This was bound to happen. . .

I love SunChips. They taste great. They’re not loaded down with nearly as many calories as regular potato chips. And I like the sun.

But a couple of months ago, while I was on a bare necessities shopping run (beer, milk, bread, SunChips, PB&J) I was nearly deafened as I grabbed the bag of SunChips. I dropped the bag like I’d been shocked. What the heck?

Turns out it was one of their new “100% compostable” bags. Now, I’m all for the environment, but this bag was made out of material that, when touched, or even looked at with a steady gaze, would make a sound like 1000 snare drums that were hooked up to a ginormous amplifier turned up to 11.

Giving in to my SunChips craving, I tossed the bag into my shopping card and dashed to the register.

At home I found out just how loud the bag really was. As I unloaded the groceries, our dogs began to howl. My neighbor’s dogs (about 100 yards away) started to howl. Our horses spooked and stampeded to the far end of the property. That night, while I was grabbing a late night snack, the bag woke up Pam.

I haven’t bought any more SunChips since then. It’s been a sad time. But, I just saw that the makers of SunChips have had a change of heart after a groundswell of complaints about the bags: they’re going to package them in both the new loud bags, and the original quiet bags.

I can go back to eating my chips in peace! Yay!

Storms and strawberries

Right now we’re somewhere over Virginia / North Carolina and we just skirted around a couple of spectacular thunderstorms tonight. Lightning streaked across the sky, filling my window. It was as if someone had electrified large sticks of fluffy cotton candy. We were above and to the side of the storms; the stars visible and shining up above us. Inspirational.

Switching subjects completely…

I ate lunch at a mall in King of Prussia, PA (I love the names of places up north), and bought an umbrella at an Eddie Bauer store before leaving. The purchase paid off. It rained the whole time I was inside buildings, but whenever I needed to go out, the rain stopped. Psych! Karma. If I hadn’t bought the umbrella the skies would have been dry while I was inside, and opened up wide anytime I wanted to go out. I needed a new umbrella anyway, especially one that has auto open and close.

What’d I eat? I tried a Cuban sandwich at the Cheesecake Factory. Pretty good, especially considering I wasn’t in Tampa. I only ate half, though, saving room for some strawberry shortcake afterwards. Ooooohhh. Now that’s what I’m talkin about. It was massive and mouth wateringly good, and if I’d tried to eat it all I would have hurt myself. The berries tasted fresh and were piled high; the ice cream, homemade. Instead of sponge cake, the ice cream was sandwiched between a homemade English muffin-like cake/biscuit. All this, topped with a huge swirl of whipped cream. I could have made an entire meal out of it. Maybe next time I will.

Call me sated.

Monday morning

Slept in an extra half hour – it was raining and the sky was gray. The air had cooled off into the 60s overnight and Pam opened the sliding glass door onto the lanai.

For breakfast, a couple of small cinnamon raisin bagels topped with peanut butter, a cup of Kona Blend coffee.

I’m ready to take on the week.

Odd couple

On Wednesday evening I walked down to the Seattle waterfront, in search of some non-finger food. Unfortunately most (all?) of the shops and restaurants in Pike Place Market had already closed for the day.

I eventually found a Tully’s coffee shop that was still open. Bought a turkey & cranberry sandwich on wheat, and a Diet Coke. The sandwich was a fabulous change from the finger food I’ve been eating at each of the evening events all week long.

I had a nice hike back up the hill to my hotel, and afterwards was immediately in need of a sugar fix. Popped into the gift shop and found a my favorite: a PayDay bar. Gigantic, though. 470 calories for the entire bar.

OK. I’ll only eat half now… half tomorrow.

Yeah, right.

After slowly savoring the first half I just couldn’t stop. At least I quenched my thirst with the rest of my Diet Coke.

coke and payday

Halfway there

Pam and I spent a very busy week in Florida last week, me on business and house hunting, Pam on a pure house hunting frenzy.

Over the past couple of weeks we had been looking on the internet for homes near my office in Tampa, in school districts that have high schools that teach American Sign Language as a foreign language, not too expensive, not too old, etc.

