December 2006

December 30, 2006

Love and Death

Categories: Kids

The other day I told Michael (6) that I love him. He replied, "I know when you'll stop loving me. When you're dead."

I have expected him to rip my still beating heart out of my chest right there with a grin on his face, but he went back to playing Lego Star Wars II (which the kids have already beaten since Christmas. Twice.)

Posted December 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Custom Device Skins

Now that Michelle and I both have the same phone (the awesome T-Mobile Dash), we need a way to tell them apart (having already had the embarassing problem of grabbing the wrong phone in the morning.) Since she bought hers first, Michelle has made it clear that this is my problem to solve.

Enter Tego, an online shop where you can make custom skins for tons of different devices including phones, computers, mp3 players, and gaming devices. The design process is simple and well-built. You just pick the template (they have tons including the Dash) and overlay your images. 

The customization screen with a photo I took in Hawaii.

Once I decide what to make, I'll order one and let you know how it turned out. I might them for our Xbox 360, the kids' Gameboy DS Lites, and my laptop if they're cool. Slick.

Posted December 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

I am Lex Luthor

Categories: Random cool stuff

Well, obviously, since I did the superhero test, I had to do the super villain test for completeness. But, I really will stop doing these surveys (for a while anyway).


You are Lex Luthor
Lex Luthor
Dr. Doom
The Joker
Mr. Freeze
Dark Phoenix
Poison Ivy
Green Goblin
A brilliant businessman on a quest for world domination and the self-proclaimed greatest criminal mind of our time!
Click here to take the Supervillain Personality Quiz

Um, I suppose some might think it funny that the IE guy from Microsoft would get Lex "businessman on a quest for world domination..." Luthor. I think it's just an unfortunate coincidence. Dr. Doom is really no better here, I guess. Maybe I'd prefer to be Magneto; at least he's a little principled about his world domination efforts.

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

I am Spiderman

Categories: Random cool stuff

Can't...stop...doing...web...surveys. [gasp]


You are Spider-Man
Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

I've always liked Spiderman. I also have always liked Ironman because he's a rich, good looking geeky, ladies man - something to aspire to. (Besides Tony Stark and I share the same first name).

OK, what are you?

[Apologies to anyone who got this post twice. The HTML from the survey results was interacting badly with the Moveable Type, so I had to take down this post and repost with Windows Live Writer.]

Posted December 30, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 28, 2006

One last survey: I am Rum

Categories: Random cool stuff

Must stop doing these stupid surveys.

I post this one without comment, but if you're thirsty for rum now, try this one.

You Are Rum
You're the life of the party, and a total flirt
You are also pretty picky about what you drink
Only the finest labels and best mixed cocktails will do
Except if you're dieting - then it's Diet Coke and Bicardi all the way
What Alcoholic Drink Are You?
Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

I am Kaylee

Categories: Random cool stuff

Well, it seems that Veshengri (whoever she is) is a fan of random web surveys (regular readers will recall that I have been known to indulge in these from time to time as well...). Here's a fun one for you Firefly lovers out there.

I'm not sure I consider myself a "nice kinda crazy", but there you go. These web surveys never lie. :) If you're bored, here and here are piles of other surveys.

OK, Browncoats, what are you? (BTW, I can't believe that Wikipedia has an article dedicated to the Browncoats from Firefly.)

You scored as Kaylee (Kaywinnet Lee) Frye. The Mechanic. You are a natural mechanic, and you are far too sweet and cheerful to live out here. How you can see the good in everyone around you boggles the mind occasionally. Still you don't seem to be any crazier than that, and it is a nice kinda crazy.

Kaylee (Kaywinnet Lee) Frye


The Operative


Capt. Mal Reynolds


Jayne Cobb


Inara Serra


Zoe Alleyne Washburne


Hoban 'Wash' Washburne


Shepherd Derrial Book


Simon Tam


River Tam


Which Serenity character are you?
created with

[Fixed a bunch of errors on this page 12/28/2006]

Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

What kind of American English do you speak?

