May 2006

May 31, 2006

Last oysters for a while

Categories: Food and Drink

This evening, I broke the old rule of only eating oysters in months with "r" in the name. I had half-a-dozen Penn Cove Pacificas at Seastar. They were fresh, clean, and nicely presented as you'd expect at Seastar. I even had my now-standard glass of Lagavulin 16 (and then a yummy glass of Talisker) to wash them down.

Alas, they were they were only good. I forgot about the love life of the average oyster. Starting in September, they start storing fat -- creamy, delicious fat. They also firm up during this time. Come May, they start dedicating all that stored energy (and flavor) into reproducing, and like many humans (although not my lovely wife) they get flabby after having babies.

Since I believe in eating stuff when it's in season, I'll pass on oysters until this autumn again. Then again, it's autumn in New Zealand. Yummy oysters there. Hm...

Posted May 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2006

Ardbeg Ten Years Old Scotch whisky

Categories: Food and Drink

Ardbeg Ten Years Old whisky bottle

The Arbeg I picked up in the Auckland duty free is tasty. It's a drinkable Islay whisky. The nose is iodiney -- it smells like a band-aid. The taste is sweetly smokey. I love it. It's a nice change from all the lighter, sweet whiskies I seem to have fallen into (and the bad whisky I had in New Zealand bars). It may be that as my taste for whisky matures, I'm more interested in the the more "challenging" whiskies like Arbeg and Lagavulin (see my post on Lagavulin and oysters for more info).

What a great dram! This may be my new favorite whisky. I may need to go have another drink right now to make sure.

Posted May 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)

Observations of New Zealand

Categories: Travel

I really like New Zealand. I thought it was a beautiful place with great sailing, super nice people, good wine, and good food -- all the things a man could want. Here are a few observations and learnings, some big, some trivial, in no particular order:

  • New Zealanders call themselves kiwis. Before the trip I wasn't sure if this was considered offensive to New Zealanders. Apparently not all.

  • Kiwis don't really salt their food. Both Grandhi and I found ourselves dumping salt on everything we ate. Since Grandhi lives in India, I'm confident this isn't just an American taste thing.

  • Kiwis have a great "can do" attitude. My new friend Nigel described this as a national habit of "punching above our weight". They are extraordinarily proud (rightfully so) when they play on the world stage as an equal like in the Americas Cup or with Michael Campbell (US Open winner).

  • The flip side to this Kiwi Attitude is a funny sense of being an underdog to Australia and the US. They are smaller for sure. It's kind of like being the little brother.

  • Everyone was super friendly. I got numerous offers to go out, see rugby, etc. It was interesting though that Auckland seemed more friendly than Wellington. When I ran in Auckland, other joggers said hello. No one in Wellington did.

  • There was almost no good whisky in the bars. This might be a deal breaker. I can't live on Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. Thank goodness for Highland Park.

  • I like the Kiwi sense of humor. As everyone knows, their national rugby team is the "All Blacks". So, what's the nickname of the men's national basketball team? The "Tall Blacks". Naturally.

  • Kiwis (the fruit) were named as a marketing ploy. They were originally called "Chinese gooseberries" in New Zealand. When NZ started to export them, they wanted a better name. Ironically, I did not eat any kiwifruit while in New Zealand. This was a huge oversight on my part.

  • I also did not try a feijoa, a local fruit in the guava family. I did, however, have feijoa vodka from 42 Below (a local vodka), so that must count a little. It was pretty good.

I really can't wait to get back to NZ and see more of the country, hopefully with the family. It really is a special place.

Posted May 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Home again

Categories: Travel

I'm on the ground and home again after 24+ hours of travelling. The trip home had a few more bumps than normal.

My flight from Wellington to Auckland was delayed by an hour due to fog in South Island delaying flights. (All of you who watched Saturday's Super 14 rugby final between the Christchurch Crusaders and the Wellington Hurricanes saw the horrible fog in Christchurch.) Anyway, this resulted in a tight connection in Auckland for my Auckland-LA leg. I literally ran the half mile between the domestic and international terminal, trying to find the blue and white line I was told to follow (it starts about halfway to the int'l terminal). Once I got to the international terminal, I had to pay the exit tax (why isn't this built into the airfare?) After two tries on the machine failed, I had to wait in line. I used my last New Zealand dollars to pay. Sweating, I made it to my flight and had a nice icy glass of orange juice to cool down.

Lest anyone worry that I didn't take care of business, I did manage to run through the Duty Free to buy a bottle of Arbeg 10yo single malt (a bottle I've been wanting to try for a while.) A man has to have his priorities straight after all...

