Getting off my fat ass. Again.

Long time readers (hi, Mom) know that I've done some long distance running and biking events over the past few years like the Mercer Island Half Marathon and the "Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party" bike ride. However, I fell off the wagon once we moved to China and never really picked it back up. More than ever, I need work out, so I've decided to use the same formula I did nine years ago - signing up for an event with friends and committing publicly to it. I seem to need a clear goal and some accountability to motivate me.

This time, I've signed up for the Magnuson Spring Series 5K on March 21. It should be a flat 5K (I ran there before); I mostly just need to get out and start running to get this one done.

Anyone else want to join me?

My Best Photos of 2014

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I think it's been a while since I've done this, but here are some of my best photos of 2014. I think these all have something generally interesting about these. There were many other photos I didn't include that I liked because they have meaning to me personally (e.g. travel/family stuff) or looked good only because the subject was so good looking (e.g. photos of the amazing Crater Lake).

I didn't apply any special effects filters to the images, although they're all pretty heavily edited for color, contrast, and composition.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you think!

Gallery of my best photos of 2014

Portraits of Andrew

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Andrew (17) kindly agreed to pose for photos during our recent trip to New York City. I'm biased, of course, but I think he's turning into a pretty handsome dude. Not sure when he grew up though.

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Starting Again

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Happy 2015! I can't believe I didn't write a single blog post in 2014. I didn't intentionally abandon my blog. Most of the stuff I used to write in short posts are now on Facebook; this leaves only longer posts for the blog. Of course, these are more effort, so I didn't write. Not really a good excuse, so I will start again. Here we go!

Leaving Microsoft

Today will be my last day at Microsoft. I've been at the company for 23 years, coming straight out of college. I'm incredibly grateful to this company that I still love, but it was time to try something new, to get a different perspective. Starting Monday, I'll be at Amazon, where I'll be the director of their product details page. It will be a big change (and a much longer commute), but I'm really excited.

Still, I'm finding that I'm pretty emotional about leaving. Being at Microsoft is a huge part of my identity and my life. I've worked at Microsoft longer than anything I've ever done. It'll take a while to get accustomed to a new way of thinking.

Here's the mail I sent announcing the change.

Subject: Farewell

It's become painfully clear that my bid to become the new CEO of Microsoft will not be successful, so today is my last day at Microsoft.

A few highlights from the past 23 years:
1990 Shocked to learn Microsoft shipped software with known bugs. More shocked to discover a big part of my job would be to pick which ones.
1991 Made the only known hole-in-one during Golf 1.0 testing (my first product). It didn't help my review score.
1993 Surfed the Internet for the first time in the Microsoft Library. Didn't get what the fuss was about.
1997 Learned to do The Hustle at a ship party. Grateful that cellphone cameras hadn't been invented yet.
1999 Spent six months addressing Y2K bugs in Works Suite. Saved the world from calamity.
2000 Hit my lifetime net worth high point. Oh well.
2003 Got my hands covered in blue ink minutes before a demo to BillG. Managed to not get him inky too.
2004 Pilloried in blog comments after jokingly claiming we invented pop-up blocking in IE6 on Windows XP SP2. Learned that including smiley face in a blog post is no protection against trolls.
2006 Was called "cute" by a prominent blogger. Faith in the Internet restored.
2007 Testified before the DOJ and EU on the same day. Lowlight was the French official jumping out of his chair yelling, "Aha! I caught you!" during my talk.
2008 Moved to Beijing. Delighted to find I was expected to sing and drink (sometimes at the same time) as part of my job.
2010 Had a 1:1 lunch with BillG. His hands got covered in Big Mac special sauce, and he couldn't figure out why. Felt secret sense of schadenfreude.
2011 Moved back from Beijing. Missed the office tea lady with my daily fresh fruit and pot of tea, but clean air was a big plus.
2012 Started surfing online porn professionally for Bing SafeSearch. Surprised to find this is not as cool as it sounds.
2013 Learning how hard it is to say farewell to an amazing company, brilliant colleagues, and good friends.

Thanks to all my teammates, past and present, for making me look good (or less bad, at least!) Thanks to my managers and mentors for your patience and guidance. Thanks to you all for a lifetime of great memories.

FAQ
Q: What will you do next?
A: I will be the director (like a PUM) for Amazon's product details page.

Q: Will you still be in Seattle?
A: Yes.

Q: Why are you leaving?
A: I've never worked anywhere else as a fulltime employee. I realized I would regret not ever having a different perspective.

Q: How can we keep in touch?
A: Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog (kind of), email, WeChat/微信 (ID: F218828), Pinterest, Foursquare

Q: What is the best way to cook bacon?
A: In the oven.

iFly!

