Monday, June 29, 2009

Home at last

I am now home and very tired. I am really glad to be back and have had lots of hugs and kisses which I have been missing loads.

Although I started this blog to keep in touch with my family, I am going to try and keep it going, although I most probably won't post every day as I have been doing.


It was really odd finishing, when I completed to qualification lab and had to leave the room I was quite moved and didn’t really want to leave!! A room with no windows, 15 other consultants, all learning together. We each had 2 laptops, plus our own work laptop, 2 phones, lots of network cables and given the amount of time we had spent there it had become home.

I passed, but I kept wanting to pinch myself to see if it was real, not quite sure I had really managed it.

Last night I when I was awake during the night, dozing, I kept thinking about the questions on the exam and the qualification lab, thinking up new answers etc. I couldn’t seem to switch off and realise it is finished.

Well it is finished, but I won’t be forgetting it. I have learnt a lot over the last 3 weeks which I know will make a big difference to my work. It was hard work, but I knew that before I came. I hadn’t realised how hard it would be not being there for Kal and the kids with them dealing with mum and dad. My thanks to them for allowing me to come and I think given all I have learned it was worth it.

(I have written this whilst waiting at the airport, so won't be able to post it until I get home)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diet blown in one night!!

Having finished exam etc. and got the result that I passed :-) I am now a Microsoft Certified Master. Only 5 of us out of 16 passed the qualification lab, which is how tough it was.

We have all been out for a meal to celebrate/commiserate which has meant lots of eating and drinking, none of which was on the diet, but at the end of three exhausting weeks we needed it.

I Survived!

It has been an interesting but exhausting 3 weeks. The exams are now all over, just results to come. The exam this morning was not too bad, so I am praying that I have passed. The qualification lab was long, hard and exhausting, but I did manage to complete it all so have passed (subject to verification).

I am now looking forward to coming home. I can’t wait to see everyone. Tonight we are all going for a meal out and a few (or a lot) of beers. :-)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Our God is a Wonderful God

We had our wrap up session this morning, and now it is just revision. I met with Tanya for lunch to discover she is leaving Microsoft, long story which I will tell when I get home.

I then walked back to the apartment, not realising quite how far it was. I read my revision cards while walking, making sure I kept half an eye on where I was going. I got to the bottom of the hill having got to the end of my cards, and thought I had a short walk along a road by the park, so I put on some worship music to have a break from revision and found the road was actually through this beautiful park and longer than I thought. The sun was shining, God is a wonderful God, it was a most uplifting experience to see the glory of his creation, and the long walk was well worth it.

If it wasn’t for the fact my sunglasses, sun cream etc were back at the apartment and I really needed to do more revision I would have just stayed there!! It is actually down a short path opposite the apartment, I am glad I didn’t find it before as I think I would not have done any work!

I am now back at the apartment, about to do more revision, but I think I will be taking a walk over the road later for more of God’s glory.

Michael Jackson....

For my daughter, don’t feel you have to apologise, your opinion is perfectly valid. For anyone else reading this blog, I apologise if you don’t agree, everyone is allowed their own opinion, put yours on your own blog, not as comments to others who disagree with you.

MJ is dead, which is sad for his fans, but for people like my daughter and myself I could say so what? The world will go on. I accept he was a great musician and performer, but I was not into his music. Beyond that I am not aware of loads of charitable work he may have done. I am sure there is some, but I am not aware of it, and posting comments to this blog about it is unnecessary as the point being if they were on the level of Bob Geldof, Princess Diana etc. then I would have been. Also his reputation was tarnished by allegations of child abuse. Now I know nothing was proven and you have to take everything you read in the news with a pinch of salt, but any 30/40 year old who allows a 12 year old (I know the ages may be wrong but you get the point) even if nothing happens just does not seem right. There have been several other great performers who have died in the last year, but without the same level of news coverage, and that’s my point and why I agree with my daughter. The outpouring is disproportionate, he was not Princess Diana, and there are several other people who I will miss more.

So to re-iterate to my daughter, don’t feel you have to apologise I agree with you.

End of classes :-)

We have had our last teaching session :-) The only problem now is that I need to revise everything for the exam on Saturday :-( Tommorrow we have a short feedback session with Adrian and then the rest of the day to revise.

