Christmas Party and More Visiting Edmontonians

This week has been insane! As I mentioned in my last post, we headed out for the company Christmas party this past weekend. The Christmas party was held at the beautiful Lyrath hotel in Kilkenny. There are so many people at the company that we couldn't all be put up in that hotel, so we were spread across four different hotels in Kilkenny for the night. Darse, Xan, Diane and I headed out on Friday afternoon to Kilkenny and stayed there on Friday night so we could see a little of the town the next day. We joined several other people for a nice dinner at the Lyrath. Post dinner, we spent a fair amount of time hanging out and socializing in a bar in the Lyrath. By the time Diane and I caught a cab back to our hotel (the NewPark Hotel), it was three in the morning!

We slept in the next morning, and finally got out to explore Kilkenny a bit. It was a crisp afternoon that felt very much like morning, even though we didn't get to Kilkenny Castle in the afternoon. There was a bit of fog in the air, and the green grass was covered in some light frost. Kilkenny Castle was a pretty formidable structure, but we didn't get a chance to explore inside since we had missed the latest tour and the next one was sold out. Since we didn't have time to wait around for the tour after that, we walked down main street in Kilkenny to see some other sights.

One of the places we ended up in was the Black Abbey, which we almost went by. We walked along and were taking a few photos of the outside the church, and were about to move on when a lady passing by stopped and told us that it was "really quite lovely inside", that it was "open anytime", and that is was her "favourite church in town". That was quite a recommendation, and we became a bit more curious about finding the entrance. It was indeed open, and it was breathtaking. The church featured several very large and very colourful stained glass windows that shone very well in the afternoon light.

The afternoon was rapidly disappearing though, so we needed to get back to our hotel to get dressed up for the black tie affair that evening!

We arrived at the Lyrath dressed up and ready to party. The hotel lobby was already filled with people chatting, helping themselves to the appetizers and wine that were being served. At roughly 6pm, the company poker tournament began -- a super speed poker tournament where 4 employees formed a team at one of 8 single table tournaments. The winning team at each table took down €1000 to split amongst themselves. Unfortunately, while my team did well, we finished in second. We bubbled, as we say in the poker world. That is to say, we finished in the place before they start paying out money!

Dinner was scheduled for 8pm (which gives you an idea how fast the poker tournament went) so we were hurried to a huge room with 55 ten person tables set up. Diane and I sat with the Biotools guys, who were flown out for the Christmas party! Nice perk huh? Dinner was a 4 course plated affair: chicken caesar salad, potato and leek soup, either a stuffed chicken breast dish or a steak dish as the main course, and a dessert. It was pretty good!

After dinner there was several attractions: they had a DJ getting the dance floor hopping, there was an open bar all night long, and they brought in some Cuban cigar rollers to demonstrate and hand out the results of their work. The party went super late, with an afterhours bar open until 4am! By the time Diane and I got back to our hotel, it was after 6am. It was an epic party!

We drove back to Dublin on Sunday afternoon and took the rest of Sunday to recover a little bit before starting back to work. But the party didn't stop there. The Biotools folks were still in town until Thursday morning so we had to make sure they enjoyed their time here. So we proceeded to go out for dinner on Monday, over to Aaron's place to hang out and play foosball and nhl '09 on Tuesday, and to the Rockfield pub for poker and trivia last night. I am some burnt out after all this hard partying, but it has been a lot of fun too.

In last night's poker tournament, I managed to catch a good run of cards and turn them into a first place prize for a tidy profit. It's not that often I win a poker tournament, so that was pretty nice. The tournament started out a bit rocky when my full house ran into a bigger one. Whoops!

So it's been a crazy busy week! I've got a bunch of photos to catch up on, so look to see those up soon. I think there's a few worth looking at.

Hope everyone's well, and looking forward to whatever Christmas plans you have. On our plate? Getting ready for our trip to Austria!


Honeymoon Cruise: Final Day

– note: this post was written while aboard the cruise ship on the 17th of July and posted on the 19th of July after arriving back – Well, Diane and I are now waiting for debarkation from the ship. It's awfully early -- 7:30 in the morning, and we've been up since 6 so that we could have breakfast. I don't have much else to do, so I figured I'd get caught up with the blog posting.

I left off before the second musical show called "Spin". This time around, the show was themed around a wheel with different destinations on it. After each song, they spun the wheel to get a new destination and they'd do a song around that theme. There was quite a few places they did, most of which were in the United States. We arrived a bit late, but caught songs themed around Texas, New York, New Orleans, Puerto Rico and a few others that I can't remember. It was pretty fun actually.

