Like people around the world, I'm truly devastated by the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary; I definitely feel extra grateful my kids are safely at home tonight.
In the wake of an event like this, it's understandable, admirable, and very human to want to prevent it from ever happening again. My Facebook feed seems like a microcosm of our society, with some making fervent calls for increased (or even total) gun control while others assert that armed teachers might have made a difference. Most just express deep sadness and disbelief.
I'm not making any statements here about what, if anything, we should do; rather, I'd like to suggest how we might go about it.
First, although I appreciate the desire to do something now, I think reacting immediately can lead to poor policy choices. One has only to look to America's recent past for examples: the internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor and the passage of the Patriot Act after 9/11. These seemingly well-intentioned actions made at the height of emotion limited Fifth and Fourth Amendment rights in the name of public good. However, the internment has been officially acknowledged as a national injustice and disgrace, and the Patriot Act has already had several portions ruled unconstitutional. I believe it will be seen by history as a similar injustice.
If we choose to limit or eliminate our Second Amendment rights, we should do so with clear heads (and in a legal fashion). There are no absolute rights, but I certainly think we should be cautious whenever there are calls to suspend, curtail, or overturn our liberties for the public good.
Second, we owe it to ourselves and each other to be informed and intellectually disciplined, that those who make policy or vote on it should understand the facts. For example, many people were shocked when US Representative Todd Akin demonstrated his ignorance of basic human physiology when he said that women's bodies can shut prevent pregnancies from "legitimate rape". Fortunately, I think many people were relieved he lost his bid for US Senate, preventing him from setting potentially damaging policies around reproductive rights or women's health.
I think we should be equally intolerant of people similarly ignorant about guns, current gun law, and gun control history who would propose gun control solutions. In the past, this has lead to feel-good but useless measures like banning Teflon-coated "cop killer" bullets. (Teflon doesn't enable bullets to penetrate body armor; in fact it reduces the round's ability to do so.) Learning about guns from Rambo is as insufficient as learning about science from Jurassic Park.
I've even seen my incredibly intelligent and well-educated colleagues ignore their understanding of statistics and logic. For example, they cite comparisons with other countries as evidence that gun control in the US would be effective (e.g. Japan), ineffective (e.g. Jamaica), or unnecessary (e.g. Switzerland), as if the only difference between these societies were in their gun laws. While it may be instructive to learn from other countries, we shouldn't confuse correlation with causation. I believe policy is only as good as the factual and logical foundation upon which it is built.
Most important, we must actually listen to one another. The balance between gun rights and gun control is often a deeply held, almost religious belief for people on both sides. I saw someone on my Facebook feed say, "I've never understood guns and never will." To me this is as reprehensible as a statement like "I've never understood homosexuality and never will." We have to acknowledge there are merits to both sides and thoughtfully address the concerns before we can reach any sustainable outcome.
I strongly believe, as with all complex issues, we must be wary of seemingly simple solutions. There are definitely tradeoffs and costs to any course of action. Mobs in the heat of the moment, confident in their own righteousness, and closed to dissenting views rarely find the right balance.
I've written twice before, comparing Western and Chinese news coverage of the same story (Obama visit to China and Internet registration). In both cases, it was interesting to see how the reports read very differently despite presenting the same basic facts; differences in tone, emphasis, and inclusion/omission of other facts can really change how the story comes across.
Today, I was reading about how Beijing will start reporting a new air pollution measure - PM 2.5 (2.5 micron particulate matter). I've written before several times about the gross Beijing air. We relied on the US Embassy's air quality Twitter feed that showed what we thought was a more accurate view of what we were seeing outside; Chinese official reports measured the larger PM10 particles and would say we were having only minor air pollution even when we couldn't see outside.
The report from China Daily acknowledges the dangers of PM2.5 and how the government is responding to "public criticism". They describe the effort as similar to what other cities in China have been doing and that the government is already taking action to clean up Beijing air. There is no mention of the US Embassy's Twitter feed. There is also a story (higher on the front page) describing how Beijing's PM 2.5 count is down. The story paints a picture of the government taking action and listening to the people. "Beijing to release PM 2.5 data".
The similar story from the New York Times described the actions as a response to "public outcry", "public's anger", and bloggers who "sharply criticized" the government. NYT puts a lot more emphasis on the effect of the US Embassy Twitter feed as well as mentioning how Twitter is blocked in China, and talks about the Chinese complained about the feed as "confusing" and "insulting". This story leaves the reader thinking the people are mad at the government and that the gov't needs outside pressure to change. "China to Release More Data on Air Pollution in Beijing".
Again, both of these stories seem factually correct, and perhaps the "right" interpretation is somewhere in the middle. You'll never know unless you read multiple news sources.
When I bought my first house (gosh, maybe seventeen years ago?) one of the first things I wanted was a Kamado. These are ceramic barbeque grills, like the Big Green Egg, that can produce almost magical results grilling, roasting, baking, and smoking. Over the past few years I found myself going to the more convenient gas grill, but after my recent BBQ Fantasy Camp, I wanted to try using the Kamado again.
Unfortunately, my Kamado was pretty run down after so many years outside plus a few moves. The metal hinges and cart were rusty, the firebox was cracked, and the paint very faded. Drawing inspiration from netizens in similar situations, I ordered new replacement parts and spent the weekend rebuilding my Kamado.
Here's my Kamado pre-rebuild. You can see all the rust (and rust stains) on the metal parts. The thing under the grill is the cracked grate (usually inside).
Here's a shot of the cracked firebox inside.
The faded and peeling label.
I took the grill apart and repainted the pieces with black spray paint made for use in high temperature applications. (This is easy to find at hardware stores.) The rectangular hole in the red section below is where I took off the old draft door. The screws holding the draft door assembly on were so rusted I had to cut the heads off with my Dremel; this was probably the most time consuming part of the whole job.
Here's the finished product, with the new hinge band and draft door (at the bottom). I also repainted the wagon and replaced the rusty and bent casters with new ones. Even though I didn't do a great job with the spray paint, I think it looks much better. I ultimately used a little over a can of spray paint for the whole job. I probably should have put a second coat of paint on, but I was too lazy.
This is the interior with a new firebox and grate (the old ring on top of the firebox was still fine, so I'm still using it.) You can also see the nice new lid gasket. I haven't had a gasket on the Kamado for years after the original one burned off. This one is supposed to be a high temperature gasket that won't burn. We'll see.
All told, I probably spent about $300 repairing the grill (replacement cost is about $600) and 4-5 hours. I ran out of time this weekend to cook anything in it, so I'm dying to give a whirl.
I've been a huge fan of Wikipedia for a long time, but like many people, I never made any contributions. However, I finally jumped over the line today and made my first changes. I saw the news that Mascalzone Latino, the Challenger of Record for the next America's Cup, withdrew from the competition. This change wasn't reflected in the articles for Mascalzone Latino, Club Nautico di Roma, 2013 Americas Cup, and America's Cup, so I made the edits.
These were pretty minor, but I am happy to have made a small contribution to this site that I love so much. I hope to make more contributions in the future.
I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm a huge fan of the TV show Glee. (OK, maybe a little embarrassed, but not too much.) Part of why I enjoy the show so much is that I sang in a show choir (we called it "swing choir") while I was in high school in Minnesota. Watching the show has definitely brought back memories.
We sang and danced to songs like Sweet Sweet Smile and Bill Bailey. Obviously, we weren't nearly as good as New Directions or Vocal Adrenaline from the show. (Heck, we didn't even have a name beyond "Woodbury High School Swing Choir"). Our singing was decent, but our dancing was pretty basic (I can do a jazz square, but that's about it). We had a great pianist, but we didn't have a backing band, full church choir, or jazz horns like they do in the show. Our sets were pretty basic too -- a bunch of black wooden boxes (as seen in the photos below). Our outfits, however, were almost identical to the ones the guys in Vocal Adrenaline wear (their shoes are better, I guess.)
I hope the popularity of Glee spurs growth (or at least survival) of show choirs across America. I had a great time with it and hope kids today can too.
Here's us in 1985:
Here's the choir in 1986:
Here's Vocal Adrenaline, from the show, so you can compare outfits:
I played golf yesterday with a bunch of my teammates. Since we didn't have two full foursomes, two of us were paired with some other Chinese golfers. They were nice enough and soon we got into the typical "where are you from, what do you do" banter. As soon as I said I was American, one guy looked at me and immediately replied, "You look like an American." My buddy Tim asked, "What does that mean?" The other guy replied, "You have skinny legs and a big belly."
My big belly and I went on to kick his skinny butt in golf.
As I've pointed out before, it’s interesting to see how Western media (Australia, in this case) and Chinese media portray the same issue. Here are two articles on the same event – new changes in how individuals can register websites in China.
The Age shows this as a new restriction in the Chinese internet while the China Daily shows this as a loosening of a previously tightened rule. Both seem factually correct, but the tone and interpretation are different.
As I mentioned before, it's probably best to read multiple news sources and form your own opinions.
China launches strict new Internet controls
February 23, 2010 - 9:35PM
China's technology ministry moved to tighten controls on Internet use Tuesday, saying individuals who want to operate Web sites must first meet in person with regulators.
The state-sanctioned group that registers domain names in China froze registrations for new individual Web sites in December after state media complained that not enough was being done to check whether sites provided pornographic content.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that ban was being lifted, but would-be operators would now have submit their identity cards and photos of themselves as well as meet in person with regulators and representatives of service providers before their sites could be registered.
It said the rule was aimed at cracking down on pornography.
China has the world's biggest online population, with 384 million Internet users. The government operates the world's most extensive system of Web monitoring and filtering, blocking pornographic sites as well as those seen as subversive to communist rule.
The new regulations come as the government is in talks with Google Inc. about whether the U.S.-based Internet giant will be allowed to continue operating in China after saying in January it would no longer cooperate with the country's Web censorship. The two sides have given no details of the status of their discussions.
Chinese authorities have launched repeated crackdowns on online pornography and the government says nearly 5,400 people were detained last year.
China resumes individuals' website registrations
By Zhao Chunzhe (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-02-23 14:12
Individuals in China are now allowed to apply for websites, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, but applicants are requested to hand in a full-color photo, cnr.cn reported today.
The administration said both companies and individuals are allowed to register a website. Authorities will evaluate an applicant’s information in 20 weekdays and keep the information secret, the report said.
Individuals' domain name registration was called off December 14, 2009 in fighting against pornographic websites.
President Obama is visiting China this week. It's a good opportunity for me as a news junkie to compare and contrast how the US and Chinese press cover the same story.
When the President arrived in Shanghai, he had a town hall meeting with students from Fudan University and Tongji University. The article from the China Daily emphasized Obama's support and curiosity about China.
"The main purpose of my trip is to deepen my understanding of China and its vision of the future..."
"We do not seek to impose any form of government on any other nation..."
"The rise of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations..."
The article in the New York Times covering the same meeting focused on the brief discussion about internet censorship in China and how Twitter is blocked.
"I should be honest, as president of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn’t flow so freely because then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticizing me all the time...because in the United States, information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear."
The China Daily merely said "[Obama] noting access to information and political participation are universal rights" about the presumably same topic.
The Times also had two paragraphs about how the Q&A session was not broadcast live across China and how it was being carried by the White House website live. They also noted how the students were members of the Communist Youth League.
Interestingly, I don't think either story was unbiased or told a complete story. As expected, the China Daily had a very pro-China, on-message story; however the Times writer was clearly trying to emphasize the control the Chinese government has vs. just reporting on the meeting.
I guess as in all things in life, you need to get your information from multiple sources, note the point-of-view of the source, and then make your own judgments.
This is a little odd. Wonder if it's real?
Thanks, Rick, for the image!
I saw this sign at the Terracotta Warrior museum. I guess with all of the tourists there, stampeding is a real risk...
There are some funny people at Microsoft. (Funny-haha in this case, although there are lots of funny-weird people too…) Michelle sent me this photo. I love it.
We’re back in Seattle for a while this summer (well I’ll be going back and forth between Seattle and Beijing). It’s nice to be here with the family; as I mentioned before, it was a little weird last time to be in our big house all by myself (although not altogether bad…)
In addition to my observations from the last trip, here are few other things I’ve realized now that I’m back:
In some ways, it’s a little surreal being back. In some ways, Beijing feels like a dream or a long vacation; it feels very natural being back. On the other hand, I miss things and people in Beijing already and am looking forward to heading back in some ways (cheap two hour massages within walking distance of home anyone?) I guess that’s the price I pay for having two homes in two amazing places.
Chinese bathrooms are generally kind of gross, even in nice places. That said, there's definitely been a huge improvement even in the few years since I've been visiting Beijing. Here's a funny sign on top of a urinal that shows the effort to make things better.