I am really looking forward to coming home, I am missing everyone. I know I shouldn't complain but I would have liked to see "My Sister's Keeper" with you all, but given that you are going to see mum and dad on Saturday, you deserve a night out.

Glad to here the trip to Loughborough went ok, I am sure I will more about it when I get home.

I am still resisting the chocolate, unlike some others here. Craig is now into "virgin belt" territory, having passed the 2 additional notches!!! I am just hoping to have stayed the same. I am wondering though how much Kal might have lost through worry, or has she been comfort eating? No indication in her blog. I did also resist the deep fried ice-cream from the mexican restaurant we went to tonight, and no Sarah I can't bring some home :-P

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not a lot to say

Today has been a relatively quite day, hence not a lot to say. We had a session on building applications (programming) which was fun, we then had a big "case study" which was not very serious so again fun, and ended with a troubleshooting lab which was also fun. It did also mean that I didn't have much to go over tonight to prep for the exam on Satuday so I was quite happy going out to eat.

We did also have a session with Per who is Ardians manager to feedback on the Masters program. Apart from the general feedback around content we did some up with some "other" suggestions! these included windows in the room so we could actually see if the sun was shining, I also suggested that we had something to give our wives when we got home (bad news there is no budget for that!!).

I am still resisting the chocolate, and have also managed to keep up the running.

Finally a question to ask Clive, why does my toothbrush not hold it's charge as well over here? I have noticed this before on rechargable electrical items that they don't appear to last as long even though they are 100% charged. I have had to charge up my toothbrush 3 times already.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ups and downs

I was good to here that you are all having a better day. Sunshine does help. It has been sunnier here also, but not as hot as you.

Sarah's blog brought a tear to my eye knowing she is missing me as much as I am missing her (and the rest of you). But as she says I will be home in less than a week :-)

Having to do revision every night is making the days even longer. I opted out of going back to the pub tonight so I could get some revision done. 463 slides already this week!! 1.7mins per slide. I need more time.......................................

Having just worked that out, I am glad I took tonight to do some revision. I must admit though that the topics this week I know more about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Following today's session we went to eat at an Irish bar and as they were serving O'Hara's stout I just had to have a glass. While there we got the results of today's exam and as I passed I had another glass :) Marc unfortunately did not pass, so he had another glass of Guiness to drown his sorrows.

The session following the exam was hard as we all came out of the exam feeling exhausted. I'm not sure how we will cope on Saturday with an exam followed by the qualification lab. Also with no Sunday to prep, I am having to start revision early. We do though get most of Friday free to prep for the exam.

I am though looking forward to the weekend and coming home. I am sure the time will pass very quickly.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Too much everything!

Too much food - I had a BIG American breakfast. It was good but very filling. I am still full now at 7pm!!. We had forgotten that being Father's day the place would be packed, so after a 45min wait we actually say down about mid-day. But is was worth the wait. Problem was that we were meant to do revision this afternoon, and everyone felt too full.

Too much revision - yes I have done loads, both today and the last couple of days. I went for a walk after breakfast/lunch to keep me awake. I took my cue cards and read them as I walked. We have also gone over them several times since and I feel I know most of it now, although will still be going over them again later.

Too much slides - (I know that is not good English, but it fits with the "too much" theme). In the first week we did 845 slides in 34 hours of class time, which is 2.41 minutes per slide. This week we did 486 slides in 19.5 hours of class time, which is 2.4 minutes per slide. The reason for less hours is more labs, and also I excluded the session we had with Microsoft IT as it is not in the exams.

Too much cloud - it is a bit cloudy and trying to rain/thunderstorm, where has all the sunny weather gone?

Too much time away - I am missing you all and can't wait to come home. A week from now I will be on the plane home :)

Too much walking - well done Hannah, I hope you are not too exhausted and that you had time to enjoy it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Well its taken 2 weeks, and as such deserves a second blog post. I have managed to break the 2 beers in one night barrier at last. Hit the third beer tonight.

Being away with everything going on with my parents at home caught up with me today. I think a combination of that and the drop in adrenalin at the end of the second week. Had a chinese for tea and started on the beers. Marc even commented on the way home how tired and out of it I was.

