July 2006

July 31, 2006

Got my first Google Adsense check

Categories: Admin

I just got my first check for the ads on my site. It was enough for a very nice bottle of whisky (which is likely what I'll buy). I think this is my first hobby that has generated any money. Not enough to retire on, but it's fun.

Google won't sent the check until you have $100 in the account. I got to this point more quickly than I expected when I first started with the ads in November of last year. (Traffic has been picking up slowly). I admit it was fun to watch the money add up - a quarter here, a dime there. I haven't really done anything to optimize the ads; this was just a grand experiment. I will say that the Google guys have done a good job here.

Thanks to everyone for clicking the ads!

Posted July 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 24, 2006

Fine dining in Portland: The Heathman and Fenouil

Categories: Food and Drink

Kellie tears into her lamb at Fenouil
After finishing the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride last weekend, our merry band wanted to celebrate. We started out at the Heathman Hotel bar (where we were staying). Clint and I got an early start, befriending Grant, our talented bar tender. I had intended to have just one drink, but the Heathman specializes in classic cocktails and Grant was doing a great job; I put myself in Grant's capable hands and enjoyed several delicious and unique cocktails. The consensus favorite was the classic Old Fashioned whisky cocktail. I then perused their good whisky collection and spotted a rare whisky from a favorite distillery - the Ardbeg Provence. This lovely bottling is a 1974 vintage and goes for $589 for a bottle online. I had to splurge and have a glass for $75 - an affordable extravagance (more on those later). OMFG. It was complex and peaty without being overwhelming; really really stunning. It was especially lovely with the plate of oysters I ordered.

I shared the glass and oysters with Clint and my new friend Karl Zenk, the Chef de Cuisine at the Heathman Restaurant, who was sitting at the bar for a beer before he left for the day. We chatted about food, restaurants, and other stuff for a while. NIce guy.

After everyone joined us for a drink, we headed off to Fenouil in the Pearl. This is a swish French place in the Pearl, a cool gentrified neighborhood in downtown Portland. Michelle had discovered this place recently and highly recommended it. The restaurant was beautiful with big garage doors that opened up the restaurant to the lovely evening air. We sat just inside the doors and really enjoyed breeze. We started out with one of my favorite Champagnes, the Billecart Salmon Brut Rose. One of our party winced when they heard me order a rose, but everyone loved it.

Then, the endless progression of food started. First a round of starters - duck confit (the hands-down favorite), a Kobe steak tartare (also fab), a crab and avocado thing (lovely - but the drinks started setting in here, so I start to get a little hazy on the details) and maybe one other yummy. For our main courses, we had a good selection including more Kobe beef, some lovely lamb, and some nicely grill duck. While these were quite good (not uniformly spectacular though), the real highlights were the sides of frites doused in truffle oil (simply to die for - we ordered more) and a plate of beans (fava or lima?) tossed in some rich butter sauce (these were my favorite dish of the evening). All of this was washed down with a few bottles of decent Chateauneuf du Pape (a good all around food wine, imho).

Honestly, I can't recall what the desserts were at this point (some flan and something chocolately?) but they were good too. (I should blog about this stuff sooner. I'm clearly in no danger of becoming a real food writer like my friend Hillel.) The service was very good to boot; our very French waiter was attentive and helpful without being overbearing.

We did have one funny point in the evening where I asked him what fenouil means. He replied "fennel" in a heavy French accent, which, as it turns out, sounds a lot like a French person saying "fenouil". So I asked him again, "No, what does fenouil mean?" More firmly, he replied, "fennel" in that same heavy accent. This went on a for maddening few rounds before the light clicked on for me, and I finally got what he was saying. Just then, I saw the huge fennel bulb drawing on the menu cover. Doh.

Anyway, back to the Heathman Bar for a drink with Grant and a very nice round of tawny port on the house (stunning pale color, but not sure what it was) and a raid on Bruce and Theresa's minibar in their suite capped off the evening.

The next morning, Clint, Kellie, Chase, and I had a great breakfast at the Heathman Restaurant. We ran into Karl (the Chef de Cuisine there) and said hello. He generously sent out a nice fruit plate for us. I was also introduced to the joys of sriracha (the infamous Rooster Sauce, although the waiter confessed they called it something else amongst themselves. Think of a word that begins with "c" that can mean rooster). I've had Sriracha before, of course, but never on eggs. Spicy and sweet, this was an epiphany, perfect in every way. I may never eat eggs without sriracha again.

After all that, I think I gained about five pounds on the trip despite having ridden 200 miles. A man has to have his priorities.

