Saturday, December 30, 2006

A sucker is born every minute

I am sitting in Starbucks in Kent, going over some invoices and updating my 2007 Moleskine Daily Planner and I am next to 2 people pitching some kind of nutritional supplement juice to a young guy. Yeah, I’m eavesdropping, but this is good.

It is ridiculous listening to them. There is a guy in an suit that is way too big, talking about how much money he makes and what kind of car he leases and all the rich people he knows. There is a pretty young girl, too, who I thought was another sucker until she started in on the other young guy.

In trying to rope this guy into their “distribution business” he give examples of how some licensed stock trader has to get approval from the SEC to join this business, how he is thinking of hiring a body guard and how “real estate isn’t the business to be in if you want to be rich” (real estate happens to be what the guy is in).

Ill fitting suit guy purports to have a house in Fiji and a bank account in Panama. Sounds fishy to me. He evidently keeps his first paycheck in his wallet, $734, because it has some significance, and he would show it to the mark, but he forgot his wallet today. Yeah, right.

They are trying to get him to join today, because that puts him in the bonus pool next month.

This has got to be some pyramid scheme, because he has to buy the juice up front and get other people to join! If he can get 4 people to join by February and they each get 4 people to join, he could go to somebody’s house in Las Vegas, worth 15 million.

It all sounds pretty sketch to me – pyramid schemes, pre-buying merchandise, weak examples of how rich the people he knows are. I don’t know, people that I think are successful don’t talk about what kind of car they have, don’t forget their wallet and don’t wear ill fitting suits.

It sounds like he is signing up – they are calling his information into the toll free add a distributor customer service line.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

PC Magazine's Most Useful Sites

It is the end of the year and all the Best of 2007 lists are coming. PC World Magazine just published their list- The Web's Most Useful Sites. I find these articles interesting because I often stumble upon interesting apps (Gliffy, Basecamp and Writely were all added to my repertoire this way). I am also really interested in Web 2.0 and I think it is changing the face of computing, business - disruptive technology at its best. But back to the article.

I am a big fan of Remember The Milk and the article rated RTM the winner in the to-do list category.
Winner: RememberTheMilk reinvents the to-do list in a snazzy interface that lets you make lists in configurable categories, all laid out on the front page as tabs. Adding to-dos is easy, though adding deadlines, notes, and time estimates is unintuitive.

You can add to-dos using natural language such as "Call Ted next Thursday," sync with your calendar via the widely supported iCalendar format, and set tasks such as "Pay credit card bill" to recur. RememberTheMilk sends reminders through instant message, e-mail, text message, or a combination of these. You can also upload tasks via a special e-mail address that the site gives you.

It's a tremendously well-rounded free product, with neither more nor less than you need to get and stay organized.

I take a little umbrage (if you can only take some) that they gave Gmail runner up status.
But its limitations--the inability to add new folders, to open multiple messages in one window, to filter e-mail, and to right-click on anything--will surely frustrate power users.
They fail to mention tags - that which power users will love the most. I've been thinking of totally dorking out and writing a post about the obvious superiority of tags in organization. But I'll save you from that for now.

In terms of the next, new interesting application, I'm going to check out Meebo, a web based, multi protocol IM client. I've been using IM more and more for work now that I am a remote worker and one of my large projects involves a team spread across the country, both in-house and consultants. I'll let you know what I think.

The article is a long read, but I recommend it. Check it out.

Dead Sea Sledding

Yesterday evening, we went to the Pacific Science Center to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit with our out of town guests.

We are members of the Pacific Science Center, so admission is free, but the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit was an additional fee and with scheduled admission times. We got there at 5pm, but were able to get tickets for the 8:15 admission. No big deal, we went to Center House, ate dinner, came back and spent some time in the museum and then went to the exhibit.

The kids had fun and a butterfly landed on my face in the Tropical Butterfly exhibit.

We went into the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit and in the first exhibit our youngest kid unscrewed one of the nuts holding the plexiglass displays on the wall. I guess we are breeding art thieves and heck, if they are going to start with religious relics - Indiana Jones anyone?

There were lots of exhibits about the settlement/ruins around the caves where the scrolls were found and we went through them slowly. The exhibit closes at 10 and after about 1:30, we hadn't made it to the scrolls yet. Parker got into the audio tour part of it and spent a bunch of time just punching the code into his player. At times, I swear he was talking back to the voices on the player.