Just to let you know I am feeling much better now, I am sure the 3 beers helped. It has meant no revision tonight, but I needed to relax. Mean a long day tomorrow, but what's one more in a week (or 2 or 3) of long days.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

End of week 2 :-)

It is the end of the second week, well almost. I have finished the labs for today, only revision to do tonight and tomorrow ready for the 2nd exam on Monday. I feel a bit behind on my revision, but I have finished today at a reasonable time (3pm) so should be able to catch up.

The sessions are all very good, but it is very tiring, I think I will need to sleep for a week when I get back.

Tomorrow is Sunday, and although I would like to go to church again I think I may well end up have a good American breakfast. Not having any real free time is hard as it is impossible to fit in almost anything else.

Still resisting the chocolate although again being Saturday with less options it is difficult. My run this morning was better although it is a little cold, but at least the rain had stopped.

It's raining :(

It has been raining today here in Seattle, not that I see the outside much.

The sessions though have been good. This morning we had the people that run the Microsoft implementation. Very very interesting. Also nothing to revise for the exams :)

Lunchtime we all went to the company store (sorry PJ, I relised that the XBox games won't run on your console due to NTSC/PAL issues, but I got you something else as I got mice for Mum and Sarah).

This afternoon has been a lab all afternoon working out very complicated dialplan. This is stuff I know, but it still took me ages. I am writing this as I wait for the others to finish. Tomorrow we also have a lab all day (the second half of the one from last week), which is good from the point of view of things to revise, but I do need to find time to do some revision.

Hope the interview with the head went ok for PJ, and I saw the emails about him leaving, but at least he will be there next year for PJ's last year.

Still resisting the chocolate, and yes Sarah I will try and find time to buy you some. Fruit again today, this is working well.

Missing you all, and best to Hannah for the 3 peaks.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Too much junk food???

I think I may have been eating too much junk food, well perhaps not that much. When I went for my run this morning it was sluggish, but that may just have been the Indian I had last night. It has made me think a bit more though about what I am eating. Although I am not snacking I must admit I am not always having the best lunches and dinners as the canteen has limited choice at lunchtime and we don't get a lot of free time in the evening, also Marc and I are dependent on John for transport.

Sessions today have been fairly good, and today's schedule has been relatively light (notice the word relatively).

I am now waiting for tea to cook (notice not eating out so I can be a bit healthier) and then down to some revision. I can't believe we are almost at the end of the second week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Half Way!!

Today we reached half way, but only in days! I have only done 1 exam and still have 2 more and a qualification lab to do. I must say though I am already looking forward to the end and coming home.

Today I have not been so tired, but that may be because I didn't go for a run this morning. I woke about 5am and then went back to sleep and by the time I woke I didn't have time for a run.

The sessions today have seemed lighter, although in many ways they have more in depth than the last couple of days.

Craig is back in class, and trying to catch up, in fact he is currently doing the exam he missed on Monday (no let up for being sick!!).

Scott, one of the lecturers who I did Voice Ignite with in London in December summed it up, when he said you can't really explain the experience unless you have been through it. It is not like any other training. Very intense, but very good. No time for anything else, by the time you get to your room all you want to do is sleep.

Still resisting the chocolate, chopped pineapple is working, but Adrian (the organiser) does have some XXXXL (yes I mean 4XL) t-shrits just in case.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Too tired....

It is going to be a short blog today. I am feeling very tired. I think the long days are catching up on me. I plan to get an early night, although I still have the ironing to do.

I am missing you all, and wish I was there to take some of the load off Kal.

Still resisting the chocolate, but the diet at meal times has not been that good today, although I did remember to take chopped up pineapple in for between meals.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

First exam result

I have passed the first of the exams :-)

What a relief, and also what a spur to do well on the next one. Marc also passed so we are happy. Of the class only 2/3rds passed (10 out of 15). We are now going to have a glass of wine to celebrate.

Only 2 more exams and the qualification lab to go.

Too tired to drink :-(

Given that I have been here a week I have had relatively little alcohol! Last night I was too tired for a drink. We went out for a meal and I drank water, and even when I had finished studying I didn't want a drink. Over this first week, between Marc and myself we have had 6 bottles of beer and 1 1/2 bottles of wine, plus one drink with a meal out. Now for me on these sort of trips that is very little. With the long days, evenings studying I have just been too tired other than 1 drink. I did make up for it tonight and have 2 beers.

