November 2005

November 30, 2005

Macallan Fine Oak 10 Year Old Scotch Whisky

Categories: Food and Drink

The Macallan Fine Oak - 10 Years Old
I just opened a bottle of The Macallan Fine Oak - 10 Years Old single malt Scotch whisky (thanks to Felicity for getting this for me in New York.) Yum.

The Fine Oak line is very different from the other Macallan whiskies. This is a delicate whisky with a very light color -- quite a contrast from the darker, very sherried taste that defines the Macallan palate to me. Like the other Macallans, however, the Fine Oak has very little smokey/peaty flavor.

It's a very tasty sip. I'm one glass into the bottle, and I'm already excited to try the other bottles in the Fine Oak line-up, especially the 15 year old, to see the difference. Fun, fun, fun.

.

Posted November 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Googlewhack!

Categories: Random cool stuff

Michelle and I plus Felicity (a friend from work) went to see Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure this evening at the Moore Theater. This is a very funny one man show about where googlewhacking lead Dave during a few month stretch a few years ago.

Googlewhacking is the game of trying to find two word searches in Google that return exactly one result. I have been unable to find a googlewhack in the few tries I've made since coming home from the show. I'll post whatever I find.

Anyway, if you get a chance, go see the show. It's a fun evening.

.

Posted November 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Craptacular++

Categories: Random junk

I blogged about the word craptacular a while back and how it applied to the Christmas lighting displays in my neighborhood. However, now that I see this lighting display, I see the true meaning of craptacular.

Here are the details from the email in which I received the links.

This display was the work of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that control the 16,000 Christmas lights in his 2004 holiday lighting spectacular. The musical accompaniment is broadcast over a low-power radio station so that it is only audible to visitors tuned in to the correct frequency and doesn't disturb the neighbors.

Check them out:
http://www.bartontech.com/funstuff/jingle.wmv
http://members.cox.net/transam57/lights.wmv


It's very thoughtful of Carson to not disturb his neighbors by having the music play over the low-power radio station. Of course, the flashing lights all night, the cars driving by slowly, and the fluxating power for weeks on end wouldn't be annoying at all.

Simply amazing.

Posted November 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The value of education

Categories: Random cool stuff

My friend Chooky did a little analysis of the comparative value of different levels of education, taking the census data that shows the average incomes for different education levels and then calculating the NPV of those levels. I was happy to see (as the holder of a bachelor's degree), that the maximum NPV is at the bachelor's degree level.

Too bad Chooky stayed on to get his PhD. Sorry, dude, looks like I picked the right time to get out of school.

Posted November 30, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 29, 2005

"Collapse" by Jared Diamond

Categories: Books and such

I just finished reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond. As you may know, Diamond is the author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel, one of my favorites.

Collapse is a similarly fascinating read, with case studies of why certain civilizations like the Mayans, Easter Islanders, and Greenland Norse failed while others like the Inuit, Icelanders, and Tikopians managed to survive under similar conditions. He creates a five-point framework for considering how a successful a society might be in a given environment:


  • Environmental damage caused by the population. This is really a combination of the resiliance of the environment and the practices of the people. For instance, the topsoil in Greenland is very thin so it blows away very easily. Also, in Greenland, trees and plants grow very slowly, so recovery from harvesting is slow.

  • Climate change. Historically, this has been the result of natural events like volcanic eruptions, changes in the tilt of the earth, and natural cycles. Clearly, today, the effects may be manmade. In either case, growing seasons and hunting may shift causing reduced crop yield, ice may form blocking shipping, or ingrained habits may no longer be effective in the new conditions.

  • Hostile neighbors. It's unclear whether warfare was sufficient to cause the collapse of societies, but certainly societies weakened by other factors became vulnerable to final collapse via fighting with neighbors. Also, fighting would reduce the resources and focus available for more productive activities.

  • Decreased support by friendly neighbors. Societies heavily dependent on trade are vulnerable to weakening when trading partners become weak or unavailable for whatever reason. This could be things like essential trade goods (e.g. oil for the US) or cultural ties (Australia's cultural ties to England.)

  • Society's responses to problems. In some cases societies acted decisively in the face of impending disasters and staved off collapse; Japan's management of their near deforestation is one example. In other cases, the society ignored or failed to see the coming disasters and did not act; Easter Island is a classic example of the failure to prevent deforestation and the resultant societal collapse.

  • His claim is that it's overly simplistic to assign one of these factors as the sole reason a society might fail (i.e. the Roman Empire did not fall strictly because of hostile neighbors.) His case studies show how the various factors then came into play and contributed to a collapse or were mitigated to prevent collapse.

