Two Weeks Vancouver

It’s been a while since I did any travel, but once again travel time is nigh!

In two weeks time, I’ll be in Vancouver again.  I say “again”, but I haven’t been there since the turn of the century*.  Yeah, been a while.  Not going there for work this time though!  Or at least, not the usual kind of work.  No software development.

This trip is kind of like a vacation, but one where I pour concrete foundation and erect structure and do some roofing.  But really, not a trip for work.  No, really.

My sister’s got a house there.  North shore, partway up the mountain, something like that.  They got it for a good price (by which I mean “merely quite expensive” and not “totally ludicrous but people will pay it” if you know the Vancouver real estate market at all) because it needed work.  They’ve taken care of most of the work, but have plans for an extension and another floor and a separate entrance and a garage extension and, well, you get the picture.

End result being that I’m going to go spend two weeks hanging out with family and doing some serious home renovation.

Well, it’s a good crew to work with and they’ve got an excellent foreman.  Definitely looking forward to it.  I’ve got two weeks to get ready for the trip, time to get started.

* One of the only benefits of getting old is that I can say things like “turn of the century”, so I’m going to take advantage of every chance I get.

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Gift Box

I’ve been offered a box.  Not for me precisely, but for the kid.  It’s an interesting box:

Much stuff in three drawers

Much stuff in three drawers




Of course, any time there’s a box (or any container really), the real question is going to be “what’s in the box?”.




Well, easy enough to have a look and see.  Let’s start with the top shelf…

Sprues and Orcs, oh my!

Sprues and Orcs, oh my!

Some paint, some sprues, and perhaps an Orc riding a WarPig.  Also, something that looks like an urban camo transport truck.  Hmm.

Alright, next drawer down:

Tools, and little guys with a lot of green going on.

Tools, and little guys with a lot of green going on.

Some tools, more paint, and a definite Orc army by the looks of things.  Hmm.

And lastly, the bottom drawer:

By their documentation they're Space Marines

By their documentation they’re Space Marines

More paint, some paintbrushes, and I think a collection of Space Marines, Tyranids, and More Orcs.  Plus, ah-ha, some documentation!  Well.  Have to see what the little guy thinks of these.

I always found miniature gaming to be a little finicky and tedious for my taste, but lots of other people have really enjoyed it.  We shall see if the genre has any traction with anyone else in the household…


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Introducing: The Chicago Thing!

In much the same way that Bill Cosby did; I told you that story so I could tell you this one.

Remember how there was going to be that trip to Seattle?  Well, that was all about the Microsoft “accelerator” program they had going on – wherein a ‘start-up company’ is ‘accelerated’ towards being a ‘full-fledged company’; this is ridiculously important stuff for anyone who wants to run a successful business.  TechStars runs several programs like this.  The business didn’t make it into the Seattle one, but we DID make it into the Chicago one!

For the Seattle trip we were gonna move the whole family to Seattle.  Mostly because, hey, Seattle!  It could possibly be considered a good thing that we didn’t make it into that program, because I’m not sure I could actually have worked there.  A standard day at work for me requires at least two IP addresses on different networks.  I assumed that they’d be able to accommodate whatever my technical requirements were, but within the first week there was a memo about how anyone who didn’t absolutely need an IP address (as in, one) had to get off the network because they didn’t have enough available to meet demand.  So I stayed here, working in the lab, while the CEO went to Chicago.

Which is fine.  It would’ve been totally cool to work with all the other people who got into the program, no doubt about that, but I also like being able to go home after work.  Not being able to actually work while there kinda made that decision for us.

Point being, after 3 solid months of accelerator program it was time to present our newly renovated company to potential investors!  This is the all-important “Demo Day”.  For this day, I went to Chicago.

What this meant was a 1.5 hour flight; during which I got to watch half of Oblivion, nice bonus!  I try to make sure I never pay to see a Tom Cruise movie, because then I always feel ripped off.  But I really like good sci-fi.  So it takes interesting circumstances like this to get in a nice bit of Tom Cruise sci-fi.  As I’d hoped, it was an enjoyable movie even though he was in it.

