Portland Nerd Dinner recap

Wow! There were over 25 people at tonight’s Portland Nerd Dinner – and the MSDN team wasn’t the main event. Word is getting out that the in place to see and be seen is with the PND crowd.

After everyone ate, Chris Sells got up and started giving away some “new” clothes. Well – “new” as in “never been worn” – but not “new” as in “made within the past 5 years.” :o) He had a Windows 98 Beta Tester polo shirt (a collector’s item for sure). (But nobody wanted it… I wonder why?) A couple of “COM is Love” t-shirts (I scored one of those puppies). A couple of “DevelopMentor original” t-shirts from 1932. A few XML DevCon (AKA “SellsCon”) t-shirts (those were from last year). A nice fleece pull-over. And the big winner of the night was Stuart who shamelessly out-nerded Rich for the Columbia Sportswear C++ .NET waterproof jacket — it was really sharp and it was new.

Oh, and a number of people — the first 10 or so who arrived — walked home with a brand new copy of “Writing Secure Code, Second Edition,” by Michael Howard.

On the food side, I stuck with a “safe” sandwich from Subway. Rory went with his usual Indian cuisine — and paid the price. Mmmm. Good crummy mall food court food. Nothing like it in the world. :o)

Learning a little philosophy

I’m reading the book “Object Thinking” by David West. So far he’s led me through a philosophical history lesson, talking about (and quoting) Plato, Ed Yourdon, Christopher Anderson, Dijkstra, Greeks, Romans, structured programming, etc. This definitely isn’t a “fill the book with program listings” type of book. It’s making me think. Here’s one of the lessons so far:

“If you think about design using an implementation language – as programmers and especially extreme programmers are wont to do – your designing will be enhanced or severely restricted by that language.”

David challenges people to look at creating software not as a science with formal, ridged processes, but as an art with lots of creativity. He proposes that extreme programming and agile development techniques aren’t only for small teams and non-critical software. He says that critics tend to put these concepts into a corner because it’s harder to think creatively. That it’s harder to teach someone to be an artist than it is to follow rote process and procedures. As a result the formal computer science programs self-validate themselves in their formal thinking and trivialize non-conforming thinkers.

Hm. More on this later…

Had to get a new one

I had to get a new camera today. My old one gave up the ghost. It was a good camera, but recently it had started scrambling the image as it wrote it to the card. I lost a few TechEd pictures because of that, lost most of the pictures I took at the Portland nerd Laser Tag a couple of weeks ago, and when my son took it to school for last-day pictures, most of those were scrambled as well. It might have been the CF card that went bad, but I didn’t want to pay a bunch of money on a new card only to find out the camera itself wasn’t working properly. (Plus I just wanted a new camera. (There, I said it.))

I didn’t go with the ultra-cool Casio like Paul has. It’s a nice little camera and is very easy to carry around, but I needed something a bit less expensive. I ended up buying a Kodak CX7330. It will take up to 3 frames per second, it has a lens cover that automatically opens and closes when the camera is turned on / off, (I really like that!), and it’s smaller and lighter than my old camera. Plus it uses an SD card, and I already had a 256MB one of those available.

Goodbye Dad

I can’t believe I didn’t call you on Father’s Day. It was just another day, and there would be plenty more.

Having kids has really helped me understand what you must have thought and felt while I was growing up. And how challenging it is to be a parent. John and I turned out OK.

And now you’re gone and I can’t tell you ever again Goodbye or that I love you.

Rest well.

This entry has 33% fewer carbs

Everywhere I turn I see commercials and advertisements for “Atkins Friendly” or “Fewer Carbs” or “Carb Friendly”.

Now they have come out with OneADay “CarbSmart” vitamins! Vitamins? Good God! When will this carb infatuation end?!?!

25,000 frozen feet

Flying back from Boise this morning. The weather across the Northwest has taken a turn for the warmer. Highs in the mid-to-upper 80s through the weekend. But right now my feet are about to turn into ice cubes.

Flying out to Boise yesterday morning I browsed through the Horizon Air in-flight magazine. It had an editorial about how they’re trying to keep the interior of their planes cool while on the ground. The Q200s — like the one I’m on now — don’t have equipment necessary to condition the air while the plane is grounded. I can attest to that based on Wednesday afternoon’s flight back from Seattle to Portland. Hot as an oven inside while we were waiting for takeoff.

To combat this, a new Horizon Air policy must have been issued yesterday requiring all Q200s to store up cold air while they can, so it will last through the heat of the day.

So the cabin temperature this morning is set to “freezer” as we fly through 25,000 feet. I hope everyone who flies this afternoon appreciates the cooler air and thinks about the sacrifice paid by everyone this morning.

Note: Aside from the frozen feet this morning, I love Horizon Air. I’m kinda tall (6′ 2″) and I really appreciate the extra inches of leg space they have on all their planes. (I used to fly on United’s shuttle planes — they’re designed for metro-sized people like Paul and Rory.) Horizon also serves Starbucks coffee on morning flights and complementary beer and wine on their afternoon / evening flights. Mm.

5 years – where did the time go?