    Perhaps more interesting than the more historical cases were the more modern ones. I especially found the study of Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic interesting. Here are two countries sharing the same island. While they have had some differences in their history (for instance, Haiti was colonized by the French, the Dominican Republic by the Spanish) and geography (Haiti is drier and more mountainous than the DR) they have much in common. Nonetheless, Haiti is a disaster in human, political, environmental, and economic terms while the Domincan Republic is much better off (although it has it's share of problems). This one case study really highlights how the factors came into play in a reasonably apples-to-apples comparison.

    I found it impossible to read this book without continually applying the lessons from the past to our modern day situation of global warming, depleted natural resources, global conflict, global trade dependence, and short-term political problem solving. While the learnings in the book provide the basis for solutions, I did not leave the book with a optimism about our future on our current track. I did feel more compelled to take action to prevent the collapse our society and hopefully leave something good for my kids and their kids.

    If you liked Guns, Germs, and Steel or enjoy this kind of scholarly discourse, you'll really enjoy Collapse. I highly recommend it.

    Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Printing selections in IE

It's been a while since I've posted any tips on IE, so I thought it was time.

I commonly want to print just part of a web page, say directions to a friend's house, without all the extra junk on the page like the ads or copyright info. For a long time, I either sucked it up and accepted the extra stuff, or I'd copy/paste the page into Word and edit the content to get my desired form. This was something I wanted to fix in IE7.

Well, it turns out that IE already can print selections. To do this:


  1. Select the stuff you want to print

  2. From the File menu, choose Print

  3. In the Page Range box, choose Selection

  4. Click the Print button.

One of my colleagues, Markus Mielke, mentioned this feature in the IE team blog as well as some other tips for printing in IE6. He also talked about the numerous printing improvements we have in the works for IE7, including fixes for the dreaded chopped off right edge that plagues IE6. I swear, of all the features I show in IE7 during the countless demos I've done, the printing fixes generate the most applause.

Anyway, there's lot more info on the IE Blog, so check it out.

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Google: the boggart of the digital age

Wired had an interesting article recently, titled "Who's Afraid of Google. Everyone." They describe how lots of companies, both tech and non-tech, fear Google. This parallels a phenomenon I've seen at Microsoft where each team is concerned about Google for different reasons. Certainly, the rumors of a "Gbrowser" got our attention in IE; similarly other teams throughout the company considered what it might mean for Google to get into their spaces.

I've begun to view Google as a boggart from the Harry Potter world. As defined by Wikipedia: "A boggart in the Harry Potter fictional books is a shape-shifter that takes on the form of its intended victim's worst fear." Similarly, Google can take the shape of whatever a team or company most fears. For the IE team, it's a browser maker and so on.

I find it interested that Google has been assigned the role of the heavy in the industry; this was the role Microsoft played for many years (and maybe still does). I heard stories that every high tech business plan had to include how the company would compete, partner, and/or co-exist with Microsoft. Now, it looks everyone has Google on their radar. Maybe that will take some of the boogey man pressure off of us.

Probably not.

(As a side note, I'm amazed that there's an entry in Wikipedia for boggart. Definitely useful for me, but not your traditional reference topic.)

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pick your religion

Categories: Kids

We're not an especially religious family, at least not consistently. Michelle and I both grew up Roman Catholic and have gone back and forth in our faith. We are currently in an "away" swing. This has affected the kids as well. A few weeks ago, Andrew (8) asked me to stop saying his evening prayers, a ritual we've performed his entire life, since he decided he doesn't believe in God. Fine, his choice.

Then, last week, Andrew informed us that he has chosen a new religion, one based on Egyptian mythology. In particular he is drawn to Anubis, the dog-like funeral deity. I'm not sure if this is a result of the research he did into ancient Egypt last year or his fascination (like many eight year-old boys) in Yu-Gi-Oh, but it was certainly a surprise.

I guess I'm pleased he's making his own choices. This one has been harmless so far, i.e. he hasn't tried to embalm Michael (5) or made ritual sacrifice, so I'll let it go. If a temple starts going up in the back yard or he starts cutting strips of muslin, I'll have to step in. Funny, none of the parenting books I've read talked about this contingency.

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Upgrade: Garmin Forerunner 305

Garmin Forerunner 305

Wouldn't you know it? A few months after I bought my Garmin Forerunner 301, there's a new one coming -- the Forerunner 305. It looks like they'll address a lot of the issues with the current generation including size and reception.

This one looks a lot nicer, but I guess I'll stick to my current one for a while. Oh well, such is the price of progress.

More details.

Thanks to Sportsim Weblog for this info.

[Updated to fix link to Sportsim article]

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My first ride

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Yesterday morning, Bruce and I went for a bike ride. This was my first real ride on my new Trek 1500 road bike, so I was a bit anxious. Frankly, I wasn't sure I'd like it, never really having done much road biking, plus I had a host of other anxieties including dealing with the pedal clips, doing an aerobic activity for 90 minutes (longer than I've done in recent history), and staying warm on a bike on a cold day. Plus, I didn't want to look like a newbie boob. I had lots of new cycling clothes including tights (eek!), a headband (to keep my ears warm), and a bright yellow jacket.