Landing in Chicago there were all sorts of options for how to proceed, but the Blue Line pretty much exists to take you from O’Hare to downtown Chicago.  By the looks of it, all the other options are for suckers.  Here’s some interesting tidbits though:

1) A train pass is the same thing as a Toronto subway fare.  It’s just that it’s a card.  Good for one ride.  You buy the card, you carry the card 10′ to the machine, and give it to the machine.  The machine removes the single fare from it and gives it back to you and lets you go through the turnstile.  Am I too Canadian, or does this seem ostentatiously wasteful?

It's a single-use public transit card!

It’s a single-use public transit card!

2) The card costs $5 if you buy it at the airport.  It costs about $2.25 if you buy it anywhere else.  This is brilliant.  Talk about charging those who can afford it best!  You can spend $70 on a taxi, or $5 on a train pass.  And the train will get you there quicker.  If you’re strapped and know the CTA, you can buy the pass beforehand anywhere else and save yourself the $2.75 if that’s important to you.  Eventually Toronto will get on board with this idea.  Maybe next century.

It's the inside of a CTA car!

It’s the inside of a CTA car!

3) A subway car looks the same everywhere apparently.  The vast majority of it could’ve been the TTC and I’d be hard pressed to know.  Sure, it’s blue instead of maroon.  And it’s the older equipment that the TTC is slowly phasing out.  But, transit car is transit car.

Do you see that route map at the top of the door? See that colourful area? That’s where I was headed.  Downtown.  There’s a reason the stop is so colourful though:

Which subway line did you want to transfer to?

Which subway line did you want to transfer to?


SIX subway lines intersect there! Yeah, six.  Out of EIGHT.  Jesus.  This is what a transit system is supposed to be like.  It’s always open, and it goes everywhere.  Sure, there are vagrants.  Yeah, I stepped in a puddle of vomit.  It reminded me a lot of riding the Scarborough RT.  All it needed was a couple girls talking about how skanky they are.  But look at this system! The TTC can just wet itself.  I guess I can mark it up to how they’ve got just so many more people.  And their country is older.  But really it’s just jealousy.  Really makes the TTC look weak.  I mean; we’ve got, what, three lines? Four if you count University and Yonge as different.  Five if you count Bloor and the Scarborough RT as different.  But that’s a lot of reaching.  We’ve got the beginning of a subway system.  They’ve got an adult transit system.  The difference shows.

In summation, the first and last thing I saw in Chicago was the CTA.  And it definitely left an impression.  Well done Chicago, well done.


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Web Curfew

It’s now time for a brief foray into what I’ve done with my daylight hours for the past couple years.

I’ve got a kid, he’s in grade 3 now.  It was about a year ago that I first woke up early (you know, 6 AM kinda thing) and found him on the computer.  Playing games on the internet, and watching videos on YouTube.  Sure; part of me is the proud that he’s capable on the computer, but the rest of me knows that everything is on the internet and that he really shouldn’t be surfing completely unmonitored at six in the morning.  We started locking the computer at night before going to bed.  It’s a bit of a routine chore, but it’s the effect we need.

Eventually, I’ll put a computer in his room.  At that point, locking it wont be an option anymore.  Fortunately, I can go into the router and tell it to block him from the internet entirely during certain hours.  Hours that he should be asleep or otherwise productively engaged.  When the internet is on though, he still shouldn’t be left completely to his own devices.  Who knows what he’ll click on and what malware I’ll have to clean off his computer god knows how many times? I’ve certainly done that enough times on lots of other people’s computers.  And that’s just one of the many things he could get into.  It would be best if I could *limit* the internet.  And that’s what OpenDNS is for.  Of course, OpenDNS only works if they know your IP.  Being on a PPPoE-based internet connection, my IP changes at least every power outage.  For the OpenDNS to work, I need a way of automatically let them know what my new IP is every time it changes.  That’s what DynDNS is for.

Of course, all of this is extremely technical.  I’m a professional at this, this is what I do for a living, and sometimes it doesn’t work the way that I expect it to.  How is anyone else supposed to manage?!?

