September 2006

September 30, 2006

To back date or not to back date?

Categories: Admin

Well, I finally posted the entries from my sailing trip. I had written them mostly during the trip, but I couldn't post them due to the lack of connectivity.

When I got around to posting them, I was confronted with an interesting question: should I back date them so the entries appeared on the days the events occurred (and the day I wrote them) or should the dates reflect the date the entry showed up?

This is more than an philosophical topic. For my readers who use the RSS feed, I didn't know what effect the backdating would have, especially since I had made one live post in the middle of the trip. I was concerned it might confuse others who visit the site regularly and suddenly saw entries from previous days.

Despite those concerns, I decided to backdate the entries. Since its inception, the blog has primarily been for me, serving as a journal. I decided to optimize for my usage; I wanted the entries to appear on the day the events occurred.

Any opinions?

Posted September 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Glen Breton - Canada's Single Malt Whisky

Categories: Food and Drink

As I've been working on these posts, I've been sipping on a dram of Glen Breton, Canada's only single malt whisky. The bottle was a gift from Scott from his recent trip to Nova Scotia.

I have to admit, I was a bit hesistant to try it; how good could a Canadian single malt be? As it turns out, it's not bad at all. It's a pretty straightforward whisky, clean and simple, but not bland or boring. It's a pretty easy-to-drink whisky as single malts go, without any smoke or peat flavor to speak of.

I don't think I'll go to crazy lengths to get another bottle, but it's certainly enjoyable. If you're looking for an easy way to get started with single malt, it's a good choice.

Posted September 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Mangosteen Update

Categories: Food and Drink

After my heavenly first mangosteen experience in Jakarta, I've been dying to find a local source. My blog readers came to the rescue.

Jeff pointed out that he's seen canned mangosteen, so I bought a few cans at the Uwajimaya Asian grocery near us. I was all excited to show my familiy what the fuss was all about. They were pretty good, but the texture was a bit soft and the flavor was very sugary - like the difference between fresh and canned peaches. I liked them, but the family wasn't impressed.

Then, as Yukino commented, mangosteen are available in Canada (I guess if you can't have guns, you need something worth living for...) So, while I was at the Granville Island market in Vancouver, I hunted for mangosteens and was delighted to find fresh mangosteen.

In the hotel, I tore into the mangosteens. These were better than the canned ones, but not as good as the ones in Jakarta. The flesh was a bit soft again; I imagine they were less fresh than on the ones inn Jakarta (or maybe I just bought some bad ones). Again, Michelle was not impressed. I ate them all, but they paled in comparison.

Guess I'll just have to go back to Jakarta to get some more...

Posted September 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A great dinner at the Blue Water Cafe

Categories: Food and Drink Travel

Blue Water Cafe

I had night in Vancouver, British Columbia before Michelle and the kids showed up. After checking into the Westin Grand Hotel (nice hotel, btw) and, of course, checking my email, I struck out to find dinner.

The last time Michelle was in Vancouver, she found the Blue Water Cafe in Yaletown and loved it. Since my lovely wife is always right, I decided to try it too. It was a short walk to the restaurant.

The place was packed, even though it was relatively early on Thursday night. I bellied up to the bar and was immediately gratified to see a huge wall of Scotch bottles before me. I settled into my old favorite Ardbeg 10 Years Old and started to salivate through the dinner menu. Blue Water has an extensive seafood menu including a good oyster list and an amazing sushi bar. Since I love whisky with oysters and sushi, I was in heaven.

As I chatted with Brad, the bar manager, I learned that Blue Water has over a hundred different single malt whiskies; the owner is apparently a huge whisky fan. Brad knew his stuff too. I had an amazing Ardbeg Uigeadail, which I hadn't seen before (Brad told me the local liquor store had a few bottles left, so I went the next day and bought one). I like it even more than the Ardbeg 10 - smoky and delish. I also did their Highland Park Scotch flight - a tasting each of the Highland Park 12, 18, and 30 year old whiskies. I'm a big Highland Park fan, so it was super to be able to try all three side-by-side. After that, I put myself in Brad's hands, letting him pick. I admit I lost track a bit of what he served, but they were all great...

