A few weeks ago, I took my team to iFly Seattle for a little fun. iFly is billed as indoor skydiving. Rather than falling, you're in a powerful updraft. It was super fun (and got great reviews from my team members). When I told Andrew (16) about it, he wanted to go, so I took him for his birthday today along with our friend Maddi, who was also very gung ho to try it. Michael (12) wasn't interested but came along.
After some classroom instruction, an instructor goes into the chamber with you and helps you control your position and body. You're in the chamber for either a minute or two minutes, depending on which package you select, and you typically do two flights (I strongly recommend the two minute option since it takes a bit to get settled). On the second flight you have the option to do a "high flight" with the instructor, where s/he grabs onto you and flies you up into the 2-3 story chamber. It's actually not scary (at least I wasn't scared) since you don't have the falling sensation.
They have cameras in the chamber and will move you into position for a good photo (which you can buy afterwards). They'll also give you a DVD of your flight.
Andrew and Maddi had a great time. I'm sure we'll be going back.
Here's me flying at our team event.
Andrew and Maddi ready for action.
Andrew (15) and I got to fly on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress from Boeing Field today, going with my friend Brian. This was the Collings Foundation B-17 "Nine-O-Nine", one of only ten flyable B-17s left in the United States. We actually tried to fly on this plane two years ago when they were in town, but the flight was scrapped due to rain.
This year, we really lucked out. We had a perfect Seattle summer day. When we boarded the flight, we had to sit down and buckle up. There were spots for passengers scattered throughout the plane. Andrew and I sat in the radio room.
The crew left the top hatch open, so during the flight, we could even stick our heads (or camera) outside. This is a shot from out the top hatch, looking back at Boeing Field as we climbed after takeoff.
After takeoff, we could move throughout the plane. It was pretty tight and a bit tricky to move around with my camera bag; I can't imagine how hard it would be in a bulky flight suit, wearing a parachute.
Here's Andrew in the nose, looking through the bombsight.
This is a nice view of the I-90 Bridge and Bellevue, out the starboard waist gun.
One of my favorite places was in the top turret. You get a 360 degree view, although, I'm just a little short to be a good top turret gunner. Here's the view from the turret looking forward.
The flight lasted about thirty minutes, covering fifty-four miles. We averaged about 120mph and flew at around 1650'. It was loud and a rattled quite a bit at full power on takeoff, but the flight was smooth. The pilot was a pro and nailed the landing -- smooth as silk. Here's our flight track from my GPS watch.
In addition to the B-17, they were giving flights on the last flying Consolidated B-24J Liberator as well as a North American TP-51C Mustang. I would really love to go up in a Mustang; this particular plane may be the only way to do it since it's a two-seater training variant.
This was really a rare opportunity since there are so few flyable warbirds left (and even fewer that take passengers). I'm really glad I got to do this with Andrew. (Too bad my younger son Michael wasn't interested.)
As part of our trip to the Museum of Flight today, the boys and I attended a talk by astronaut Barbara Morgan. She's quite a remarkable person. After she graduated from Stanford, Barbara taught in a variety of elementary schools from an Indian reservation to Ecuador. She was selected as the backup to Christa McAuliffe as the Teacher in Space, picked from over 11000 applicants. After the Challenger disaster and McAuliffe's death, Barbara took on the role of Teacher in Space. She later was selected by NASA as a Mission Specialist and became a full-time astronaut, NASA's first "Educator Astronaut". After years of delays due to the Challenger and Columbia accidents, she flew on STS-118 on the Endeavor in 2007, bringing parts and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). She's now on the board for the Challenger Center and teaches at Boise State University.
She took the Stanford Alumni Association audience through her flight, from launch to docking with ISS to landing. It was fun to hear her stories about what it was like, especially the little things like how they put strips of duct tape in convenient positions ahead of time so they could use them quickly to keep things from drifting around the zero-g cabin.
It was especially neat to have her give the talk in front of the real Full Fuselage Trainer - a full sized mockup of the Space Shuttle that the astronauts like Barbara trained on. She kept gesturing at different parts of the FFT as she talked. We're fortunate to have gotten it in Seattle (although a real shuttle would have been nice too...)
It was a real treat to meet a true American hero. I hope America returns to manned space exploration again soon -- on American launch vehicles.
Goofy boys in front of the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight
Salmon are such an iconic part of life in the Pacific Northwest. I went to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery this morning to see the mature salmon returning to spawn.
Issaquah Creek was packed with salmon going upstream.
The gates to the hatchery were closed, apparently because the dissolved oxygen level in the pools above were too low to admit more fish. That didn't stop the salmon from continuing to try to jump upstream. You can see the other fish waiting below.
It was pretty amazing to see the fish continually beating themselves to get upstream despite the gates. Their need to keep moving must be incredibly powerful. The red Coho salmon were especially beautiful and jumped a lot. Apparently, this is just the beginning of their run, so there will be even more coming through the end of November. I learned the best run days are right after it rains; the water is cooler which make the salmon happy. I really love living in the Pacific Northwest with these amazing fish.
Last weekend I took Michael (11) to the Seattle Mini Maker Faire. This is a smaller version the larger Maker Faire that Make Magazine puts on in the Bay Area. This is get together meant to inspire and connect "Makers" of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) technology projects.
The event was held at Seattle Center in a two rooms plus some outdoor space. The exhibitions were pretty wide-ranging from robotics to craft-stick bending to welding. There were lots of hands-on activities so Michael was pretty engaged throughout.
I was happy to see Microsoft had a big presence with our Robotics Developer Studio and the cool Mayhem project. Michael was pretty excited about Mayhem since he could potentially control his room lights with his phone or build a motion detector to keep Andrew (14) out, all with no programming. We'll be picking up some controllers and sensors for Mayhem so he can mess around with this.
I was also amazed by how many Maker workshops there are in the Seattle area from tool libraries to a "create space" (complete with 3D printer, laser cutter and other cool stuff) and even a robotics space. The show definitely inspired me to start building more with the boys.
Michael experimenting with solar panels. He discovered (with the multimeter) that running two panels in parallel increased the amperage but running them in series increased the voltage (even the guy tending the exhibit didn't know.)
A blacksmith demonstrated his craft outside the fair. Michael thought this was extra cool and wants to become a blacksmith now. I'm not sure how I feel about him with a hammer in one hand and a hot metal rod in the other.
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
The family and I plus our friends John, Kellie, and Barbi went to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire in Bonney Lake today. This was the kids' first time to a Ren Faire. I think it was Kellie and Barbi's first faire too.
We all had a great time. Almost all of the costumed attendees were very friendly, despite the fearsome looking weapons. These guys practically dragged Andrew (14) over for a photo.
I got my obligatory Ren Faire meal of a roasted (and smoked!) turkey leg. It was actually quite nice.
The Academia della Spada offered a pretty interesting overview of how fencing evolved in Europe including this sword and buckler fight. I was surprised how slow and calculating the fights were. This is apparently historically accurate. Going fast makes it easy for your opponent to get around your guard. (Who knew there are historical fencing clubs, let alone multiple in Seattle?!)
The boys got in on the action too in a massive Boffer sword fight. There were two teams with maybe fifteen fighter per side, armed with soft swords, spears, and shields. There were some simple rules about how you were wounded and died in action. (They'll come out and stage fights for parties! Can you say "morale event"?) The boys both thought this was the best part of the faire. Here's Michael (11) about to leap into the fray.
We all tried our hand at throwing knives, axes, and throwing stars too. I was pretty terrible at all of them, managing to hit the targets but not getting anything to stick in. Barbi was clearly a ninja in a previous life, scoring the best of all of us on the throwing stars. Here's John releasing his axe.
The Bing for iPad app that my team built makes a cameo in a two music videos!
You'll be able to simply say a movie or TV show you want to watch, a song you want to hear, or a game you want to play, and Bing for Xbox will find it for you across different content providers like Hulu, Netflix, and Zune, bringing you all the results in one place; today you'd have to search each of the apps separately. (Of course, if you don't have a Kinect, you can type it out.) So, you just say "Xbox, Bing Batman" to find games, movies, TV shows, and music related to Batman.
Here's a sample of what the search results page might look like if you said, "Xbox, Bing X-Men".
Here's the video of Xbox Live VP Marc Whitten describing the functionality. I love all of the Bing logos everywhere!
If you have an Xbox at home today and log into Xbox Live, you may see an ad describing this upcoming service too. I was pleasantly surprised to see this.
If you select the panel, you get a little more info:
You can then click to see a video of the the feature in action. (I'll see if I can find and post a copy of that video).
I'm proud of the work we've done to get this far and looking forward to getting it out. It was exciting to do the announcement and finally be able to talk about our work a little more publicly!
Like I mentioned recently, I've always been a big fan of World War II aircraft. Over the next few weekends in the Seattle area, warbird fans will have an amazing opportunity to fly in a B-17 Flying Fortress or B-24 Liberator bomber. The Collings Foundation is conducting their Wings of Freedom Tour and is selling seats on these iconic bombers.
Even cooler, you can go up in a P-51 Mustang fighter!! The latter is amazing since most fighters from that era were single seat, so rides are impossible; however, the Collings Foundation has a trainer version of a P-51C that has two seats.
Perhaps even cooler still is the WWII Crew Fantasy Camp that the Foundation runs. This is a two day training program where you train for and fly a simulated bomber mission on a real B-24. You get to suit up, help load ordinance, shoot live and blank .50 cal rounds from the aircraft's guns, and drop 250lb dummy bombs! They also planned to have a P-51 Mustang and German Me-262 jet fighter in the air too! (You can sign up to fly in the P-51 or Me-262 instead). Crazy awesome. They ran the camp in May. Hopefully they do it again sometime because I'd love to try it.
Anyway, despite the fact another classic B-17 burned this week after an emergency landing, I hope to be able to go up this weekend, maybe with Andrew (13).
Michelle and I took the boys to Tankfest at the Flying Heritage Collection museum in Everett today. The FHC is a collection of World War II aircraft collected by Paul Allen (who has way more fun with his money than BillG does, IMHO). I love these old warbirds, and the fact that many of them are flyable is even more exciting.
Anyway, to celebrate Memorial Day, they were hosting Tankfest where local collectors brought their armor and other weapons in. They had three tanks - A Russian T-34/85, a German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer, and a more modern British FV101 Scorpion - plus big artillery (including a few German 88s) and jeeps, half-tracks, and other cool WWII era stuff. They were driving the vehicles around and did a little shooting (blanks, of course) as well.
The Jagdpanzer and T-34
.30 cal machine gun on a half-track
Taking aim on a 20mm anti-aircraft gun
Andrew (13) manhandling a bazooka
WWII era radio set in the back of a Jeep
As I mentioned I love old warbirds, so it was exciting to see the planes too.
P-40 Tomahawk in Flying Tigers livery
Warning by the cockpit of a Hawker Hurricane
I'm looking forward to going back on their flight days to see some of the planes in the air. They have "Mustang Day" coming on up June 4 and especially exciting is the debut of their FW-190 on June 18. This is the only flying FW-190 with the original engine left in the world. You can find their Free Fly Days schedule here.
I think my friends know I like bacon. After my previous post about The Bacon Enthusiast Gift Guide, my hometown friend Steve sent me this link to The Ultimate Bacon Lovers Gift Guide. It's another winner full of great gift ideas for the bacon lover in your life (so, pretty much everyone, because who doesn't love bacon?!)
I'm hoping there's a My First Bacon under the tree this year. Just sayin'.
During college, I had the privilege of joining Kappa Alpha Order, a national fraternity founded on the principle of upholding the virtues of being a gentleman. The spiritual founder of the Order is Robert E. Lee, among the most amazing Americans in history.
We learned one quote that always stuck with me; I thought I'd share it here since it's just as relevant today as it was over a hundred years ago.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly, the forbearing or inoffensive use of all of this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled when he cannot help humbling others.
I hope to live up to this standard every day.
This year, I celebrated the Fourth of July alone in Beijing. Many people who know me will know that I'm a huge fan of the founding charters of freedom of the United States: The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States of America, and The Bill of Rights (click for the full text of the documents). While this has always been true, I value the true foresight and values encoded in these amazing documents by The Founding Fathers even more living outside the US, particularly in a country that is founded on a different set of values.
If you haven't read these documents recently, I urge you to do so. They are as meaningful and powerful 234 years later and perhaps even more applicable as peoples and governments around the world struggle with the definitions of nationhood and the balance the rights of individuals with broader needs. I also hope our elected officials remind themselves of a few things, that the role of government is to secure our unalienable Rights and that the government derives "their just powers from the consent of the governed." Finally, I hope we all really take a moment to appreciate and deeply value what we as Americans have in the form of these documents. Even today, billions of people have nothing like them in principle or in practice.
In addition to the links to the full texts of the documents above, I've included a special link to the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence performed by the hosts, reporters, newscasters, and commentators of NPR. I found it even more moving than just reading the text.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone, and Happy Birthday, America!
I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner -- cooking bacon on a hot gun barrel! Two awesome things combined in one! The author fired 250 rounds to cook the bacon, but thinks 150 would have sufficed.
I may need to start writing letters again just to send stuff with the upcoming Calvin & Hobbes stamps on them. Awesome.
For more on this and the other comic book stamps coming, check out the article from Comics Alliance.
I've reviewed a lot of EULAs, TOUs, T&Cs*, etc. in my time at Microsoft and can almost understand them even though I'm not an attorney (nor do I play one on TV.) While I mentally summarize each section, I wish I had thought of just spelling it out in the document. I love the simplicity and clarity (and cheek) of the MOG.com TOU.
