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Betsy Weber Geek Dinner

Most times when a Geek Dinner is announced for London, it’s really not practical for me to attend. What with a journey of around an hour by train into the centre of the city, and then often a need to take the Underground to wherever the dinner is being held it’s really not practical to get there from work.

This week is a bit different. I’m on a course run by Developmentor, who host their London courses in a managed office block a short walk from Kensington Olympia Underground, so rather than a long train journey, the journey into the west end is about twenty minutes on the Underground. So when Ian posted on Twitter yesterday that he had had a couple of cancellations for the dinner that night I took advantage of being in London and headed along.

The host/special guest at the dinner was Betsy Weber of TechSmith who was in town as part of a trip around the UK, Ireland and France, and although I was vaguely aware of the company, it wasn’t a name I had come across.

Having said that, it was probably a fortuitous coincidence, as having taken a look at the website of the company, their product is really just what we’ve been looking for.

One of the issues we have at work is that users, like everybody else’s users, don’t bother to read manuals. They often end up learning to use the applications via onsite training as either a super user who has been involved in the development, or one of us in the development team travels around training the users. What we have been talking about doing of late is producing screen casts to demonstrate the software, hopefully cutting down on the travelling for face to face training.

Anyway, it did prove to be a good opportunity to share some ideas about screen casting, and certainly we can take a look at TechSmith when budgets allow.

Aside from that, like most Geek Dinners it was a real mix of people and provided lots of broad talk about technology. I was sat next to Ian, and we had an opportunity to catch up with his work with Silverlight. Opposite was Paul, an accountant by trade, but who also is involved in the regular Bar Camp events. I also talked to Julielyn, a friend of Betsy who was travelling with her and who runs a company specialising in Social Media and Internet Strategy. Sat next to me on the other side was Melinda who again is involved in BarCamp and Geek Dinners.

All in all it was a great evening. The restaurant, the Cote, a French restaurant in Soho had apparently come recommended from Colin MacKay – definitely a hit – good food and well priced. Having said that, none of us actually had to pay anything, as despite us offering to split the bill Betsy kindly picked up the bill for the whole evening!

I had my iPhone with me, so below are a few pictures I snapped during the evening.

Lucy’s First Birthday

So today Lucy reached the milestone of her first birthday. She has definitely developed her own little personality over that year, and is pretty clear what she does and doesn’t like (although that does seem to change from day to day). For example yesterday she seemed to have decided that she didn’t like peas – so any bits of pasta that had attached peas were carefully removed from her tray, and individual peas either tossed overboard, or put back into the bowl!

Tonight though we had chicken which went down well, in her case accompanied by crackers since we were having peas again. Then followed birthday cake and ice cream.

She had never had cake before, and her last encounter with ice cream was back in the summer when she didn’t like the cold, so she was a little careful trying them initially, but I think we can safely say she liked it as she munched through everything.

I’ve been playing around with Animoto recently – an online tool for putting pictures together into slideshows, so I’ve put the pictures from Lucy’s dinner together on that. If you want a more conventional view, the original pictures are over on Flickr.

Delivering Lucy

So this last week has been pretty monumental. Apparently some bloke was elected president across the pond, but the big news is our baby Lucy was born on Tuesday.

As some of you may know, Beth was diagnosed with gestational diabetes part way through the pregnancy. Basically what this means is that thanks to the hormones produced during the pregnancy her system is less sensitive to insulin, so as with a normal diabetic she needed to supplement her insulin levels by injection. Another side effect is that the birth weight is generally larger, especially if the condition has not been diagnosed, plus there is an increased risk of the baby being still born. As a result, the hospital recommended that labour be induced at around thirty-eight weeks, rather than allowing the baby to go full term.

As a result, we were booked in and dutifully turned up at the delivery suite at the hospital at 8am on Monday morning, and were put in the largest of the delivery rooms with instructions that it would probably be a long wait.