We hustled into the scroll area and it was a little disappointing. All the scrolls are obviously in pieces, but they only had small chunks on display. All in all, it was a little of a let down. They are of great historical significance, so it was neat to see it from that standpoint. I think I was more interested in the exhibits about the nearby settlement.

Heather just shared with me the full price, had we not been members, and I don't think the exhibit would have been worth it...

As we returned home, it was starting to snow. Which bode well for our sledding plans.

So we got up early this morning and headed out to Snoqualamie Summit's tubing area. We arrived a little bit later than we anticipated, so we waited until the second session of the day. It was our first time there and tubing was fun - not quite as fun as sledding and Chase and Alec really got into it. Parker and I crashed (yes, on inner tubes) on our first run and he didn't want to do it much longer. Heather and I ended up taking turns for a while.

With the tow rope, it was definitely easier, but waiting in line for the tow rope made walking up the hill much faster. It lightly snowed all while we were up there.

The tubing area was fun, but I don't know if it was worth the admission price, especially when we had one kid that really didn't want to do it. Maybe next year...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas

Happy Day After Christmas to everyone.

I hope yours found you well.

Ours was enjoyable. We shared Christmas Day with family and friends and it was a lot of fun.

One of Heather's sisters and her husband and infant (two separate people, not a husband who acts like a child), came the on Christmas Eve, so that they could start the morning with us.

We started off Christmas day, by making Turkey Stock. We started at midnight and with stock making, stuffing making and general chit chat, we didn't go to bed until 3 am. On the good side, we kept the kids up until 11 or so, so they were inclined to sleep in later.

We had planned on having a brunch with her husband's parents, but they were delayed so we opened presents and had French Toast for breakfast. I had smoked two salmon filets that I was planning on eating with brunch, but I forgot about them, until we got the dessert course of dinner. But more on that later.

The kids were happy with the presents they received and have been playing with them since. Parker's Nintendo DS Lite has been already charged 3 times. I'm not sure if it has needed it or he just know he needs to keep it charged.

For dinner, several friends (who happen to be neighbors) came over for dinner. It was fun in the final stages of preparation and making appetizers, at which point I still forgot the smoked salmon. We had a turkey dinner with all the accouterments.

One of Alec's friends from swimming made an avocado egg roll kind of thing which was really, really good. And his sister made some caramel popcorn - I have problems making the microwave caramel popcorn! All in all, it was really fun.

Heather had some little napkin rings that had a spot for a photo, so we went all Martha Stewart on this dinner. As every guest came in, I accosted them with my camera, took a head shot and then printed out tiny photos of them for their placecard/napkin ring. They turned out really well. Heather was brandishing a knife, a teen ager was turning away, hiding her face and her mom gave me the anti-paparazzi hand!

Merry Christmas to everyone. It was really nice to spend the day with friends.

Argh. I'm having trouble including photos here. Check out the Christmas 2006 set on Flickr.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I'll take you to the candy shoppe...

I'll let you lick my - spatula.

I made truffles again this winter. Chase, Parker and I melted 5 pounds of chocolate and made Chambord, Kahlua, Peppermint and plain (if you can use that word in reference to truffles) truffles. I also made a sheet of peppermint bark. That was really good.

I took a bunch back to my team mates in Oakland and Heather started giving them out to the neighbors today and yesterday.

I really enjoy cooking stuff for other people. Heck, I just enjoy cooking.

Sweet mead

Saw this in the grocery store. Had to snap a pic.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What kind of place do I live?

Editors note: The Northwest was subject to a pretty large windstorm last week and the Seattle metropolitan area bore the brunt of it. Because there are so many trees (part of what makes the Northwest such a nice area), there were widespread power outages. Where I live in Sammamish was out of power for almost 3 days, but as I write this, there are still places that don't have power.
During the power outage, I kept my offline blog in my Moleskine journal. I've finally transcribed it. While it misses out on the immediacy of the blogosphere, it helps keep the continuity of my blog.

December 15th, 9:55 am

They have been forecasting really bad weather here in the Northwest. Last night, it arrived. No rain, no snow, just wind. Lots of fast wind - forecasted to be in the 60 - 70 mile per hour range.

Assuming the power would go out, I made sure to charge my cell phone (last time, the cellular networks stayed up). I made sure my laptop was fully charged so I could work on some offline things.

As we went to bed, Parker decided that he was scared of the windstorm and slept with me.

At some point in the night, the power went out. It was no surprise, it was really windy and really loud. I wondered if this was what a hurricane was like. Shortly after the power went out, Alec came into our room and his shuffling feet woke me up.