The oysters and sushi were fantastic as well (of course, a few glasses of whisky makes everything taste good.) I chatted up my neighbors at the bar and met some nice folks including a guy getting ready to start his own restaurant and a couple from California who had just gotten off their chartered power boat after a week in the Canadian Gulf Islands (what a coincidence).

I had a very enjoyable evening at a fantastic restaurant. I'll definitely go back again.

Posted September 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 20, 2006

Ship's Blog: A Stormy Last Day

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates may be a bit messed up. This post is from the seventh day of the trip, Wednesday.)

Click here to see where we were and our approximate course.

Mike bravely weathers the storm. We left Smuggler's Cove this morning and headed into the teeth of a big storm. We motored for a while in 2-4 foot seas with 15-20 knot winds and rain coming exactly from the direction we needed to go. It was actually a good day to learn how to handle a boat in heavy weather. It was getting pretty tough with the boat pounding, but I admit I enjoyed it. For a while, the portholes on the low side of the boat (sailboats heel or lean in heavy wind) were under the water (click here for video of pounding seas and green water going past the porthole, 687K .wmv). It can get a little dangerous below in seas like this. I was laying down for a while trying to get a little nap when Mike and Dan tacked the boat (changed directions). Suddenly, stuff started flying across the boat - binders, books, Mike's iPod, jackets, etc. All of this stuff had settled someplace on the last tack, but now that the boat was heeling the other way, it all came shooting out again. Good times.

We hove to for a while so we could cook and eat (heaving to is a cool sailing trick where you almost stop the boat by balancing the sails and steering). It was actually a bit amazing to see the stove swinging around and the pot of hot soup not sliding around. (Stoves on sailboats are gimballed, allowing them to swing to match the heel of the boat so the pots don't slide off). After lunch, we sailed into the storm. Cap't Dan coached us on heavy weather sailing and tacking single handed.

Me going under the Lion's Gate BridgeAfter a bit, we motored the rest of the way into Vancouver, coming under the Lion's Gate Bridge. We're tied up now at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Coal Harbor outstation, on the edge of Stanley Park. We just had a good dinner in the cafe here on the docks. It's nice to have someone else cook for a change.

Michael took off back to Seattle, and we were joined by Brad, a new sailor who will be riding with Papa back to Seattle. I'm staying on board tonight and will hang out on the boat tomorrow for a while before they leave for the San Juan Islands. Michelle and the kids will be joining me here in Vancouver for the weekend.

It's been a great trip - relaxing and fun. It was kind of a gamble getting on a boat with two strangers, but it turned out fantastic. Mike and Dan were easy to get along with and good shipmates, and Papa was a great boat. I highly recommend Dan and SailPapa.com for any chartering.

I'm super glad I did it.

Posted September 20, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 19, 2006

Ship's Blog: Last Night at Sea

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates may be a bit messed up. This post is from the sixth day of the trip, Tuesday.)

Click here to see where we were and our approximate course.

We're holed up in Smuggler's Cove on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, about fifty miles north of Vancouver on our last night of the trip. We have the tiny inner bay all to ourselves; it's amazingly quiet and an appropriate finish before we arrive in busy Vancouver tomorrow.

Sign on the way out of Cortes BayThis morning we left the Cortes Bay outstation under sunny skies. Once we cleared the harbour, we pretty much had a straight shot down the Malaspina Straight. Once again, at the north end of Texada Island, we ran into a herd of Dall's porpoises. (my guess is that it was the same group we saw earlier) They played with us for a while and then turned tail and ran for greener pastures.

The wind was ideal for a few hours this afternoon, so we set sail, first sailing downwind wing-on-wing and then flying our spinnaker again. (It was nice of Cap't Dan to arrange a downwind run on our way out and another on our way back - it's neat and unusual go downwind north and south...) We ran for a few hours before the wind finally gave out.

All day we've been finishing our foodstuffs, finding creative and yummy ways to exhaust what's left. It's a good exercise.

