Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

A Fun Afternoon And A Podcast Appearance

This afternoon was a fun one. This kids and I headed out to Seattle to check out the dinosaurs at the Burke Museum in Seattle (sadly, no photos allowed… grrr…) and then the the Center for Wooden Boats.

When we got back and the kids were chilling with their mate SpongeBob, I hopped online and had a quick scan of FriendFeed. I notice that Phil, recently back in the UK from SXSW tweeted that Paul Nicholls (aka podcastpaul) was doing his weekly podcast live on UStream.

Interesting side note - Phil and I did a podcast together a fair while ago.

But I digress.

I popped over to UStream and got a really nice welcome in the chat from Paul. We hadn't connected for a couple of years since my podcast habit lapsed and Britcaster went the way of the dodo.

Anyhow, he suggested that I pop onto Skype for a quick live chat on his podcast!

Oddly, I didn't have Skype installed anywhere anymore, but the download and install was quick and painless on the Mac. Handily I also had a USB headset floating around and as quick as a flash I was on a podcast for the first time in over two years!

Sweet! It was a particularly nice moment as Paul's podcast is one of the very few that I listen to regularly.

Time to get podcasting again!

So head over to Paul's site, and check it out!

Rock And Roll!

We just spent a very fun evening at Andy and Jo's place. Eight adults, seven kids, pizza, beer and Rock Band!

The hightlight - Dad on guitar, daughter on drums.

Rock on!

Thanks to my darling wife for capturing the image…

This T-Shirt Is Older Than You

I picked up this shirt back in college from a Skin Games gig. Kev may well remember that evening…

What astounds me is two-fold:

  1. That the shirt has lastest this long.
  2. That the shirt is older than a bunch of people that work here.

Anyhow. Great band. Great memories.

0x28

On Monday I will be forty… Damn. I remember my twentieth birthday party quite vividly - can twenty years really have passed since then?

Anyhow, enough with the old.

Last night, my lovely wife threw a surprise birthday party for me at the Wilde Rover in downtown Kirkland. What a wonderful time!

Lots of friends, lots of beer. And at least one person who couldn't remember how they got home afterwards…

Thanks honey.

IM'ing With The Neighbours

I can't believe I'm sat at home instant messaging with my neighbours - I'm helping someone get setup with Google Apps.

This must be what it's like to be a geek at college these days. Except with bigger dorm rooms.

Andy Takes A Trip On The Vomit Comet

My pal Andy just took a ride on the Vomit Comet!

There really is no indication at first that anything is happening - you can hear the engines increase a little as the plane starts to climb but since there are no windows you have to real clue that anything is happening. Slowly you start to feel the increase in gravity as pressure across your whole body and if you try to lift your arms they really feel heavy. Its not uncomfortable but very odd but then quite quickly there is no pressure and you see people pushing off and WOW you feel very light. Martian and lunar gravity is strange enough but the first zero g is even weirder - you are suddenly not touching the floor and the slightest movement makes you go feet up or collide with your team mates. You can see why they say no jumping - you find yourself on the roof without even trying.

After 30-40 seconds someone yells 'feet down' and you have to make sure your feet are closest to the floor. Gravity comes back quite quickly and you will hit the floor hard. This is why its padded. They have us do some fun things like chase M&Ms and play with water. Of course when gravity comes back you are showered with the spare M&M and lose water but that's all part of the fun.

Nice one!

Read more over on his blog.

Opening Night At Teatro ZinZanni - Love, Chaos And Dinner

On Wednesday night, Nabila and I attended the opening night for Teatro ZinZanni at their new, permanent home in Seattle. This was my third ZinZanni, and man was it great!

The show was awesome, the food (by Tom Douglas), spectacular. A real treat.

Teatro ZinZanni is a big night out unlike any other, a three-hour whirlwind of international cirque, comedy and cabaret artists all served up with a five-course feast designed by celebrated Northwest chef Tom Douglas.

An ever-evolving and constantly changing production, Teatro ZinZanni combines improv comedy, vaudeville revue, music, dance, cirque and sensuality into a dizzying and colorful new form that is never quite the same from evening to evening. The fast-paced action of the show unfolds above, around and even alongside the audience as they dine on a gourmet meal. Teatro ZinZanni is guaranteed to dazzle.

It's such a great experience - a three hour show where your waiters are the performers; superb acts in the middle of the dining area; great ambiance; incredible music; a wonderful venue that transports you back to a world of cabaret with a distinct European flavour.

What more could you ask for?

If you're in the area, you have to go.

Just buy a ticket.

Or three.

Now.

Photos From The Wedding

I've finally finished with the photos from Steve and Rachel's wedding. You can find them on Flickr.

During the wedding, Julian was also wandering around with a camera and captured this one of me! Nice shot, little dude.

Me. By Julian.

Congratulations Steve And Rachel!

Today we had the honour of attending the wedding of our long time friends, Steve and Rachel. What a wonderful time! Much merriment was had by all and I sincerely wish them the best that life can give in their future lives together.