The message is basically something to the effect of:
One small step forward
A big step forward for civilization
(mai chu yi xiao bu, wen min yi da bu)
OK, it was funny to me. More places could use this sign, even in the US.
I just returned from my first trip back to Seattle after moving to Beijing last November.
I was super excited after my short stop in Tokyo (with the great ramen and sake experiences) to get home. Our approach to Seattle came in over downtown Seattle, so I could see all of the boats lined up for Opening Day, Lake Washington, and the Cascades. It was really lovely; I started feeling really home sick.
Then things took a little turn for the worse. After we landed at SeaTac, the crack border guards promptly confiscated the $40 worth of boxed ramen that I bought in Narita. (The soup base apparently had once been a chicken before it was boiled and reduced into a 3ml packet). I'm sure we all feel much safer now.
Then, once I got to our house, opened the blinds, and discovered that some bad people had stolen all of our patio furniture and my beloved Weber grill. As I was feeling confused, angry, violated, and a bit stupid, I tried to call Michelle back in Beijing and some friends in Seattle to see if I had missed something only to find my Seattle cellphone number no longer worked thanks to T-Mobile's not-so-great customer service.
Fortunately, I think I managed to get most of the bad parts behind me quickly, and the rest of my trip was great. Rather than bore everyone with a play-by-play account, let me just make a few observations:
Also, since I'm sure you're wondering, here are the foods and drinks I missed and sought out:
So, thanks to all my friends for making this trip great. I really enjoyed it, but I'm glad to be back in Beijing with my family. I'm looking forward to coming back out to Seattle this summer (and buying a new grill.)
For my birthday this year, Michelle and the boys took me to a lovely dinner at the Grange, a restaurant at the very nice Westin Hotel here in Beijing. At the end of our nice dinner, the waiter presented me with a waiver to sign before I could take my leftovers home. (Contrary to my brother's remarks, it was not a waiver saying that we knew the doggy bag did not contain any actual dog.)
The doggy bag itself also had bilingual instructions warning of the dangers and telling people how to reheat the food for maximum safety.
OK, I get it, there are dumb people who will leave the leftovers out, get sick, and then sue, but I still think this was a bit ridiculous. Apparently, this silliness is not restricted to China or the Westin. In Australia, restaurants are choosing between the waiver and ending doggy bags altogether due to the risk of lawsuits.
Time for a little personal responsibility, folks...
When we decided to move to China, a lot of people asked about my level of Chinese language ability and then commented something along the lines of "boy, Chinese sure seems hard." After spending some time here now working with smart people who speak English as a second language, I think I can assert that English is hard too.
Sure, there are lots of funny and sometimes incomprehensible "Chinglish" signs where I can't figure out how the person writing it could possibly have constructed such sentences, for example:
But, there are a bunch of common mistakes I see my colleagues and others make that demonstrate how whimsical and arbitrary English can be. One big class of mistake is correctly deciding when to add an "s" to the end of a word. I see sentences like "We need to hire more talents" or "We collected a lot of feedbacks." It's very difficult to explain to someone why a person can have a lot of talents, but a team looking for people hires talent. It's similarly difficult to explain why you can't have two feedbacks. Of course, there's no good rule for determining a priori whether a word is an enumerable unit with singular and plural or a category/group word with no plural. It's even more confusing when the same word like talent can be used in both ways.
Even the China Daily got this wrong in today's paper.
So, my hats off to the billions of people around the world learning English and even more kudos to my colleagues and everyone else who actually do business or go to school using English as a second language. It's a hard language.
All of you on Facebook must have already seen dozens of these "random things" lists go by; after being tagged a few times, I figured I should finally write mine. This is a lot like the "Five Weird Habits" thing that went around a few years ago. I'll try to not to repeat anything from that post or write other stuff that's already on the blog.
Some obligatory instructions for the Facebook crowd:
Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.
To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page (look under the plus sign), paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.
OK, so there you go.
Happy Chinese New Year! 2009 is the year of the Ox (BTW, "ox" is "niu" in Chinese and pronounced like "new", hence the multi-lingual pun in the title. I admit it's less funny after all of the explanation.) The Chinese horoscope website I've quoted in years past seems to be stale now, so I found OnlineChineseAstrology.com instead. Maybe it will be more accurate... Here's what they forecast for the year:
The Ox is the second sign of the Chinese zodiac. Like its predecessor and complement, the Rat, it signifies new beginnings. The main difference is the Ox is associated with building to last and slow but sure action. Even more so than last year we all have to make good choices, as that which is begun now is likely to have long term consequences.
As with last year, this is an Earth year. The difference is this one is yin rather than yang. It is thus likely to be less tumultuous. On a personal level, better results are more likely to be achieved by reacting to circumstances and going with the flow rather than aggressively charging forward and initiating a lot of action.
Unfortunately Earth has a destructive relationship with the Ox's fixed element, Water. In fact this is the fourth in a run of six years governed by an unlucky conflict of elements. This fact should come as no surprise to those who have followed US and world financial markets or the unspeakable horror that has persisted in Iraq.
The combination of Earth and Ox, however, is not at all a negative combination. Its primary characteristic is durability. It suggests an environment dominated by cautious pragmatism rather than quixotic dreaming. Things will get done.
Furthermore, they will generally be successful if done in harmony with the spirit of the Earth Ox. This applies both to the type and amount of new projects as well as the approach to accomplishing them. That means focusing on just a few, long term projects. It also suggests proceeding in a cautious yet determined manner. Finally, it counsels avoiding taking unnecessary risks and yielding to the temptation to seek short term gains.
Since this is an Earth year, those people born in a Metal year will generally fare better than others of their animal sign, while those born in a Water one are likely to do worse than those born in Wood, Fire, and Earth years.
The year 2009 will be a period of lasting accomplishments. This is true for individuals, societies and the human race in general. There may be times when motivation appears to be lacking. In fact the big challenge everyone faces is to generate the enthusiasm and desire to act. Those individuals and organizations that do will create enduring benefits for themselves and the world.
It seems a little crafted for current events, but whatever, I'll take it. For me as a monkey the guidance is pretty clear and seems good most of the time:
How the Monkey fares:
This year offers the Monkey some opportunities to go far with talent. Your generous nature may leave you stretched in several different directions, so it is important to stay focused in order to achieve the goals you have set for yourself this year. You will be given the opportunity to impress the right people in business as well as in your personal life. Don't hold back this year, for this could be one that will leave an impression over the course of the next few years.
So, time to let loose in 2009 and be impressive in a focused way!
Ironically, we're in Japan during the first Chinese New Year since we moved to China, so we missed all of the fireworks. We hope to catch some of the temple fairs and such when we get back later this week.
Happy New Year!
I snapped this shot last week near Houhai (the old Beijing lakes area behind the Forbidden City.)
Man, how did another year slip by? I think I need to count 2008 as a good year. I made reasonable progress on everything I set out to do in my blog post kicking off last year. A quick recap:
In addition I feel good about the progress we made on IE8 including getting the betas out. It's a good product and will be a solid release I think.
Of course, the biggest news from 2008 was our move to China. This idea was no where on my radar in January 2008; in fact, we had just bought a house and new cars and were ready to continue our nice life in Bellevue. I'm actually pretty proud of all of us for seizing this opportunity instead of doing the easy thing. It's already been a great experience.
I think my personal (non-work) goals for 2009 will center around taking advantage of our new surroundings as well as continuing some of the themes from 2008.
Here's to a great 2009!
Merry Christmas from Beijing! It's a lovely Christmas Day here in Beijing -- sunny and warm (at least by the window where I just took a nap like a cat...) The boys are playing with their Christmas loot -- Legos, K'NEX, video games, and books while I blog and Michelle hangs out. Nice lazy Christmas.
Here's a little Christmas photo of the family:
As I mentioned in my last post, there are a lot of lights up and people enjoying the trappings of Christmas here. The crazy shot below is from The Place (世贸天阶 shi4 mao4 tian1 jie1) last night (Christmas Eve). This is a shopping mall across the street from our temp apartment. It has a multi-block long display panel over the courtyard that plays different scenes and shows at night; in winter, there's also an outdoor ice skating rink (which we may try out this afternoon.) Like every other shopping mall here, they blare Christmas music too. Unfortunately, I think they only have three songs that they loop repeatedly (Jingle Bells, Silver Bells, and All I Want for Christmas is You). At least The Place has recordings sung by native English speakers; another nearby mall is blaring music sung by Chinese singers in English. It's a bit odd to hear the songs with heavy Chinese accents. Oh well.
Anyway, here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
The wise voters in Colorado's State Senate district 14 favored Bacon over Fries by almost 2:1. Like there was ever a contest... Bacon rulez!
Thanks, Scribbuloso, for the link.
Michael (8) may have found the way to save Wall Street. He lost another tooth today and will get a visit from the Tooth Fairy (traps notwithstanding). In the morning, he'll find $5 under his pillow (more than I've made on my 401K the past few weeks.) If all of the guys on Wall Street knock out their teeth and put them under their pillows, they may be able to recoup some of their losses. They could probably make even more money if they let the investors whom they failed knock out their teeth.
I can't believe I missed it. Saturday was International Bacon Day. This important holiday is the Saturday before Labor Day (August 30 this year). I'll have to make up for my omission with a double-serving of bacon. (Which of course, is impossible since the serving size of bacon is whatever is in front of you.)
(Flag courtesy of YesButNoButYes.)
I said it four years ago, and I'll say it again - I love the Olympics. This particular Olympics is even more special for me since it's in China. Even though I'm an American-born Chinese ("ABC" in the lingo) with more direct family ties to Taiwan and Hong Kong, I can't help but have feelings for China. I definitely feel some sense of homecoming when I visit.
In any case I can't get enough of the Olympics. Go USA!
(P.S. I thought the opening ceremonies rocked. Holy cow.)
Thought this was funny, but of course, bacon increases my overall health...
Aaron Wider, CEO of the HTFC Corp, dropped the F-bomb at least 73 times in a deposition over the mortgage crisis on top of not answering questions and being a general ass. The judge fined him and his attorney $29,000 for violating the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Here's a little snippet for your enjoyment. Mr. Wider is being questioned by opposing counsel:
Q: This is your loan file. What do Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald do for a living?
A: I don't know. Open it up and find it.
Q: Look at your loan file and tell me.
A: Open it up and find it. I'm not your fucking bitch.
Q: Take a look at your loan application.
A: Do it yourself. Do it yourself. You want to do this in front of a judge. Would you prefer to [do] this in front of a judge? Then, shut the fuck up.
Q: Sir, take a look--
A: I'm taking a break. Fuck him. You open up the document. You want me to look at something, you get the document out. Earn your fucking money, asshole. Better get used to it. You'll retire when I'm done.
We've certainly had a bunch of legal missteps historically at Microsoft, but I don't think we've ever been this boneheaded (I'm sure others will disagree). I seem to recall something in our legal training about not being such a doofus in a deposition. Oh wait, they didn't say anything about this because anyone with half a brain would know better.
HTFC's website is equally classy.
Continuing my fascination with super-sized sea life, check out these ginormous seastars found in Antartica.
They're so creepy they almost look fake.
More info here on MSNBC.
2008's socially adept Rat year brings us charisma, intelligence and the ability to charm the pants off of just about anybody – literally. Romantically, 2008's repertory will be as eclectic and varied as this first sign of the Zodiac. High-strung, curious, and ever alert to sexual opportunity, during Rat years we will all feel the need to make an emotional connection with our love partner. It is after sunset that the Rat year comes alive with numerous acquaintances, lively discussion, and intensely romantic interludes. We will all value companionship and love more than anything else this year. Enjoy the concealed and stealthy midnight hours ruled by the Rat of romantic secrets and delicious debauchery. People fall in love easily during Rat years and we will all be prone to some memorable infatuations...
2008 will also be an intellectual one, as the Rat is the curious professor of the zodiac. Expect a renewed passion for knowledge, and interest in the sciences in 2008. Travel and a hunger for new experiences, will also becon...
Words and language will become ever more important and poets, musicians and writers can easily produce their best work to date under the influence of the talented Rat. Exchanging and communicating are the priorities of a Rat year. A hyperactive and restless year of potential nervous disorders and neurosis of every type. A good year to explore relaxation methods such as meditation more thoroughly. You may find yourself more sensitive to illness, environmental insults and allergies this year as well, so be sure to get that flu shot and eat your vegetables!
As a Monkey, I'm looking for the forecast of "exhausting nights of love" and being in "a very comfortable and prosperous position." Much better than the difficult year they had forecast for me last year.
So there you have it. Have a great year!
