Axis of Evil Comedy Tour

June 22, 2007 at 6:30 pm | Posted in Middle East, Personal, Seattle | 4 Comments

I recently surprised my wife with two tickets fo the Axis of Evil Comedy tour. They were here for one night only in Seattle and I know Alia loves comedy so we decided to go (plus – it was a surprise – so I had already bought the tickets!)

Basically the Axis of Evil comedy tour is a group of four Arabs…well technically 3 Arabs and 1 Persian 🙂 I think they are all Muslim but am not sure. They are: Ahmed Ahmed, Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader, and Dean Obeidallah (Guest star). You can find more information about them and their tour here: http://www.axisofevilcomedy.com/

They make fun of being Arabs/Muslims at the current moment in the US.  It was some of the most hilarious comedy I’ve ever seen and the crowd was enjoying it too! Their shows pretty much sell out wherever they go, and judging by the attendance to this one it was also sold out! They only have two shows left, so most of you won’t be able to attend so instead you can purchase the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour DVD!

 If some of you don’t want to wait for the DVD to ship, you may wish to try the new Amazon.com Unbox service which allows you to rent or download this DVD. Try it out and tell me if it works 🙂

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Shisha, Belly Dancing and Seattle

April 29, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 14 Comments

Last week, Hany’s brother was in town and was in the mood for Shisha…My wife and I had discovered this shisha place in Seattle (there are very few of them!) called Zeina so we decided to take Hany and his brother there…

I miss Shisha a lot the place reminds my wife and I of home a little…The price of a shisha is a bit outrageous (17$ without tax!!) but well worth the price when you haven’t had it for a while…Anyway – when we got there it was very packed (which is strange for this place)…Luckily we were able to find seats…After a short while they started playing Arabic music which is always nice to listen to…

We then discovered the reason why it was so packed. A belly dancer came out to entertain the crowds, and the people went wild. It was entertaining as we certainly did not expect this to happen and its interesting to see a foreigner doing belly dancing…I only had my cell phone with me, but I managed to get some pics of the event (I’d like to include more pics in my blog as they are lots of fun to take!) I recently purchased a digital camera, so expect a lot more…

  

My First Accident (I love my Mazda!)

January 11, 2007 at 5:42 am | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 4 Comments

So, in case you don’t know – it just started snowing a few hours ago in Seattle/Redmond. It was about the time to go home and Hany and I decided to stay at work until the traffic clears up.

 First of all – the snow is amazing. It’s several inches already and looks cool. Had some snow fights, and some people went down and did snowmen.

 Anyway, we decided to go home at one point figuring its just going to get worse. So we leave. I was able to get out of the garage under our building just fine, but Hany’s car (A VW Golf) had great difficulties at maximum RPM. I had to wait like 10 minutes for him to make it up the ramp 😛

Sooooo…for some reason, we decide Hany drives behind me and I’ll lead the way home. So as we are leaving the MS campus, I slow down and come to a standstill on a speedbump on the road. Then I see Hany’s car coming closer and closer…I try to move, but my wheels just spin on ice. Hany did a nice swerve into the other lane, but managed to hit me nonetheless 🙂 It was a very minor scratch on both of our cars, thank god 🙂

We decide to continue, but Hany’s car is having extreme difficulty getting any sort of traction. So we turn around and return his car to the garage (with great difficulty) and then we took my car home.

 I love my Mazda 🙂 Even in Snow, it works perfectly and got me home safe and sound. Great engineering.

Happy New Year

January 2, 2007 at 6:45 am | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 2 Comments

I wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. So, what did you guys all do?

My wife and I met up with some friends here that work at Microsoft and we went to the Seattle Space Needle, to watch the fireworks. To see some pictures visit my friend Hany’s blog, who wrote about it http://hanysbarakat.blogspot.com/2007/01/seattle-2007.html

Lets just say there were A LOT of crazy drunk people 🙂 2006 has been such an eventful year for me with my move to the USA and working at Microsoft. I hope 2007 has many more good things to come.

I hope 2007 brings all my readers good fortune.

Power Outage – Crazy, Crazy Weather

December 17, 2006 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 4 Comments

On Thursday night we encountered a severe “storm” in Washington State. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I just heard a lot of whistling and howling outside. There was also a lot of rain, but what’s new here in Seattle 😉

Anyway, half way through watching a DVD with my wife, the power flickered, and then went out. I thought at the time, no big deal, it’ll come back in a few hours. It turned out into a big weekend ordeal.