The sign for Smuggler's Cove. BC has tons of these provincial parks.I'm a bit sad as I think of only one more day on the boat. We've settled into a good rhythm with everyone knowing what needs to be done and just making it happen. I've also enjoyed being disconnected from the world, like a week long plane ride. It'll be weird to be back in "civilization" tomorrow with connectivity, noise, and people.

More than anything, this trip has reminded me that I need to take time off of work.

We have another early tide to catch, so time to go bed. More thoughts later.

Posted September 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ship's Blog: Alive, Well, and Connected

Categories: Travel

After a few days beyond all electronic communication, we're back to civilization (well, we have wifi). We're tied up at the Seattle Yacht Club outstation here in Cortes Bay on Cortes Island, just at the mouth of Desolation Sound.

I have tons to write about, but I need to go to sleep now since we have to get up early to catch the tide back to Vancouver. It'll take us two days to go the one hundred miles back to Vancouver, and it looks like we'll have a storm blowing in our face the whole way. Should be interesting.

It's been stunning up here. We've had great experiences from seeing whales and porpoises to feasting on oysters to resting in secluded anchorages by ourselves. The weather has been mostly rainy with a few breaks, but I've loved it.

Anyway, more later.

Posted September 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 18, 2006

Ship's Blog: Oyster Heaven

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates may be a bit messed up. This post is from the fifth day of the trip, Monday.)

Click here to see where we were and our approximate course.

We woke up in our little cove to a whole new world. The sun had come out, and tide had gone down exposing a beach covered with oysters. I mean absolutely covered. You couldn't take a step without stepping all over the oysters. We took the dinghy into the beach and proceeded to feast on oysters. It was kind of caveman and a bit obscene really, using hammers and screwdrivers to smash and pry the oysters open to eat. Delish. (We felt pretty good about eating the oysters since the area has several large oyster farms.)

Dan eating oysters on the beach. Oysters (and little mussels) covering the beach

I also checked out the little lake behind the cove we were in. At high tide (when we came in) it looked like you could sail from our cove into this other cove, but at low tide, the back cove was cut off as the beach was exposed. It's good to know how to read a chart and tide book. Anyway, it was lovely.

Papa by Cassel Falls Mike jumping into Cassel Lake

After our little feast and dinghy ride (always fun), we picked up our anchor and motored off. We headed over to West Redonda Island and up the Teakerne Arm, a long fjord into the island. (Side note, we had a minor miracle of seamanship, finding a black fender that we had lost the day before.) Again, we were the only ones there all the way up to the end of the fjord to Cassel Falls, a water fall that goes from Cassel  Lake into the salt water of Teakerne Arm. Apparently, the flow wasn't very high, but it was still lovely. Dan dropped a pole into the water, so we pulled on his wetsuit and dove for it. Meanwhile, Mike and I hiked up to the lake and went for a (brief) swim. Once we got back to the boat, I decided I should swim in the salt water too, so I dove off of Papa's stern into the icy, icy water. Damn, it was cold.

My dive into Teakearne Arm.  Seattle Yacht Club outstation at Cortes Bay

As we left the falls, the rain picked up again, getting pretty bad, so we headed to Cortes Island and the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Cortes Bay. It was nice to have shore power again (so we could finish Master and Commander), wifi access, and a real bathroom/shower. We were the only ones at the entire outstation; I understand that during the busy part of the season, all 1500 feet of dock space are full.

Posted September 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 17, 2006

Ship's Blog: Rainy Day at Anchor

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates may be a bit messed up. This post is from the fourth day of the trip, Sunday.)

Click here to see where we were and our approximate course.

A cloudy day in Desolation Sound Well, it rained on me as I slept on deck. Actually, I was up already because Cap't Dan's cellphone was beeping as the battery ran low. After I killed the phone, I turned over to go back to sleep, but it started to rain, so I had to retreat back into Papa.

By the time we woke up again the morning, it was totally dumping. We all slept in, keeping warm in the cold boat (we left the diesel heater off to conserve power and to keep the boat quiet). I stayed in the sleeping bag for a while, reading and sipping coffee; it was a very civilized and pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning.