We thought we had quite a few that would meet our criteria, and were hoping to have a number on which we would feel comfortable making an offer.

We caught the red eye last Friday night and arrived in Tampa around 10:00 Saturday morning (Eastern Time). We each only caught a couple hour’s sleep on the flights. Ugh. But, we were ready and raring to go! We called our real estate agent, grabbed some lunch, then headed off to view some homes.

AND WE WERE AMAZED AT THE PRICES AND WHAT THAT WOULD REALLY BUY.

On the internet you can’t see the surrounding neighborhood, or smell the interior of the home, or see the details of the house itself. Let’s say things weren’t too rosy. Ugh. Mmmm. Ick.

We spent a few hours looking in neighborhoods that were out of our price range – the houses themselves weren’t, but when you add on the “community fees” that were over $400 per month… Forget it!

Interlude

Saturday evening we headed over to my bud Joe’s Healy‘s place in St. Pete for a cookout. He lives on a canal with access to Tampa Bay. It’s a very cool home in a sweet location. What a blast! Joe had grilled up some fish that he had caught recently, and some lamb. His parents were there, his wife’s parents were there, some neighbors dropped in and out. Jimmy Buffett was playing on the stereo. Ah, Florida living at its best!!!

I spent most of the evening chatting with folks and daydreaming on the dock – thinking about warm winter days, hot summer days, warm summer evenings. I didn’t realize how much I missed living in Florida!

Joe and his wife were excellent hosts, and Pam felt right at home. We stayed for about 3 hours then had to head back to the hotel – we were totally wiped out from the travel and time zone changes.

Back at it

I had meetings for work on Monday and Tuesday. Pam spent the days with the realtor, weeding through the homes. Nothing caught her eye.

We expanded (relaxed) the search criteria and did a full court press on Wednesday. We were scheduled to fly back on Friday.

By Wednesday evening we had looked at around 30 homes all over the Tampa area, and we were worn out. We had one more house to look at for that day and our spirits were very low. We had just come from one of the “can’t miss” homes that we had seen on the internet – but the location was horrible and the house wasn’t in that good of shape. DRAT!

We pulled up to the final house of the day. Nice neighborhood – encouraging. But Pam said she was going to walk around for a few minutes in the neighborhood to try to relax (and to try not to cry). If this one didn’t work out, it would be like starting all over again.

Right when I walked into the house I knew this was “the one.” And it was! Nice neighborhood. Excellent schools. Built in 2001. Excellent floor plan. Small pool in the backyard. Good price. Everything we were looking for.

We made an offer that night and found out Thursday morning that the sellers accepted! WaHoo!!! We signed papers, took another look at the house, then had a relaxing evening with one of Pam’s cousins who lives in Tampa.

We flew back to Portland on Friday, giving each other high fives every once in a while. Mission accomplished!

We’ve set our closing for our house here in Vancouver for Feb 15. (Same day as the next Portland Nerd Dinner.) Closing in Tampa is set for Feb 17.

We’re half way to Florida. It seems as though  time is absolutely racing by!

One more for the road

One more Portland Nerd Dinner. This one to go, please.

It’s going to be tough leaving you nerdy northwesterners, but Florida is calling. (And she has a bright yellow-orange orb over her head, and warm, tropical waters to relax in. She is a beautiful mistress. (But I digress.))

Here we go… my last consecutive Portland Nerd Dinner, back in the original location – home of the first PND!

And the PND flag will carry on without me! Guaranteed!

What: Portland Nerd Dinner
When: Thursday, February 10, 2005, starting around 6:30 PM.
Where: The Lloyd Center food court
Why: Because (sniff) this is it for me…

Man. This one is going to be cutting it close, date-wise. We want to close on our house in Vancouver on February 14. (Happy Valentines Day, Pam!) And we want to close on a house in Tampa on February 17. So hopefully I won’t be on a plane, flying across the beautiful United States as one (or maybe two?) of you gather at the Lloyd Center without me. I will do my best to be there – and I should be able to make it.

