Browse Month: June 2013

06/29/2013

Last night the sky was really dark just before sunset, and lightning danced in the eastern sky. We’d been sitting around the family room reading books, so we went outside to watch the approaching storm. Suddenly it started hailing. It was fierce and fast.

Kyra picked up one of the hailstones. It was actually just about golf-ball-sized!

After a few minutes, the hail stopped and it poured rain for another ten minutes or so, then abated and became a quiet, calm evening. Strange stuff.

06/27/2013

My fourth and final day in the United Kingdom was a mix of meetings and sitting in Heathrow waiting for my (delayed, again!) flight. It was a ten-hour flight back to Denver, and since I can’t really sleep on airplanes, I spent my time reading a book, learning to play Go, and looking out the window.

It’s amazing how big the Atlantic Ocean is. I mean, it’s just blue from one horizon to the other. It was kind of dull for a few hours, and then suddenly I saw chunks of ice floating in the water. Before long we crossed over land. Assuming a great-circle route from London to Denver, I assumed we were passing over the southern tip of Greenland (later I checked, and indeed we were). It was so cool. The land was nothing but snow and rock, with ice floes easing into the ocean and huge rivers of glacial ice moving through the valleys. It was sheer white with a little black rock interspersed here and there. No sign of civilization, or life at all. The snow was perfectly smooth and unending. There were points where the clouds were literally sitting atop the snow– I assume it’s because of the cold or something.

Later we crossed Newfoundland and Hudson Bay, again seeing a lot of floating ice and vast expanses of snow. Over Minnesota I saw why that state is called the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. There seemed to be more water than land. There were quite a few small villages, some roads connecting everything, and lakes peppered across the landscape.

I left around 6pm and landed at 8pm, so we were more or less keeping pace with the sun. Since I’d been up since 7am London time, and didn’t get home until 9pm Denver time, it was basically 21 hours of daytime. Strangely, I didn’t feel all that tired… jet lag wasn’t really a problem at all on the trip.

All in all, it was a fabulous experience. I’d love to go back sometime, as long as I could avoid so many meetings!

06/26/2013

Day Three in England didn’t involve London at all. I spent the day in meetings again, and after we finished I realized I didn’t have as much time as I’d like to head back into London for the evening, so I decided to explore Reading.

There’s a 184-mile-long trail called the Thames Path that runs along the River Thames (surprise!) through a large swath of England. The river is a block north of my hotel, so I thought I’d head along a portion of the path. It was a gorgeous evening (again) and there were plenty of walkers, joggers, and bikers on the path.

An armada of ducks and swans passed me on the river. There were hundreds of them– far more than shown here– and apparently there’s a little area that’s a “duck and swan preserve” where fishing and hunting are prohibited. It made me wonder if, farther along the river, it’s okay to blast the ducks with a shotgun or something.

Many people with houses along the river own long, narrow boats like this one. I guess they’re the British equivalent of the American RV.

There were many people paddling long kayaks, and others sculling. Very British. Some of the houses along the north bank are amazing. They have lawns that look like the greens on a golf course and huge boats moored along the shore. Must be nice.

The walk was really nice. Unlike my time in London, there weren’t any cars or throngs of people. It was very quiet, and the river was no more than twenty feet from the path. I walked about four miles to the next town, then hopped a train (of course!) back to Reading for a bit more wandering.

06/25/2013

London, Day Two. The first part of the day was only marginally more fun than sitting at the airport and on a plane for 14 hours: I was in business meetings literally all day. Although it wasn’t exactly thrilling, it was in fact the reason I’d been paid to come out here, so I figured I should put a smile on my face. In the end it wasn’t too bad– I met some cool people, learned a few things, and came up with some ideas and projects that will (hopefully) lead to more business in the future.

After the meeting closed, the rest of the group decided to head to an Indian restaurant and then over to a pub to get drunk. I excused myself and headed back to London.

Since I’d seen the tourist-ey sites yesterday, I thought today it would be interesting to wander a bit and look at architecture. London is a fascinating mix of old (and I mean Middle-Ages old) and modern buildings. Sometimes there’s a really interesting dichotomy as two such opposite buildings are next to each other.

There’s a lot of cool stonework:

There are statues all over the place. From what I can tell, Lord Oliver Cromwell is sort of the British equivalent of George Washington.

I passed this statue, which didn’t have any label, but I swear it looks like Ronald Reagan. I can’t imagine why he’s standing in central London.

I liked this shot of a modern office building…

… contrasted with a thousand-year-old abbey in downtown Reading.

Although the British are very nice about telling you which way to look for traffic…

… most of the street signs left me wondering where the heck I was.