After lunch, we decided to go exploring a bit and find a new anchorage. We motored around for a while going from cove to cove. Dan put up a bimini cover over the cockpit to keep us a little more dry as the rain and wind picked up. We also hooked up the radar to help us see in the mist and fog (it's bloody hard to read a radar display; fortunately this was the same model we used to have on our boat.) We finally settled motored up Pendrell Sound in East Redonda Island. We were all alone in the sound; we didn't see another boat at all. We found a little cove, just big enough for Papa to anchor and swing around it; it was protected by an hooked peninsula and island. We dropped our bow anchor and stern tied to a tree on shore.

Mike and Dan showing how to drink beer on a boat.It kept raining pretty hard, so we decided to have movie night, watching Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World on Dan's computer, pumping the audio through the boat stereo. Unfortunately, the laptop ran out of power because the inverter (the thing that converts the 12 volt DC boat power into 110 volt AC power the computer needs) was broken (which we just discovered that evening). As a result, we only saw the first half of the movie (disappointing to me because I hadn't seen it before.)

Mike and I had a good geekfest (we got to play with a multimeter) diagnosing the inverter (but to no avail). The lack of the laptop means that we won't have a chartplotter - a GPS that draws on a computerized chart. We'll have the navigate the old fashioned way - a GPS and paper charts. Oh the horror. Mike and I considered a mutiny and thought about demanding a refund, but cooler heads prevailed.

Fortunately, we had plenty of beer. You can see Mike (left) and Dan (right) modelling all the good ways to hold a beer on a boat.

Posted September 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (51) | TrackBack (0)

September 16, 2006

Ship's Blog: Flying Under Sail

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates may be a bit messed up. This post is from the third day of the trip, Saturday.)

Click here to get an idea of where we were and an approximate view of our course.

Tony kissing the crab before returning it to the sea. I thought yesterday was the best day ever on a boat. Today might have been even better. We slept in a bit today and woke up this morning in Blubber Bay to a beautifully sunny day with a nice breeze from the southeast. I checked our crab traps and found a nice little Dungeness crab in there. We had another great breakfast (with bacon cooked on the grill, oven style -- wonderful on a boat too.)

After we cleaned up, we left our anchorage under sail and started flying as soon as we left the bay. In 20kts of wind, we were booking along at six and seven knots. It felt great to sail finally after motoring for the past two days. Once we turned north, we set our spinnaker and flew under the kite for three hours - easily my longest spinnaker  run ever. The highlight was cutting through the Thulin Passage in Copeland Island Provincial Marine Park under spinnaker. It's a very narrow passage, maybe a few hundred yards wide; the wind was exactly on our stern so we were able to run it under spinnaker -- very exciting and somewhat rare. We continued our run outside the passage until we turned the corner at Sarah Point into Desolation Sound, Mike flying the spinnaker through Thulin Passagewhere the wind died down.

As we motored up Desolation Sound, I sat in the bow pulpit (my favorite place) and just soaked in the amazing scenery. The sun was still super warm and was lighting up the big mountains and islands perfectly. It's really fjord-like back here. We pulled into the very lovely Prideaux Haven, a small set of protected coves described as the "quintessential Desolation Sound anchorage" in the guidebook. There were already a few boats in the two main coves, so we picked Melanie Cove, the one with four sailboats (it's funny that even here, the sailboats and stinkpots keep apart). The water was glassy and full (I mean full of zillions) of jellyfish (so no swimming here). We anchored easily and went for a dinghy ride to the island. Once we pulled up on the island, we hiked around for an hour and then pulled up a few oysters. Michael had his first raw oyster, standing in the water where it was harvest and bashed open by Cap't Dan. He loved it.

Papa in Prideaux Haven We came back to Papa and prepared yet another feast - salad, ribeye steaks grilled three ways (soy sauce marinade, jerk marinade, and plain with a rosemary/garlic herb butter), corn on the cob, and red potatoes tossed with the same rosemary/garlic butter. We washed it down with a nice Ravenswood cab.

It's quiet here like no quiet you could ever get in town and the visibility is stunning. We sat in the dark looking at the stars, even seeing satellites shoot past. Unfortunately, the clouds were rolling in, so we did see as much as last night.

