April 28, 2006
According to PersonalDNA.com, I'm an Attentive Analyst. This is in contrast to Sean Lyndersay and Chris Wilson (both on my team) who are both Benevolent Leaders. I guess I should be working for them instead of the other way around.
You can read more detail about my burdens as an Attentive Analyst here.
Andrew (8) was being exceptionally well behaved this evening, even offering to clean up a mess Michael made.
Me: "Andrew, I love it when you're this sweet. It's much better than when you're grumpy."
Andrew: "I feel the same way about you."
Damn, fair enough.
This evening, I was reading a book about snakes to Michael (5).
Michael: "King cobras are my favorite snake."
Michael: "Because they can spit venom."
Me: "Do you wish you could spit venom?"
Michael: "Yes. I would kill you first. I'd leave your body for another snake to eat though."
I am never turning my back on him again.
(Did you know the average length of a king cobra is nineteen feet long? As if they weren't scary enough with the venom spitting and the big hood."
April 26, 2006
I go down to the Silicon Valley area all the time for day meetings, but I haven't actually been up to San Francisco for years. Monday's IE7 beta 2 dinner in The City was a bit of a rediscovery for me. I only had a little while between having lunch with my aunt and 91-year old grandmother and our dinner, but it was great.
First, the shopping was amazing. It left Seattle in the dirt. In the area around Union Square, I visited the Sak's Men's Store and the Macy's Men's Store (yes, separate stores/buildings for the men's stuff, not just a little department, a big Kenneth Cole, and Diesel just to name a few. It was crazy.
Next, there are a lot of places that are much more swish than I recall. I stayed at the St. Francis Hotel (now a Westin). I used to come here on dates for drinks and the ride the elevators (great view of the Bay at the top, put your head against the glass and look down while you're descending -- freaky) and for drinks in the lobby bar. It used to be charming in an old shabby way. Very slick now and the rooms are nicely redone too.
I also went for a drink at the Clift Hotel. Michelle and I stayed here years ago when it was a a slightly run down Four Seasons; now it's an uber swish Ian Schrager hotel. The bar, the Redwood Room, was hopping even on a Monday night. They had these interesting Harry Potter-esque "portraits" on the walls -- really plasma displays with movies of people that move slowly; there is apparently a back story between the people in the images, so if you watch long enough, you can start to see the furtive looks, the disappointment, the lust, etc. between people in the images. It was fun to try to figure out the story.
Finally, I had breakfast with my dear friend Connie at the Campton Place Hotel, another luxury boutique hotel that makes me want to come back to San Francisco. (Spending time catching up with Connie reminded me that while I love my current friends, there's something special about friends you've known for twenty years like Connie. She, of course, also makes me want to come back to San Francisco.)
Of course, it's not perfect. It was crowded and traffic-jammed. It took me forever to drive to see my grandmother. The infrastructure (roads and bridges mainly) seemed in disrepair. It's even more expensive than Seattle. And, they're going to be wiped off the face of the earth in the next thirty years.
Still, I had forgotten how much I love SF (like I had forgotten how much I love Stanford.) I can't wait to go back soon. There are a bunch of old favorite places I want to check out again like Bix (one of my favorite restaurant/bars in the world) and the Pied Piper Bar at the Palace Hotel (I "discovered" Bob Dalpe, the singer and bandleader who played at our wedding, at the Pied Piper) to name a few.
I had the pleasure of going down to San Francisco Monday to have dinner with a bunch of well-known bloggers and writers before the launch of IE 7 beta 2. Dean (my boss), Chris Wilson (Group Program Manager of IE platform stuff), Sean Lyndersay (Lead Program Manager of our RSS work), Gary Schare (uber IE Marketing poobah), and I hosted the dinner at Frisson, (a swank restaurant opened and run by the very nice Andrew McCormack, formerly of Yahoo, PayPal, and eBay as I learned from him later over drinks).
Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect since we've never done an event like this before. It turned out to be very enjoyable for me (and I hope for our guests). It was a friendly dinner among geeks with the conversation ranging from people we knew in the blogosphere, random technology, whisky (guess who started that conversation), and other interesting topics. We didn't pitch hard, and they were fair and listening.
I'm sure I'll miss some of the names/blogs, but here are a few people I spoke with and what they wrote:
Michael Arrington, TechCrunch
Martin McKeay, Network Security and Podcast Roundtable
Jeremiah Owyang, Web Strategy and Podcast Roundtable
Robert Scoble, Microsoft's Chief Blogging Officer
Tantek Celik, Technorati
Niall Kennedy (I know he's a Microsoft guy now, but it was his first day!)
Steve Gillmor, ZDNet and Gillmor Gang
Om Malik, GigaOm
Victor Loh, ExtremeTech
Anne Chen, eWeek
We've posted some photos up on FlickR too under the keyword IE7b2.
April 25, 2006
I'm happy to announce that we shipping IE7 Beta 2 today for Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, and our x64 editions.
My boss, Dean, blogged about the details on the IE blog, so I won't repeat those here.
You can get the new bits on http://www.microsoft.com/ie/. If you have a previous build of IE7 installed, you need to uninstall it first.
Check it out!
April 23, 2006
I went with some friends to Ozzie's Roadhouse this weekend for a few drinks a little karaoke. I love karaoke and am happy to get up an belt out a tune or two when the opportunity arises. That said, a little karaoke self-awareness would go a long way toward making the world a better place.
I had a few thoughts on the topic as I suffered through one drunken fool after another take the mike.
I'm not saying you need to be the next American Idol winner, but at least hit a few notes correctly...
April 19, 2006
I turned 38 today. This is not so bad, really. (39 will freak me out like 29 did, I suspect.)
What did bum me out was that I learned that despite my increased physical activity and weight-loss, I have a long way to go. First, I got my blood work back from my physical; cholesterol is a bit high. Then, I went and had my body fat hydrostatically tested at a mobile clinic that came by my health club. I knew it would be higher than it should be, but it was much higher than I expected. It was a bad 1-2 punch.
The only solace I can take I guess is that these numbers would have been worse had not already been working out. I've fallen a bit off my workout wagon lately with a busy work and family schedule, but I really need to focus more on my diet and be more diligent about strength training as well.
No chocolate and whisky tonight, I guess.
I had a chance today to do a time-lapse photo shoot of the load-in of the STOMP set at the Paramount Theater here in Seattle. The set is cool and goes together very quickly -- even faster through the magic of time-lapse photography.
In the video, you'll see them hang and focus the lights, assemble and put up their main set piece, and then install and paint the dance floor.
Some technical tidbits: I shot a frame every sixty seconds over a five hour period using my Canon 10D on a tripod connected to a laptop running Canon RemoteCapture. I imported all 301 photos into Windows MovieMaker, with each photo representing one second of video. I tossed in a fade transition between each photo (thanks, to Chris Hugill on the MovieMaker team for showing me how to do this automatically) and spit out the video.
April 17, 2006
Throughout this blog, I've been using both spellings interchangably, but this kind of inconsistency drives me crazy. So, here's the word from Wikipedia (which also matches what I've read elsewhere):
The spelling whisky (plural whiskies) is generally used for those distilled in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan, while whiskey (with an e; plural whiskeys) is used for the spirits distilled in Ireland and in the United States as well. A 1968 BATF directive specifies "whisky" as the official U.S. spelling, but allows labeling as "whiskey" in deference to tradition, and most U.S. producers still use the latter spelling. A mnemonic used to remember which spelling is used is that "Ireland" and "United States" have at least one "e" in their names, while "Scotland," "Canada" and "Japan" do not. International law reserves the term "Scotch whisky" to those whiskies produced in Scotland; Scottish law specifies that the whisky must be aged for a minimum of three years, in oak casks. Whiskies produced in other countries in the Scotch style must use another name. Similar conventions exist for "Irish whiskey," "Canadian whisky," and "Bourbon Whiskey." In North America, as well as in Continental Europe the abbreviated term "Scotch" is usually used for "Scotch Whisky." In England, Scotland, and Wales, the term "Whisky" almost always refers to "Scotch Whisky", and the term "Scotch" is rarely used by itself. The Welsh version is wysgi (though the forms chwisgi and wisgi also exist).