His pathology report came back and had good news. The renal cell cancer was confined to the removed kidney and the lymph nodes were clear. He has some follow-up checks, but no radiation or chemo or anything horrible like that. He's home now and eating/drinking real stuff again, so hopefully it'll be clear sailing ahead.
What a relief!
Kellie, Kristen, Eric, Katie, David, and I visited Chris yesterday at the hospital. (Wow, not a very prolific set of bloggers...) Like I mentioned recently, Chris learned last week that he has renal cancer. For a guy who just had major league surgery to remove a mutant kidney, he looked great. I was mentally prepared for him to look a bit ragged, but he looked pretty normal. The only real indication of his condition (aside from the fetching hospital gown) was that his voice was a bit gruff, probably from not being allowed to drink or eat anything for the past few days. (More on that here).
His wife Leslie looked good too and was in high spirits. We also got to meet Chris' mom. I love meeting my friends' parents; they're almost always as cool as their kids (clear correlation). It would crush me to see my kids with cancer, but she seemed to holding up well too.
Kellie, Kristen, and I brought Chris a few Vosges Bacon Chocolate bars, which are fantastic, of course, because they have bacon. Hopefully, Chris will be able to enjoy them in a few days, unless Leslie keeps trying to kill him.
It's great reading the comments on his blog. I think it's a real testimony to the man Chris is that so many people care about him and are concerned. As Leslie mentioned in the blog, EVERYBODY LOVES CHRIS! Go, man, go!
A few years ago I worked on the MSN Explorer 8.0 team; the project was code-named Texas. I made a few really good friends on that project. This weekend two of them had serious medical surprises.
Craig, movie critic - really, he was the FOX13 movie dude - and former speech writer for Bill Gates, had surgery to get his appendix out; his blog post just said, "They say it has to come out tonight."
Perhaps even more severe, Chris, golf and ski buddy now at DeepRockDrive (guess they couldn't afford spaces for their name), went into the hospital with a sharp pain, thinking it was as kidney stone. Unfortunately, it turned out to be cancer. Chris goes into surgery tomorrow. He and his lovely wife, Leslie, have started a blog to document the experience.
Other than the fact that these two good friends of mine (both of whom are about my age) had these problems on the same weekend, the weird thing about these was that I found out about both on Facebook. Sign of our times, I guess.
I admit I'm a little freaked out by my friends having these kinds of health problems. I know these are strictly age related, but it's playing on my impending feeling of doom around getting older. Of course, my feelings here are nothing compared to what Craig and Chris are going through. My prayers and best wishes go out to them and their families.
Welcome to 2008! I'm not really one to make New Year's resolutions, but I have been thinking about things I want to do this year. Mostly, I have a list of things I've wanted to do for a while that I never quite got around to. Over the past few weeks, I took some steps to get going on these. Here are a few things I want to do and the steps I've taken. (Blogging about them will also help create a little public accountability.)
Spend more time with the boys
I think the kids and I do quite a bit together already, but I think these are the prime years I have with them where they're old enough (7 and 10) to really participate and still don't mind hanging out with dad, so I want to double-down on our time together.
The kids have been bugging me to go camping beyond our backyard for some time, so I thought I'd start there. I haven't ever really camped (OK, we went once when I was two), so I've been dragging my feet a bit, but I really want to try it as well. I looked into camp sites last summer, but it was almost impossible to reserve one at that late date, and I didn't want to chance driving somewhere and not having a site. So, this week, I reserved a choice site at Deception Pass State Park (close enough to home that we can bail out if it sucks) in June. I'm pretty excited and will probably book a few more dates just in case we love it.
Incidentally, the Washington State Parks reservation system is pretty good. They show you the individual sites with descriptions and ratings of quality and privacy, have photo(s) of the site, and make it easy to see what dates are available. Good use of our tax dollars.
Work out more
As I've chronicled on this blog, I've been up and down with my working out. I definitely do best when I have scheduled events I'm working toward, so this morning (the first day of sign-ups), I signed up for the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party). It's a ride like the STP (Seattle-to-Portland) that I did two years ago. I tried to sign up last year, but I waited too long, and the ride sold out. I'll do the Chilly Hilly again in preparation too, but I'll probably skip STP. Good to have the goals on the calendar now. I may do another half marathon (probably Kirkland in May instead of Mercer Island in March).
Learn to play an instrument well
I took piano lessons on and off growing up (mostly off) but never really reached a level of reasonable competency. I've always wanted to play well, so I started piano lessons last month, taking the half hour before Andrew's lessons (can't skip my lesson without making him miss his). We also just had a little Yahama grand piano delivered yesterday. It's been fun playing again, and my instructor has me working on theory as well to better understand what's going on. This had added an interesting new dimension.
I thought about starting guitar instead (which I've also always wanted to play), but I'm much closer to competence on piano, so I figured that was wiser. (I also played clarinet for six years, but I don't have much interest in picking that up again. Not too many social opportunities for clarinet...)
Learn to speak another language to adult fluency
I grew up speaking Chinese at home, suffered through eleven years of Saturday morning Chinese school, took a year of Chinese in college. I also took four years of high school German (enough to get by as a tourist). However, I can't really do business or carry on adult conversations in either language. Since I'm closer to fluency in Chinese, I decided to build on that base. Although I'm basically illiterate in Chinese, I figured I'd start with my listening and vocabulary skills. I started listening to Chinese language podcasts. There are a few good ones, but my favorite so far is by a guy named Serge Melnyk (really). More on these later.
I have lots of other things I want to do, but I figured this is a good start. Hopefully, I can stick with these and build some good habits. What are your plans?
Our move went well despite the fact we had a crazy rainstorm the day of the move (nothing like dragging everything you own through a downpour.) Fortunately, the movers did a pretty good job keeping things neat and dry (hats off to Hansen Brothers Moving).
We're mostly unpacked now; we even have the cars in the garage. We also have the old house pretty well cleaned up and ready to sell; it should list tomorrow.
Unfortunately, we still don't have real internet access; we've had to continue to use our T-Mobile Dash mobile phones as modems like we did after the big windstorm last year. (For those who read my Comcast rant, I decided to follow the advice Adam left in my comments to use Speakeasy. I'll blog about them later, but so far so good. We should have service about a week from now.)
Just as we are getting settled in, it's time to go again. I'm chaperoning Andrew's (10) fifth grade class (actually, three classrooms) for four days and three nights at Islandwood, an outdoor education camp on Bainbridge Island (about a 45 minute ferry ride from Seattle). I think moving or work would be easier, but it should be interesting. Wish me luck.
Sorry I haven't been posting much recently. As I mentioned a little while ago, we bought a new house. The movers show up tomorrow morning, so things have been a bit hectic. Lots to write about though. Once I get data in the new house (still don't frickin' have service installed!) I'll pick up again. I'm taking all of December off of work, so I should have more time to write.
Gotta love a holiday mostly centered around food...
I know this is like saying ""I hate evil" or something similarly obvious. We're buying a new house (more on that later). Obviously, we need Internet service and cable is generally the fastest connection type around, so I didn't even think about who to use. I went to the Comcast website to get service and figured we might use them for phone service too (reminder: we don't have TV).
I went through their long wizard to order my service and was connected to their chat service to confirm a time for the installation truck roll; I thought this was a nice touch and better than waiting for a call back. I was "on hold" for about an hour (terrible), but it got worse from there.
The service person proceeded to ask me everything I had already typed in only to say that she couldn't transfer my service since the new address wasn't in her database. It's a new house. Don't people who are moving into new houses ever need Comcast service? Their site couldn't have flagged this an hour ago before I wasted this time?
Now, I have to call the local Comcast office. What's worse, she couldn't transfer any of the information I typed to the local office, so I'll have to do the whole thing on the phone again. Lovely.
I am going to spend some time looking for alternatives to Comcast broadband now. Why do companies make it so hard to give them money?
We're getting ready to go to Chicago this week for my brother's wedding (finally!). This will be a big family get together with my cousins and aunts/uncles from both sides of our family coming with spouses and kids in many cases. Even though the family isn't huge, I don't recall ever having had both sides together before, and I've certainly never met many of my cousins' spouses/kids.
So, one of the longstanding questions I needed to work out was the proper terms for each relation so I can describe it to the kids. I didn't grow up around my cousins or extended family, so I never really had to learn this. In particular, I never understood the ideas of removed and degrees (e.g. first/second/nth cousin).
For the English terms, I turned to the cousins article in Wikipedia, naturally. Briefly:
Therefore, my cousins and my sons are first cousins, once removed. First because the minimum number of generations separating them from their common ancestor is one (my cousins to my grandparents), and once removed because there is one generation separating my cousins from my kids. Whew.
The Chinese terms seem hopelessly complex, so I asked my mom for a table. Although there does appear to be a grammar of sorts for these terms, even among Chinese it's confusing. In Chinese the birth order and side of family of the various parties changes the terms, so the terms for my father's side are completely different from those on my mom's side and the order of each generation's birth changes the words (fortunately, at some point, the strict numbering appears less important than the older/younger bit. I remember struggling with some of these growing up because Chinese refer to family relations using these terms, and it's important to get them right, lest you insult someone. However, even my mom suggests that we stop the practice among the cousins because it's just too hard (and we don't see each other often and the kids don't really speak Chinese, etc.) I'll spare everyone the gory details here, but let me know if you're interested. I may try to build tree/generating function for these terms if I get bored (maybe this would be a good Wikipedia article to write...)
Anyway, I feel somewhat relieved to finally understand this stuff a bit and be able to explain it better. The boys were dying to know. (Well, not really.)
Thanks to Chooky for the link.
In a moment of insanity, Michelle bought the boys a pair of Nerf dart guns last week. Despite my interest in guns (or maybe because of it), I have been reluctant to get them toy guns because I don't think they're great things to play with.
Anyway, now that they have them, I've been teaching them safe gun handling rules. It turns out watching TV and playing video games is a great way to learn exactly the wrong way to handle guns. I don't know why anyone would want to put the working end of a handgun near their head, but on every TV show, you see actors holding their gun up as they go around corners or through doors. The end with the hole is the dangerous part. Keep it away from your body parts...
There are four basic rules for safe gun handling:
The neat thing about these rules is that you have to break two before something bad happens.
The first rule means that you should always assume a gun is loaded until you've proven otherwise yourself. When someone hands me a gun (like at a gun store), I always check to make sure it's not loaded, even if I just saw the person do the same. Even if I set my own gun down, I'll re-clear it when I pick it up. I don't want any surprise bangs.
The other rules are pretty self-explanatory, but they take practice to be aware. I'm at the point where I keep my finger off the drill and weedeater triggers too.
Anyway, regardless of what you think of guns, it's good to know how to be safe around them.
Since third grade, I had worn progressively thicker glasses and contact lenses. At my worst, I was -9.5/-10; this is bad. If I had to read without correction, I had to close one eye because I had to hold the reading material was so close to my face that I lost binocular vision. In fact if my vision had gotten any worse, I wouldn't have been able to wear disposable contact lenses; they simply don't make them any stronger.
So, about eight years ago, I had Lasik eye surgery done. The result was something of a miracle. I went from being effectively blind to having better than 20/20 vision. I'm a totally satisfied Lasik patient. (It's a good thing I got my surgery when I did. I guess they're more cautious about doing Lasik on people with my old correction.)
Unfortunately, with age come inevitable changes. I went in to my eye doctor for my first visit in six years (I've been busy, OK?). He said things were still really good, but my left eye could use a little correction, especially for close-in work.
So, for the first time in eight years, I have glasses again. I don't need them all time, but they're meant to be helpful for computer work and reading (not that I do much of those...) However, since my correction is slight now, I can have much cooler and thinner glasses now than I ever could before. After trying on a bunch of pairs, I picked up these Ted Baker frames.
Andrew (9) thinks they make me "look weird". Michael (6) just thinks they make me look "girlie". Michelle took the more diplomatic "I just have to get use to you in glasses again." I haven't decided if I like them yet; I need to get used to me in glasses again too.
Once every few years, I seem to have to relearn that having naturally darkish skin does not make me impervious to sunburn.
On the first morning of the trip to Cabo, I took the boys down to the beach; none of us had sunscreen on. Michelle had the bag with sunscreen and was supposed to be right down, but she got sidetracked trying to find a live network connection for her laptop.
Of course, I was well protected with my extensive base tan after a Seattle winter (not). As a result, the three of us were unprotected in the Mexican sun for about three hours. By the time I realized there might be a problem, I was good and red. That evening, I could barely sleep for the pain. (Somehow, the boys managed to escape serious burns; Andrew (9), in particular, just got a little more freckly.)
