October 22, 2011
Last weekend, Andrew (14) and I (much older than 14) bought tickets for The Intergalactic Nemesis, self-described as a "live-action graphic novel". It turned out to be a super-fun performance combining a 1930's-style comic book projected onto a large screen with a old-style radio show performed live in front of the screen by three actors, a Foley (sound effects) artist, and a keyboard player. The evening was even nicer since they performed in the Neptune Theater, an lovely old theater near the University of Washington (Andrew was at least as impressed by the Neptune as the show).
The story was fine and the comic book art OK, but the live performance was really the show for me. The three actors did all of the many voices and were physically into it as well; it was super fun just watching them. The Foley artist was really fun to watch too, just seeing how he created all of the sounds from different things, some purpose-built (like a mini-door and frame for open/close door sounds) and some just ordinary things (like a locomotive engine sound made by shaking a box of macaroni and cheese).
This Austin-based group is touring the country. Unfortunately, they only had one night in Seattle (their first stop), but if you're in Fort Worth, Lawrence, Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, or one of the other cities they're playing, I really recommend going to see them.
(Interestingly, the "book 2" of the project is a Kickstarter project.)
Andrew taking the mike after the show
October 19, 2011
Of course, it's ridiculous to think you can understand China, the history, culture, and economy in even ten years, but this video does a pretty good job in ten minutes (with lots of gross generalizations, etc...)
How can one recipe have so many of my favorite things in it? Bacon with bourbon, caramel, and apples? Awesome. It's probably too much to ask (and too gross) to add raw oysters, ramen, and jiaozi. Roasted nuts, however... I'll have to try this out.
8 Granny Smith apples
8 wooden sticks
1 (16 ounce) package brown sugar
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Bacon Salt
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
Insert wooden sticks 3/4 of the way into the stem end of each apple. Place apples on a cookie sheet covered with lightly greased aluminum foil.
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thermometer registers 290 degrees F (143 degrees C). Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon if desired.
Keep the saucepan over low heat to keep the caramel liquid for dipping the apples. Stir the Bacon Salt into the caramel. Working quickly, carefully dip apples in the caramel. Place apples on the greased aluminum foil until coating has cooled and hardened.
October 11, 2011
This is a funny example illustrating why the tones (rising/falling pitches) in Chinese are so important.
These two example sentences are pronounced the same way, as you can see from the Pinyin (English pronunciation guide), but the tones are different.
The first sentence says, "Miss, how much does it cost for a bowl of dumplings?"
The second sentence says, "Miss, how much does it cost to sleep [together] for a night?"
Very different meanings...
October 8, 2011
With the untimely passing of Steve Jobs this week, like many people, I reflected on how I've been impacted by his contributions. I never met Steve or even saw him in person, but Apple and Steve Jobs definitely played a big role in my life.
My first programming class was summer school after 7th grade (1981?). We had Apple II computers with black-and-white 9" monitors and 110 baud teletype terminals connected to MECC (Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium). The Apples would overheat, so we'd have to open them up and fan them with their lids, but I didn't care. They were pretty magical. Over the next few summers, I improved my Applesoft BASIC programming and learned 6502 Assembly. (I didn't realize the Applesoft BASIC came from Microsoft and was an amalgamation of the two names.)
We eventually bought an Apple II+ with 48K of RAM, two floppy drives, an Amdek color monitor, and an Epson dot matrix printer. (This was in addition to the TRS-80 Model III we had first; we were definitely the first house of anyone I knew with two computers at home.) My friends and I pirated a lot of software (LockSmith is your friend) and played a lot of games like Loderunner, Choplifter, Castle Wolfenstein, and especially Wizardry.
I moved on to teaching Apple programming at home for $25 for five one hour lessons (maybe it was five two hour lesson); this was big money at the time since I was in ninth grade or something. I also wrote an Apple II database program for my school district to keep track of all of the padlock combinations for the lockers; as a result, I could open pretty much any lock in our school district. I got paid in stacks of floppy disks for this. I also got to borrow the first hard drive I ever saw -- a VCR-sized 5MB Winchester (I think); it was partitioned as something like two hundred floppy drives since the OS couldn't support big volumes.
At Stanford, I was a diehard Mac guy, with my Mac Plus with two 800K floppy drives (I eventually upgraded to a Mac SE with a 40MB aftermarket hard drive -- hot stuff.) I also worked at MicroDisc, the computer department of the Stanford Bookstore. At the time, we were the largest Apple reseller in the world. Senior year, I would borrow the new Mac Portable from the store on weekends. I would work on my programming projects at Denny's, drinking their bottomless coffee for hours. Most people hadn't seen a portable computer before, so I was definitely a trendsetter for the now-ubiquitous laptop-in-coffee shop scene.
I took this Mac experience to my first job Microsoft where I worked on Works for Macintosh 3.0 and 4.0. (I think my name is on one of the mailing labels on the box shot to the right.) I had a nice Mac IIci on my desk, but our developers had the screaming-fast (then) Mac IIfx machines. (I remember being amazed that the MacIIfx basically had two Apple IIs inside just to monitor the ADB ports. We'd come a long way...)
My team also ran the Mac lab where we got to see all of the new Mac hardware before they released. Back then, we had a lot of Macs around Microsoft. Every printer room had Apple Laserwriters as well as HP printers, and a lot of people used Word and Excel for Mac instead of on Windows 3.0 since the Mac versions were better.
Of course, even when I wasn't working directly on Apple products, Apple affected me a great deal. There's no question in my mind that Apple helped make Microsoft better by providing a great competitor. They had (and have) a different approach to making products that we envied, even when they weren't making as much money as we were (things have changed).
So, thanks, Steve, for all you've done for me and my life over the last thirty years. RIP.