Here's a little example:
A few other summary lines I liked:
MOG is about personal use, not your making a buck
MOG needs money to survive
MOG is not your parent
MOG is you
MOG is all-powerful
MOG is powerless
Incidentally, MOG looks pretty cool.
I'm very pleased to welcome my new nephew, Simon Chengjie Chor, to the world and our family! He was born November 30 in Minnesota to my sister-in-law, Aimee, and brother, Ives. He's healthy and home now, ready to deny sleep to Aimee and Ives and charm everyone who comes by.
Andrew (12) and Michael (9) are ready to teach him all manner of bad things as soon as he's ready. I think my mom is crazy now because there are no daughters on our side of the family, but I'm sure she'll be fine (especially if Aimee and Ives have a girl next...).
For me, I can't wait to meet him. I love little, little babies! Anyway, congrats to Aimee and Ives!
A little over ten years ago, I worked on Microsoft Bookshelf, an CD-ROM reference product that had a dictionary, thesaurus, book of quotations, concise encyclopedia, chronology, atlas, and almanac. (Later on we added other stuff like an internet directory and ZIP code directory.)
One of the fun projects each year was to select the new words to add to the dictionary; at the time, it was stuff like assault rifle and ebola. Unfortunately, we stopped making that product after Internet pretty much made in unnecessary. (It was still a cool product -- the first CD-ROM title from Microsoft.)
However, dictionaries still need add new words each year to reflect changes in the language. This year, the people at the New Oxford American Dictionary announced that unfriend was the word of 2009.
unfriend: To remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as Facebook.
Other terms they're adding to the dictionary next year include netbook, hashtag, death panel, funemployed, tramp stamp, and teabagger. There were also a slew of new Obama related terms such as Obamanomics.
I think the new words are a very interesting view of our times.
For more, check out the Oxford University Press blog post.
Michelle and I recently saw these lovely drawings by a talented artist named Kuang Han (况晗). Mr. Kuang captures pencil drawings of the Beijing hutongs, old neighborhoods that are rapidly dwindling in the face of Beijing's growth and modernization. We plan to go back to the gallery and find the perfect one (or ones) to buy. (I especially like the blocky looking drawings like the first one below.)
This is a beautiful and creatively done reinterpretation of Mario. I love it.
If you like this kind of thing, check out these great Mario wallpapers too.
Here is an interesting story of how the Allies hid maps, money, and escape tools in board games kits distributed to Allied POWs during WWII. An estimated 10000 POWs used the contents to escape Nazi camps.
(Or should I say "...in which I grew up"?)
My brother, Ives (pronounced "eye-vus" not "eave" like you might think -- that's a story for another day), and his wife Aimee just moved back to Minnesota where we grew up. It's been great getting updates from Ives as he visits our old friends and haunts. This weekend he brought his lovely wife back to see our old house in Woodbury, a suburb just east of St. Paul.
We were the first owners of this house; I think the name of this particular design was "Highlander IV" (not sure why I remember that). We moved in in 1974, just in time for me start first grade at Royal Oaks Elementary, just a five minute walk away. At the time, we were in the new part of the Royal Oaks neighborhood with empty lots all around us. There was a lot on the corner next to us; on the other side of that lot was a very nice African-American family. I'm pretty sure that lot was one of the only ones in Minnesota in 1974 that sat between a Chinese family and an African-American family. It sat empty for a while until another nice family moved in.
We lived in this house until my sophomore year of college (just after my brother graduated from high school.) It was a really great place to grow up (in fact Woodbury's motto was "Woodbury -- A nice place to live"). There were lots of kids in the neighborhood; we played a lot in the big wooded park across the street, in the snow that drifted into huge piles (my kids are very jealous), and in the empty lots and houses under construction. Many of us stayed together from elementary school through high school; it's been great finding many of them again on Facebook.
Anyway, on to the photos.
All in the all, the house looks good after so much time; Ives tells me the neighborhood has aged well. Still, it's definitely changed since we lived there. I can't believe how huge that tree in the middle of the photo is; of course, we planted it 35 years ago. The garage door, front door, and shutters were all bright Chinese red when we lived there. We had brass lion heads on the doors too. Not sure what our neighbors thought about that, but I liked them.
We used to have an asphalt, two car driveway. I guess someone replaced it with a wider, concrete one. Good thing. It was a real PITA to re-surface the driveway every year. We also used to have a basketball net on the roof over the garage. Not sure why I'm not a better basketball player. The house seemed big at the time, but looking at it now, it's small compared to houses today including our current house. If I remember what my mom said, I think this house was about 1500 square feet plus a big basement and the garage.
I can't believe no one extended the tiny patio. I always wanted a big deck. We never had any furniture on the patio. I think the only thing we ever put on it was a pup tent because my dad didn't want us to kill the grass; obviously, it wasn't very comfortable in that tent...
There was a huge birch woodpile against the house where that garden is in the photo. We bought that pile soon after we moved in and never used all the wood by the time we moved out fourteen years later. My mom used to hang ducks to air dry where the current owners have that wind chime. (This is how you get crispy duck skin in roast duck.) I think the ducks were better than that wind chime. We didn't have gutters; as a result, we had awesome sheets of icicles hanging from the eaves in the wintertime.
That tree used to be the middle of our kickball/baseball diamond, about where the pitchers mound would be. It looks big enough now to put a treehouse in (which I really, really wanted) but of course it wasn't even big enough to climb when we lived there. There used to be willow trees at first and third, but they're gone now. (For completeness, home was by the patio and second was by the garden). Our lot was about a quarter acre -- pretty big for our neighborhood. On top of that, my parents both worked all day and weren't home; as a result, our yard wound up being the place a lot of our friends played. This yard was the scene of a lot of soccer, football, hotbox, nighttime gun battles, and epic water fights.
We had a huge garden in the far right of this photo. We grew a ton of veggies all summer long; my dad acted like we would starve if not for the produce from the garden. His favorite gardening activity, though, was walking through the supermarket pointing out how expensive all the veggies were and exclaiming how lucky we were to have it all for free. I will admit the veggies were good, although a person can only eat so much zucchini.
I have a lot of great memories from this house, which are all rushing back now that I'm seeing these photos (as evidenced by this stream-of-consciousness post). I'm lucky to have had a really great childhood. I'm glad my brother took these shots (thanks, Ives!)
For more than you ever wanted to know about Woodbury (and way more than I ever knew), check out the Wikipedia article. I can't believe the population is over 54,000 people; it was about 15,000 when we lived there.
Yesterday, September 5, was International Bacon Day. To celebrate this holy occasion, here are some fun, amazing, cool links to bacony resources that my friends have sent me over the years.
Enjoy your bacon!
As I mentioned before, I love TEDTalks. I’ve been watching them a lot lately in the car and on flights via my Zune. I found this one especially entertaining. Sarah Jones delivers an amazing performance, acting out a pile of characters on stage. She really is even physically believable. Amazing.
As I've noted several times before, I'm no golfer, despite owning golf clubs and having played for years. I do enjoy it, but boy, am I bad. So, it should be no surprise that I didn't play super well yesterday when I teed it up at Newcastle Golf Club with my friends Chris and Kevin. Fortunately, it was yet another perfect Seattle summer day and the company was fun. Actually, despite the fact I was playing with Chris' old clubs for the first time (mine are in China), I hadn't really played in two years, and it's been a long time since I've played the Coal Creek course (excuse, excuse, excuse), I played surprisingly well (for me) -- at least I didn't hit myself or anyone else.
Like many golfers, I decided I would enjoy the game a lot more with a few drinks; the cute and very chatty cart girl was more than happy to mix some killer Bloody Marys up to ease my golf suffering. An Old Fashioned in the club house afterwards topped it off. Then, our families joined us for a birthday brunch for Kevin. Very, very nice...
Me with the stunning views of Lake Washington and downtown Seattle in the distance.
Mommy and Bambi loping across the course. I managed to avoid hitting them.
Kevin with his birthday treat.
Our friend Barbi took the whole family and our mutual friend Kellie out crabbing this weekend on her little speed boat. We put the boat in at Camano Island State Park and motored up the west side of the island on a lovely afternoon. We picked (somewhat arbitrarily) a spot to test our luck. We assembled the two traps, baited them with chicken legs, and then tossed them into the water, hoping to lure a few of the yummy Dungeness crabs in.
After an hour or so of waiting (which we filled with a great picnic lunch Michelle prepared, some fishing, and some lazy conversation), we went back to our buoys and pulled up the traps.
We had a pretty lucky day -- crabs in each trap! We pulled out the keepers (at least 6.25 inches across and male) and reset the traps. We did this a few times (with the intervals between checking going down over time...) We wound up taking nine crabs and a bucket of seawater back to the beach with us.
Here's Andrew helping tie down the traps on the foredeck.
We pulled the boat out, cleaned the crabs on the beach, and then cooked them right there at the park in the seawater. Seven minutes later, they came out of the water perfectly done.
We scarfed down crab after crab, pausing only long enough to wash them down with cold beer. It was gluttonous and luxurious is a way that no five-star meal could ever be. I've never tasted a sweeter, more delicious crab (or three) in my entire life. Here's Barbi happily slurping her crab down as she chucks the shells into the tall grass.
The boys ate a little crab too, but they were happiest building driftwood shelters on the beach and enjoying their ice cream bars. Something for everyone I guess.
It was really one of the most memorable meals of my life (and I've had a lot of fantastic meals as you probably know...) I love Washington and our generous friends!
Last Friday, I took Andrew (12) and Michael (9) to see the Mariners play the Indians at Safeco Field. We were there with our friends the Shirouzus, who are huge baseball fans. Even though the M's were blown out 0-9, I really enjoyed the evening. I forgot how much I like going to see baseball games live.
It was a very lovely evening -- not cold at all. You can see the Seattle skyline behind the stadium, bathed in the beautiful sunset colors.
Their son (and Andrew's classmate in Beijing) made a sign that they waved around between innings; alas, they were never picked up by the scoreboard cameras.
Of course, my kids were more excited about the free application Nintendo (part owners of the Mariners) made for the Gameboy DS; you can install it from stations all around the stadium. It's a pretty cool wireless app that allows you to see replays, watch where the pitches go, order food at your seat, see the stats from other games, view player stats, and play sports related games against other people in the stadium.
All in all, it was a great evening.
While we were at our friends' cabin near Bremerton, we watched a trio digging for geoducks. For the uninitiated, a geoduck is a huge clam-like animal with a gargantuan siphon which can grow up to a meter long. Although they are ugly, they are very tasty. (If you like sushi, you may know them by their Japanese name - mirugai.) As a result, people are willing to work pretty hard to get them.
They bury themselves pretty deep in the sand with their siphon sticking out the ground a little to breathe. Once in a while, they squirt water out like this:
Once you spot this, you dig like crazy into the mucky sand. Once you get a few feet deep, you need to keep the sand from collapsing into the hole, so you use a big pipe (really a sheet of plastic or thin metal rolled into a tube. Then, you reach into the tube and keep digging (these guys were using a little bowl for the last bit of digging.)
Finally, you can pull the geoduck out of the dirt and claim your prize. This is apparently a pretty small geoduck.
Michelle showed me this great site today. Cedric Delsaux is a French commerical photographer with mad Photoshop skillz and a creative mind. In addition to his beautiful, low saturation photo portfolio, he has a collection called the “Dark Lens” that are everyday, rundown Earth scenes with elements from Star Wars inserted into the shots. They’re so well done, the lighting so right that it’s hard to figure out how he did them.
The site is nicely done too. All in all, it’s worth some time to check it out.
Andrew (11) showed me this video. Pretty cool.
Of course, it would be cooler if they made it work for real. I still can't get over this famous Honda ad.
I take a lot of photos and try to help pose my subjects once in a while. Here's a good article and video with simple tips on how to look better in photos.
I'm sure like many of you, I have latent superhero talents that I think could help the rid humanity of injustice, defend the Earth from intergalactic calamity, and rescue hapless maidens from nefarious plots. Unfortunately, I've been trapped in my alter ego my entire life because I never knew where to get the stuff superheroes need -- you know, eye masks, truth serum, hidden lair equipment, and so on.
Now, the Internet, source of all that is good and right in the universe, has delivered again. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company has everything an aspiring superhero needs. I especially like the Lair section where you can buy a forcefield generator or a "Stop Sidekick Misuse" poster (with helpful tips like "Don't practice heat vision on your sidekick".) Even better, all proceeds go toward 826NYC, "a non-profit nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write." So even by shopping there, you're doing good.
The site is beautiful and very fun, and of course, useful for budding do-gooders. So, check it out and unleash your inner superhero!
Thanks to Leslie for the link!
When I first joined Microsoft in 1990, I was given a postcard of our corporate campus. The company had been in that location for about four years and had just over 5000 employees. I’ve scanned the photo and included it below on the left. For a comparison, I have included the Live Maps 3D view of the site today. The maps view is even a little old since there’s building 37 on the right side now (the dirt construction in the maps view.) (BTW, I used DeepZoomPix to display these photos; this is a new technology from Microsoft’s Live Labs. You can drag the photos below around and zoom pretty deeply into them.)
You can see the how we have more buildings and fewer soccer fields, big trees, etc. It’s also interesting how much the trees around the parking lots and driveways have grown. Of course, there are many many more buildings on campus now that aren’t in view. The area behind campus had a lot more trees before; it’s all houses today.