Also, a few months ago they asked me if I would take the photos of their wedding. Talk about nerve-wracking! 'Twas a good job I picked up that extra 4GB CF card as I ended up shooting over 500 frames…

It's going to take me a while to delete all the rubbish and make the rest look halfway decent, but I know that some friends will be wanting to see some right now, so here's a few rushed shots…

Steve & Rachel

Steve & Rachel

Steve & Rachel

Steve & Rachel

More on Flickr in a couple of days…

Update: The photos are now up on Flickr.

Intern One Heads Back To College…

Our second intern of the summer, Julia, headed back to college this week. She rocked quite hard - we'll miss her…

Gayle has all the details…

Oh, and Ming, yes you were our first intern, but Gayle forced us to promote Julia… Or something like that…

Tags: , .

…the producers spent all of their money on avgas and Jet-A and none on writing…

For my money, one of the best writers (ok, bloggers…) on the internets right now is my former colleague at Microsoft, Hal Bryan.

His posts are the highlight of my day. Well, week. Ok, month.

Take this snippet from 583.entry“>his most recent post for example.

Have I no shame?

Actually, I do, but I'm about to squander the last of it away like Jack giving away his cow, without even some magic beans, much less their subsequent beanstalk, to show for it.

I collect DVD's, and have a weakness for certain types of movies and television shows. Sometimes, my standards can actually be fairly high, tending toward well-written dramas, comedies-of-manners - ”Careful there, Vicar“, ”Very droll, Bernard", that sort of thing.

This isn't one of them. Not even close.

No, in this case, I'm admitting to enjoying something terrible. Why? Well, because it has a rather surprising amount of good flying in it. Before Michael Bay gave us Pearl Harbor, before Tony Bill gave us Flyboys, flying scenes in movies and television shows were usually real, and, thus, good. If scenes weren't shot for that particular title, then you might see stock footage. If it was faked, it was usually faked so horribly with models that it was worth watching anyway.

Hal, you need to write more.

Community

Tonight I feel like I live in a community more than ever before.

Up until last week I lived on 8th Street South in Kirkland, right next to the Little League baseball fields - the street is part of a Kirkland known as the Everest Neighbourhood.

Recently, longtime neighbours of ours, the Aubrey's, decided that it was time to downsize after living here since 1972 and raising their kids in their house on 8th. They applied to subdivide their land, but permission came with the stipulation that 5th Avenue South that connects 6th to 7th should be extended through to 8th - obliterating a footpath and lovely area of the neighbourhood in the process.

Not to mention the fact that commuter traffic generated by such a cut-through would destroy the quiet and kid-friendly street one block west.

You can read more about this at the Kirkland Courier's site and this map will show you what I'm talking about.

An appeal was lodged and tonight a quasi-legal hearing was held at Kirkland City Council. It was quasi-legal in the sense that the council members were effectively judges and jurors on the issue and were not allowed to hear any arguments about the case beforehand. Arguments would be presented for and against and entered into the record and most frustratingly, audience members had to be quiet and respectful - no clapping and no standing up and shouting “WTF!”.

You can understand that I was sitting on my hands and biting my tongue throughout the whole proceedings.

There were many empassioned arguments including one by a neighbour who had done some severe homework, turning the city's own planning policy against itself.

So many friends from the neighbourhood showed up. Many with kids. Everyone supporting the appeal. Did I mention that 7th Street has almost forty kids under ten years of age living on it? It's an old school neighbourhood with young parents; kids playing on the street side of their houses with other kids; neighbours chatting and doing favours for each other.

Community.

A community that would have been destroyed by a short-sighted, follow the rules, planning policy.

The end result? A unanimous vote by the council1 in favour of our neighbourhood.

Surrounded by neighbours, I have never felt so much a part of a community.

Rock on.

1 Incidentally, there is a certain council member who urgently requires that a bureaucratic stick be surgically removed from their arse. 

A Visit To The Fire Station

One of Julian's school friends had a birthday party today - and not at the usual sort of places either!

The party was at the Woodinville Fire Station - what an incredibly brilliant idea!

The day started out in the fire station's classroom when Lieutenant Davis showed a kid friendly instructional video and then one of the Fire Fighters donned all of his gear, including the breathing apparatus. To be quite honest, this was the first time I had seen a Fire Fighter fully kitted up, so I asked how much it all weighed. About one hundred pounds apparently, but much heavier when it all gets wet…

However, Lieutenant Davis had an alteria motive for doing this. Apparently a big problem with rescuing kids from a burning building is that a Fire Fighter can appear quite scary with all their gear and their voices sounding Darth Vader's, plus the fact that the kids are already freaked out by the fire. Sometimes they run and hide from the very Fire Fighter that is attempting to rescue them…

So he got on hands and knees and crawled around in front of the kids, letting them hear his weird voice and having them touch his hand.

That one thing was probably the most valuable part of the day.

Anyhow, after that everyone got to go outside, play with fire hoses and sit in fire trucks. We also got a great tour around the station, including the dorm rooms and gym (which included a large plasma and an Xbox 360).

A great day, topped off with them extending the ladder truck's one hundred foot ladder whereupon one of the Fire Fighters climbed all the way to the top!

Superb!

The Seven Deadly Fins - Fish!

This year will be the 20th anniversary of the release of Fish! from Magnetic Scrolls.