I hate LAX. Just let me say that up front. The signage is terrible. The staff is terrible. The flow is terrible. The services are terrible. I don't ever want to fly through there again. The only thing half decent was the United Red Carpet Club. There were a lot of people there who couldn't work it out (staff and passengers.)

In any case, I did manage to sleep at the appropriate times, scratched my Lord of the Rings itch on the flight, and got a little work done. All that said, I'm glad to be home. More later.

Posted May 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

May 27, 2006

Heading home

Categories: Travel

I'm leaving windy Wellington for the airport in a few minutes. It's been a great trip; New Zealand is really wonderful. Lots more to come in the next few days about my trip.

See you on the other side.

Posted May 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 25, 2006

Blogging from Webstock

I just finished my talk at Webstock here in Wellington. I'm currently going through my typical post-talk adrenaline crash. I enjoyed the talk and am gratified that people laughed at my jokes and that the demo machine behaved well - never a sure thing when running beta software, projecting to a strange monitor, and running on a live internet connection. I understand the talk will be made available online soon. I'll post it when it does, and I'll write more about my Webstock experiences later.

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Posted May 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

May 23, 2006

Last day in Auckland

Today is my last day in Auckland. Grandhi and I have a few meetings with customers, partners, and the MS New Zealand guys before we head down to Wellington this afternoon. It'll be a bit of a hectic day I think.

Yesterday was pretty calm by comparison. We didn't have much in the way of meetings, so we checked out the New Zealand National Maritime Museum. I love maritime museums (surprise, surprise) and Grandhi was nice enough to indulge me. The museum was quite good and much larger that outward appearances might suggest.

Afterwards, we had a nice lunch at the Loaded Hog by the Viaduct Basin (where the Americas Cup boats sortied out from). I didn't love the beers they brewed onsite, but the food was good. the local mussels are well-known and tasty, although I still think Penn Cove mussels in Seattle are better. Too bad it was raining all day; otherwise sitting out on the sidewalk would have been great.

We worked all afternoon trying to get ready for our upcoming talks and keep up with work at home. We then headed out to Parnell, a cute neighborhood in Auckland full of art galleries and shops, all of which close early to spite us. Fortunately, we found a nice restaurant called Igaucu for dinner. Pretty cool place. I finally got some lamb here in New Zealand. Everything you've heard about lamb in NZ is true -- fantastic. The one thing I've noticed is that every restaurant we've eaten in so far has under salted the food relative to my tastes. Grandhi and I both have been adding copious amounts of salt to everything. Given that Grandhi lives in India, I don't think this is just an American taste thing. Anyway, just an observation.

OK, time to pack up and head out. Talk to you from Wellington...

Posted May 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Windows Vista Beta 2 Ships!

Hurray! We finally shipped Windows Vista beta 2! We have a lot of work to do before final release, but this is a big step. Too bad I'll miss the beta 2 party in Redmond today.

Posted May 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 22, 2006

First work day down in Auckland

Yesterday, I kicked off my working time in Auckland with an IE7 demo in the keynote at Microsoft Connect, a Microsoft-sponsored conference for IT Pros and Developers. Despite my normal pre-show jitters, the demo went fine with people even giggling at my jokes and applauding for features (the new printing stuff always brings down the house, even though it's just a bug fix really.) The guys from MS New Zealand did a great job with the conference. They really have to cover a lot of ground since Microsoft has so many products; as a result, in many ways, I think they have a better view of our entire line than we do in Redmond.

I also had an interview with Juha Saarinen, a writer for ComputerWorld and PC World. Fortunately, I had some advanced warning of what he was going to ask (ain't blogs great?) He seemed like a good guy with fair questions. We'll see how the reports turn out.

Grandhi and I hung out with partners and the guys from the Microsoft New Zealand sub later in the day and had a surprisingly good Mexican dinner at Mexican Cafe (clever name...). Gotta watch out for the Agavero (tequilla liqueur) though. It goes down pretty smoothly. (Sean, you're evil.)

Posted May 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

My Americas Cup day in Auckland

Categories: Travel

My colleague Grandhi and I had a great first day (Sunday) in Auckland (click for map). It was sunny and breezy, apparently uncharacteristically nice for this time of year.

We first walked around the clean and compact downtown area including the Viaduct Basin in the Americas Cup Village. The Emirates Team New Zealand Americas Cup team headquarters is here now; their big black building overlooks the basin. Lots of incredible boats here, although I didn't see any Americas Cup boats.