Fortunately, my fears were foundless. I really enjoyed the twenty mile ride on the Sammamish River Trail. We kept a pretty good pace (averaging 14 miles per hour including a stop for a few minutes to fix my cleats after a screw fell out), I managed to handle the pedals OK, and I was very comfortable temperature wise (with the exception of my feet which were very cold. I need some booties for cold weather riding). Bruce assures me I passed the fashion test and the newbie boob test as well. He's typically one to call a spade a spade, so I'll take him at his word.

I felt great immediately after the ride and today, the day after. I do need to make some saddle adjustments (move it forward a bit so I'm not sitting on my perineum so much) and get the booties I mentioned. Some sunglasses might help too. That said, I'm excited to go for my next ride.

Posted November 29, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 27, 2005

Weekend of bad habits run amok

Categories: Random junk

I struggle with self-control. It's true. Mostly, I win the fight to keep my demons at bay, but this weekend I've let them win two nights in a row (as you can see from the almost 3:00am blog post).

Advance Wars 2

Last night, I played Advance Wars 2 Black Hole Rising (a Nintendo Gameboy game) until 3:00am. I had kicked the habit for a long time, but Michael (5) innocently handed me his Gameboy and asked me to finish his game of Advance Wars since he was going to be. (Actually, he gave me my Gameboy back. He dropped his in the toilet accidently a while back. Turns out they're not real waterproof.) Next thing I know, it's 3:00am; I had finally vanquished the evil Black Hole forces on some stupid map. It's actually remarkable how they're able to make such a fun, playable turn-based strategy game on a Gameboy screen. The guys love it, and I guess so do I. Still, I felt dumb being up at 3:00am playing this game, especially since it's not the first time this has happened. I'm staying away from Age of Empires 3 for this very reason (even though I have it installed now. Must. Not. Give. In.

Battlestar Galactica

This evening, I watched almost the entire second season of Battlestar Galactica. I swore I'd only watch one or two episodes, but the new BSG is so very good that I got sucked in. Eight episodes (read: eight hours minus commercials) later, I'm a wasted wreck. I loved the original BSG too, but I was in elementary school. The new BSG is way better -- serious and dark with very human characters and slick Cylons. Nonetheless, I feel dumb again for being up so late dong something silly.

It's a good thing that I get no kick from champagne and that mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all (although the last of my Highland Park this evening was delightful. Easily one of my favorite whiskies.) I'd be a sodden wreck if I had as little self-control in that regard. Anymore, that is.

Posted November 27, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 26, 2005

Messing around with Google AdSense

Categories: Admin

As you may have noticed, I've added Google AdSense ads to my blog. This is mostly to check out what the Google experience is, but I admit that if a little money came my way, that would be fine too.

It was certainly trivial to set up. I signed up for an account and waited to be approved. A day later, I logged into their AdSense code page, filled out a form, and then copied the code it generated into the appropriate spots on my web pages. The hardest part was picking the colors.

So far the ads have been reasonably well chosen. My gear and running pages produce more actionable ads than the kids' pages, but I guess that's to be expected. I don't like the ads it comes up with on my IE content, but again, I suppose there are no surprises here.

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Posted November 26, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 22, 2005

Hard core sailing

Categories: Random cool stuff

Alinghi

Monday night, my sailing friends Brian and Malcolm and I went to the Seattle Yacht Club to hear a talk from the Alinghi syndicate -- the winners of the last America's Cup and defenders in 2007 in Valencia, Spain.

The presenters were Ed Baird and Hamish Ross. They were entertaining and brought very different perspectives on the America's Cup. Ed is helmsman aboard Alinghi and Hamish is general counsel and historian. They brought a good mix of stunning video and photos plus great stories from their time sailing and especially in the last America's Cup. Ed, in particular, has amazing stories. For instance, he was the helmsman aboard Young America when they snapped the boat in two. That doesn't happen every day...

The main thing I took away is that these guys are playing a different game than I play when I race. Like the difference between Tiger Woods' golf game and mine. The considerations, strategy, and teamwork are well beyond anything I could have imagined. For instance, apparently, the AC boats aren't very maneuverable. To get the boats to do the amazing ballet turns at the start requires a huge amount of coordination of the whole crew to get the sails, trim tab, rudder, and other sail/mast adjustments moving perfectly to turn the boat quickly. We can just throw the rudder over to turn fast (although it does work better with some coordination from the sails...)

We started toying with the idea of going to Valencia for the next America's Cup. There's probably a .0000001% chance of that really happening given that we all have kids, but it's fun to dream. Since SYC is not putting a boat in this time (OneWorld raced for SYC in the last AC), I may be rooting for Alinghi. I'd normally root for an American team, but the American team will likely be BMW Oracle Racing, and I just can't support anything Larry Ellison does (despite my affection for BMW).

