Thursday, January 31, 2008

Loving tapas in London

One of my favorite restaurants in London is a chain called La Tasca. They have a few in the US as well, but they're all on the east coast, which doesn't help me. La Tasca is a spanish tapas bar and the food is truly outstanding. It's also quite reasonably priced (as long as you don't take into account the weakness of the US dollar). I tend to go to the one in Covent Garden which is a short walk from the hotel I stay at in Trafalgar Square. The Cordero en salsa is my favorite item. I normally am not a fan of lamb, but they do it in meatballs with a tomato/veg gravy-like sauce and it's to die for. I have literally dreamt of eating that dish.

An interesting side note is that in England they pronounce "tapas" differently than how I learned it. I say it like "tah-pahs", but they say it "ta-pahs" where the first "a" is said like the word hat. I've actually caught myself saying it that way a few times and without the British accent I just sound like an idiot. That brings up another point about the word "cheers". I don't mean when you say it while toasting a drink, I mean the British use of the word. I was completely baffled by how to use it initially, but having been to England enough times I believe I understand the context and correct usage now. However, after hearing an American say it an excessive number of times at a bar in Boulder, I have come to realize that without the British accent, that's another word that just doesn't work for us.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Are they curing the meat while I wait?

Working in east Boulder severely limits the number of places to grab some lunch. One of those places is Snarfs. Now Snarfs makes a darn good sandwich, and if they didn't then I wouldn't have an issue. My problem is that it can take forever to get a sandwich made. I have gone there enough times that I have a rough schedule for how long you can expect to wait.

11:00-11:15------ 5-10 minutes

11:16-11:29------ 10-15 minutes

11:30-12:59------ 25-30 minutes

1:00-1:15-------- 10-15 minutes

1:16 and later---- Don't know as I can't make it that long without eating lunch

I made the big mistake of going there at "lunchtime" the first few times and watched them make tens of sandwiches for big carry-out and delivery orders to local businesses. Now I make sure to head there before 11:30, and if I miss it due to a meeting or just plain being too busy to notice the time, then it's off to fight the crowds at Whole Foods for a sushi.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Like a kid before Christmas

I am so giddy with excitement waiting for my new laptop I almost can't stand it. The PO went in today and it might arrive as early as friday. Our IT director is going to send me the tracking code when he gets it. What's even more impressive is that he got Dell to knock another $500 off the web advertised price. Apparently dangling the need to purchase 25 new machines gets them to also throw in LoJack and gold tech support as well. Gotta love negotiation.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thank you Heathrow!

I travel quite a bit for my job, and a decent amount of that travel is to Europe, specifically London. I always love going to London, but dreaded dealing with Heathrow while leaving. However, I departed London yesterday from Heathrow and was very pleasantly surprised. First off, they finally completed the construction on Terminal 3 (where United is). It's now spacious and looks very nice.

Now it got WAY better once I went inside to check in. Normally there's a security person who looks at your passport, asks you the standard questions about if you kept your bag with you at all times and then puts a little sticker on the back of your passport. Surprisingly, that person is gone now. So I walked right up to the check in person. She said, "One bag to check?". I responded like I have every time over the last couple of years with, "Am I still not allowed to take a bag on the plane?". Amazingly, she said, "Oh, they changed it and you can take a bag and a small personal item on the plane." WOW! This is huge, as I never check a bag because half the time they lose it and the rest of the time I have to stand around forever waiting for it to come down the bag carousel. That really sucks when you have a layover in Chicago or Washington, as they typically give you barely enough time to make your connecting flight, and arrivals from London are almost always late.

So now I'm having a great Heathrow experience, so I head off to security. Security at Heathrow can be really bad, but I got through in 10 minutes. Oh, and they changed policy there too such that you no longer have to take your laptop out and put it in a separate bin. You still have to do the liquids thing like here in the U.S., but you don't take your shoes off either. (Though they get you later making you put your shoes through an xray).

All in all, I used to hate traveling through Heathrow. Now, it's actually turned into a very decent experience (for an airport that is), so THANK YOU HEATHROW!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lenovo woes

Two years ago our then head of IT decided to swtich our company over to "IBM" hardware from Dell. At the time I went into it with optimism, having never had an IBM laptop before. Myself and my team were the first to get new machines, getting T60p laptops. That's when I discovered that they were no longer made by IBM, but by a company I hadn't heard of before called Lenovo. My new laptop arrived and the specs had it at the top of what was available at the time. Here's where the sequence of issues began. My laptop kept blue-screening at random times, wouldn't hibernate correctly, as well as a long list of other issues. Once I realized that Lenovo had preloaded the machine with tons of software completely redundant to what windows could do, I uninstalled almost all of it. My favorite is the power center, which interferes with the Windows power settings making it so that neither worked right. Well, the issues never went away, so our IT concluded that I had a lemon machine and gave me a replacement.