After the show, we headed off to dinner. By this point we'd started to get to know our dinner partners John and Dawnyelle. Our dinner conversation was pretty fun, and we had a pretty good time. There was escargo on the menu, which is something I've never tried. John mentioned that they were there, and then it became something we had to try. So the four of us split an order of escargo. It was sure buttery and garlicy ... and you really couldn't taste what the snail tasted like. It kind of had a texture similar to calimari, which I suppose makes sense. So, one thing off the list of things to try! For a main course, both Diane and I had some battered fish and shrimp. It was fairly tasty, although some of our other dinners were better.

After dinner, rather than going to see the "R-rated" hypnosis show, we decided to just head to bed. The next day would be our Ensenada excursion, so we didn't want to stay up too late for a show that maybe wasn't that exciting. I imagine if he standup guy was back, we might've stayed up for him.

We slept in a little more than we had when we hit Cabo, but that's partly because our excursion didn't leave until 10:45. This time, we went to have breakfast at Tiffany's (that's what the buffet restaurant is called) and then got off the ship well in advance of our tour. It was a nice day though, so we wandered around the little market, and sat in the shade for a little while before heading off on our tour.

The tour we had signed up for was a kayaking trip -- the first leg of which was a one hour bus ride to the site. The main tourist attraction in Ensenada is a natural blowhole called El Bufadora. This formation is a place where air pressure builds up in a natural pocket and every few seconds the blowhole sprays water up high into the air. Our kayaking would bring us within a few metres away fromwhere the water exits.

The bus ride was fairly nice. Our tour guide was very excited and talked almost all the way there. She told us about the city of Ensenada, about the state we were in, and about Mexico. She gave us shopping and bargaining advice. She did a pretty good job, and her English was really quite good so it was pretty informative.

After getting off the bus, we got a quick lesson in kayaking from a friendly guy named Carlos. From there, we walked a little ways down to the beach where a bunch of two-man kayaks were sitting. One by one, the kayak tour guides pushed each boat into the water where we paddled out a little ways. The water was beautifully clear, so we could see quite a ways down. The biggest feature in the water was by far the large kelp forests -- our kayaking took us through several patches of the stuff. It's pretty crazy how large these plants must be. We couldn't see the bottom of the ocean anywhere, but the kelp grows on the bottom and extends their branches to the top of the water and they extend across the water for quite a ways. A pretty incredible sight.

On the way out to the blowhole we spotted several dolphins. It's pretty cool to see them swimming along not really all that far away. The trip to the blowhole was pretty short, but we sat in the water for awhile to watch it. I risked bringing my little camera along so I took it out and took several photos and videos of the blowhole in action. It was pretty neat to see it from our vantage point, and I'm pretty sure that's the best way to see it. The vantage point from land really wasn't nearly as good since you don't get to see the bottom of the spray.

After the tour guides took anyone who wanted to closer to the blowhole, we started paddling back to the beach. On the way back, Diane and I spotted a seal! It was awfully cute. On our way back, we'd see it several times coming up for air, but we never managed to get a photo of it. We got surprisingly close to it, actually -- and every time he came up we paddled a little closer. I wonder if it thought we were stalking it.

The tour guides helped us get up on the beach from our kayaks and we walked back to the bus to wash off the sand and dry off a bit. The bus tour guide was very excited to take us to the market leading towards the blowhole -- so even though it wasn't officially part of our tour, we got an extra hour to wander through the market. It was quite interesting ... the people there were quite eager to sell us stuff. At times they were quite pushy. In preparation for our kayaking, Diane and I forgot to pack some money with us, so we actually couldn't buy anything. It was kind of amusing being hassled into someone's store to look at their stained glass, but not having money to purchase anything. Of course, the guy there didn't know that ... but we did. Some of the stuff on sale was pretty odd. There were several drug stores down the stretch selling all kinds of spam-subject drugs like viagra and cialis. One guy went so far as to touch my arm and say something along the lines of "you could go all-night baby". I was a little creeped out to say the least. Makes a good story though.

We wandered through the market for a little ways, taking some free samples of churros, and homemade bread. It helped us last until we got back to the ship. We got back to the bus well before our 3:00 meetup time, and waited around for the rest of our tour people to come back from the market. There was a group of four that were late, and we came very close to leaving them behind but thankfully they got back just in time. The bus ride back was kind of relaxing and I had a very quick nap.

Arriving back at the ship, we cleaned up and then wandered around the ship for a bit. There was supposed to be ball room dance music playing in one of the lounges, but when we showed up there was nobody there. I guess nobody showed up, so they stopped (or never started?). So we hung around for a little bit. Diane had a nap, before we went off to dinner. Our last dinner with John and Dawnyelle was fun. We exchanged pictures and email addresses. Maybe they'll come visit us in Ireland some day. I had veal parmigiani for dinner, and Diane had the salmon. Both were pretty tasty. We chatted for awhile after dinner and then wandered back to our room where we stayed for a little while before the 10:30 show that evening. The neat thing about the last show was they had been doing auditions at karaoke for some well known artists like Garth Brooks, Brittany Spears, Madonna, Elton John, Elvis, Ricky Martin, etc. The best ones were picked and they put on a show where these people got to get up on stage dressed up like the artists they were impersonating. It was actually pretty fun. The guy who did Garth Brooks sounded almost exactly like him which was pretty awesome. The rest of them ranged in quality a bit, and some definately looked a bit nervous which is totally understandable. It was a neat idea that worked pretty well I think.

After the show was over, Diane and I went off to collapse. In order to get up in time for breakfast, we had to get up pretty early so we set an early wakeup call at 6am. It came too fast, but both of us woke up pretty quickly. We showered, packed ourselves up, and moved out of our room in pretty short order and made it to breakfast a little before 7:00. Breakfast was rather nice -- we went for the dining room where we got full service. It didn't take too long for us to get our croissants, eggs benedict, fruit juice, and coffee. It was pretty tasty, but by the time we were finished and sat around for a bit, it was only 7:45.

So now we're sitting in one of the lounges waiting for our debarkation number to be called. They've gone through numbers 1-9 so far, and we're number 16. Once we get called we can head off the ship and head to the airport where we'll wait until 3:20 to leave San Diego. It's gonna be a bit of a long day methinks. Still, it's a bit hard to believe our honeymoon is almost over. In some ways it'd be nice to stick around a bit longer, but it'll be nice to be back home too.


Day 5: Polaris Victory, Cirque Du Soleil, and Celebration

Sorry about not getting up a blog entry yesterday. Yesterday morning we had to move hotels so we were busy with that, and blogging about the previous day kind of got pushed to the wayside. Alright, so where to start? Sunday morning felt very similar the past 3 days. We got up around 8, and headed down to the expo for around 9. This morning we had a decision to make. Was there any reason for us to try and modify the bot in any way before the 4th and final live match went down? We argued for awhile about it, but eventually came down to a consensus. The bot wasn't going to chance much. We got the booth setup, and got to chat with a couple of media people who were shooting video for the discovery channel. They would do several interviews throughout the day, including the players IJay Palansky and Matt Hawrilenko. So before the match started, IJay went through a pre-game interview and then got sent up to the hotel room to start his half of the match around 11am.

At around 1pm, Matt arrived and he went through the same pre-game interviews before sitting down to take on the bot. It's interesting watching only half of a duplicate match -- there is so much luck to the cards that you really have to try and think about how the other player would have played against the bot on the other side of the cards to see whether you're getting more money or not.

To make a long story short, we won. We won by a large margin which is probably statistically significant. Our analysis tools say that Matt broke even with the bot and that IJay got crushed -- which wasn't so surprising to us since IJay said he was going to try and change his style. There are a limited number of poker players who can change their styles and still not be exploitable, and this was a case where the player couldn't do that.

So this was the year that Man fell to the machine in heads-up limit texas hold'em. No doubt there will be many who will want to challenge the bot now to see if they can beat it. But I guess I won't be with the group anymore to see those first hand.

The group of us packed up our stuff and got ready to celebrate. We had already purchased tickets to the Cirque Du Soleil show called O, but we had some time to kill before the 10:30 showing we had tickets for. We wandered over to the Bellagio with the aim of finding some dinner before the show and eventually found ourselves at a pretty fancy restaurant there called Senshi. The place was quite nice, and I was a bit amazed at how deep the restaurant went back. The place was quite a bit more pricey than places I'm used to, but it was a celebratory dinner! I had a glass of red wine with my meal of a huge hunk of new york style steak. The thing was massive ... like nearly 2 inches thick, and it was probably the best steak I've ever had.

After dinner, we went back to enter the Cirque theatre, and spread ourselves out across the theatre. We ordered tickets pretty late, so none of the 12 people in our party could sit together, but we still all got tickets! For those that don't know, the O Cirque show is their water one. The stage is a big pool of water, but the stage was *very* dynamic. They could raise the depth of the pool to very shallow or even make a floor overtop of the water. There was parts where only parts of the stage were a pool, but not others. It was fascinating just watching the stage change configurations throughout the show.

The Cirque performers were pretty incredible too. There were all manner of different tricks and feats of strength and flexibility they did throughout the show. There was probably too much going on for me to remember everything, but here's some highlights I found cool. To start the show, the curtains in front of the stage were whisked away in an incredibly entertaining fashion. I can't even really describe it except that it was awesome. Two trapeze artists shared the same trapeze for some pretty incredible moves (included one holding the other with just one arm). The three people-launching dive platforms that they used to send the Cirque divers high into the air and with little-to-no splash at the end. I wonder if this might be one place olympic divers go. A set of 4 creepily flexible women dressed in red formed all kinds of human pyramid type formations. Two people dressed in red were whisked around the stage by what looked like long strands of red fabric. They were flown up in the air and around the stage -- it was really fun to watch!

All in all, the show was pretty incredible. There sure is a lot to see though, and I'm pretty sure I missed some cool things. Between being pretty tired from the last 4 days of competition and lack of sleep, I found it a bit hard to follow everything at the late showing. Still, I think it was a fitting way to hang out. After the show was over we returned to the hotel where we ended up playing poker until something silly like 5 in the morning. This was just a fun game in one of the hotel rooms, but it ended up going pretty late.

I gotta run now to hang out with people, but I'll get myself caught up here soon!


One Fine Saturday

Yesterday came and went in a big crazy-fun blur. I'm still trying to settle myself down and let the fact that I've been married to the most wonderful woman I can imagine sink in. I don't really have time at this moment to talk my way through the whole day, but before I forget them, I just want to jot down some quick highlights from the big day from my perspective, and also thank the people who volunteeered for various tasks and who all did a fantastic job. Highlights from the weekend:

  • There was a lot of people at the rehearsal dinner that Diane's parents put on for us. It was very welcoming.
  • Food at the rehearsal dinner was beef or chicken burgers, with all the fixings. Salads and beans were also available in plenty. Dessert was a full out sundae and banana split bar. I was reminded of Marble Slab's selection.
  • In the middle of the rehearsal, my Grandpa says the line where anyone who might object to the marriage say something. A couple seconds later a huge crack of thunder goes over our heads. I look up at the ceiling and say... "Oh really?".
  • Several of the groomsmen stayed over at my place the night before the wedding. It was a whole lot better to spend it with some good friends. I think I would've had a whole lot more trouble getting to sleep if I was on my own all night building up the next day in my head. They helped keep me calm and relaxed (as much as possible anyways).
  • Waiting in the church for the Bride and her bridesmaids to arrive was pretty fun. The guys hung out in a side room and it was a little surreal to be getting so many sneaky waves as the many people I knew passed by the room's door.
  • I'm not used to being the centre of attention.
  • When the warning came in that the bride was there, I had to leave the groomsmen and wait by myself in the choir room. That wait was a bit more awkward since I didn't really have anyone to talk to.
  • Kepi fell over partway through the ceremony. Many jokes were made at his expense throughout the evening, but he was really good natured about it. I had no forewarning of it happening, but people later mentioned that he had gone pretty pale.
  • My Grandpa, who performed the service for us, forgot to let me kiss my bride. In my confusion, I asked a little louder than I might've, and the whole congregation had a chuckle. Hey, that's what I signed up for! ;-) We got our kiss in after the signing of the register.
  • Despite our note at the bottom of the bulletin asking for a moment to reflect with each other in private immediately after the service, Rebecca (one of the bridesmaids) barged in to our room. We learned later that she hadn't seen a bulletin. Whoops! It was okay though.
  • The ceremony took roughly 35-40 minutes.
  • The congregation exited the church, and hung around to see us leave the church and enter the limo. That was another surreal moment - once again I'm not used to all the attention.
  • I've never been in a limo before. It was a bit tight for 10 people. It was fun, but I probably wouldn't sign up for it again. It was nice to be able to see all the wedding party members between photoshoot locations.
  • Jason Kasumovic, our photographer, was fantastic.
  • Family formal photos were taken next to the St Albert Public Library.
  • The weather couldn't be better (thank you for not raining on us!).
  • Other shooting locations included the Muttart Conservatory grounds and the Royal Alberta Museum grounds.
  • Lunch was picked up from the Upper Crust Cafe. Absolutely wonderful sandwhiches. Two words: cheese bread.
  • Good turnout at the reception. It was good to see so many friends/family there.
  • The head table was a very tight fit.
  • The food was excellent.
  • First course: spinach salad with feta cheese, held in place by a long cucumber slice around it all.
  • Main course: salmon and roast beef. The salmon was a bit overcooked I thought, but the beef was very tender and delicious.  We heard the salmon at the buffet was pretty good though, and we hope that was the case.
  • Dessert: A wonderful strawberry shortcake in several layers. Absolutely delicious.
  • Speeches: Short and sweet. Some touching words from everyone.
  • Note to other people planning their wedding: don't wing the bride/groom speech. Also, I actually wanted to say that we had planned big-O(wedding) -- that's a computer science joke.
  • Second note: have someone organize the details of the reception and come up with a schedule. It's very hard to organize and not be frantic at the same time when things don't quite go smoothly. Let someone else trustworthy handle the details and sit back and enjoy.
  • First dance: Diane and I were a bit rusty with our waltzing, and we had to avoid tripping on her dress. But eventually we got going.
  • Rickroll: Yup, we pulled off a rickroll. I didn't hear many comments about it though, so I wonder if people actually liked it. Obviously a bunch of people were very confused.
  • Slideshow: Absolutely wonderful job by my sister who I kind of threw the job at her at way too late notice.
  • Dancing: I'm glad people got some serious dancing in. It was good that it got some use.
  • DJs: Dan was absolutely fantastic at the DJ booth. Props to Ryan and Brad too for helping, and Ryan for his adventures getting the equipment there and returned.
  • It was a lot of fun to visit with a lot of the guests. I'm sorry if we didn't get a chance to talk to you before you had to leave -- I'm sure there's a lot of you that didn't get a chance to talk to us.
  • Last dance: Danced to Norah Jones, Come Away with Me. There was less than 20 people left at that point, and we helped close out the joint. Not too bad I think.

I just want to say that it was an amazing day, and this is just a sampling of what I was thinking about throughout the day. I want to also make sure to thank some of the important people who made the evening possible:

  • The Parents. Thanks to both sets of parents, who took care of more details than I can imagine. They were extremely supportive of our desire to run the show our way for the most part, but they were also very helpful in making sure we had details we hadn't thought of figured out. I don't really want to know what all went in to making everything look so wonderful.
  • My Grandparents. I am extremely fortunate to still have my wonderful grandparents around to not only see my wedding, but also play an important role. My Grandfather got a one day licence to wed us (he no longer has an active licence since he retired from ministry), and was very supportive in helping us find the right choices for the ceremony we eventually performed. My Grandmother is simply awesome :)
  • The wedding party (and as a subset, both Diane's and my siblings): They put up with our lengthy photoshoot, as well as the huge number of tasks that we put on them with little to no notice. Thank you so very much!
  • Many thanks to our Ushers: Rhianne and Brendan.
  • Thanks to Simone who arranged the beautiful cello quartet that played at the ceremony!
  • Nolan played a couple of key roles: he videotaped the ceremony for us, and he provided the projector to play the slideshow on. Thank you very much for your help!
  • A huge thank you goes to Ryan Falkenbe(rg), who endured quite a saga to get the audio equipment to the venue on time. Thankfully, his jeep didn't lose a window! Ryan put up with a bunch of harrassment from me to get the audio equipment booked, and transported.
  • Thank you to Paul Myroon who did a very good job displaying his MC talents.
  • Thank you to Dan, Brad, and Ryan who were in and around the DJ booth for most of the night playing some great tunes. I understand Dan took over the show, so he deserves a great deal of the credit. But thanks to the other guys for stepping in as well!
  • A big thank you the the group of people who helped setup the hall. Pam and Madeleine were two people who helped our mothers setup the hall. I sure hope I'm not missing people here, but we weren't there to see that setup.
  • Thanks to Jodie for pouring out the tea for our tea ceremony.
  • Thanks to An, Jasmine and Crystal for watching the guestbook and the gift table.
  • Thanks to Anita for setting up the key prank.
  • Megan did a fantastic job with the slideshow too. We kind of threw it at her last minute and she did a fantastic job. She even managed to figure out a way to pace through the slides so that the end of Diane's pictures happened at the end of the first song, and the slideshow ended right at the end of the 3rd song. She was at the laptop hitting the right arrow key to show the next slide.
  • Jason, our photographer, spent 12 hours of his day following us around and posing us for some excellent shots. We're really looking forward to seeing the results of his work!
  • Our very pretty wedding cake was designed and created by Claudia Kalogirou, who brought the cake herself and arranged it and everything!
  • Diane's mom's friend Marilyn drove up from Red Deer to help decorate and serve the rehearsal feast, Diane's neighbour Jane-Anne made us a potato salad with radishes carved into flowers, and Diane's Aunt Janet pitched in too despite feeling a little under the weather.
  • And a very big thankyou to everyone that came to enjoy the ceremony and/or the reception. It was so good to see so many faces -- some that I hadn't seen in far too long. We are so happy that so many people were able and willing to come out and see us get married and to enjoy some food and dance with us. Thank you so very much.

I sincereley hope I haven't forgetten anyone. At this point in time I'm pretty tired, but I wanted to make sure that this got out soon. There are just two last things I wanted to say before I ran off to go collapse.

1) Since you got this far, you deserve a reward. Jason has posted a sampling of the photos he took at the wedding. They are posted at his blog. Go there and enjoy! We're incredibly happy with the results.

2) I just want to say that this blog will be sticking around for the long haul. We're going to use it as a way to communicate how we're doing while we're in Ireland. Our experiences, our photos, and our thoughts will all be shared here for you to read. I hope that at least some people find this a useful way to learn about how we're doing overseas. Feel free to comment liberally on the posts we make!

Thank you everyone! It was a wonderful day.


Dublin Interview


Diane and I left Edmonton Tuesday night for a quick trip to Dublin, Ireland where I visited Pocket Kings for an interview. If successful, we'll most likely move over there later in the year. Here's how the trip went. Our flight left Edmonton at 7:45 on Tuesday night. Our friend JR was kind enough to take us to the airport, so we arrived with more than the pre-requisite two hours to get through airport security. Having not eaten anything yet, we sat down at the Montana's in the waiting area and had a lazy dinner while keeping an eye on the hockey playoffs. It took almost an hour for the food to be cooked, I'm not too sure why they were so behind, but we had two hours to kill before hopping on the plane, so we didn't mind.

The schedule involved a roughly 8-hour flight to Heathrow airport in London, followed by a 2-hour layover there and a 1-hour flight to Dublin, Ireland. Surprisingly, the flight over wasn't too bad. Diane and I got the middle three seats of the Boeing 767-300. So we raised the armrests and had a chance to have each of us sprawled across two seats to sleep for a little while. I think I got about two hours of sleep on the flight, which wasn't too bad considering I don't tend to sleep well on planes. Diane did a little better than I did I think. As part of the entertainment, we saw the movie Enchanted which was kinda fun. It's not a terribly indepth movie or anything (being Disney), but it was cute.


We landed in Heathrow in around 1:30pm local time, and followed the appropriate paths out to terminal one where we had to catch our next flight. Heathrow differs from other airports I've been at in that they don't announce what gate you will be leaving at until a certain set period of time before your flight departs. So you wait in the large common waiting area for the magic board of numbers to show you what gate you go to, and then you run off to that gate because your flight is probably boarding already.

The flight from London to Dublin was pretty boring. In fact, it was the hardest part of the trip out there for me. We were trying to stay awake so that we could hit the time change running, and that proved awfully difficult on the less than one-hour flight over. But we arrived safe and sound in Dublin, a little dazed from the long travel, but not in too bad shape. We got into the hotel and made a couple phone calls to Darse and Mike who we planned to meet up with to see a little of Dublin and stay awake long enough to make sure we were going to bed at night.


So about an hour after settling into our hotel, Darse and Alexandra arrived at the hotel to show us around the hotel vicinity a bit and then we hopped aboard the Luas green light rail train headed to downtown to meet up with Mike. We took it all the way to the end of the line to St Stephen's Green station which lets you out next to St Stephen's Green (a relatively large public park with well-maintained flower beds and grass), and Grafton Street (a busy all-pedestrian shopping and pub area in central Dublin). Darse took us to a place he and Xan really like called Bewley's. They were heartily recommending the salads there so I ordered a goat cheese spinach salad that was very tasty and very filling. It had large bacon bits on it (bacon in dublin is a bit meatier and less fatty than north american bacon. It resembles back-bacon a lot more). In fact everyone at the table had a salad and they seemed to be enjoyed by all. I also got the opportunity to try out a Guinness competitor called Murphy's. I rather enjoyed.


By the time dinner was over, it was getting late since we sat and chatted for quite awhile. Before heading back to the hotel though, we tried to pull out some euros from a bank machine. Unfortunately, both Diane and I had trouble pulling money out - Diane even made the machine go out of service! Oops.

