December 29, 2005
I finally took my Lensbaby Christmas present out for a spin yesterday. (Briefly, the Lensbaby has a flexible body that allows you to push/pull/twist it to selectively focus the image.) The boys and I went to The Museum of Flight here in Seattle. While Michael (5) dreamed of blowing stuff up in a fighter plane and Andrew (8) snapped photos with his new digital camera, I messed around with the Lensbaby.
It's a bit tough getting anything to be in sharp focus and to really get the effects you're visualizing, but it was fun and a neat way to see the world. In addition to the weird focusing of the Lensbaby, it's fixed focal length. I normally shoot zoom lenses, so it was interesting to have to compose a different shot because I didn't have the flexibility to zoom in or out (sometimes I could move, but in a museum full of people, it's not always possible to get the right location). All of this meant I had to think a lot more than normal, which is good. I find it very helpful to force myself out of my normal shooting patterns to really start seeing images again. Good reminder for 2006.
Anyway, I got a few good shots. I like how the defocused areas create a sense of motion or of elapsed time -- both good for a museum with a lot of old planes. You can check out a few of my favorites here.
As an aside, the Museum of Flight is fantastic. They've added a new wing since I was there last. This new "Personal Courage" wing is dedicated to the warbirds and stories from WWI and WWII. I love World War II warbirds in particular (especially the Chance-Vought F4U Corsair, of which they have two -- actually the Goodyear FG-1 variant, but whatever). They also have a Concorde, Air Force One (the 707 version), and 747 and 737 prototypes outside for viewing and touring. It's a great time if you like history or planes; if you're in Seattle, I recommend it.
December 28, 2005
While I'm on the topic of tape and my admiration for 3M, let me mention something slick Michelle brought home. It's the Scotch Tape Runner -- a cross between double-sided tape and a glue stick. You pass the Tape Runner along the item to be taped down. It lays down an archival, photo safe double-sided tape adhesive. No glue blobs, no drying, no tape balls, and no fingerprinty double-sided tape. It's amazing and super easy to use.
Available at Amazon and fine stores near you.
Scotch Tape Runner-.33''X472'', Acid Free
For some time now, I had been planning on blogging about this great little tool that has been an indispensible part of our household for some time, but Cool Tools beat me to it. The good people at 3M (n.b. I grew up in a 3M ghetto in St. Paul, both my parents worked there, I interned there, and they helped put me through college) know tape and have created another tape masterpiece.
The Handband straps onto the back of your hand and has single cut, popup strips of tape. As you're wrapping a package, you just reach over and pull out a perfectly sized piece of tape to keep wrapping. You can do it one handed, so you don't need to let go of the wrapping paper or get someone to help you. It's amazing how useful this is and how much easier wrapping is. They also make a desktop base for the Handband, but that's only somewhat useful.
Anyway, I know I missed the Christmas wrapping season, but I highly recommend getting a few Handbands now for belated Christmas gifts, Valentine's Day, and the odd birthday. Great stuff.
Available at Amazon and stores near you.
December 25, 2005
I just installed the v3.00 firmware upgrade for the Garmin Forerunner 301. In addition to some bug fixes, the major improvement in this release is the addition of support for MultiSport.
With this upgrade, you can configure the Forerunner for events like triathlons. You specify the order and type (run, bike, other) of each leg. After you start the event, you hit the "Lap" button to transition from one leg to the next. You can even have it record your transition times (hit the "Lap" button at the start of the transition and again at the end). I used this feature yesterday on my brick (run, bike, run) workout. Worked like a charm!
Click here for the upgrade.
Click here for the updated user guide (Owner's Manual Rev. D)
Click here for a page describing the bug fixes and previous firmware upgrades. Good accessories too.
I was out with some female co-workers the other night. The conversation turned to various people on our team. I asked the women why a particular guy on our team seemed so successful with women. "Women look at him and figure he's in their league." came the answer.
Last night, a guest of ours told us about a little problem she had at her house. She went into her bathroom one morning and found a rat in the toilet! She scooped him out and set him free. Well, it happened again. This time she called the county, who sent someone over to get it and kill it. Apparently, rats come up through the sewer into toilets frequently enough to keep this guy employed full time. Scary.