Tomorrow, we're supposed to get a real blow, so who knows what it will be like. I'm sleeping on deck tonight to get a real sense of the outdoors. Hopefully it won't rain on me.

Posted September 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 15, 2006

Ship's Blog: An Amazing Day

Categories: Travel

(Note: I wrote this post on the day the events occurred, but posted this after the trip, so the dates are a bit messed up. This post is from the second day of the trip, Friday.)

Click here to get an approximate view of where we were today and our course.

Today may have been the best day I've ever had in a boat -- and we didn't really even sail! After a late start due to grocery shopping, chart shopping, waiting for the liquor store to open, and getting more fuel, we took off from Nanaimo this morning around 10:00am. The weather was overcast with a 10kt wind right on our nose from the northeast. We had to take a slightly longer route to skirt Whiskey Golf, a Canadian weapons testing range (36ft fiberglass sailboats lose 100% of the time against torpedoes moving at 50kts). The Canadians had a big amphibious assault carrier out on the range turning circles; not sure why.

Driving the boat from the hammock As we motor sailed north (again, more motoring than sailing) and enjoyed the great breakfast Michael cooked, the weather opened up and the seas became flatter. It really became a very pleasant day. I learned how to input the GPS waypoints and have the autopilot drive from point to point which made my job even easier. I just hung out on deck watching the islands go by, taking a few photos, and reading my book. The photo here shows me sitting in the hammock with the autopilot remote. The data on the display shows that the cross-track error is zero: we're on course. Hard work...

Later in the afternoon, we finally killed the two crabs that Cap't Dan caught a few days ago. I steamed them over beer, garlic, and basil and made some garlic/basil butter for dipping along with some garlic bread. We ate our lunch on deck and washed it all down with some cold beer. The crabs were amazingly great and tasted even better in the sunshine and breeze.

Cap't Dan taking a picture of the grey whale just forward of the boat. As we reached the north end of Texada Island, we heard a wooshing sound and saw a grey whale on the surface. We killed our engine and sailed along the path of the whale, watching it blow and dive for a while. Then the whale approached the boat a few times. At one point, it crossed less then twenty yards in front of the boat, and then rolled under Papa with one tail fluke coming out of the water. We could see a spiral line of bubbles disappear into the deep. The whale continued to play with us, going under the boat a few times (we could see our depth sounder go from 400+ f eet deep to 20 feet instantly and then drop back to 400+.

After a while, we resumed our course when, ahead in the distance, we could see a lot of splashing. Michael and I then realized it was a line of Dall's porpoises coming at us, jumping along the surface of the water. These amazingly fast animals jetted by us (under the boat). We turned and followed them and then came back and swam under the boat and jumped along side us for a while (click here for video, 543K .wmv). It was truly amazing. Finally, they took off in search of a more fun and food. The three of us each had our cameras out (I had two) and were shooting, yelling, and laughing the whole time, maybe 45 minutes.

Papa getting ready to leave Blubber BayBecause of our time with the whale and porpoises, we realized we weren't going to make our destination by dark, so we decided to stay in Blubber Bay, which was close by. This is a little bay on the north end of Texada Island. It would be cute except for the limestone quarry right at the water's edge and the ferry that runs between the bay and the mainland, presumably to take the workers to and from the factory. Fortunately, it quieted down after sundown.

We circled the bay a few times to check out our anchoring conditions. Neither Michael nor I had ever set an anchor for real, so this was great chance. We put out a bow and stern anchor (with Michael having to row the stern anchor out) and then set about making dinner - a nice meal of grilled halibut, corn on the cob, buttered red potatoes, and hot chocolate chip cookies. While we enjoyed our dessert, we relived the day through all of the photos and videos we shot. There were definitely some great shots.

Even with the ferry dock and factory here, it's amazingly quiet and dark. We can see the Milky Way and zillions of stars (including a shooting star). It's really lovely and peaceful.

Time to go to bed. Tomorrow: Desolation Sound.