[Updated 4/18/2009 to point to the new DeepZoomPix (formerly PhotoZoom) location]
Two of the things Andrew (11) and Michael (8) love most are Halo and the Discovery Channel. So, they were delighted when they saw this parody of the Discovery Channel's "I Love the Whole World" commercial and insisted I post it here.
March 8 is International Women's Day. Until two days ago, I had never heard of this international holiday. According to Wikipedia, this holiday was originally a Soviet holiday, spread to other Soviet-bloc and Communist countries (including China), and is a recognized holiday in few other countries that begin with the letter i (e.g. Israel and Italy. Notice that United States does not begin with i.)
As I understand it, when March 8 falls on a weekday, at least Microsoft gives female employees in China a half day off (I imagine this is true across China - can anyone verify?). This year, since March 8 fell on a Sunday, the company handed out flowers to all of the women and gave them an Amazon gift card. Here's a picture of the admins handing out flowers to all of the women as they entered our building.
I would have been more impressed if some of the senior male leaders had been down there handing out the flowers -- maybe next year...
Just for the record, there is also an International Men's Day. Some might question the need for a holiday to recognize the role of men in a male dominated world, but to each his/her own.
So, as a man who has a certain fondness and much respect for women, I'd like to wish all of the ladies a Happy International Women's Day!
The kids keep asking me to join the xbox team because they think it would be cool, but I think working at Lego would be even cooler if only for the business cards. They write your info on a mini-fig. Even better:
"Reportedly, LEGO even attempts to match an employee's features with their own minifigs."
Totally impractical, but I love it.
Thanks to my brother, Ives, for pointing out this article from Wired's Geekdad column. (He's totally impractical too, but I love him as well.)
This is an cool, well-done video of Bruce Lee playing ping pong with nunchaka; it was apparently done as an ad for Nokia. Love it.
Our good friends Chris and Leslie threw a lovely going away party for us last night, themed "B(ac)on Voyage" (Chris lost the party naming with his entry of "Chor-revoir"). Obviously the theme of the evening was bacon. Leslie really outdid herself, making bacon-infused bourbon to power the Bacon Old Fashioned cocktails -- a delicious blend of bacon-infused bourbon, maple syrup, bitters, and orange. It was meant to be a bit of a joke, but they really turned out well. The bourbon was just a bit smoky and a great match with the maple syrup and bitters. (The real proof of excellence is that Michelle stole my drink after tasting it.)
Leslie also made bacon-maple-chocolate chip cookies, which tasted for all the world like chocolate chip pancakes with maple syrup and bacon -- yummy -- as well as BLTs (always delicious). There were a whole host of other good foods too, but I admit, I only had eyes for the bacon flavored treats (no surprise).
Once we were fed and watered, the guests rocked out to Rock Band 2 (with the hot new Fender Precision Bass ). This was a surprisingly good group of Rock Banders, especially given the high average age of the party-goers. There are definitely some good songs in RB2, so I think we'll have to get a copy before we go.
For another view of the evening, here's Leslie's account.
Obviously, huge thanks to Leslie and Chris for hosting the party and to all our friends who shared the evening with us. We're lucky to have such great friends and will certainly miss them once we move to Beijing. Hopefully, we'll see everyone a bunch both in Seattle and Beijing.
The boys and I went to the South 47 Farm in Woodinville last night to go through their corn maze. Every year, the South 47 makes some cool five acre, mile-long corn maze; this year it was in the shape of a tractor.
On Fridays and Saturdays, they open the maze up at night so you can go through with a flashlight -- way more fun! The boys and I have done this on and off for the past few years. When you're in the maze, there are clues to help you find your way out; if you answer these farming related questions properly (e.g. "what % of land is spent raising feed and bedding for horses in a horse-powered farm?" or "which is faster, a bee or a chicken?") you'll be directed the right way. To make finding the dead ends more fun, they have eight stations hidden in the maze; if you find all eight and punch the card they give you, you can get a small gift at the end. The maze is open until October 31.
This year, some of the corn was blown down by the big windstorm we had a few weeks ago, but it's still very fun. I highly recommend it. If you go during the day, stop by the Root Connection (for great veggies) and Minea Farm (for the best cider in the world), both just north of the South 47.
South 47 Farm
15410 NE 124th St. (corner of NE 124th St. & the Woodinville-Redmond Rd.), Redmond, WA
Guns and Legos are two of my favorite things in the world, so naturally, the coolest thing in the world are Lego guns (OK, not exactly a tour de force of logic, but humor me.) While the guns that Lego makes have gotten a ton better since I was a kid, they're still pretty lame.
Fortunately, BrickArms makes very sweet looking Lego guns, grenades, and knives (and a baseball bat!) as well as some custom mini-figures for your Lego combat action. I especially love the Halo themed weapons. Anyway, check it out.
This is a great video. Where the Hell is Matt?
I'm one of those people who actually click on ads in Facebook once in a while. An ad just now lead me to Cordarounds, makers of some cool clothes including the Reversible Smoking Jacket -- a corduroy jacket on one side and a crazy silky smoking jacket on the other. I think I'd look ridiculous trying to pull of that look, but I'm sure it would look good on someone.
I love the look of some of the details, but more important, the naming of their stuff is great. We're suffering through feature naming on IE8 right now, so I'm especially aware of feature names. We'd never be able to get away with a feature named "Vagisoft" to describe a soft liner material. Awesome.
Our friend Joe clearly has too much time on his hands. At least he put it to good use. Here's a great video of his very cute son, Alexander, playing all four parts of Can't Stand Losing You in Rock Band (the greatest game of all time).
I've been itching to start sailing again for quite a while, so this year I signed up to be regular crew on Rajun' Cajun, a J/24 I've raced on before occasionally. Last Tuesday was the first week I was out racing (I missed the week before.)
It was a pretty big night (meaning windy) with a front going through. Fortunately, we had a full crew of five people, so we were able to keep the boat pretty flat (good). For the first time with a full crew, we sailed well with no major gaffs in sail handling. We sailed three races that night and placed 11th, 6th, and 12th out of 26 boats -- not bad.
Anyway, it was super fun to be out on the water. I'm looking forward to racing tomorrow night too. It's good to have this regular event on my schedule so I can get out a lot this summer.
(If you look at the results, you'll see we're in the bottom half of the fleet despite some good sailing because we missed the first two weeks. You get the worse possible score if you miss races, which once again is a good reminder that the biggest part of any competition is just showing up.)
You answer a few questions then they give you some tips on how to reduce your carbon emissions. You can then plant one of the beautiful trees Jenny designed and then watch it grow.
One of the cool things they did on the site is build a WebSlice that let's you easily watch your tree grow in IE8. (WebSlices are a new feature in Internet Explorer 8 beta 1 that allow you to subscribe to part of a web page.)
Here's my tree (named "Chortle"):
Check it out!
(Disclosure: my team helped sponsor this project.)
OK, I'm a sucker for "free" money. Ted Leonsis and Steve Case of AOL fame have started a new company to do electronic funds transfer, like PayPal, but without the fees for person to person transfer. I don't get their business model yet, but they're giving $25 to people who sign up for new accounts before May 15, 2008. They're also giving $10 for referrals, so if this sounds interesting to you, click the link below so we both get a little something...
(Thanks to Leslie for the tip. She got my $10...)
I am unspeakably sad about the passing of a 4.5 month old girl I've never met. Emma was the daughter of two people I know through work, Matt and Ellen Kowalczyk. They're really acquaintances, but I feel incredibly close to them now. As Emma fought for her life, Matt blogged and Twittered about what was going on. After a mutual friend told me what was going on, I started following the story and got to know them through this very personal struggle, until it ended today with this Twitter
and this post. Ellen's Facebook status was another peek into what was going on.
At first, I admit I was a bit taken aback by how public they were being, but as with Chris' kidney thing earlier this year, I think the openness helped bring more of their extended network of friends in to support them. I'm guessing the writing was a helpful outlet as well.
I'm not sure if we'll ever be as open; we tend to be pretty private (even the kid stories I write about are highly selective and edited). That said, I feel privileged that the Kowalczyks shared their lives with me for a little while and let me know their daughter and her strength.
It's easy to think of the Internet as dehumanizing relationships, replacing personal contact with email, Twitters, and IM. In some cases it is, but with Emma and Chris, I was able to share a much deeper relationship and get much more insight into their lives than I probably ever would have in the pre-net world, and I'm grateful.
This is a great article from Mechanix Illustrated magazine, written in November 1968, speculating what life in 2008 would be. I thought this was especially interesting since I was born in 1968.
They were close in a few places:
Of course, there are a few doozies:
And I really wish I had that 21st century commodity -- the intelligence pill.
I think our world is cooler in some ways (PCs, the Internet, and cellphones to name a few), but in many ways, I think we haven't delivered on the hopes of forty years ago. I want my rocket ship!
(Thanks to EricLaw for the pointer.)
I admit, I'm an idiot when it comes to the workings of the financial market, so I don't really get what happened with Bear Stearns, the subprime mortgage crisis, etc. Fortunately, I have friends who get this stuff and can explain it.
First, my old high school (and elementary school) friend Chooky has a (long), reasonably plain-English explanation of the collapse of Bear Stearns. Here's a bit to give you a taste.
So what happened with Bear Stearns? Very simply if we think of them as a hedge fund that is massively leveraged then all you need to go wrong is for their assets to go down in value enough that some bad things start to happen. Those assests that went bad started with the securitized mortgages above. Instead of selling all their mortgage tranches off to hedge funds and pension funds Bear Stearns kept some of them. These are called residuals. All the primary investment banks kept some of these tranches. Why? Well, they had good returns. Often the tranches they kept were the worst - the equity tranche. Sometimes they kept them because they couldn't sell them to anyone. They should have known better but again you have people shooting for the moon. They could lose their job but they could also be retired by next year.
My college friend, Adam Nash, added to this with a pointer to the presentation to JP Morgan investors in the JPMorgan/Bear Stearns deal and a link to a rude but funny stick figure explanation of the subprime mess.
Good thing I have smart friends with blogs to explain stuff to me. Check it out.
See the original here, with links to get t-shirts, etc.
This video is an "abridged history of American-centric war, from World War II to present day, told through the foods of the countries in conflict." It's brilliant and well done.
Visit Tourist Pictures for a breakdown of the battles and the cheat sheet of the foods used.
This is a set of insanely funny videos. Not necessarily safe for work (well, at least turn down the volume.)
Connie, ring any bells?
Michael probably doesn't remember, but his mom was my babysitter for a summer a long time ago back in Minnesota. There weren't tons of Chinese families in the area at the time; they lived near us, so our families were social. I think my parents are still in touch with his.
I have a distinct memory of playing ping pong with Michael and his older brother Carl. Michael was barely tall enough to see over the table, but he was quick and aggressive, slamming the ball despite his height.
They moved away to California so the boys could play tennis more earnestly. Obviously, it was a good call.
Michael was the first world-class Asian-American professional athletes I can recall. The whole community rallied behind him; even today he's a big celebrity in the Chinese-American community.
I see on Wikipedia that he lives on Mercer Island here in Seattle. Maybe I'll run into him again sometime. (For more, here's his official site.)
Anyway, congrats, Michael!
The concert was enjoyable. There were three large screens suspended over the symphony showing scenes from the games. While the scenes weren't set to the music, it was helpful to see the games with the music and fun to see old school stuff like the original Zelda or Mario games.
They also showed close-ups of the musicians playing; since we were about three rows from the back of the auditorium in the highest balcony, it was especially nice see musicians doing their thing. I wish they did this in all symphony performances.
I admit I was a little surprised by the quality of the scores. While some of the songs like Super Mario Brothers were just fun and nostalgic, the newer scores were often beautiful. Since video games have become as huge financially as movies (bigger now, I think), I guess it makes sense that they can attract a similar caliber of composer for games as movies. They sometimes felt a bit formulaic (for example, almost every fighting game broke into a martial snare drum beat), but I'm this may have been just the samples they chose. As a Microsoft guy, I was pleased how good the medley from HALO was; in particular, the opening bars of the HALO theme are really distinctive.
One interesting note: two of the composers, Jeremy Soule and Martin O'Donnell, were in the audience - not something I've seen before since most classical music composers are, well, dead.
The boys were well-behaved through the concert, although by the end of the three hour performance, Michael (7) was getting sleepy and fidgety (I was too). Andrew (10) really loved it though. All in all, it was a good first symphony experience for them.
In case you're curious, here's the program:
|Nobuo Uematsu||Play! Opening Fanfare|
|Nobuo Uematsu/Square Enix||FINAL FANTASY VII-Liberi Fatali|
|Koji Kondo/Nintendo||Super Mario Bros|
|Joel Eriksson/Electronic Arts||Battlefield 1942|
|Nobuo Uematsu/Square Enix||FINAL FANTASY VII-Aerith's Theme|
|Masato Nakamura/Sega||Sonic the Hedgehog|
|Tappy Iwase/Konami||Metal Gear Solid|
|Yoko Shimomura&Kikaru Utada/Disney/Square Enix||Kingdom of Hearts|
|Jeremy Soule/Bethasoft/UbiSoft||THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION|
|Nobuo Uematsu/Square Enix||FINAL FANTASY SERIES-Swing de Chocobo|
|Yasunori Mitsuda/Square Enix||Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross|
|Jason Hayes/Blizzard||World of Warcraft|
|Akira Yamaoka/Konami||Silent Hill 2|
|Koji Kondo/Nintendo||The Legend of Zelda|
|Nobuo Uematsu/Square Enix||FINAL FANTASY VII-One Winged Angel|
They also played a special additional score by Jeremy Soule, although I missed the title.