His advice, keep flushing until the rat goes away. Scare me.
If that's not enough to spook you, here's video.
Just thought I'd take a moment out of our morning to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. We all got tons of goodies (including a Lensbaby for me!) Michelle and I have been helping undo packaging (when did everyone start using twist ties and clear rubber bands to bind toys to the packages?!), install batteries (and more batteries), and put cardboard boxes into the recycling bin.
Everyone is enjoying their new stuff and hanging out together. Hope you're having fun too.
What did Santa bring you?
December 24, 2005
Michelle is making fudge right now. Michael (5) is excitedly watching her do this; he's a major chocoholic. When I asked him, "Michael, do you like fudge?" he replied "I love fudge more than I love you."
Well, I guess I know where I stand.
December 23, 2005
I was editing our Christmas card list today (well, really our New Year's card list since we're so late) and had a sad, new experience: I crossed off the name of someone who died this year. I've never had to do that before, and it made me sad.
Some people have too much time on their hands. But, if you're going to be a huge geek, at least be good at it. These guys are. They fly precision aerobatics in a PC flight simulator. Some cool stuff, especially the virtual airshow video that has a bunch of these geek pilots flying an airshow. It's actually really well done. Worth a few minutes. (Click the link below, go to the Links menu on the site, and choose "VFAT Aerobatics Show".)
December 22, 2005
I volunteered at the Seattle Aquarium for a short stint when I first moved to Seattle (I used to dive a lot and almost became a marine biologist instead of a computer dude.) During orientation, I heard an amazing story about how the staff were finding dead sharks in the big tank. Their tails had been torn off and their guts sucked out, leaving only the skin.
Turns out the octopuses in the tank were snaring the sharks as the the sharks swam past. Well, now, someone has caught this action on video. It's absolutely amazing and more than a little scary, especially as someone who has done night dives with octopi. Check it out.
Those octopuses are super smart. The Seattle Aquarium staff also told a story about how the octopuses adapted to having divers in the tank doing feedings. The octopuses realized that the divers were handing out food every day and wanted to get closer to the action. They quickly figured out the easiest way was to slide up the glass, slide along the surface of the water and find the air hose the diver was using, and then slide down the airhose to the diver. Apparently, the first time this happened, the visitors were watching an octopus come down the airhose toward the oblivious diver. They gestured wildly to the diver, who thought the visitors were waving at him. He smiled and waved back. All of a sudden, the octopus, now on the diver's back, reached around the diver on both sides and started grabbing at the food he was handing out. Obviously, the diver freaked out and shot for the surface. That would definitely make me hang up my dive fins.
I think it's time to declare a truce with the octopuses: we won't eat you if you don't eat us.
Thanks to TEDBlog for the link.
December 21, 2005
This video shows a cool move to fold a shirt neatly and quickly. Slick.
The first car I owned was a 1972 BMW 2002. It was a real lemon. The engine nearly threw a rod a week after I bought it junior year of college, stranding me in California's Central Valley and costing me my entire summer internship's salary to rebuild. The ongoing maintentance and restoration of this thing cost me a lot of my first Microsoft employee stock grants which, given the run up in the stock price between 1990 and 2000, meant I spent probably $100K on that damn thing.
Still, I loved it, and I love the 2002. This legend was the lineal ancestor of the BMW 3-series and really created the category of the sports sedan. So, I was incredibly pleased to see that the BMW Mobile Tradition division is building a new 2002tii (the fuel injected version) from mostly new parts they still make for 2002 devotees. They plan to auction it off for charity next spring. How I'd love to win that! Of course, they're building the much cooler version with the round taillights. (BMW switched to square taillights and heavy bumpers in 1974 to meet US safety regulations, destroying the look of the car in the process.)
Kudos to BMW for investing in this project.
Thanks to Metacool for pointing me to this..
December 20, 2005
Out of the blue this afternoon, Michael (5) declared today that he would choose to be in Slytherin House. (For those of you who are not Harry Potter devotees, Slytherin is the house at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry known for producing Dark Wizards.)