It has to be said, in terms of business, the delivery suite was pretty quiet, by Monday afternoon were were the only people in there (although they made up for that over the next couple of days with every room filled), and with us there wasn’t much happening. Beth was treated with prostaglandin shortly after we arrived and not much happened. We walked numerous circuits around the hospital corridors, but the baby resolutely stayed put. So we read the paper, Beth did the crossword and generally sat around and tried to pass the time. As a result of the failure of the first go they tried again at 3pm, and again not really much happened – Beth had some mild contractions, but by about 6pm they decided to transfer her over to the part of the maternity ward reserved for mothers before birth and sent me home, with instructions to come back for 8am the next morning when they would have another go.

In actual fact I didn’t have to wait that long. Having had something to eat, and phoned around various people with updates I got a call from Beth. Having just got settled in the ward her waters had broken and she’d been rushed back to the delivery suite. As a result I jumped into the car and headed back to the hospital.

I got back just before 10pm to find Beth pretty zonked out from gas and air, and apparently things moving pretty quickly. The midwife thought it would still take a goodly amount of time, so at about midnight we had a visit from the anaesthetist who administered an epidural to allow Beth to get some rest, and they set up a bed in the corner of the room for me to sleep on whilst they monitored during the night.

The overnight monitoring found that Beth dilated pretty well up until the check at 4am. By 8am she was still dilated the same amount and the doctors were called in. The problem appeared to be that because of the positioning of the baby it was being pushed into Beth’s pelvis. They said that we could continue with normal labour if we wanted – but added that we could very well be in exactly the same position in a few hours time. The other option was an emergency c-section. Since Beth was pretty tired at this point we opted for the c-section, and went into theatre about 9:30am, with Lucy being born at 9:41am.

Not surprisingly, us as parents didn’t see much of what was going on. I was sat up by Beth’s head, along with the anaesthetist, and they set up a screen so that Beth and myself can’t see the operation in progress. It takes them all of about a minute to get to the baby (the start time of the operation was officially 9:40am, and you could hear Lucy crying before she was even taken out. After that Lucy got handed over to a paediatrician to check she was okay, whilst the surgeon removes the placenta and closes up the incision. After the paediatrician has done his initial checks Lucy was brought around for Beth to see, and all the rest of the checks, the weighing of the baby and dressing are all done where Beth can see, in part as a distraction from what is going on over on the other side of the screen.

From there we went through and spent a bit of time in the recovery bay along with a mixture of other patients from the other operating theatres, and from there we were taken straight through to the maternity ward. Beth and Lucy spent a couple of nights there, and came home yesterday.

All in all we had a great experience with the hospital and the five midwives we went through during the over twenty-four hours we were going through the system. Perhaps the only complaint we’d have is the sauna like heat throughout the building. People may point at lots of other ways that the NHS is losing money, but if Frimley Park is typical, one major way is straight out of the window. In our room in the delivery suite the main radiator was going full pelt all day, with no way to turn it off, and as a result the staff keep both windows in the room permanently open to keep the temperature at something reasonable. It is the same story in the maternity ward where again they had windows open to keep the place at a reasonably constant temperature. Only the private rooms actually seem to have some ability to control the temperature, and there are some radiators around the place with valves, but not all.

Anyway, mother and baby are now home and doing well, and we’d like to thank everybody for all the good wishes and gifts – indeed the first piece of post addressed to Lucy was sitting on the step when we got home yesterday. We’ve had various people ask if we have things we particularly need, so there are a couple of wish lists going for Lucy. One is at Amazon, and is mainly toys and books, the other is at Mothercare and is generally more practical items, so if you’re stuck for something to get feel free to take a look at those. Once again, we’d like to thank everybody for all the good wishes, offers of help, and gifts, hopefully we’ll find time to get around to thanking everybody personally once things have settled down a bit around here! In the mean time, not surprisingly we have an ever growing collection of pictures of Lucy, which you can see over on our photo pages.

Catch Up

Okay, another bit of a gap in blogging, and another catch up!