So there, more than you ever wanted to know. I will try to use the correct spelling depending on which country produced the stuff and will use the whisky spelling for the generic in deference to the original. Besides, I'm an American and Lord knows I'd hate to run afoul of the BATF... Guns, alcohol, and tobacco. My guys.
You can all rest easy tonight.
I'm sitting here enjoying a glass of Balantines 17 year (one of my very favorite blends, as I blogged about before) and nibbling on two Nestle Crunch chocolate Easter eggs I pilfered from the kids (sshhh, don't tell). OMG, it's lovely. Chocolate and Scotch is fantastic. I'm normally a chocolate and port or chocolate and Bordeaux guy, but this may very well be the best chocolate pairing.
I'm also learning to love Scotch and food pairings. It's a bit unusual for some people I think to consider Scotch paired with food, but as I mentioned, whisky and oysters are fab. I also think whisky is great with sushi. Smoked salmon, of course, is a natural.
I'll have to start working out more detailed pairings (like the Lagavulin and oysters). My work is never done...
April 16, 2006
Loser way to write.
Kind of funny in a sad way.
A Fib is a poem where the number of syllables per line corresponds to the consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci sequence. Amazingly dorky yet amusing. Thanks to John to pointing this out.
One of the pages John links off to had a better love Fib.
Goes out of fashion,
Chocolate melts in hand or mouth,
But the Fibonacci sequence goes on forever.
OK readers: let's see your Fibs!
April 15, 2006
I've been meaning to write about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for a while now. The SMWS is a club based Scotland with branches around the world including the US. They purchases entire casks of whisky and then bottles them for a their members. This is unique in a few ways.
First, normally a bottle single malt scotch is comprised of whisky from many casks blended together; the only stipulation is that they need to come from the same distiller, otherwise it's a blended or vatted malt (blended can contain grain alcohol; vatted is typically pure malt). This blending allows the producer to create a consistent product year to year. However, any given cask could be very unique, sometimes very different from the regional or house style.
Second, the bottles are shipped at cask strength. This means they are not cut down with water to 80 proof like most whisky. This allows the true flavor of the whisky to come through and some would say preserves the whisky. You have to be careful with cask strength whisky though. The nose can burn your nose when you nose the scotch (love the three uses of nose) and the scotch is quite strong. I commonly will nose and taste it at full strength first, then cut it down with water, revealing new flavors and aromas plus making it less toxic.
Finally, the SMWS often finds casks from distillers that are no longer in business. It's interesting to get a bit of history in a bottle.
Anyway, as much as I love the whisky, I think I enjoy the descriptions of the bottles in the tasting notes. They are funny, evocative, and often useless but almost always fun to read. Here's a blurb from a recent mailing:
The most easterly of the Islay distilleries has a reputation for big smoke (the old maltings had no fans, allowing the smoke to penetrate the barley more). This sample is pale gold from the first refill barrel. The nose seems gentle compared to previous experience - plastic chairs by a swimming pool, putty, menthol, and some soap. Water brings the addition of paint tins, resin, and maritime notes. The nose might be youthful and temperate, but the taste is grown up and powerful - sweet tar, Germoline, pine forests, and lightly smoky with a dry finish; cooler with water. An angel wearing Doc Martins.
Mmm, paint tins...
In addition to the bottles, SMWS has tasting events around the world including Seattle (although I missed the one that just happened) and club houses complete with overnight rooms in Scotland and England. I'll have to try those out sometime.
It's a great way to try some really interesting whisky. If you're into whisky, I highly recommend it.
April 14, 2006
Oh my. Must try this.