Somehow, I'm not surprised. He preferred the Sith to the Jedi as well. Power appeals to him.
I'd probably be in Hufflepuff, since I'm a bit of a duffer...
(Once again, I'm stunned that Wikipedia had articles on the random HP stuff I linked to above. I don't think Encarta or Britannica would consider it reference, but it's an interesting and useful redefinition of reference. Looks like the intersection between Wikipedia geeks and HP geeks is high...)
December 19, 2005
Postsecret is an amazing website that shows postcards people have sent in that have some personal secret. The cards can be quite artistic, and the secrets range from very personal and deep to funny but real to plain scary and horrible.
They only have a few cards on the site now. The archives are available in book form (which is beautifully done and a fun read/browse) as well as a travelling exhibit. A small gallery of old cards is also available here.
As a side note, I think it's neat when a blog makes the transition to the "real world" like this, but I hope the site doesn't become worthless like Belle de Jour did when she published her book Belle De Jour : Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. (Not safe for work, btw. Also, is it required that websites that move to book form take the title pattern, "[sitename]:[tagline]"? That's like the old Microsoft naming pattern "Microsoft [category name] for [platform name]". Lame.)
Anyway, it's worth a few minutes to check out. Anyone out there sent in a postcard?
December 17, 2005
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised given his recent conversion to Egyptian mythology, but Andrew (8) made an Anubis holiday card this week in Cub Scouts. We were making pop-up cards out of construction paper. His had a pop-up head of a jackal (Anubis), resplendent with a red and green collar for the holidays, next to a Christmas tree.
It was a nice mix of two pagan religious symbols and is probably as Christian as other symbols associated with Christmas like the yule log and mistletoe, appropriated from pagan ritual.
After Michael's (5) bath this evening, I was kneeling behind him as he stood naked in front of his dresser picking out his pajamas. I noticed he wasn't really moving, but he was bobbing his little butt at me. I wondered what he was doing. Then, a lightbulb went off.
I asked him nicely, "Michael, are you trying to fart on me?!" He started laughing evilly, almost maniacally. He then turned around and started bobbing his butt at me again, still laughing.
Gross little kid. Fortunately, he doesn't have that kind of bodily control yet. Lord help me when he does.
Two of my friends Chris Wilson and Charlotte Lowrie) have picked up the Lensbaby, and I have to admit, I'm really tempted. The Lensbaby is this funny lens with a plastic accordian-like body. You push, pull, and skew the body to focus the lens, but because the lens can move out parallel to the film/sensor plane, you can selectively focus on parts of the image, throwing the rest into a beautifully artistic blur.
It's a super fun way to shoot and forces you to really think about the composition. What's more, it's pretty cheap ($150). You can add macro lenses for another $30 or so.
It's on my Christmas list; who knows, I might even get one. If not, I'll probably pick one up for myself.
This little doohickey is a pocket brain. The 20Q contains a neural net that plays 20 questions with the user and is apparently scary smart. I played 20Q against the web version, and it correctly guessed the thing I was thinking (a Pikachu Pokemon) in about 22 questions. Amazing.
The toy version is available for $10-14 (although the Amazon appears to be out.)
December 13, 2005
OK, I don't really need this, but I need it, if you know what I mean (and I know you do). The Suunto G6 not only helps you keep score (most days I really need a computer to help me), but it measures your swing velocity, tempo, backswing length, and so on. After you train it at the range, it can tell you on the course if you're off your normal swing. After the round, you can download the data to your PC for more second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking.
Pretty slick, although probably not $550 slick.
Topping their list, Santa Claus, with a reported wealth of "infinite". The profile of Santa, however, reveals labor complaints from the elves. My favorite, of course, is Lucius Malfoy, although I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Malfoy holds Microsoft stock. I also love the quote from Mr. Burns (of Simpsons fame), "Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."
It's a funny set of articles and profiles. Worth a read.
December 12, 2005
[Scene from the Chor household this evening.]
Michael (5) comes into the kitchen despondent.
