13 May 2006

Four Alex

On Wednesday, Alex turned four. Today was the big party and around 10 of his best friends came to our house to celebrate. I say around 10 because the constant motion of kids that age make them hard to count (Heisenberg uncertainty principle for the science nerds).

The big gift - a bike

Maddie and Alex - taking a break

Ella, Cassie, and Alex enjoying themselves

Ella tries to pin the smokestack on Thomas

Shelley takes the cake

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03 May 2006

Exploring Strange New Worlds


The second and final day of the conference. At 10:45 I gave my “Can You Find Bugs in Your Pajamas?” talk. Like yesterday, this was well received by the 15 or so people that showed up. This number is disappointing, but typical for a conference at which there are only 130 people and 5 concurrent sessions. Also, since this was in Las Vegas, there were myriad distractions to compel people to play hooky.

Speaking of playing hooky, I decided to cancel the remainder of the conference, and be distracted. A short monorail ride took me to the Hilton - home of the Star Trek Experience. I went to Quark’s Bar & Restaurant and had a Hamborger with cheese (would that be a Cheeseborger?), and for reasons which I don’t understand, a Warp Core Breach.

This was the geekiest thing I did in Las Vegas. Oddly enough, it was also the most fun. Well, it was fun until about half way through the Warp Core Breach, when the matter/anti-matter ratio in my stomach got out of whack. Luckily it settled down without causing me to boldly go. I could not pass up the photo-op below:

After riding both rides, and spending too much time in the museum, it was back to the hotel because I was ready to call it a night. It was only 5:00 though, so when my friend and co-worker called me, I went to see him, and crashed the IBM conference he was attending at the Rio.

I got back from that after 8:00, so I didn’t have to feel bad about going to bed, especially since my flight out was early the next morning. I’ll be glad to leave Las Vegas, and I don’t expect that I’ll want to return anytime soon. Andy has left the building.

02 May 2006

In The Hot Nevada Sun

This was the first day of the conference. Knowing that no short people would wake me up to tell what they just did in the bathroom, I could sleep as late as I wanted. I got up at 5:10 AM. At least, that’s what time I thought it was, but more on that later. Registration and breakfast were not until 7:00, so I had some time to kill. I practiced my talk (actually, figured out what I was going to say), and read the magazines in my room to plan my off-time. When I was about ready to head down to breakfast, I discovered that my hotel room was 17 minutes into the future. I reset the clock to make it right, but realizing I was up before 5:00 AM made me sleepy. Stupid clock.

I won’t say too much about the conference, because I do realize how boring it would be to describe (it was no thrill ride to live through). I will tell you about a bad idea I had. During one of the morning talks, I watched the presenter pace back and forth to his laptop every time he needed to change slides. I realized I’d be very cool if I could do this wirelessly. I figured the 45 minute break before lunch would give me time to shop, and it was my only chance before today’s talk since I spoke right after lunch. I headed out on the strip, with a goal of buying a wireless mouse. I had a goal, but no map, and no plan. Turns out Las Vegas can get pretty hot. I hustled down through the hot Nevada sun in my Dockers, nerd-shirt, and IBM laptop back-pack. I soon decided I didn’t really need a wireless mouse. I think I saw Greg Wiggle. Nah, couldn’t be.

My talk went fine, and by sneaking a peak at the evaluation forms, it seems everyone really enjoyed it, except for one idiot who thought it was just OK. I got a standing ovation, as you can clearly see below:

Note: I will not tell you how I got the standing ovation, unless you ask.

After finishing with the conference for the day, I went back to my room only to find it was being cleaned. So instead, I pushed the R button in the elevator which took me to the roof. Talk about hot Nevada sun. There was a good view though.

My plan for dinner was Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas, but it is about a mile from the strip, and halfway there I decided I did not want to walk back in the dark. While looking for somewhere else, I checked out this place that sells half-place tickets and discovered that the Wiggles are playing here starting tomorrow, so I now I think that really was Greg. Damn.

I had dinner at Nine Fine Irishmen in NY, NY. It was fine and Irish, and I enjoyed a shepherd’s pie, a black and tan, and a “Smiddicks”. When I was walking across the pedestrian bridge over the strip on the way back, thousands of marchers walked below me. Someone said they were marching for immigration rights. This trip gets more unreal all the time, though I did not spot any Wiggles in the group. Maybe Australians don’t care about immigration.

01 May 2006

Duck Brown Goes To Vegas

This week I have a chance to speak at a conference for software testers. This will be only the second most geeky thing I will do in Vegas, but more on that later. Before any of that, I had to first get there. My ticket was booked weeks ago, and I was excited to be flying direct. I packed Duck Brown and my bags last night, pre-flight, and confirmed the flight before turning in.

This morning I was up by 5:00, out by 6:00, and to the airport by 7:00. That was when reality diverged from the itinerary. When checking in, I discovered that my direct flight to Vegas was cancelled. I’ll spare you the standing-by, line-waiting details, but see if you can guess where I connected though (hint: this city is not between DC and Vegas).

I finally made it to Vegas by 6:00, over 7 hours late, and was underwhelmed. I checked into the Imperial Palace, traversed the cacophony of the casino, and found my mediocre room. There is a little concrete veranda from which I can see the parking garage, and if I lean just so, I can spot Caesar’s Palace.

This was supposed to be my sight seeing day, so I went out to see some sights. It struck me that this town is designed for mindless wandering, because that is what I did. I wound up at the Venetian, which is a casino made out to be like Venice, but not really. I’ve been to the real Venice, so I did a comparison. The biggest difference is that fake-Venice lacks the aroma of real-Venice. It also lacks the pigeons.

I had shrimp enchiladas and a Canonita Margarita at Taqueira Canonita, which was right along a fake canal under a fake blue sky. I choose this margarita because 1) Last time I spoke at a PSQT conference was in Austin, and Shelley I first went to San Antonio where I had the best margaritas ever and 2) One of my heuristics for deciding what to order in a new restaurant is to get something that includes the name of the restaurant (this works especially well at diners)

Next, I went on a gelato quest. Gelato was my favorite part of real-Venice, and I had a tip that great gelato could also be found at Venetian. It took a good bit of exploration and some back-tracking (which seemed very authentic), but I finally found the place. The gelato was decent, but a bit underwhelming. I hope this wasn’t becoming a theme.

My explorations then took me to Treasure Island, where I caught an outside show called “Sirens of TI”. It would be more accurate to say the show caught me, since the sidewalk on which I was walking became un-walkable because of everyone standing around to see the show. Despite what you might think, it had nothing to do with Texas Instruments. The show consisted of a ship of Sirens wearing very short pants dancing around and taunting another ship with shirtless pirates. All of this was set to the soundtrack of every fraternity party I’ve ever attended. I still have no idea what this was all about. After that, it was time to call it a night.