Categories: Random cool stuff

I found this fun survey on Veshengri. I'm not sure who this woman is, but she linked to me, so I figured it would be courteous to link back. Besides, she lives in Minnesota; we Minnesotans need to stick together.

The results below seem about right. I've lived in Minnesota, California, and Washington State, worked with and gone to school with people from around the country, and am married to a woman from Florida. My English is probably a big mashup of dialect. Not sure where the 10% Yankee came from; must be the snob in me...

Your Linguistic Profile:
65% General American English
10% Upper Midwestern
10% Yankee
5% Dixie
5% Midwestern
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

What are you?

[Fixed a typo that resulted from the sticky G key on our kitchen computer 12/28/2006]

Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Does anyone want to be my friend?

Now that we finally have an Xbox 360, I'm also on Xbox Live. My gamer tag is Disco Flow (old fraternity story...) I'd love to have more (which is to say any) friends on Live, so feel free to send me an invite so we can get our frag on. (Note, I'll only accept invites from people I know pretty well.)

Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Time to Get Serious Again: Mercer Island Half-Marathon

Categories: Exercise and Racing

Mercer Island Half Marathon logo
After riding the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) bike ride back in July, I seriously fell off the work out wagon. I've worked out sporadically, but nothing consistent. I realized fairly recently that I need a scary event to which I've publicly committed to work toward. The first 5K I ran and STP both served this purpose. It's time to up the stakes again.

I just signed up for the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, set for March 25, 2007. I have just under three months to get ready. Even though I've never run more than six miles (and have been slogging through my recent three mile runs) this should be plenty if I'm diligent.

I don't really have a firm goal time. Based on my best 5K, the Runner's World finish time calculator estimates I should be able to do the run in 2:02 (that's two hours, two minutes, btw...).Breaking two hours would be fantastic, but frankly, just finishing would be a big accomplishment and is really the goal.

I thought about taking on a 10K instead, but since I've already run six miles before, it didn't seem as scary. 13.1 miles is scary. I'm definitely going to need to stay focused to get this done.

Just to head off the inevitable question, I'm not sure if I want to run a marathon. The MI Half will be a good milestone if I want to run a full marathon later this year (maybe the Portland Marathon on October 7 or the Seattle Marathon on November 25. It occurred to me that if I want to run a marathon before I turn forty (April 2008), I probably need to do it this year. Now that's really scary.

Anyway, I'm kind of looking forward to this. Who's in?

Posted December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

December 26, 2006

Scary Spelling

Categories: Kids

We were out at 94 Stewart (fabulous, btw) for dinner the other night with the kids, Michelle's parents and Mike. I was chatting with the adults while Andrew (9) and Michael (6) played their Gameboys.

Casually, Michael asks me, "How do you spell die?" A little nervously, I reply. A few minutes later he asks "How do you spell surrender?" Eek.

Michael was writing out some kind of ransom note on his Gameboy. He's going to be the death of me.

Posted December 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Peter Michael Les Pavot 2003: Yum!

Categories: Food and Drink

For Christmas Eve dinner this year, I served the 2003 Les Pavot from Peter Michael Winery. Like everything I've had from them, this Bordeaux blend was fantastic. Full bodied with rich berries, it was a hit with everyone, especially after it opened up a bit.

I don't tend to buy a lot of wine by the case or half-case because we don't have a lot of space for wine, but whenever the offer goes out to their mailing list, I buy a bunch. Great stuff.

Posted December 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Christmas Loot

Categories: Kids Random junk

Merry Christmas! Well, "Happy Boxing Day" is really more appropriate, I guess. Anyway, we had a very lovely, if lazy Christmas yesterday. Michelle's folks are visiting from Florida and Mike is here too, so we had a full house. Andrew (9) and Michael (6) got off to a mercifully late start (we had company over the night before, and I was up even later playing Santa Claus getting stuff ready.)

The hot stuff for the boys continues to be Legos (especially Bionicle related), video games, and Pokemon stuff (popular again, after a brief affair with Yu-Gi-Oh). Especially popular are combinations of the above like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for Gameboy DS, Star Wars Legos, and the penultimate combination" the video game Lego Star Wars II. The boys also got an Xbox 360 from Santa. We're not the first ones on the block with a 360, but I finally gave in. (I also admit it was as much for me.)