We then had lunch at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. This is a lovely building with a friendly staff. We watched a bunch of sail fleets race by as we ate in the members bar. I added to my burgee collection while we were there. RNZYS hosted the last Americas Cup and is the sponsoring yacht club for the Team New Zealand boats.

Tony sailing on an Americas Cup boat
The highlight of my day was a two hour sail with SailNZ aboard an Americas Cup boat. The boat was formerly JPN 41, the Nippon Challenge boat that raced in San Diego in 1995. (SailNZ also has NZ40, the New Zealand boat from San Diego.) We had 15-16 knots of wind with calm seas, so we were flying, holding around 8.5 knots per hour throughout the ride. Everyone got a chance to grind and drive. It was Grandhi's first time sailing; I think he loved it. I certainly did.

The SailNZ AC yachts

A nice dinner at Sails Restaurant overlooking Westhaven Harbor capped off a great sail themed day.

Auckland from the water

Posted May 22, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 20, 2006

On the ground in Auckland

Categories: Travel

I've arrived in Auckland safely and am online (obviously).

The flight was comfortable and on time. Air New Zealand's business class has pretty slick pod system where each person gets their own private space. The seat converts into a bed - 180 degrees flat - with sheets and a comforter (of sorts). The food was reasonabel and the in flight entertainment system was sincere. I was a little embarassed to see the WinCE bootloader running (slowly) when we first arrived; the system was slow but it got the job done.

Unfortunately, I'm disappointed with the hotel room I'm in. It's actually quite nice, but the sinks and toilet are such that the water doesn't swirl one way or another, so I can't see the Southern Hemisphere swirl. I'll have to find another way to see it.

It's 7:00am here now. I have to stay up all day. I think I'll go for a run now to get out and get my blood going.

Posted May 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 19, 2006

Off to New Zealand

I'm off to New Zealand today. I'll be speaking at WebStock, a web conference in Wellington, as well as doing some Microsoft internal events and meeting with press. I've never been to New Zealand or even the Southern Hemisphere. I plan to flush a toilet as soon as I get there just to watch the water go down the other way.

See you on the other side!

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Posted May 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 17, 2006

I am evil.

Categories: Random junk

Apparently, I've been wrong all these years. I'm evil. I guess all the people who say that I'm evil for working at Microsoft on Internet Explorer were right. The funny thing is, I'm the nice guy on the team. You should meet the others. The exception might be Chris Wilson who has managed to stay neutral, despite having worked on the browser way longer than I have.

Oh well. Guess I'll have to embrace the Dark Side and accept who I am.

(There is a potential bias in this test. The first question they ask is what browser you're running. I'm guessing that using IE didn't give me any nice points.)

How evil are you?
Posted May 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2006

The Science Fiction Museum and DoubleTake

Categories: Random cool stuff

Terminator on exhibit at SFM
I took the kids to see the Science Fiction Museum today. This is Paul Allen's museum in the Experience Music Project building. This was the first time any of us had been to the museum.

The collections are pretty impressive for the genre. They have some cool costumes and props from movies and shows like the Twiki costume from Buck Rogers and a great collection of Star Trek weapons and even Kirk's command chair from the original Enterprise. The best part for all of us was the Spacedock, a super well done exhibit of famous spacecraft from different sci fi shows and movies. It really felt like we were looking out on a spacedock; the displays they used for more information were super well done too with these slick dual layered displays. Hard to describe; worth seeing.

As a family, it was only OK. As I've mentioned before, the boys are crazy about Star Wars. There was just enough Star Wars stuff in the museum to keep them from totally rebelling against the visit, but much of the place was dedicated to science fiction from my generation and earlier. What's more, there are very few interactive displays, so kids who can't read much yet (e.g. Michael) or have short attention spans (e.g. Andrew) will not find the place very interesting. The whole place is unnecessarily dark and a little spooky too. I think it would have been more fun to be there by myself, frankly, but even then.

The Kiss

While we were at SFM, Michelle went to check out the DoubleTake show at EMP. (I had taken Andrew to see this with his class a few weeks ago.) This is a showing of some of Paul Allen's private art collection (doesn't everyone have Monet, Lichtenstein, Degas, Rothko, Picasso, van Gogh, etc. hanging around their home?) While the pieces themselves were great, the interesting part of this exhibit is how they have the art arranged. They've paired (in some cases tripled) art together to illustrate some theme, either contrasting treatment of simliar themes or showing similarities across eras and artists. I've never been good at viewing art, but this was a great way to get me to think harder about what I was seeing. (Loved Richter's Candle.)

