Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Handyman Challenge

This is my first week working remotely with the team in San Francisco from Toronto. The three-hour time difference presents some odd working hours -- roughly 12:45pm to 9:45pm. So far before skyping in for the morning meeting I like to think I've gotten a lot done:
  • Met most of the folks at the Toronto office
  • Looked at several apartments
  • Set up a bank account with direct deposit
  • Got my Social Insurance Number
  • Filled out the benefits paperwork

 After work has been a different story, however. On Monday, I instantly fell asleep. Today held a new 10:00pm discovery on Canadian HGTV: Canada's Handyman Challenge. I had to tweet about it.

They started the show with tryouts. Contestants got a sheet of plywood and had to make something to wow the judges. We saw all kinds of things, but the two best were most certainly a penny-farthing and a geared bicycle, though maybe I'm biased.

From there, the competition heated up with a timed round. Everyone who was chosen to advance was given a door opening that was not level. The approaches varied, as did the effectiveness. The best of this round merely attempted to do things correctly -- leveling the opening, shimming, putting in door stops, etc. The worst saw their doors shattered off the hinges when a judge tried to open it.

Seven contestants were remaining at the start of the last round. Two would be eliminated, and it would prove to be difficult to determine which two were headed home. The task was to build a hammock stand out of the given wood. To make things more interesting, the hammock was much looser than anyone had anticipated -- and no one had checked the stretchiness of the hammock before building. A single hammock stand was shattered by one hand of a judge, while several others utilized designs that would surely not be safe for long. Oh, the drama!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Next Chapter: Toronto

Twitter => Toronto

Facebook => Toronto

LinkedIn => Toronto

If the social networks say it, it must be official!

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Here's a fork in the road: You've accidentally bought whole bean coffee instead of ground coffee. You do not have a grinder, and you're moving soon so it doesn't make sense to get one now. What do you do?

Some may buy the grinder anyway. Or return the coffee. Others, however, don't see their kitchen as empty of grinders, but full of possibilities. They open the bag, grab a cloth, and go to town with an ice cream scoop.

My Girlfriend is Inventive
This kind of resourcefulness doesn't come around often. Personally, I haven't seen it since the late 90's, when I witnessed carpet being trimmed with a steak knife.

As for the ice-cream-scoop-ground coffee, well, it was a little weak.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lessons of The Transporter

Recently watching The Transporter 1, 2, and 3 has left me with some learnings.

  1. When outnumbered in a fight, dip your arms in oil
  2. A pipe is the perfect answer to axes and swords
  3. Never underestimate a guy with a fire hose
  4. It's important to have a French Inspector friend
  5. Always have a numbered list of rules

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Traditional Pronunciation

I'm heavily entrenched in an embarrassing tradition: mispronouncing street and town names to locals.


It all started with the original move to Chicago. My former roommate and I were looking for places in the pouring-down rain when we stumbled into a hotel looking for Wabash Ave.

"Which way is Wah-bahsh?"
"Wah-bahsh? What? Oooh, Wah-bash! you guys aren't from around here are you?"

Little Rock

In Little Rock, Arkansas, one of the biggest roads you'll encounter is Cantrell Rd. It's not pronounced how certain Steve's might expect, either.

"So I just take Can-trell all the way to Rodney Par-ham?"
"First, it's Cantrll...and second, it's Rodney Parm"


In Toronto, the road that divides the city into east and west is Yonge St. Naturally, this went just as well.

Yonge St., NYC

Yonge St., NYC by Loozrboy on flickr

"Are we at Yong-gey Street yet?"
"I don't think that's how you say it, Steven. I think it's just Yong."
... *later, while talking to someone who knows"
"So you'll want to take Eglinton all the way down to Young and turn right."

We get it right, eventually.

note that's the only licensed picture I could find, and it was from a movie shoot where they were pretending Toronto was New York.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mississauga Bowling Championship 2012

I'm no bowling expert, but I am from the midwest. More people than you might expect have based their entire opinion of the midwest on Woody Harrelson's 1996 smash hit Kingpin. It didn't help the general bias that when a local user group did a coding exercise about bowling scoring I was the only one who knew the rules, or that I was near the top during a work outing with a steamy 119. During a recent trip to Toronto for some apartment hunting, Ginger and I stopped for three games at nearby Planet Bowl.

I lost the first game, handily.

I won the second game, handily.

The tiebreaker was a difficult one to digest. Ginger employed some deep mental strategy. "I don't have a chance" she'd say over and over again. Suddenly in the fifth frame, she picked up another ball... from there on out the throws were all pretty good.

Going into the bottom of the final frame, we were both tied at 108. All she needed was one pin.

Championship Throw
Championship Throw

Congrats to Ginger on taking the 2012 Mississauga Bowling Championship!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lunch in London

In another few weeks, I'll be making my way to the ThoughtWorks Toronto office. Having never been to the city before, the end of December seemed like a perfect time for Ginger and I to head north while visiting our families in Greater Detroit.