I've said it before, the Japanese are weird. These videos are part of a set that apparently tries to teach English through a weird combination of skits and dancing; while this is nutty enough, the phrases they choose are odd and funny.
Here are a few gems:
Watch graphics from your all-time favorite blockbuster video games—including Super Mario Bros.,® HALO® and The Legend of Zelda®—on the big screen while Seattle Symphony, Vocalpoint! Seattle and Northwest Boychoir perform the soundtrack.
They have a show next Thursday (1/24) at 7:30pm and a matinee Saturday, 1/26 at 1:00pm. Both shows are at the incredible Benaroya Hall. Unfortunately, it's not cheap; the lowest priced tickets are about $50 each with most of those sold out on Thursday already.
In any case, I thought it would be a fun way to introduce the boys to the symphony, so we're going to one of the shows. I'll let you know how it is.
It's been a while since I've been to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It's too bad I missed Bill Gates' keynote this year though. Bill has been the regular keynote speaker for years; since he's retiring later this year, this is probably his last one. He kicked off his talk with this funny video full of celebrities about his last day. Wish I had been there. Check it out:
Wahoo! Stanford beat Cal in the 110th Big Game yesterday, 20-13! It's been a long dry spell for the Cardinal; we haven't won since I started blogging, in fact: five years.
Overall, Stanford had a pretty bad year, but we beat USC when they were ranked #1 in the nation, and we won Big Game. That's about all we really need.
More on the Axe from Wikipedia (obvi).
Well, I finally got rid of my little brother Ives two weeks ago. After 35 (almost 36) years, he finally found someone who can put up with him long enough to marry him. All jokes aside, Aimee is a wonderful woman with great family and friends. My brother seems very content now and is lucky to have her. I just hope Aimee knows what she's getting...
Aimee and Ives had the wedding in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago and the home of Northwestern University. This was the first time I'd been to Evanston. It's a cute town, right on Lake Michigan. I see now why my Northwestern alumni friends really like it there. We stayed at the Hotel Orrington, which was centrally located, so we could walk everywhere.
The rehearsal and the wedding were very nice. My brother has a habit of getting teary on days ending in y and was a mess at my wedding so long ago. Of course, his wedding was no exception. At the rehearsal dinner, he choked up while handing out gifts, but I do give him and Aimee credit for holding it together during the ceremony itself (although it looked like they came close to losing it.)
As the best man, I gave a short toast (4 min, 30 seconds as timed by my friends - I had a reputation for overly-long toasts. Under five minutes is OK...) I was doing fine through the toast, working without notes and was almost done when out of nowhere, my throat constricted and I couldn't speak. I had a a terrified thought that I might dissolve into a teary mess and wouldn't be able to finish, but I pulled it together and got through it. I honestly hadn't seen or felt the surge of emotion coming. Wild.
After my toast, our fraternity brothers (Ives and I were both Kappa Alpha at Stanford) sang Kappa Alpha Rose to Aimee, a tradition at KA weddings. Aimee was a good sport about it, even though she doesn't have the "wealth of golden hair" described in the song (we did change the "eyes of blue" to "eyes of brown" in the song though.) Despite the fact most of us haven't sung the song for 10+ years, it didn't sound terrible (I sent the words to everyone ahead of time as a refresher.)
The boys looked really good in their black suits. Andrew (10) was the ring bearer, and Michael (7) was an "honor guard" along with another little boy. Michael wanted to carry ninja swords to help protect the ring, but Ives wisely demurred.
The weekend was especially fun for me because I got a chance to see tons of family and friends. We had almost all of our cousins, aunts, and uncles from both sides. It's been a long time since I'd seen most of them, and this was the first time I'd met my cousin Alice's husband and daughter. I also went out with my cousin Gary for beers, which was a new experience since the last time I saw him he was still way underage.
Ives and I have a lot of friends in common since we were both in the same fraternity at Stanford (Kappa Alpha) and both worked at Microsoft, plus one of Ives' friends from high school came out. As a result, I knew almost all of his out-of-town guests and had a great time catching up with them all.
Anyway, I wish Aimee and Ives well. I'm looking forward to having nephews and/or nieces soon...
The boys and I went to the Olympia Harbor Days today and went out on the Lady Washington for a battle sail. The Lady Washington is a tall ship sailing vessel, a replica of the original Lady Washington that traded for furs in the Northwest in the late 18th century; she was recently named the official Tall Ship Ambassador for the State of Washington (nice to see the state legislature really working hard...) She's was also the Interceptor in Pirates of the Caribbean and in Star Trek: Generations. She often sails with her companion, the Hawaiian Chieftain, another replica tall ship, as she did today. During a battle sail, the two ships maneuver for position and shoot blanks at each other with their cannons.
The Chieftain appeared to hold all the cards. They are a little bigger, a little faster, and better armed. (Chieftain carries four three pound deck guns to Lady's two three pound deck guns and two one pound swivel guns aft.) What's more, today, she had the weather gage (she was upwind of us), which is normally a huge advantage in sail combat. Once we motored out into Budd Inlet and raised sail, Chieftain fired a shot to signal the start of hostilities and then bore down on us. As she drew near (slowly in the light winds), we unleashed a salvo from our deck gun and swivel gun. Chieftain was unable to respond since she doesn't carry any guns that face forward. We tried to tack repeatedly, but in the shifty, light winds we had difficulty (never really tacking). As we flopped around, we blasted Chieftain several more times. Chieftain never got a clean shot at us and resorted to firing at the pleasure boats that were watching the battle. (It's OK by me to sink a few Bayliners.) According to the captain, they typically try to keep the fights pretty even otherwise the passengers on one ship get bummed, but today, I declare us to be the clear winner.
The ship itself was cool. I've been on tons of tall ships before, but I've never sailed on one. It was neat to see how all the stuff works and how much harder it is to do everything than on a modern sailboat. They definitely have a hard time pointing (sailing upwind) and tacking. The crew was nice and seemed to know what they were doing; they have a mix of volunteers and paid crew. I'm seriously considering doing their two week volunteer training where you live onboard for two weeks and learn the ropes (literally). They do an evaluation, and if you pass, you can be a long term volunteer with them. It would be very fun.
Unfortunately, the boys didn't love it. Michael (7) for all his swagger, doesn't really like loud noises, so the cannon fire wasn't a hit with him. Andrew (10) had a better time but somehow got it in his mind that he was going to help with the cannons and be allowed to go aloft, so he was a little disappointed. However, he is game to go on their week-long family expeditions they do in the San Juan Islands every year. I'd love to do that with him next summer.
One a side note, this is the first time I've really done anything in Olympia (which is the state capitol.) It's pretty small and a bit worn out, but the area by the water front looks very fun.
Please visit this site. For the children of America. Please.
Earlier this summer, the boys and I picked up a mess of PVC pipe and made marshmallow guns. Once you assemble the guns, you put a mini marshmallow in by the mouthpiece and then blow the marshmallow out. The marshmallow will negotiate all the turns in the gun and exit the muzzle - kind of cool really. The marshmallows melt in the rain, so clean-up isn't difficult either.
We got the initial instructions from Instructables. We used 1/2" (internal diameter) PVC pipe and cut the pipe into a few standard lengths (we used 3" and 7") for flexibility in recombining the pieces. Instead of the recommended hacksaw, we used a pipe cutter. This was easier and safer for the kids, didn't require a vice or bench, and produced cleaner cuts. This was the first time I've bought PVC; turns out you can only buy it in 10 foot lengths, so you'll have plenty. There was a hacksaw near where the PVC was in Home Depot so you can cut the long pieces down into something that fits in your car. (I got nervous when I saw the PVC initially...)
We didn't glue the pieces together (friction worked fine) so the boys were able to build all kinds of variants. They quickly learned that while the idea of a multi-barreled gun was attractive, dividing your limited lung power n-ways reduced the power.
The whole thing was super successful and very fun. We've since made water guns hooked up a hose and have been trying (unsuccessfully so far) to build a gun powered by compressed air (I've added a tire valve to a 2 liter bottle and pressured it with a bike pump.)
It's worth noting that I'm deadly with a four-foot section of straight pipe. I can hit the kids anywhere in the backyard with a marshmallow while sitting on the deck. Don't mess with Dad.
Of course, if it's worth doing, it's worth over-doing. Check out these crazy marshmallow guns...
Alinghi won the 32nd Americas Cup today, beating Team New Zealand by one second! Alinghi was comfortably ahead on the last downwind leg with Team New Zealand still owing a penalty turn; it looked like the race was in the bag. Then, the wind shifted upwind. Team New Zealand dropped their spinnaker (the downwind sail) and put up their jib; Alinghi tried to do the same and ran into trouble, with their spinnaker flailing and pole out of control. They got caught in a light wind hole and New Zealand went past. TNZ did a double-tack for their penalty turn (unusual since typically boats will do a 360 - armchair sailors will be debating this forever) and were racing toward the line. Alinghi got their speed up just in time to nose over the line, ahead by a second. It's incredible that after about 90 minutes, these two boats were only a second apart.
This has been the most amazing Americas Cup. Alinghi won 5-2, but each race was fantastic. The boats were well matched for speed despite all the rumors of Alinghi's boats being half a generation ahead. Alinghi simply executed better. The commentators can't stop gushing about what a fantastic final this has been.
So, congratulations to Alinghi for defending their title and keeping the oldest trophy in sports. Also, kudos to Team New Zealand for doing such a great job through the Louis Vuittons and the AC.
Wow. I can't wait for 2011...
It's map day, I guess. I'm sure everyone has heard the expression "digging to China", referring to the notion that China is on the side of the world. Well, here's a site that shows you what is really on the other side of the Earth from you (known as your antipodal point).
In case you're curious, the antipodal point for Seattle is somewhere in the ocean southeast of South Africa. The antipodal point for Beijing, China is in Argentina.
Pretty cool, in a dorky cartographic way.
Check it out: antipodemap.com
(click for a larger view)
This is an interesting map that renames US states for countries with similar GDPs. It really puts the size of the US economy into perspective.
Thanks, Adam, for the find.
I finally got off my butt and made my travel arrangements to go to Foo Camp next weekend. Tim O'Reilly hosts this annual event at the O'Reilly Media campus in Sebastopol, CA. They invite 250 hopefully (supposedly?) interesting "Friend's of O'Reilly" (aka FOO) to get together for a few days to share ideas, debate, hang out, etc.
I was flattered to get an invitation; I'm impressed with the people I know who are going and am looking forward to meeting some of the others on the list. I admit I'm a bit unsure about how this will go since I haven't been before, but I'm excited to participate and learn.
I don't have an agenda I want to drive, but I'm still thinking of ideas of stuff to present. (Let me know if there's anything you want to hear from me.) Maybe I'll just talk about bacon.
Here's the original, as a reference.
There have been some great remixes and remakes. This Lego version is a few years old, but it's still awesome.
This is an awesome Star Trek remix.
There are a bunch of pretty good ones with animations from various computer games, but I thought these were the best.
The IE Program Management team went bowling Friday afternoon last week to let off a little steam. I managed to trip and fall on my first ball due to a shoe malfunction. I kind of screwed up my knee; it still hurts this week. (We did have a good time nonetheless, and I'm sure the team enjoyed watching me splat myself on the lane, drawing a foul in the process.)
By contrast, check out this crazy bowling video. The guy sets a ball rolling slowly down the lane, then sends a faster one down. The faster ball knocks down nine pins; the slow ball then picks up the spare. Amazing.
GPSActionReplay is a cool Java applet that lets you plot multiple GPS tracks over a map or image. It animates the tracks so you can see how each track formed. The obvious application of this is to replay races. The app has a bunch of extra features for sail racing like wind charts, etc. The UI is a bit confusing, but it's a fun way to watch and actually pretty educational (well, to sailors at least).
After all the excitement of the Louis Vuittons Cup, I was glad to finally get out myself this week. I crewed on Ragin' Cajun, a J-24 I've raced on a couple of times a few years ago. The weather was shifty, threatening to rain. Worse, the wind was very unpredictable, so we tacked back and forth for an hour as the committee reset the course a few times.
We had one start that resulted in a general recall. It was quite exciting. There were twenty-seven J-24's trying to hit the line at the same point (near the committee boat) at the same time. Mass chaos. Lots of yelling. Tons of fun. Same thing at the start of both races.
We did OK. Rico (the owner and driver) pulled a few cool moves at the marks, sliding by a dozen boats. Picking the correct side of the course to work well with the wind shifts was key, but we weren't super successful at that. In any case, I had a great time and hope to get out a few more times this summer.
Nothing beats racing...
Luna Rossa sailed well; the races were much closer than the 5-0 score might indicate, but I think Luna Rossa simply wasn't aggressive enough. In the last race, they finally started attacking more, trying to take advantage of their faster acceleration after tacking in the light winds, but it wasn't enough.
Wahoo! Watch out, Alinghi!
Emirates Team New Zealand is off to a 3-0 start in the first-to-five series against the Italians of the Luna Rossa Challenge for the Louis Vuitton Cup. The winner of the Cup also earns the right to race in the Americas Cup against Alinghi (Switzerland).
Today was a day off and a chance for everyone to think about the first three races. They've been close races against two well-matched boats. However, momentum seems to be on the side of New Zealand. The Kiwis have progressively increased the margin of victory in each race going from eight seconds in the first race (crazy close) to forty seconds in the second to 1:38 in the third race (after losing the start pretty badly). What's more, New Zealand has led around all of the marks.