Fish! was the first game and first real live commercial software project that I worked on and the first product that I really argued for the inclusion of an exclamation point in it's name :-) Somehow the exclamation point disappeared from the packaging for the US release…

Released towards the end of 1988 was Fish!, a more light-hearted, surreal adventure game, where the player assumed the role of a dimension-jumping goldfish. Written by John Molloy, Pete Kemp, Phil South and edited by Rob Steggles, Fish! would prove to be the last of Magnetic Scrolls' traditional commercial releases.

I loved Fish! It was weird, different and totally odd. I also loved working for Magnetic Scrolls which was Unix-centric - everything was developed on a MicroVax and cross-compiled and the guys were way overboard on the intelligence level which led to very interesting pub discussions.

Stories around working there mostly involve great coding, fun problems and south London pubs. In fact I remember that when the UK went to all day licensing hours (i.e. the pubs were open all day), we decided to “extend” our lunch hour. We all came back to the office fairly “happy” to the chagrin of our boss, Anita Sinclair, who'd been schmoozing a potential investor who'd been hoping to meet the team :-)

Alumni from the company are pretty well known in the computer graphics space - two of the guys, Doug Rabson and Servan Keondjian (both now at Qube), went on to form RenderMorphics, which I joined in 1995 shortly before it's acquisition by Microsoft and Richard Huddy went on to work for ATI and NVidia.

Ahhh, reminiscing… I am, indeed, an old fart.

Update: Oh, and yes, I know the quote and US reviews say 1998, but it went out in 1997 to the world at large…

David Harrison Reinvents The Internet

In a particularly well reasoned essay, David reinvents the control of the DNS infrastructure.

How did I stumble upon this? Well, David and I went to school together at Downlands County Secondary School (when did it change it's name to “Community School”?) in Hassocks (where I grew up) and Haywards Heath Sixth Form College (what's with the “Central Sussex College” thing?) in the south of England - both of us pretty much geeks! In fact we sold games that we'd written for the ZX Spectrum games and shipped them out on little plastic bags amongst other geeky activities.

We lost touch after we both went to our respective Universities, but happily he stumbled upon my blog a couple of years ago and we reconnected. Every now and again he sends me another great idea. Most of these ideas are utterly fascinating, if very off the wall. And sometimes they just make a lot of sense, even if potentially impossible to implement due to infrastructure inertia.

David's 'The Independent Network - An Alternative to the Internet' is one such missive. If you have any interest in the current domain name morass, it's a must-read.

And apparently I'm not the only one who's been getting David's semi-regular essays.

In his latest column, PBS' Bob Cringely talks about David's idea and, quite frankly, agrees with him.

Hopefully David's website won't explode under the traffic sent his way…

David hadn't seen the article before I sent some congratulations his way, to which he jokingly responded (and I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him): “If I'd known it was going to go public I'd have spent more than 30 mins writing it! :-)”

I think it took him longer than that…

Five Things…

The Five Things meme has finally reached me - it must be really hitting the long tail of it's lifetime now!

So, you get to thank to Justin Uberti for tagging me as I unleash some trivia about my life…

Anyhow, the rules are that I tell you five things about me that you might not know and then tag five others to do the same.

With that out of the way, here we go…

  • My first coding experience was on a friend's KIM-1. Then a ZX-81 followed by a Spectrum, followed by etc…
  • At Sixth Form (High School to you Americans) I was instrumental in putting on a production of “HitchHikers Guide To The Galaxy”. I co-wrote the script in whilst supposidly in physics class with a friend of mine and then let him direct the adaptation while I did sound. We sold out all three nights and made a bunch of money for the school - we had people coming to see it from all over the country.
  • I wrote computer games at school and sold them. I wrote books of games with “code listings”. I was published in Crash.
  • In the early 90's I wrote an application for the official scorer's at TCCB cricket matches that replaced the traditional, centuries old, scorebooks. It was a TCL/TK app running on X-windows on BSDI Unix on 386 laptops that connected back to base so we could provide live updates to Teletext. That was over a SLIP connection. There was no PS2 mouse driver at the time so I wrote it. Think about it - 70 year old cricket geezers using X-windows on Unix in the early 90's. They loved it. Oh, and I also got to sit in the scorer's box at Lords during the 1993 Ashes series…
  • I love sailing. Especially sailing in far off distant lands. Unfortunately I've not got to do that much recently…

And with that I get to tag five other people. Lets go with:

Scoble At Google

Robert Scoble popped over to our office in Kirkland today for a video interview and a tour of the Google facilities. I followed around chatting with Buzz Bruggeman who came along for the ride, while Robert wandered, walked backwards and did the fun Scoble interview thing. He even interviewed the Chef!

It sure was nice catching up with him and it sounds like he's enjoying California and PodTech immensely.

His HD video camera was quite a feast for the eyes - Robert, what type is it?

He also gets the honour of causing the phone on my desk to ring for the first time, when he called from reception. I've had it over a week now and it never rings - 'tis all email… Dunno why I have the thing…

Oh and for historical interest, here's a fun video that Robert did at Channel 9. The interviewee? Me.