Two or three days later, my face started peeling in earnest. It was pretty horrific. Michael (6) started peeling a bit too, although he was more excited about it, thinking he was shedding his skin like a snake (he's clearly a Slytherin...).
As the trip was winding down to the last few days, I could go outside again without feeling the searing heat reburning my skin. Must remember to be smarter next time...
For our trip to Cabo, I had prearranged our airport transfer online before we left. Transcabo clearly warned their customers on the site to ignore the touts in the airport, explicitly stating their representatives would be outside the airport in distinctive orange shirts.
So, of course, as we left customs, I got sidetracked by a dude who looked very official and said my Transcabo guys were just out and would be back in a few minutes. He started telling me about the free breakfast, return transfer, and activities I could have. Michelle caught on immediately, said we weren't interested in a timeshare pitch, and left. I stood there like an idiot for a few more minutes until I clued into why Michelle left. Transcabo was just outside the airport holding a sign with my name on it, as promised.
Michelle, once again, proved that she's the brains of the operation.
BTW, Transcabo was great. I'd use them again any time. They were right there ready for us, the van was nice (unlike the taxi we took back to the airport), and the driver was friendly/helpful.
Once again, the Japanese government has stepped back from accepting responsibility for their atrocities during World War II. This time, no less than Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that with respect to Japanese wartime sex slavery "there was no evidence to prove there was coercion as initially suggested". This statement is unbelievable in light of the overwhelming evidence. Furthermore, previous Prime Minster's have acknowledged (and here) that "comfort stations" existed, were run by the Japanese military, and the women were often coerced. They've even accepted moral responsibility (if not legal.)
This isn't some reasonable academic debate about what happened thousands of years ago. The people who were there are alive and have told their story. There are statements and books by Japanese soldiers who admit their role. Perhaps an even bigger affront (aside from insulting the intelligence of the entire world) is to the women who were forced into sexual slavery and are still alive today. The Japanese government continues their torture these women sixty-five years later.
The contrast with Germany is amazing. In Germany, Holocaust denial is illegal; in Japan, the equivalent is a governmental pastime. To deny this crime happened is irresponsible and frankly incredible. I'm beside myself with anger. I'm terrified of a re-armed Japan taking a larger world role if their leaders have not accepted their historical responsibilities and learned from that history. Nothing reassures me that this won't happen again.
I bet more of you wish you had listened to me three years ago to "Vote Chor in 2004".
I'm just sayin'.
After my Cross Platform Development post, I wound up with with Firefox and Mac OSX ads on my site. A little ironic for the Microsoft IE guy... I think those Google guys are out to get me.
(Of course, this post won't help...)
OK, I was wrong yesterday. I wasn't ready to go back to work. I woke up this am with the sore-throat-of-death -- the same thing the kids went through.
I finally went to the doctor this morning. She gasped in surprise when she saw my tonsils. (I'll take "Top sounds you don't want to hear from your doctor" for $100, please...) I guess they were a little red and swollen...
Now I have the best antibiotics American medicine can provide (thank you, Microsoft, for our unparalleled health benefits). At the advice from doctor, I topped the drugs off with a little organic yogurt from Trader Joe's; this is to restore the fauna in my gut that the antibiotics are killing off, thereby preventing some <ahem> unpleasant side effects of antibiotics. I also picked up some San Pellegrino Aranciata; this yummy "sparkling orange beverage" doesn't have any known medicinal qualities, but it does wonders for my mental health. I never buy the stuff normally, only having it when I'm out. It seems a little decadent to have a whole six pack at home, but heck, I'm sick.
OK, since I'm trolling through my logs this morning, I figured I'd write about the browser and OS stats.
Since January 1, 2007:
I admit the high Opera numbers are really surprising. All told, IE versions account for 65% of my traffic. Mozilla variants including Firefox are 21% and Opera is 11%. These non-IE numbers are higher than the market as a whole, leading me to believe that my readers are more on the tech enthusiast side (a segment that use a broader range of browsers than the population at large.)
These stats don't include the search robots who hit the site. Yahoo visits the site a ton, accounting for 13% of my web traffic. Robots in general are about 20% of my traffic - a surprisingly high cost.
On a separate note, who is out there running all these old browsers? WTF? It's not like they're expensive. Everyone should be running the latest version of their preferred browser, if only for the modern security protections! Come on people!
With respect to operating systems
All Windows versions account for 91% of my viewers. I'm surprised how many more people use Linux than Macs, but that may again reflect my geeky readership. Whoever is out there running Windows 98 or Windows 95 - please, for the love of God, move to something more modern and secure. We don't even provide security updates for Windows 98 or 95 anymore, so you're running naked.
On the ISP front, Comcast is the single biggest provider at 15% with GTE at 10% and MSN at 5%. This skew may be due to the popularity of those providers in the Redmond area.
Unfortunately, I think the other stats are too heavily warped by the robots and comment spammers to be useful (stuff like unique visitors and pages viewed per visit.)
Welcome to the Year of the Pig! Here are a few comments about Pig years from ChineseAstrology.com (it's on the web, so it must be true...)
Finishing touches, tying up loose ends, last stands, curtain calls and closures will be the urging of the year. So, prepare to finish projects, complete goals and even say some goodbyes. Put your ducks in a row, cross your T's and dot your I's in 2007 and the proper Pig will be gracious to you.
Pig years are known for their respite from strife, patience and passivity, but also for indulgence, sensuality and fleshly delights. As the last sign of the zodiac, the Pig represents "resignation" accepting human nature as it is - content to live and let live. The greatest risk will be naivete, so by all means avoid confidence schemes and being fooled or duped throughout 2007.
It's also supposed to be a difficult year for monkeys like me. Guess I'll have to watch myself.
That said, I'm ready for some "fleshly delights", especially ones having to do with pigs. Bacon anyone?
Having Google ads on my site has been a source of some amusement for me (in addition to the nice checks). As you know, they pick the ads based on the content of my site, so as my posts change around, the ads change.
The "I Hate Michelle" post (really a provocative title for a post about the TV show 24) generated the "cheating wife" ads here. Hm, not quite contextually relevant, but funny.
As for the other ads, I understand why the running one is the there, but the "union with God" ad? Must be because of the bacon posts, for bacon is truly a sign that there is a loving God. Maybe Google Adsense is smarter that I realized.
We in the software industry are not known for our fashion sense, but there are a few little tips that even the biggest geek can use.
The easiest is to not wear your card key publicly. Your card key only gets you into your office and will impress no one outside your building.
This tip is especially true in a bar and even more true if you're on stage...
According to the Seattle Times: "Americans say they reached - or will reach - their peak physical attractiveness at age 38."
I'm 2.5 months from 39. Crap. This is as good as it gets.
The Stanford's men's basketball cracked the Top 25 coming in at #23 after this week's amazing upset of (formerly) #3 UCLA and (formerly) #25 USC. The team was expected to have a mediocre season this year, so their relative success has been a pleasant surprise.
Of course, making this even more sweet for me is how the UW Huskies are tanking this year. Not that I need to gloat at work, but it shuts up a lot of Dawgs at the office...
The Seattle area completely falls apart when the first snowflake hits the ground, as evidenced by yesterday's storm. Having grown up in Minnesota, land of 10,000 blizzards, I'm continually stunned by this.
In December 1990, a few months after I moved here, I had my first encounter with this. It started snowing in the morning, but we all stayed at work and didn't think anything of it. By 4:00pm, there was eight inches of snow on the ground and reports were coming in that people couldn't get out of Microsoft. Traffic around the area was at a standstill with people abandoning their cars on roads and bridges (sounds familiar). A bunch of my friends stayed the night at work. We walked down to the local Safeway and rented videos, which we watched in a big tele-conference room used for our collaboration with IBM on OS/2. About halfway through Caddyshack or whatever it was we were watching, we realized we were beaming the movie to IBM office in Boca Raton. Fortunately, it was probably 2:00am there... We walked down to the Fred Meyer (local chain store like Target), bought tire chains, and crawled home the next day.
Anyway, things haven't gotten better in the last sixteen years in this regard. I think the region has something like six plows with rubber-edged plow blades (so they don't knock the reflector turtle things off the road), and they don't use salt on the roads because of the cost and increased corrosion. On top of that, Seattle drivers lose their minds in the snow.
In Minnesota, an armada of plows with sharpened steel fangs and spewing great jets of metal-eating salt beats back the snow and ice relentlessly, rendering all but the worst blizzards a minor inconvenience. (On the other hand, virtually every car in Minnesota more than a few years old has rust holes on the bottom.) And, of course, Minnesotans are mentally prepared for snow and experienced since their first driver's ed class in handling snow (we used to do doughnuts with our cars in the snowy high school parking lot - fun stuff). The snow tires we all had didn't hurt either.
In the Seattle area's defense, however, I will say that there are a few important differences that makes snow in Seattle tougher. First, it's almost never very cold for long, so the snow thaws during the day and re-freezes at night. Bad. Second, I think the roads are more crowned than most, sloping off to handle the rain that we get. This makes it easy to slide off the road and hard for plows to really scrape the ground clean. Finally and perhaps most important, it's hilly here. Icy roads in flat Minnesota simply don't have the same impact as the hilly ice rinks we get here. It's amazing to watch a big four-wheel drive SUVs sliding backwards down hills.
Still, I think most the region's snow pain is avoidable. More plows, a little salt, and a few more IQ points among the drivers would go a long way.
Wow, what a winter it's been so far. Yesterday, we had another arctic blast come through Seattle, the second of the season on top of our big windstorm. Of course, this storm had the good manners to hit during the evening rush hour, snarling traffic for hours.
Michelle and I had the added concern of having to pick the kids up from school. Normally, this is not challenging since they both go to school reasonably close to work, but when it took Michelle twenty minutes just to get out of the garage of her building because traffic leaving Microsoft was so bad, I knew we were in for it.
I decided to head off on foot instead, leaving my car safely in the Microsoft garage. It was amazing to see the cars slipping and sliding. Even though there was only about two inches of snow, the temperature outside was just right to turn everything into ice on the roadway. Even on relatively shallow grades, two-wheel-drive cars were struggling.
I walked to Andrew's school and picked him up - on time I might add, although there were plenty of other kids who were still stuck there. He and I walked home together and had a nice chat. It was actually a pleasant evening for a walk, although I may have ruined my leather shoes. I walked about four miles total.
After 2.5 hours trying to get the few blocks to Michael's school, Michelle had to ditch her car at the bottom of a big hill that she couldn't get up and walked home the last half mile in her three inch heels. We all arrived home at exactly the same time coincidently. She wasn't very happy...
Once the three of us were home, I got into our 4WD truck and went back to get Michael. There were still about a dozen kids at school, even though it was an hour past the after-school care normally closed. I really appreciate the professionalism of the after-school care teachers in both schools. They were calm and matter-of-fact about the whole thing, ready to spend the night if needed.
However, I was disappointed that the cellphone network melted down. Everyone was stuck in their cars calling the network was simply overrun. It was almost impossible to get a call through; text messages seemed to fare a little better.
So, today, school was closed, and most of us at Microsoft worked from home. School is closed again tomorrow too. I can't remember a year when the kids had so many days off of school. I hope this winter isn't a sign of things to come. An inconvenient truth indeed.
Another year gone by. Amazing. 2006 was a pretty good year for me - STP, sailing in Desolation Sound, some nice trips (like Las Vegas for MIX06, New Zealand, Indonesia, Disneyland, and Whistler, of course, shipping IE7 and Windows Vista.
Still, I wasn't as diligent about working out after STP as I'd hoped, I didn't take nearly enough photos (the STOMP load-in time-lapse not withstanding), and I didn't feel like I was hitting on all cylinders at work as much as I'd like.
So, as always, I'm optimistic about making the new year even better. The half-marathon coming up should kick-start my work out efforts. I'm also doing my annual office cleaning right now (whether it needs it or not...) and paving my last XPSP2 laptop for Vista now, so I'll be ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.
Anyway, I hope you all have a great 2007!
Merry Christmas! Well, "Happy Boxing Day" is really more appropriate, I guess. Anyway, we had a very lovely, if lazy Christmas yesterday. Michelle's folks are visiting from Florida and Mike is here too, so we had a full house. Andrew (9) and Michael (6) got off to a mercifully late start (we had company over the night before, and I was up even later playing Santa Claus getting stuff ready.)
The hot stuff for the boys continues to be Legos (especially Bionicle related), video games, and Pokemon stuff (popular again, after a brief affair with Yu-Gi-Oh). Especially popular are combinations of the above like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for Gameboy DS, Star Wars Legos, and the penultimate combination" the video game Lego Star Wars II. The boys also got an Xbox 360 from Santa. We're not the first ones on the block with a 360, but I finally gave in. (I also admit it was as much for me.)