The boats appear to be close in boat speed under the conditions so far, so the difference has been tactics and a bit of luck. In particular, Luna Rossa missed a chance to shut out New Zealand at the start of the third race, failing to tack over the Kiwis after winning the start. New Zealand found better wind on the right side of the course and beat the Italians to the first mark.
We'll see if Luna Rossa can figure out what's going on and pull out a win. They'll need to do something or risk getting skunked.
At Microsoft, we love to beat ourselves up, in some ways even more than others do (and that's saying something.) We focus so much on the clever things our competitors do (as if we're supposed to be the only ones with good ideas) or the successes they have that we sometimes lose track of the great things we've done.
I saw this article go by a few months ago and thought it was a good reminder of our success in one area at least: our financial success. I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I think it's still relevant. Of course, we must never become complacent or too proud of what we've done, but it's good to have a little balance.
10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft's Profits
Monday April 30, 5:57 am ET
Joe Panettieri (The VAR Guy) submits: I have written extensively about Microsoft's (NasdaqGS: MSFT) problems. But last week, I got a stunning reminder about the company's power. It takes Microsoft only 10 hours of business to exceed Red Hat's entire quarterly profit. Skeptical? Check out the math, and nine other facts about Microsoft's most recent earnings report.
Microsoft last week announced quarterly revenue of $14.4 billion and net income of $4.93 billion. In other words, Microsoft's daily net income is about $55 million. That's $55 million in pure profit every 24 hours. Do some quick math and you'll learn it takes Microsoft only about...
- 10 hours or so (yes, hours!) to exceed Red Hat's (NYSE: RHT - News) quarterly net income of $20.5 million.
- four days to exceed Research In Motion's (NasdaqGS: RIMM) quarterly net income of $187.9 million.
- four days to exceed Starbucks' (NasdaqGS: SBUX) quarterly net income of $205 million.
- one week to exceed Nike's (NYSE: NKE - News) quarterly net income of $350.8 million.
- two weeks to exceed McDonalds' (NYSE: MCD - News) quarterly net income of $762 million.
- two weeks to exceed Apple's (NasdaqGS: AAPL) quarterly net income of $770 million.
- 18 days to exceed Google's (NasdaqGS: GOOG) quarterly net income of $1 billion.
- 23 days to exceed Coca-Cola's (NYSE: KO - News) quarterly net income of $1.26 billion.
- five weeks to exceed IBM's (NYSE: IBM - News) quarterly net income of $1.85 billion.
- 10 weeks to exceed Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT - News) quarterly net income of $3.9 billion.
For a dead company, Microsoft's profits certainly look lively.
(Fixed character problems)
The Louis Vuitton Cup determines who will go on to challenge the reigning Americas Cup champion (currently Alinghi, the Swiss team). This week, the LV semi-finals in Valencia finished up. I'm happy to report that things are going my way.
First, I'm most happy that BMW Oracle Racing(USA) lost to Luna Rossa (Italy). Of course, normally, I'd be cheering on the US team, but my feelings toward Larry Ellison, the owner of the BMW Oracle syndicate, transcend even my strong patriotism. That BMW Oracle was the Challenger of Record (the runner up from last time), this is was Larry's third try at winning (he hasn't yet), and that Luna Rossa smoked their ass 5-1 makes me even happier. After this humiliation, Chris Dickson, the CEO and skipper for BMW Oracle and turncoat from Team New Zealand, resigned. Besides, Luna Rossa, with the help of their sponsor Prada, just looks better. They have a beautiful boat and great uniforms. Look good, sail good.
Almost as sweet, Emirates Team New Zealand beat a scrappy Spanish team, Desafio Espanol, five races to two. I've been a fan of Team New Zealand for a while; they're a class act and a great example of a smaller effort producing great results. I am, of course, even more a fan of Team New Zealand after having visited their base in Auckland, had lunch at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (home club for TMZ), and sailed around Auckland Harbor on an old AC boat last year. That said, Desafio Espanol did much better than anyone expected in their first AC challenge. Props to Desafio for a good effort.
So, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa will race in the finals starting June 1. The winner will go on to challenge Alinghi for the Americas Cup. Should be fun!
If you want to watch video highlights or watch a very slick computer representation of the race (the same one they use in the TV coverage and frankly a better way to follow the races), check out Americas Cup Anywhere.
Here's an old Larry Ellison joke just to finish things up:
Question: What is the difference between God and Larry Ellison?
Answer: God doesn't think he's Larry Ellison.
As a long time Microsoft employee, I am saddened and sometimes embarassed by the consistently, um, poor quality of our ads. It makes me very happy when I see a great ad coming out of the company. Invariably, it seems that they come out of our international subsidiaries and not Redmond.
Here's a very well done and funny ad from the Dutch sub. Here's the blog of the guy who did the ad.
Here's an old one from the New Zealand sub that was fantastic too. I think it was pulled though by the corporate police. Too bad.
My friends John and Ann got married today, unbeknownst to anyone at the office. John let the world know today through his blog; this is undoubtedly the first time I've learned of a friend's wedding through the blogosphere.
I think they're both wonderful and think they're even better together. I'm sure they'll be very happy together.
Last weekend, I shot the Opening Day of boating season. This is an century+ old tradition, put on by the Seattle Yacht Club (my club). It consists of an opening Commissioning Ceremony on the club grounds, the Windermere Cup crew races, and a big boat parade. There are also a bunch of activities and parties leading up to Opening Day and afterwards. It's an altogether big deal.
Despite having been a member for eight or nine years, I've never been to Opening Day. (I did hang out on a speed boat at the exit of the boat parade one year.) In something of a coincidence, Michelle and I were married on Opening Day a long time ago. It was nice to finally hang out at the club for Opening Day; being the "official" photographer gave me a little something extra to do while I was there.
I took over 1000 photos; a few even turned out OK. Unfortunately, I had smudged my camera's sensor the night before as I was cleaning it and didn't have the right tools to really fix it. It didn't affect most of my shots, but you can see the flecks in a few. Drat.
Easily my favorite boat in the parade was the Elvis boat from the Bremerton Yacht Club. The huge Elvis head looked great; the lips and eyebrows even moved with the music. The crew on board also looked like they were having a blast.
Anyway, I had fun. You can check out more photos here.
Hm, not sure how I feel about this, but these web surveys are never wrong...
Last weekend, Andrew (9), Michael (6), and I had a grand ol' time geocaching in a park in Renton (a suburb on the south end of Lake Washington). We even found the cache this time (not always the case, unfortunately).
First, a little about geocaching for the uninitiated. Geocaching is a game where people hide caches and then list the coordinates on Geocaching.com. More often, there are multiple sets of coordinates, each leading to a clue that plays into a subsequent set of coordinates. Seekers then use their GPS' to work through the coordinates/clues until they find the cache. The caches vary, but they're usually some container with a logbook and some trinkets (the boys each picked up a small toy in this last one.) The guys (and I) love geocaching because it's a treasure hunt; it adds a lot of dimension to our hikes. It's a good excuse to play with gadgets too...
Anyway, the park where we geocached is the Black River Riparian Forest; the unique thing about this park (other than the fact the Black River has been gone for the almost ninety years since the Montlake Cut lowered the water level of Lake Washington) is that it's home to a huge heron colony, one of the biggest in Washington. As you can see from the photo, the trees are filled with heron nests. I understand they've laid their eggs already; the ones that survive predation from the bald eagles that have taken up residence very near by (we could easily the eagles' nest) will hatch in a few weeks. I want to come back then and see the hatchlings learn to fly. It was pretty cool even now.
A few tips if you go:
I'm often proud of the work Microsoft does; I think the software we make and the impact we've had are great. However, the thing that really makes me proudest is the charity of the company and the employees. Our employees donate more per employee than any other company, and the generous matching program we have makes those dollars go even farther. (And don't get me started about how cool the Gates Foundation is.)
Now, the Windows Live Messenger team has kicked off the i'm initiative, a program where Microsoft will donate a portion of the Live Messenger advertising revenue to a cause you select. You can choose from the American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, National AIDS Fund, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, ninemillion.org, Sierra Club, stopglobalwarming.org, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Unicef.
There's no cost to the participants, and Microsoft guarantees at least $100K to each cause with no cap. The only real bummer (aside from having to pick between these causes) is that the program is only available in the US right now.
I know the cynics will say we're just doing this to drive Messenger usage and for PR. I'm sure that's part of it, but there's real money going to really good causes here vs. just buying an ad somewhere.
So, check it out and send some IMs.
(In case you're wondering, I chose stopglobalwarming.org. It was a tough call, but at the end of the day, I really think global warming will be the biggest crisis the world faces with the hardest solutions. We need to start now.)
As you may recall, Michelle and I have a fascination for giant squid and octopus. (Every couple has odd things that bring them together. Huge and scary smart sea monsters are our thing. Deal with it.)
Anyway, we loved today's news story about the thirty-nine foot long (12m) and 990 pound (449 kg) colossal squid caught off Antartica this month. (BTW, colossal squid is the species name, not just a description. I thought giant squid were big, but who knew there were colossal squid that are even bigger!)
Aside from the huge size, according to Wikipedia, colossal squid have "sharp swiveling hooks" at the tips of their tentacles and eyes a foot wide (all the better to see you with before ripping you to shreds with those sharp swiveling hooks). Creepy.
I love how the expert from the University of Auckland put the size in perspective, saying if calamari rings were made from the squid they would be the size of tractor tires.
However, I say to all my huge and scary cephlapod friends - not everyone wants to eat you. I renew my offer of a truce between our species. We won't eat you if you don't eat us.
Somehow, despite the fact I have more links than before, my blog is now apparently worth a few hundred dollars less: $12,984.42.
By contrast, the IE Blog has increased significantly in value, from $1,018,994.70 last year to $1,478,530,26 now.Maybe the people linking to me are worth less now than the ones who linked to me last year. Time to go find some sugar daddy to link to me...
Warren (a lead developer on the IE team) asked me the other day what posts on my blog have been the most popular, so I thought I'd check the stats.
The list has been reasonably stable for a while now. Here are the top ten articles as measured by page views since Jan 1, 2007.
The most popular category searches are
37% of the traffic on my site is the comments page; given the relatively low number of legitimate comments, I suspect most of this is blog spammers trying to get it (I get hundreds of spam comments per day). 20% of the traffic is my RSS feed, so I'm guessing most people read the site via an aggregator (hopefully IE7!) The tonychor.com home page is the single page with the most traffic at 2.66%.
Google domains from various countries are by far the largest referrers, accounting for a whopping 85% of all my page views. Yahoo domains are a distant second at 6%. Live and MSN total 4.3%. I know my site is just one data point, but it highlights a few things to me. First, Google is completely dominant in the search space; the lead they have is huge. Second, the big three (Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft) really own all the traffic. These three account for over 95% of all my referrals. The others don't even show up.
Anyway, there's your daily dose of trivia.
Wow, this is incredible. Who knew how much influence this silly blog has? The love of bacon transcends all. (Here's the oven-baked bacon recipe.)
[Fixed typo 2/9/2007]
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
|A brilliant businessman on a quest for world domination and the self-proclaimed greatest criminal mind of our time!|
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.
You are Spider-Man
|You are intelligent, witty, |
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
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.]
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 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
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.
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.|
Which Serenity character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
[Fixed a bunch of errors on this page 12/28/2006]
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|
What are you?
[Fixed a typo that resulted from the sticky G key on our kitchen computer 12/28/2006]
This is a fun test to see if you can recognize several popular web company logos. I failed miserably.
Congrats to the Windows Media Player team for shipping a great WMP 11. As I mentioned before, I really like it a lot.
You can get here -- check it out!
Michelle and I have been watching the TEDTalks for a while now. These are videos of talks given at TED2006, the Technology Entertainment, and Design conference held in Monterey, CA. So far the speakers have been incredibly interesting. I've especially enjoyed a few:
There are a bunch more talks I need to watch. I'm particularly interested to see Jimmy Wales' talk (he's the founder of Wikipedia, my new fascination) and Mena Trott's talk (she's the founder of Six Apart, the company that makes Moveable Type, my blog software.) Steven Levitt (Freakonomics), Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point and Blink), and Nicholas Negroponte (One Laptop Per Child and former Director of the MIT Media Lab) are on my list too.
It's worth checking out. You can get the podcasts through iTunes and the site too.
This is a hot video of the Beretta Xtrema2 shotgun. The exhibition shooter in the video is simply amazing. He tosses clay pigeons everywhere and smokes them. He tosses golf balls out and signals which way he'll knock them (with a shotgun, mind). And, at the end, he shoots 12 rounds in 1.73 seconds (which is almost like a machine gun).
Normally, a 12-gauge shotgun can kick quite a bit when you're shooting. I have to lean in a bunch and hold it tight against my body to keep it under control, so the one-handed and upside-down-over-the-head shots in the video really impress me, both about him and the gun.
It's worth checking out just to see how good this guy is.
Congrats to my dad who hit a hole-in-one today! I was a 165 yard par 3 on his home course. It was his fourth hole-in-one. I'm still waiting for my first hole-in-one. Of course, I probably need to play golf once in a while to improve my odds.
Anyway, good job, Dad!
I know everyone has already linked to this, but it's so cool I wanted to make sure everyone saw it. Some guys at the University of Toronto have built a cool desktop UI prototype based on more physical, real-world interaction.
I have lots of reservations about how useful it would be as is. There are a lot of risks and pitfalls building user interfaces that too literally mimic real world metaphors. The limitations of the computer interaction model prevent the metaphors from really feeling the way users might expect; it's also silly to not take advantage of the properties of the computer to advantage the user and reduce some of the problems in the real world (note, the BumpTop stuff does actually do a reasonable job of this.)
