post California gives us a big send-off

October 30th, 2007

Filed under: San Francisco — mat @ 9:06 pm

8:04 pm. Night before the flight. Sushi in West Portal. The Earth begins to shake.

Yes, indeed, the Great Earthquake State is sending us off in grand style. A 5.6 quake just shook the Alum Rock area of San Jose (about 50 miles away). We felt it quite distinctly in West Portal, raising rather more nervous laughter among the diners than actual panic.

What do we think? A good omen?

post Separating Apples from lemons

October 30th, 2007

Filed under: General,San Francisco — mat @ 3:05 pm

Y’know, it’s not like Apple is the perfect company or anything, but every now and again I realize why I just love doing business with them.

There was that time that our cat tore three keys off my laptop keyboard. I took it to the Genius Bar, expecting to have to pay some other-worldly sum to replace the keyboard. The ‘genius’ took one look and said: ‘Let me guess. Cat, right?’ One minute later he pushed three snap-in keys onto my board and I was on my merry way, free of charge. Genius, indeed.

On another occasion, I had a broken power adapter. The salesman worked out that it was just a minor problem with the ‘duck’s head’ (the bit that actually plugs into the wall). Popped, replaced, on my way…once again, free of charge. Try getting that kind of service at CompUSA or Best Buy.

Well, they did it again today. I’ve been into the San Francisco store quite a bit lately, picking up a spare battery and investigating a sound system for the pending move. I was a bit dumb (and the packaging was a bit less than perfectly marked), and it ultimately took three tries to get the right battery. There was also one salesperson who got, shall we say, a bit over-excited about what constituted the ‘right’ sound system. Well, I responded to the store’s ‘how was your shopping experience?’ questionnaire; today, the Store Manager phoned me to talk about what happened and how the experience could be made better.

Now, I should point out that I didn’t give the store a failing grade or anything. Far from it. I don’t think I even mentioned the salesperson with the speakers. The manager was just calling because the response “could have been better.”

He talked about how Apple could label certain products better (and the part he could play in making that happen). He apologized for the speaker incident after I explained it, noting that some of his employees are quite enthusiastic about what they do. He even proactively suggested that his staff could be better trained to identify poorly labeled items and ask the customer if they were sure they’d selected the right product. The only thing he didn’t do was to offer me a free copy of Leopard for my troubles (ok, that might be pushing it, but it would have been appreciated nonetheless).

post FlexBuilder first impressions

October 30th, 2007

Filed under: Flex — mat @ 11:09 am

I purchased FlexBuilder yesterday. Seemed like a long flight (and the spare battery I picked up at the Apple store last week) would be a great opportunity to get stuck in to Flex at last.

It’s an interesting environment: very spare by contrast with the Flash IDE, very developery. That said, I’ve done all my Flex work up to this point (which is so far naught but hobby stuff) in the open source Flex SDK, and it’s a LOT more enjoyable than that. I really like the DreamWeaver-style code/design views, which help the newbie developer wrap his head around the code.

A number of real oddities standout, though. Notably, the entire ‘fl’ package seems to be missing, so AS3 code developed in Flash, if it uses anything within that package, won’t work. This seems mind-boggling to me. Maybe I just don’t understand yet. I haven’t tried fixing classpaths to Flash CS3 first run yet…that should work, but can that really be necessary? It also seems odd to me that I can’t (so far as I can tell) drag-and-drop data components on-stage in the design view. I mean, OK, it’s a ‘design’ view. I get that. But it would facilitate development substantially to be able to drag httpService onstage and set its properties through the Property Inspector, and what’s wrong with that?

Another issue: the PC copy my office purchased last week crashed and refused to re-open. I ultimately had to uninstall and reinstall to get it going.

So I guess you’ll be hearing some impressions of my struggles with Fx over the coming weeks. Lucky you!

post This is the week!

October 29th, 2007

Filed under: General,Scotland — mat @ 6:06 pm

I’m on the ferry in San Francisco Bay right now, traveling to Larkspur for another Monday at work. Tomorrow I’ll do the same. On Wednesday (Halloween!) we’ll be boarding an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin with a connection to Edinburgh! We arrive (all going as planned) a bit disheveled but essentially intact Thursday morning.

Several interviews and a few less serious get-togethers have been lined up. We’ll be exploring neighborhoods and apartments, checking out bars, restaurants and grocery stores, climbing at a local rock gym and generally making the most of our scant week. Things we won’t be doing, for better or worse, include visiting Arthur’s Seat, checking out William Wallace’s favorite sword shop, tracking our ancestry (a futile effort in both our cases), or enjoying a good old-fashioned caber toss.

