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April 29, 2006

Racing for Work

Filed under: Games,Work — Bob @ 10:59 am

Last week my company took all the developers to a team-building event at TBC Indoor Kart Racing. About fifty of us descended onto the TBC location for lunch, racing and beer. The beer came after the racing of course.

The organizers got everyone into four-person teams for a two-hour race that had complicated rules about safety, pit-stops for driver changes, and track etiquette. The idea was to get everyone to drive at least a couple of times so there were a minimum number of pit-stops required. Of course there were also rules about bumping and running people into walls and such but pretty much it was a race against time.

These karts go fast – like 30km or more – and you are basically sitting low with your rear end scraping the ground, a gas engine right behind your seat and a full tank of gas between your legs. You get to wear a helmut and a seatbelt for safety.

I’ve done this same thing exactly once before. When I moved to Brussels (for Creo) a number of years ago we also (coincidentally) went to a kart racing track. So I had some experience to bring to the team. It was clear from the introduction that some of my co-workers were far more experienced, but I noticed none of those guys were on my team. Instead we had Tom who has never driven a car before (he has always lived in cities, never had a need to learn, and is from the UK where getting a driving license is not simple nor nearly automatic like it is in Canada and the United States). Everyone was a good sport though and we all wanted to have fun and do well in the race.

After two hours it was clear that our team was the best team on the track. We led the next closest team by four laps and some teams by up to seven or eight laps. We didn’t have the fastest driver (track record for the day went to Luke on a different team with 32.9 seconds for one lap, I had the second spot at 33.5 seconds). But we were very consistent (our average lap time was below 39 seconds over the 180+ laps including pit-stops), we didn’t take penalties for rough driving behavior (which cost time) and we were very efficient in changing drivers.

Driving these karts is very intense and also very strenuous. The track has lots of tight turns and zig-zags that make you turn the wheel very hard. I must have sweated away several pounds! Even the next day I was feeling the pain in my shoulders and upper arms. But it was a lot of fun and the next day at work was filled with everyone reliving every moment of their moments of glory (or defeat) at the track.

I’d highly recommend this sort of event, its not really expensive and the folks at TBC were fantastic. What a great day!

March 31, 2006

Last Day of Work Today

Filed under: Games,Work — Bob @ 4:56 pm

Today was my last official day of employment at Kodak. As I wrote earlier, I’ve worked there for more than eleven years and now its time to move on.

I walked around the main building on Gilmore for about an hour this morning. I don’t know hardly anyone that works there as all the software developers moved out to separate buildings years ago, but that is where I worked when I first joined the company. I was sort of odd walking around there, both exactly the same as I recall and quite different at the same time. Got a hug and a nice message from Judi on my way out.

Then it was back to to building on Willingdon to clean up. I found a couple of my things in my office that hadn’t yet made their way into either the trash or into my bag to take home. Dave K. sent an email note around re: my departure and so many people stopped by to say hello & goodbye. It’s kind of weird when you get congratulated for leaving the company by people who are still there. :^)

A group of us played board games for an extended lunch. Sean organized pizza. We played a game of Carcassonne; unfortunately I lost big time. There were six people playing so to extend the game time we included the tiles from several expansions: Inns and Cathedrals, Traders and Builders, and The Princess & the Dragon. We only really used the rules from Inns; the other expansion rules don’t really work very well but the tiles are great.

Some of us then followed that up with a game of Modern Art which I won with a good lead. I took Ticket to Ride Europe into the office today but didn’t play it; maybe another time.

I think the thing I’ll miss the most is working with my friends. I’m sure I’ll make new friends but it won’t be the same. Thanks to Sean, Michael, Tobias, Phillip, Norm, Andrew, Gordon, Marion and John K. for the games today, it was a great way to say adios.

February 5, 2006

Superbowl XL

Filed under: Entertaining,Games — Bob @ 8:10 pm

This year’s Superbowl has now come and gone. We had a few friends over again, its become traditional to host a small gathering at our place every year. The reason? We have digital cable which allows us to tune into a U.S. station to see the commercials. Most of the “good” commercials don’t air on Canadian channels, so normally unless you like football there isn’t much reason to watch. But we get to see the ads in all their splendor.

My favorite this year was the Magic Refridgerator. As usual, I don’t recall what it was for; probably a beer company, since it seems beer companies buy more ad space than anyone else. Most other ads weren’t very exciting although the GoDaddy.com ad sparked a lot of interest. I still have no idea what they do and don’t really care. :^)

This year I cared who won the game, so I watched the football almost as intently as the advertisements. I was rooting for Seattle (nearly local team), and I think they were capable of winning. A couple of bad calls didn’t break their way, although at least one other questionable call did. In the end though it was clear that the Steelers battled harder; their defense did an amazing job to shut down the Seattle game for the second half. Even so, the Seahawks didn’t help themselves with two missed field goals, bad penalties and an interception. I guess there is always next year!

November 30, 2005

Carcassonne

Filed under: Games,Work — Bob @ 11:03 pm

I was recently introduced to the tile game Carcassonne at work; we’ve now started playing over lunch once a week or so. If you aren’t familiar with Carcassonne, you might want to peek at the site for the French city by the same name that served to inspire the medieval city-building theme. Then immediately visit Board Game Geek to read up on this wonderful little game.

Generally we play the Inns and Cathedrals expansion but last week we played with the Traders and Builders expansion for the first time. Its ok, but I believe I enjoy the game without that new expansion as the complexity of the rules; I was first drawn to Carcassonne because its simple to learn but complex to play but this new expansion introduces a few complex and bizarre rules that appear to be out of place. But the new tiles with Traders and Builders are really excellent.

We are going to play again today over lunch. Should be a lot of fun.

[cross fade, time passes, its now much later the same day that I started this post]

Eileen and I just got home from tonight’s Canucks hockey game; 5 – 2 win against Colorado and a very respectable showing. The team worked hard for the full 60 minutes – sort of a new thing for them. Tomorrow they travel to Edmonton for another game. If they keep it together for another good game this might just be a turning point for the team. Not a moment too soon.

Anways, yes we played Carcassonne today at lunch. I won by about 20 points or so: a very respectable win considering the competition. We played with the Traders and Builders expansion again (as well as Inns and Cathedrals) except we played with modified rules: three resource chips can be used to take another turn rather than simply being accumulated as points at the end of the game. This is sort of the same as the builder meeple, except you turn in your chips for a one-time opportunity. The pig was used to negate the effect of other player’s farmers unless they also played their pig in the same zone. The resource chip modifiication was really good; the pig modification didn’t really work for me. The person who proposed this new method of using the pig really hates “farm warfare” so he tried to invent a cheap and easy way to defeat it. I don’t think its wrong to have players pouring meeples into farm warfare, its just a different strategy.

Another game I can recommend is called Ticket to Ride. Check it out on Board Game Geek. I prefer the European version vs. the North American version but both are really good.

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