In addition to the Xbox, I had a prosperous Christmas: a nice Riedel wine decanter I've wanted for a while, the The West Wing season seven DVD set, Avenue Q: The Book (Avenue Q is quite possibly my favorite musical I've never seen, the amazingly fun Table Tennis for Xbox 360, some nice wine, and a Nordstrom's gift card. Good stuff.

Of course, Christmas isn't just about the stuff. It's about the food (you thought I was going to say something mushy about family, brr brr brr right?) We had beignets for breakfast, and I made potato chips using the deep frying oil again (damn, those are good - I'll post the recipe soon.) We also took another go at the Honeybaked ham we had for dinner Christmas Eve along with more yummy greens, and macaroni and cheese. (I don't care what anyone says. Twelve pounds of ham is essentially an infinite quantity of ham. It is too much for any sized event. Jesus wouldn't have had to mess with loaves and fishes if he had a twelve pound Honeybaked ham, pork issues not withstanding.)

Tummies full from too much food and eyes glazed over from too much Viva Pinata, we collapsed at the end of day happy. It was a good Christmas. Hope your's was too.

[2006-12-26 Fixed typo]

Posted December 26, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 23, 2006

Another Whistler Trip

Two weeks ago (before the storm and such), I took another trip to Whistler, this time with friends (and no kids). Eric (Group Program Manager for Microsoft's Digital Memories team) has a place up there and invited me and Chris (architect-type dude on Live Platform or some such thing) up for a boys weekend. It must have been an unofficial Microsoft weekend up there. We ran into zillions of Microsoft folks, including a girls trip of folks from my team (Kristen, Kellie, and Kellie's non-MS friend Juli) and Eric's sister, Stacey (who is a developer at Microsoft). We wound up hanging out with the girls and skied some with a bunch of other MS guys too. 

Kristen, Eric, me, and Kellie on Whistler. 3D map of my skiing on Whistler/Blackcomb Eric with the saber, ready to open the sparkling wine.

It was really different skiing with adults vs. chasing Andrew (9) down the hill. My legs were definitely not ready for real skiing, plus I think my skis are simply too advanced and long for me. I was dying, but we had really good days for skiing. One of the fun things I did this time was wear my Garmin Forerunner 301 GPS while I was skiing. I used SportTracks (still one of my favorite apps) to pull the data off and then converted the tracks to Google Earth for a 3D rendering of the days' work. (You can see three tracks in the image above. The rightmost is the first day I skied on Whistler. The left tracks are on Blackcomb. The first track is me, the second track is Eric (who skied out down the mountain). Whistler Village is in the lower left corner.) 

We also enjoyed the great apres-ski scene Whistler has to offer including many beers at the Longhorn Saloon (the inspiration for the codename of Windows Vista too, btw) and a great dinner at the Bearfoot Bistro, complete with Eric sabering a bottle of sparkling wine open (which is super fun incidentally, if a little less dramatic than one might expect.

Fortunately, the drive home was much easier than last time. I'm ready for another trip any time, hopefully with some new skis (maybe the Volkl AC2...)

Posted December 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Post from My Smartphone

This is a test post from my T-Mobile Dash. I downloaded a nifty app called Phone SharpMT. It allows you to post to MoveableType and Typepad blogs from your Windows Smartphone. This could be cool!
Posted December 23, 2006 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

December 22, 2006

The Big Oyster

The Big Oyster book coverI just finished The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell, another interesting food history book by Mark Kurlansky (author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World and Salt: A World History - I wrote about these books earlier).

The title is somewhat misleading. The book is really a history of New York from the perspective of oysters. It's a little hard to believe now, but New York City and the waters surrounding it were once incredibly productive fishing grounds and the richest oyster beds in the world. New Yorkers rich and poor ate obscene numbers of oysters and shipped barrels of fresh and pickled oysters across America and around the world.