Catching Up With Breen

This evening I went out for a beer with Breen, a former flightsim developer and current Google developer. It was cool to catch up, and cool to find out that he still has the aviation bug - he now has his PPL, instrument rating and is working on his helicopter ticket!

Breen

Afterwards, Breen dropped me back at my hotel, but came in because a friend of his who was in town for a conference was also staying at the hotel and they were going to catch up.

When the elevator doors opened on my floor, there she was with three friends of hers, waiting for the the hotel staff to unlock the “Hi-Fi” room - kind of like a living room for guests to hang out in.

One of her friends looked strangely familiar.

Matt Mullenweg

“Steve, this is Matt Mullenweg”.

“Ahh, Mr WordPress!”, I replied, shaking his hand.

Anyhow, we all shared a bottle of wine and quite amusing conversation before I retired to my room.

Coincident meetings through unexpected connections are fun.

Though, as is becoming an all too regular occurrence, I was the oldest person in the room by at least five years…

We've Arrived In Oregon

We're now at the beach house we've rented in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. All I can say is that the Oregon coast really is all it's cracked up to be. The drive down 101 was spectacular.

The Ingrams arrived at within five minutes of us - we came from Seattle - 5.5 hours as predicted by the GPS; they came from Toronto, and endured a four hour airport delay, the poor guys.

Anyhow, as an added bonus, the house has net access! No wireless, but with two laptops and a spot of connection sharing, there soon will be. Right now I'm connected via Cingular's Edge network as the router is in the Ingrams' room and it's a tad late for them to get all geeky. Will sort that out tomorrow.

I've taken some video and stills already - I'll probably upload some at some point tomorrow.

And with that, good night all. The sound of the Pacific is putting me to sleep…

Mind you, back at home the dog is probably keeping our house-sitter friend Wesley up very late…

Off To Oregon

On Saturday, the family and I are heading off to the Oregon coast for a week of well deserved and long overdue R&R. We'll be vacationing with pals and recent Canadian emigrants CJ, Karen and their wonderful offspring.

To say I'm looking forward to it would be on understatement…

Today I packed the technology - MacBook Pro, Nikon D200 DSLR, Pentax S4, Canon ELURA2, 60GB USB powered external drive (photo backup), tripod, miriads of power adapters, usb cables, power cables, DVD backup media, rechargers, iPod, TomTom 910 GPS…

Tomorrow I think about clothes…

Flight Simulator X Demo

My former colleagues at Microsoft have released a demo version of FSX. All I can say is wow! You have to believe me when I say that this is no mean feat - actually producing the thing before the product goes final and shipping the demo of a two DVD game within the size of a CD (I have to say, it's mighty close at 634MB :-)

Well done, guys and gals.

Go and download it now!

And while you're at it, check out the very cool new flash site.

Pub Quiz Heaven

Those that know me will know that I'm a huge fan of Pub Quizzes. They are a big thing in the UK (or at least were when I lived there). For those of you that are not familiar, they a typically run at a bar where you form a team of four to six people with your friends. You make up an amusing name for your team and answer questions read by the quiz master. You write the answers on a provided sheet of paper and there are typically four or five rounds of ten questions. Each round is usually themed as something like “sport” or “general knowledge”.

In between rounds you exchange papers with another team and mark each others papers as the answers are read out.

Lots of fun, but sadly not very common in the US, apart from the Irish or English bars.

Now, an Irish bar recently opened in Kirkland, the Wilde Rover - a decent bar with a great atmosphere and great food. Handily it also started up a pub quiz night on Wednesday evenings.

Tonight I hooked up with Andy (The ZMan) and his running club friends for the quiz. We started out badly with a two out of ten and proceeded to do mediocre things. There was even a round themed on “fashion”, which, surprisingly, we didn't do too bad on.

Anyhow, when round three which was announced as “the classic video game round”, we were a little bit ecstatic to say the least.

We were writing down answers before the quiz master and even finished the question. I believe “Dragon's Lair” was written down before he'd finished saying “Which laserdisc game featured…”.

There was even a four point question if you could name all the ghosts in Pacman. Four points scored. Inky, Pink, Blinky and Clyde.

We only got two question wrong, the first being the number of enemies in the first wave of Space Invaders. We had 56, but the answer was 55.

But it was the second that was really interesting to me: “What was Sega's first game?”

I had a problem with this question as I knew that Sega started out shipping coin-op games to US Military stationed overseas. I thought the answer should be “pinball”, so I asked for the clarification “game or video-game”? The answer was video-game and we were stumped.

It turned out to be Periscope.

Anyhow, that round thrust us into the lead and we held on it.

We won!

The $60 almost paid the bar tab, and when delivering our winnings to us, the quiz master quipped “You smoked that game round - you guys didn't get out much as kids did you?”

To which Andy had the perfect response: “We spent so much time playing video games that we didn't get laid until we were 35!”

A fun evening.

July 4th Recap

With a nod to the danger of this becoming a photoblog, we had some fun at the beginning of the week. First of all we attended our friend Andrew's birthday bash at Agua Verde in Seattle.

I'd never been to this part of town before, and it was spectacular - right by the water and great food.