Pregnancy wise, Beth has been back and forth to the hospital several times over the past couple of weeks with stuff related to the gestational diabetes. The dietary stuff didn’t overly work – indeed her blood sugar seems to go all over the place whatever she has actually been eating, as a result the hospital have given her insulin which she uses to bring her blood sugar back to acceptable levels. However as a diabetic, albeit a temporary one, we have had to notify both the DVLA, and the insurance companies for the cars. For the moment it is just a note on the policies – whether there is any change in premium is dependant on whether Beth’s blood sugar settles down again after the birth.

One thing I didn’t comment on last week was the final of Last Choir Standing. Unlike some of the shows of this ilk that we’ve watched, we actually had some idea what was happening being members of the choir. Pretty well from the start of the final stages, I’d been pretty sure the final two choirs would be ACM Gospel Choir, based our of the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and Only Men Aloud, a modern twist on the traditional male voice choir from Cardiff. However things were thrown somewhat into disarray by the shock exit of ACM in the semi-final. Now I don’t know quite whether the guys from ACM got over confident and were caught out by the other choirs improving more, or whether they just had a bad night, but it did seem to thrown the competition open a bit. However by the end, despite some stunning performances – the improvement in Ysgol Glanaethwy, the youth choir from Bangor was amazing, and I’m still very impressed that a youth choir would attempt and produce such a fantastic performance of O Fortuna – but the ultimate winners were a well deserved Only Men Aloud. If you want to hear what some of the music was like, ACM Gospel Choir have an album newly released – although listening to it I can certainly hear the voices of some of the judges as a couple of things they spotted are present on the album.

Reality TV wise we’ve also had the finale of this years Big Brother. What perhaps is most interesting about this is that it was a bit of a bad night for the bookies as there was no clear winner. If you compare the final percentages for the 2008 finale with the results in 2007 you can see that each evictee on the final night was within a few percentage points of staying it – and the final winner was decided on only about three percent of the vote compared to a lead of over twenty percent last year – really it could have gone to almost any of the final five. Quite what will happen next year I don’t know – the programme got lower ratings than ever this year, and the show isn’t the guarantee of even Z-list status it once was. As this Times article from today quotes Craig Phillips winner of the first series:

“I speak to a lot of Big Brother contestants from the past few years and they’re all struggling. They can’t get work in the media but they can’t get a ‘normal’ job in a supermarket. It’s not going to be all red carpets for this year’s winner.”

I doubt they’ll drop the show before it’s tenth anniversary next year, but quite what it’s longevity will be after that I don’t know.

Is That Legitimate Work?

Hmmm, that looks like a Nintendo Wii hooked up to one of our projectors…

Yes, that’s exactly what it is, and yes we did have Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games playing on it too, but it was all in a good cause.

One of the groups of users that one of my colleagues works with are also responsible for organising the Christmas party, and earlier in the year they had the idea that they could liven up the event by having a couple of Nintendo Wii consoles set up. When they spoke to the events company, they said that this was okay, but said that the company would need to rent, from them, a couple of large LCD screens to display the picture. The rather eye-watering cost for the rental ran into the thousands.

Now my colleague, during a couple of mornings working with the users overheard these discussions and disagreed, saying that the console would work fine with just one of the projectors that our company owns anyway for giving presentations. The events company of course disagree, and went so far as to tell us that the Nintendo Wii wouldn’t work at all with a normal projector, and that it needed the expensive LCD TV’s they were going to rent to us. On further questioning the technobabble came down to it being because people would have to stand between the projector and the screen.

So to prove that they were wrong, my colleague brought in his Nintendo Wii today, and we hooked it up to one of the company projectors, and set it up in our office. We then invited up the Christmas party team who spent about half an hour playing Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, perfectly happy with the picture from the projector, and no problems at all…

Score one for us against salesmen attempting to persuade people to shell out excessive amounts of money unnecessarily by using a whole load of technobabble.