Anyway, great talk and a great event. I felt like I do after watching a Warren Miller film. I'm all pumped about sailing and AC now and can't wait to get on the water.

Posted November 22, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 21, 2005

My new Trek 1500

2005 Trek 1500

In my ongoing quest to get into shape and spend more time outside, I picked up a 2005 Trek 1500 today. This is my first road bike. I had done a lot of research online, but when it came to doing ride tests, I really didn't know what I was looking for. I tried a bunch of other bikes out; at the end of the day, the 1500 felt the best. The fact that it's a 2005 closeout and, hence, on sale, was a big plus. I also was happy to find one of the 1500's with an Ultegra rear derailleur and a 105 brake set. Some of the other 1500's I saw had a 105 rear and no-name brakes. Nicer components at the same price are bonus.

Shimano Flight Deck
Of course, when you get a new bike, there's more than the bike cost. Naturally, I "needed" a computer, so I added a Shimano Flight Deck. This is a pretty standard bike computer except that it integrates with my other components; the control buttons are on the brake hoods, there are sensors that know what gear the bike is in, and it calculates cadence (how fast I'm pedalling) from a combination of the speed and gear. Slick.

Next up were clip in pedals and shoes. I went with Shimano again. I'm hoping to use the same clips and shoes for my other bike at some point, so I went with SPD-style clips on PD-A520 pedals (two sided, basic pedals) and SH-T092 shoes (ones I can actually walk in!). I need to learn to how to ride a bike with clips; I've already done the slow-motion fall twice in my garage, banging up one of my control levers, my knee, and my ego. Time to find a softer place to practice.

I added some bottle cages (blue to match the bike), a Blackburn Air Stik pump, a little adapter so I can fill the Presta valves with a Shrader pump if needed, and some Pearl Izumi gloves (full winter ones and normal shorties). I still need some riding pants and a water/wind resistant jacket. I think I can make do with my other running gear.

Jimmy at Gregg's Cycles (Aurora store) was a great help, explaining everything, making sure I had what I needed (and no more). I highly recommend the store and Jimmy.

I can't wait to go for a ride (once I figure out the damn pedals so I don't tip over like an idiot).

Posted November 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 20, 2005

Toys for Tots Trot

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Toys for Tots Trot race route

Bruce, Will, and I ran the Toys for Tots Trot 5K today. Bruce, of course, is veteran companion for these races, but today was Will's first time out with us. It was pretty damn cold, especially since it was foggy, so I had a warm hat, running gloves, and a vest on. These made standing around before the race bearable, but proved to be a bit of a pain during the race; I still need to figure out my clothing strategy in these things.

I ran a respectable 27:08 by my time (I think the official was 27:17 or something) which works out to 8:29 miles on my clock and a bit more (like 8:45) on the official clock. I like mine better. If my Forerunner is to be believed, then I finally beat my 8:30 split target. However, my splits were a mess. I started out too fast at 8:14, had a bad second mile at 9:02, and then came home in 8:27 for the third (including a short walk to get my heart rate back under control). I finished strong at 7:13 pace for the last part. I had hoped to beat the Marine who ran the race in a flak jacket and carrying the Marine Corp standard; I passed him at one point, but during my short walk, he passed me and then ran a strong finish.

I did, however, beat Bruce, who normally beats me by a minute per mile. It would be more accurate to say that Bruce beat himself, deciding to do an extra loop around Seattle Center. The course was not well marked and the attendants were not always diligent, but I like to think I had better course management than Bruce. In the end it looks like he ran an extra .8 of a mile -- definitely significant.

Will did very well, finishing in the low 25's I think. I guess all that Salumi's didn't slow him down.

Of course, the most important part of our races is the brunch afterwards. Today we went to an old haunt of mine, Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe. Per my tradition, I had huevos rancheros (with grits this time!) -- lovely.

Tony, Will, and Bruce in front of Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe

(This is quite possibly the most unflattering photo ever taken of me.)

Posted November 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 18, 2005

The Goblet of Fire

Categories: Books and such

This morning, I saw a preview showing of the new Harry Potter movie, The Goblet of Fire. I've blogged before about my love of the HP franchise and my views of the movies. I thought this was the best of the HP movies so far, but I still didn't like it nearly as much as the books. I did think that the cuts from the book were better this time as was the handling of the backstory.

I must admit that I'm not a fan of most of the new cast, with the exception of Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter. (It's too bad the character wasn't very prominent in the movie.) Cedric, Crouch, Crouch Jr, Karkaroff, and Maxime were OK too. Cl

Posted November 18, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 17, 2005

Truer words were never said

Categories: Kids

This morning, I left the house carrying a big sack of clothes slung over my shoulder. Michael (8) looked up at me and said, "Daddy, you look like Santa Claus."