In addition to the Xbox, I had a prosperous Christmas: a nice Riedel wine decanter I've wanted for a while, the The West Wing season seven DVD set, Avenue Q: The Book (Avenue Q is quite possibly my favorite musical I've never seen, the amazingly fun Table Tennis for Xbox 360, some nice wine, and a Nordstrom's gift card. Good stuff.
Of course, Christmas isn't just about the stuff. It's about the food (you thought I was going to say something mushy about family, brr brr brr right?) We had beignets for breakfast, and I made potato chips using the deep frying oil again (damn, those are good - I'll post the recipe soon.) We also took another go at the Honeybaked ham we had for dinner Christmas Eve along with more yummy greens, and macaroni and cheese. (I don't care what anyone says. Twelve pounds of ham is essentially an infinite quantity of ham. It is too much for any sized event. Jesus wouldn't have had to mess with loaves and fishes if he had a twelve pound Honeybaked ham, pork issues not withstanding.)
Tummies full from too much food and eyes glazed over from too much Viva Pinata, we collapsed at the end of day happy. It was a good Christmas. Hope your's was too.
[2006-12-26 Fixed typo]
I'm back online again with our cable Internet access. Wahoo! It's like taking a deep breath again after breathing through a snorkel.
A few thoughts on what helped us during the Storm of 2006.
We opted not to stick it out at home, preferring light and heat. I'm sure if had stayed home, this list would have had more stuff like firewood, outdoor cook stove, etc. In other emergencies, staying at home would have been more appropriate or even necessary. But, we figured why suffer? We wound up having a good time in downtown Seattle and were very comfortable to boot.
It's been a wild time since my last post. Aside from another trip to Whistler (which I'll write about later) we had a big windstorm here in the Seattle area that knocked out power to over a million households and businesses, including Microsoft and our house.
Last Thursday (the evening of the storm), we heard branches hitting the roof all night. (Our neighborhood is filled with huge old fir trees, 18-20" in diameter.) We lost power around 1:00am and woke up to find a cold house. The yard and roof were buried in fallen branches. I went out to meet my neighbors and see the damage.
Next door, the neighbors lost a big tree. It fell away from the house and across the street, blocking it, and miraculously missing two parked cars and the house across the street. Nearby, other neighbors weren't as lucky. I saw at least five houses that had huge trees lying across their roofs. There were power, cable, and phone lines down everywhere and we heard stories of a nearby transformer that had blown up. On the plus side, I did meet a lot more of my neighbors than ever. Everyone was helping each other, offering whatever they could. It was nice to see, really.
Fortunately, we weren't totally cut off. We had a battery powered radio (with a crank too, just in case) and our Dash Smartphones. We got online via our phones and learned that Microsoft was down to emergency power only and the campus was closed (Friday was the last day I was planning on working this year, so I got an early start to my holiday.) We also learned that the kids' schools were closed (so Michael got an early start to his vacation too.)
In a stroke of foresight, Michelle figured we'd need hotel rooms for a few nights as the power situation got sorted out over the next few days. She got on the phone with Mike, who served as our travel agent, looking for a hotel room in Seattle that had power. We grabbed a few nights at the W Hotel in Seattle and were set. We stopped off at Microsoft for a bit where there was wireless and the hallway plugs worked. There was a little party of sorts going on in Michelle's hallway. Someone even set up a Nintendo Wii (yes, we allow those...), which kept me and the boys occupied for a while. (They're pretty cool, btw, but I think after Michael bashed the Wiimote controller into the wall a few times that it's not for us.)
So, we had a few nice days downtown, just us and the zillion other refugees looking for a little light and heat. We did a little Christmas shopping, saw Eragon (terrible, btw, more on that later), and played at Gameworks. Pretty fun, actually.
We moved back home Monday after the power came back on. We still don't have Internet access (our cable line is still lying in our front yard), so we're connecting through our cellphones (getting somewhere between 92 and 110kbps - not too bad). Lots of clean-up to do in the yard now, but I think the worst is behind us now. I feel fortunate that we got by so easily and were back up before Christmas.
My bitter post about the Stanford football team's poor season must have spurred them to action. The boys beat the University of Washington (itself sunk in a five game losing streak) here in Seattle - a rariety. This breaks Stanford's eleven game losing streak, only tying the worst ever streak in school history.
I missed a chance to see the game. Joe tried to talk me into it, agreeing we'd probably lose but trying to convince me that a miracle might happen. I didn't relish the thought of sitting in the rain, surrounded by rabid Husky fans in purple, watching Stanford get crushed.
Well, I blew it. It was a very nice autumn day, and we won. What's more, we spoiled the Husky's chances of a bowl game, so the fans started filing out early. Serves me right for being a bad fan.
Anyway, congrats to the Stanford football team.
Now that the Democrats have retaken Congress, they're on an aggressive campaign to drive their agenda. While I applaud their determination, some of the items give me pause.
1. Mandatory homosexuality
2. Drug-filled condoms in schools
3. Introduce the new Destruction of Marriage Act
4. Border fence replaced with free shuttle buses
5. Osama Bin Laden to be Secretary of State
6. Withdraw from Iraq, apologize, reinstate Hussein
7. English language banned from all Federal buildings
8. Math classes replaced by encounter groups
9. All taxes to be tripled
10. All fortunes over $250,000 to be confiscated
11. On-demand welfare
12. Tofurkey to be named official Thanksgiving dish
13. Freeways to be removed, replaced with light rail systems
14. Pledge of Allegiance in schools replaced with morning flag-burning
15. Stem cells allowed to be harvested from any child under the age of 8
16. Comatose people to be ground up and fed to poor
17. Quarterly mandatory abortion lottery
18. God to be mocked roundly
19. Dissolve Executive Branch: reassign responsibilities to UN
20. Jane Fonda to be appointed Secretary of Appeasement
21. Outlaw all firearms: previous owners assigned to anger management therapy
22. Texas returned to Mexico
23. Ban Christmas: replace with Celebrate our Monkey Ancestors Day
24. Carter added to Mount Rushmore
25. Modify USA's motto to "Land of the French and the home of the brave"
Thanks to Right-Was-Right for this funny list.
Well, for the first time all season, the Stanford football team didn't lose. Thank, God. Of course, they didn't play, but I'll take whatever small mercy I can get.
This news article made me happy. It's about a Texas school district that is teaching their teachers and students to fight back if a gunman attacks their classroom.
“Getting under desks and praying for rescue from professionals is not a recipe for success,” said Robin Browne, a major in the British Army reserve and an instructor for Response Options, the company providing the training to the Burleson schools.
I definitely agree that too many people are willing to leave their safety and their life in the hands of fate, relying on simple hope that nothing bad happens rather than taking an active role in their life. This has helped formed my views on gun rights and on how I spend some of my time. God forbid, if I'm ever faced with a life-threatening situation, I hope to have the presence of mind and the training to do something instead of just hoping the situation passes.
It drives me crazy that what passes for conventional wisdom these days is that people should lay down and pray that the bad guys pass them over. Is taking action guaranteed to succeed? Of course not. But the odds are better.
I will tell you from personal experience that it's bloody hard to shoot a moving target. I imagine it's even harder to do it if there are twenty people screaming, running at me, and throwing books at my head. However, the worst shooter in the world can easily put a bullet into the back of the head of a kid who is lying face down.
I sincerely hope that these kids will never have to use this training, but I'm glad they're learning to be responsible for their own lives instead of being taught to lay down and wait to die.
I'm not actually sure why most people read my blog. I know many of you are my friends and colleagues who read this out of courtesy, some are people who are hoping that once in a while I might actually say something useful or interesting about Internet Explorer, and still others maybe just have too much time on their hands.
But, as with most sites I suspect, I also get a bunch of traffic from search engines; most of my referrers are Google sites (US English and others). This results in some odd stuff happening on my site.
For instance, almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about taking Andrew (now 9) to a local Pokemon extravaganza. I didn't offer anything particularly useful to the Pokemon fans, but there is a small ecosystem of people trading tips in my comments. It's so weird to me. This page is by far my most visited on the site. (It's the number three hit on Google and #5 on Live Search for "Pokemon Deoxys Aurora Ticket", which I guess is a popular query if you are a Pokemon fan".) Check it out.
The second most popular page (by a longshot) is a post I did about a particular bottle of rum. (This post is the number one hit on Google and Live Search for "best rum in the world".) Now, I have a bunch of very opinionated people offering their views on the best rum (actually, I've gotten some good tips from the comments.)
It's really just odd to me that these little pockets of activity have sprung up on my blog long after I wrote the original post. The net is a strange place full of even stranger people. Oh well, as long as they click the ads...
[Reposted to fix the title]
For the past two years, we've lived without television. OK, that's not really true. We have a TV and a DVD player, but we don't have any TV signal. Everything we watch has to be brought into the house.
It's actually been a pretty interesting experiment. We've always had cable or satellite and watched TV like everyone else. When we moved into this house, we decided to cut off the signal. The kids were starting to watch too much TV, and truth be told, I was spending too much time watching TV too. The kids hated this house for a while because they thought it didn't have any signal.
The transition wasn't really all that hard, especially with so much news on the Internet, the best TV series available on DVD, and Netflix delivering movies. I now have lots of time back to do other stuff like exercise, read, or blog (or even sleep once in a while!) The kids don't seem to mind too much either. I don't think I'll ever look back on my life and wish I'd watched more TV. This has worked out to be a good decision.
That said, there are a few side effects. I miss watching sports; it's one of the few things I think you can't really recreate via the web or other means. I've also found the kids don't have a good sense of any sports because they don't see them played, don't hear the color commentary, and don't have favorite players. I'm not a huge sports fan, but the sports thing may cause me to rethink the no-TV bit (we did hook up rabbit ears to watch Seattle play in the Super Bowl.)
I also find myself at a bit of a loss in conversations sometimes. I don't know what happened on The Apprentice last night (and really don't care) and don't get the Apple commercial parodies. And I really don't know who have the pseudo-celebrities are (who is Jessica Simpson and why is she famous?)
When I don't understand what's going on in the conversation and explain it's because we don't have TV, people often look at me like I'm some kind of Luddite freak. The other common reaction is "wow, that's cool. I could never do that." Most people simply cannot imagine living without live TV. Wild.
I will admit that when we're on vacation, we are often all glued to the TV in the hotel room. The kids catch up on their cartoons, and Michelle and I watch whatever trainwreck pop show happens to be hot. It's like binging on Pop Tarts, Mountain Dew, Slim Jims, and Lunchables. I feel like I need a shower afterwards.
If you've never turned off your TV for a week (or better, a month), give it a try. It's actually amazingly liberating.
Gary Schare, my counterpart in Marketing, hosted a little poker party last night at his house. While we waited for people to show up, I shot a little pool with Max Stevens, a program manager on my team, and I shot a little pool. I suck at pool. This is despite having had a pool table for a few years.Max was nice enough not to gloat.
Turns out I suck at poker too. I haven't really played much, so I made a bunch of dumb mistakes including a mind-blower in the last hand. Fortunately, I won few big hands near the end of the night so it wasn't a total disaster, but I'm pretty sure I was the big loser of the evening.
I really do enjoy both pool and poker, so I guess I'll just have to get better at them or continue to enjoy losing. Anyway, fun night.
After having spent time in New Zealand and Disneyland in the last ten days, I am once again reminded that Americans are fat. Not just a little pudgy. Fat. Fat. Fat.
Every population has a distribution, but my God, there are a lot of incredibly huge Americans; what's more criminal is that there are literally tons of fat American kids. To heck with bird flu, AIDS, and lung cancer. Obesity is an American problem of seemingly epidemic proportions, one which we'll all wind up paying for through higher insurance rates and taxes (and airline fuel bills, etc.).
I have some theories about how this is all the government's fault, with all of the subsidies on corn and other agricultural commodities driving the price of calories to nothing, but at the end of the day, people control what they put their pie holes and how much they exercise.
Apparently, I've been wrong all these years. I'm evil. I guess all the people who say that I'm evil for working at Microsoft on Internet Explorer were right. The funny thing is, I'm the nice guy on the team. You should meet the others. The exception might be Chris Wilson who has managed to stay neutral, despite having worked on the browser way longer than I have.
Oh well. Guess I'll have to embrace the Dark Side and accept who I am.
(There is a potential bias in this test. The first question they ask is what browser you're running. I'm guessing that using IE didn't give me any nice points.)
I went with some friends to Ozzie's Roadhouse this weekend for a few drinks a little karaoke. I love karaoke and am happy to get up an belt out a tune or two when the opportunity arises. That said, a little karaoke self-awareness would go a long way toward making the world a better place.