On Friday, we began to realize the extent of the storm. I was unable to go to work because power was down over there. It was down in all of Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, in fact most of King County. So I stayed home on Friday. Keep in mind there is no power anywhere. This means no hot food, no gas for the car, no traffic lights on the street, no power to the refrigerator, etc. One of the first things I did was buy some ice for the refrigerator and freezer, and then we went out to Seattle to have a hot meal. Apparently the 520 (main highway from Redmond to Seattle) was closed, but luckily as soon as we arrived at the closure point, they opened it…so it was no traffic all the way as everyone knew it was closed and turned around 🙂

Anyway, the next day (Saturday) we spent the entire day out…We had breakfast out (apparently everyone else decided to have breakfast out too)…Oh yeah, power came back to certain parts of Redmond, just not out apartment complex. It’s pretty frustrating to see the traffic lights, and gas station right next door having power, but none for us! Anyway, we also had lunch out, and spent the day at Redmond Town Center (we watched two movies at the cinema!) We got home praying that the power was back…but nothing. Plus it was freezing! Our home, by now had lost all of its insulation, and the temperature in Redmond began to go to freezing, so we spent another cold night at home.

Finally, just this morning, the power came back at 11am 🙂 You have no idea how hard it is to live without power until you actually go through it! Especially when its out for several days! I never in my life expected to go through something like this here…it was pretty frustrating, but you just got to learn to deal with it. You could read about the storm here.

So while here I’ve noticed we’ve encountered some of the craziest weather to hit Washington State:

  • November – most rain to hit the Seattle area in one month ever. We broke all records.
  • End of November – snow/ice storm that shuts down a large part of King County.
  • December – the strongest wind storm to hit Seattle in over a decade, downing  a lot of the power grid/network.

So just thought I’d mention what I’ve been going through the past few days. I so wish spring/summer would come now 🙂 Apparently, it’s beautiful here.

Snow!

November 28, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 2 Comments

Some very light snow started in Seattle a couple of days ago. It’s really fun as I haven’t seen snow in probably around 15+ years!

Yesterday though, as I was about to leave work it, the snow just started falling down in large quantities! It was quite an experience to drive my car on the snow for the first time! Actually, I wouldn’t call it driving, more of slipping and sliding 🙂 It was quite scary to see this big bus next to me, who had his wheels turned all the way to the left, sliding forward.

Anyway, everything is covered by a big sheet of white this morning, and now I’m off to do some car-skating to work 🙂

Record Rain

November 10, 2006 at 4:58 am | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 1 Comment

It’s been raining pretty furiously in Seattle the past few days (almost a week). I find it actually pretty funny for it to be able to continously rain day after day after day! What is amazing though, is that its causing all sorts of flooding and problems in Washington at the moment.

Apparently, the average rainfall in November in Seattle is around 5.9 inches. That is for ALL of November. It is now the 9th of November and we’ve had around 8-9 inches of rain already. I think the record was in 1998 at 11 or 12 inches, so we are well on the way of breaking it.

In other news, Vista RTM’d, which is really great engineering accomplishment. There is going to be a party at Microsoft to celebrate, so I’m looking forward to attending that. I haven’t gotten to play with it much, but I plan on upgrading to it soon at work and giving it a spin.

Life in Seattle (and a new dog too)

September 27, 2006 at 3:34 am | Posted in Microsoft, Personal, Seattle | Comments Off on Life in Seattle (and a new dog too)

I have been doing a lot of progress in Seattle. We got cell phones with T-mobile on a family plan. I got an MDA and my wife got a Motorola RAZR. They have great deals for new Microsoft employees (although, some of them will only kick in once I get my microsoft.com email address).

We also opened a bank account at the First Tech Credit Union which have great deals for Microsoft new employees (as we do not yet have credit ratings). They provide unsecured credit cards, and car loans for Microsoft people with no credit rating (due to us being new hires coming from International locations). Most other banks will refuse us for such things. Also, when I get these two things (I still don’t have them because I am waiting to apply for my SSN) I will utilize them to build up my credit rating here.

I also decided to take a look at cars. I took a look at the Honda Civic, Honda Accord and Mazda3. I came in with a preference for Mazda3, and I still prefer it as it has all the features I desire for a very decent competitive price. I was going to go for an S Touring trim level, but I got convinced to go for an i Touring with an extra safety package (Side curtain airbags, and ABS brakes) for approximately 2000$ cheaper than the S Touring). So its a great deal, but we’ll see how things go.

And the other big news is that my wife and I have adopted a dog! First time either of us have ever had a pet. He is a Labrador Retriever/German Shepard Mix. He is four years old (we wanted an adult) and his name is Beau. He is not too big (I think around 25kg) and is a perfect size for us. He is very friendly and will make a good companion for us. We just adopted him today and were afraid someone would adopt him before us. We viewed quite a number of dogs before then, but this one was the one my wife felt most comfortable with. He is currently settling in the apartment quite nicely. I will post pictures when I have them.

As for work, I went in to Microsoft today and met my SDET Lead. It is a new team it seems, we will be 4 people underneath him. One of the guys is also new who is schedule to arrive tomorrow from Turkey tomorrow or something, so it should be fun and interesting. It seems that I will be responsible for Volume Management. The team will be working on Windows Vista mainly now. I am looking forward to working with them. Can’t wait for NEO next week.