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

September 13, 2006

Ships Blog - Arrived on Papa

Categories: Travel

I'm on Papa with Captain Dan and my shipmate Michael here in Bellingham. Michael and I planned to take the train up here, but there was something wrong with the train so we wound up taking a bus - less cool than watching the sunset from the coastline train.

Anyway, so far these guys seem cool. Michael is a user experience designer at Adobe, so we're all geeked out already.

We're settled in for the night and are planning to ride the early morning current out to Nainaimo.

Should be fun!

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

Going Sailing

Categories: Travel

Papa, the Bavaria 36 I'll be sailing on.

I've decided to go on a sailing trip, leaving tomorrow. I'll be sailing on a boat named Papa, a Bavaria 36, from Bellingham, WA, up toward Desolation Sound (between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland) and back to Vancouver, BC. We'll be gone a week, plus Michelle and the kids will meet me in Vancouver for a few days afterwards.

It was definitely a spur-of-the-moment thing. I had been thinking about taking some time off since I haven't really taken a vacation all summer. I was noodling around the Windworks Sailing Club site and came across the link to Papa. Captain Dan runs the boat as a charter sometimes and was planning on a trip from Seattle to points north. I liked the vibe of the site and wanted to get some more boat time this summer (I had precious little), so I gave him a call. I liked him on the phone, so I decided to do it.

There will be one other guy on the boat with us; hopefully, everyone is cool, otherwise thirty-six feet will not be very big. I'm not normally one to do things like this at the drop of a hat, so I'm kind of proud of myself for taking this chance. We'll see how it goes.

Dan talked about supplementing our diet with crabs, salmon, oysters, clams, and shrimp, so the foodie in me is excited. I'll also be taking some sailing classes on-board to get my next level of certification, which will be nice too.

Special thanks goes to my loving and understanding wife, Michelle, who is taking the boys solo again so I can play.

I'll try to update the blog as I go. We'll see if I can get connected.

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

September 9, 2006

Beating Blog Spam

Categories: Admin

As you may have noticed, I've had an ongoing blog spam problem. In many respects you could say that my hobby was deleting blog spam, not writing a blog.

Well, thanks to a tip from Yukino, I installed MT-Akismet, a Moveable Type plug-in that does some anti-spam magic.

It's changed my life. In the past few days, I've deleted maybe three pieces of blog spam that slipped through instead of the hundreds I delete normally. There seems to be a virtually zero false-positive rate as well, judging from the scans of the junked comments I've made.

I now have hours more a day to write meaningless posts that no one reads and to screw around looking for old music on Urge. Happy day!

Posted September 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

September 7, 2006

WMP 11, iRiver Clix, and URGE

Windows Media Player 11 and URGE

Over the past few weeks, I've been playing with the beta versions of Windows Media Player 11. It's really a huge improvement over previous versions of WMP; the UI is much cleaner, focusing on being a great music player first vs. trying to be all things to all media types.

In particular I love the integration with MTV's URGE online music service. I played with the free trial of the service that allows you to listen to and download as much music as you want. It is incredibly addictive, finding old songs I'd almost forgotten, finding new music through their playlists (who knew there was so much great swamp blues?), and listening to current hits. I've spent hours and hours finding fun music online and enjoyed it enough to pay for a full year's subscription.

iRiver Clix

I also liked it enough to buy an iRiver Clix MP3 player. This is a very sexy little 2G music player (the terrible iRiver site does nothing to show off how slick this little guy is.). The whole screen is a big rocker switch, the UI is very swish in a Vista-like way, and the feature set is great (music, fm, video, Flash games, voice recording, photos). The Clix supports the DRM scheme from URGE, so I can download songs onto the player from the service as part of my subscription. It's been super fun listening to the songs on the Clix when I work out or in the car (through an FM transmitter I have).

The combination of WMP11, URGE, and the Clix is the first viable competitor to iTunes/iPod IMHO. I'm anxious to see what comes of the Zune player we're working on; in the meantime, I love this setup. (Note, I don't know anything about Zune aside from what I've read on the Internet and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the Wikipedia article I linked to.)

Try out beta 2 of WMP11 here.

