Something New Every Day

A record of doing a new thing every day in 2011

Saw Ian McCaskill at Heathrow (36/365) Saturday February 5, 2011

I was wandering around Terminal 5 looking for something to do I hadn’t done before and was getting a bit desparate, but I then spotted what I’m almost certain was ex-TV weatherman Ian McCaskill wandering around.

Now I’ve always been very interested in the weather, and almost studied Meteorology for my first degree before I took one look at Reading and decided against it. Obviously Mr. McCaskill was your classic weatherman as a character, but IMHO nowhere near as good as the brilliant Daniel Corbett. To complete my fascinating review of current presenters, Hannah Bayman from Look North is always very interesting on Twitter and well worth following.

Anyway, a quick search shows no evidence that it wasn’t Ian McCaskill here at the airport, so I’m claiming it as something new so I can go home in a bit without having to worry about doing anything different when I get there. Hurrah!

Trying "No food on plane" anti jet-lag diet (35/365) Friday February 4, 2011

It been a long journey home from Seattle (and still going on). I’ve done this trip far too many times now, and the duration makes it very hard to fit something new in.

However I’ve been wanting to try something for quite a while. A few months back there was an investigation on The Gadget Show about different ways of beating jet-lag. The most successful one was trying to reset your body clock by not eating for 12 hours, and then eating normally when you arrive.

If I remember correctly, the science behind it was there are two internal clocks in the body. The one triggered by light, and another triggered by food. Supposedly if you trick the body into resetting itself by not eating while in transit, you’ll recover much quicker. A quick Bing found an article on the BBC website with some details.

Well so far so good - but too early to tell. I’m sitting in Heathrow waiting for my connection to Newcastle, and despite only getting at most 2 hours sleep I don’t feel too bad. I’m tired but don’t have that disorientated feeling I usually have.

Now all I need to do is tackle today’s task before falling asleep!

Update: Bloody hell I think it worked! I’ve had two decent nights sleep after I got home, and although I’m a little tired (what’s new?) I got up to make my early train down to London like normal. Will definitely try this again.

Stuck in Seattle (34/365) Thursday February 3, 2011

A whole day of pretty miserable new things.

I was due to fly home from Seattle yesterday evening, but after spending 2 hours on the tarmac we went nowhere. There was a hydraulic fault in the backup systems they couldn’t repair, so they needed a new part before being allowed to take off.

I’ve done the SEA-LHR trip many times and that’s the first time the flight has been cancelled.

We have been put up in a DoubleTree hotel near the airport. First time I’ve stayed in one and it’s OK. The food is reasonable and I’ve been parked in the bar all day working whilst waiting for my rescheduled flight this evening.

What fun.

I was Higher Than An Eagle (33/365) Wednesday February 2, 2011

Not really the new thing, but I couldn’t resist that as a title.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times this week, the views from the top of Bing HQ have been fantastic this week. As we were having breakfast early in the morning in the cafeteria on the 25th floor, Mark pointed out soaring below us was a Bald Eagle.

I’d never seen one before and it was impressively large with a massive wingspan. Really cool to see it with the sun rising up behind it over the Cascade Mountains.

I’m looking forward to heading home tomorrow, but will definitely miss the scenery here.

Saw Seahawks Star Signing in Bing Cafeteria (32/365) Tuesday February 1, 2011

Quite a strange first today.

I was working in Bing HQ in Bellevue, WA when there was a mini-commotion in the corridor. All we heard was someone say “you should get their autograph” which was enough to get us to investigate further. We went up to the cafeteria on the 26th floor - from which there were absolutely spectacular views today - and looked around, but didn’t spot anyone famous.

We almost gave up, assuming we’d misheard, but then we saw our colleague Emily rushing up to someone sitting down, and getting a poster signed. We still didn’t know who it was so didn’t want to risk approaching the “celebrity” and embarrassing ourselves.

Still at least we could ask Emily who he was and what was going on. Now it turns out it was Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Roy Lewis, who was in the building just to sign autographs.