Be there and be square.

Spread the word. (Yeah, this means you, too, Rory. (Mr. New Blog With a Team. 🙂 Glad to see you’re getting active again!)

Portland Nerd Dinner recap – Jan 2005

Ah, another wonderful Portland Nerd Dinner. Very cozy. Very satisfying. 14 people or so made it out to the mall last night for some fun. Greg brought his ultra-cool Sony Vaio which was loaded with his pictures from his trip back from Hawaii on an aircraft carrier.

1) Nothing is as sexy as an aircraft carrier.
2) Aircraft carriers are soooooo sexy.
3) When I grow up I want to live on an aircraft carrier.
4) Well, maybe a submarine is just as sexy, but on an aircraft carrier you can see the beautiful blue sky in the Pacific Ocean.

Greg, I hope your back gets better real soon!

It was good to see so many familiar smiling faces at the dinner table. Unfortunately Rory wasn’t able to make it – he’s struggling with some lung “fun” which apparently isn’t any fun at all. Get better soon, dude!

See you next time around.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A little Halo 2, a little football (the Lions are wearing their retro uniforms again (boy they look horrible) (boy, the Colts are going to spank them)), and a bunch of food.

Just a shout out to my brother, John! Hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving there in North Carolina!

And to everyone else, fill up on turkey and save the apple pie for me.

English bangers and mash

Mmmmm…. Good nerd dinner.

As Ian and I were deciding on what to order, he said, “I think I’m going to have ‘Bangers and mash.'” Hmmm. Sounded to me like firecrackers and slop. He patiently explained to me that “bangers” are English sausages and “mash” is mashed potatoes. OK. That sounded much better than what I had envisioned.

So we both ordered the “Bangers and mash,” and I felt very British for a while. I even put some “Extra Spicy” English mustard on the sausages, which Ian said was nothing compared to authentic spicy English mustard.

It was excellent food. And lively conversation. There’s nothing like a nerd dinner (although excellent food is definitely not the norm).

Oh yeah… Ian is a masterful cab-hailer. After dinner he dashed out into the middle of a busy San Francisco street and flagged one down like a pro. Very impressive.

Good times.

What makes a successful nerd dinner?

We started the Portland Nerd Dinner a little over a year ago. I kept seeing Robert Scoble blogging about his dinners at the Crossroads in Bellevue/Redmond and about the illustrious people who were attending. It sounded really cool, but in Portland we didn’t have many of “big names” coming in from out of town very often like they do in Redmond.

So I e-mailed a couple of the nerds in the Portland area including Scott Hanselman and Rory Blyth and asked if they would be interested in having a Nerd Dinner at the local mall food court. (I didn’t want to be there all by myself.) They were interested, so I blogged about it, announcing the first Portland Nerd Dinner. There were four of us at the first one. The conversation was good.  The food was crappy. We had a good time. So we decided to give it a go again the next month. And things grew from there.

Here’s a list of things that I think has made the Portland Nerd Dinner successful and should be applicable anywhere:

  • It’s totally informal. We never have any formal presentations (although the MSDN team did come down for one dinner and after everyone had finished eating we all gathered around them and gave them feedback about what we thought of the MSDN site).
  • We have flowing conversation(s) – sometimes many going on at the same time. We don’t have a moderator and no topic is off limits.
  • We started small. We didn’t mind that there were just a handful of us as we started out. We just enjoyed the fact that we could get together and talk “nerdy” to each other.
  • We have it at a mall food court. The food is cheap (not gourmet, but good enough to sustain life), it’s an accessible location, it has an expandable seating area, and it’s relatively quiet.
  • Support from the local nerds. They’ve kept it going by attending from month to month and blogging about it regularly.

We have had people from the Portland eXtreme Programmers user group, Java users group, game developers user group, of course the .NET users group, and folks who weren’t part of any user group at all. The Nerd Dinner doesn’t take away from any of the user groups – it augments them and cross-pollinates them.

-bliz