The Grand Canal was a cool area.

A cool idea: two ping-pong tables sitting in the middle of a public square. Alas, I had neither paddles nor a worthy opponent.

Finally, the Monkey Puzzle!

It was another wonderful evening in London. I was getting adept at navigating the public transportation system, and hopped on the train back to Reading for the night.

06/24/2013

Day One of my London trip started out a little rough. My outbound flight from Denver was delayed four hours due to lightning(!). Apparently many flights that night were either delayed or cancelled outright. I was supposed to land in London around noon, and instead it was nearly 5:00 in the evening. That meant my plan to spend the day wandering was cut a bit short, and it ended up being a bit more of a speed-walk.

Anticipating that I wouldn’t want to wander town carrying a bunch of luggage, I managed to cram everything I needed into my trusty Google backpack. I love the fact that I can travel halfway around the world for four days on a single backpack!

As usual, my planning for an international trip of this scale consisted of poking around the internet for about an hour on the day I left. I figured out how to get from Heathrow to central London (take the Piccadilly Line on the Underground) and then over to Reading where my hotel and business meetings were (take the National Rail from Paddington Station). With that solid plan, the adventure began.

I really enjoy the Underground– also known colloquially as “The Tube”– although it’s a lot cleaner and more high-tech than I remember from the last time I was in London, back in 1998 or so. At each stop they have crisp, pleasant, automated recordings of a woman saying “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform”, which is quite different than the gruff male conductors I remember who’d just mumble, “Mind the gap”. Luckily, on neither visit did I get caught in The Gap and sucked under the train or whatever.

One thing I enjoy about the British is the different terms they use for things. Instead of saying “Exit”, they say “Way Out”. It’s “Give Way” instead of “Yield”, “crisps” rather than “French fries”, and so on.

Since I was wandering London alone, it seemed appropriate to take photos of myself with famous landmarks, to prove that I was really there and not just downloading stuff from Google Images.

Here’s the Victoria Memorial:

And of course Buckingham Palace:

Some famous statue:

This is St. James’ Park, which is really quite nice… although it’s hard to take a picture of a park.

Look, kids, it’s Big Ben (right as it’s striking 7:00)!

… And Parliament!

Finally, the River Thames:

After seeing the major landmarks, I headed over to Reading (pronounced “Redding”, so you don’t sound like such a tourist) and found my hotel. All told, I probably walked ten miles, but it was a gorgeous evening and well worth it.

Tomorrow: meetings!

06/21/2013

1) Make job offer to new developer.
2) New developer accepts.
3) Buy shiny new Macbook Pro for new developer.
4) New developer gets counter-offer and decides to stay at his old job.
5) Crap.

Now I have a shiny new Macbook Pro and no one to use it. Fortunately Apple has a pretty sweet return policy that consists of clicking a button to return the item, printing the pre-paid shipping label, and dropping it off at the USPS. In a couple of days I’ll have my $2,000 back.

However, in a couple of days I still won’t have a new developer. SIgh.

06/19/2013

On Saturday, we decided to ride in the annual Longmont G’Knight Ride, which is a short bike trip around town. You can select one, five, or ten-mile segments.

Since La and I both had ancient mountain bikes we’d bought in 1995 (no kidding!) we’ve been thinking for a while about buying something new. What better time than the day of the big race? So we went over to a local bike shop, took a few test rides, and picked out a pair of nice Specialized hybrids. Neither of us wanted a true road bike, but at the same time we recognized that we really don’t hit the singletrack trails any more. A hybrid is a nice mix of the two: front suspension, larger and narrower tires, and a bit of a taller frame.

We tuned up the kids’ bikes and posed for a team picture.

When Laralee registered our family, she had to enter a team name. Zack chose The Midnight Riders. We felt like we should at least have matching outfits, and since all of us have black Zing shirts, it was a done deal. Now we can say Zing is officially a biking team sponsor, just like the USPS!

We biked a few miles to Roosevelt Park, where all of the festivities were happening. There were thousands of people there! We all put on our official race bibs…

… and Zack made sure he was Mr. Cool.

Then we were off, with a wave of about a hundred other people. It was slow going for the first mile or so, including a few stops at intersections where the police were directing traffic.

(Is that guy to Laralee’s left actually talking on his cell phone?)

Kyra did the five-mile tour with her friend Hannah and her mom, while La, Alex, Zack, and I all did the full ten-mile loop. Once we broke out of the pack, we made pretty good time and enjoyed the tour of Longmont.

After we crossed the finish line, we biked back across town to Nicolo’s Pizza, our favorite pizza place (conveniently located a few blocks from home). We enjoyed some good pizza and called it a night.

