November 27, 2006
This weekend in Whistler, Michael (6) had a few doozies as he got upset at me for not letting him do one thing or another.
First, I told him to put away his Gameboy:
Michael: "If you take away my Gameboy, I'll kill you."
Me: "Would you really kill me over your Gameboy?"
Michael: "No, I would just kick you in the nuts."
Yeek. (Just for the record, I did not teach him this. I think it's something he learned at school...)
Then, in another incident of which the details are lost to time, he grew frustrated and couldn't think of anything to say to me except, "Besides, you're the worst driver in the family."
In both cases, I had to solo parent since Michelle was useless, laughing too much to be a credible disciplinarian. Of course, I had no idea what to say after each of these, making me useless too. Oh well.
Michelle and I took the boys up to Whistler, British Columbia, over the Thanksgiving weekend and just got back. Our timing and luck were great. The resort got an early dump of snow, so the skiing was good as was the snow play. Plus, since it's early in the season, the place wasn't very full yet. The weather was decent the whole time, with warmish (20 degrees F) temps and mostly light winds. It snowed almost the whole time, limiting visibility, but making for lots of fresh powder.
Andrew (9) went to ski camp for two days to polish up his very rusty skiing skills from a few years back and then skied with me the last day. He's a demon, bombing straight down the hill. It was really fun to ski with him, actually, even though we stayed on the easy runs (mostly Olympic at Whistler). Michael (6) wanted nothing to do with skiing and was more than content playing the snow and hanging out watching TV (since we don't have TV at home).
I haven't skied for three years and am definitely out of ski shape, despite my recent exercise. I was dying the first day -- thighs on fire, feet in pain, and heart racing. It took a while to settle back into any kind of rhythm, but I started to enjoy myself once I did. This was the first time I skied Whistler. I skied Blackcomb the one other time I've been at the resort before, a sunny May weekend many years ago where I skied the top of Blackcomb in a t-shirt and jeans in the morning and then swam under 75 degree sunshine in the Village that afternoon. It was pretty much the last weekend of the season that year; this was basically the first weekend of the season this year. Despite the extremes of the seasons, in both cases, only the tops of the resorts were open; the bottom runs back down the village were closed for lack of sufficient snow. Maybe some day, I'll actually ski the bottoms of the resorts.
Off the slopes, Michael and I played in a snow covered field (really a golf driving range across from the hotel) where we built an igloo, complete with a roof. Despite having grown up in Minnesota, this may have been the first time I've built a covered igloo (I have dug them out of snow banks before, but that's entirely different). The snow the first day was perfect - just wet enough to stick together, but not so wet as to be messy or heavy (after the first day, the snow was too powdery for building, but superb for sking). Each day Andrew, Michael, and I revisited the field and made something new out of the pieces of the igloo (since invariably someone would come smash it). We had a few epic snowball fights as well. Good fun.
We stayed at the Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler. This is a good hotel in Whistler, and I highly recommend it. The location is superb, right at the base of the Whistler gondola and a stone's throw to the Blackcomb gondola. It has great access to Whistler Village (lots of shops and restaurants) and couldn't be easier to drop the kids off at Whistler Kids for ski lessons. The hotel itself is newish with all the amenities that I like about Westin (especially the Heavenly Beds). We had a one bedroom suite which included a full kitchen and a dining table - convenient. Michelle and I had considered the Four Seasons, but after checking it out, we were glad we didn't go there. While it was certainly posh and I'm certain quite nice, it's location was terrible. Not only is it in the less-convenient Upper Village, but it's tucked away from the village areas behind another resort. We also tried a bunch of restaurants, which I'll write about later, but the short version is that almost everything we tried was a bit disappointing, even the vaunted Araxi.
The drive home was a bit of an adventure since everywhere from Whistler through about Everett had gotten a pile of snow. We were crawling along at 15-30mph for a huge part of the drive, with an hour+ wait at the border. The total time was about nine hours; by contrast, the drive up took just over five hours. We saw dozens of cars and trucks in ditches, spun out, or just plain stuck. Fortunately, we were in our four-wheel drive Honda Element, which handled the slick conditions like a champ.