Still, there are lots of neat ideas here, and I can't deny the beauty and fun factor this prototype demonstrate (very important too). Judge for yourself. (BTW, it's cool to see TabletPCs getting used this way.)
Michelle sent me this fun Flash animation. Check it out! (Looks like there's a bunch of other stuff worth checking out there too.)
The collections are pretty impressive for the genre. They have some cool costumes and props from movies and shows like the Twiki costume from Buck Rogers and a great collection of Star Trek weapons and even Kirk's command chair from the original Enterprise. The best part for all of us was the Spacedock, a super well done exhibit of famous spacecraft from different sci fi shows and movies. It really felt like we were looking out on a spacedock; the displays they used for more information were super well done too with these slick dual layered displays. Hard to describe; worth seeing.
As a family, it was only OK. As I've mentioned before, the boys are crazy about Star Wars. There was just enough Star Wars stuff in the museum to keep them from totally rebelling against the visit, but much of the place was dedicated to science fiction from my generation and earlier. What's more, there are very few interactive displays, so kids who can't read much yet (e.g. Michael) or have short attention spans (e.g. Andrew) will not find the place very interesting. The whole place is unnecessarily dark and a little spooky too. I think it would have been more fun to be there by myself, frankly, but even then.
While we were at SFM, Michelle went to check out the DoubleTake show at EMP. (I had taken Andrew to see this with his class a few weeks ago.) This is a showing of some of Paul Allen's private art collection (doesn't everyone have Monet, Lichtenstein, Degas, Rothko, Picasso, van Gogh, etc. hanging around their home?) While the pieces themselves were great, the interesting part of this exhibit is how they have the art arranged. They've paired (in some cases tripled) art together to illustrate some theme, either contrasting treatment of simliar themes or showing similarities across eras and artists. I've never been good at viewing art, but this was a great way to get me to think harder about what I was seeing. (Loved Richter's Candle.)
Neither the SFM or DoubleTake exhibits were very large, so you could easily to do both in a morning or afternoon. In both cases I felt that while there was some amazing/interesting stuff and the exhibits were well done, these weren't great values. They're definitely not great for families with little kids. That said, if you like art at all, go see paintings at DoubleTake. You're unlikely to see so many paintings from such prominent artists in Seattle again.
This video is absolutely rofl hysterical, at least if you're a Star Wars geek.
I just came across this new sailboat called the Flying Tiger 10. It's a 10m raceboat built in China for $44,000 -- about half of what a comparable boat built in America would cost. It fits in a single container, and the steel cradle can be turned into a trailer. Perhaps the most interesting thing though, is that this boat was designed by a set of folks collaborating via blog and wiki. Boat designer Robert Perry and Bill Stevens posted about the idea on Sailing Anarchy. Pretty soon people started showing interest, making suggestions, and putting down money for the boats, sight unseen. Over fifty boats have been sold so far, all over the Internet as far as I can tell; there are no dealers (unusual for boats). You can read more about this in article from Sailing World.
It's neat to see how these web collaboration principles are moving out of purely electronic products into the "real world". The boat looks good too. I'm really boaty these days after we sold our Tartan 3500 Trinket. Looks like there have been ten sold to the Washington area. Wonder if we'll have enough for a class start? $44K sounds like a good price...
According to PersonalDNA.com, I'm an Attentive Analyst. This is in contrast to Sean Lyndersay and Chris Wilson (both on my team) who are both Benevolent Leaders. I guess I should be working for them instead of the other way around.
You can read more detail about my burdens as an Attentive Analyst here.
Loser way to write.
Kind of funny in a sad way.
A Fib is a poem where the number of syllables per line corresponds to the consecutive numbers of the Fibonacci sequence. Amazingly dorky yet amusing. Thanks to John to pointing this out.
One of the pages John links off to had a better love Fib.
Goes out of fashion,
Chocolate melts in hand or mouth,
But the Fibonacci sequence goes on forever.
OK readers: let's see your Fibs!
Regardless of how you feel about guns, I think everyone would agree that if you choose to own a gun, you should be trained in its safe and effective use. I learned to shoot at Insights Training Center and have nothing but good things to say about the school and Greg Hamilton, the founder and chief instructor. The system they teach is very logical and thought through. It truly is a system that integrates the same principles through unarmed, knife, handgun, and long arm self-defense. One bit of evidence of the quality of the program has been two championships and multiple top five finishes for Greg, his instructors, and students at the National Tactical Invitational.
Even if you don't choose to own a gun, it probably isn't a bad idea to learn how to handle them safely. Of course, there are a lot of classes from Insights that aren't firearm related as well including unarmed, folding knife, pepper spray, and others.
One of the things that appealed to me most about Insights is that Greg takes a very pragmatic and unglamorous view of guns and self-defense. For instance, in the first General Defensive Handgun class, when we were all on the firing line, Greg said that if he had this druthers, we'd spend the whole class running away as soon as he blew the whistle because that was the best way to handle a fight; of course, he knew we'd be upset about spending two days and few hundred dollars running sprints. He also warned that a defensive shooting would probably ruin your life emotionally and financially; there is nothing heroic or appealing about shooting someone else. It would simply the be price of protecting yourself and your family.
The classes are also just plain fun. There aren't too many other places you get to move around, yell, and shoot thousands of rounds in a safe environment. I haven't taken the unarmed class yet, but friends who have said it was a hoot to be able to hit someone (in a padded suit) full force.
I already use the learnings from Insights everyday; I am much more aware of my surroundings and take simple precautions like locking my car doors as soon as everyone is in. As a result, I hope I'll never have to use any of the more violent lessons from Insights, but I'm happy to have the option to do so if the time comes.
[post edited 4/10/2006 to correct a glaring typo]
Nice to see someone giving Slashdot hell.
Aaron posted a map of the states he's been to. I thought this was cool, but I've been to all fifty states (mostly in the back of a station wagon as we were growing up). However, the site also can generate maps of the countries you've been to.
I hadn't actually ever calculated how many countries I've been to. I've visited nineteen countries, as it turns out, all but eight exclusively for work. I expect to add New Zealand and India to the list this year and maybe Italy, again, all for work.
The number is actually less than I thought. I'm pretty sure many of my friends have been to far more countries. I've missed all of South America, the Middle East, and Africa plus huge swaths of Europe and the Pacific. Anyone have a conference you need me to attend in Fiji?
(As a side note, this project highlights the challenges of defining what a country is. Should Taiwan appear separately from China? How do you treat dependent territories? And then there is the problem of disputed borders. Kashmir anyone? I sometimes miss the days from Bookshelf and Encarta when our team dealt with stuff like this. Mostly not though...)
According to the Business Opportunities blog, my blog is worth $13,548.96. That's certainly higher that I would have expected.
By contrast, the IE blog is worth $1,018,994.70. Honestly, that's less than I would have figured given that it's the #1 blog on MSDN and a CNET top 100 blog (Yes, I know this doesn't render correctly in IE7 -- we're working on it. Yes, I understand the irony.)
Anyway, fun stuff. How much is your blog worth?
Check it out. Lots of inking and trashing around.
This crazy guy is redoing the original Star Wars movie using Legos. His attention to detail and adherence to the shots of the movie are impressive. So far, he's done 47:11 of the 1:53:41 of the movie, all set to the original soundtrack. You can watch the scenes that are already completed, but you'll need the DivX decoder.
I think I'd slit my wrists after a few hours of building all the models and sets and then animating them frame by frame to sync with the movie. But, this is his hobby, not mine, so more power to him, I guess.
It seems that giant octopuses don't just attack sharks. Salmon researchers off the west coast of Vancouver Island in Canada caught video of a giant octopus attacking their remotely controlled mini-sub. Although the octopus was huge and the submarine virtually defenseless, the mini-sub managed to escape unharmed by using its thrusters. (I know you were worried...)
In light of this attack, I renew my call for a cessation of hostilities between humans and octopuses. We won't treat you like sushi if you stop eating our subs.
Thanks to Al for the tip.
This Honda ad is very enjoyable; it's a mouth-sound "orchestra" making the sounds of a Honda. Why can't Microsoft ads be this good?
Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.
I'm not normally a fan of blonde jokes (ok, who's kidding who), but this, in fact, the best blonde joke ever.
According to the site, this compilation contains the full text of the top 100 American political speeches of the 20th century "on the basis of social and political impact, and rhetorical artistry." 67 of the speeches have all or part of the speech available in audio form as well.
While I'm sure there is room for disagreement in the content and order of the speeches, the ones I've listened to so far have been great examples of superb speeches, ones that move people and demonstrate the art of oratory. (Ronald Reagan's address after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster was particularly moving for me. I remember that day very vividly. The speech got me all choked up again.)
I'd love to be that good some day.
I'm a strong proponent of helping people work their way out of poverty. In my view, handout charity is worthless for long-lasting change.
As such, I'm a big fan of Real Change Newspaper, a Seattle organization that helps 200 homeless vendors out of poverty. The vendors buy the papers for 35 cents and sell them for a dollar, keeping all the profits. The paper itself has improved consistently over the years, with good articles and a unique editorial view, certainly different from the mainstream press. I buy a paper from a vendor whenever I can, even if the paper is a little old.
This program combines my key elements of a good program: it's work based, it offers value to the contributor, and the contributor voluntarily chooses to participate. Handouts, tax-based programs, and straight donations don't meet these goals.
I don't always agree with the paper, but I heartily support their goals of giving people a hand up, not a hand out (yes, cute turn of phrase.) I strongly encourage you to buy a paper when you can too.
While I'm on the topic of tape and my admiration for 3M, let me mention something slick Michelle brought home. It's the Scotch Tape Runner -- a cross between double-sided tape and a glue stick. You pass the Tape Runner along the item to be taped down. It lays down an archival, photo safe double-sided tape adhesive. No glue blobs, no drying, no tape balls, and no fingerprinty double-sided tape. It's amazing and super easy to use.
Available at Amazon and fine stores near you.
Scotch Tape Runner-.33''X472'', Acid Free
For some time now, I had been planning on blogging about this great little tool that has been an indispensible part of our household for some time, but Cool Tools beat me to it. The good people at 3M (n.b. I grew up in a 3M ghetto in St. Paul, both my parents worked there, I interned there, and they helped put me through college) know tape and have created another tape masterpiece.
The Handband straps onto the back of your hand and has single cut, popup strips of tape. As you're wrapping a package, you just reach over and pull out a perfectly sized piece of tape to keep wrapping. You can do it one handed, so you don't need to let go of the wrapping paper or get someone to help you. It's amazing how useful this is and how much easier wrapping is. They also make a desktop base for the Handband, but that's only somewhat useful.
Anyway, I know I missed the Christmas wrapping season, but I highly recommend getting a few Handbands now for belated Christmas gifts, Valentine's Day, and the odd birthday. Great stuff.
Available at Amazon and stores near you.
Some people have too much time on their hands. But, if you're going to be a huge geek, at least be good at it. These guys are. They fly precision aerobatics in a PC flight simulator. Some cool stuff, especially the virtual airshow video that has a bunch of these geek pilots flying an airshow. It's actually really well done. Worth a few minutes. (Click the link below, go to the Links menu on the site, and choose "VFAT Aerobatics Show".)
I volunteered at the Seattle Aquarium for a short stint when I first moved to Seattle (I used to dive a lot and almost became a marine biologist instead of a computer dude.) During orientation, I heard an amazing story about how the staff were finding dead sharks in the big tank. Their tails had been torn off and their guts sucked out, leaving only the skin.
Turns out the octopuses in the tank were snaring the sharks as the the sharks swam past. Well, now, someone has caught this action on video. It's absolutely amazing and more than a little scary, especially as someone who has done night dives with octopi. Check it out.
Those octopuses are super smart. The Seattle Aquarium staff also told a story about how the octopuses adapted to having divers in the tank doing feedings. The octopuses realized that the divers were handing out food every day and wanted to get closer to the action. They quickly figured out the easiest way was to slide up the glass, slide along the surface of the water and find the air hose the diver was using, and then slide down the airhose to the diver. Apparently, the first time this happened, the visitors were watching an octopus come down the airhose toward the oblivious diver. They gestured wildly to the diver, who thought the visitors were waving at him. He smiled and waved back. All of a sudden, the octopus, now on the diver's back, reached around the diver on both sides and started grabbing at the food he was handing out. Obviously, the diver freaked out and shot for the surface. That would definitely make me hang up my dive fins.
I think it's time to declare a truce with the octopuses: we won't eat you if you don't eat us.
Thanks to TEDBlog for the link.
This video shows a cool move to fold a shirt neatly and quickly. Slick.
The first car I owned was a 1972 BMW 2002. It was a real lemon. The engine nearly threw a rod a week after I bought it junior year of college, stranding me in California's Central Valley and costing me my entire summer internship's salary to rebuild. The ongoing maintentance and restoration of this thing cost me a lot of my first Microsoft employee stock grants which, given the run up in the stock price between 1990 and 2000, meant I spent probably $100K on that damn thing.
Still, I loved it, and I love the 2002. This legend was the lineal ancestor of the BMW 3-series and really created the category of the sports sedan. So, I was incredibly pleased to see that the BMW Mobile Tradition division is building a new 2002tii (the fuel injected version) from mostly new parts they still make for 2002 devotees. They plan to auction it off for charity next spring. How I'd love to win that! Of course, they're building the much cooler version with the round taillights. (BMW switched to square taillights and heavy bumpers in 1974 to meet US safety regulations, destroying the look of the car in the process.)