In fact, little kid, I look exactly like your Santa Claus...

Posted November 17, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 16, 2005

Read the directions!

Categories: Kids

I brought the project for Andrew's (8) Cub Scout pack meeting this evening. The project was a leather wallet with the Cub Scout logo on it; they come pre-cut pieces of leather with a big needle and some lacing. I admit the project was a bit complex, but I thought the boys would like the project. Besides, I photocopied the instructions for everyone.

No one read the instructions.

The boys immediately dumped everything on the tables and started working. Worse, the parents who were helping didn't read the instructions either. They started totally screwing up everything. As I raced around from table to table trying to save the projects, I found a few allies who had exercised their ability to read English. We feverishly got people off on the right track.

As designed, no one finished the project during our meeting, so they'll have to finish them at home. If they read the instructions, finishing a nice project will be straightforward. If not, it will be hellish hours of incompetence and eternal scorn from disillusioned sons.

Just stop running for thirty seconds, read the instructions, and know what you should do next. How hard is that?

(As a funny aside, the dads mostly thought this was a very cool project. "Wow, this is something he'll keep forever. If I had done this as a kid, I'd probably still have it." said one happy father. However, the moms thought it was horrible, "That's hideous. Please tell the boys that these make great Christmas presents for grandfathers..." commented one mother. The Mars/Venus split extends to Cub Scout wallets too, I guess.)

Posted November 16, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 14, 2005

Drowned rat

Categories: Exercise and Racing

I did my best impression of a drowned rat today. As is typical of Seattle in November, it rained today. Actually it was a bit heavier than our normal spitty, drizzly rain. But, if you live in Seattle and let the rain stop you from going outside, you'll never leave your house.

So, Bruce and I did a bike ride around Mercer Island this morning. It was a rolling twelve mile ride; Bruce was kind to me and kept the pace managable. He also brought a bunch of useful wet/cold weather biking gear. Since I'm new to this, I have almost nothing (this was actually the first time I've done a ride with someone other than my kids and the first time I've taken my bike somewhere else to ride.) Nonetheless, I came back soaked from the rain (especially my legs) and soaked from sweat (especially my torso). I hadn't brought any other clothes, so I drove home wet.

Shortly after I got home and showered, Andrew (8) and I headed back out, this time for a hike with his Cub Scout pack. We went to Twin Falls State Park, about about 45 minutes east of Seattle. There, we hiked up to Twin Falls with eight other boys plus ten other adults. It was raining moderately for the first part of the hike, but it really opened up when we reached the farthest point (of course)of our out-and-back hike. Despite being pretty well equipped for the weather, Andrew and I both came back to the car wet. I can only imagine how the less-well equipped families did (one guy just had a fleece jacket and jeans on and an umbrella to keep him dry). Learning from the morning's ride, I brought extra clothes this time. A quick change in the car made the ride home more bearable. (Our Honda Element was perfect for a soggy outdoorsy day. Lots of room to move around, plus waterproof seats...)

I think everything I own that's moderately waterproof is soaked. There's a difference between waterproof for daily use and waterproof for hours in a rainy forest or zinging along on a bike. I do have sailing foul weather gear, but I think I'd steam to death in them on a hike or a bike ride. Oh well, if you play outside in the rain, expect to get wet.

Posted November 14, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 12, 2005

Mistakes captured in MS Paint

Categories: Random cool stuff

MS Paint is one of the most underappreciated applets in Windows -- until now. This amazing, random thread on the North American Subaru Impreza Owner's Club off-topic forum is full of MS Paint drawings of mistakes people have made. These range from things like getting shot with a potato cannon to getting a little hot tub action from the wife's sister to doing 120 in a school zone with a cop just over the hill.

The quality of the art varies widely, but they're almost all funny.

MS Paint something stupid you have done

Shock!

Posted November 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mountains of junk

Categories: Random junk

We decided (I really mean Michelle decided) to clean up our closets today, so we purged (I really mean Michelle purged) a metric shitload of stuff that we haven't used in years, was broken, or just don't need anymore. I went through the disaster area called my den and cleaned out a big garbage bag full of stuff plus untold bags of recycling. I haven't really even tackled a big box of old cables and power supplies yet either.

I love gear and goodies as you all know, but I'm a bit appalled by the amount of garbage we generate as a family of four. Between the packaging and discarded possessions, we take out a huge garbage can each week plus we do a biannual run to the dump for bigger stuff.

What's more, I don't think we generate as much garbage as many households since we cook a lot from scratch (which means less packaging), we recycle heavily (we have mixed recycling bins around here so we can dump everything into a single bin -- very nice), we compost, we buy generally high quality items (so we break stuff less often), and we donate good quality used items.

In any case I have a renewed enthusiasm for the wise (if overused) advice of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". No reason to leave an unnecessarily messed up world for the boys.