Down by the water

On July 4th, Julian and I nipped downtown for the annual Kirkland parade and then we all went along to our neighbour's house for an afternoon party. Their garden is wonderful.

Flags

Finally, we had our own “5th Annual Independence Day Celebration” - hosted by the brits. A few of the neighbours and associated kids came along - much finger painting and burger eating ensued, though a bit quieter than in previous years. By the early evening we were on our own, when friends Sam and Jessie turned up and watched the fireworks with us - thanks for coming!

Boom!

When the fireworks finally appeared I grabbed by tripod and attempted to take some pictures - totally guesswork on my part - I wish someone had posted a link to the New York Institute of Photography's article on shooting fireworks before the the 4th!

Kirkland Half Marathon

On Sunday, my guitar playing, soon to be emigrating to Toronto, buddy CJ, completed his first half marathon. To say we're all incredibly proud of him would be an understatement.

Even though he was fighting off a cold, he completed the torture-test in just under two hours.

My hat is off to you man, even though you looked half-dead at the finish line :-)

Done

More photos from the day are over on Flickr.

A Wonderful Round

This morning, CJ, Tim and I hit the links at Snoqualmie Falls for a wonderful round of Golf.

I hadn't played in almost a year and was feeling fairly rusty, but nothing was going to stop me from enjoying the morning.

Yesterday's horrendous rain had me worried, but I'd told CJ that I'd be there rain or shine and so it was to great relief that I woke up at 6.30 this morning to be greeted with glorious sunshine.

The drive to the course along 202 was great, and shortly after I pulled in, Tim arrived with his “caddy” - his nine year old son, Austin.

Then CJ arrived and we headed to the Pro shop to check in.

Everyone was in a great mood - I felt good about my crummy swing.

I had left all my woods at home other than the three, so that I wouldn't be tempted by my driver, aka “house-on-a-stick”, and my first tee shot - my first swing in almost a year - was a thing of beauty.

Two bogeys and a par over the first three holes - that just doesn't happen for me, but nonetheless I was hoping for a “career” record.

That record being 112. As a golfer, I'm an eternal optimist.

It was all actually going pretty well for me over the front nine which I finished for a 54, but when Tim and Austin left us at the turn my game collapsed a little, but I was at 100 going into the last hole.

At which point I completely lost the plot.

I walked off the eighteenth green with a 12 for that hole - I hadn't shot anything worse than a snowman for the entire round up until that point.

Ah well. So I tie my career record.

Not bad for the first time out this year, and one of my most enjoyable rounds of all time.

Which, of course, is really what it's all about.

Nineteenth Hole

Zoo Time!

Sunday brought another trip to one of my favourite places in Seattle Woodland Park Zoo. The Ingrams called us in the morning to see if we wanted to come along with them and the Wheeler family, and indeed we did.

This time though, I got to bring along the new camera.

Hippo

A fine time was had by all, and man was it hot!

There is something vicerally good about this zoo - you know that the animals are well taken care of; it's incredibly well laid out (even if it does feel like the Hampton Court Maze at times; and Julian always has a blast.

I get such a kick out of the awe displayed on his face when he sees a real giraffe and is astounded by it's size.

Giraffe

The quantity of poo emitted by certain animals equally astounds him.

“Daddy, Hippo need a diaper?”

Kev and Jan are blogging

Filed in the “will wonders never cease” category, I find that Kev and Jan are blogging!

Subscribed!

It seems like I've known Kevin for ever - we met the first day of University back in 1986. He was also my “Best Man” at my wedding.

Well, in a few short days, Kevin and his lovely wife Janine are leaving the not-so-sunny shores of the UK for new pastures in New Zealand. The funny thing is that they're moving to within a few miles of where Nabila and I went sailing three years ago.

It's a shame I can't make their leaving party, what with being a few thousand miles away, but I wish them luck anyhow.

Now I have a really good excuse to visit NZ again…

Trip to the kids' fantasy land

After a wonderful lunch at the British Pantry (where some guys on the table next to us were discussing podcasting…), the family met up with the Ingrams (sans Karen) for a trip to the KidsQuest Children's Museum.

Not really a museum, but more of a kids funhouse with tons of educational toys.

I also got to field test the new camera…

Peekaboo

If you're a friend/family contact of mine over on Flickr, then you get to see the rest, if not and you're a friend/family type then get an account on Flickr (it's free) and send me your name…

Some of the pictures came out a bit grainy as I had the noise reduction off and was testing some high-ISO settings. More experimentation needed…

Anyhow. Mucho fun.

CJ and Andy - Marathon Men

Well, 5K men at any rate…

This morning two of my pals, CJ and Andy, competed (and completed) a 5K run in downtown Kirkland. By all accounts they both ran pretty good times.

I had completely spaced on the fact that they were doing this, but as chance would have it the family and I were downtown at our favourite eatery, George's, having breakfast.

After breakfast we headed over to the marina and bumped into Andy. Unfortunately CJ had already left.

Anyhow, congratulations to both of them. You can read more about CJ's morning over on his wife Karen's blog.

Maybe I need to get in shape - everyone is getting far too healthy…

Thanksgiving

I like Thanksgiving, it's my favourite holiday even though I'm not an American.