Well, that’s what my day job is all about.  This is it: WebCurfew!

It’s a website that ties together all of that… STUFF… and gives you a simple on/off button for each internet-enabled device in your home network.  You can assign time slots during which a device is or is not allowed on the internet, and you can apply global rules about what kinds of websites are or are not available from your home network during any given hour of the day.

Actually, during any given 15-minute period if you want to get technical.  You wont easily find someone else that can get more technical than I can.

There’s a lot more to it than that, there’s a whole website about parenting in the information age and forums and everything.  What it comes down to though is this: One day I’ll put a computer in my son’s room and I won’t have to worry about it.  Because today it already works the way I would want it to.

That’s my day job.

It’s good to have a job that’s worthwhile.


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Trip cancelled

Turns out, we won’t be going to Seattle.

Or at least not next month.

We made it through the first round and into the second round, but we were cut from the third round.  They really liked our software, and our company, and our team, but not as much as they liked some of the other contenders.

Ah well.

Still, the idea of making a trip to Seattle is still a good one, and everyone here remains quite interested.  We just won’t be going as part of a 3-month long business trip.  Previous to this, the wife was quite interested in a “wine-tasting cruise” that hopped up the west coast.  It stops at every significant whine and you get off the boat to drink port.  I mean, uh, the other way around.

I’m sure she’s more interested in the trip that goes to west coast locales than the fact that there’s all sorts of wine drinking involved.  Well, mostly sure.  That is, more than half.

Overall, in the “unfortunate” column we have “no trip to Seattle”.  In the “not that bad” column we have “don’t need to pack up the house and rent it out for 3 months”.  In total, I think we’ll say it’s almost a wash.  It’s just… was kinda looking forward to it.  That’s all.


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Next trip: Seattle! Well, maybe…

This blog was originally created to document my travels to strange foreign lands where the majority of the populace carry firearms.  Exciting times!

The current project doesn’t tend to require much in the way of travel, so it’s been relatively quiet here.

However, Microsoft has a program called Azure Accelerator.  The next version of our project is taking advantage of this cloud-based platform, so we’re entering this “contest”.  It’s basically a start-up training program.  If you’ve got a small company with an idea, and you’re making software that runs on the Azure platform, then you can enter.  Last year 600 companies entered for the 10 available positions.  If they consider your team and your concept good enough, then you’ve got a chance.  Winning one of those 10 slots means that you get free office space in Seattle for 3 months, an equity investment, all sorts of training and seminars with knowledgeable professionals, and tons of software to aid in the development process.  You kinda have to live there to really take advantage of all this, but that’s obviously one heck of a carrot to dangle.

I’m a big part of our team, and our product is solid.  It looks like we’ve got a good chance.

Which all means this: By March 1st I’ll know for sure if we’re moving to Seattle for 3 months.

Which means this: Two months from now it might start getting really active here again as we photo-blog a family trip that lasts 13 weeks in one of the worlds technology centers!

Yes, a return to exciting times.

Posted in Life As We Know It, Metablogging, Software Development, Trip To Seattle | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Pictures And Words

This being a kind of photo blog, it’s all words and pictures.  Let’s get just a little meta for a minute and do a blog post about words and pictures!  More specifically, about certain pictures and the words that come to mind.  I find it particularly interesting when some particular image will bring the same words to mind for many people.  It’s like an image-based lexicon.  There’s one that I’ve found recently, and I think it’s noteworthy.

So here’s the initial image, this is like the background information so you have context for the important one:

Classic bottle, classic wooden table

Yeah, just a normal vinegar bottle.  With, unsurprisingly, vinegar inside it.

But, that’s not all that was inside it.  Let’s have a bit of a closer look and see the image that brought a specific phrase to mind:

And the specific phrase that this brings to mind?

“Imagine if we’d used honey…”

Sure, fruit flies are far from the smartest bugs on the block, but they’re not accidentally going in that tiny hole into a pit of acid.  That’s something they did on purpose.  Wow.

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