I had a few thoughts on the topic as I suffered through one drunken fool after another take the mike.
I'm not saying you need to be the next American Idol winner, but at least hit a few notes correctly...
I turned 38 today. This is not so bad, really. (39 will freak me out like 29 did, I suspect.)
What did bum me out was that I learned that despite my increased physical activity and weight-loss, I have a long way to go. First, I got my blood work back from my physical; cholesterol is a bit high. Then, I went and had my body fat hydrostatically tested at a mobile clinic that came by my health club. I knew it would be higher than it should be, but it was much higher than I expected. It was a bad 1-2 punch.
The only solace I can take I guess is that these numbers would have been worse had not already been working out. I've fallen a bit off my workout wagon lately with a busy work and family schedule, but I really need to focus more on my diet and be more diligent about strength training as well.
No chocolate and whisky tonight, I guess.
Last summer, you may recall that my colleagues broke two of my golf clubs accidently within 30 seconds of each other. Well, lightning struck again. While I was in Las Vegas playing golf with my parents (who retired there), I broke the head off my driver, sending it bouncing along the cart path. It's eight years old so I got my money's worth, but it was the one club I could pretty consistently hit so I'm a little sad.
After that, I did manage to hit my Dad's driver about 300 yards (downhill with the wind behind, no doubt), so that felt good (and made him a little angry...) I was actually hitting my irons very well (which never happens). I was hitting about a club longer than normal; I think this may be due to my improved physical condition, although it could just be because it's early in the season, so I haven't messed up my swing yet.
Anyway, time to get a new driver.
I'm back from a great MIX06 in Las Vegas. My liver is OK again, and I'm mostly caught up on sleep. I have a bunch of stuff to blog this weekend. Stay tuned.
I'm working on an average of three hours of sleep a night for the past week as I get ready for the MIX06 conference next week. I'm having a hard time staying focused; every bright shiny object that comes by distracts me. Last night around 2:00am, I started hallucinating. Cool.
The show will be cool, but I can't wait for it to be over.
See you in Las Vegas!
I was sad to see that Kirby Puckett passed away yesterday. Kirby was a great baseball player who played for the Minnesota Twins while I lived in Minnesota. I loved watching him play live and on TV. I especially remember cheering the Twins on through two World Series wins after I left Minnesota. Kirby simply loved the game and played with a ton of heart and even more hustle. The game has lost a great player.
This little gem has been making its way around the office. There's more truth here than I care to admit.
The Pacific Northwest According to Jeff Foxworthy
1. You know the state flower (Mildew)
2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.
3. Use the statement "sun break" and know what it means.
4. You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.
5 You know more people who own boats than air conditioners.
6. You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.
7. You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the "Walk" Signal.
8. You consider that if it has no snow or has not recently erupted, it is not a real mountain.
9. You can taste the difference between Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and Veneto's.
10. You know the difference between Chinook, Coho and Sockeye salmon.
11. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon,
Yakima and Willamette.
12. You consider swimming an indoor sport.
13. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.
14. In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark
- while only working eight-hour days.
15. You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.
16. You are not fazed by "Today's forecast: showers followed by rain,"
and "Tomorrow's forecast: rain followed by showers."
17. You have no concept of humidity without precipitation
18. You know that Boring is a town in Oregon and not just a state of mind.
19. You can point to at least two volcanoes, even if you cannot see
through the cloud cover.
20. You notice, "The mountain is out" when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.
21. You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 50, but
still wear your hiking boots and parka.
22. You switch to your sandals when it gets about 60, but keep the socks on.
23. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
24. You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.
25. You buy new sunglasses every year, because you cannot find the old
ones after such a long time.
26. You measure distance in hours.
27. You often switch from "heat" to "a/c" in the same day.
28. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit under a
29. You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter, Winter,
Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer), Deer &Elk season
30. You actually understood these jokes and will probably forward them!
OK, well, I blogged about them instead. Save an email. Use RSS.
(I just showed the list to Michelle. There were some of these that were so true that she didn't even realize why they might be funny until she thought about it for a while.)
Thanks to Jon for sendng this to me.
Gong xi fa cai! (...hong bao na lai of course, for those of you in the know.)
Happy Year of the Dog! While Chinese New Year is steeped in tradition, I don't do too many of them. The boys were happy to get their lucky money in red envelopes (who wouldn't be?), and we'll have a nice dinner tonight. (Should have been last night really. My oyster po' boy at the Seattle Yacht Club last night wasn't very traditional.)
According to ChineseAstrology.com, the Dog is loyal, tenacious, and watchful. 2006 should be a good year for international justice and righting of wrongs. I think we could all use some of that.
More from ChineseAstrology.com:
What to avoid in 2006:
- Guilt-trips (would have/ should have/ could have's)
- Pity-parties (I'll just sit here in the dark by myself)
- Pride ("cutting off one's nose to spite the face")
- Hanging on to dead-end anything (from relationships to clutter)
- Excessive worrying
- Panic (and it's ugly sisters -- anxiety and worry)
What to hold on to in 2006:
- A cause or special purpose
- Old friends who have stood the test of time
- Your Principles
- The Family Circle
The Dog year and those under it's influence are protectors of morals and defenders of the weak. Causes, revolutions and human-rights are on the agenda for the Dog year. The watchful Dog keeps us one step ahead of those who would harm us. However, while a single dose of anticipation is healthy, a double dose can be toxic and result in paranoia, expecting problems around every corner and jumping to conclusions throughout 2006.
Parents can expect to pull their offspring out of a scuffle or two this year. In like kind, these same parents may have to exercise herculean self-control at the workplace when the office bully flexes their muscles. Loyalty in relationships becomes more important than ever this year and best results are achieved by taking the high road in any given situation. Best results are acheieved when worry is transformed into advance thinking and planning.
OK, so now you know. Go have a good year and be safe out there.
What an amazing win the Seattle Seahawks had over the Carolina Panthers today! It's hard to believe the Hawks are going to the Super Bowl. Awesome, awesome, awesome...
This parody video is just wrong... and very funny. NSFW (depending on where you work, I suppose.)
The first player of the game starts with the topic,
Here's to a great 2006!
I was out with some female co-workers the other night. The conversation turned to various people on our team. I asked the women why a particular guy on our team seemed so successful with women. "Women look at him and figure he's in their league." came the answer.
Last night, a guest of ours told us about a little problem she had at her house. She went into her bathroom one morning and found a rat in the toilet! She scooped him out and set him free. Well, it happened again. This time she called the county, who sent someone over to get it and kill it. Apparently, rats come up through the sewer into toilets frequently enough to keep this guy employed full time. Scary.
His advice, keep flushing until the rat goes away. Scare me.
If that's not enough to spook you, here's video.
Just thought I'd take a moment out of our morning to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. We all got tons of goodies (including a Lensbaby for me!) Michelle and I have been helping undo packaging (when did everyone start using twist ties and clear rubber bands to bind toys to the packages?!), install batteries (and more batteries), and put cardboard boxes into the recycling bin.
Everyone is enjoying their new stuff and hanging out together. Hope you're having fun too.
What did Santa bring you?
I was editing our Christmas card list today (well, really our New Year's card list since we're so late) and had a sad, new experience: I crossed off the name of someone who died this year. I've never had to do that before, and it made me sad.
Last night I went to three very different nightclubs in Seattle. The first was Howl at the Moon, a dueling piano bar in Pioneer Square; the second was the See Sound Lounge, a swish club in Belltown. The last was Belltown Billiards, which, as the name suggests, is a billiards club in Belltown (the clever buggers...).
Howl at the Moon is a loud, somewhat crass party bar full of older (mostly 30-somethings, with) patrons singing/screaming pop standards with the pianists and doing set dances to things like Time Warp and Shake Your Tail Feather. There was an abundance of drunk, heavy-ish middle age women who would get up on stage and shake what God gave them to the hoots of their friends. I think it would be a good axiom for me to only go to bars where, on average, the women are younger than I am and weigh less than I do. This was not the case at Howl at the Moon. If I were looking for a new friend, it would have been depressing; as it was, there wasn
I blogged about the word craptacular a while back and how it applied to the Christmas lighting displays in my neighborhood. However, now that I see this lighting display, I see the true meaning of craptacular.
Here are the details from the email in which I received the links.
This display was the work of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that control the 16,000 Christmas lights in his 2004 holiday lighting spectacular. The musical accompaniment is broadcast over a low-power radio station so that it is only audible to visitors tuned in to the correct frequency and doesn't disturb the neighbors.
It's very thoughtful of Carson to not disturb his neighbors by having the music play over the low-power radio station. Of course, the flashing lights all night, the cars driving by slowly, and the fluxating power for weeks on end wouldn't be annoying at all.
I struggle with self-control. It's true. Mostly, I win the fight to keep my demons at bay, but this weekend I've let them win two nights in a row (as you can see from the almost 3:00am blog post).
Last night, I played Advance Wars 2 Black Hole Rising (a Nintendo Gameboy game) until 3:00am. I had kicked the habit for a long time, but Michael (5) innocently handed me his Gameboy and asked me to finish his game of Advance Wars since he was going to be. (Actually, he gave me my Gameboy back. He dropped his in the toilet accidently a while back. Turns out they're not real waterproof.) Next thing I know, it's 3:00am; I had finally vanquished the evil Black Hole forces on some stupid map. It's actually remarkable how they're able to make such a fun, playable turn-based strategy game on a Gameboy screen. The guys love it, and I guess so do I. Still, I felt dumb being up at 3:00am playing this game, especially since it's not the first time this has happened. I'm staying away from Age of Empires 3 for this very reason (even though I have it installed now. Must. Not. Give. In.
This evening, I watched almost the entire second season of Battlestar Galactica. I swore I'd only watch one or two episodes, but the new BSG is so very good that I got sucked in. Eight episodes (read: eight hours minus commercials) later, I'm a wasted wreck. I loved the original BSG too, but I was in elementary school. The new BSG is way better -- serious and dark with very human characters and slick Cylons. Nonetheless, I feel dumb again for being up so late dong something silly.
It's a good thing that I get no kick from champagne and that mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all (although the last of my Highland Park this evening was delightful. Easily one of my favorite whiskies.) I'd be a sodden wreck if I had as little self-control in that regard. Anymore, that is.
We decided (I really mean Michelle decided) to clean up our closets today, so we purged (I really mean Michelle purged) a metric shitload of stuff that we haven't used in years, was broken, or just don't need anymore. I went through the disaster area called my den and cleaned out a big garbage bag full of stuff plus untold bags of recycling. I haven't really even tackled a big box of old cables and power supplies yet either.
I love gear and goodies as you all know, but I'm a bit appalled by the amount of garbage we generate as a family of four. Between the packaging and discarded possessions, we take out a huge garbage can each week plus we do a biannual run to the dump for bigger stuff.
What's more, I don't think we generate as much garbage as many households since we cook a lot from scratch (which means less packaging), we recycle heavily (we have mixed recycling bins around here so we can dump everything into a single bin -- very nice), we compost, we buy generally high quality items (so we break stuff less often), and we donate good quality used items.
In any case I have a renewed enthusiasm for the wise (if overused) advice of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". No reason to leave an unnecessarily messed up world for the boys.
At Microsoft, we always talk about how someone "adds value". The Holy Grail for all employees is to find new ways to add even more value to our products and services and ultimately our users and shareholders. I've spent fifteen years trying to figure it out for myself and lead others to add more value.
Turns out I should have just gone to Hong Kong. There's a machine there where you can add value just by putting money into it. Damn, this would have saved me a lot of time and energy.
(Actually, the machine lets you put more money on a subway stored value card, but the name and the image were too juicy to resist.)
There are lots of lessons to take away from the tragedy in New Orleans post-Katrina. The most poignant one to me is how quickly our veneer of civilization and order can break down. At the end of the day, you can only rely on yourself and your family to take care of yourselves.
All those idealists who think that the government should take care of them to the exclusion of all personal responsibility should take a good hard look at what happened in the Big Easy. "I don't need to protect my family. The police will do that." Yeah right. Faced with the incredible scope of the catastrophe, many of the beleaguered local police burned out or in some cases, joined the looters. Some people who had the foresight and self-reliance to keep their own guns were able to protect their families and property.
Hopefully, no one else will ever face the challenges confronting the people affected by Katrina or would ever have to defend themselves from another bad guy, but the stakes are simply too high to rely on hope or a thin blue line of police. I prefer to have the option to choose to defend my family if needed.
We just got back from ten days in Florida. We first visited Michelle's parents in St. Petersburg Beach and then went onto Walt Disney World.
I'm a little beat right now, so that's all for now. I'll blog more about the trip and such later.