It was a lot of fun, and I love my new bike!

06/13/2013

This is my new favorite anti-drug sign.

06/13/2013

Last night, Team Zing headed to downtown Denver for the Rockies game.

Due to some scheduling difficulties, some of us made it before the Boulder crowd, so we decided to grab some food. We went to Biker Jim’s, which is sort of a dive restaurant that specializes in hot dogs. Yes, that’s right: their menu is basically a bunch of unique hot dogs like the Rattlesnake Dog, Alaskan Reindeer Dog, and a dog wrapped in bacon. According to Ben, there’s an “explosion of gourmet sausage restaurants in the area”. I didn’t realize “gourmet” and “sausage” could be used in the same sentence with a straight face, but regardless, the food wasn’t bad.

When we met up at the stadium, we went through the gate and Indiana Ben was immediately pulled aside for some special fun with a security agent.

Aside from the authentic Indiana Jones hat, it was unclear what made Ben seem suspicious. Luckily he passed the frisking and was allowed to watch the game.

It was a gorgeous June evening.

After a few innings without much action, the Rockies came alive and knocked two home runs to go up 5-2, then another home run later in the game gave them their final 7-3 victory. All in all, it was (as usual) a good time.

(Sorry, Amber, about the closed eyes!)

06/10/2013

I’m booking a trip to London. There are some pretty cool titles I can select here…

Maybe I should be Lord Schroeder? Or a baron?

06/06/2013

A graduate student did a nationwide survey of how people pronounce words, or use certain words to describe things. He compiled them into heatmaps of the country, and the results are awesome.

My favorite, of course, is the map about whether people say “soda”, “pop”, or “coke”.

Check out my hometown of St. Louis, which is clearly a hot spot of “soda” in the midst of a bunch of hicks who say “pop” and “coke”. Nice!

06/05/2013

I just finished setting up my new CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) internet connection, and of course I had to check the speed.

Holy bittorrents, Batman! That’s some pretty sweet download speed.

Although I’ve had some unpleasant run-ins with Qwest in the past, they’re offering more than double my bandwidth I had through Comcast, at about 60% of the price. Nice!

06/04/2013

Seen on a billboard in Wyoming:

If you get in the saddle, be prepared for the ride.

06/04/2013

I love email. With email, I never feel lonely. I just got up to pee, and when I came back to my desk I had three emails from clients. That’s pretty much how it goes: head out for lunch, and twenty are waiting. Leave for a three-day trip, and there are a few hundred. Whee!

06/02/2013

We just returned home from our trip to Utah to visit Laralee’s family. Of course it was fun, and featured such highlights as…

A visit to the Salt Lake Temple. La’s brother Doug was sealed to his wife Jen in a wonderful ceremony.

A guided tour of the BYU campus, where La struggled to remember what the buildings were, and what apartment complex she’d lived in. (In her defense, it was 20 years ago.) We did find the Marriott Center where she’d worked for a few years.

Unfortunately all of the doors were locked, so we couldn’t get in to see anything… until we ran into La’s old boss Dale, who actually remembered her after 20 years. He not only let us in, but gave us his key ring so she could take us all over. We saw the main basketball court, of course:

We also poked around the restricted areas, like the team locker room (freshly renovated, and apparently nicer than most NCAA schools):

Driving around campus, we spotted the fateful stop sign where La was ticketed by campus police for failing to stop. In her defense, this is at the bottom of an enormous hill, so you’re cooking along at a good clip on your bike and hardly want to stop. On the other hand, the sign is pretty clear. She still gets worked up about it if you mention the incident.

After BYU, we headed over to Saturday’s Waffle. This is a small business started by my nephew Colin and two of his friends. They park a little trailer at a strip mall on Saturday mornings and sell… waffles. But these aren’t just any waffles. They’re loaded with everything from chocolate and marshmallow (the S’more) to biscuits and gravy (the Lumberjack) to bacon and eggs (the Benny). These guys had a wild idea, put it together, and now they’re famous. There was a huge line. They’ve been voted Best Waffle in Utah (who knew there was such a thing?) and apparently receive a lot of calls from investors and people who want to franchise. They’re thinking of quitting their day jobs to sell waffles full-time. Awesome.

Oh, and I saw this cool license plate:

On the way home today we stopped at Little America for some 50-cent ice cream cones…

… And a chance for Laralee to try on some cowboy hats and tell me how she doesn’t look good in them.

Good times all around.

06/02/2013

We went out to eat at Red Robin the other night. While walking to the restaurant, Kyra and I were amused to see this establishment across the parking lot: