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!


First Guest from Home

Gee, it's been a little while since our last post. Time has been moving right along for us, and it's hard to believe we really have been here for four months already! The big news this week was our friend JR was over in England for a work trip and managed to get a few days off to come visit us in Dublin! So we had our first houseguest here. Unfortunately it was in the middle of the week and I felt too guilty to ask for both days off so I just got the Wednesday off. JR arrived Monday afternoon and Diane met him at the airport so he didn't have to worry about finding his way to our place. On Tuesday, Diane and JR wandered through downtown Dublin catching several of the attractions down there including Trinity College, Dublin Castle, and the like. They really did a lot of walking and sightseeing! On Wednesday, we took JR to a museum, the Guinness storehouse tour, and the Jameson distillery tour. We got to the distillery for the last tour of the day and it was pretty neat. There was only a handful of people there for it and as a result we all got to do the taste testing of Jameson whiskey next to Jack Daniels and a scottish whiskey. Add to the taste test our free glass of Jameson, and we had a pretty good buzz going after those tours!

We just saw JR off to the airport this morning. I hope he enjoyed himself :) It was pretty surreal to see him here!

Outside of that, we're getting excited about the Christmas party. It's just a couple days away, and it really does sound like fun. We're going to go down on Friday evening and stay that extra night so we can see a bit of the town before the party starts in the evening on Saturday. It should be a good chance to get some more photos.

The past few weeks have been pretty busy for us, but we have managed to get out to do a few things too. Diane and I went and saw the Book of Kells the previous weekend. The book was pretty neat, but the real attractions for me were the information on how much work went into making the book (and books in general back then), and the view down the Long Room which is the library on the upper floor of the building that the Book of Kells is in. Today, it's easy to take for granted the availability of books, but back then the amount of work that went into copying and binding each book guaranteed that there really wasn't enough for everyone.

This last Saturday, we joined in with a very large group of people to help wish Aaron a happy 30th birthday. It's a good thing that their apartment is HUGE, or there's no way we could've crammed us all in there. For this party there was a team event where teams of four competed against each other at various gaming events: Rock Band on the Wii, NHL 2009 on the XBOX, and Foosball. I got conscripted onto a very strong team (including the birthday boy himself), and we eventually went on to win the competition. It was pretty fun!

So that's a taste of what we've been into. Hopefully I'll get a blog entry in soon after the Christmas party so you can hear about that!


Settling In

It's a little crazy to think that we're fast approaching three months in Ireland! It's been a big move, and we totally miss seeing the people we're used to seeing all the time. Thankfully, with this being the internet age, we're able to video chat with people. If you'd like to hook up with us on the video chat, we're on skype and AIM. Give us a shout and we'll organize a time to meet up. It's been pretty nice to be able to chat with both Diane and my families back home. Anyways, back to point form updates (since I'm tired and it's time for bed):

  • Last weekend Darse and Xan got us out of our house to go check out Kildare. The main attraction there is the Irish National Stud which is a thoroughbred horse breeding operation of apparently some fame. (I don't exactly know much about horse breeding, but I learned some). We did a guided tour of the grounds, and saw some of their stallions. The most expensive one's stud fee comands €75,000! The grounds there are actually quite lovely, and we got a chance to check out a couple of gardens -- a Japanese garden, and Saint Fiachra's Garden. I got quite a few photos that I'm actually quite happy with, and it was fun to get out of the city!
  • Work has started to get busy. Lots of projects are under way now and I'm starting to get into the thick of things. There's still a few moments where I don't feel particularly useful, but on the whole it's starting to feel like I'm settling in okay. Lots of stuff to learn though, that's for sure! This week, we released a new version of the software which introduced matrix tournaments. They're a new format of poker sit and go tournaments, but you play 4 tables at once. Not only do you compete for individual prize pools on each table, but how you do at each table contributes to how you rank for the matrix tournament as a whole. I haven't had a chance to try playing one yet, but it's a pretty cool new feature.
  • There's been quite a few nights spent late at the office playing games. In addition to playing poker with Chris Ferguson, he's stuck around a bit longer to play some geeky board games with us. So there's been a few late nights of Ticket to Ride, Blokus, Medici, Aquaretto, Carcassonne, and other fun board games. Chris really liked quite a few of them, so hopefully he'll be back soon to play more of them with us.
  • Thanksgiving isn't really celebrated here, so we were a bit envious of the food our families were going to be enjoying this past weekend. It's a bit weird not spending thanksgiving with the folks. It was nice to be able to chat with family over the weekend though!
  • The desk that we ordered from Argos came this week, so our place is getting a little bit better organized. We also got blinds several weeks ago, so our home is starting to feel a lot more like home.
  • The weather here has actually been quite good for the past couple weeks. There's been some rain, but not as much as we might've been led to believe. As a result, we've had a chance to take in some rather pretty sunsets, and some beautiful weather for walking around a bit.

That's all I can think about from this update. Be sure to check out the photos from our visit to the Irish National Stud!


Playing Poker With Jesus

This past week has been a insanely busy. It's been a week filled with parties and late nights which has made it a bit hard to keep posting to the blog. There was even a party tonight that Diane and I passed on just to spend a quiet night relaxing a bit for the first time in over a week. One of the noteworthy events of the week has been that Chris "Jesus" Ferguson has been in town. He played in the WSOPE and had another big tournament in London last Saturday. So he stopped by the office and I got a chance to add another poker pro to a list that's getting pretty long.

Anyways fast forward to last night which was a scheduled company tournament: a €50 deep stack buyin tournament. Since Chris was in town, he was happy to play, which meant the tournament drew a good crowd. In all, 36 players registered which was a really good turnout. Warning: lots of poker lingo coming your way from this point on.

The tournament started out real slow for me. Apart from picking up one pot a few rotations in, I basically sat and folded a lot of hands while several players at the table spewed chips at each other. After the first break I was starting to get pretty short stacked. I picked up A6o on the button and raised, but the small blind pushed. I didn't have many chips left so I called and didn't like seeing my opponent flip over AQ. Luckily for me, I hit a 6 along with an Ace on the flop to double up. Not too much later, The 2nd table broke, and guess who got seated on my left? Chris Ferguson.


The next big hand in my memory happened after we had got down to the final table of 9 players. I picked up KK on the button and make a decent raise. The small blind reraises me and I pushed allin and got called by AJ of diamonds. The flop was rather exciting when two diamonds landed, but thankfully I dodged another diamond and won a monster pot -- which made me chip leader by quite a bit.

The tournament got down to three players -- Chris, me, and another guy that I didn't know but who played very well. The stack sizes started to get pretty close to even, although I still had a small chip lead. Chris had a €50 bounty on his head, but unfortunately I was not going to be the one to earn that. The other guy at the table would do that when he flopped trip queens and busted Chris out in 3rd place. I guess that means I can say I beat him!

On the first hand of headsup play, the other guy limps on the button and I check with J4 of diamonds. The flop is 578 with two diamonds. I bet out, get raised, and I decided to push. I get instantly called, and get shown 78 for top two pair. I miss my flush and gutshot outs to lose the hand. So I finished a respectable 2nd place for a payday of €440. Not too bad for a couple hours of play!

So that's how it went down. It was an honour to play with Chris, and it's pretty cool to be able to say I beat him. I'm under no illusions that it was anything more than luck that made that the case, but I feel pretty good about most of my plays during the tournament. I probably missed a couple of plays and didn't play all that well when we got to three handed play, but all in all I can't feel too bad with my showing.

It's been a really cool week, but in a way I'm glad it's over. I've been out every night this week until at least midnight and it's starting to take a toll on my ability to stay sharp.

Oh yeah, there's new photos up on flickr too if you want to go check them out!


Dublin Fringe Festival

One of the things we unfortunately missed out on in our move to Ireland was the Edmonton Fringe Festival -- an event that we've faithfully attended at least a couple of shows every year for the past couple of years. We've had some good memories of watching shows like the One Man Star Wars Trilogy, The Great Pretenors, and Rainer Hersch's Victor Borge. So we were rather enthused to find that Dublin had its very own fringe festival soon after our arrival. On Saturday, we checked out a show called All in the Timing which was playing in the theatre in Bewleys. This restaurant was the first place we ate on our first night in Dublin. We shared that meal with Darse, Xan, Mike and Marja.

All in the Timing was a fun show. They did about five short-ish sketches of varying amusement. The first of which was probably my favourite where they did a sketch similar in style to the improv game "new choice". The scene started with a woman sitting at a table in a restaurant reading a book and is approached by a man who asks if the seat is taken. He makes several missteps and gets several bad responses before finally getting to sit in the seat across from the woman. After each misstep, a bell rings and they go back in time to redo some part of the scene. It was quite humorous throughout the sketch.

The did a couple other neat sketches including one where a woman comes in to be taught a new universal language. The man she sees talks in a weirdly bastardized version of English, using other english or nonsense words in place of other english words. As the scene progressed the woman becomes fluent in this new language and the two spout several joyous sentences of this new language that sounded remarkably like ridiculous lyrics to some well known musicals. It was quite a fun scene.

In another scene, the actors did a very short skit involving people meeting by random chance at a bakery. They then did a several song musical using just the words used in that skit repeated in a musical way. It made a weird sort of sense, and I think was quite a bit more enjoyable in experience but a bit hard to explain.

So that was our first Dublin fringe show. Tonight we saw our second show which was a circus/burlesque show called La Clique. It was a bit on the racy side, but definitely a thoroughly enjoyable show.

Highlights from the show included:

  • Two British men in suits who did several feats of strength including holding each other up. One man stood on the other's head, one man used the other's legs like they were gymnastic rings, you know, simple stuff like that.
  • A woman gets four hula hoops going around her body at once in various forms.
  • A double-jointed rubber man calling himself "Captain Frodo" contorts himself through 2 tennis racquets: a 12 inch one and a 10 inch one.
  • A man in a bathtub full of water whirls himself in the air using two long straps suspended from the ceiling. This was probably my favourite -- the guy did the whole thing choreographed to music, and included a jaw dropping manoeuver where he spun the straps around his arms and legs to ascend to near the ceiling, but stopping at intervals to flash a pose timed perfectly with the music. The manoeuver was incredible for strength and flashiness to begin with, but timed with the music it was absolutely amazing.
  • Ursula Martinez performed this little magic trick (warning: nudity, NSFW).
  • The rubber man returned after the intermission to stack a series of buckets on top of a piano while balancing on top of them. Each bucket was smaller than the previous one until he was down to a small coffee can which he proceeded to sit on and then tuck his feet behind his head. I don't want to know how many times he's attempted this trick in practice and fallen.

In between these, there were several fun bits in between. A guy calling himself the Queen of the show (because he's a big Queen fan) juggled and rode a unicycle to some Queen songs and provided a bunch of entertaining banter. "Captain Frodo" used a saw as a musical instrument in a song that also involved a piano, an accordian and some little bells.

All in all, an enjoyable show! The fringe continues for the next few days, but we might not make it out again since the upcoming weekend looks a bit busy.

One last thing before I head for bed here. I finally caught up with photos from our recent treks. Have a look if you are so inclined!