The replacement only had 1GB of RAM in it, so I had them order me another Gig. However, after experience random bluescreens after putting it in, I played musical RAM seats with the cards and learned that the second RAM seat in the laptop was faulty. So I live with 1GB of RAM, it could be worse. Meanwhile, I had gone through 3, yes 3 docking stations. Unlike Dell, they put a built-in power supply into the station itself instead of just giving you another power adapter with a brick. Well, it was the power supply that went out twice. Since all that, the headphone jack has partially failed leaving me with sound only for the right channel (love that when on long plane flights). The best was when the laptop overheated this last thursday when running a CPU intensive performance test. It bluescreened and tried to restart. However, it kept freezing when the windows logo showed up in the dim state and never proceeded from there. I undocked it and almost burned my hand on the bottom of the case. That's also when I realized that the geniuses at Lenovo designed the docking station in such a way that while docked the fan intake was partially blocked (definitely didn't help when trying to stay cool). So after letting it cool down for a while, it finally booted again and "seems" ok. I'm worried that something got warped or fried from the overheat, and our current (and very useful) head of IT said that he thinks total machine failure is imminent. (side note that he also told me they are seeing a 10% failure rate per month on Lenovo hardware, and for a company with 100 employees, that's 10 people a month with failed machines)

The good news is that the overheat prompted the need for a new laptop, and my squeaky wheel (ok, whining) about Lenovo over the past 2 years finally paid off. They're ordering me a new Dell D830 laptop this next week and it should be ready for me when I get back from Europe. I'm almost giddy with the thought of having a laptop that actually works again.

Lesson to learn from this? Never buy a Lenovo if you can do ANYTHING else.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Afternoon fun at the outdoor skating rink

We spent another afternoon at the outdoor skating rink in downtown Louisville today. It's a tiny "rink", has the most abused ice I've ever skated on and plays some of the cheesiest 80's music you can imagine, but is a lot of fun. The kids get to play with little shovels, sleds and large plastic candycanes. My daughter took skating lessons last fall, so she can already zoom around the ice without us hovering over her. My son is just learning now, but after only a few times he can already move around on his own for the most part (which is a huge step from basically holding him up the whole time while my back screamed out in pain).

I highly recommend heading down with the family for some fun (although skating has become much more expensive since I was a kid). One of the really nice things about the location is that you are right next door to the Old Louisville Inn, where we stopped today for a snack after skating, or just a block away from the new Waterloo Icehouse which is very kid friendly and has some great menu items.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another big acquisition

Well, big news today as Oracle announces the acquisition of BEA. It seems like in a few years there will be 4 software companies: Oracle, Google, IBM and Microsoft. Everyone else will be gobbled up by one of these behemoths. It seems like Microsoft has been outpaced by the others in the acquisition game lately, but maybe I'm just not hearing about as many from them. For me personally, the Oracle/BEA thing will change my competitive landscape, since I tend to bump into BEA products from time to time. I'm hoping that the Oracle name will create pause for customers though, as I saw happen when they acquired Tangosol. I spoke with a couple of our customers that were considering Tangosol but then abandonded it when it became Oracle. Then there were others that would buy just about anything with the Oracle name attached to it. So upon further reflection, I'll venture out on a limb and say that the Oracle name seems to polarize people: you either love them or you hate them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Useful" phrases in German

One of the best purchases I've made is to get XM Radio. I have one of the receivers in my car, and I listen to it exclusively for the most part. In fact, I typically only listen to The System as I favor high energy trance/techno type music. A little while ago they picked up a new show from the guys at Store N Forward. This is a show done by two guys out of Germany. When it first started, I wasn't a fan, as they talked for more time than they played music. However, someone must have clued them in to this issue, as they now have an appropriate talk-to-music ratio. I will say though, that the one bit they do that I really enjoy is "Learning German". You can see some of their past phrases on their blog.

My favorite so far was something like "Chuck Norris doesn't eat honey, he chews bees." Clearly, an undoubtably useful phrase to know. Too bad it isn't listed in their blog archive since I'm going to Munich next week to give talks at the OOP conference.

Wii Coolness

So when I first read about the Wii when it was in pre-production, my first thought was that it was going to be extremely lame. Clearly this would be a gaming novice platform (you know, the people who jerk their controller into the air while making their avatar jump). However, when my kids wanted to play video games, and I found that there was no appropriate content for small children on the xbox 360, I decided to get one "for them".

I will happily say that I was very wrong about the Wii. It's actually a ton of fun. My favorite games are Big Brain Academy and Carnival. Be warned though, as the husband of one of my employees apparently injured his rotator cuff muscles by playing pigskin pass (in Carnival) for 4 hours straight. Seriously, when using your game console becomes more injury prone than doing real sports, something has to change. I guess this proves the old adage that you can have too much of a good thing.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Squirrels of Nimh

So for my first blog, I thought I would astound everyone with the fact that I have super intelligent squirrels in my backyard. Just like in the movie The Secret of Nimh, I think they've moved on to squirrels. Let me explain from the beginning...

I have never been motivated to put up outside Christmas lights. You see, I figure the cost, time and hassle just wasn't worth it to have to take them down again in a few weeks (or leave them up all year like some of my neighbors). However, my 6 year old daughter this last year finally decided that we needed to have lights like "all the other houses Daddy!". Luckily for me though, I came home one day and they were already done (thanks Becca!). One evening I get home from work, I pull the car in the garage and on the way into the house I plug in the string of lights. Now at the time I thought it strange that I didn't see a glow near the garage door seam since I always did before. I didn't care enough though to investigate at the time. The next morning I unplugged the lights, got into my car and went to work, oblivious as to what the squirrels had already done.

It was later that day that Becca tells me that the squirrels destroyed the string of lights. I was thinking that they pulled something down, or maybe chewed through it. To my astonishment, when I returned home I found many short pieces of green wire and no bulbs at all. The squirrels had chewed the wire off the bulbs so they could take them away to their secret lair to light it (just like in the movie, although without the wire part I have no idea what nefarious plans they have with the bulbs).

Squirrels 1
Scott 0