Neither the SFM or DoubleTake exhibits were very large, so you could easily to do both in a morning or afternoon. In both cases I felt that while there was some amazing/interesting stuff and the exhibits were well done, these weren't great values. They're definitely not great for families with little kids. That said, if you like art at all, go see paintings at DoubleTake. You're unlikely to see so many paintings from such prominent artists in Seattle again.

Posted May 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 13, 2006

Hillarious Star Wars video

Categories: Random cool stuff

This video is absolutely rofl hysterical, at least if you're a Star Wars geek.

Thanks, Craig.

Posted May 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 8, 2006

Good Chinese food around Bellevue

Categories: Food and Drink

While the Seattle area doesn't seem to have any great formal, fancy, banquet-worthy Chinese places, there are quite a few damn good places for more every day Chinese food. As an ABC (American Born Chinese) my fondness for homestyle Chinese food outstrips my ability to cook it, so these places are important to me.

Around the Bellevue area (near my home and Microsoft), there are a few good haunts.

  • Szechuan Chef is all the rage now among the Microsoft Chinese community. Great hand shaved noodles, yummy crispy onion pancakes with hot sauce, and good dry fried string beans (always my favorite). The hot pots look good too, but we haven't tried those yet.

    15015 Main Street Suite 107 (near the old KMart)

  • Pizza and Sandwich House is my favorite hole in the wall. I've been coming here for a dozen years or so (see if you can find the photos of me, Michelle, and the kids on the walls. It's an odd name for a Chinese restaurant unti you realize it's not a Chinese restaurant (or not just a Chinese restaurant). Lee and Joe used to run a Chinese restaurant in Seattle 20+ years ago when they decided it was too much damn work. They bought a little pizza and sandwich shop (hence the name) which was apparently an easier life. However, their old customers followed them to Bellevue and begged them for their old favorites. Now, the first two pages of the menu are pretty decent pizzas and grinders. The back page is all Chinese.

    Hands down, my favorite item on the menu is the spicy beef noodles with extra veggies. Damn, this is good eats. The crispy onion cakes are super here too (see a trend?) We also like the veggie potstickers (which come out in real Chinese fashion, the whole dozen or so potstickers upside down with a sheet of crispy floury stuff attaching them all -- hard to explain, but it's yummy.) Lee and Joe are simply great too. They are our extended family. A few warnings -- it's cash only and the facilities are not at all charming. The food and the owners are what make this place great.

    2245 140th Ave. N.E. (near Skate King, next to the Enterprise Rent-a-Car)

  • Chengdu Chinese Buffet is another unlikely Chinese hot spot. Tucked away in the same strip mall as the most horrible place on earth, Chengdu has scary Americanized, glowing orange Chinese food in some parts of the endless buffet tables, but in a few spots, they have some of the most authentic, delicious stuff. Just follow the Chinese folks around the tables and you'll find the good bits. I especially like the thinly sliced, peppery dried beef.

    14625 NE 24th St. (behind The Warehouse near Fred Meyer)

  • Cafe Ori is another staple of the local community. It's so popular, they bought out the space next door a few years ago and expanded into it. The place is still always full of local Chinese and in-the-known baigui (if you don't know what this means, you probably don't need to.) My all time favorite thing (and the boys') is the Pork Chop Rice -- two deep fried pork chops on a bed of rice that also has browned ground pork, tart pickles, and some veggies. How can deep fried pork chops be bad?! The Singapore Rice Noodles and the Beef Chow Fun are good too as is the Satay Beef or Chicken. Hell, it's all good.

    14339 NE 20th St Ste I (near the Ross and Video Only)

  • Wonton City, not surprisingly, has good wontons -- full of shrimp and pork with a little white pepper bite. They have the hard, thin noodles I like too. The congees (rice porridge) are also hen hao (very good). I only wish they were open late at night. Noodles and congee are good post-drinking food. The place is tiny and cash only.

    503 - 156th Ave S.E. (Lake Hills Shopping Center, near Stamos Cafe)

There are a few other decent places -- Jeem for dim sum (the owner was the former chef at Wild Ginger), Noble Court for roast duck and seafood and dim sum, and Regent Bakery for roast duck noodles and their killer mango pudding (only in season!).

Hm, I'm hungry now just thinking about it. Lunch anyone?

(This post was inspired by L who wrote about Seven Stars in Cookbook 411. The old owners of Seven Stars now own Szechuan Chef.)

Posted May 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

May 7, 2006

About Me

Categories: About

I realize that I haven't actually identified who I am anywhere on this blog except contextually, so I thought I should finally do so after 2.5 years of blogging.

Name: Tony Chor

Locations: Bellevue, Washington, USA. Grew up in Woodbury, Minnesota. Born in Bozeman, Montana.