I got my 15th college reunion class book in the mail today. This tome consists of pages with photos and stories of our lives submitted by me and many of my classmates from Stanford.
Mostly, the stories go like this:
It's interesting to see who looked better during college and who looks better now. Not sure which camp I fall into, but Lord, the photo I sent reproduced terribly. I look thirty pounds heavier in the photo (really, I'm not that fat.)
I thought I'd been keeping up pretty well with the people who were important or interesting to me, but I was wrong. The book reminded me of a lot of fun times during college with lots of folks I've lost touch with. Fortunately, most people included contact info, so I'll be saying hello to some old friends soon.
While I'm complaining, I thought I'd share another pet peeve. Several times a week, my ears are assaulted by people misusing fewer and less. This is even true of my well-educated colleagues with degrees from prestigious colleges.
As Merriam-Websters describes, fewer "applies to matters of number and modifies plural nouns."
Less "applies to matters of degree, value, or amount and modifies collective nouns, mass nouns, or nouns denoting an abstract whole."
That is, if you can count the thing in units, use fewer, otherwise use less. Examples: "Fewer items", "fewer days", "less work", "less happy".
I'm sure I make lots of usage mistakes (probably even in this post), but this mistake just bugs me. It's so common that even M-W mentions the increased usage. Bad, bad, bad.
(As an aside, I'm sad the Encarta Dictionary didn't have any usage info on this topic. I worked on v1 of the Dictionary and had hoped it would grow into something more.)
It was a reasonably nice night with good wind. While it's always fun to sail, this week was especially fun because I learned to sail foredeck. This is the position on the front of the boat; the foredeck person stands at the bow (the front of the boat) at the start to call the starting line, handles the head sail, and then sets and manages the spinnaker (the big downwind sail) and the spinnaker pole (a pole that pushes the spinnaker out).
It was definitely a learning experience. There are lots of lines up there. It's a little hard to visualize where they're all supposed to go and in what order when everything is on the deck. Once the pole and sail go up, tangles and overlaps can cause huge problems (I had to stop everything twice and untie/unclip things to fix overlaps -- very slow and bad). It's even harder because you actually have to think about the next move the boat will make and where lines need to be then (another mistake there). Still, I had a good coach and it was fun
This is a pretty busy job at times. The boat is often heeling pretty far when I'm up there. I typically need both hands to get the pole ready, etc. so I have to stay low to stay on the boat (important). As a result, my knees and shins are all banged up and cut from smashing on the deck and the little hardware that sticks up all over. At various times, my feet were also dragging through the water as I hung onto the boat on various tacks.
Despite the physical abuse I took and the fact we finished DFL (dead f*cking last ) in two of the three races (we did, however beat the #1 boat in the second race), I had a super great time and am excited to do it all again.
Happy Independence Day! (To my British friends, sorry about the loss of your colonies.) I love the 4th of July. I have lots of great 4th of July memories like watching fireworks from the Marin Headlands overlooking the Golden Gate bridge, watching the fireworks from a speedboat in Lake Washington, and seeing a different perspective while in Germany one year.
Today was no exception. Nice round of golf at Newcastle, friends over for a barbeque, and then watching the Bellevue fireworks with Andrew (7). Beautiful weather, for a change too. (Normally, the 5th of July is the nicest day in Seattle.)
However, every 4th of July, my strongest memory is of Trinket, our former sailboat. We took deliver of this brand new 1998 Tartan 3500 and had our first sail on July 4, 1998. We didn't know what we were doing; we wound up dodging Washington State Ferries all day, drifting along under sail. Still, it's one of the two happiest days of a boater's life (the other, of course, is the day you sell your boat, as I can attest.)
Andrew and I shared another memorable 4th on Trinket, watching the fireworks from Elliott Bay Marina. We sat on the boom, about four feet over the deck, so we could see better. Andrew, who was five at the time, fell asleep in my arms (while we were still perched on the boom) during the fireworks. Definitely a 4th I'll never forget.
I can't wait until next year...
As a fun thing to do on a slow day, I took a bunch of my team out yesterday to Bellevue Muni golf course to hit some balls and get a hot dog for lunch. Several of the team including me brought golf clubs to share with the others.
Everything was going well. Then, two of my guys came up to me with sheepish grins and asked, "the review model is closed, right?" (this is our annual performance review with scores). Then they showed me not one but two broken golf shafts, the heads sheared off at the tip of the shaft.
One guy had broken my Callaway seven wood, the head flying 50 yards onto the range (probably the farthest he managed to get anything down range.) Then the guy on the next mat with my Callaway three wood does exactly the same thing.
I've never broken a single golf club in my life, let alone two. These are nice guys who weren't doing anything nutty. Lightning just happened to strike twice.
This is God's way of saying I need new clubs...
...I'd be dead today.
I just got back from a week in China, visiting our colleagues located in Beijing. This was the first visit I've made in the summer. Damn warm (90F+).
I left Beijing on June 4, the 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It struck me how much China has changed since then in some ways and not enough in others.
Certainly, there are few markets that are more vibrant or that really express capitalism to the same degree that China has adopted, and people are more free to pursue their choices than ever. In those ways, I'm very excited and optimistic about the future of China and the Chinese people.
On the other hand, there has been a renewed control over the media and continues to be limitation of public discourse. While I recognize there may be a desire to slowly evolve (vs. the explosive decompression seen in the former Soviet Union), there is a growing dichotomy between what people hear in the news vs. what the know to be true via their greater access to foreigners and foreign information sources. This can only increase tension and discontent in the current government. I only hope the situation resolves itself peacefully and soon.
Anyway, the food was great, and it's always inspiring to me to meet with my friends in China; they're incredibly talented and driven. They do great work for us and will do even more over time.
Sorry I haven't been posting much lately. Michael (4) has been uncharacteristically good lately, so there hasn't been much to report on. I'll start waking him up earlier so he's crankier. That should kick things up a notch again...
From MSNBC, regarding the protests in China around new Japanese history text books that downplay Japanese actions in WW II:
Japan summons Chinese envoy
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura also summoned China
I just got back from a week of interviewing students at MIT and Carnegie-Mellon University. The focus this time was to get interns for us this summer. I have to say I was super impressed with the students and the things they had done, not only in technology, but in their communities.
These were mostly 18 and 19 year olds who had started programs to bring computers to senior citizens, built bridges in local parks, and tutored kids. Some came from privileged backgrounds to be sure, but many had overcome a lot of obstacles to reach this level of accomplishment. They were incredibly passionate, eager, and smart.
I know these students are the cream of the crop, but as they are the leaders of tomorrow, I have to say I feel a lot better about tomorrow.
(On a separate note, if you didn't think it was possible for a three year old to scream like someone was killing them for five hours, you'd be wrong. The flight back from Pittsburgh apparently had a kid torture chamber on board. Thank goodness for my noise-cancelling headphones.)
I'm normally a nice guy (one of my colleagues calls me the nicest person on the IE team.) I actually take this as a complement.
However, sometimes it's useful to be the bad guy. I think it's worthwhile to be able to have a wide range of skills to use in negotiations. This is something I coach my team on; don't always rely on one or two tactics. Understand the situation you're in and pick from a range of choices.
That said, some tactics will simply not work for some people. I think I hit one of my limits today. I was upset over a stupid cross team interaction today and tried to be the surly bad cop. It was not successful. In fact, it was kind of gross, like a metrosexual trying to hit on a woman by acting like a jock. The same action would have been fine from someone else, but it looked dumb coming from me.
Know thyself I guess.
I'm still sick but finally starting to feel a bit more human. The last few days have been a weird haze of drowsiness, otc-cold-medicine fog, and self-induced West Wing marathon bleariness.
The last the most interesting part. Michelle and I have both been watching episode after episode. Our banter has become a little sharper and wittier, even in our current condition. Gawd, I hope I don't start voting Democratic next...
Ugh. I have that achy, fevery, runny nose thing. Nothing like kids bouncing on you to make a bad thing worse. What's more, I haven't been sleeping well. My mind keeps racing; I have 2-3 story lines running in my head. It's like I'm channel surfing in my dreams. Weird.
Two things have eased my condition. 1. Michelle made some killer chicken soup this evening. She's my hero. 2. Our friend Mike loaned us his West Wing seasons 1-3 boxed sets. I'd forgotten how much I love West Wing; it's even better without commercials, in order, all at once.
I loved growing up in Minnesota, but I don't miss this.
We had a small, very enjoyable dinner party Christmas eve. As usual, we topped it off with dessert and decaf coffee. Once we got our guests out safely and the presents out, we went to bed -- relatively early even.
In the morning, I was a wreck when the kids came racing out to see what Santa had brought. Michelle and Ives (my brother) looked like hell too. Turns out the coffee was improperly marked; the decaf was really caffeinated coffee! None of us slept that night; we all shared the mind-racing phenomenon.
We took turns taking naps and building Lego creations for the boys. It was a long, long Christmas day...
I'm home again after two weeks in Asia. I'm still in a weird time zone delirium, compounded by the weird Groundhogs Day effect of travelling from Asia. (I left the hotel at 6:30am Sunday in Beijing and arrived in Seattle at 6:30am Sunday.)
Lots of bloggy stuff to write about -- later...
I'm in Taiwan right now, looking down the barrel of Typhoon Nanmadol, the first December typhoon to hit the area since 1964. What luck! No one seems too concerned here. I got lucky on my trip to Puerto Rico, missing the tropical storm that hit the island. Hopefully, this storm will pass uneventfully.
I'm back after a few days in Las Vegas visiting my parents. Played a lot of golf, most of it badly although I did come very close to a hole-in-one. It was nice to get away.
Well, I didn't win my bid to be President, but then I spent a lot less on my loss than John Kerry did. I knew I was smarter than he is. If you're going to lose anyway, don't spend a lot. Of course, he's loaded, so he probably doesn't mind...
Well, I guess it's a little late to get into the game now on the eve of the election, but I'd like to formally declare my candidacy for President of the United States.
Here's a quick statement on my beliefs:
Anyway, I've been planning my campaign since junior high, mostly because I liked the slogan, "Vote Chor in 2004!" I even had a campaign manager. (Sarah, where are you and why haven't you been working on the campaign?) I've been busy with other stuff this year, so I haven't done much in the way of a campaign, but as this is a campaign 20+ years in the making, I figure there's a huge silent majority out there waiting to sweep me into office. One plus I hadn't counted on back then was getting Secret Service protection. I might actually be able to keep Michael (4) from killing me then.
(BTW, if you really are going to vote for me, you should write in "Anthony Chor" not "Tony Chor". I'd hate to lose in Ohio over a technicality.)
I finally threw away my stock of 35mm film. I had probably 30-40 rolls of good print and chrome film that I bought before I got my first digital SLR (Canon D30) in 2001. I haven't shot a single frame of 35mm since then. I've kept the stuff around thinking I might shoot some of it to try some multi-exposure effects or something, but I finally admitted to myself that I'll never shoot film if I have a digital alternative. Plus this stuff is so old I wouldn't trust it anyway.
Seems dumb, but this somehow felt like a big milestone. Once I get rid of all the film bodies, I'll know I've fully switched.
Anyone want to buy an Elan II for cheap?
Boing Boing had a great reference for the tricks in different jobs. Here are a few of my favorites:
With any routine under seven minutes (which is almost all of them), you only really need one thing: a good closer. And there are only two things you really need to know about a great closer. First, it needs to be impressive. That sounds obvious, but most beginning jugglers think
We got new windows installed in the house a few weeks ago. Very nice.
Unfortunately, they're too clean. In the last week or so we've had three birds slam into the windows and die. A little scary for us, and very bad for the birds.
I played golf this morning at Newcastle Golf Club on the China Creek course.
My score was around average, but I think this is the first round I've ever played where I did not incur any penalty strokes for hitting balls out of bounds, into the water, etc. This is something of a milestone for me. Actually, given that I kept it in play, only missed three fairways all day, and had 35 putts, it should have been a great round. Too bad I couldn't seem to hit a second shot to save my life.
I love the Olympics. I really do. I get all choked up when I hear the Star Spangled Banner playing for a medalist (I like Oh, Canada too, but mostly because it's kind of catchy...) I'm inspired by the stories about how so and so worked hard for years and is finally living his/her dream of competing the Olympics. I'm made more hopeful by the symbolic events during the Olympics like the Afghani women competing for the first time in the Olympics or the North and South Koreans parading together during the opening ceremonies. Call me sentimental, but I just love the whole thing.
"Pacifists, when the Minnesota Twins handed out G.I. Joe action figures for Armed Forces Appreciation Day. Because the Metrodome has a policy against guns, the 4-inch toys were disarmed before distribution, though they were allowed to keep their hand grenades."