Like Cod and Salt, The Big Oyster was an engaging read cover-to-cover. This one was a bit different, however, because the scope was so local. Where Salt was a really global and across world history and Cod spanned centuries and focused on trans-Atlantic trade, The Big Oyster was very localized to New York City and the time since colonization. As a result, the book was less epic but perhaps a little more intimate.

Aside from the oyster details, Kurlansky weaves in a bunch of New York history and lore, like how Wall Street got its name and a running history of Delmonico's Restaurant. I have only a passing knowledge of New York, so these bits were interesting and new to me.

Anyway, I really like Kurlansky's style. Since I've finished his food mini-histories, I think it's time to move onto some of his other books.

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

December 21, 2006

Breathing Through a Snorkel Again

Categories: Random junk

Ugh. Lost our cable Internet access again. Back to sipping through an EDGE cellphone connection. The effects from this storm keep dragging on. Fortunately for us, it's only inconveniences like this.

Posted December 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2006

Back Online

Categories: Random junk

I'm back online again with our cable Internet access. Wahoo! It's like taking a deep breath again after breathing through a snorkel.


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

Eragon the Movie: Yuck

Categories: Books and such

Eragon movie poster

The kids and I have enjoyed the book Eragon (and Eldest, the second book in the trilogy) as well as the books on tape for some time now. Yes, they're a bit derivative and the writing is pretentious, but they're good reads.

So, we were very excited when we saw that the movie version of Eragon was coming.

We shouldn't have been. I thought it was terrible. Even the kids thought it was bad. Andrew (9) said optimistically, "Well, it looked nice and it was so different from the book it was like watching a whole new story." Michelle just convulsed with laughter at how bad the movie was.

It did look nice. I also didn't mind the casting (although I'm not sure John Malkovich really fit my idea of Galbatorix). But the story raced along with no plot or character development. I had a hard time understanding why Eragon was doing what he was doing, and I've read the books. I also thought the dialog was just too cheesy. Maybe I just hate all movie adaptations. (Not true: I really liked the Lord of the Rings series, but I haven't read the books in 25+ years).

The only possible blessing is that they seem to have cut off so many parts of the story line that a movie version of Eldest seems unlikely. They didn't tee up any of the big elements that make up the second book. Thank goodness.

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

December 19, 2006

Lessons from the Storm

Categories: Random junk

A few thoughts on what helped us during the Storm of 2006.

  • Our Smartphones were (and continue to be) critical. We could get our work and personal email, text to check on friends, make calls, and get online. They're still serving as our Internet connection for our PCs until we get our broadband back up. Having the right cables was important as was having a way to charge the phones. (They charge from our laptops, so that was pretty easy; I need to get a way to easily charge them in the car too.)
  • Getting hotel reservation early was important. The W had filled up by noon or so; friends had a hard time finding any hotels in the area for days. Using an out-of-town friend with a net connection made the process a lot easier than us calling around. (The voice activated Internet!)
  • Having gas in the car was essential. Fortunately, I had filled up the car the night before. Virtually all of the gas stations nearby were useless without power to pump the gas; the few that found a way to open had huge lines. Getting around was a slow process given the downed trees, so having gas was important. I used to be good about keeping half a tank at all times; need to get back into that habit.
  • Flashlights and battery powered radios were handy. Even in the daytime, our house is dark thanks to the trees. Packing in the dark would have been no fun. The radio helped us understand the severity of the situation and convinced us to get a hotel room soon since so many people were out of power. It's also kind of lonely cut off from the world, so the radio was a welcome window.

We opted not to stick it out at home, preferring light and heat. I'm sure if had stayed home, this list would have had more stuff like firewood, outdoor cook stove, etc. In other emergencies, staying at home would have been more appropriate or even necessary. But, we figured why suffer? We wound up having a good time in downtown Seattle and were very comfortable to boot.

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

The Windstorm of 2006

Categories: Random junk

It's been a wild time since my last post. Aside from another trip to Whistler (which I'll write about later) we had a big windstorm here in the Seattle area that knocked out power to over a million households and businesses, including Microsoft and our house.