Back in October 1997 when I arrived in the USA, I didn't really know anybody, and when Thanksgiving rolled around at the end of November and everyone was leaving on their cross-country trips to visit family, I was at a bit of a loss (actually, I had a ton of work to do and the prospect of being able to get it done without any distractions was quite appealing…)

But then, Jason White, an evangelist on the DirectX team invited me to his place on Capitol Hill in Seattle. It turns out he'd collected up all his British friends and others who had nowhere to go. I had a blast.

The next year, an American friend, Sarah, invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family.

The following year, and every year since, I have been invited to friends Dawn and Darwin's house. They too had been collecting the waifs and strays.

Back in 1999 this was very much a food, beer and football event - and a lot of fun. Over the years, lots have spouses and kids have been added to the event and it have really morphed from a bunch of friends to a real friends and family day. These guys really are my family over here.

On Thursday, the day was actually spent at CJ and Karen's house as Dawn was recovering from the birth, not a few days earlier, of their second child, Gregory. Welcome little dude!

Of course, these days it's all about the kids. They've taken over.

Some of the kids

Halloween Happenings

I like Halloween. It wasn't really an event in the UK when I was growing up, but as kids we had heard about the “Trick or Treat” action that all the lucky US kids had.

Fast forward a number of years to October 1997, and as a recently relocated Brit I was just about to experience my first US Halloween. Kids in the hallways of the offices; pumpkins everywhere; lots of fun. And last year I got to experience my first trick or treating with Julian. We had a blast.

This year started out around 6pm, with Julian's pals MacKenzie, Gabby and associated parents. We went off around the neighbourhood even though it was raining - much candy was collected. After a short while we headed back home and then had lots of little visitors to the house. Creatively dressed and very polite, the kids were fun. Most of the kids took just a little candy each - I said they could take extra, after which they might take just one more.

Nice kids.

About half an hour after the visitations had tailed off the older kids started to arrive. No costumes, open backpacks and attempting to take fistfuls of sweets.

“What are you dressed as?”, my wife asked innocently.

“I'm the lollipop sucking pimp”.

Very funny. Now piss off.

I think I only vocalized the first part.

Anyhow, after a couple of those visits, I just turned the lights off, moved the pumpkins inside and the visits stopped.

A few hours later and everyone except myself is in bed when I hear what sounds like someone taking potshots at the house, starting at one end, and working it's way down across the windows.

Some git is paint-balling the house.

I get a quick look at the truck they're shooting from before it disappears and call the cops. They stop by after a while and say “it's Halloween”, and they expect it'll continue around the neighbourhood. They'll keep an eye out.

It looks like they were aiming at a particular ghost decoration on the deck, but the hits weren't in a very tight pattern. I guess they were just very poor shots.

Ho hum.

Congratulations Mike and Ellen

Yesterday, Nabila and I had the distinct honour of attending Mike Schroeter's wedding to Ellen Webber.  Mike is the guy on the Flight Simulator team that builds our incredible core simulation engine.

Ellen and Mike

The wedding was pure class from start to finish.  From the wonderful ceremony at St. James Cathedral to the classy reception at the Women's University Club.  As expected, the bride was beautiful and Mike was Mike. 

The speeches were hilarious, especially the one by Ellen's dad,  but we had to leave straight after his Rindercella speech (you had to be there...) to rescue the baby sitter...

Congratulations, Mike and Ellen!

Back Home

I just returned home from our local bar where I met our good friend Sam and her fiance Charles and friend Will. Early this morning Charles and Will arrived back in the US safe and sound after a year's service in Iraq.

Welcome home.

I've never seen Sam happier.

Eighteen Holes of Glorious Golf

This morning at 7.30am, CJ came round and we headed off to Mount Si Golf Course to meet up with friends Andrew and Dave for four and a half hours on the links.

The weather was perfect with very little wind. It was cool for the front nine, with low lying mist over the fairways giving us some glorious views of the surrounding mountains. It warmed up considerably for the back nine, but the beer cart helped with that...

Of course, my golf game still sucks, but I take consolation from the fact that my driver behaved reasonably well, and my irons (especially my favourites, the four and six) were, for me, outstanding.

I really need to work on my putting and chipping, though I had some flop shots come off very well and I stayed out of the water and sand. In fact I only lost two balls, both on the same hole.

As for amusement value, CJ and I shared a cart for the round, and shortly after Dave described how his son had flipped a cart on a flat fairway, I proceeded to nearly roll ours after launching us down a steep dip. This triggered much hilarity.

Hopefully, we can get out on the links again soon.

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Trips to the Zoo and BBQ

This morning, at the crack of 9am, Julian and I left for Woodland Park Zoo to meet up with our friends CJ and Karen with kids MacKenzie and Sebastian, and Dawn and Darwin with kid Gabby. What a wonderful time! We were there from 9.30am until around 12.30pm. Julian really got a kick out of all the animals, but especially the brown bears.

Julian's favourite book is "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" and when he first saw one of the huge bears his eyes lit up. "Mine!".