Posted July 24, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2006

Paceline riding secrets

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Riding in a loose paceline
One of the things that the organizers of the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride emphasize is the importance of learning to ride in paceline. A paceline consists of two or more riders in a line riding close together in order for the riders behind the lead rider to benefit from the draft of the riders ahead. Apparently, the benefit can be up to a 30% savings in energy for the same speed. I can attest to the benefits.

There are lots of places on the web that will teach you the basics, so I thought I'd share some of the less obvious pointers I gleaned from my STP ride last week.

  • The riders in front have to communicate because the riders in back can only see the leaders' butts. There are a series of hand signals and calls that are used to indicate a danger ahead, e.g. pointing to a pothole or yelling "car up"). There were a few instances of leaders ahead forgetting and me hitting a big bump by surprise. Not happy. I'm not naming names, but his name rhymes with "truce".
  • When the rider in front is looking at the fields on the side of the road, chatting with someone, or seems otherwise preoccupied, he is not looking at the road and hence will not warn you of impending danger. Yell at them to get them to pay attention. The guilty party's name rhymes with "flint".
  • When the rider ahead of you lifts a butt cheek, jam on your brakes -- he's about to fart. Let me tell you that riding six inches off the guy's tire is not far enough to avoid the stink, even at twenty miles per hour. I think the gas gets trapped in the draft or something. Truce and Flint were both guilty of this and both had a big smile when they did it. Bastards.

Anyway, if you keep these things in mind as well as the normal tips (like "pay attention" or "don't ram the guy in front") you can easily be a successful paceline rider too.

Posted July 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2006

Mr. Precise

Categories: Kids

As I was coming out of a local mall with Andrew (9) and Michael (5) this evening, we passed by a Cold Stone Creamery shop (a good ice cream chain). Michael immediately started pestering me to go in.

Michael: "Please, please, please can we go to Cold Stone?" [repeat n times]

Me: "Michael, stop begging."

Michael: [stopping dead in the parking lot and looking straight at me] "I'm not begging. I"m badgering." ["duh" look on his face.]

Well, damn. I didn't expect to be corrected like this for at least another year or two.

Still, no ice cream. I'm just mean that way. Especially to snarky kids.

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

July 17, 2006

STP Day 2: I'm done!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

STP finisher patch

Yippee!! Bruce, Clint, and I finished the last fifty or so miles of the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride yesterday, completing just over 200 miles over two days. I'm thrilled and more than a little relieved. I honestly wasn't sure how this ride was going to go given the time and distance and the fact I didn't train as much as I'd hoped.

The amazing thing about the second day was the ride felt awesome. While my hands and butt were still a bit sore from the day before (although not nearly as much as people had warned me about), my legs and back felt great.

Entering Oregon on the Lewis and Clark Bridge
We left our hotel in Kelso around 9:20am and rode the few miles to the Lewis and Clark bridge that crosses the Columbia River into Oregon. We waited for a few minutes there to be escorted with hundreds of other STP riders across the bridge. It was pretty exciting to climb up the bridge, see the "Entering Oregon" sign, and then do a fast descent down the other side. (On one big expansion joint, you could see a dozen water bottles that had bounced off of peoples' bikes on the side of the road.)

Once we got going, Clint took off again. Bruce and I were also riding a lot faster than the day before, feeling very strong. We only made one stop early on to use the bathroom and then rode continuously all the way in. For a while, we rode with a older lady on a triathlon bike. As Bruce talked to her (I call him "Chatty Cathy" because he talks to everyone we bike past) we discovered that she's completed four Ironman races in the last two years, but is taking some time off since her grandson was born. Well, we couldn't get dropped by a grandmother, so the three of us bombed along at 21-22 miles an hour for a while in a nice pace line until she pulled off at a rest stop. Both Bruce and I breathed a sigh of relief and slowed down a bit after that.

I enjoyed riding into Portland. We had nice views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood plus the city as we pulled in. The only downer was that we seemed to hit every red light in Porland for the last few blocks. The worst was that we hit the red light across the street from the finish line. After 200 miles, we had to wait a minute for the light to change so we could go the last twenty feet. Bruce kindly let me finish first so the photographer could get a shot of just me. As I crossed the finish line, the announcer called out my name, which was kind of fun too.

Me, Clint, and Bruce at the finish line party with our patches

In Halladay Park at the finish line, the organizers had set up a big party, so there were food booths, a beer garden, and bike equipment/clothes booths. We checked in our bikes and then looked around for Clint, who showed up about 15-20 minutes later. He had been waiting for us at one of the rest stops and missed us as we went by. So, as it turned out, I finished first...

Anyway, we hung out at the party for a while with Bruce's wife Theresa plus Kellie and Chase (who went shopping in Portland since we didn't need support for the shorter ride today). We then headed over to the Heathman Hotel (one of my favorites) where we were staying the night. I had a wonderful shower and then a great massage. More on rest of the afternoon and evening later.