Last Thursday (the evening of the storm), we heard branches hitting the roof all night. (Our neighborhood is filled with huge old fir trees, 18-20" in diameter.) We lost power around 1:00am and woke up to find a cold house. The yard and roof were buried in fallen branches. I went out to meet my neighbors and see the damage.

Neighbor's tree lying across the street.

Next door, the neighbors lost a big tree. It fell away from the house and across the street, blocking it, and miraculously missing two parked cars and the house across the street. Nearby, other neighbors weren't as lucky. I saw at least five houses that had huge trees lying across their roofs. There were power, cable, and phone lines down everywhere and we heard stories of a nearby transformer that had blown up. On the plus side, I did meet a lot more of my neighbors than ever. Everyone was helping each other, offering whatever they could. It was nice to see, really.

Our outdoor heater bashed up.

Fortunately, we weren't totally cut off. We had a battery powered radio (with a crank too, just in case) and our Dash Smartphones. We got online via our phones and learned that Microsoft was down to emergency power only and the campus was closed (Friday was the last day I was planning on working this year, so I got an early start to my holiday.) We also learned that the kids' schools were closed (so Michael got an early start to his vacation too.)

In a stroke of foresight, Michelle figured we'd need hotel rooms for a few nights as the power situation got sorted out over the next few days. She got on the phone with Mike, who served as our travel agent, looking for a hotel room in Seattle that had power. We grabbed a few nights at the W Hotel in Seattle and were set. We stopped off at Microsoft for a bit where there was wireless and the hallway plugs worked. There was a little party of sorts going on in Michelle's hallway. Someone even set up a Nintendo Wii (yes, we allow those...), which kept me and the boys occupied for a while. (They're pretty cool, btw, but I think after Michael bashed the Wiimote controller into the wall a few times that it's not for us.)

So, we had a few nice days downtown, just us and the zillion other refugees looking for a little light and heat. We did a little Christmas shopping, saw Eragon (terrible, btw, more on that later), and played at Gameworks. Pretty fun, actually.

We moved back home Monday after the power came back on. We still don't have Internet access (our cable line is still lying in our front yard), so we're connecting through our cellphones (getting somewhere between 92 and 110kbps - not too bad). Lots of clean-up to do in the yard now, but I think the worst is behind us now. I feel fortunate that we got by so easily and were back up before Christmas.

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

December 4, 2006

Parmesan Crisps

Categories: Food and Drink

I spent way too much time today making and eating Parmesan crisps today. These are little cheese crisps that you eat like a cracker. Mmm...

There's really nothing to making them.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 3).
  • Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat (btw, Silpats are the best thing in the world...)
  • Make little mounds of shredded Parmesan cheese, how big depends on the size you want your final crisp. I like the little bite sized ones best. The cheese with spread a bit. Don't make the center too peaky or the cheese will be too thick in the middle.
  • Top the mounds with a little pepper or other seasoning if you like. (I'll try cayenne next time.)
  • Pop the sheet into the over for 10-12 minutes, until the crisps are toasty brown. I found I had to turn the cookie sheet around after 6-7 minutes to keep the cooking even.
  • Once they're done, take the sheet out and let the crisps cool a bit (they can still be a bit chewy until they cool off.)

So easy to make and so tasty. I discovered the time it takes a new batch to cool off and get eaten is about the time it takes to bake the next batch. How convenient.

I don't know how well they keep because none survived the day. Maybe I'll figure that out some day...

Posted December 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Coup d'Michael

Categories: Kids

At dinner this evening, Michael (6) looked at us with great sincerity and said, "I think I know how to overthrow a government."

Long silence.

This is not typical dinner conversation for a six year old, but then, Michael has never been typical. But, of course I had to ask, "well, how would you do it?"

He then proceeded to describe how he'd have some run in front of a governmental leader yelling "Help!!" to distract them while an airplane dropped barrels of bombs on the leader.

He then sat back with a satisfied look, knowing his plan was infallible.

Watch out world...

Posted December 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)