Now here’s the bizarre bit. He was there just as part of an internal “Superbowl” promotion, which is basically some mashed potato with toppings in a bowl obviously linked to this weekend’s big game. I’d had some earlier in the week and it was OK, but getting in a sports star to promote it? That’s crazy. Microsoft really is a little weird sometimes :-)


Went to a US Chipotle (31/365) Monday January 31, 2011

As you may know I’m a big fan of Chipotle, and am a regular in what I think is the only one in the UK on Charing Cross Road, London. However I’d never been to one in the US, something I rectified tonight.

We’d been to the cinema to see Green Hornet 3D on the IMAX in Lincoln Square Cinema in Bellevue and wanted something tasty and quick to eat - so Chipotle was the perfect choice. It was very similar to the UK version, except for a couple of minor differences:

  • The menu boards showed the calories (not too bad!)
  • They had a kids menu, and drinks were also more obviously placed
  • The food was just about identical. The hot salsa didn’t seem quite as hot as at home, although that could well have just been my expectations after a week of “5-star spicy” food that isn’t very hot at all.

Wrote a review on Rotten Tomatoes (30/365) Sunday January 30, 2011

Following on from an earlier theme of trying to contribute more to the t’Internet, today I wrote my first review and rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Almost certainly you’ve been to the site before, but if not it’s a really good movie website where the reviews and ratings of the films are all crowd-sourced.  The large number of users means the ratings are usually a pretty good indication of the quality of the film.

Anyway I added my review of rating of True Grit that we saw the other night.

What was hard was trying to write something that might be deemed useful without sounding like a pretentious arsehole. Hopefully I didn’t fall into that trap, but I don’t think my review was any good. Still, never hurts to try something outside of your comfort zone!

Bought a Netbook (29/365) Saturday January 29, 2011

I’ve been looking for a lightweight laptop for a while - something I can do some development on separate to my work laptop that isn’t going to weigh me down as I travel around.

After MUCH planning, I decided to buy an Asus Eee PC 1015PE from the Microsoft Store in Bellevue. It’s a really nice size, and the keyboard is just big enough to be comfortable to type on. I’m writing this entry on it right now.

It’s been a pretty miserable day here weather-wise, so I’ve had fun in my hotel room installing a whole bunch of software on my new machine. the list so far is:

  • Google Chrome
  • Evernote
  • Python
  • Mercurial
  • Google App Engine SDK
  • Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Zune
  • Paint.Net

As usual I’m trying very hard only to install just what I need to work and not put any crap on here, but overtime those good intentions usually fail.

BTW the Microsoft Store is actually pretty good, and loads nicer than the Apple store just a few shops down. Lots more going on, a variety of different things to look at and play with, and a noticeable lack of smugness from the staff :-)

A day full of meetings (28/365) Friday January 28, 2011

As you may know I’m in the US at the moment for work, which means visiting the Bing HQ in Bellevue, WA

We always try to make the most of our visits by arranging as many meetings as possible, but Friday was the first time I can ever remember that I had a day completely full of meetings. I’ve added a picture of my Outlook calendar to remember the momentous day, with the top-secret details of what we were discussing redacted :-)


Learnt how to make a transparent PNG file (27/365) Thursday January 27, 2011

My ongoing quest to get my Bedside Clock phone app is nearly complete, so I’m just trying to wrap up all the odd fit and finish jobs before it’s unleashed on an unsuspecting public.

One thing I needed to do was design an icon for the app, which is shown on both the list of apps and on the home page as a tile if set by the user. Now I wanted the icon to be “theme aware” so it would reflect the colour scheme selected by the user.

This is reasonably easy to do, as you just need to make a transparent PNG file, and WP7 will do the rest. However I’d never done that before, and my graphics package of “choice” (MSPaint) doesn’t let you set the transparency.

After a bit of Binging I found out that Paint.Net - a free graphics package actually does this. It’s a pretty impressive free tool, and very suitable for someone like me who has very few graphical design skills. I’ll definitely add it to my toolbox of useful software packages.