My GPS at the finish
Today I'm barely sore and am walking just fine. I was surprised how strong I felt through the finish. In total, I rode for 12:30 on the bike at an average speed of 16.1 miles per hour over the 200+ milles - faster than the 15 mph I'd expected. The second day was closer to 19 mph average. I think our overall elapsed time was about 15:20. (Note, my data isn't quite perfect because I left the GPS on for the mile+ from the trail to our hotel in Kelso and the mile back to the line, but then I forgot to turn the GPS back on as we crossed the bridge into Oregon. It's close, anyway).

I'll blog more about STP lessons, quotes, and stories later. For now, sufficed to say, I'm very happy.

Posted July 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2006

STP Day 1: I'm alive after 150 miles!

Categories: Exercise and Racing

My first century

I'm very happy to report that Bruce, Clint, and I (and especially I) made it all the way to Kelso on the first day of STP. We rode all the way up to the lovely Red Lion in Kelso, not needing our sag wagon that our friends Kellie and Chase were driving (how funny -- Chase driving the chase car. I'm low on blood sugar. Everything is funny...) You can see the route map here to get a sense of where we are.

What's more, I feel great, even this morning, the dreaded day after. I'm not sore (well, not really sore) except that my ass feels like, well, ass. This, however, was to be expected.

We started at 6:20am, a bit later than we had hoped, but we settled into a good pace after we cleared out of the starting line mess. The first 50-70 miles felt pretty good, so I equalled my longest ride pretty easily. The fact that it wasn't very hilly and the weather was pleasantly cool and overcast helped no doubt. I made the mistake of trying to keep pace with Clint, however, who was booming along, so I started to feel pretty tapped and sore as I limped into Centralia, the 100 mile point (see the image on the above documenting my first century - I forgot to take the photo at the end). I wasn't really sure if I could keep going, but Clint and Kellie advised me to eat some real food and sit for a while. After a big plate of spaghetti and sitting for about 30 minutes, I felt like a new man. The last fifty miles (well forty miles) felt super good. We pulled into Kelso just before 6:00pm, after 148.8 miles and 9:20 riding time.

The one lowlight was that my heartrate monitor was acting up, so I didn't have reliable heartrate data most of the ride. This is important because I was largely setting my pace via the heartrate to keep myself from dying. Bruce did a good job reminding me to slow down. It's good to have the voice of experience to keep you in line.

The ride definitely reminded me that, like Lance Armstrong said, it's not about the bike. There was one very clear moment of this as a line of people who were riding the same Trek 1500 (same year even) as I do came flying past me. I hit an even lower point when the woman on the Trek 1000 (a lower end model that I have) went by. Of course, I passed people on $3000 carbon fiber bikes too, so turnabout is fair play, I guess.

There was an amazing range of bikes. Early on we passed a guy on a Big Wheel, a guy on a unicycle, and a skateboarder. Later, we rode with a dude and a woman from New Belgian Brewing Company (makers of Fat Tire Ale and one of the sponsors) riding heavy single speed coaster bikes. Of course, there were also the teams of racers flying past too. Most everyone was pretty nice along the ride.

Last night, we had a nice steak dinner and a few beers and then crashed. Lots of fun.

Anyway, time to get ready, I'll have more later. See you at the finish line party!

Posted July 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 14, 2006

Packed and Ready for STP


Well, I think I'm ready to go to Portland on this nutty bike ride. I've packed my gear, Gu, and extra Cytomax powder in little baggies. My bike is lubed and tires pumped up. All that's left is to ride the damn ride.

Bruce and his wife will be picking me up at 4:30am tomorrow. We're driving over to our friend Kellie's, who lives near the start line, where we will meet Clint. Kellie has promised to make us a nice high carb breakfast. With any luck, we'll get to the starting line at the University of Washington and be ready to leave by around 5:30am.

Clint, Bruce, and I will be riding. Kellie wimped out this year, but she agreed to drive support for us, carrying our bags and meeting us along the way in case we need anything. We're staying in Kelso the first night, 150 miles into the ride. This is well past the Centrailia mid point (100 miles); the strategy is to go as far as possible the first day and then have an easier second day. My longest ride is 70 miles so far, so 150 is a significant step up. Fortunately, this route is much flatter than the 70 I did, so it should be a little more straightforward. (Our friend and co-worker Todd is also riding STP this year, but he's doing the whole ride in a single day and then coming back the next day - the PTS. What's more, he and a buddy are doing this on a tandem bike. Whacky.)

Anyway, guess I should get some sleep. I'll have a little camera with me and my laptop in Kellie's car. I hope to blog in Kelso and Portland.

See you on the other side.

