catalyst IT, run by my friend Dave Lane. Same place I’ve been to Python meetups in the past, and a nice time, discussing all manner of open source stuff.

The Ministry of Awesome. Griffith liked it and so did I.

Wednesday I woke up a bit jet-lagged and in a bit of a bad mood. Worked through the day at Ministry of Awesome. Had to deal with the dual frustration of a laptop that I had failed to set up with the right packages, a bunch of Udacity-based exercises that only wanted very specific versions of TensorFlow and other packages (not the current ones, or even recent ones, grrrrr…), and lack of a GPU.

I was going to set up ssh access to my workstation at home before leaving so I could have the right versions of everything and access to that wonderful GTX1080, but I’ve been busy with the Transportation Data Challenge and was blindsided by a client the Friday before departure so that particular setup item got dropped.  But with all the other things, i’ve also been well behind on the deep learning projects and wanted to catch up. Managed to put in the time and got it all to work in the end, thought it did run for a long, long time on this mobile CPU.

At least Griffith fit in well. Not quite the same as Cross Campus, but not entirely different either.

Canterbury Tech Summit

Today was the Canterbury Tech Summit. I went in with limited expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Andy Cunningham opened with remarks that were typical Silicon Valley strategizing, along with some not-too-subtle book promotion. A bit of a yawn for me as I’ve seen and heard it plenty of times and I can’t imagine that many people in NZ haven’t as well. But the day improved greatly from there. The tech sessions were good, the vendors were interesting and the general networking was a lot more relaxed than I’m generally used to.

Ben Kepes, Photo @BizDojo

Ben Kepes wrapped up the day with a keynote highlighting the reasons New Zealand Tech should not aspire to be either Silicon Valley or Israel. As a former resident of both who has friends and family in both places (as does Ben!), I really appreciated his thesis that you need to work with what you have, rather than trying to be somebody else that you’re not.


I’ve recently wondered if moving back to Tel-Aviv might make sense for me given current interests and general attitude. Ben and I had a brief chat afterwards. After sharing a bit about myself, and telling him that I could go to either of those places, or NZ, or any number of other locations, I asked him where he thought my next move should be. I like to hear the opinions of others who share similar connections and backgrounds. He didn’t hesitate in suggesting Boulder, CO.

That makes three people I respect who have recommended the Denver area recently. Not really what I came to Christchurch to find out about myself, but I’ll take it where I can get it. I’m not sure he’s right. For a lot of reasons, trying the Tel-Aviv area has a lot of appeal right now, but Colorado would be easy. I also have a nagging suspicion that Amazon’s new HQ is going there, which would make for a huge boom.

More Ministry of Awesome tomorrow, then what looks like it will be a pretty nice weekend.