Posted November 12, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 11, 2005

Unintentionally racy links

Categories: Random cool stuff

My friend, Chooky, posted this list of unintentionally racy links. Pretty funny.

Posted November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Categories: Random cool stuff

Today is my dad's birthday. When he was growing up, he thought the Veteran's Day parades were in honor of his birthday.

My dad is my hero. He was born in China during WWII, fled with his family when the Communists took over, and grew up in post-war Hong Kong as my grandparents re-established a life for the family. He came to a little town in Iowa (not a bastion of overseas Chinese even today, and even less so in 1960) as a fifteen-year old college student, knowing no one and having virtually nothing. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps and eventually graduated with two masters degrees, in physics and electrical engineering, sending money home to Hong Kong the whole while.

Through his hard work and natural talent he had a great career at 3M (whenever you look up at a power pole in the US, you're probably seeing the Quick-Term II or III that he designed), made a great life for his family, and put two of us through Stanford debt-free. He always had time to play with us and our friends (my high school friends still imitate the sounds my dad made playing soccer), always made time to help us with homework (although he's so good at math that he had a hard time understanding why I didn't get stuff), and is a good husband to my mom. He set a high bar for me as a father, husband, and employee. He set a high bar for me as a man.

Anyway, he and my mom are enjoying their retirement now in Las Vegas, playing golf, getting points in local casinos to redeem for free food and stuff, and spending time with friends. He's earned it.

For me, I think my dad was right: the Veteran's Day parades are for him. Happy birthday, old man!

Posted November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

I may never go to Chicago again...

Categories: Food and Drink

...and not just because my brother moved there.

Banning foie gras? Really? Seems like an arbitrary line to draw. We do lots of horrendous things to animals in the name of food, ones that I consider even greater crimes.

For instance, in the interest of having a picture perfect turkey breast (and none of that scary dark meat that most Americans view as just a step above eating brains), we've bred the life out of the turkey to the point where most commercial turkeys are so screwed up they can't mate (they're artificially inseminated), their aortas rupture randomly, and they're so dumb they really do drown in the rain. We treat them, well, like animals to the point where farmers need to clip turkey beaks because they'll peck each other to death in their crowded conditions otherwise. But, because the Thanksgiving turkey is a sacrosanct part of American culture and broadly eaten, the Chicaco city council wouldn't dream of taking on that industry. If we're not careful, we may completely lose entire strains of "heritage" turkeys in the face of the mono culture of these horrible American White turkeys. More on this at Slow Food USA.

Even worse is the practice of shark finning. This where fishermen catch sharks, chop the valuable fin off, and then throw the still-living shark back in the water to drown. Although this practice makes economic sense to the fishermen, it's an incredible waste and incredibly cruel. What's more, it allows for a much broader massacre of sharks, which reproduce very slowly. The environmental carnage is incredible. Fortunately, this practice is now banned for American boats and in American waters. Disneyland Hong Kong also backed down in the face of public pressure and will not offer shark fin soup in the park.

Perhaps a greater crime against nature, though, are Smucker's Uncrustables. Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Really? I'm shocked and appalled that anyone would consider making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too hard or too much work. Instructions too complicated? Too time consuming? Ingredients too exotic, too hard to find, too expensive? WTF. (OK, this was a bit off tangent, but I've wanted to get that rant off my chest for a while.)

I'm certainly not against eating meat, but I would propose a few principles:


  • Use the whole animal. Waste is disrespectful to nature and the animal and just stupid on our part.

  • Eat only what the ecosystem can sustain. It's incredibly short-sighted to eat species into exinction. (For instance, check out the FishWise list to see what kinds of fish are harvested from sustainable fisheries.)

  • Eat real food, not genetic freaks. Specifically, eat naturally produced genetic strains of meat and vegetables. They taste better, can be more nutritious, and are generally better suited for their local environments. This action may also slow the loss of genetic diversity in our food supply.

  • Eat organically produced meat and veggies. The chemicals in the food are certainly not good for us and is very likely bad, plus the food is generally less nutritious. Furthermore, the Earth doesn't need more of our chemicals running off into streams or poisoning animals.

I hate grandstanding and arbitrary bans like the one being considered in Chicago. If you want to change the world, have a set of principles and then go apply them consistently. Anything else is random and ultimately ineffective.

Posted November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wacky optical illusion

Categories: Random cool stuff

My friend Lara found this crazy optical illusion. They're probably flashing evil subliminal ads like "Get Firefox" while you stare at the thing, but it's still cool.

Thanks, Lara.

Posted November 11, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 10, 2005

You're stuck with it

Categories: Kids

Andrew (8) has brought a game home from school. You try to get someone else to say "What?" then you say "You're stuck with it." Stupid third grade stuff, but we're all doing it now.

Usually, the strategy is to catch someone off-guard and call their name; unaware victims will just reply "What?" However, other strategies like mumbling, speaking in other languages (Andrew likes Huttese from Star Wars), and saying something non-sensical seem to work well too.