Posted July 14, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2006

Hawaiian Breeze

Categories: Food and Drink

I love Hawaii and Hawaiian food. Give me a big ol' plate lunch with two scoop and mac salad anytime. Based on a comment on Neon Epiphany (a blogger who commented on my Chinese restaurant recommendations), I took the family and met our friend Fukiko to Hawaiian Breeze in Wallingford (a neighborhood north of downtown Seattle.)

The place is pretty simple with a broad Hawaiian menu - plate lunches, saimin, katsu of different varieties, and so on. I was glad they didn't have kalua pork on the menu; while I love kalua pork, it's doubtful they could produce a really good rendition in a kitchen in Wallingford, so I'm glad they didn't try.

I got off to a nice start with some lilikoi (passionfruit) juice; I love the stuff and have a hard time finding it in Seattle (except mixed with other juices).

Fukiko and I both love Spam musubi (which is really what motivated the trip) so we each had one. Spam musubi is a slice of cooked Spam (yes, the canned meat product) on a dollop of rice and wrapped in nori; in short, it's Spam sushi. Yum. (I have to say, though, that I like the Spam musubi at the Newcastle Golf Club snack bar more. It has a little more oomph.)

For my dinner, I had a big plate of loco moco - a hamburger patty topped with brown gravy and a fried egg all on top of a mound of rice. The loco moco was really only OK. The patty was generous but kind of tough, the gravy was a bit thin and wimpy tasting, and the egg was fried hard. I had hoped for something a little more sublime.

I also stole Michelle's macaroni salad (aka "mac" salad) and doused it with soy sauce. Mmm. I did taste Michael's chicken teriyaki saimin, which was also very good. Michelle and Fukiko seemed to like their katsu.

The highlight was probably the desserts though. We shared a homemade strawberry ice cream pie on a vanilla wafer crust as well as a massive coconut cake sitting in a pool of homemade chocolate sauce. Both were really great.

The staff was reallly friendly. Even though some of the dishes were only OK, I'd love to go back and try more of the menu, if only to get more mac salad and lilikoi juice.

Note, the restaurant can be a bit hard to find. It's kitty corner across 45th from the Wallingford QFC.

Posted July 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Countdown to STP

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Eek. Two days to STP (the Seattle-to-Portland bike ride I signed up for back in February.) I'm still nervous about my ability to do this, but I've done what I can do to prepare. Now, I just need to ride smart and get through it.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to it. I've never tried any physical activity of this length, so we'll see what happens. Hopefuly, the weather will be good Saturday and Sunday. Should be interesting anyway. Who knows, maybe the leaders will get thrown out on a drug scandal or someone will get a red card for head butting. I'll be sure not to insult anyone's mother or sister.

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

July 7, 2006

BBQ Tips

Categories: Food and Drink

I'm no bbq master, but I have picked up a few handy tips that make my life a little easier. I'm not sure where most of these are from (the amazing Alton Brown or the wonderful Cook's Illustrated The Best Recipe: Grilling and Barbecue, maybe?).

  • Use crumpled aluminum foil to clean your grate. Works like a charm, costs virtually nothing, and you can throw it away. I use it on the cold grill first (both sides) and then on the hot grill (using tongs to hold the foil ball) to get the last bits off.
  • Squirt a little oil on your newspaper before you light it to keep it burning longer. One of the classic charcoal starting failures is the newspaper burning out before the charcoal gets going. A little vegetable oil on the paper before you crumple it up seems to make the paper last longer so the charcoal has time to catch.
  • Let meat sit under foil for 10-15 minutes after you take it off the grill. The juices that move to the surface during cooking will redistribute throughout the meat for a juicier, more tender result. For ribs, you can wrap them in foil and then put them in a paper bag for an hour afterwards for even better results.

Now, if I only had some patience to let the coals get to the right state before I start cooking, I might figure this grilling thing out after all.

(BTW, both Alton Brown and Cook's Illustrated are my favorite cook book/cooking show producers. They both share a food science approach to cooking, explaining why things work the way they do. Fab.)

Posted July 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 1, 2006

Two things I suck at

Categories: Random junk

Gary Schare, my counterpart in Marketing, hosted a little poker party last night at his house. While we waited for people to show up, I shot a little pool with Max Stevens, a program manager on my team, and I shot a little pool. I suck at pool. This is despite having had a pool table for a few years.Max was nice enough not to gloat.

Turns out I suck at poker too. I haven't really played much, so I made a bunch of dumb mistakes including a mind-blower in the last hand. Fortunately, I won few big hands near the end of the night so it wasn't a total disaster, but I'm pretty sure I was the big loser of the evening.

I really do enjoy both pool and poker, so I guess I'll just have to get better at them or continue to enjoy losing. Anyway, fun night.

Posted July 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)