So failing that we hopped back on the green Luas and headed back to the hotel more than ready for bed. I tried to get a good night's sleep, but probably didn't get any more than 5-6 hours. I was to have a big day the next day, after all and I just couldn't get my mind settled down enough to sleep. Even after I got to sleep I still woke up at something like 3 in the morning - probably due to the jet lag as well as my nervous excitement about the interviewing the next day. Diane fared a lot better than I did and managed to sleep most of the night.


The next morning we ventured down to the hotel lobby to feast on the included continental breakfast. It was a decent spread, although it wouldn't change at all while we were there. There was some very tasty croissants, a decent selection of breads to toast, a large fruit tray, a cheese platter, some cold cut selections, as well as cereal, yoghurt, juice and even some fruit smoothies.

After relaxing a bit at breakfast, we ventured from the hotel to the pocketkings office. Diane was meeting Xan there to spend some time exploring Dublin while I got grilled and roasted in interviews all day. I'll let Diane tell you about her time exploring.


Okay, so it wasn't really a grilling session. Actually it was quite pleasant. Darse gave me a fast paced tour of the office -- which is spread over two floors in a building the Cherrywood science and technology park. The building is actually right across the street from Dell's Dublin office.

After getting a quick tour and a guest pass to give me access to the many, many security doors scattered throughout the office, I was sat down in a room to meet up with members of various teams within the company. The first person I met with was Aaron Davidson -- a former member of the UofA CPRG (although we never worked on the project at the same time). Aaron gave me a pretty good overview of what the structure of the company was. For those interested, there is a *lot* of breadth across the computer field at the company. Everything from low-level server programming, to hardware, to QA, to internal tool building, to website design maintenance and content, to ... well there's a lot there.

After Aaron, I met with a guy named Diarmuid who is one of the server guys. He drew me a very nice diagram of how the server powering full tilt actually works. It was a little overwhelming, but it was also pretty neat. It's a big event-driven architecture which impressively handles over 10,000 simultaneous users. It's pretty neat, but it also sounds like it'll have some pretty intense growing pains over the next few years. Working there seems like quite a challenge!


I had very short meeting with another member of the server team named Deoni (no idea how to spell that, so I apologize to him). The reason wasn't anything to do with us, but rather that it was lunch time. So we went up to the kitchen where pocketkings has a set of full gourmet chefs cooking up a storm for lunches. Through some sort of legal loophole they charge 0.10 euros for each lunch (just to avoid counting the meals as benefits). The lunch consists of your choice of any or all of 3 main courses, a choice of salads and sides and dessert. And it changes every day. Sounds like if I end up there I'm gonna have to watch how much I eat!

After lunch I spent some time with Darse chatting about bot detection techniques, and then I had meetings with Chuck and Brendan who are both leaders of various teams. The meeting with Chuck felt a lot more like an interview since he was asking me some of the typical interview questions. He was quick to explain what he was trying to do though -- he was trying to figure out how I would fit into the company, along with several other things like whether hiring me would be a good investment for the company since each employee requires a fair amount of training. I'm not too sure how well that conversation went, but it ended abruptly since I had to go talk to Brendan. That was a nice conversation -- we talked about several things including what direction the company is going and what challenges they are going to face over the next little while.


I was a bit overwhelmed at this point having met so many people and having had some fairly intense discussions, but Darse had two more people for me to meet: Henry and Shawm who are members of the Biz-Int (business intellgence) team. This team is the one that makes decisions about what games to run, what the policy of the site should be, the marketing, game fairness, and all that sort of thing. So that conversation was pretty interesting since both Henry and Shawm play poker and we got a chance to talk about things like the man-machine poker match and stuff that is near and dear to my heart lately.

After that meeting, I relaxed for a bit before we headed out to dinner with several of the Biz-Int team to a high-falutin (yup, I used your term, Darse) restaurant called Divas. I felt a bit underdressed since I hadn't dressed up for the interviews (if I had it would've been a bad move since the company isn't like that). The staff at the restaurant asked to take our coats when we entered, the food was fancy, expensive and small-portioned, and they didn't even serve beer! Still, it was a pleasant evening with lots of wine and we had more than enough food which admittedly was pretty tasty.


After dinner a bunch of us went down the block to an Irish pub to meet up with some of the server guys who were out having dinner to say goodbye to one of their members. So we sat down and I enjoyed my first pint of real Irish Guinness. It was pretty tasty, although to be honest I didn't really know how to tell the difference from home. I guess I hadn't had enough guinness in Edmonton to compare to it.