Michael: [Sobbing] "Andrew (8) is being rude."
Michelle picks him up to comfort him.
Michael: [Through his tears]: "Let's chop him up with an axe."
Michelle: [Soothingly] "OK."
Michael: [Suspiciously] "Do we even have an axe?"
Michael: "Well, let's a get a big knife and stab his heart." [Evil grin]
Who knows how this act will play out?
December 11, 2005
Well, the title of this post will probably wind up with me getting a lot more random people drifting into this stie...
I think every person has things where they are a leader among their friends; camera/photography stuff might be such an area for me. In other areas, each person has things where they follow their friends. Music discovery is definitely an example of this for me. Throughout my life, I've always been bad at finding new music. Occasionally, I'll have a friend like Chooky who introduce a pile of stuff to me for a period (high school, in Chooky's case); there are then ice ages in my music library where I don't have anyone to draft off of.
My friend Scott is a big fan of music and is always looking for new stuff (like his recent foray into Japanese rock -- also see this post.) He's just started a series in his blog on free MP3 downloads. I like the tune in his first selection and am looking forward to hearing his next selections.
Briefly, in much of the world, babies don't use diapers and certainly not the extent and duration we do in the US. The link describes the methods and rationale for diaperless babies. Like breast feeding, diaperless babies are the norm throughout history and still throughout the bulk of the world, but both have left the mainstream in the "developed" world. It seems odd to me that decreasing the bond and communication between parent and child, increasing cost, and generating mountains of garbage are considered progress. I wish I'd seen this when the kids were still in diapers (although I doubt Michelle would have gone for it...)
As a funny aside, the article talks about the shii shii sound that parents use to signal kids to pee; I totally grew up with my parents making that sound to help us get started, and I do the same with the boys. I never knew why we did this.
December 10, 2005
Last night I went to three very different nightclubs in Seattle. The first was Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar in Pioneer Square; the second was the See Sound Lounge, a swish club in Belltown. The last was Belltown Billiards, which, as the name suggests, is a billiards club in Belltown (the clever buggers...).
Howl at the Moon is a loud, somewhat crass party bar full of older (mostly 30-somethings, with) patrons singing/screaming pop standards with the pianists and doing set dances to things like Time Warp and Shake Your Tail Feather. There was an abundance of drunk, heavy-ish middle age women who would get up on stage and shake what God gave them to the hoots of their friends. I think it would be a good axiom for me to only go to bars where, on average, the women are younger than I am and weigh less than I do. This was not the case at Howl at the Moon. If I were looking for a new friend, it would have been depressing; as it was, there wasn
December 8, 2005
In any case, I found a pretty slick little gadget to help me self-massage (not that kind!) some of the knots and soreness away -- The Stick. This is a semi-rigid stick with 1" plastic wheels along the length. You roll the stick over the sore muscles for about 20-30 strokes. The result is pretty impressive.
I had a guy demo this on one of my calves at the health and fitness expo before the Seattle Marathon (I just shopped -- no marathon). He told me to walk around the show and see if I felt a difference. It was clearly noticeable! The leg he had rollered felt much better. I bought one.
They come in different sizes and flexibility. I have the Original Body Stick. In addition to my workout soreness, it helps with the knots in my arms and shoulders from typing all day. I love it.
December 5, 2005
One of the things I like least about IE (and am least happy that we're not addressing in IE7) is the use of Notepad to view HTML source code. While many fantastic web pages have been built in Notepad, it wasn't a state of the art editor in 1995 let alone 2005.
There are a lot of text editors out there that are better than Notepad (I like Notepad2, a very slick, free editor with extensive syntax highlighting, regex searches, and a small package). But, none of these is as useful if it's not integrated with IE's View Source command. Fear not, intrepid reader, you can point IE to use another editor pretty easily, if you don't mind using RegEdit.
Honestly, I found this on the web (sometimes it's faster than asking the IE developers, especially since they're busy on IE7.) I got this from Thea Burger's blog and copied and pasted the clear instructions. He even likes Notepad2 also. (I did make one small change, fixing some terminology.)