Then, of course, the bear took an absolutely enormous, streaming, steaming, crap. It must have lasted around 30 seconds. "Poo Poo!"

We then took a walk around the corner to an enclosed area that looked out upon the pool area of the bear enclosure. The water came about three feet up the glass so you could see the fish in the pool. Then over came one of the bears.

"WOW!"

Into the pool came the bear, whereupon he literally tiptoed around, careful not to disturb the bottom of the pool, with his eyes in the water eyeing up the fish.

"Tag one!" Thought I, not thinking about the potential psychological trauma that such an event could have imposed upon the child.

In the end, the bear settled on some floating foliage and had salad instead.

Julian was just ecstatic. "Wow! Mine! More!"

After that we wondered around some more, had lunch with the Wheelers and then headed home. And then over to the Ingrams for BBQ.

Julian

What a day. Too hot, but ameliorated by the obvious joy that a boy had at the zoo.

Synchronicity

A while ago, I posted about my time at Magnetic Scrolls, a UK adventure games company that I worked for in the late 80's.

Well, a few weeks ago I received some email from Ken Gordon, one of the owners of the company, saying that he'd be in Seattle and would I like to meet up! Sure!

So yesterday he came round to my house and we chatted for ages. I hadn't seen him in probably 15 years. It was like it had only been a few weeks. So we caught up, went for a tour of the Microsoft campus and then he was off back to Seattle to meet his wife.

Then today I get some email from Rob Steggles, one of the writers at the company who found me because I name-checked him on my blog a while ago.

Talk about synchronicity.

London Bombings

Not much I can add to the vast coverage going on right now. The BBC appear to have the best coverage. It really hits home when you see things like this. I spent a number of years with Russell Square as the main tube station I used when I was a student.

I just got off the phone with my friend (and best man at my wedding), Kev Delonge. He works in the city and told me the nothing is moving - the bars are doing brisk business... My sister-in-law is sat on a park bench wondering how to get home...

For coverage from the blogosphere, you can follow technorati, and pictures are starting to appear on flickr.

Follow Your Dream

A good friend of mine and Microsoft guy is leaving the collective to follow his dream. That of becoming a game developer. The ZMan currently works as an enterprise software developer but has recently been working on increasing his skill set in the games development space - as evidenced by his Managed DirectX website and by writing articles for MSDN.

Now he's leaving the company to take a year off and develop his skills.

That takes some gonads.

My parents tell a tale of the child who said he would be a millionaire by the time he was 18 if they bought him a computer so he could write video games. Well I got the computer but the million never happened.

...

Now 20 years later its time to try again. My last day of full time employment as an enterprise application developer with a salary, health and retirement benefits will be July 8th. Shortly afterwards my new job as self employed game developer, living off the savings and paying for everything myself will begin and you can read all about it here.

You can follow his story as it unfolds over on his new blog: The ZMan's Diary.

Passing

It's been three years now since our friend Tom left us. As I sit here with my rum and coke, I raise my glass to you. Well met.

Time may heal the loss, but I would have loved you to have met my son.

Baby Gifts

Yesterday a friend and co-worker of mine Rod Fergusson stopped by with a gift for Nabila of some receiving blankets and "Preggie Pops". Great quality and we're very grateful. Julian instantly wanted one of the receiving blankets, which, of course, is now his ;-) The other blankets will wait for the new arrival...

The gifts were from Rod's wife Sandra's company Coastal Baby. Go check them out.

March Madness Part Deux

So the NCAA didn't deliver me any birthday presents yesterday - quite the opposite in fact. I went one for four last night with only Illinois winning. I had Texas Tech, Washington and even Oklahoma State going through the win the whole thing.

I am screwed.

March Madness

Being a Brit, I know nothing at all about Basketball. Hence every March I join the rest of the country in entering the March Madness Fantasy College Basketball competition. I have just one goal: Beat as many of my American friends as possible.

This is the fourth year I've entered and I've normally come middle of the pack, and once I came fourth. This year I started up at the bottom, reached sixth at one point today and settled at eighth after this afternoon's games.

I love it! It's such a cool distraction, and as far as I can tell everyone enters a pool or two with friends and co-workers.

Previously my strategy to picking the picks has been: If I haven't heard of either team, or I've heard of both of them, go with the best seed, otherwise pick the team I've heard of.

This works quite well and gets me a few underdog winners which gets good points (we score on seed x 2^(round-1)). Unfortunately, I've now been around long enough that I've heard of most the teams, so my strategy this year is: If the seed differential is three or less, go with the underdog, otherwise pick the best team.

Seems to be working OK so far!

Bushrod Speaks…

CJ, lead vocalist and stylin' lead guitar player of the band has started a blog - cool. He mentioned at practice this evening that he'd finally started giving the blog thing a go, but I forgot to ask for the url. Handily, when I got home technorati was happy to inform me via a watchlist rss feed that a new link to my site has appeared from someone's blog...

The Bushrod Chronicles. Subscribed.

Scoble's Fourtieth

Nabila and I went along to Robert Scoble's 40th birthday party this evening and met a bunch of cool, interesting people - some of whom I have read and now get to put faces to the words.

Photos are up on my moblog at flickr, or you could just go straight to the Scoble tag...