Professional stuff: Group Program Manager, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Corporation (This means I lead the set of people who design future versions of IE, take care of existing customers, and run the process of shipping all this goodness to the world.)

Prior to IE, I've been the Product Unit Manager (aka Management Overhead) or some form of Program Manager on Works (Mac and Windows), Golf 1.0 for Windows, Bookshelf, Encarta Online, Picture It! and Home Publishing, children's titles like Magic School Bus, media and devices stuff for Windows, and an ill fated attempt to put 16-bit Windows into telephones. I came to Microsoft straight out of college in 1990.

Education: BS Computer Science, Stanford University

Family (and characters in this blog from time to time): Michelle (wife - the one with the taste and sense in the family), Andrew (8 - sweet boy), Michael (5 - evil genius)

Other interests: It seems my hobby is collecting hobbies. I'm a good geek who loves all manner of food and drink (especially whisky and anything that's crunchy, salty, or rich), photography, golf, sailing, shooting, reading, travel, and electronic gadgetry. I've also started exercising -- running, cycling, and swimming mostly. Oh, I guess I blog too.

I wish I could play an instrument well, speak other languages really fluently, and get through all my email each day. I figure the first two are possible with a little discipline and hard work...

So, that's me in a nutshell. Back to the regularly scheduled program.

Posted May 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Top 10 Barbeque Joints

Categories: Food and Drink

The Man Logo
Slashfood reported that USA Today has named the top 10 barbeque joints in America. I'm not sure USA Today is really the definitive source for all things food, but based on the one place on the list I've been (Goode Company Bar. B.Q. in Houston, TX) I'm sure the places are at least great.

I would have added Bullocks in Raleigh, NC, although I think I was swayed by the amazing baskets of hush puppies that came out first. I used to like Luther's in Houston a lot too (the reviews lately haven't been good). Then, there's always the County Line in Austin, home of all-you-can-eat q -- just the thing for hungry college boys. Of course, Seattle is not well known for good q, but near work, we love our Dixie's. You haven't lived until you've met The Man -- a crazy hot sauce that Gene, the proprietor, dishes out from a little sauce pan as he heckles you.

I love barbeque of all types and would love to hit this list. Even better, I want to go on a tour of the great bbq cookoffs and contests around the country to judge for myself. Anyone want to come? How can we pass up the "Superbowl of Swine" at the Memphis in May World Barbeque Championships?

(Maybe I should start with the list of Seattle's best q first though.

[Updated 5/10/2006 to fix the link to the Seattle's best q list]

Posted May 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Meskel: Yummy Ethopian!

Categories: Food and Drink

This week Michelle and I had a great Ethiopean dinner at Meskel, in Seattle. We used to go to Kokeb for Ethiopean fairly regularly, but they closed several years ago, and we hadn't really found (or looked for a replacement.) But, when we came across a recommendation for Meskel in this month's issue of Seattle Metropolitan. we figured it had been too long since we scratched our Ethiopean itch.

We were right. I'd forgotten how good Ethiopean food is. The slow cooked veggies and stews eaten with the spongey injera bread were fantastic. The Ethiopean beer and wine were reasonable matches with the food. Of course, the best part was the injera that was under the food on the communal plate, soaking up all the great flavors. Soggy with spice, it's always my favorite part of an Ethiopean meal.

The restaurant itself is in a house in the Central District; it is bright and airy as was the service. A good place; I'm sure we'll be back again.

2605 E. Cherry Street

Posted May 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 6, 2006

Sailboat designed by blog

Categories: Random cool stuff

Flying Tiger 10m under sail
I just came across this new sailboat called the Flying Tiger 10. It's a 10m raceboat built in China for $44,000 -- about half of what a comparable boat built in America would cost. It fits in a single container, and the steel cradle can be turned into a trailer. Perhaps the most interesting thing though, is that this boat was designed by a set of folks collaborating via blog and wiki. Boat designer Robert Perry and Bill Stevens posted about the idea on Sailing Anarchy. Pretty soon people started showing interest, making suggestions, and putting down money for the boats, sight unseen. Over fifty boats have been sold so far, all over the Internet as far as I can tell; there are no dealers (unusual for boats). You can read more about this in article from Sailing World.

It's neat to see how these web collaboration principles are moving out of purely electronic products into the "real world". The boat looks good too. I'm really boaty these days after we sold our Tartan 3500 Trinket. Looks like there have been ten sold to the Washington area. Wonder if we'll have enough for a class start? $44K sounds like a good price...

Posted May 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)