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Vacation winding down

Just grabbed some lunch with Sean and Ethan at the Pike Place Pub, home�to a particularly good rendition of chicken nachos. Back to work tomorrow assuming the slim to nothing chance of a snow day doesn't become real.

At some point I have to muster the courage to read all of the mail that's been building up. Not looking forward to that one bit.

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Capturing the moment

This picture is just too good to leave alone. Ethan was using his manual-focus 35mm camera and just happened to have it focused on the right spot at the right moment to grab this shot.

Fantastic.

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Thanksgiving, round 2

By 5am we were all packed up and on the road. Seattle was enjoying a light rain, Issaquah its usual fog coating and we made good time up towards Snoqualmie where it started to snow, hard. By milepost 40 there were several inches on the roadway and a very generous blanket was descending from the skies. Thankfully, traffic was light and while some cars seemed to be exploring the lesser-travelled shoulders of I-90, we pushed on through�without too much of�a problem. We were the first travellers over Blewitt Pass�and waded through the�snow all the way up into Chelan. Four hours and 180 miles later, we took a quick breakfast in Chelan before boarding the Lady Express for Stehekin. (The two hour ferry is the only way to get to the small village of Stehekin which is isolated from everything -- roads, people, cell phones, TV, radio -- 55 miles from Chelan at the north end of the lake).

We skipped the organized Rainbow Falls tour and put the bird straight into the oven. In honesty, Katie did the bulk of the cooking for the big dinner but I definitely did something with the parsnips. We ate very well at four and had quite enough left overs to feed an army for the following two days. Meanwhile, Stehekin was cold and snow still lay on the ground from the morning shower. By evening it was starting to melt and the runoff from the trees was enough to give the impression of rain. The night sky was clear and the Milky Way stunningly obvious in the sky.

Saturday was cold too and although the snow lingered on the slopes (which surround the village on all sides), the snow line was visibly rising. A six mile walk along the road up to Rainbow Falls had some good exercise, scenery, discussion, animal encounters and fresh mountain air.�Sunday morning we found another trail that ran up behind the lodge and gave some great views out over the lake. As before, the North Cascades Stehekin Lodge gets top marks -�a warm cabin in such a beautiful spot makes for a great getaway.

Pictures of the Trip to Stehekin.

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Getting ready for some flying action

It's been several months now since I took an introduction to flight lesson and although my goal of a Private Pilots License hasn't gotten any closer, it's not left my mind. I checked the Private Pilot Handbook out from the library last week and did a lot of reading over the weekend. The weather is too poor to start anything now I reckon I should be able to start my training in March or April next year.

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Turkey day

With�a�crisp morning and a subtle fog that lingered until just before noon, today is a holiday. Over the last few years, the idea of Thanksgiving has quickly made its way to near the top of my favorite holiday list. I'm not sure whether birthdays count, but I'm not a huge fan of massive celebration about my own. Christmas has�a lot going for it with its spirit and general sense of warmth on cold days and New Year is always a good opportunity to look both ways.

But Thanksgiving is about taking stock and being thankful for all that we have. My list is my own�but as I give it some thought, it turns out to be rather long.

Oh, and there's turkey too. Lots of turkey. Today, tomorrow and for the rest of the week. Jenna has kindly invited me and Katie for dinner today which I'm certainly looking forward to and tomorrow we set off before dawn for Stehekin.

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Thousands words? Not with a cameraphone's resolution..

Looking back from the cameraphone pictures from the last few months is a great aid to memory. There's some stuff before this too like my parents' trip here in September but more on that later.