Anyway, the whole time we were up there, I kept wondering why we don't go up to Whistler more often. It's beautiful, fun, and pretty convenient from Seattle, especially for a world-class resort. Hopefully, we'll go back soon.
November 22, 2006
Thanks to a generous loan from Bruce of his bike trainer (a stand you put your bike on so you can train indoors), I've started working out at home. It's been hard to go to the gym with the kids in school (and staying up later) plus Michelle working (and getting up earlier). I've enjoyed exercising at home, watching DVDs on a laptop while I pedal away.
Building on this small success, I decided to expand my little home gym to include a few dumbells and an exercise ball. I picked out the Reebok StayBall, because it had some zippy patent pending method to keep the ball from rolling around (a problem I saw at the gym). According to the website, "The StayBall's breakthrough design enables the ball to stay in place..." How could I pass this up?
So, I got the thing out of the box and hooked up the cheapo pump that came with it. I think the real intention is to have you work out filling the damn thing up because this little pump only put a puff of air into the ball each time. What's more, there are two holes in pump; one for the output and an inlet. The inlet had a flimsy rubber flap that hangs over the hole to keep the air from rushing out. Every so often, this little flap would pop out and start venting my hard-earned pressure back out. I had to use a nail to push it back into place.
It took me a long time to the folded up piece of rubber to start to look even vaguely spherical, and my ankles were dying from the forced march Reebok put me through when the little rubber valve gave up the ghost and tore completely. I realized then (admittedly very belatedly) that my bike pump has the right attachment to work here, so I started using that. This worked much better but it was still a lot of work since the volume of the ball (4637 cm^3 by my calculations) is a lot more than a skinny road bike tire. Anyway, I get thing filled up.
Now, on this particular ball, there's a black plug that surrounds the filler hole, and a little white plug that goes into the filler hole. When I pulled out the pump, the black plug came out with the pump nozzle. In my rush to insert the white plug, I didn't see this and just put the darn thing into the hole! So here I am looking into the middle of the ball, where I see the plug at the bottom of the inside of the ball, air rushing into my eyes the whole time. I also discover then that Reebok's great innovation in the StayBall is to put sand inside the ball (did they really patent that?!) This means I can't simply turn over the ball to get my plug out since the sand will dump out.
The only solution was to deflate the ball enough to reach the plug. At this point, I muttered to myself out loud (which I almost never do). I pushed on the ball to get the air out. As I got close to the bottom, I started to get excited when WHOOSH - I got a face full of sand that shot out of the ball!
Ugh. After I stop swearing, I got the plug and pumped the damn thing back up. My back and shoulders now ached on top of my ankles, but eventually everything worked out. I almost dropped a lead plate from the dumbell onto my head shortly thereafter due to my failure to tighten the ends properly, but that's another story for another time...
November 15, 2006
November 12, 2006
About two weeks ago, Michelle and I went to Serious Pie, Tom Douglas' new pizza joint here in Seattle. I don't consider myself a pizza connesieur, but damn, this was some slap-your-momma good shit.
The pizzas have a thin, crispy crust and are generously sized for one person. The toppings, of course, are to die for. We had an incredible pie with foraged mushrooms and truffle cheese (oh man, oh man, oh man that was good) along with a daily special that was slightly more traditional (kick-ass salami or something on a tomato sauce.)
My ribollita (a rustic bread soup) was stunningly good too. Michelle's salad was good too, although she thinks she may have gotten a little ill off it since she wasn't feeling too good the next day.
The place is small with long bar-type tables meant to be shared.
November 11, 2006
My bitter post about the Stanford football team's poor season must have spurred them to action. The boys beat the University of Washington (itself sunk in a five game losing streak) here in Seattle - a rariety. This breaks Stanford's eleven game losing streak, only tying the worst ever streak in school history.
I missed a chance to see the game. Joe tried to talk me into it, agreeing we'd probably lose but trying to convince me that a miracle might happen. I didn't relish the thought of sitting in the rain, surrounded by rabid Husky fans in purple, watching Stanford get crushed.