The exam this morning went as well as I could expect. Yes there were questions I had to guess, but I didn't think oh that was somthing I should have definitely known. Hopefully we will get the results tomorrow. The exams are still paper based so it takes time to mark and calibrate them.

We were meant to be meeting some of the Program Managers this evening (hence the 2 beers), but due to a meeting they had we only met one of them. It did give me the chance though to pop in and see Tanya. I hope to find time to fit in an evening drink with here at some point later, if I ever get any free time.

We are now on week 2, today was a bit lighter, but the drop in adrenalin following the exam made it hard to concentrate. They set up a web cam so Craig could listen in without infecting us all, and also recorded it for him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Swine flu........but not....

Had a great start to the day, slept in to 7:30, which is late for me, and especially late for this week. Had a lazy start to the day and then Marc and I went to church. The service was not bad, there were a couple of highlights. Seeing a child (8-9 yrs old) baptised by her father, her choice, very moving. Also there was a song and slide show (PJ style but sung live) which was very good.

Craig though has been ill today, and we have all been taking the micky out of him. He has had a high temp etc. We do have a guy from Mexico on the course who's wife is home ill with the flu. So we spent time texting/IMing Craig with lots of references to pigs, we even sent him a picture of some bacon. He has now, at last, been to see the doctor, and it is not swine flu, but a strep throat.

I have been studying all day, athough Marc did manage to get a photo of me nodding off mid studying. It is 5:30 and I am going to take a break for an hour or so, eat etc. and then back to revision. We are using cards to test ourselves, I now know why Sarah found it so useful in her exams. Trouble is I need to buy more cards for next week as I have used the 100 I got on Friday.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

End of the first week....well almost...

Today has been a much better day. We have been doing a lab all day which although tough, is a lot easier on the brain than having to listen to lecturers talk about things you don't understand and need to learn!

Marc and I decided at 5pm we had had enough of the labs so headed back to the apartment (We finish the lab next Saturday). The only problem is that we now have all this week's work to revise ready for our exam Monday morning 8am. So that idea I had about possibly having Sunday off, who was I kidding. I am taking an hour or so now, to do things like write this blog, cook a decent meal, and then down to revision this evening. I hope to keep tomorrow morning free and have a bit of relaxing time before some more revision with Marc, John and Craig tomorrow afternoon.

It was good to chat to Karen today and see her blog and see that she also has had a better day. Long may it continue.

Still resisting the chocolate, but as the canteen was not open on campus today ended up having a burger for lunch as it was the only place close by.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bright lights.....but no one’s home!

It has been one of those days. The training has been really good, deep dive stuff and I have had several of those light bulb moments where everything has suddenly become clear. Things I have always wondered about fall into place. The problem is that I am already brain dead from the long hours and amount of information and we are only just getting towards the end of the first week.

It was good to chat to Karen as she had been to see mum and dad with Sarah and Peter, but I wished I was at home to give her and them a big hug. That is the hardest things about being away at a time like this.

Still resisting the chocolate but I do need to find time to buy some more fruit. Did a little shopping tonight, but the place we went to didn’t have fresh stuff, but at least we have some easy food for when we do eventually get back to our apartment at night.

I was hoping to get some time off on Sunday, as I don’t really like working on a Sunday, but the work load at the moment is making that difficult. It is not only me, but the small group I am hanging out with needing to bounce things off each other to help us remember it all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It never rains......

I had a reasonable nights sleep. I was half awake and had to decide whether to go for a run or not. I made the decision and got up and went for a run. It was a really good start to the day. It cleared my head, and I had a great chat to God.

Got back to the apartment and saw a text from Kal, so gave her a call to find Mum is now in hospital (although she may be out by the time you read this). She has had what they think is seizure, rather than a TIA. What was worst about it was Kal took the call from my sister as Peter was about to walk out the door to go to school for an exam. It hit him quite hard. For me what hit me was not being there for Peter. It is hard being this far away when my family needs me. Much as I am coping with the problems with Mum and Dad, it is difficult not being there for Kal, Sarah and Peter.

Lectures today have been a bit better. Same lecturer, but topics I know reasonably well already. Having a lab of 30 virtual machines all to myself can be great fun. We are though several hours behind on our schedule of topics.