Selfridges (a department store in London) is offering this amazing sounding sandwich. According to the BBC article:
The ingredients of the sandwich are: Wagyu beef, fresh lobe foie gras, black truffle mayonnaise, brie de meaux, rocket, red pepper and mustard confit and English plum tomatoes.
According to the Selfridges site (which contradicts the BBC, but is most likely correct since it's their damn sandwich), for £100 you get the sandwich, some "spice dusted tortilla chips" and a mini bottle of Moet. Quite a bargain...
Unfortunately, this "deal" only runs through April 17. I don't think I'm going to make it to London before then.
April 13, 2006
April 11, 2006
Bruce Morgan, my friend, colleague, and exercise mentor, completed the Ironman Arizona this weekend, his first. He finished in 13:21, well under his goal time of fourteen hours. He also completed it with no major injuries -- his other goal. His blog entry describes his experience.
I, on the other hand, showed up to work today with my shirt inside out. QuornFlour had to point it out to me. I even argued with her for ten seconds before realizing it myself. Not a high competence moment for me.
Anyway, congratulations to Bruce on his huge accomplishment!
April 9, 2006
I did a 44 mile ride today solo, out the Cedar River Trail to Maple Valley. This is the same distance coincidentally as my longest ride, but I was on my own, and I didn't take any breaks. Even though a lot of the ride was flat, it was pretty windy, so I'm beat. As it turns out, it really does make a difference riding in a pace line with others. I worked a lot harder today than in my previous rides. Sucking down two Gu packs along the way seemed to help. 3:07 ride time.
I'm also still dialing in my gear. I've been trying out a new saddle; not sure if I like it yet, but it's definitely better than my old one. I also installed SKS Race Blade Fenders last week; good thing since it was raining for part of my ride. I'm not all muddy now (well, not as much).
Anyway, still lots more miles ahead and time in the saddle before I feel confident about successfully completing STP.
April 8, 2006
Regardless of how you feel about guns, I think everyone would agree that if you choose to own a gun, you should be trained in its safe and effective use. I learned to shoot at Insights Training Center and have nothing but good things to say about the school and Greg Hamilton, the founder and chief instructor. The system they teach is very logical and thought through. It truly is a system that integrates the same principles through unarmed, knife, handgun, and long arm self-defense. One bit of evidence of the quality of the program has been two championships and multiple top five finishes for Greg, his instructors, and students at the National Tactical Invitational.
Even if you don't choose to own a gun, it probably isn't a bad idea to learn how to handle them safely. Of course, there are a lot of classes from Insights that aren't firearm related as well including unarmed, folding knife, pepper spray, and others.
One of the things that appealed to me most about Insights is that Greg takes a very pragmatic and unglamorous view of guns and self-defense. For instance, in the first General Defensive Handgun class, when we were all on the firing line, Greg said that if he had this druthers, we'd spend the whole class running away as soon as he blew the whistle because that was the best way to handle a fight; of course, he knew we'd be upset about spending two days and few hundred dollars running sprints. He also warned that a defensive shooting would probably ruin your life emotionally and financially; there is nothing heroic or appealing about shooting someone else. It would simply the be price of protecting yourself and your family.
The classes are also just plain fun. There aren't too many other places you get to move around, yell, and shoot thousands of rounds in a safe environment. I haven't taken the unarmed class yet, but friends who have said it was a hoot to be able to hit someone (in a padded suit) full force.
I already use the learnings from Insights everyday; I am much more aware of my surroundings and take simple precautions like locking my car doors as soon as everyone is in. As a result, I hope I'll never have to use any of the more violent lessons from Insights, but I'm happy to have the option to do so if the time comes.
[post edited 4/10/2006 to correct a glaring typo]
April 5, 2006
I upgraded the version of the blogging software I'm using. It was surprisingly easy, but I'm still shaking out some of the bugs (like the bad looking search results page.) Let me know if you're seeing anything else. Thanks.
April 2, 2006
MIX06 (a Microsoft web development conference at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas) was the first time I’ve worked on a keynote speech at a major Microsoft event. In this case, I was helping my boss, Dean, with his keynote. The scale of the set up is really amazing, so I thought I’d share how it worked.