Michelle, not surprisingly, is the most devious and clever at this. Michael (5) doesn't quite get the rules and will just blurt out "you're stuck with it" and seemingly random occasions and then laugh and gloat (usually doing a little victory dance as well). We're all a little more cautious now, usually replying "Yes?" when our names are called.

In the JV version we play, the word "what" has to be said alone. I've seen Andrew's classmates play the varsity version where any usage of "what" results in getting slammed.

I have no idea where this silly game came from or why it's bad to "be stuck with it", but there you go. I have visions of calling Andrew when he's forty and getting him "stuck with it." I can't wait.

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Salumi - A bite of heaven

Categories: Food and Drink

Salumi logo
I had an insanely great lunch Tuesday at Salumi with my friend and colleague Will. Salumi is a shop/restaurant in Seattle that makes and cures their own cured meats -- salami, prosciutto, etc. In addition to the cured meats, they do hot foods at the shop as well -- melt-in-your-mouth porchetta, meatballs to die for, grilled cured meats, and great looking sandwiches.

Will and I shared a hot plate and a cold plate, giving us a "skipper's platter" tour of the offerings. The range of tastes was amazing, from the spicy hot soprasatta to the silky culatello to the meaty meat balls slathered in a robust tomato sauce. I was stuffed pretty quickly, but I kept eating for the sheer pleasure of it. They make gnocchi on Tuesdays too, but there was simply no way I could physically take that on too; I'll just have to come back.

The shop itself is tiny, really just a food line and a few communal tables. The co-founder and "Principal Salumist", Dino Batali, is the father of Food Network's Mario Batali. I guess it runs in the family. I also got to meet Will's dad, Bill, who is a co-owner; he was a very warm guy who really seems to enjoy the restaurant.

If you're in Seattle, run, don't walk to Salumi. (Note, they're only open from 11:00am-4:00pm Tuesday-Friday.) If you're not in Seattle, come and try it out or order a taste from their website. I bought a little coppa, lamb prosciutto, and hot sopressata for home; I think I'll have a little snickity snack right now. Ciao...

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Swam a mile today

Categories: Exercise and Racing

For the first time since 10th grade, I swam a mile today (actually 1800 yards -- a little more than a mile.) I used to race in junior high and high school, but I haven't swum regularly since then. When I have worked out in the pool, it's always been around 800-1000 yards and around 30 minutes.

This evening, I was determined to swim a mile or an hour, which ever came first. Turns out I can swim the mile in about 45 minutes of various 200 yard sets (kicking, intervals, straight 200s, etc.). While this is not exactly record setting, I was surprised how easy it was, frankly. I used to struggle to get to 1000 yards, but I think the mental expectation that I was doing 1800 yards today reset my internal clock. I'm also in a little better shape these days, so I'm sure that helped...

My shins have been bugging me since the race last weekend, so I haven't been running. I'm glad to have another way to continue to build my aerobic base, especially now that the days are short and dark.

(Tried out a new pair of Speedo Vanquisher goggles today. Hated them with a capital H. Strap kept coming off, goggles kept leaking, anti-fog didn't. I like my old Speedo goggles; I think they were the Pro model. Too many damn choices at the store today, although not the Pro.)

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Pace Race Followup

Categories: Exercise and Racing

The results from the Pace Race last weekend are up. My "gun time" was 27:12.5 for 8:46 splits. I finished right smack the middle of the pack: 17/34 for my age group and 58/115 for all men. I had secretly hoped to finish in the top half of both; this was pretty damn close. Lots faster than the last two races too.

I still can't figure out why my Forerunner times/splits are always a bit faster than the scored times. I thought I had run 8:35 splits. Bugs me.

With some help from Bruce, my colleague and always-willing-even-though-he's-busy training coach, I think I figured out why I crashed near the end of the race -- I bonked. (I like that Wikipedia has an entry for bonk.) I had gotten up pretty early before the race and eaten commensurately early. I didn't top off with a Gu right before the race like I did at the Pumpkin Push. I'll have to avoid bonking again; it sucked. Of course, the real answer is to just get into better shape so that racing 5K doesn't kill me. Damn it. Why is hard work always the right answer?!

Posted November 10, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 8, 2005

I did my duty. Do yours.

Categories: Random cool stuff

I just finished voting and am a happy man. I love voting. It's my job and my right as a citizen in a democracy. Around the world, people are dreaming of voting, risking their lives to vote, and in some cases dying to vote (and staining their fingers purple for days!) In America many take this fundamental liberty for granted. Shame, shame, shame! Go vote!

(Besides, voting gives me clear conscience to complain about our government until the next election. As I see it, if you don't vote, you can't complain, so if you like complaining about gov't as much as I do, get off your butt and vote!)

