July 20, 2004
I've finally written something that got published (besides on my own website)! OK, it was on a Microsoft site (MSN Photos). OK, I used to manage the team and the editor is a dear friend. Still, I got published! And, I got my somewhat suggestive title through with a somewhat phallic photo as the lead picture.
Anyway, a dozens of millions people just got exposed to pictures of my kids and my random musings.
Size Matters by Tony Chor
July 17, 2004
Michael (now almost four) has a history of wanting to hurt me. Well, he's at it again.
Michael: Daddy, when I grow up I'm going to kill you. Maybe when I'm four.
Should be a fun birthday party.
Here's another nifty trick in IE. If you hold the SHIFT key down while you roll the mouse wheel, IE will scroll back and forward through your history very quickly. It's a great way to get to the page you're looking for.
July 11, 2004
I'm surprised not everyone knows this trick, but even at Microsoft I occasionally run into people who haven't seen it.
Type a domain name in the address bar like, "tonychor" and hit "Ctrl-Enter". IE will add the "http://www." on the front and ".com" on the end. Lovely.
It's so important to how I work that I can't use browsers that don't, even otherwise great ones like iRider.
I came across a fun and interesting web site called Politopia today. It's a quiz that tries to map you on a two dimensional political scale. One axis is "Government control of the economy", the other is "Personal Freedom". Not surprisingly, I wound up in the upper left quadrant of "More Personal Freedom" and "Less government control" e.g. the Libertarian corner, just SE of Ayn Rand.
The description of people like me was a bit eerily close (although I prefer to work at the office than at home and the drawing of me is not very good):
NEO, a stereotypical Northwesterner
"Freedom to do whatever you'd like, as long as you don't interfere with the equal freedom of others."
My name is Neo, and I'm a software designer on the NW coast. I usually work from home, or from my sailboat while on an extended cruises. I've got friends of all stripes-some are making a lot of money in the software industry, some are gay, some are economists, some use recreational drugs, some are very religious-what they all have in common is that they're all very open-minded and tolerant.
I tend to be optimistic about the future. I believe that the most important natural resource is human creativity and that people should be able to pursue their hopes and dreams without interference from anyone else. While I recognize the importance of enforcing property rights and contracts, I think that in general, government interference in the marketplace only stifles human creativity. Politically, I describe myself as a libertarian. I loathe paying taxes, I'm disgusted by the "war on drugs," which is really just a war on people, and I think it's certainly true that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
The site is pretty fun too. You can mail invites to your friends then see where they wound up on the map. Where do you fall?
July 10, 2004
I just finished cleaning the 12-gallon bag of organic produce we get each week during the summer from the Root Connection, a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in nearby Woodinville, WA.
Basically, you buy a share of the farm's output and pick it up each week. It's theoretically possible to get nothing, but in practice, we get a huge bag a week. This week we got six heads of lettuce (a.k.a. a shitload of lettuce), a mess of zucchini and yellow squash, two bunches of carrots, and two bunches of red onions. It's too much for us really, but I support what the farm does and want to help. Realistically, a half share would probably be plenty for us most weeks (except when carrots are in season...)
If you've never tasted really fresh produce, you're missing out on one of life's great treats. Furthermore, the varieties of produce from the Root Connection are optimized for flavor, not appearance, mechanical harvestability, or shelf-life like virtually everything you get in the grocery store. The carrots are amazingly sweet and crisp (the kids won't eat store-bought carrots anymore), the lettuce tastes like something more than crunchy water, and the corn (later in the season) is like nothing you've ever had. Plus, everything is organic, so no scary poisons for the family, the environment, or farm workers.
I've come to love seeing stuff come and go over the course of the summer; I really look forward to each crop as comes into season and enjoy its run fully. Eating seasonally is something of a lost art in this era of a global food supply, cold storage, and hot houses. Too bad.
I'm also happy to that the boys can see where food comes from. There are u-pick fields and kids gardens plus flowers and herbs for members. The guys love playing in the fields, pulling weeds, and picking beans. A well-educated friend of ours from a wealthy LA family had never seen a corn plant until well after college (amazing to me, since I grew up in Minnesota). I don't want the kids to be so ignorant of where food comes from and what it looks like au natural (pre-bags and neat store displays). I don't think it's good to be so separated from something so vital.
Finally, I'm glad to see this rich land being farmed instead of turned into strip malls, grass farms (with heavy pesticides), and golf courses like all the land around the farm. I believe that we should use land in the ways it's best suited rather than what's most convenient or even economical. In the end, I think we'll all be happier for it and the ecosystem will be healthier.
If it were just great produce, our farm share would still be a good value. That it's good for the kids, good for the land, and just makes me happy makes it unbeatable.
As some of you have noticed, I've had a little issue with comment spam -- site operators who put their URLs in my comments to get their Google ratings to go up. It wasn't a big deal for a long time; I'd get onesy-twosy spams. Then, this week, I got something like 80/day (virtually one on every article). Aside from fact I didn't want links to porn sites in my comments (at least ones I hadn't put there...) it became a major pain to remove them.
Fortunately, there's a great Moveable Type (my blog engine) extension called MT-Blacklist that allows you to block comments by domain (vs. the useless IP banning built into Moveable Type) as well as remove comments by domain. Best of all it's free. That said, I've already gotten enough value that I'll donate to the author, Jay Allen.
I'm sure I'm the last blogger to discover MT-Blacklist, but if you haven't added it to your blog, you should do it today.