Handily, this evening was "Mum and Dad's Night Out" (or something) at Julian's Day Care, so he got to spend Saturday evening sleeping at school. He did not want to get back into the car when we picked him up though...

A Great Tech/Net/Telecom Guy…

A great net/telco strategy guy I know, Steve Kennedy, is potentially looking for a new position. Please ping him for information...

Steve and I go way back, though we've been out of touch for the past few years. Smart guy.

The Kids Go See The Sonics

A couple of weeks ago, we went to see the Sonics play at Key Arena, courtesy of Dawn who scored a suite for us. Here's a group shot.

Kids at the Sonics

Steve Kennedy

Another old friend blogging - Steve Kennedy from the UK. Welcome Steve and keep going with it. Plus, I wouldn't say I moved to the Dark Side ;-)

Halloween

Julian In My Office

Gotta love Halloween. To be honest, this is the first time I've really participated (being an import from the UK, I've never 'trick or treat'ed before), but with Julian here now it was fun!

Friday was 'trick or treat'ing round the offices here at Microsoft, then a Halloween party on Saturday at Deb's (where the band played, yeah!)

On Sunday all the kids (and parents) came round to our place and we did the business round our neighbourhood.

A fine tradition!

Pictures from the three days are over in the gallery.

A Gig To Remember

I just got back from the Van Halen concert at Key Arena in Seattle.

Wow. Just wow.

Dawn scored us (CJ, Darwin, Tim, Andy and I) suite tickets - the suite was directly opposite the stage and had a great view. I'd never seen Van Halen before, but have been a huge fan since my late teens. I've seen DLR a couple of times, but boy am I glad I got to see them with Sammy Hagar. The Red Rocker just, well, rocks!

The entire show was very impressive - the multimedia screen above the stage was put to great use - whoever was directing did a great job - the screen looked like a live MTV (circa late '80s) video.

There are few sights that will stick in my mind forever - watching my beautiful wife walk down the aisle, seeing my son for the first time and watching his first steps. And seeing Eddie Van Halen completely rock out...

My ears are ringing...

Golf

Golf is good, golf is fun. On Monday, my buddy Steve and I took the day off and went to play golf at Twin Rivers in Fall City. I turned up at around 8.30am and hung out before our 9.06am tee time waiting for Steve.

Twin Rivers is my kind of golf club. It's not pretentious, the course flows naturally around a lot of old trees, and the clubhouse is basically a shack with a greasy spoon inside selling burgers. Down to earth, and welcoming.

Anyhow, Steve and I tee off and after finishing the first hole, we can't figure out where the next tee box is. We look at the map on the scorecard to no avail and finally realize that we missed the big red "First Tee This Way" sign and had started on number ten by mistake. Oops.

Anyhow, we carry on and sometime later we reach a nice par four, and after two shots we are both about 25 feet from the hole, just off the green. I reach for my eight iron and putt/chip it straight into the hole. Then Steve reaches for his pitching wedge and does exactly the same! We both got birdies, both from chipping in off the green!

Needless to say, my normal game quickly returned...

On hole number one (our number ten) we were joined by a really nice 87 year old guy. My word, did his swing look awful, but it just worked. 200 yards, straight down the middle, every time. He had us beat easy. Whenever I lost a ball (which was quite often), he would reach into his bag and give me another one saying, with a smirk, "I've got hundreds of these at home and I'll never live to use them all". I bet that's because he never loses any...

Studio Time…

Finally, Spank (the band I'm a guitar player for) goes into the studio!

Recording

Yesterday we laid down all the basic tracks live, and today did a few overdubs, all the solos and laid down the vocals. And wow, does it sound great! Even the raw, roughest of mixes sounds incredible - Paul (owner of the studio) was a dream to work with - and is a god with ProTools. Everyone in the band performed their best - we did very minimal overdubs.

We came out of it with a rough mix, and will be hopefully performing a full mix later this week. Then comes naming the album, art concepts, duplication, etc...

Music is such a joy. My day job is a very creative one, which I enjoy very much, but to produce something completely separate, that is such a labour of love, with a few good friends... well... wow.

Anyhow, once we get the thing mixed and named, it'll be here for your aural pleasure.

Camping Labor Day Weekend

Well, we didn't, but many of our friends are camping at Kanaskat-Palmer State Park this weekend. We all (including Maddy) went over for the day. Great site, right on the Green River.

On another note, we're finally getting Julian sleeping in his crib. Its a bit of an effort, but he finally seems to be getting used to it. A little bit...

Building, Flying, Eating

Another busy day at Casa D'Lacey. Up early and at 10am Dave and I joined a few other neighbours to pour the foundations for the new neighbourhood notice booth at Everest Park. We got back around 11.30am, which was cool because it's Seafair this weekend and we got to watch the Blue Angels both on TV and out our front window!

Then it was off to Bellevue Square to find a car seat that'll work in the M3. Not sure yet, but I think this is the one. This evening CJ, Dawn, Darwin and Gabriella came around and we had a barbeque. I made my first attempt at Mojitos, which weren't half bad.

Next week is busy. Gotta finish off the new multimon stuff.

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.