Check in often, as I hope to be posting updates with photos every day beginning Thursday!

post Games coming to MySpace

October 23rd, 2007

Filed under: Actionscript,Games — mat @ 2:10 pm

Pay attention Flash game developers: this has lots of potential for all of us. As a friend just remarked to me: “you can think what you want of myspace (and social networking in general), but you REALLY CAN’T argue with their numbers…”

I must admit I’ve not paid a lot of attention to MySpace. I should explore whether/what kind of API they might offer. If, like myself, you’re interested in collaborative online gaming, you couldn’t really ask for a better proving ground.

post Coping with happiness

October 23rd, 2007

Filed under: General — mat @ 9:06 am

I had a crisis of joy this weekend. Well, not a crisis to be honest, but a definite twinge. People who hear about our grand excursion almost universally assess our futures on the scales of opportunity vs. peril. Opportunity means adventure and broadening possibilities. Peril means leaving our jobs, facing a cold, damp climate, eating deep-fried food and shivering through endless winter nights. It’s odd that so few make the calculation instead of joy against joy, contentment against excitement. (more…)

post A drink down the Canny Man

October 22nd, 2007

Filed under: Scotland — mat @ 9:39 am

Our reconnaissance trip is scarcely more than a week away, and with it comes a bewildering barrage of to-dos. No mere pleasure cruise, this. More to pack than sunscreen and a bathing suit. Indeed, no need for either of these quaint curiosities of the Southworld. But even for a journey North this is no cakewalk. All the obvious features of a vacation apply: plane ticket, maps, housing, car, a place to house our kitty whilst we’re away. But piled on this are a set of other concerns.

Interviews feature prominently. I’ve already laid out a suit and purchased some new shirts and a tie. We’re both scouring the job boards and the websites of potential employers, letting the nation know of our impending arrival. Roll up! Roll up! My movable shingle will be hung in your city, but for one week only! Also, there are the meetings not quite job related: an old friend who lives in town, the head of a local user group, a researcher (connected through a mutual friend) at Glasgow University, other folk we’ve met through e-mail.

Beyond all these are the dozens of minutiae you mightn’t expect to trouble you (or at least not as much) were you relocating from San Francisco to, say, Boston or Sheboygan. How much do a pound of apples cost? How about a jar of peanut butter? Will we even find peanut butter (ok, ok, but I happen to like peanut butter)? What’s local public transit like? What would it cost to get a car if we want one, or join a car share program? Can one bicycle in Edinburgh, what with the cold, the wet and the hills (this might be a strange question, coming from San Francisco, but still, one needs to know). How serious are the Scots, really, about sports? What activities are available?

(On that latter point, I must point out that I’ve already bought a book on surfing in Scotland and largely concluded that (1) I need a thicker wetsuit, and (2) refer back to (1).)

Now in fairness to those who’ve attempted this perilous journey in the past, I have to confess that we’ve got it fairly easy in this digital age. All these questions may be at least partly answered by asking Brother Google. Still, there’s no substitute for being on the ground, talking with others, seeing what’s in the shops, hitting Alien Rock for a climb, and quaffing a pint at the Canny Man.

post Scottish demeano(u)r

October 18th, 2007

Filed under: Scotland — mat @ 7:22 am

I have to say that so far I’ve been very impressed by the Scots I’ve chatted/traded e-mails with. To be fair on this point, those Scots with whom I’ve actually spoken have included only one “true” Scottish person so far. The others have been a mix of Irish and English relocated North of the Border (or East of the Sea, I suppose). But those who’ve gotten back to me on my job hunt have been affable, informative, and universally positive about their location. They certainly make the place seem rather attractive.

post Fleet week

October 11th, 2007

Filed under: San Francisco — mat @ 6:58 am

This is cute. Last weekend was Fleet Week here in San Francisco, which basically means hundreds of boats on the bay and dozens of aircraft overhead (many doing tricks to impress their girlfriends). A friend sent me this link yesterday. October 10 Photo of the Day:

That’s me in profile on the starboard side.

post Holy Crap!

October 10th, 2007

Filed under: Scotland — mat @ 7:26 pm

Since announcing my blog, I’ve received quite a number of e-mails and phone calls from the shocked, the stunned and the bemused. The most common reaction seems to be “Why?!”, though I’ve been tickled with the odd “Holy crap!” or words to that effect. Tickled, I suppose, by all these friends – many of whom I must confess we rarely see – who seem to share a common reaction: that while they’re excited for our coming adventure, they’re really quite sorry to see us go. A touching sentiment, regardless of the expletives involved. To these I can only respond that this is the age of the blog, the cell phone, VOIP and the website, and Scotland is really not so very far away. You might further consider whether a vacation to a cold, northern land of almost perpetual night where a friend has a spare bedroom mightn’t be just the thing to ease those warm, lonely California winters.

As to the rather more common “Why?!” Well, what is one to say about adventure? Did Huck Finn question his adventure down the Mississippi? Did Luke Skywalker ask “Why on Earth, er, Tatooine, would I go to Alderaan?” We decided that life needed a bit of an aul’ jangle. We decided that said jangle required a bit more than a lick of paint on the house. Why Scotland has already been answered previously. The adventure is the reason.

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