Kudos to BMW for investing in this project.
Thanks to Metacool for pointing me to this..
Postsecret is an amazing website that shows postcards people have sent in that have some personal secret. The cards can be quite artistic, and the secrets range from very personal and deep to funny but real to plain scary and horrible.
They only have a few cards on the site now. The archives are available in book form (which is beautifully done and a fun read/browse) as well as a travelling exhibit. A small gallery of old cards is also available here.
As a side note, I think it's neat when a blog makes the transition to the "real world" like this, but I hope the site doesn't become worthless like Belle de Jour did when she published her book Belle De Jour : Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. (Not safe for work, btw. Also, is it required that websites that move to book form take the title pattern, "[sitename]:[tagline]"? That's like the old Microsoft naming pattern "Microsoft [category name] for [platform name]". Lame.)
Anyway, it's worth a few minutes to check out. Anyone out there sent in a postcard?
Topping their list, Santa Claus, with a reported wealth of "infinite". The profile of Santa, however, reveals labor complaints from the elves. My favorite, of course, is Lucius Malfoy, although I'm not sure what to make of the fact that Malfoy holds Microsoft stock. I also love the quote from Mr. Burns (of Simpsons fame), "Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."
It's a funny set of articles and profiles. Worth a read.
Well, the title of this post will probably wind up with me getting a lot more random people drifting into this stie...
I think every person has things where they are a leader among their friends; camera/photography stuff might be such an area for me. In other areas, each person has things where they follow their friends. Music discovery is definitely an example of this for me. Throughout my life, I've always been bad at finding new music. Occasionally, I'll have a friend like Chooky who introduce a pile of stuff to me for a period (high school, in Chooky's case); there are then ice ages in my music library where I don't have anyone to draft off of.
My friend Scott is a big fan of music and is always looking for new stuff (like his recent foray into Japanese rock -- also see this post.) He's just started a series in his blog on free MP3 downloads. I like the tune in his first selection and am looking forward to hearing his next selections.
Briefly, in much of the world, babies don't use diapers and certainly not the extent and duration we do in the US. The link describes the methods and rationale for diaperless babies. Like breast feeding, diaperless babies are the norm throughout history and still throughout the bulk of the world, but both have left the mainstream in the "developed" world. It seems odd to me that decreasing the bond and communication between parent and child, increasing cost, and generating mountains of garbage are considered progress. I wish I'd seen this when the kids were still in diapers (although I doubt Michelle would have gone for it...)
As a funny aside, the article talks about the shii shii sound that parents use to signal kids to pee; I totally grew up with my parents making that sound to help us get started, and I do the same with the boys. I never knew why we did this.
I've always wanted to be one of the cool kids. Still do. Well, now all the cool kids are hanging out in the Facebook. For those of you who are old and uncool like me, the Facebook is Friendster, Orkut, or MySpace for college students. Apparently, people check their Facebook pages multiple times a day, posting photos, writing on their friends' "Wall", and seeing how many friends they can link to.
So, I joined. I still have a Stanford alumni account, so I was able to sign up (you need to go to a supported school or a college affiliated alumni account.) Frankly, it's pretty much like most of the other social net websites with a few exceptions. The privacy standards are lowered so you can browse your school and/or region more easily, the community is a bit more filtered so you have hopefully fewer weirdos (like old alumni lurking), and it's easier to post and tag photos.
It's a bit odd for me on Facebook since I don't really have many friends who have Facebook accounts. I'm pretty much limited to my former interns and recent grad new hires. They've humored me by allowing me to link to them, but I think my network will be pretty small. I may go find my cousins next...
In any case, if you want to find me and link to me, I'm all yours.
This is a pretty fun distraction. There are seventy-five bands in this photo. Michelle has found about fifty so far. Just to get you started, the ones in front are Queen holding up Prince.
How many can you find?
Michelle and I searched for our first Googlewhack for a while tonight after dinner. We searched fruitlessly for a while, never getting closer than 73 hits until Michelle received an inspiration from the gods (probably Anubis): scaraboid deguerrotype. The result is a browser log on some getty.edu site -- not exactly exciting, but a Googlewhack nonetheless.
Can you find any?
Michelle and I plus Felicity (a friend from work) went to see Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure this evening at the Moore Theater. This is a very funny one man show about where googlewhacking lead Dave during a few month stretch a few years ago.
Googlewhacking is the game of trying to find two word searches in Google that return exactly one result. I have been unable to find a googlewhack in the few tries I've made since coming home from the show. I'll post whatever I find.
Anyway, if you get a chance, go see the show. It's a fun evening.
My friend Chooky did a little analysis of the comparative value of different levels of education, taking the census data that shows the average incomes for different education levels and then calculating the NPV of those levels. I was happy to see (as the holder of a bachelor's degree), that the maximum NPV is at the bachelor's degree level.
Too bad Chooky stayed on to get his PhD. Sorry, dude, looks like I picked the right time to get out of school.
Monday night, my sailing friends Brian and Malcolm and I went to the Seattle Yacht Club to hear a talk from the Alinghi syndicate -- the winners of the last America's Cup and defenders in 2007 in Valencia, Spain.
The presenters were Ed Baird and Hamish Ross. They were entertaining and brought very different perspectives on the America's Cup. Ed is helmsman aboard Alinghi and Hamish is general counsel and historian. They brought a good mix of stunning video and photos plus great stories from their time sailing and especially in the last America's Cup. Ed, in particular, has amazing stories. For instance, he was the helmsman aboard Young America when they snapped the boat in two. That doesn't happen every day...
The main thing I took away is that these guys are playing a different game than I play when I race. Like the difference between Tiger Woods' golf game and mine. The considerations, strategy, and teamwork are well beyond anything I could have imagined. For instance, apparently, the AC boats aren't very maneuverable. To get the boats to do the amazing ballet turns at the start requires a huge amount of coordination of the whole crew to get the sails, trim tab, rudder, and other sail/mast adjustments moving perfectly to turn the boat quickly. We can just throw the rudder over to turn fast (although it does work better with some coordination from the sails...)
We started toying with the idea of going to Valencia for the next America's Cup. There's probably a .0000001% chance of that really happening given that we all have kids, but it's fun to dream. Since SYC is not putting a boat in this time (OneWorld raced for SYC in the last AC), I may be rooting for Alinghi. I'd normally root for an American team, but the American team will likely be BMW Oracle Racing, and I just can't support anything Larry Ellison does (despite my affection for BMW).
Anyway, great talk and a great event. I felt like I do after watching a Warren Miller film. I'm all pumped about sailing and AC now and can't wait to get on the water.
MS Paint is one of the most underappreciated applets in Windows -- until now. This amazing, random thread on the North American Subaru Impreza Owner's Club off-topic forum is full of MS Paint drawings of mistakes people have made. These range from things like getting shot with a potato cannon to getting a little hot tub action from the wife's sister to doing 120 in a school zone with a cop just over the hill.
The quality of the art varies widely, but they're almost all funny.
Today is my dad's birthday. When he was growing up, he thought the Veteran's Day parades were in honor of his birthday.
My dad is my hero. He was born in China during WWII, fled with his family when the Communists took over, and grew up in post-war Hong Kong as my grandparents re-established a life for the family. He came to a little town in Iowa (not a bastion of overseas Chinese even today, and even less so in 1960) as a fifteen-year old college student, knowing no one and having virtually nothing. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps and eventually graduated with two masters degrees, in physics and electrical engineering, sending money home to Hong Kong the whole while.
Through his hard work and natural talent he had a great career at 3M (whenever you look up at a power pole in the US, you're probably seeing the Quick-Term II or III that he designed), made a great life for his family, and put two of us through Stanford debt-free. He always had time to play with us and our friends (my high school friends still imitate the sounds my dad made playing soccer), always made time to help us with homework (although he's so good at math that he had a hard time understanding why I didn't get stuff), and is a good husband to my mom. He set a high bar for me as a father, husband, and employee. He set a high bar for me as a man.
Anyway, he and my mom are enjoying their retirement now in Las Vegas, playing golf, getting points in local casinos to redeem for free food and stuff, and spending time with friends. He's earned it.
For me, I think my dad was right: the Veteran's Day parades are for him. Happy birthday, old man!
I just finished voting and am a happy man. I love voting. It's my job and my right as a citizen in a democracy. Around the world, people are dreaming of voting, risking their lives to vote, and in some cases dying to vote (and staining their fingers purple for days!) In America many take this fundamental liberty for granted. Shame, shame, shame! Go vote!
(Besides, voting gives me clear conscience to complain about our government until the next election. As I see it, if you don't vote, you can't complain, so if you like complaining about gov't as much as I do, get off your butt and vote!)
Last night around 3:00am, I was coming home after an evening with friends. As I was driving, I noticed my car was pulling to the right a bit. "Damn," I thought, "I'll have to get that looked at." A few miles later the car started to vibrate and make more noise; I realized that my tire was going flat. I hoped I could get home, but as I pulled onto I-405 from 520, I knew it was a hopeless cause. I pulled off under the 12th Street overpass and stepped out to inspect the damage. The tire was shredded. No goop was going to fix this.
Fortunately, I had my AAA membership number and phone number in my wallet. I called them up, and the dude was out in thirty minutes, just enough time for me to watch the episode of Good Eats I had synched to my Smartphone. (Technology wins!) Dude wheeled out his industrial sized jack, unrolled the airhose for his tools, and had my spare tire on in about three minutes. It would have taken me thirty minutes of flipping through the owner's manual just to figure out how to get the cover off the hub with the special key BMW provides.
What's more amazing is that I'm not sure we even have a AAA membership anymore. Michelle wasn't sure, and they had our old, old address. Nevertheless, they bailed me out at 3:00am in the rain on the side of the freeway, no questions asked. If we're not members now, we'll definitely rejoin.
Here's a pretty cool article on a species of ant in the Amazon that kills off all plants in an area except the particular type of tree they nest in, creating "devil's gardens".
I love the Space Shuttle and am glad to see NASA launching again. Like many loves, mine is a bit irrational. I know the Shuttle is a glorified truck built from 30 year old technology, but I still love it. I know it sucks money away from other programs that might advance science more quickly. I don't care.
This was the first time the boys really saw a Shuttle launch. They, of course, thought it was cool. We got to talk about how the shuttle works, what we learn in space, and how people get to become astronauts. It was a good conversation, one that got the boys thinking about science and hard work. The Shuttle program has already paid dividends to my kids.
Anyway, I'm glad to see the Shuttle back in space and wish the crew the best of luck. Godspeed, Discovery.
Mychal is a very smart guy with a good heart and a very dry sense of humor. Even in college, he was always thoughtful and sincere. He's done great things since school in his public service through the King County and local municipal courts. I'm confident he'll make a great judge (and not just because I want someone to write off my speeding tickets...)
Unfortunately, since I'm not a resident of Renton, I can't vote for him, but those of you who do live in Renton should seriously consider him. You can learn more about Mychal at his website, ElectMychal.com.
On a side note, it's kind of amazing to me that my former classmates are running for office and holding all kinds of important jobs. Guess I'm getting old. Maybe someday I'll have an important job too...
I'm not a big bicycle racing fan, but I do love the Tour de France, mostly to watch Lance stick it to everyone (especially the French -- take that, you Froggies).
I do follow the TDF every year, but this year, my favorite coverage is on Chooky Fuzzbang, a blog by my friend Tony (yes, another Tony). Good commentary and explanations.
Last weekend, I raced in the San Juan 24 Nationals out at Shilshole here in Seattle. I was on my friend Adrienne's boat T-Bone (appropriately named as we'll see later.)
This was my first time aboard a San Juan 24, and it's been a while since I've raced, but it all came back to me over the three days of racing. We had very different conditions on each day. Friday was light-moderate with a very short shower. Saturday was big -- 15-20 kts winds with an opposing tide generating steep chop on top of driving rain at times (very fun though). Sunday was sunny, warm, and still with our only race getting shortened (the other race was cancelled.)
We did, in fact, get t-boned on the second day during a tight mark rounding. It all happened very fast with us sandwiched between two boats when one the outside boat decided to tack in front of us. We had to crash tack immediately to avoid a bad collision, but in doing so, we tacked right into the inside boat. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the damage was minimal.
It was incredibly fun, and the Corinthian Yacht Club guys put on a nice race. We didn't do especially well, placing 13th out of 14 boats, but we learned a lot and had a great time.
I'm all boat-y now and eager to get another boat (we've owned a few boats previously, but are now between boats.) I think a J/30 might be nice...
It's good to be a dad.
Michael (4) and Andrew (7) had prepared nice gifts in class. Michael gave me a clay duck he made in class; the beak had fallen off, but I think it's lovely (it's kind of tough looking now, like Michael.) Perhaps cooler was the card he wrote; his writing has improved dramatically and has progressed beyond his name. The Star Wars lightsaber scene he drew was a nice, traditional touch.
Andrew made me a notepad in class; the title was "Obi-Dad", which I love, even though Obi-Wan was really a bit of a screw-up.
I'm on a bit of a Constitutional tear this evening.
"A well educated Electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people of keep and read books, shall not be infringed."
Of course not.
Why does the Second Amendment then cause so much confusion for otherwise smart people?
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
(For those of you who would say the right only extends to weapons of the time, like muskets, I'd ask does the First Amendment apply only to media of the time, like newspapers, or does it cover TV too? Thanks to the Wikipedia for that analogy.)
I was just re-reading the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights (doesn't everyone do this from time to time?). Amazing stuff. Even now, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights constitute the most extensive list of guaranteed freedoms in the world. This is a significant statement. These documents guarantee freedoms, they don't confer them. From the Declaration of Independence, we recognize that power comes from the people; it is not given by a monarch or God.