A few weeks ago, I took my team to iFly Seattle for a little fun. iFly is billed as indoor skydiving. Rather than falling, you're in a powerful updraft. It was super fun (and got great reviews from my team members). When I told Andrew (16) about it, he wanted to go, so I took him for his birthday today along with our friend Maddi, who was also very gung ho to try it. Michael (12) wasn't interested but came along.

After some classroom instruction, an instructor goes into the chamber with you and helps you control your position and body. You're in the chamber for either a minute or two minutes, depending on which package you select, and you typically do two flights (I strongly recommend the two minute option since it takes a bit to get settled). On the second flight you have the option to do a "high flight" with the instructor, where s/he grabs onto you and flies you up into the 2-3 story chamber. It's actually not scary (at least I wasn't scared) since you don't have the falling sensation.

They have cameras in the chamber and will move you into position for a good photo (which you can buy afterwards). They'll also give you a DVD of your flight.

Andrew and Maddi had a great time. I'm sure we'll be going back.

Here's me flying at our team event.
Me flying at our team event

Andrew and Maddi ready for action.
Andrew and Maddi in purple jumpsuits

Andrew flying!
Andrew flying

Video of Andrew's "high flight"

Rafting on the Grande Ronde River

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After our amazingly fun rafting trip on the Deschutes River last year, Andrew (15) and I decided to go rafting with some friends again this year. Even better, Michael (12) decided to join us this time.

Our friend and trip planner Don chose the Grande Ronde River for this year's trip. This river is in the north-eastern part of Oregon. Like the previous trips, we used the awesome Oregon Whitewater Adventures guys. We drove down to La Grande the day before and enjoyed the comforts of the Rodeway Inn motel there (a little different from the resorts we normally frequent.) The next morning, we drove to Minam and set out on our three day, two night adventure.

The Grande Ronde River was a nice change from the Deschutes. It was a little less exciting from a rafting perspective; it had fewer big rapids (it's rated 2-3 vs. the Deschutes at 3-4) and dropped more consistently (vs. the pool-and-drop Deschutes). However, the scenery and camping were more picturesque -- more green than the high desert Deschutes valley. The additional moisture meant we could have fires in the evening too - a big advantage! Plus, there were no trains to interrupt our sleep and fewer other people on the river. We went around 50 miles over the three days -- pretty easy.

Like last year, we had two boats with our friends plus two gear boats. The staff did all of the work; we only had to set up our tents. We had great water fights and nice rafting, although we swam less since the water was more shallow this late in the season. On the Grande Ronde, there were no Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, so we camped in more primitive sites; in particular, there were no outhouses, so the staff set up a tent and porta-potty (really a seat on top of a big ammo can). Our guides were excellent again, with Colby and Jeff returning from last year and the crazy and wonderful Pamela plus the owner Dave joining us this year.

We all enjoyed the trip greatly and are already looking forward to next year.

The boys and I on the river.
Andrew, Michael, and me on the river

The kids playing cards (BS) in camp. It got pretty hardcore!
Kids playing cards in camp

Our camp site the second night.
Our campsite the second night

One day at lunch, we hiked up the nearby hill for a better view. It was quite steep, actually, but well worth it.
View of the Grande Ronde River from the top of a nearby hill

The views along the river were lovely. The hill in the background is the one we climbed. We made it about 2/3 the way up.
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Michael enjoying a swim.
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Michael enjoying some quiet time in camp, reading by the river. One of the best parts of the trip was having no electronics and no cellular signal.
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Duck Dodge!

As I've written about previously, I crew on a racing sailboat in the summers. Maybe once a year, we skip our regular race on Lake Washington and do the Duck Dodge.

This race is a Seattle institution (apparently, it's listed as one of Fodor's Top 100 Things to Do in North America). It's held on Lake Union, just on the north edge of downtown Seattle with the Space Needle in the background. Each week there's a wacky theme (we went out on Egyptian Night); many crews dress up or even decorate their boats, although we didn't. There are typically a ton of boats out, so it can be quite lovely and fun.
Duck Dodge fleet in front of the Space Needle

It's a pretty casual race with loose rules, but the one special rule is that you can't make a duck change course; if you do, you have to do a penalty turn. The first three finishers in each class (there are three, roughly divided by how fast your boat is) get a gold, silver, or bronze duck sticker. These are highly coveted in the Seattle area; winners typically put the stickers on their boom.

We've won a sticker in each race we've entered, but we had never won a gold first place prize. Despite the shifty, tricky winds, this year we finally won our class, by quite a big margin actually.

The funny thing was that we thought we were in second the whole race. It's a little difficult to tell which boats were in which class. We thought we were in the same class as a J/80 ahead of us (we had taken second to a J/80 last year - it's a much faster boat than our J/24), but when we finished, the committee boat staff told us we had won. The J/80 crew had apparently decided to join the faster class.

