Friday 19 February 2010

My new job

I'm happy to announce that I have accepted a full-time position with Cincom in the UK. As a result, I will be laying down my consulting hat for a while, and heading to London at the end of the month. I'll be doing Pre-Sales Consulting (or Sales Engineering, as some call it) for their Smalltalk products in Europe and also working on another product in development. I'm really looking forward to focusing my energy on customers and product/business challenges for a while... it should be interesting.

I still intend to keep active with Seaside, though my role and availability may shift somewhat. With an active user base providing amazing support on the mailing list these days and a 3.0 beta release just around the corner, this is pretty good timing. Once we get the beta out there, we'll need to start discussing what comes next but first things first... and more on that in the next little while.

In the meantime, I encourage those of you in and around London to keep in touch - I'm going to need to find out where the good watering holes are. :)

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Ceremonies and sun

What a beautiful day: the sun is out, the sky is blue, and the temperature is comfortably mild. I went for a run this afternoon and there was a crisp view of the city and the North Shore mountains. Over the next few days, viewers of the snowboarding events should catch a glimpse of the cityscape that pushed the mountain forward as a venue despite the risk of lackluster snow. Maëlle Ricker just secured Canada's second gold medal and, jogging my way along the neighbourhood's streets, I have never seen so many Canadian flags adorning cars, houses, and shop windows.

The big event seems to be running well. I've heard numerous complaints about this and that: what should have been done differently, where the lineups are too long, and so on. Events have been postponed and some tickets refunded but I guess that must be pretty common for the winter Olympics (the effects of weather are a major difference vs. the summer games). But from my perspective, the whole thing is a nightmarish logistical balancing act and the results have been acceptably smooth so far.

Just over an hour until the ceremonies

We watched the opening ceremonies on TV at the (relatively quiet) German Deutsches Haus downtown. I was initially disappointed. Like most, I cringed through the national anthem and the weird performance by Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado, singing the same phrase over and over. Despite being well executed, the segment with the boy flying over the wheat fields was random and, frankly, long. And overall the show just didn't feel "big", particularly after the massive event put on in Beijing. The "hydraulic malfunction" at the end was disappointing and I was spared Wayne Gretzky's awkward slow-truck-ride to the second cauldron because German media cut away after the first one was lit.

But numerous people around me said they liked the Vancouver opening better than Beijing's, so I looked at it again. Watching highlights later in the evening, I started realizing how visually impressive some of the scenes were: the mountains, the trees, the streaking time-lapsed tail lights on the floor beneath the inline skaters. Canada's diversity—both cultural and geographic—was well represented. The use of the audience as a projection surface was an interesting touch and the blowing wales were surprising and effective. In the end, although I would have liked less cheesy "wire flying" and more variety in projection effects, I have to admit the performance was quite beautiful in a typically-Canadian understated kind of way.

After the ceremonies, we crossed the road to the German Fan Fest, where we were entertained by a lively cover band from Thüringen. The beer is pretty pricey at over $8 and the crowd was quite a bit younger than us but we had a good time. The German-style beer garden table layout, combined (I assume) with BC-style fire and liquor regulations, means the maximum occupancy is a tad low, so show up early if you don't want to wait in line.

The trip home after 1am was completely painless: there were night buses lining Howe St. and sometimes driving three abreast. Like I said: pretty smooth.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Dress rehearsals are over, let the games begin!

It's hard to believe it's been a year and a half since my experiences at the Beijing Olympics and it's curious to find myself in an Olympic city—not coincidentally, but largely due to circumstance—for the second consecutive time.

I wandered downtown today after collecting my event tickets, watching final preparations underway: people pressure-washing, filling flower beds, cleaning windows, and just generally putting the final touches on months (in some cases, years) of work. Traffic was sparse and the yellow-jacketed traffic officers, though numerous, were easily outnumbered by blue-jacketed volunteers.

Media coverage here has droned on and on about the lack of snow, the probability of rain, the chance of lasting debt, and fact that Vancouver hotels are not sold out. While I desperately wish the media would drop the cries for drama and focus more on news, I guess these are the normal concerns of any host: what if the party sucks? what if nobody comes? But downtown, people are just carrying on getting ready.

It's interesting to note how similar one Olympics is to the next. All the details have been tweaked but the structure and rhythms are the same. The accreditations are the same; the security screening tents are the same; the timelines and schedules are the same. This time it's my German language skills and European citizenship that are securing me tickets, but the collection procedures are the same. And of course there must be stacks of procedure manuals handed from one organizing committee to the next; it would be madness to re-invent it all. More than that, though, it's mostly the same people putting on every Olympic Games: I'm going out for drinks here with many of the people I knew in Beijing, and most are carrying on next to London or other big worldwide events.

I only began to sense the excitement and anticipation here at the end of last week (probably more than a month later than in China), but it's building now. And one major difference here is the number of free concerts and other events. The Richmond O-Zone, Heineken House, Atlantic Canada House, Ontario House, and Vancouver LiveCity sites are all high on my list for entertainment, but you can check out the City Caucus Free Events Guide for many other options.

The torch will be traveling around Vancouver on Thursday and Friday. Check out the route map if you want to catch a glimpse. If you'd like to advertise your willingness to help out the tourists, you can pick up Ask Me buttons in 24 languages at the Vancouver Public Library downtown.

And finally, a cleanly-organized resource I found helpful last time for up to date event schedules, competitor information, and medal counts is Google's Olympic portal.