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

September 6, 2006

Bleary jet-lagged haze

Categories: Travel

Ugh, I've been going through the worst jet-lag recovery since coming home. Flying east is always harder anyway, but several other events at home have conspired to make this recovery worse than normal.

I did a good job managing the flight home, switching to Seattle time as soon as I got on the flight in Jakarta and sleeping at mostly the right times. The first night home I had no problems sleeping. The second night I camped with the boys in the backyard. The combination of the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements (we were one sleeping bag short, so I was sleeping on blankets on the ground) and Michael (6) waking up a few times left me unable to get a reasonable night's rest. I tossed and turned again last night, being too overconfident that things would be OK to take melatonin (my jet-lag medication of choice). Unfortunately, I took a nap today, so I'm up this evening/morning.

It's 3:00am now, and I'm wide awake. I just read all of Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, Vol. 1) (the first book in the trilogy after the original six Star Wars books - it was actually a pretty fun read. Thanks, Irene, for the suggestion).

Anyway, it's too late this evening for melatonin. I should just try to power through and get some sleep. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Posted September 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

September 2, 2006

Thoughts on Eva Air

Categories: Travel

On this trip to Jakarta, I flew on Eva Air for the first time. They are an air carrier from Taiwan) and do a very competent job. The service was very attentive and the food (if you like Chinese food) was quite good.

However, their older planes like the 747-400s I flew on don't have the amenities that I've come to expect from international business class (esp. trans-Pacific). In particular there is no power in the seats, there's no on-demand entertainment system, and the seats are old-school. The contrast to my flight on Air New Zealand was startling. I understand their new 777s are much nicer. Too bad they don't use them on the Seattle-Taipei leg yet.

The only other big complaint I have with Eva is that the they aren't part of any big airline miles systems, so I couldn't log the miles on any of my normal carriers; the closest I could get to a carrier I might fly again soon is Continental. Oh well.

On the older 747-400s like we were on, First and Business class are upstairs (get a window seat so you have the storage bins right next to you). Don, a nice guy I met on the flights who flies Eva regularly, says the Evergreen Deluxe class has the same seats but are downstairs in front and cost $1000 less. Good tip.

Anyway, I wouldn't hesistate to fly Eva again, especially since they were more convenient and less expensive to Jakarta than Northwest.

Posted September 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Home Again

Categories: Travel

Ah, home. While Indonesia had its charms, I'm glad to be home where I can drink the tap water, drive between the stripes on the road, and see through the air. Oh, it's good to see Michelle and the kids too... :)

Aside from the two jackasses across the aisle who thought that everything they said was important enough for the whole plane to hear (it wasn't), the flight from Taipei was uneventful. I stayed awake most of the flight in order to be sleepier when I got home at 7:30pm.

I was the first one off the plane and through passport control (I think that may have been the first time for me for both of those.) Even though I got flagged into an agricultural inspection (I guess they get ansy when you come from Indonesia and say you're carrying food products, even if it is just chilli sauce and roasted coffee beans), I was in my car less than an hour after wheels down. God bless America.

Posted September 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Back in the Taipei airport

Categories: Travel

Finally got connected here in the airport in Taipei. I'm at the end of the three hour layover and will finally be on my way home. I'm trying to shift back to Seattle time, which unfortunately means I need to power through the flight and stay awake.

Anyway, it'll be good to be home.

Posted September 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

M-M-Mangosteen

Categories: Food and Drink Travel

Perhaps the biggest highlight of my trip to Jakarta was that I finally tasted a real mangosteen. The mangosteen is a tropical fruit that I only ever tasted in the form of mangosteen flavored chewing gum (easily the best gum I've ever had). According to the Wikipedia article, mangosteen is illegal to import into the US for fear of fruit flies, so I've never been able to taste the real fruit in the US before.

Anyway, I was in the grocery store in the basement of the Sogo department store in the upscale Plaza Senayen shopping mall. (I like visiting grocery stores in different countries. Interesting to see what they have to offer.) After passing the stinky durian, I noticed a fruit with a sign that said mangis. I wondered if this could be the fabled fruit (I didn't really know what they looked like.) I figured I had nothing to lose by buying two, so I picked them up along with some coffee beans (how can you not buy coffee when you're on the island of Java?) and candy for the boys and went back to the hotel.