Ah, the wise gun controllers score another common sense victory, keeping us all just a bit safer.
(This excerpt is from The Week Magazine, one of my favorite magazines.)
I wouldn't normally have considered myself a big fan of Sears (as in Sears Roebuck), but I had a great customer service experience with them last weekend that really turned me around.
A few weeks ago, I broke the shaft of my twelve year-old Sears Craftsman shovel. Not knowing quite what to expect, I took it back to the nearby Sears store.
The kid behind the counter told me to just go back and get a new shovel. I did. He gave me a receipt, apologized for making me wait (there was a problem with the register for a bit), and I was done. No questions about when I bought it or how I broke it, and the guy on the floor was empowered to make it better with no forms or managers. Sears simply stood behind their product no questions asked.
I loved the experience and am an evangelist for Sears Craftsman tools now. I wish more companies (including mine!) had this attitude.
It should be apparent to everyone concerned that I'm procrastinating right now, blogging to avoid doing some work this evening. I'm not proud, just honest.
Time to get off my butt and work. Blog at you later.
Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with golf. Today, I love it. I played in the Rick Pankow Foundation charity golf tournament yesterday at Washington National. I was teamed up with my good friend Kevin, his friend Mark, and his ringer friend Skip.
The format was a scramble, which means everyone tees off, and then everyone hits from the location of the best ball and so on. The team cards a single score. It's a fun format since there's very little pressure (since there are four chances for each shot) and even duffers like me can contribute.
I was clearly the weakest golfer in the foursome (a position I'm quite used to), but I'm happy to report that I held up my end with a two or three long putts (including one that was maybe fifty feet) and a few nice approach shots including a flippy little wedge to about two feet into a very tight pin and a great 7-wood to six feet, both when everyone else had missed their shots.
I was driving super well too, but that didn't matter a whit since Skip and then Mark were driving 300 yards plus. It's a different game when you can hit your second shots from so far up.
We were on fire from the first hole where Mark almost chipped in for an eagle. We proceeded to shoot a 60, twelve shots under par. Because of the rules of the tournament, we were playing from the back tees for sixteen of the eighteen holes to making our score even more impressive. Alas, 60 wasn't quite enough to win; the winners shot 59. Still, we took home $75 gift certs for second place and the knowledge we had all played really well.
The course was in great shape. It was a beautiful day -- sunny and just the right temperature. I think, though, that playing well made it just a bit sunnier for us. I loved it. Can't wait to play again.
We've been in Hawaii for a week or so now, and I've had the good fortune to have played three rounds so far -- two on Mauna Lani South and one round at the legendary Mauna Kea. I finally broke 100 on my second round on Mauna Lani South (96)! Hurray! (Glad to get that stupid monkey off my back.) Turns out if you just don't screw up big you can break 100. I helped that I was hitting pretty well, especially off the tee.
Too bad I didn't take that lesson to heart on my round at Mauna Kea. Wow, what a beautiful and frickin' hard course (slope 134) from the blue tees. I don't think I would have scored well anywhere the way I was hitting, but it was made worse by the difficulty of the course. 590 yard par 5 up hill? Really? No level lies anywhere? Crazy greens with very pronounced grain? A duffer like me had no chance. I won't publish my score here because it would violate a dozen obscenity laws, but sufficed to say it was much higher than 100.
Hopefully, I'll get a chance to play again before we leave Hawaii. Stay tuned...
A bit of Las Vegas history is gone forever. The 45-year old Tam O'Shanter Motel was torn down in January to make room for a new 22 story addition to the neighboring Venetian Hotel.
I never stayed at Tam O'Shanter, but I always looked forward to seeing it on my trips to LV. My two best high school buddies and I went to Las Vegas for our senior trip and for some reason, Tam O'Shanter struck us as really funny.
(Well, we were too young to gamble or drink, so all we could do was make fun of silly hotel names. Sad, I know, but it was funny and even more so as our brains suffered from the insulin tidal wave caused by the food debauchery of the Circus Circus buffet. I guess you had to be there.)
I like seeing the crazy big hotels on the Strip get even crazy bigger, but I'm sad to see bits of old LV go.
Well, I survived my three days of Resort Golf golf camp. It was actually pretty cool. There were just three of us with the one instructor, Tom. We spent a lot of time on grip and posture (even the other student, Scott, who has a three handicap needed work here.) The video analysis of our setup and swings confirmed we all needed work on these. It was really super enlightening to see it on screen.
For me, the class verified that I overswing and am just too flexible, so keeping my timing is hard. When I swing smoothly, it feels like I'm not doing anything, but the ball goes, so it must be right.
The other great thing was learning how to hit the various short game shots. Immediately during our practice rounds, my short game was better (including pitching up close to the hole on a par 5 for my tap in birdie.) I think I might actually be able to hit a ball out of the sand now.
Our instructor Tom was a good guy and a good instructor. It was a fun few days. I highly recommend it if you want to get better. Just be sure to put sunscreen on...
We flew Southwest Airlines down here to Las Vegas. It's not hard to see why they're doing well. They run the damn thing well, the planes are in good shape, and the crew clearly enjoys working for the company. Our steward was incredibly funny and everyone was nice. The prices were way less than anyone else too. I don't even mind the cattle boarding since we board early (see, Michael is good for something...)
Compare that to United, my normal carrier. You can almost smell death lingering on a United flight (watch for the vultures circling your plane.) What a difference.
I'm on vacation!! Hurrah! Work has been absolutely draining recently, so I'm especially looking forward to this little break.
I'm taking the boys to Las Vegas while Michelle jaunts off to London. The guys will get a chance to hang out with my mom while my dad and I go off to Resort Golf Golf School at Angel Park Golf Club. I'm sure my hands will be bleeding by the time I'm done, but I can't wait.
Of course, this means I need to fly with the boys first. Alone. I'll be armed with a DVD player, a cool new Sony laptop (with DVD player and recorded TV programs), books, toys, and snacks. I have duct tape too if things get dicey (especially with the Evil One.)
First off, congrats to the Stanford men's bball team on their win at the buzzer this weekend over Arizona. 20-0. Amazing.
In the article talking about the game, the writer lists famous Stanford alums who were there.
Celebrities at today's game included Tiger Woods, Jim Plunkett (former Stanford All-American and NFL quarderback [sic]), Bill Walsh (former San Francisco 49er and Stanford head coach), Troy Walters (former Stanford wide receiver and a member of the Indianapolis Colts) and George Schultz (former Secretary of State).
It's an odd world where a former Secretary of State needs an explanation but a golfer doesn't. Maybe our priorities are in the right place after all...
Oh my God, I think my spleen is about to burst after listening to some of the Bud Lite Presents radio ads.
So far, I especially love the Mr. Male Football Cheerleader, Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor, and Mr. Computer Computer Guy. Hysterical!
So much for my productivity for the rest of the day...
At the urging of my friend Justin, I tried hot yoga (Bikram style) this morning at Yoga of Bellevue (whose URL is Yoga of Kirkland since they have the same owner.) This is like some kind of medieval torture where they jack the room up to 105 degrees and then subject you to ninety minutes of contortions. All the while, you have to pretend to enjoy it and pay for the privilege.
While lots of people claim nearly miraculous effects from hot yoga, I experienced very common effects like light headedness, incredible thirst, and sore muscles. I have promised to stick it out for a while to see if I like it. Lord knows I need the exercise and a few miraculous effects would be very welcome too.
Stay tuned for updates...
Why does a search for "Tony Chor" (not that I'm vain) on Google put Duffer Geek higher than tonychor.com? What's up with that?
I'm going to have to start a concerted campaign to get links to my site so this site goes up in the rankings. Dammit.
Hope you all had a great Christmas. Lots of loot, grandparents doting on kids, and tons of yummy food lead to a very relaxing Christmas at the Chor home.
Helped Mom buy a new cellphone today. Amazon and AT&T will give you a Motorola V60i MK2 (the hot phone from about two years ago) with $200 cash -- they give you $200. Of course, you need to sign up for two years of service... Still, crazy economics.
I love Christmas music. I really do. So, we were listening to Christmas songs on the radio the other day. As usual, My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music came on.
It strikes me as very odd that this has become a Christmas song. What is Christmasy about it? I'm not sure why a song from a show about a family running from Nazis has somehow become a Christmas song.
And why does Barbara Streisand sing Christmas songs? I like Jews. Some of my best friends are Jews. It just seems weird that a Jewish person has a Christmas album. Of course, that might explain the connection between The Sound of Music and Christmas. I guess everything comes back to the Nazis with the Jewish. Even Christmas songs. The great Jewish conspiracy hard at work again...
Ah, the holidays and the obligatory Christmas lights. There is only one word to describe the massive lighting displays in our neighborhood -- craptacular. This is yet another flash of brilliance from The Simpsons and describes the light polluting and electricity sucking inflatable snowman and flashing light hell perfectly.
I admit we've been sucked into the light-up-the-house thing, but I'd like to think our display is relatively tactful -- just a few white lights with no blinking, chasing.
Craptacular. What a great word.
We lost power today due to high windstorms in the area. I'm using my last remaining laptop juice and am connecting through a pokey analog connection. It's amazing how isolated I feel (and cold -- no heat...) I'm so wired 99% of the time that being cut off is a little disorienting. Kind of pathetic really.
It's also amazing how quiet it is in the house without all the motors, fans, and high frequency buzz in the house. I don't normally even hear it except when it's not there. It may not be bad for you, but I'm sure it's not good.
Hopefully, we'll get power back shortly. It's been 8.5 hours already. I'm going through withdrawal and will lose my methadone fix once my laptop battery dies. Can I survive until the morning when I get back into work? We'll see.
Since we didn't have power this evening, I took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese for dinner and some fun. I also owed this to Andrew since got to page 100 in his workbook at school.
Anyway, if you haven't been before (or haven't been since you were a kid), Chuck E. Cheese is a pizza joint with games and big kid-sized-habitrail setups. They also have a scary, syrupy stage show of animatronic animals in a band and a full sized Chuck E. Cheese guy in costume that will likely result in nightmares for me and the boys this evening. I seem to recall it being a more regular arcade when I was growing up, but now it caters to young children (like lower elementary).
As you walk in, you have to get your hand stamped in special ink so they can verify you're leaving with the right kids (like I'd want to take more kids than I came with?!) This is a nice idea in principle and makes people feel OK to let their four year olds run around unattended while the Stepford wives chat amongst themselves. However, since we managed to leave tonight without being checked and Michelle has seen unstamped adults leaving with kids, it's clearly not as robust a a scheme as you'd think. I never let Michael out of arm's reach and scan for Andrew every thirty seconds.
The games are a mix of arcade games for little kids and midway style machines that return tickets depending on how well you do. If you get a few thousand tickets at a quarter a pop, you can cash them in for great prizes like Matchbox car knockoffs and bad candy. A bargain at twice the price.
Half the games are broken. The floor is dirty from a million 4-5 year olds running around in their socks and bare feet, spilling soda. The whole place makes me want to take a Lysol shower afterwards. I just get the willies being there.
Worst of all, my kids love the place. Just love it. They can't wait to go back. So, we'll go back.
Q: What will Michael Jackson get after he's convicted?
A: His own parish.
What a sicko.
I knew Michelle was wrong. You can be too clean.
All you who think my office is too piggy -- HAH!
Like many people, I've struggled to understand the differences between religions. But now, I've found a simple guide based on "shit happens". Some winners:
Catholicism: Shit happens because you are BAD. Judaism: Why does shit always happen to me? - and - Jehovah's Witnesses: Knock, knock ... shit happens.
It makes everything perfectly clear.
I love Japan. I really do. I've been to Tokyo several times and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time. There is so much to admire about Japanese culture and society. Really.
But -- they're so weird too. How else can you explain this Kikoman ad?
Well, I learned what would seem to be fairly obvious lesson this weekend. I got out my brand spanking new Toro leaf blower. Since it's been blowing pretty good here in Seattle lately, we had a lot of leaves and pine needles on the deck, front walk, and roof.
Well, I got that bad boy out and had a grand ole' time blowing the deck and front walk. It was getting dark, but I figured I had time to do the roof -- very important since the gutters were kind of full.
(This is where the audience screams "Don't do it!") So, I climb up on the roof with my trusty blower and do battle the with the roof. I'm loving this. 215 mph of leaf blowing might. The roof is cleared and the gutters look great.
Too bad the deck and walk look like hell.
Of course, Michelle is watching through the windows howling. She knows what a dumb ass I am. Everything is covered in an inch of pine needles.
So, in the dark, I re-clear the deck and walk. Oh well, lesson learned.
Still, it's pretty fun...