Arriving in Seattle

September 24, 2006 at 4:56 am | Posted in Personal, Seattle | Comments Off on Arriving in Seattle

The trip to Seattle was quite an experience. Actually, I would classify it as more of an ordeal, but I tried to adapt and just look on the bright side of things.

My wife and I arrived at the Montreal airport approximately 2 hrs before my flight was scheduled to leave. After getting our boarding passes, apparently we had to go through US immigrations. No one had told me this and I was a bit perplexed, was I thought when I reach my destination, that I would go through US immigration. It was very strange to see US Border & Customs at the Canadian border. To make a long story short, due to interviewing, processing, and registering me they caused me to miss my flight. This is the first time my wife or I have ever missed a flight.

Now, this was approximately 7am Seattle time, but I called Microsoft Relocation which has somebody on call for any sort of emergency. They rebooked me for a later flight to Washington DC (and a connection from there to Seattle). This time around though, the immigration people were nicer and made things go much quicker.

The plane to Washington DC was quite small. First time I have been on an Embraer jet. It wasn’t very fun, especially during takeoff as the turbulance effects smaller planes much more. When we arrived, we made a quick dash to our connecting flight as it had already boarded and we were soon on our way to Seattle.

Upon arrival at Seattle, our baggage did not arrive. This was quite frustrating as we were now dead tired and had just waited around an hour at the baggage claim area just waiting.  The United people were nice though and apologized. My baggage was apparently in Chicago (it seems like it missed the connecting flight at Washington) and United said they will deliver it to my home.

I went to Avis to pick up my rental car. Everything was fine, but then I remembered to go back to check I had GPS in the car. Apparently she said it was not on her system, even though my reservation that I had printed out from their website said it was included. The Avis lady included the GPS, and I went to pick it up from another counter. Again, I had to wait quite a while as their GPS units are pin-locked and the one they assigned to me refused to accept the PIN. They gave me another unit, and finally we got to the car (Ford Grand Taurus).

I was very nervous driving as it was now late at night. I pretty much had no idea where I was or where to go. I had my wife act as navigator and we programmed the GPS. After driving for a while, I noticed it wasn’t updating my location. Turns out it disabled GPS indoors (parking lot) and didnt turn it back on once we were outside. The GPS was not useful at allat first. I plugged in my destination. It seemed the roads were in Yellow, but then there was a Red line, which I thought was my route, but then I saw other intersecting red lines, so it confused me as to which path(s) to take. I asked my wife to rely on my map but the thing is we were on a highway, we had no idea which one, and it was very confusing for her. She did a good job though as she managed to point us in the general direction we needed to go and began to pick up which exits I need to take. While driving we got a glimpse of Seattle at night which is just beautiful. It is truly stunning and I wish I could have taken a picture.

We began to get lost as we approached Redmond (especially as it began to fog pretty heavily), and so I followed some signs directing me to Redmond Town Center. I parked there, and decided to try to figure out this damn GPS, or figure out a route on one of the maps I had. After playing with the GPS for a few minutes, I enabled Audio Alerts and re-entered the destination and now I got a white line directing me exactly where I needed to go! Hmm, where was this white path before??? Also, the GPS would now direct me verbally on where I need to go (i.e. Turn Left after 0.1 mile) which was now really great.

I got to the place to pick up my apartment key, and then I put in the address of my actual apartment at Shorewood Heights. We arrived pretty easily now and no more getting lost. Unfortunately, it took us a while to try to find where our apartment is, until we found a map of the units, and figured out their numbering scheme.

The place is pretty nice. Of course, though, I can’t wait to move in to a permenant place, as the apartments here do not have a cozy/homey feel to them. Looking forward to exploring more of Seattle before I start work on October 2nd.

Moving to Seattle

September 20, 2006 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Personal, Seattle | 3 Comments

Tomorrow, I am finally moving to Seattle. It has been a very long wait. I knew I was accepted at Microsoft sometime in December. I got my H-1B in April, and have been waiting. Now, its finally happening and I am looking forward to it.

The relocation folks at Microsoft have been great. I shipped some of my clothes and books already and they are now clearing customs over there. I don’t have to do anything except fill out a few forms. They came and packed up all my goods in Egypt, and in Seattle they will deliver my goods to wherever I am.

Tomorrow, I will fly on United to Washington DC, and then onto Seattle. There I will have my rental car waiting for me (with GPS!) After that, I have to go to a building near Microsoft campus to pick up my apartment key. Then, I will be driving to Shorewood Heights which is where I will be staying for my first couple of months while I search and find an apartment to stay at. It is located on Mercer Island, near Lake Washington, so I’m looking forward to the great views 🙂

Also, after tomorrow, I will be meeting with a Destination Services Consultant who will help me in opening a bank account, getting a cell phone, etc.

If anyone has any advice they wish to give me, please leave a comment 🙂

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