View from the Disney World Swan in Orlando in mid-October. The whole trip ended up being very last-minute, booking a flight a couple of days before and taking over the accomodation from a co-worker who sustained a back injury just before the conference and couldn't make the flight.
Doing the demo/details part of the VSLive! keynote suddenly became very real with the issue of speaker's permit and T-shirt. Still, we've been seeing some of the very best of these new technologies so there was certainly no shortage of material.
The first couple of days were spent preparing so I didn't get much opportunity to explore the Disney World. Thursday, Larry and I spent the day at the Epcot Center, taking in the sights, sounds and cuisine in a slightly-smaller-than-life rendition. The Mission to Mars ride was great but I wasn't as impressed with the Test Track.
Time to start hooking up the laptops. With your display up on two twenty-foot screens, mandatory Windows patches and reboots and well as random 'Hello Werthers' IMs (thanks Ed :)) are good reminders that laptops need a little prep before a presentation.
Conference done and a day to kill in Florida. The hotel had run out of rental cars so I headed back to the airport and rented one from there. It's about an hour's drive out to the Kennedy Space Center, complete with little alligators on the roadside. Even on a rainy (but hot!) day, I thoroughly enjoyed touring the history of the space program and the tour up to the launch sites. I had lunch underneath the booster section of the absolutely huge Saturn V that never left earth.
If you really squint at this one, you can make out the 'W' logo in the center of the stage at the Key Arena. Weezer and The Foo Fighters played a great concert; lots of the old favorites and some surprises to boot.
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Homeward bound

Just booked my flights back to the UK for Christmas.�For $800,�fairly reasonable for this time of year,�I'll be spending 30 hours in the delightful company of American Airlines with sightseeing stops at JFK and O'Hare.

Fri 12/16: early departure arriving in Heathrow at 6am Saturday
Tue 12/27: afternoon flight and back in Seattle before midnight

It's been a whole year since I was last home so I'm looking forward to this.

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Xbox 360 envy

The Xbox 360 started 'selling' in stores nationwide today. I took a stroll down to EB this morning to see about picking one up but came back empty handed. I knew the pre-orders were going to get the lion's share but suspected they might have a couple of spares for walk-ins. Indeed they did, but when the retailers force the sale of a $399 console into a $700+tax bundle, I just can't do it.

As a side note, I've found the cause of the splitting headache I've been harboring for the last couple of days. An�hour�after a triple-venti-mocha infusion courtesy of Starbucks after a three day abstinence vanquished any remaining doubt that my taste for coffee is purely casual.

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Snowshoeing at Stevens Pass

For several weeks now I've been itching to see some snow. Given last year's disasterous season (no snow until January!), the mountains have been graced with enough powder for November openings which bodes well for the season ahead. Stevens, Crystal and Baker are all open and I think Snoqualmie either is or will be this week.

Anwyay,�armed with a sale bargain pair of MSR Denali snowshoes, it was time to explore. Snowshoeing is really very simple. You strap the shoes onto some boots (waterproof hiking boots seem to work well) and start walking, placing your feet just slightly wider than you might otherwise. The teeth on the bottom make easy work of icy slopes and the rest is simply choice of destination.

Katie & I headed up to Stevens Pass on�Sunday and found a trail that goes from the parking lot away from the main ski slopes. It's a decent climb for a mile or so up to a repeater station with a great view out into the valleys of the Cascades. Apparently there's a lake to see on the trail too, but we didn't find it and that didn't really matter.

Pictures of Snowshoeing at Stevens Pass.

(Powered by a Virtual Earth super map-o-tron gadget�I wrote yesterday. Use the mouse wheel to zoom, click and drag to pan.)

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Back to the land of normality

"The more we do, the more we can do; the more busy we are, the more leisure we have." -- Dag Hammarskjold

The term 'death march' in software engineering has a number of definitions, depending on where you look. Almost all capture the notion that there's a lot of work to do and too little time, money, resources or all of the above. Not all end in disaster, but given the constraints it's understable to see why so many do. In those cases where success emerges, the satisfaction of the achievement is surpassed only be the knowledge that it is done. More work will surely follow, but the hope that it will do so in a measured fashion shines eternal.

Suffice it to say, the last few months for me have not been without challenges. But as the holiday season starts with Thanksgiving this Thursday, I'm already on vacation and plan to make the very most of this time off.

Plenty has happened over the last few months and here are some of my personal highlights:

Rock on.