Charlotte Diary August 2000

August 29th September 9th September17th October 9th

Tuesday 29/8/00    1973


Gleaming at the OaksOur friends at Avis give me a 2 door "mid size" for posing in.


My apartment is in The Oaks, an estate 4.5 miles from Verbatim. Yet another apartment that looks like all the other U.S. apartments I've stayed in: bright, clean, and well fitted out; but none of the walls are 100% true!

(I will defer to the pressure. Flats are apartments, I will say "Zee" for "Zed". I will resist the temptation to drive on the correct, left hand side of the road. I'm here for a month, so I'll behave. There will be no further mention of the differences between our 2 great countries. Must get a Union Jack for my cube. And set the computer startup.wav to play the signature from the BBC World Service.)


Jenny let me borrow her Ixus camera before this trip. Very light and portable. Must have one. So down to Pineville, find Best Buy, and get an Ixus. The equivalent in the US is a Canon PowerShot S100. 

There is a shopping center in SouthPark. This I must visit, being a fan of Kenny, Stan, Cartman et al.

The local supermarket, Harris Teeter, is excellent. Scrunchy Munchies are obtained. There is a chance to eat healthily in this country. The cranberry juice is a must!


If I may misquote "The Wall": "65 channels of shit to choose from."
One channel, CSPAN,  carries an articulate, humorous discussion of the forthcoming presidential election. There is hope! (King of the Hill, Simpson's, and Star Trek are also aired this evening.)

Wednesday 30/8/00    2064


The S100 camera is great. Small, high resolution ...but the bundled software really sucks. Just like bundled fax software with modems - tries to do everything - but does it badly.  Please just transfer the files and let me clip, adjust levels, and save. I don't want albums, or stitchers...

I may knock up a .png (ping file) utility to do this - I have the source from the "Flash Message" application the Gang of Three developed last year...


The radio plays a light rock ditty. "Dancing on the beach; Shagging on the beach..."
I do a double take.
I enquire with my work chums.
Apparently a shag in the US means a dance.
I inform them the British slang "shagging" means something more, er, earthy, as in "D'ya wanna shag, Darlin' ?"

Life at the Oaks

The office staff at the Oaks are a friendly enough bunch - a few slices of pizza and Diet Coke are offered when I collect my mail key. The outside pool is reasonably large with 5ft depth. A heated Jacuzzi is also inviting. 

A docking station, monitor, and promise of a "Road Runner" cable modem means I'll be "wired" in the apartment "real soon now."

Thursday 31/8/00    2073

It's Lee's 39th birthday today. He's our "main man" and buys the beer! Several pints later...

Friday 1/9/00    2084

Lee's surprise birthday party. Kelly has organized a buffet in The Graduate, a bar in downtown Charlotte. Downtown Charlotte is not that large, and easy enough to get around. The center is compact, with several tall buildings, fountains, and statues. (A one liner doesn't do it justice!)

Newcastle Brown is on tap - albeit cold. This is a good time to get to know some of the boys and girls I'm working with. Nearly everyone is armed with a partner - everybody mingles.

Driving back is interesting - torrential rain and splendid lightening. You don't get rain like that at home. Why do Yanks always do things bigger than us Brits?

Saturday 2/9/00    2120


Time to read the manual. So my new PowerShot S100 camera is an Ixus after all. The European Ixus logo has been left in the user manual. (Hands up: who remembers the S100 bus?)

Apparently "If your camera is used for prolonged periods, the camera body may become warm ... your hands may experience a burning sensation". I shall be aware of this.

I believe that the ergonomics and usability should be intuitive. (This applies to software applications, toasters, cars, as well as cameras.) Reading the manual should be unnecessary. If you feel you need to do this - look for another product.

However, there are a few useful short cuts I'll list here for fellow Ixus users:

Hacking and Bashing

Release version 1.00 of Email To HTML


QX3 MicroscopeJenny requested one of these toy microscopes. Made for Mattel by Intel. Gives 10x, 60x and 200x magnification. CCD array connected via USB. Unfortunately it's Windows 98 only, and I run 2000! I'll search the web for a driver...

Not bad construction for $60 - look forward to see it doing something.

DVD portable.

There are 2 products that interest me:

The Panasonic has the edge - newer, neater, and a longer playing time.

Best Buy at Pineville had both available to demo - well hold, touch, feel the weight of, because the batteries were flat, and they didn't know where the charger was...

Sears at Concord had a fully working Panasonic DVD-L75 to demo - but none in stock. They also quoted list at $1299.

I shall persevere with this - see what web references Andrew can dig up!

Sunday 3/9/00    2214

Labor Day

This weekend is Labor Day Holiday. I think it's similar to our May Day holiday in historical terms. I've brought UK bank holiday weather with me - it's thunder, lightening and lots of rain.

5 inches of rain in an hour was recorded locally.

Monday 4/9/00    2223


Today is a national holiday. The locals treat this as an excuse to catch bargains at the sales.

A planned barbeque is rained off - Jeff calls "Another day Mate!"

I knock up a clipboard clobberer utility This is a useful tool when creating web pages with content from other apps.


I treat the camera to a 32 Megabyte "Compact Flash" ram card. No problems - it works! The camera should now be able to store 64 images at 1600 by 1200 pixel resolution.

DVD Shopping List

Tuesday 5/9/00    2223

QX3 Microscope

Getting the QX3 to install - hacking hwdiag.dll! The installation proceeds - but a Vxd doesn't load... Hack Hack Hack!
Still I can now run a demo of a Ladybird walking across my screen!


A sneak at my cube. Americans prefer to work in enclosed partitions known as cubes. c.f. Dilbert.

Don't worry. I won't be placing work stuff on this page - that would be too grim!

Wednesday 6/9/00    2232

Hibachi steak grill

I grab a Hibachi grill with Jeff and Terry. A Chinese guy cooks us shrimp and chicken on a big hot plate in front of our noses. He's a clown but the food's good.

Sting in CharlotteSting

An old friend from the North East turns up. He used to head up a combo called The Police in the eighties. He's doing a gig tonight here in Charlotte, at the Blockbuster Pavilion.

John, a native of this Great Country, and I grab some tickets. We're there in the front seats, with all the grannies... Sting's on for two hours - playing continuously. Hard work!

On stage with him is Chris Botti - a cool trumpeter.

3000+ people attend. Held in a open air arena - not dissimilar to the Milton Keynes Bowl - but with a covered area for the first class seats.

So culture does happen here in Charlotte!


Thursday 7/9/00    2249

Dinner at Rosie's

This evening I'm invited out to Jeff and Rosie's (Brits) in Dilworth - 1950's suburbia. I last visited them in October 1999 when they were moving in; they're now well settled in.

I present them with Milk Chocolate from the UK - and a pleasant evening is had demolishing a 3 course meal Rosie's prepared.

I meet Alice (7 months) - their very own American wriggler. (Fortunately, she will be able to chose her nationality when she's 18.)

Friday 8/9/00    2279


Lunch with the girls and boys - Kelly, Donna, Howard and Josh at a Mexican at "University". As I expect large portions arrive!

Socializing has an ulterior motive - I pay on plastic - and I collect the green backs from my colleagues. Drawing cash out is expensive!

Exchange Rate

It's funny you know - whenever I go to the States the pound tumbles against the dollar. It was 1.55 USD to GBP last week - now 1.45. Life!