After dinner Diane and I caught a cab back to the hotel and fell into bed. It had been long day for both of us, although Diane got considerably more exercise than I did sitting around the office. I did decently for sleep that night although I was up and awake around 7am still wired and excited about the next day. I was considerably calmer than the previous night though since the first day of meetings went so well.

So we got up and grabbed our continental breakfast again and then I cabbed it into the office by myself this time. Diane had plans to meet up with Xan again to explore more of Dublin (I'm so glad that Xan did this for Diane so she didn't have to be all lonely for two of the three full days there!).

The second day at the office was much less demanding than the first one. It seemed that most of the meetings with new people were over, so I sat down with Darse for a good chunk of the morning talking about bot-detection. I think I've even contributed something to his efforts ... but we'll see how that goes.

Before lunch I met up with another member of the team who I can't remember the name of (sorry!). I enjoyed our conversation immensely, but I think part of the reason was just that I wasn't repeatedly exposed to his name ... and people who know me know how bad I am at absorbing names. In fact, I'm quite happy with how I managed with names while I was there! Anyways, we talked a bit about some of the not-directly-server-related topics that he was working on. He's building tools that can abstract important subsets of the gigantic event stream coming in into various views on those events that can be used to do useful things. Stuff like viewing "hands" is difficult on the event stream without a tool to help you do that.


We had another tasty lunch, and then I sat down with Aaron for a little while to take a look at some of the actual code in the server. It's a pretty intimidating system -- but it's nice that it actually has a fairly intuitive underlying design. It's just that the implementation definitely has it's quirks that make it a bit of a headache to deal with. So was pretty cool.

After that I kind of just sat around for the rest of the afternoon catching up a bit on some reading and hanging out around the server guys who were all working. We had dinner out planned with the server team, so I had to wait until after 6 before we left for dinner. It felt a bit weird not having people to meet then, but no one else had scheduled meetings with me and I didn't really know what else to do.

So after waiting for awhile we left for dinner. After the goodbye evening the night before though, only 4 of us ended up at the restaurant. Still, it was a good time with the conversation touching all kinds of different topics from poker to various work things to holidays and even some office gossip!

Dinner went fairly late, but Diarmuid was kind enough to give me a lift back to the hotel where I met back up with Diane and heard about her day. And then we got some sleep so we could enjoy our explore Dublin day!

After sleeping in a decent amount (and missing the continental breakfast), we got in touch with Darse who was kind enough to organize the other people we knew and we left to meet up at St Stephen's Green and wander around Dublin for awhile. After having a quick brunch (at 2:00pm) at the Croissenterie, and finally solving the bank machine giving us euros problem, we walked by several touristy things: Trinity College, Christ Church, Dublin Castle, Temple Bar, and another garden that I can't remember the name of that had a statue of Oscar Wilde. We also stopped in at a cafe in Mark's and Spencer (a department store), a couple of pubs (the Bull and Castle, and the Porterhouse), and eventually ended up going to dinner at Fives. (Lots of food and drink, if you hadn't noticed!).


Aaron wanted to go play some poker that night and I was curious to check out a european card room so Diane kindly let me go play for awhile. She hung out with Xan, and Aaron's wife Christine at Cafe En Seine, which is a nightclub close by the casino. Meanwhile Darse, Aaron and I bought casino memberships and headed inside to play some 1/2 pot limit hold'em. We played for a couple of hours, and both Aaron and I had really good sessions. Aaron made over 200 euro and I made over 240 euro! More details from that session on my own blog.

The ladies came and grabbed us and we shared a cab back to the hotel, saying goodbye to Darse, Xan, Aaron and Christine since our flight left the next day. It was a fun day of exploring, eating, drinking, and gambling! So thanks to all of them for making that possible.


The trip home was an ordeal, but not due to anything more than boredom on the flight home. You know it's a long flight when you watch the first movie, have dinner, and try and sleep for awhile ... wake up after what seemed like several hours only to find that there's still four and a half hours left to go! But we made it back to snowy Edmonton in alright shape. JR and Shelly were kind enough to pick us up at the airport and drive us back into town despite some terrible driving conditions. We counted TWELVE cars in the ditch on the way back in ... and there were still idiots speeding by despite the terrible road conditions.

So that was our trip. I think it went really well, but we'll have to see what happens here. It sounds to me like if an offer is coming, it'll be here within the next week. Wish me luck!