I eagerly cut open the first one, revealing the yummy white fruit. Success! It was a mangosteen. The fruit inside the thick red peel is like a white tangerine - a few small sections and one big one containing the pit. The texture of the flesh is kind of like lychee (if that helps) but thicker. The flavor was ethereal - delicately intense like a great pear. Anyway, I quickly wished I'd bought more. I'm not sure when I'll be able to find my next mangosteen, but I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, I'll have to see if I can find some canned fruit.

Here are some bad photos of my mangosteen.

The whole fruit

Opened up

The yummy bits. Notice the big piece with the pit.

Posted September 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

September 1, 2006

Home Bound

I'm done at last.

Me and the MVPs at MS Indonesia

My agenda originally had me finishing up mid afternoon on Friday at the local Microsoft office, but things ran long and I wound up having dinner with our MVPs (Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals - enthusiast volunteers who help support our users) at Izzi Pizza, a local pizza chain that serves pizza with a spicier Indonesian twist - not bad). As usual, the MVPs are awesome. This group in particular all knew each other well and really seemed to enjoy each others' company, so it was fun.

Risman from the local office asked me to come in today (Saturday) to open a developer event he was having, so I dutifully showed up to talk to the 100+ mostly ASP.net developers who came. I guess there was some misunderstanding about my role. I thought I was just going to do some quick ceremonial bit, but Risman was hoping for an IE7 talk and demo. I hadn't prepared anything or even brought my computer, so I freestyled a fifteen minute talk with Q&A. I jetted out afterwards with six bottles and jars of local chilli sauce that Risman brought me after seeing how much I liked the sauces the day before. Pretty much everyone I've met in the various Microsoft offices has been great; they do so much for us and have so much energy and initiative. We're lucky to have them be our face to the customer.

So, now I'm back in the hotel room packing. I've got about an hour before I need to leave.

See you on the other side.

Posted September 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

At Last: A Real Indonesian Meal

Categories: Food and Drink Travel

Hermawan and Risman at lunch

Hermawan and Risman (above) from the local Microsoft office took me out to a place near the office for a real Indonesian lunch. This little cafe served Padang-style food where the servers bring out a bunch of dishes, and you only pay for the ones you eat. You can see the various plates stacked up in front of us. There was a great chicken curry, another chicken covered in curry and then roasted, some nice shrimp with potatoes, and a good dried beef. Almost everything was very nice.

Nasi Padang - fried beef lung

With some glee, Hermawan put this crispy brown thing on my plate and wanted to see if I'd try it. Risman sat giggling. I asked what it was; Hermawan just said he'd tell me after I ate it. So I did. It tasted kind of like a pork rind, but beefy and a bit grainy. Not bad all in all. It's a dish called nasi padang -- fried beef lung. Well, that was a first for me. I think I earned some cred by eating it without flinching. As we left the table, I finished off the last bite just to show I wasn't scared of it. Somehow, I don't think it's going to ever make it big in the States.

 Dessert!

We also had a tasty but slightly weird looking dessert. It was a bowl of coconut milk, tapioca noodles (I think), some bright pink fruit (like a cross between passionfruit and a pomegranate), jack fruit (yum), and avocado over ice. Frankly, the ice scared me the most as the water isn't great around here (I've been avoiding ice all week). It was yummy and refreshing, I must admit.

When it came time to tally the meal, the waitress pointed to a few dishes where we only ate part of the dish, like one of the two pieces of chicken; she only charged those as half a dish. A bit scared, I asked my hosts whether they re-served the uneaten food. They both smiled and said "I think you know the answer." As Michelle wrote to me when I told her this, "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, ick, ick, ick"

Lack of American-style hygiene aside, it was a good meal. I'm glad to have had at least Indonesian meal outside the hotel ordered by locals in the know. It was very memorable...

(Pardon the poor photo quality; these are camera phone snaps. We left the office in a hurry since we were short on time so I forgot my real camera.)

Posted September 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)