I learnt Venice and a toddler can work

To celebrate my wife’s birthday we took a 4 day trip to Venice. The slight complication is that we have a 16 month old daughter, Jasmine, and Venice is not renowned for being very conducive to young children.

We live in St Albans and it has a direct train link to Gatwick Airport. This can be very handy. The trip took place pretty much at the height of the security alerts so any liquids etc. were not allowed on the plane. Fortunately the flight was only 2 hours so there was no need for anything specific for Jasmine.

Jasmine didn’t have her own seat booked so she was due to sit on our laps for the flight out. Fortunately the flight wasn’t full so were able to use the free seat next to us.

On arrival in Venice we took the water bus to San Marco. Fortunately Jasmine was reasonably well behaved and didn’t cause too much disruption on the hour long crossing.

Now to Venice itself, and all the bridges. We came prepared with two ways to transport Jasmine around. We had a reasonably lightweight collapsible stroller and we also borrowed a rucksack style baby carrier from some friends. We used both during the holiday.

We did a walking tour on the second day. This lasted about two and a half hours and gave us a good chance to try out the rucksack approach. Jasmine enjoyed her time in the rucksack however she normally sleeps at the time of day when the tour took place and she found it difficult to get comfortable. The rucksack we borrowed didn’t have a cushion, like a lot of other models, so she found it difficult to get her head comfortable.

The actual rucksack itself worked well and we split the carrying between my wife and myself. At the St Marks Basilica we elected to leave it with the other rucksacks rather than risk being turned back at the door and carried Jasmine.

The rest of the trip we used the stroller and if there are two people then that works fine. You get to know the best routes between places not by distance but by the number of bridges and how easy the steps are to navigate.

At the end of day you end up with arms like Popeye but you do get into a routine of lifting the stroller whenever you come to a bridge. Do watch out for people who have no idea that carrying a stroller is heavy and just stop where you want to go.

The hotel we stayed at, the Casa Verardo, was fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend it. It is less than 5 minutes walk from St Marks Square – and only 2 bridges! The staff were helpful to the extreme. Jasmine loved the room and for some reason got very excited every time we were in it.

It does have a couple of electrical sockets at baby height so you will need to keep an eye on your little one but by careful movement of furniture these can be made much more inaccessible.

There was no kettle in the room so we had to call reception each time to get hot water but they were more than willing to bring up a teapot of hot water to make the milk.

We did a boat trip on the Grand Canal and again this was fine for toddlers. It was run by the same company that did the walking tour and was a chartered water taxi. This meant there was a covered area and an outside area which meant we could take Jasmine inside when she became restless. There was never any risk of her going for a swim in the canal.

We did give the gondola ride a miss. You could probably do it but you would end up spending a lot of time keeping an eye/hold on your little one.

So after a lot of walking and carrying strollers it was all over and it was back to the UK.

Did the trip work? Yes it did. I learnt that Venice and toddlers can mix and also if you need a good work out you don’t necessarily need to go to a gym (although it would probably be cheaper).

I learnt about Microsoft server technology

I was looking for a summary of all the Microsoft server technologies and wasn’t able to find a single list that summarised what each of the different servers do. So, I produced one:

Antigen - Server-level antivirus, anti - spam, and content - filtering

Application Centre - Simplified application management

BizTalk Server - Business processes and integration

Commerce Server - E-commerce solutions

Content Management Server (CMS) - Mission critical content rich websites

Data Protection Manager (DPM) - Optimize disk based backup and recovery

Exchange Server - Access to critical business communications

Host Integration Server - Integrate IBM systems

Identity Integration Server (MIIS) - Integrate identity information from multiple directories

Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA) - Firewall, VPN and web cache

Live Communications Server - Instant messaging and presence

Operations Manager (MOM) - Handle issues processes

Project Server - Co-ordinate and standardize projects

SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) - Collaboration across an organization

Speech Server - Pervasive speech access for devices

SQL Server - Database platform

System Centre - System management products

Systems Management Server (SMS) - Change and configuration management

Virtual Server - Virtualization platform

Windows Compute Cluster Server - High performance computing solution

Windows Small Business Server (SBS) - Integrated solution of small business products

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) - Deploy Microsoft updates

Windows Storage Server - Dedicated file and print server

Obviously this will change over time but it will provide a starting point.

I learnt about GroupShot

Microsoft have a research department which sometimes produces some nice software that you can try. Probably the best I have found so far is GroupShot. This is a small utility that allows you to take a number of photos taken from roughly the same place and to pick the best parts of each image to make up a single composite image.

This sounds like a complicated task but they have made it really easy to use. You load in your images and then highlight the area you want to change. You then select the area from which image you want to use for that area.

On holiday I found myself taking multiple shots of the same thing just so that I have the opportunity if needed to remove unwanted parts of the images such as the kid pulling faces in the background or the tour group walking through the shot. It has already changed the way I take photographs.


I learnt I am not allergic to wasps

Despite heading towards middle age and growing up in the countryside I had never been stung by a wasp. Well I have now found out what it is like and also that, fortunately, I am not allergic to them.

I learnt that writing isn't easy

One of my aims is to write a book - along with basically everyone else. Having said that the aim is not to get it published, it is just something I would like to do. My first effort will be to write a book that I can read each night to our daughter before she goes to bed. It probably won’t be much good but I will know that it is something that I have written just for her.

This blog is excellent for writing tips in general …


May be it will give me the nudge I need.

I learnt that my juggling still needs a lot of practice

I love juggling. I taught myself at university and used it as a way to relax and take my mind off things. I progressed from the simple tricks to more advanced ones like Rubensteins Revenge, Mills Mess, throwing it behind my back etc. I also taught myself to unicycle.

Anyway, I thought I was quite good until I saw this guy …


Watch the “Must-see finale”. I think I have a bit more practice to do!

I learnt the most important thing I've done

Two questions to think about …

Tom Peters has an interesting article in which he raises two questions

1. What's the most important thing you've done in the last year?

2. What's the most important thing you'll do in the next year?

For me, the most important thing I did last year was to become a father. This has been an amazing experience and I have loved every minute. I am learning so much and it has completely changed my perspective on the priorities of life.

As for this year, continue to learn how to be the best father I can be.


I learnt how to make sure you do something

How do you ensure that you will do something, such as a goal you have set out? Apparently if you set a specific future time to share your progress with someone then the chances of a change being incorporated into your life is 95%, as opposed to only 25% if you just say “you’ll do it”. Very interesting article here.

I learnt about enums v booleans

Very interesting discussion about why booleans should be avoided as parameters. I must admit until now I have used them as parameters but will seriously consider using enums in future to make them more readable, based on this article. It also suggests that you should use radio buttons instead of checkboxes in UIs. I’m not so sure about this one but I can see their point and will add it to the arsenal of things to consider on my next UI.