Normally, when I do a presentation and demo, both the demos and the presentation are on the same machine. I advance the slides and do the demo myself. Sometimes, for a big talk like my keynote at Hack-in-the-Box, we separate out the slides and demo onto separate machines (especially when the demos have pre-release bits like Windows Vista or IE7) and maybe I’ll have someone help me with the demos/slides to keep things running more smoothly.
Well, MIX took that to a whole new level. First, the demo machine was backstage, connected to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse via a switch. We also had a backup demo machine hooked up. Then, there was a machine with Dean’s slides. The day before the presentation, I also learned that Dean could have notes slides on the monitors in front of him; those, of course, were on separate machines still. Finally, there was a big flat panel (called “the 16:9” by the stage managers) behind the speaker on stage running slides with the key points. OK, so four machines (plus a backup) for one talk. (Actually there were more because we had other speakers/demos on stage during the keynote, but I’ll leave those out.)
During the keynote, Dean held a remote clicker that advanced his notes. I sat backstage and advanced the slides. Laurel (a Program Manager on my team) advanced the 16:9, and Scott (another PM on my team) kept the backup demo machine in sync with the main demo machine. This way, if we had to switch over to the demo machine, it would be in the same state as the demo machine, and Dean could pick up right where he left off. The folks running the show handled all of the switching between demo machines and slide machines on the huge screens out front.
To choreograph everything, I met with the production manager (who is the most patient angel I’ve ever met) and walked through the whole keynote. We sequenced the whole thing, indicating transitions between speakers, slides, and demos. I also wrote up cue sheets for Laurel and Scott so they knew when to do what.
We did a rehearsal the night before that went OK well. It was the first time we had run through the entire keynote with all the speakers and demos, the first time we had to sync all those machines, and the first time we got the see the blocking on the stage (that I had worked out earlier with Dean.) There were a few rough spots including the ending demo/talk. Around midnight the night before the keynote, we worked out the ending, but never got to practice it. We’d do that in one take live the next day.
The day of, everything went great. We went backstage before Bill Gates’ keynote and waited. At this point, there was nothing to do but joke around, grimace as Bill butchered Dean’s last name (Hachamovitch, pronounced “ha-calm-o-vitch”), and wait for our turn. Dean went on and nailed his talk. Laurel, Scott, and I did our part. The demo machines (running Windows Vista) didn’t crash or misbehave (somewhat miraculous, given Murphy’s Law). All in all, I couldn’t have been more happy. You should be able to see the keynote here soon.
The whole backstage setup was slick, as you can see from the photos (mouse over them to get descriptions). We had four huge screens with triply redundant projectors on huge scaffolding behind them. There was also a huge lab with zillions of cables for all of our demo machines for the three day event, a speaker’s lounge, a hard walled green room, and a bunch of technical spaces we didn’t look into. In the front of the house, there was a big sound booth in the middle of the floor with camera stations, and then in the very front, was a control booth of sorts, up on a platform. I guess after they started setting up, the fire marshal came in and told them to move the whole thing five more feet away from the wall. Amazing.
Microsoft’s Events Team and the Trade Show Group (TSG) are a super professional lot. They were very patient as we asked dumb questions, made last minute changes, and stood around underfoot. They’re ready for anything. When we were hooking up our demo machines, we needed a USB to PS/2 keyboard/mouse adapter. They had one. When that one didn’t work, they had another brand to try; I think they had four different brands of these adapters. They also had a designer backstage making our slides look nice, prettying up our graphics, and generally keeping our procrastination from making us look dumb (you can see her working here, behind one of the big screens.)
As I mentioned I didn’t sleep much in the week leading up to MIX, but it was all worth it. The keynote was great as was the rest of the conference. It was the first MIX; I’m already looking forward to the next one.
[Post edited 4/6/2006 to correct an error. There are two Microsoft groups responsible for shows like this. The Corporate Events Team does the stage/sound, etc. and the Trade Show Group handles machines and demos.]
April 1, 2006