Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Timex ironman watch

When I was in Ontario I got to use the second time zone feature on my Timex Ironman watch. With that I've now used all of the watch features. The watch has a lot of useful functions: time, date, stopwatch, countdown, alarm, backlight, and second time zone.

I used most of the features in the first month I had it. It took several years to get the chance to use second time zone. That shows how long the watch has lasted. I've gone through several batteries and straps but it has kept running. Plus I've been fortunate to not lose it somewhere along the way or destroy it somehow. I once managed to wreck a pair of glasses when I ran over them with a lawn mower.

With its age the trusty old watch is showing some wear. The backlight gave out around three years ago. Some of the casing around the front has crumbled off. The water seal underneath is coming loose. So its ready to replace. I'll definitely want to replace it with another ironman.

I noticed they never go on sale. No surprise really. The one I have was a birthday gift from my sister. That turned out to be among the best birthday presents. I think the best though was the Rolling Stones ticket.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back in town

I'm now back from my business trip to Waterloo. It was a good trip. I met a number of people I'd only known from e-mail and voices on conference calls. We had some good technical discussions too.

Waterloo is a pretty nice place. In addition to the high tech there are a number of big insurance companies there. Also there's Laurier University and Waterloo University. The weather was good. Waterloo is pleasant in a way that Ottawa isn't. I could see myself being able to live there.

I stayed at the Waterloo Inn. It was a nice place.

This is a picture of some baby ducks that were right outside the door by the indoor pool on the way to the hotel restaurant. There where 13 of them. Their mother was nearby just outside the picture.

On the Monday we had lunch with a bunch of people from work at the Mongolian Grill. That was a unique place and definitely worth visiting if you're ever near one. I believe there was one in Halifax for a while but unfortunately it was located in a low traffic mall and I didn't even know it was there until long after it closed.

On Tuesday evening we stopped in at Morty's Pub. That was a pretty good place. They had Rickard's white beer on tap which was a treat. One of the guys I was with ordered wings with suicide hot sauce. I tried a couple of them. Those wings were hot. So if you want cold beer and hot wings in Waterloo then check out Morty's.

On Wednesday we stopped in Mississauga for a meeting on the way back to the Pearson airport home. The meeting was in the afternoon. We left Waterloo around lunch time. One of us [there were three of us travelling] suggested to have lunch in Waterloo. But he was outvoted. Me and the other guy weren't very hungry yet and I was kind of eager to get out of town and not linger now that the business there was done. It's around an hour drive from Waterloo to Toronto. We stopped instead for lunch at the Subway in Milton next to the jail. That was a tough place I don't plan to return to.

The Pearson airport was nice both arriving and departing. It's really big, especially compared to Halifax. I hadn't flown in a long time. I was surprised at how much stuff there is in the departures area after you clear security. It was pretty much an entire mall at Pearson. Unfortunately our flight was delayed departing because some idiot checked her bags, then didn't board the flight. So the ground crew had to take around half an hour digging out her bags and removing them, then reloading the baggage. That was pretty annoying. That wasn't the airlines fault and all in all Air Canada was nice to fly with. I like these pre printed boarding passes.

The scale of Toronto is impressive. On the way driving out I couldn't believe how many trucks there were crowded together midmorning moving stuff into Toronto. Also there were so many big towers running power into that great city. I'm glad I got to at least set foot in Toronto. I hope to be able to return for a proper visit some day.

I'm a bit worn out today and I may be getting a sore throat. This travel can be kind of draining. On Monday I was up before 4 AM Atlantic time and was in the Waterloo office past 5:30 PM Eastern time. On Wednesday I was in the office at 9 AM Eastern but didn't arrive home until after 11:30 PM Atlantic. It was a good trip and it's good to be home again for a while. I'm not sure when I'll be on business travel again.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Business traveling

I'm going on a business trip for the first time next week. I'm going to be in RIM head office in Waterloo from Monday to Wednesday. I'll be leaving Halifax in the Monday AM and returning home Wednesday in the PM. So I'll be there two nights.

The flight is actually to and from Toronto and we'll be driving to Waterloo. So I'll get to at least see Toronto a bit for the first time. One of those things in life I'd always meant to do. There's quite a few more on that list to slowly chip away at. We should get some free time on Tuesday at least in Waterloo so I hope to look around a bit. There's a tiny bit of specific shopping I hope to be able to do when I'm there. I don't think I know anyone in Waterloo now so I don't have anyone to visit there. My sister is in Ottawa but we're on the wrong side of Toronto to go there in the time I'll have.

I've been in high tech for over 10 years now. This is the first company trip I've gone on. That's kind of unusual for software. Usually a developer will go on some business trip some time sooner. Back at SupportSoft some developers traveled pretty extensively. For whatever reasons I was about the only developer in Halifax who didn't travel at least a little bit.

I'm not much of an airplane flyer or traveler in general. The last time I was out of Nova Scotia was to Moncton for the Rolling Stones in 2005. Before that was the PEI trip in the summer of 2005. The last time I was on an airplane was in 1994. I heard air travel is a bit different now.

I'm looking forward to it a bit. I'm not sure what to expect and I hope everything goes smoothly.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Black Swan

I recently read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. That was an interesting book. The author Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an intellectual with many interests who seems to have read an incredible number of books and papers. Some of his ideas are quite interesting, including the parts about silent evidence.

Silent evidence is all around if you think to look for it. Consider Britney Spears; or Ellen Page for that matter (how many people reading this have actually seen Juno). Britney parlayed modest musical talent, looks, self marketing, and attention-seeking skills into incredible fame and fortune. She might seem special but there are thousands of Britneys working today at Hooters and crowded nightclubs. We just don't hear about them because they didn't make it. They have the same characteristics as Britney, they just weren't lucky.

We like to think that things are proceeding in an orderly way. That the prosperous country you live in will always be prosperous. The government has things under control. The pension money is safe and managed by professionals. House prices never go down. The current problems in the financial markets and ABCP will be resolved this year with minimal disruption in the everyday lives of most people. The world won't run out of oil or food in our lifetimes.

It seems that in fact the future cannot be reliably predicted. Some unforeseen things (like 9/11 , the sudden rise of the World Wide Web, or Google) will happen which will "change the game" in ways we can't anticipate today. What seems a comfortable steady state can be very suddenly rocked for better or possibly worse. In the first version of his book "The Road Ahead", Bill Gates somehow failed to mention the Web; incredibly it didn't seem important to him. This book was written by Bill Gates in the late 1990s. It just shows that even "experts", those with the most experience and information can be totally blindsided even in their own areas.

The book is a challenging read but worth getting through. I like to more or less alternate heavy reading like The Black Swan with light reading like Stephen King. I have a few books both heavy and light lined up to read in the coming months.