Run REGEDIT, follow the following directions to the proper key.
|--- Internet Explorer
|---- View Source Editor
|----- Editor Name (Default) = C:\windows\notepad.exe
If this doesnt exist (but it should) then create the Key "View Source Editor".
Then create a Key within that named "Editor Name". Modify the "(Default)" value to make it point towards any program on your computer using "D:\Tools\Notepad2\Notepad2.exe" (without the quotes).
I've always wanted to be one of the cool kids. Still do. Well, now all the cool kids are hanging out in the Facebook. For those of you who are old and uncool like me, the Facebook is Friendster, Orkut, or MySpace for college students. Apparently, people check their Facebook pages multiple times a day, posting photos, writing on their friends' "Wall", and seeing how many friends they can link to.
So, I joined. I still have a Stanford alumni account, so I was able to sign up (you need to go to a supported school or a college affiliated alumni account.) Frankly, it's pretty much like most of the other social net websites with a few exceptions. The privacy standards are lowered so you can browse your school and/or region more easily, the community is a bit more filtered so you have hopefully fewer weirdos (like old alumni lurking), and it's easier to post and tag photos.
It's a bit odd for me on Facebook since I don't really have many friends who have Facebook accounts. I'm pretty much limited to my former interns and recent grad new hires. They've humored me by allowing me to link to them, but I think my network will be pretty small. I may go find my cousins next...
In any case, if you want to find me and link to me, I'm all yours.
December 4, 2005
This is a pretty fun distraction. There are seventy-five bands in this photo. Michelle has found about fifty so far. Just to get you started, the ones in front are Queen holding up Prince.
How many can you find?
December 3, 2005
I had a bit of good luck on the trip I just took to the Bay Area, outside of the fact that my meeting went well. I got bumped to first class on both the outbound and return flights; I'm an MVP mileage club member for Alaska Airlines and have had premier frequent flier status on various airlines for years, but I've never been upgraded before, let alone twice on one trip. It's a short flight, but first class is still nice.
I also had my rental car upgraded to a Mustang convertible. I've always had a huge soft spot for Mustangs, and I love convertibles. I also really like the new body style and have wanted to drive one for a while. As it turns out, it's still a squishy American car, but it was great to buzz around in a convertible under the sunny California skies. And, it beat the heck out of the boring sedans I normally wind up with.
I'm not sure what I did to merit this luck, but I'm happy to have had these small bits of good fortune to make the travel a little nicer.
I just got back from a quick trip to the Bay Area. After my meeting, I had a little time to visit my Stanford University, my alma mater. It's been probably six years since I've been back to campus.
I had forgotten how much I love it. As I walked through the Quad past Memorial Church ("MemChu" in Stanford parliance, seen above) at night, memories of my years at Stanford came flooding back. It was a special time in my life at a very special place. In some ways I felt twenty years old again, like I never left.
Of course, things have changed a lot since then. I scarcely recognized parts of campus that had lots of new buildings put up, and the students all seem a lot younger than I remember ever being. My old haunts like Miyake have moved to new digs or are no longer around. Heck, even the Stanford Stadium is gone (it's being demolished and rebuilt.)
I wouldn't expect the campus to remain static, but it's odd to simultaneously feel like I'm home and feel like a stranger. I enjoyed the visit and hope to go back again soon, but I think Stanford will always be just a pleasant and significant part of my past.
December 1, 2005
Michael (5) was mad at Michelle this evening because she wouldn't let him stay up past his bedtime to play his Gameboy (how cruel of her!) He was simply beside himself. Through his tears, he pulled me aside and said, "You should fire her."
I don't think it works that way, little kid. Plus, she'd get half.
Too bad I wouldn't get half of Microsoft's cash if they fired me. That would be OK.
Michelle and I searched for our first Googlewhack for a while tonight after dinner. We searched fruitlessly for a while, never getting closer than 73 hits until Michelle received an inspiration from the gods (probably Anubis): scaraboid deguerrotype. The result is a browser log on some getty.edu site -- not exactly exciting, but a Googlewhack nonetheless.
Can you find any?