July 9, 2004
I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- the Japanese are weird. I love a lot about the Japanese and Japanese society, but at the end of the day they're weird.
This article from Mainchi Daily News covers the strange world of Japanese ice cream where raw horse meat, whale, and natto (a nasty fermented soy bean product) wind up in ice cream. Now, I like my horse meat as much as the next guy, but I don't want it in my ice cream. Ever.
Thanks to Boing Boing for the tip.
"Pacifists, when the Minnesota Twins handed out G.I. Joe action figures for Armed Forces Appreciation Day. Because the Metrodome has a policy against guns, the 4-inch toys were disarmed before distribution, though they were allowed to keep their hand grenades."
Ah, the wise gun controllers score another common sense victory, keeping us all just a bit safer.
(This excerpt is from The Week Magazine, one of my favorite magazines.)
July 8, 2004
I wouldn't normally have considered myself a big fan of Sears (as in Sears Roebuck), but I had a great customer service experience with them last weekend that really turned me around.
A few weeks ago, I broke the shaft of my twelve year-old Sears Craftsman shovel. Not knowing quite what to expect, I took it back to the nearby Sears store.
The kid behind the counter told me to just go back and get a new shovel. I did. He gave me a receipt, apologized for making me wait (there was a problem with the register for a bit), and I was done. No questions about when I bought it or how I broke it, and the guy on the floor was empowered to make it better with no forms or managers. Sears simply stood behind their product no questions asked.
I loved the experience and am an evangelist for Sears Craftsman tools now. I wish more companies (including mine!) had this attitude.
July 5, 2004
It should be apparent to everyone concerned that I'm procrastinating right now, blogging to avoid doing some work this evening. I'm not proud, just honest.
Time to get off my butt and work. Blog at you later.
I have a bit of a problem with computer games from time to time. While I normally avoid playing them (I'll never look back on my life and wish I'd played more), I occasionally lose big sections of my life to a particular game. In the past, I've wasted precious brain cells and my limited time on earth on Age of Empires and MechWarrior, but recently, it's been Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town.
Not exactly a macho game, it's a GameBoy title that my boys play. You basically run a farm in a small town, trying to make ends meet, make a local girl fall in love and marry you, and raise lots of kids. In the meantime, you raise crops, chickens, cows, etc. and try to keep them all happy (you need to talk to your chickens or they get cross.) There are a bunch of little side games and a surprising amount of depth for a handheld game.
It's a very simple and charming game, not unlike Animal Crossing (another sordid tale of addiction and self-loathing). There's a GameCube version as well that interacts with the GameBoy version via a special cable. I'm resisting the urge to go out and buy the GameCube version, but I'm afraid I may fail.
I just learned a little trick in IE that I thought I'd share. When you're reading a web page, you can hit the space bar to get IE to scroll the page down. It's basically the same as hitting the Page Down key.
It's just a little thing, but I like it, especially when I'm using my laptop that doesn't have an especially well-placed Page Down key.
I normally don't place much stock in fancy bottled water; in fact, I prefer our tap water to most bottled waters, especially the salty, brackish, hellish Evian (in case you didn't glean my opinion from that rant, I really hate Evian.)
But, as usual, Michelle brought home another gem that I would never have found on my own -- Apollinaris Classic. It's a sparkling mineral water from Germany whose tagline is, "The Queen of Table Waters." I'm sure it sounds better in German.
Apparently, "100% source carbonic acid and outstanding, specially balanced mineralisation" is the key. Whatever. All the brr brr aside, I like it a lot. It was nice by itself and mixed with cherry liqueur on the rocks for a little pick-me-up on a hot afternoon.
They have a high end version too called "Apollinaris Private". I would normally be skeptical, but I think I may have to try it.
Just keep those nasty French waters away from me.
It seemed appropriate this weekend to finally build and launch the Meteor Rocket that Michelle bought the boys a while back. It's a kit from Scientific Explorer that results in a C02 powered rocket that is supposed to go a hundred feet into the air. The C02 is created by mixing vinegar and baking soda in a 1 liter pop bottle with fins (really). It's got a pretty cool system that keeps the vinegar from mixing with the baking soda until you're ready and that allows the C02 to build inside before shooting out the bottom.
We went to a baseball field near our house for the inaugural flight. I thought I was very swish for having had brought all sorts of nifty tools to help load the vinegar and baking soda. Feeling pretty confident, I began the first fueling. The kids and Michelle stood back as I sealed up the container, shook it up, and proceeded to shoot CO2 foam, baking soda, and vinegar all over myself. Michelle nearly died laughing, practically falling the ground.
I quickly diagnosed my errors, reloaded, and successfully launched the rocket about 50' into the air where it tipped over, and then headed right at my family. Fortunately, my mini-Scud missed all the Chors it augered into the field, cracking the nose cone and part of the body.
Buoyed by the successful launch and unswayed by the damaged rocket, I reloaded, stepped back, and waited for the second launch. And waited. And waited.
Like in a bad slapstick routine, I then walked up the stalled rocket, picked it up, shook it, and sprayed C02 foam, vinegar, and baking soda all over myself. Michelle, love of my life and my greatest supporter, was once again bent over with laughter.
Having exhausted our quart bottle of vinegar and virtually all of my pride, we packed up the debris and walked home with the kids saying, "Was that all?"
Anyway, if you can read directions, it's a pretty cool toy. They have a C02 powered rocket car and a rocket glider too (is it a glider if it's powered?)