So, we looped around and picked up our sticker from the committee boat.
Bobby picking up the gold sticker from the committee boat.

We promptly stuck our first gold sticker on the boom. (We have a bronze and a silver duck on the other side of the boom too.)
Our gold duck sticker, next to an older bronze duck sticker.

Our merry band then motored back to our dock, quite happy. (It didn't hurt that we had an amazing bottle of rum onboard: a Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 - perhaps the best rum I've ever had and one that many commenters on my "Best Rum in the World" post mentioned. Highly recommended.)
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Flight on a B-17

Andrew (15) and I got to fly on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress from Boeing Field today, going with my friend Brian. This was the Collings Foundation B-17 "Nine-O-Nine", one of only ten flyable B-17s left in the United States. We actually tried to fly on this plane two years ago when they were in town, but the flight was scrapped due to rain.

Head on view of B-17G Nine-O-Nine

This year, we really lucked out. We had a perfect Seattle summer day. When we boarded the flight, we had to sit down and buckle up. There were spots for passengers scattered throughout the plane. Andrew and I sat in the radio room.
Andrew sitting in the radio room ready for takeoff

The crew left the top hatch open, so during the flight, we could even stick our heads (or camera) outside. This is a shot from out the top hatch, looking back at Boeing Field as we climbed after takeoff.
A shot of Boeing Field and the B-17's tail from the top hatch.

After takeoff, we could move throughout the plane. It was pretty tight and a bit tricky to move around with my camera bag; I can't imagine how hard it would be in a bulky flight suit, wearing a parachute.

Here's Andrew in the nose, looking through the bombsight.
Andrew looking through the bombsight.

This is a nice view of the I-90 Bridge and Bellevue, out the starboard waist gun.
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One of my favorite places was in the top turret. You get a 360 degree view, although, I'm just a little short to be a good top turret gunner. Here's the view from the turret looking forward.
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The flight lasted about thirty minutes, covering fifty-four miles. We averaged about 120mph and flew at around 1650'. It was loud and a rattled quite a bit at full power on takeoff, but the flight was smooth. The pilot was a pro and nailed the landing -- smooth as silk. Here's our flight track from my GPS watch.
b-17 flight

In addition to the B-17, they were giving flights on the last flying Consolidated B-24J Liberator as well as a North American TP-51C Mustang. I would really love to go up in a Mustang; this particular plane may be the only way to do it since it's a two-seater training variant.
TP-51C Mustang warms up, with Mount Rainier in the background.

This was really a rare opportunity since there are so few flyable warbirds left (and even fewer that take passengers). I'm really glad I got to do this with Andrew. (Too bad my younger son Michael wasn't interested.)

An Evening with an Astronaut

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As part of our trip to the Museum of Flight today, the boys and I attended a talk by astronaut Barbara Morgan. She's quite a remarkable person. After she graduated from Stanford, Barbara taught in a variety of elementary schools from an Indian reservation to Ecuador. She was selected as the backup to Christa McAuliffe as the Teacher in Space, picked from over 11000 applicants. After the Challenger disaster and McAuliffe's death, Barbara took on the role of Teacher in Space. She later was selected by NASA as a Mission Specialist and became a full-time astronaut, NASA's first "Educator Astronaut". After years of delays due to the Challenger and Columbia accidents, she flew on STS-118 on the Endeavor in 2007, bringing parts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). She's now on the board for the Challenger Center and teaches at Boise State University.

She took the Stanford Alumni Association audience through her flight, from launch to docking with ISS to landing. It was fun to hear her stories about what it was like, especially the little things like how they put strips of duct tape in convenient positions ahead of time so they could use them quickly to keep things from drifting around the zero-g cabin.

It was especially neat to have her give the talk in front of the real Full Fuselage Trainer - a full sized mockup of the Space Shuttle that the astronauts like Barbara trained on. She kept gesturing at different parts of the FFT as she talked. We're fortunate to have gotten it in Seattle (although a real shuttle would have been nice too...)

It was a real treat to meet a true American hero. I hope America returns to manned space exploration again soon -- on American launch vehicles.

 

Goofy boys in front of the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight
Charles Simonyi Space Gallery

The Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer
The Space Shuttle Full Fuselage Trainer

Another view of the FFT
The rear view of the Full Fuselage Trainer

The cargo bay in the FFT. It's reasonably long but surprisingly narrow.
The cargo bay in the FFT

Astronaut Barbara Morgan presenting in front of the FFT
Astronaut Barbara Morgan presenting in front of the FFT

Barbara answering a little girl's question about the hardest thing she had to learn to be an astronaut.
Barbara answering a little girl's question about the hardest thing she had to learn to be an astronaut.