It's also important that there is a single document (with amendments) that outlines the law of the land and how our government works. This seems obvious, but even our Canadian friends didn't figure this out as late as 1982 when they passed the Constitution Act, freeing them from needing permission from Britain to amend the Canadian Constitution. (Does it surprise you too that this happened so recently?)
Even today, the Canadians don't have a single document that comprises their constitution; it's a mix of dozens of documents and a pile of unwritten conventions. What the hell kind of way is that to run a country? Unwritten conventions? Give me a break.
Oh, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (their faux Bill of Rights) can be overriden by the federal or local gov't as they see fit thanks to Article 33. So the thing starts by saying that individual liberties are guaranteed, except when the law says it's not and then it ends by saying that the government can ignore whatever it wants.
Furthermore, the amendment process is unclear (another one of those unwritten conventions) and all laws are subject to judicial review by unelected judges that are almost impossible to remove. Nice checks and balances. And, of course, none of it is checked by the right of people to keep and bear arms. So, basically, Canadians have democracy only as long as the government thinks it's OK.
Of course, everyone still has to swear allegiance to the Queen. Of England.
God Bless America.
[Updated] Should have provided links to these important documents for your reading pleasure.
I seem to be on a bit of a Star Wars binge today...
Anyway, my new favorite blog is Darth Side. It's Darth Vader's blog and the writing is hysterical. In the most recent post, he's complaining about the contractors they're using for the second Death Star construction. He ends by looking forward to the picnic lunch his office is packing for his visit to Endor tomorrow. Sublime.
I also like Darth's management philosophy: "Shape up or sputter to the floor unconscious -- that's my motto." Hmm, maybe that will get IE 7 out faster... "Punish one, teach one thousand", as I always say.
Andrew (7) and Michael (4) have really gotten into Star Wars lately. It's actually kind of neat that we're able to share this since I was about Andrew's age when the first Star Wars movie came out. We even managed to find some of my old Star Wars toys at my parents' house for them to play with.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to make some photos and maybe videos of the guys holding light sabers. I found some pretty simple techniques on the web and earned high marks for "cool dad" this week as a result. (Let me tell you that the image of Michael with a light saber is terrifying.)
Along the way, I found some amazing Star Wars fan films. These are amateur movies with a Star Wars theme. Some are meant to fill in gaps between the movies, others are just spoofs or (mostly) light saber battles. In any case, they're amazing. It's incredible what people can do with modern technology. The reason I got into software development and am still doing it after all these years is that I'm super excited about how software can help enable more people to exercise their creativity by lowering the barriers to entry and production. I think word processing did this for writing, digital imaging did this for photography, and now digital videomaking is doing it for filmmaking.
Super neat stuff.
This is one sick and funny knife block. I'm surprised no one ever did this before. Too bad you can't buy it. By Vice Versa.
Thanks to Gizmodo.
This is a very slick site that displays the popularity of different names over the past hundred years or so. Looks like there were a lot of babies named Tony when I was born. My parents were so trendy...
Thanks to Chooky Fuzzbang for this link.
We went to the Washington State History Museum today in Tacoma. This was our first visit. It's a surprisingly good museum; Andrew even proclaimed it was "better than Chuck E. Cheese" which, for him, is saying something. (I admit, this may have been because of the train exhibit where they let you play with Lego trains and Lincoln Log stuff.)
There exhibits where well done, covering Washington's relatively short history in reasonable detail with a good mix of reading, hands-on stuff, and multimedia. The museum is in the recently restored area of Tacoma near the Museum of Glass and the Tacoma Art Museum. The whole area is pretty cool, although it was empty today, despite being a beautiful Sunday. I imagine people in the area (like us) are still not used to hanging out in downtown Tacoma. I hope it improves. They've done a good job.
Anyway, we'll be going back again.
I ran across this useful and well-written blog called Working Smart. The author of the site, Michael Hyatt, wrote a great article called How to Sell Your Boss. I think he's right that your success depends on being able to convince your boss of things. It's a good list of ideas; good enough that I'll pass it on to my team and peers. Briefly, his main points are:
In addition to this article, he has good stuff on how to make David Allen's Getting Things Done work in Microsoft Outlook, tips on cool apps and add-ons to make Office work better, and some good life insight.
When I was in Seoul last week, I had a great evening with our awesome Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professional). (Joe - my VP - and I actually met with MVPs in Taipei, Seoul, and Beijing.) These guys (and they are almost all guys, unfortunately) are volunteers who are super enthusiastic about Microsoft products and support our users in newsgroups and via their websites and blogs.
Anyway, as you might guess, much of the conversation was around geeky stuff, but we had a great conversation where they discussed how to best sneak a cigarette on a trans-Pacific flight. Apparently, almost all these guys smoke heavily and find it difficult to make the long flight to the US with a smoke.
So, the strategies that seemed most popular were:
It was a surprising but fun conversation. It was nice to get to know these guys as people, something I wouldn't have been able to do in the newsgroups or on email.
Every year, the Stanford Alumni Association brings a prof up to give a lecture here in Seattle. So, Saturday evening Michelle and I attended this year's lecture. We were very fortunate to have political science Professor David Abernathy talking about the current exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum, "Spain in the Age of Exploration, 1492-1819."
Professor Aberathy was a very compelling speaker, setting the exhibit in the social, political, relgious, and scientific context of the time. He illustrated his points with slides from the exhibit, really providing a roadmap to view and better understand the exhibit.
I also need to give him credit too for being restrained with respect to tying the events leading to the downfall of the Spanish Empire with recent electoral events. There were some obvious parallels, but he avoided pandering to the crowd with easy asides.
While I love understanding how and why things happen in history, I'm not as well versed in the humanities to really profit from an exhibit like this. The talk unlocked the exhibit and really helped me understand what I seeing. Great stuff. Too bad the computer science profs at Stanford weren't all as lucid...
After hearing his talk, I'm excited to read his most recent book, The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires, 1415-1980. If it's half as interesting as his talk, it'll be great.
Over the past few days, I've been eagerly reading a multi-segment article in Newsweek online about life on the campaign trail. Newsweek had reporters "embedded" with both the Bush and Kerry campaigns for the last year with the stipulation they couldn't publish anything until after the election.
The stories are pretty compelling. The Kerry campaign is painted as disorganized, with no clear message, Kerry unwilling to trust or delegate, tons of infighting, and mounting frustration. The Bush campaign, by comparison, was a machine with careful message control, clear leadership in Karl Rove, and institutionalized optimism.
Regardless of your political views, it's a good read.
"How Bush Did It" in Newsweek
I'm so happy that the ten year old Assault Rifle Ban expired yesterday. This was the most useless, feel good piece of crap legislation ever foisted onto the American people. Even if you think banning guns from law-abiding citizens will make even a dent in crime, banning them because they're scary looking vs. some metric about lethality seems crazy even for the anti-gun nuts. I'm sure we all felt safer that people couldn't buy rifles with bayonet lugs after the rash of bayonetings prior to the law. The folding stocks also increased the danger to the population; gotta ban those too. What utter rubbish.
I celebrated by buying two new high capacity magazines today for $30 each. The pre-ban mags were usually around $100 during the last decade -- if you could find them. My old ones were getting pretty beat up. Even though owning the mags makes me want to go on a shooting rampage in a local mall (if you believe that guns make people evil like the anti-gun rights people would have you believe), I think I'll be able to control myself for now.
My brother Ives and I went to see the Funk Brothers last night at the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Woodinville. The Funk Brothers were the studio band for Motown during the heyday of the label. They recorded more number one hits than the Beach Boys, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles combined, and were the subject of the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. This year they were award the Grammy's Lifetime Achievement Award.
As expected, these guys were really amazing. It was an incredibly fun show with tons of energy and the audience singing and dancing along. Joan Osborne opened the show and also sang a few songs. I hadn't really heard much Joan Osborne before aside from her big hit One of Us. She's got a great voice and was very entertaining.
If I could only listen to one genre of music, it would be Motown, so I really loved every minute. What a great, great show.
I had a five hour massage yesterday. No typo there. Five hours. It wasn't a normal massage like you'd get at a spa; it was more of a healing/balancing massage. It's a bit hard to explain, but it's a bit like acupuncture (sans needles) meets a chiropractor with a bit of reflexology and such thrown in.
The woman who gave the massage is a bit eccentric (her own words); she claims to be able to sense people's electrical patterns, and "see" events that your muscles have done (like my golf swing). I have to admit, she was very perceptive about things, deducing which hand I mouse with, what kind of alcohol I drink, and so on. Could have been good fortune telling type skills, but how bad could a five hour massage be? Especially for $120.
We'll see how I feel over the next few days, but I think I'll be going back.
This is fun and cool. You can now order custom photo stamps on Stamps.com. This is apparently legitimate US postage, customized with your images. Very slick.
On a side note, I met with these guys a long time ago when I was doing Works. They were interested in some kind of integration so we could print postage on envelopes directly, as I recall. Nothing ever came of it, but I recall being impressed with the people, but wondering if they'd make it. I guess they're still around, so good for them.
I came across a fun and interesting web site called Politopia today. It's a quiz that tries to map you on a two dimensional political scale. One axis is "Government control of the economy", the other is "Personal Freedom". Not surprisingly, I wound up in the upper left quadrant of "More Personal Freedom" and "Less government control" e.g. the Libertarian corner, just SE of Ayn Rand.
The description of people like me was a bit eerily close (although I prefer to work at the office than at home and the drawing of me is not very good):
NEO, a stereotypical Northwesterner
"Freedom to do whatever you'd like, as long as you don't interfere with the equal freedom of others."
My name is Neo, and I'm a software designer on the NW coast. I usually work from home, or from my sailboat while on an extended cruises. I've got friends of all stripes-some are making a lot of money in the software industry, some are gay, some are economists, some use recreational drugs, some are very religious-what they all have in common is that they're all very open-minded and tolerant.
I tend to be optimistic about the future. I believe that the most important natural resource is human creativity and that people should be able to pursue their hopes and dreams without interference from anyone else. While I recognize the importance of enforcing property rights and contracts, I think that in general, government interference in the marketplace only stifles human creativity. Politically, I describe myself as a libertarian. I loathe paying taxes, I'm disgusted by the "war on drugs," which is really just a war on people, and I think it's certainly true that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
The site is pretty fun too. You can mail invites to your friends then see where they wound up on the map. Where do you fall?
Bonjour! I'm blogging today from my hotel room in Nice on the French Riveria. It's a bit trite, but Nice is nice. I arrived yesterday afternoon (after a seven hour layover in Amsterdam -- more on that in another entry) and forced myself to walk around and stay up. The Vieux Nice (old Nice) is my favorite part of town, with narrow streets and lots of cool little shops and restaurants.
The beach scene is pretty wild and a bit different from the ones I'm used to. First, the beach is stony, not sandy. Big (albeit mostly smooth) pebbles all over; you need a mattress or you'll be unhappy. There are also a mix of private and public beaches all along the strip. The private beaches are fenced off, and appear to provide nicer chairs, food, bar, etc. And, of course, there's topless sunbathing. Viva la France!
I too the train to Monaco today on my friend Angie's advice. Turned out to be good advice. Monaco is like a French Singapore -- it's very small, very clean (almost too sterile), and rich. Actually, Monaco is grossly rich. I met a great British lady on the train. She had a fascinating background and was nice company as we walked around town together for a while.
I have lots more to write about and photos to share, but now, I need to get some work done so I'm ready for my meetings tomorrow. Right after the meetings I'm off to Paris for a day, then back home. Stay tuned for more exciting travel news.
There really is a site for everything -- in this case two. Seatexpert.com and SeatGuru.com have super detailed reports of the ins and outs of each seat on each type of aircraft flown by the major airlines. Who knew that not all first class seats were created equal? Want to know which seats suffer from toilet flushing noise?
SeatGuru has a more comprehensive list of American carriers, but both are sites are useful. Enjoy!
As you enter the main area, you will see an EKHARD oiled solid-oak dining sideboard. Quickly kick it apart to acquire the TABLE LEG WITH NAIL.
As you continue through the main SHOWROOM you will see groups blocking the walkways while chatting and others moving against traffic. These people should be killed immediately.
This may not be as funny if you don't play computer games or ever visited IKEA, but I have tested it on Michelle, who is thoroughly non-gamey (unless you count TextTwist. She also gets a little gamey after a weekend with no shower, but that's another matter entirely) She howled and forwarded it to Mike. Of course, that might be because they spent the summer at IKEA during our remodel.
In the end, I liked it, and it's my damn blog. So there.
This evening we heard a bunch of banging around on the deck. We pulled open the drapes to see pair of very cute raccoons on our deck. They were not afraid of us at all, coming up to the slider to check us out. Check out Mr. Adventurous ->
Given my in-depth knowledge of Procyon lotor I knew that this must be a mating pair. They will be together for a month or so and then in 60-73 days, we will have a litter of raccoons living under the deck. Sure enough, they scampered off for a little sumtin' sumtin' on the lawn. Nothing like having our own raccoon sex show...
(Gotta love my 50 1.4 lens and good 1600 ISO on the Canon 10D. This shot came was basically taken in the dark with just light coming out from our bedroom to iluminate the little guy.)
I ran across this cool snowflake maker on Make-a-Flake. Totally random, but nicely done and pretty fun. There are some very nice flakes in their gallery too. This is my first flake. Check it out and link to your cool flakes in the comments on this thread!