Since 2005, 1.8 million acres surrounding Greater Toronto have been deemed a greenbelt in an effort to prevent urban sprawl. As it happens, once you get out of that protected acreage, it's mostly farmland as well on the drive from Detroit. London, Ontario is one of the few towns along the way and felt like a good stopping point for lunch.

Just like you'd expect from a city, parking in London isn't free. It took $3, and while we nearly paid cash — I handed Ginger the $3 I had and a folded up $10 fell out of it — I went with my American Express.

The first restaurant we stepped into looked delicious, but clearly said cash only by the register. We both prefer the cashless life, and knew it'd be tight anyway, so we moved on to the diner across the street. With no clear mention of cash only, and an ATM right there, it was a safe option. Or so we thought.

Me: "I'll have the chicken tenders... and do you take credit?"
The server responded, quickly: "Okay. No, but we've got an ATM right there."
Me: "Any chance you take US cash?"
The server, quickly again: "At par, so a dollar is a dollar."

Not feeling great about our cash situation, I headed over to the corner to try the little non-bank-affiliated ATM. I wasn't concerned about fees, because Ally Bank is awesome and just reimburses them. It let me get all the way through the transaction, and then denied me as an Invalid Acquirer. I let Ginger know and she headed over to try her bank card. Same thing; those little ATMs must not like international cards.

Turbo Button ATM

We scraped at our pockets and came up with $23. Doing the math in our heads, and not knowing the tax rate in London, we knew it'd be close; closer than ever before.

Heading to the register the guy tallied the bill and came up with $22.85. Just barely made it, but only with the awful feeling of stiffing the guy who was so nice to us. We'll be back, just with a giant tip.

For more on our Canadian restaurant experience, check out Ginger's Float Me Down the River.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Electrical Tape Is All You Need

Never lend your tools to anyone, boy.

My dad had a job working for a carpet cleaning company in his early 20's. Driving a cargo van, he quickly tired of all the equipment rattling around in the back. Recognizing the problem, my dad did what was natural: headed to the local home improvement store, picked up some lumber and a circular saw and got to work on building an organizer.

Ford's answer to the A-Team

After a weekend, the organizer was a success. It took that rattling cargo van and gave everything a place. It worked so well that his boss saw it and wanted to build himself one. The boss just needed to borrow my dad's circular saw.

After an agonizing week, the boss handed back the saw. Then he handed back the power cord, separately. While sawing a 2x4, the power cord got in the way. Not to be deterred, the boss powered through...the cord. While handing it back, he offered my dad some confident advice: "some electrical tape is all you need, it'll work fine."

Just one project and one lending after purchasing, the saw was junk. It would be taped, and it would sort of work, but the bulge from the electrical tape meant that it would hang on boards and be a general disaster to use.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mom's Kitchen Demo

In my family these days, one can simply reference "the brothers" or ask "are you going to love it or list it?" and everyone knows exactly which HGTV shows[1][2] are being referenced. We've logged a lot of hours in renovation-based entertainment, and that's a big part of why my mom's new kitchen renovation project is so exciting.

Cabinets, granite counter tops, and floors are on the way, but it all starts with a little demolition up front. Yesterday, she spent the day tearing out the 1980's tiled backsplash.

Mom's Kitchen Reno
Mom's Kitchen Reno 3
So far, so good!

  1. Property Brothers
  2. Love It or List It

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Game Night

A few days after Christmas we got a crew of six together for some board games, lots of laughs, and general good times. The guilty parties included my girlfriend, mom, sister, friend-of-the-family-for-so-long-she-is-family Rose, former roommate Ken, and myself. Here we all are in a round of Toronto's pride: Beyond Balderdash.


The classic dice game started the night, but with a twist shamelessly stolen from Ginger's family: instead of beginning with three chips, we bought in with three quarters. The winner took the pot of $6.00 as well as a Michigan Instant Lottery Ticket.

After a few rounds of LCR, we took up one of my favorite games of all time: Beyond Balderdash. Highlights included defining
  • acronym LTAB as "Love Trumps All, Baby!"
  • word tankle as everything from "a tank top for your ankle" to tinkle "... at a velocity greater than one can possibly imagine"


When all was said and done, everyone had taken at least one lottery ticket and my sister walked off with 2012's Balderdash trophy.

The Blog Welcomes 2013

Happy New Year! The blog is making a few changes for 2013.



The blog is renaming from SG Hill's Adventures in [Agile] Development to SG Hill's Adventures. It's a little overdue, as nothing has been written here on development in quite some time and SG Hill's Tidbits of Development exists.



The old system was the blogger default. Comments were reliable, but cumbersome. Earlier today I integrated disqus, a five-year-old startup company focused entirely on comments. Hopefully it's easier to use -- give it a shot!



The old theme was one of the blogger originals. This new one is a little better supported :)