Posted November 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 6, 2005

Pace Race 5K

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Pace Race 5K through Kirkland. Image generated by SportTracks and my Garmin Forerunner 301
My esteemed colleage Rob and I ran in the Pace Race 5K this morning in Kirkland. This was a fundraiser and awareness builder for prostate cancer.

The weather was cold but clear, a welcome change from the heavy rain yesterday. Fortunately, Road Runner Sports was giving out hats and gloves, so I kept warm through the race (a little too warm after three miles.)

I had set my goal at 8:30 splits again, but according to my Forerunner, I ran 8:35s -- close but not quite. The race started out uphill (+111 ft on the Forerunner, so my first split was a little slower, 8:42. I made it up on the second mile, 8:10 (downhill -101). Then, the wheels came off. The third mile was level and should have been straightforward, but the combination of being too hot and getting tired seemed to have sapped my will to go on. I had to fight my way through the last mile, running a terrible 8:51. I finally picked up for the last tenth of a mile and sprinted in at 8:05 pace. My watch said 27:11; we'll see what the official time is.

Amazingly, I ran 96% of the race with my heartrate in the 92-109% of max region. My pulse was pretty even through the race without the high peaks or the slower regions. I guess that means I kept the effort pretty consistent for the race, which sounds good.

This race was remarkable in the amount of free stuff. In addition to the normal t-shirt (and this one isn't butt-ugly like the others), we got a workout with a water bottle, another t-shirt, gloves, water, pens, post-its, plus other booths handed out frisbees, hats, gloves, Gu Energy Gel. Ezell's, the world's best fried chicken restaurant, was a sponsor, so I was hopeful there would be a mess o' chicken after the race, but alas, I was disappointed.

Rob and I had our post-race brunch at the Waimea Brewing Company instead. There was nothing close to our traditional huevos rancheros (except the Loco Moco, but I wasn't ready for a 1/2 pound hamburger patty topped with a fried egg and covered in brown gravy). I fell back on one my favorites: kalua pork plate lunch. Rob and I also shared an SPAM musubi appetizer; this is essentially SPAM sushi -- rice, nori, and SPAM luncheon meat. Mmm. One of the best parts was having my mac (macaroni) salad with a dash of soy sauce. Fabulous. I really do love Hawaiian food, but I think I ate twice the calories I had just run off. Oh well, easy come, easy go. (How very Hawaiian...)

My shins are bugging me now (both sides), so I think I'll lay off running for a bit. I've been swimming, cycling (indoor and out), and lifting a little recently, so I'll have to rely on those until my legs feel better. I'll have to pick my next race far enough out to recover. Maybe the Toys for Tots Trot on 11/20.

Posted November 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 5, 2005

Chicken Little and Serenity

Categories: Books and such

cl_animate01_1.gifI don't see a lot of movies in theaters (mostly for time reasons), so it was a bit unusual this week that I saw two.

This evening we took the boys to see Chicken Little. This was a very fun movie that we all enjoyed. The boys are both finally old enough to enjoy movies in theaters; for a while, they both found theaters too stimulating -- too loud and the screen was too big. Anyway, it was a cute movie with Shrek-like use of parent-era pop music. I think the family was a little embarassed as I sang along...

Earlier in the week, Michelle and I saw Serenity. This is the movie version of the cult-favorite TV show Firefly. We had never seen the TV show, but we both really enjoyed this movie as well. It's a well-done sci-fi flick with a good premise and enough pace and tension to keep you on your toes. In particular, River, played by Summer Glau, is appropriately creepy and strange. The movie would have made more sense if I knew the backstory and characters better; this is one of the limitations of setting a TV show to film. I did do a little retroactive homework online to learn about the show, which cleared up a lot. I might need to see it again now.

Anyway, I had forgotten how enjoyable it is to see a film in a theater instead of on my laptop or TV. I'll have to start going more often. I will, however, not give Michael anymore Skittles; his hands were purple by the end of the movie somehow. Yuck.

Posted November 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Disappointed at DeLille

Categories: Food and Drink

Last night I went to DeLille Cellars Winery to pick-up some wine I had ordered earlier this year. (Like many wineries, DeLille has a mailing list of interested customers that they sell directly to.) As part of the release, they have a little party with wine and some food in addition to letting people people up their wine.

This was my first release party, so I was kind of excited to see what it was about. Unfortunately, my eagerness was misplaced. The parking lot is small and the narrow drive only allows one-way traffic, which made for a very difficult departure. The event room was crowded with a long line for wine, and when you got to the bar, they were only pouring little splashes of wine, literally just a splash. This would have been OK if I could have stood there tasting all the wines (which is what they seemed to be trying to offer), but given the long wait to get another glass of wine, a more generous pour would have been welcome. Overall, it was boring and unfulfilling. I won't do this again.

(The wines, however, are lovely.)

Posted November 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)