It was 5 years ago today that I first joined the ranks of Microsoft. I had just moved from North Carolina to Seattle.  (Well, I had flown out and was living in temporary housing — Pam and the kids were still in NC, waiting to move out until after the house sold.) Pam and I had spent all our lives in the Southeast. We’d never lived west of the Mississippi River before, so this was our Big Adventure.

I started out as a consultant in Microsoft Consulting Services, in the PacWest District, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. The first project I worked on was an e-Commerce site that used Site Server Commerce Edition under the hood. I’d done quiet a bit of work in SSCE in my previous job. For the e-Commerce site I had to come up with the capacity plan and migration strategy for the personalization and membership LDAP servers. Fun stuff, and I was working with some very sharp folks.

I won’t bore you with the history of my life at Microsoft, so let’s fast forward to today… I now live in Vancouver, Washington, (just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon) and I’m now a Developer Evangelist.  It’s the best job in the world. There’s not as much heads down project work as there was as a consultant (which I really enjoyed), but I do have to stay technical. Plus I get to spend a lot of my time working with some very sharp people in the developer community in the Northwest. It’s all good.

Here’s to 5 more years with a great company.

Is it really so hard to make a key?

After the key episode (I like to call it “nightmare”) of last week I made an appointment to get a spare car key this morning. Remember, the VW shop had called while I was in San Diego to say they had the correct blank this time and they would be able to cut and program the key. Finally. I’ll be able to relax again.

I took the car in a few minutes before my appointment. The person in the service department said it would just be a little while. (I’d heard this before. I brought my laptop with me so I could look over some Visual Studio Tools for Office stuff while waiting… you know, work stuff.)

I found a seat near the door in the waiting area and started working. A half hour passed and no news. 45 minutes, and nothing. Each time the door opened I started to look up expectantly, only to see: an ancient man with a beard; a pregnant woman; a little kid who made a mad dash for the bathroom (I think he made it); a middle-aged man who looked pregnant. But nobody for me from the service department.

An hour. An hour and ten minutes.

I was finding it difficult to concentrate. What’s taking so long?

Finally a service guy comes in. He looked nervous. “Is there a Mr. Blizzard here?” Uh oh. He asked me to come into an office. Crap.

They couldn’t program the key to the car. Again. Again. Again. Denied. Rejected. Just when it looks like the Pistons are going to go up 2-0, Koby sinks a 3-pointer to take it into overtime where the Lakers spank Detroit and tie the series 1 all. The VW guy couldn’t get the key to work.

I have in my possession the ONE KEY in the WHOLE WORLD that will start my car. Shit. I bet I could park my car on the street near Rory’s place overnight and someone would be able to crank the thing and drive it away. These VW service folks are whacked.

To get even I told the service guy he should store his connection strings in plain text in the web.config file – and to use SA with no password. Ha. Told him! (He just looked at me with dull eyes and a blank expression.)

After a few beats he said he will call VW of America and see what’s going on. Yeah, I’m gonna hold my breath. In the meantime, whenever the ONE KEY in the WHOLE WORLD is not in the car ignition I’m going to keep it safety pinned to my underwear. (I don’t know what I’m going to do with it while I take a shower — well, I won’t say, anyway.)  :o)

Portland Nerd Dinner – June 29

Wow. Two Portland Nerd Dinners last month (OK, one was in San Diego, but there were a number of folks from Portland there – so it counts) left me pretty full. The one the MSDN Folks crashed was pretty exciting since we had so many people there.

But, it’s a whole new month and a nerd’s gotta eat sometime.

So let’s do it again!

What: Portland Nerd Dinner
When: Tuesday, June 29, starting around 6:30 PM
Where: Washington Square Mall Food Court
Why: Because not every month has 5 Tuesdays

Be there and be square.

No keys

I was ready to head out this morning at 6:45AM to take Alix to school then drive on into the office. I grabbed my computer bag and started for the door then realized I didn’t have my keys. I looked in the usual places. Nope. I looked in the unusual places. Nope. Not there either. Hm.

I’ve turned the house upside down and I still haven’t been able to find them. I even looked in my car’s ignition switch. Last time I remember having them was when I took Owen back to the airport after our customer meeting. (Owen, you didn’t somehow manage to grab them did you? Nah. If that were the case then I’d be stuck at the airport.)

It feels as though I’ve been punched in the stomach. My head hurts. I’m physically drained.

And the biggest problem is that I only have (had?) one car key. When I bought my used VW last month they only had one key for me. I ordered a spare, but both times I went in to get it they had a mix up. I got a call from the dealership last week while I was at TechEd saying they had a new blank ready to cut – they just needed me to bring the key in again for them to do so. I was going to do that the first of next week.

So here I sit without any keys; with a blank, uncut spare for my car at the dealership, which is not going to do me a rats ass of good.

And I feel like screaming.

[Update: Heh. I feel like such a moron. Heh. 12 hours after they disappeared, my daughter found my keys. They were, uh, well… they were in my laptop bag the whole time. Argh! I must have placed them in that secret pocket that I never use. I searched that bag 3 times and my wife searched it twice. They’re back! Hurray! (And I am a moron.)]