Monday, 30 November 2009

Hello Seattle

You'll be pleased to hear that I managed to catch today's flight :-) So I'm now in the Hyatt in Bellevue attempting to stay awake.

I arrived to heavy rain and stationary traffic on the I-405. It's good to be back!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

M is for Missed

In spite of checking in on perfect time, I managed to lose track of time in Wagamama in Terminal 5 and miss my flight to Seattle :-( Doh!

I was cheered though by a call to my mate Richard whose first reaction was "at least you'll get to watch Match of the Day 2." What a philosophy:-)

Luckily I got a seat on tomorrow's flight - let's hope I manage not to screw up again!

Mahler 8

Last night, I sat in the splendor of Ely Cathedral and heard Mahler's wonderful 8th Symphony. It's known as the symphony of a thousand voices given the vast numbers of performers. Mateja was in one of the choirs. It was a sensational concert - the combination of the music and a perfect view up the octagonal tower was breath-taking!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Last week I went to a very nice meeting in the beautiful city of Belgrade, Serbia. Sinergija is a huge IT conference for this region, that typically attracts 1,500 delegates - although with the current economic downturn this year's attendance is a bit lower. Sinergija started on Wednesday, but the day before was a special meeting for the "Influencers" from the CEE region. I gave the keynote at the meeting and spoke about Microsoft Research in general and the Cambridge lab in particular. I spoke about Georges's fantastic work on formalizing the four colour theorem using Coq; as well as Byron's work on termination analysis. Samin kindly installed Terminator on my laptop, so I was able to demo it spotting the Zune Leap Year bug! I switched gears (from all that proof!) to show Nic's work on Dragonfly (we watched a video showing Nic build a simple MP3 player in about 1 minute!).

Anyway, the talk seemed to go down well - I certainly had fun giving it. I did get collared by one delegate who wanted to productize some piece of MSR software but was prevented by the standard MSR download agreement, and hadn't been able to get hold of anyone to see about licensing the software. (He wasn't very happy.) It made me realize that some of the recent moves in MSR to license IP to third parties when its not appropriate to use in a MS product is probably a good move although presumably coming with considerable overhead.

In the morning before the Influencers meeting, Rane, Jose and I went on a rapid tour of downtown Belgrade. We started at the Kalemegdan fort; here's me, Jose and Rane at the top of the tower:

and here's the view from the top:

We then walked through the park into the centre of town. Having reached the revolution square, we then wandered around soaking up the atmosphere and the sun (Belgrade was unusually warm at the moment - it was 18C when we got back to the hotel at 11am!).

At one point we came across a huge queue of people. We followed the queue for a while, but soon realized that there were at least 1000 people in the queue. I stopped someone to ask what it was. It turned out that the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, died on 15 November and was lying in state. The queue was to see the body. It was quite moving to see. Interestingly, sitting in the airport waiting for my plane I was passed by lots of priests from the Orthodox church arriving for the funeral.

On my last night, the local host Zlatko took us to a very nice restaurant called Zaplet. We had a jolly meal; I ate an exceptional pumpkin soup and a huge plate of good cevapi (although I still think my mother-in-law's are the best!) with ajvar, washed down by a very good Serbian wine (Carigrad). Here we all are:

When I booked my flights, I thought I would be helpful and fly on the national airline, JAT, instead of BA. I'm not too sure this was a great idea - the JAT planes are very old and in poor condition, the tickets are NOT cheap, the service is poor (I was served the worst cheese sandwich in the world on the way out; the second worst being the one I had on the return flight!); and the flight was delayed in both directions (as far as I could tell, we were delayed leaving Belgrade because they couldn't find the pilots - it certainly wasn't because the airport was busy!).

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I've often wondered about the US obsession with cinnamon when I'm over there - in particular, my teeth ache just walking past a Cinnabon. It seems I'm not alone in thinking this.

A good day...

You know it's going to be a great day when you're woken up by your daughter shouting: "Daddy, I dropped the dolly in the toilet. It's floating...":-)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Slovenia in the world cup!

On Wednesday, the mighty Slovenia overturned a 2-1 deficit against the mighty Russia by winning 1-0 at Maribor and thereby qualifying for the 2010 World Cup!! Woo-hoo! It was a very exciting game: luckily Jure had told me which forums to read to find the "magic" URLs that were streaming SLO-2 on the internet, so I could watch the game.

Hopefully Slovenia won't meet England in the tournament proper:-)

Friday, 13 November 2009

Outlook goodies

I'm a big fan of Outlook; it's one of our best apps. I just came across this wonderful whitepaper entitled "Best practices for Microsoft Outlook 2007". I got a lot out of reading it, and have implemented some of the tips already. Maybe you'd find it interesting too; even if you don't run Outlook?!

Monday, 9 November 2009


I was feeling a little low today for some reason. Some of the observations here cheered me:-) [For example, #864]

Thursday, 5 November 2009

5 Megapixel office

I've just been lucky enough to get hold of a third screen for my office. So I now have 3600*1600= 5,760,000 pixels to fill! It looks like this:

It really is very nice, and as one would expect it takes a little getting used to. Unlike with two screens, I'm now able to have my main focus always in the central screen, and use the other two for more peripheral activities. As you can see above, the central screen has a big emacs buffer (with OCaml code in it!) and the side screens have command prompts and outlook, along with misc other things. You can also see in the bottom right of the right-most screen that I'm running the webcam app so I can see who's at my door *before* turning round. (what a geek!)

Monday, 2 November 2009

Real Jo Tunmer

I forgot a link to Jo's website in an earlier post. Oops! Here it is.

We love Jo's art, so check it out!

Little Boots

Our household is very keen on Little Boots. We love her album Hands. The girls do very impressive versions of Meddle and Earthquake - normally singing along to my phone whilst we're waiting for the bath to fill! So, we were very excited to hear a few months ago that she was going to be playing the Junction in Cambridge.

We went last week. I'm happy to say that she's even better live than recorded. It was a fantastic gig - she's enormously talented and her songs work very well in a live context. It was essentially a huge disco! Victoria also wore some kicking outfits!