Well, I blew it. It was a very nice autumn day, and we won. What's more, we spoiled the Husky's chances of a bowl game, so the fans started filing out early. Serves me right for being a bad fan.
Anyway, congrats to the Stanford football team.
This is a fun test to see if you can recognize several popular web company logos. I failed miserably.
Now that the Democrats have retaken Congress, they're on an aggressive campaign to drive their agenda. While I applaud their determination, some of the items give me pause.
1. Mandatory homosexuality
2. Drug-filled condoms in schools
3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act
4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses
5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State
6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein
7. English language banned from all Federal buildings
8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups
9. All taxes to be tripled
10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated
11. On-demand welfare
12. Tofurkey to be named official Thanksgiving dish
13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems
14. Pledge of Allegiance in schools replaced with morning flag-burning
15. Stem cells allowed to be harvested from any child under the age of 8
16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor
17. Quarterly mandatory abortion lottery
18. God to be mocked roundly
19. Dissolve Executive Branch: reassign responsibilities to UN
20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement
21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy
22. Texas returned to Mexico
23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day
24. Carter added to Mount Rushmore
25. Modify USA's motto to "Land of the French and the home of the brave"
Thanks to Right-Was-Right for this funny list.
After five long years, we had the Windows Vista ship party yesterday. It was in the parking garage under Building 27, which sounds like an odd venue, but there aren't many places at Microsoft that can hold so many people on a rainy afternoon. It was good fun to see everyone there; I'm surprised how many people I know from other teams. I was also surprised to see how emotional I was during Jim Allchin's talk as well as BillG's talk. (Jim in the outgoing President of the Windows division and the guy most associated with Vista). Everyone I talked to was happy, relieved, and strangely, a bit lost. We've all been so focused on Vista for so long, that it's odd to not have it ahead of us anymore.
Anyway, the party was fun. There was a mainstage band, a dueling piano bar, a red carpet/limonsene entrance to make everyone coming in feel special (complete with camera crew and velvet rope line entrace), billiards, fake tattoos, a dress-up photo booth (there's a funny one of me with my friends), and of course, food and drinks. We also all signed a few big Vista DVD replicas for the history books. I'm proud to have been part of it.
Last Friday, Malcolm, Kellie, Max, and I had a very enjoyable evening at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting event here in Seattle. As I've mentioned before, the Society puts on these tasting events all around the country (around the world, really).
Basically, you pay a flat fee ($95 for members) and then you get a glass. There were two large banquet rooms at The Ranier Club with tables from different whisky makers lining the walls. You walk around to the tables and the staff will pour a taste of whatever they're serving. The collection of whiskies was as broad (if not broader) than the event last year. A nice dinner and a trio of good cigars topped off the evening.
There were many good whiskies and a few duds. I was especially impressed with a few:
There was also an Irish peated single malt at the event. I think it was the Clonmel, but I've misplaced my booklet. It was very light and little unusual. I didn't care for it much, but it was Kellie's favorite. I note it here because it was unique.
Anyway, I think they were pouring taller tastings than last year, because I was a wreck. Lots of scotch chased by a cigar always makes for a rough morning. Still, a very fun evening.
November 10, 2006
After five long years, we finally shipped Windows Vista. Whew.
As you probably know, Vista was previously codenamed "Longhorn". It was named after the Longhorn Saloon up in Whistler, BC. The bar is halfway between the Whistler and Blackcomb ski mountains. The release was supposed to be the fast release between "Whistler" (Windows XP) and "Blackcomb" (the next great thing). Oops. Well, it took a little longer than we thought, but the result is actually pretty darn good.
The ending was a little anti-climatic for me since we had already shipped IE7 on XP. We didn't have a lot of drama at the end like I'm used to. This is actually good and the way you want it, but it still felt like an odd let down for something so big. It's a bit surreal to finally have it out though, like I can't quite believe we actually did it.
We're having a big ship party this afternoon. I think that will help make it feel real to me.
Look for Vista in stores and on PCs starting January 30, 2007. Really.