I am still resisting the chocolate. I bought strawberries and blueberries in to eat. That being said I did succumbed to comfort food this lunchtime, which is no surprise given the problems with Mum and Dad. Also we are karting tonight :-) and given how the lecturers have gone I am going. I had debated spending the time going over my notes (that is how hard they are working us). Bad news for the diet as it means having to eat Pizza, but I think I could do with that.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What a difference a day makes

It is not 11:40pm and I am still up and working. Today has been much harder. A different lecturer who I have struggled to understand what he is trying to get over and this meant I have had to do loads of revision this evening. So although we finished at about 8, we have spent the last few hours in our apartment going over all that we did today. I think I understand more of it now, and more seems to have gone in than I thought. If only I could remember all the RFC numbers (like all your law references Sarah).

We have internet access now in the apartment, but it is not very reliable. Not sure why, but I have found a way around it by connecting through work.

I am still resisting the chocolate, took pineapple in today to keep me going. If only I could find something other than coffee or sugary drinks, there is a lack of good low cal drinks that I like.

Been on IM to Karen which was nice and unexpected given that it was 6:30am in the UK. Also I had an email from PJ late yesterday which made me laugh very loudly, great way to cheer my up. I am also looking forward to seeing Sarah's signing and the decorating she has been doing when I eventually get back.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Meeting cool people

Although I finished my lab at 8:45, I didn't get to leave campus until 10:30 as John who is giving me a lift was still completing his. That did mean though I got time to talk to one of our lecturers and it turned out that Alan not only wrote the bandwidth calculation spreadsheet I have been using the last few weeks on the work I had to get done before I came out here, but was also responsible for the edge server (I know you won't understand what that is but never mind) when he use to work for Microsoft and we ending up whiteboarding a problem a few of us had been looking at with our customers and had been getting conflicting views on how it would work.
On the subject of people, who am I with out here. Well there are 16 (I think) of us on the course and a bunch of lecturers over the next 3 weeks, some of whom I know. I am staying in an appartment over the road from a park and lake. My flatmate is Marc who is from North Carolina. Craig is from Microsoft UK (ish, he is based in the UK, but actually works for our global team so his boss is in the US) and he only joined MS a few months ago, John is from the UK and works for one of Microsoft's partners (Craig use to be his boss) and was on the plane out with me. John has a hire car (one of the advantages of working for a partner) and is kindly ferrying us aournd, even though the apartment he and Craig are in is not near ours.

When do I get to eat?

First lab today and it is now 8:45pm and I have yet to eat :-( which may be good for the diet but not for energy. I am still resisting the chocolate though.

I know it is late but it has been a good day. Although there is lots to take in, it is all very good. My only worry is revising it all for the exams each Monday morning and the last Saturday, and I thought I would get Sunday's off :-(

Spoke to Karen earlier in the 5 mins I had at the end of lunch before next session started, which is why I have started this blog as I think it is the only way she will know what I am doing. Update on dad was good to have.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Start!!

Well after many years, I have decided to start a blog. How long it will last I don't know. The reason is that I am in the US for the next 3 weeks and communicating with family at home is difficult due to long days and not much free time.

As some of you will know things at home are far from ideal, and I know Karen, Sarah and Peter are finding it hard (read their blogs for more I even felt on the plane coming over if I was really doing the right thing by still coming.

Well having arrived to find no internet access in my apartment (should arrive Wednesday) and can you imagine me complaining about lack of TV channels in the US. Well we have about 2 that are working. Working being optimisitc word in that they are fuzzy due to poor reception, a bit likt the early days of channel 5. This is not helping in my communications.

The course started yesterday and given that I thought I knew a lot, and then discovered how little I know (only about 20% of yesterday's content), I can see I am in for a tough few weeks. 8am starts, 7pm finish is you are lucky. Sunday is a day off, but with exams Monday morning, there will be plenty of revision.

As for my diet, I think I will be struggling by the end. I am trying to resist all the chocolate etc. that is provided to keep us going. I have though managed to go running twice already!!. Jetlag = Running.... or is this just more pain!. I was running at 6:30 this morning as I was awake early due to jetlag. The apartment is next to a park and lake. There is an old railway track, now a dirt track, which is a really pleasent run. Although a 6:30am it was a bit nippy (53deg). But a great view, PJ would have liked the two eights out rowing.

My only thoughts at the moment are that with this tuff start, it can only get better.