Alec: "It's too dark to see." I wasn't sure where he was going with this.
Me: "It's night time, you don't need to see. Go back to bed."
Alec: "Can I sleep at the bottom of your bed?"
By this time, Heather had come to bed, so there was no room.
Me: "There isn't any room."
Alec: "Can I sleep on the floor?"
Me: "Okay."

I woke up as the sun was beginning to rise. It was a beautiful sunrise, quite a pretty red sky. Knowing the sailor's ditty, it might portend bad things. Ed. - I really did write that. Am I good or what?

Slowly the neighbor's generators started to kick in, but still no power. And on top of all that, I had no signal for my mobile phone. I realized I had a conference call at 8 am, a phone interview at 8:30 and then a national inventory call at 10. I decided I would try to drive to the local shopping center to see if I could get a signal someplace along the way.

I headed out and saw several trees down on the side of the road and trees broken off midway up. Branches and broken greenery littered the streets. I drove out of our development onto the main road, but I didn't get far. Several trees were down across the road. Sheriffs were directing traffic and work crews were already at work and the road was closed. The only way out now was a 12 mile detour along even more rural, more wooded roads - if they were still open.

I turned around and headed home.

We have no phone service (all cordless) and no electricity. No means to communicate in or out. Alec has a small battery operated radio, so we can get some news, but I can't call my office mates in Oakland to let them know my predicament.

We make the assumption that school is canceled - the radio reports, "Most schools are closed today. A few in Snohomish county are opening late." They must be tougher up there.

I break out the camp stove to make Heather coffee and breakfast for all. Cream of wheat and oatmeal turn out okay, but we only buy whole bean coffee. We have a few gifts of ground coffee, but the one I opened and made with the french press didn't turn out so good.

I hope the power comes back on soon. I was really counting on this being a productive work day, because I would like to take some time off at Christmas...

1:30 pm

Just washed dishes after a lunch of Ramen. I'm glad to have the camp stove, because it is now 60 degrees in our kitchen. Hot water is nice.

We went for a walk to survey the damage and yes, we saw lots of downed trees. I talked to a King County Sheriff and Sammamish Police Officer and they just advised to stay off the road. They didn't have much information on what roads were open or closed.

I was able to garner that, where it was closed this morning, it was passable, but only to be closed further down. There is a fire access road to our development, but the police officer told me they had no plans to open the gate.

Reportedly, it is supposed to get cold and I can see dark clouds rolling in. So, we'll stay home, drink cocoa, cook on the camp stove and stay warm as best we can.

3:30 pm

I finished reading December's Esquire, so I check my phone again. As soon as I turn it on, I get two voice mail messages and three text messages. One is from Myla - "Are you OK?" is all it says. So, with one bar of signal strength, I call my boss.

I can tell by the way he answers his cell phone, he is in a meeting. He suggests that I save my battery, so we keep it short. I tell him we are okay and get just a smidgen of news from the rest of the world. I learn the local office is closed because few made it in.

It's a little funny. I can see blue sky in one part and dark clouds in another...

It'll be time to make dinner soon. I think eggs and bacon before the fridge gets too warm. It'll be dark too.

5:20 pm

The sunset about an hour ago, as I was making dinner. Eggs and bacon, since the fridge was warming up. We had ice cream for dessert and boy was it soft.

Candles light (or as best they can), the family room, as I write by their feeble light. This is where the "early to bed, early to rise" phrase came from. It just gets too dark to do anything else.

Day 2 December 16th, 2:40 pm

We went out today, just to see how far we could go. There were power lines down in multiple spots. Some where just cables and they let us drive over and around them. We got down to the shopping area and Home Depot was out of generators and Fred Meyers appeared to be open. We stopped in Fred's and bought Alec a flashlight, some pancake mix and some ground Starbucks coffee.

We ran into some friends at the store and they had watched some satellite TV (somebody has excess kilowatts on their generator) and there were reports of 7 - 10 days with no power in remote areas. Goody for us in the suburbs - estimates of only 2 - 3 more days.

After we ate lunch, a neighbor came over and asked if the kids wanted to watch a movie - if we had some gas. We did, from the ill fated swim meet morning, so the kids went over.

While the kids were out, Heather and I played our own version of darts on a magnetic dart board she had stumbled across. She won, by 21 points.

If we've got 3 more days of this, I'll figure out how to beat her.

8:30 pm

After a delectable dinner of chicken quesadillas and an enjoyable game of Whoonu, we are calling it a night.

The sound of the neighbor's generators will lull me to sleep with the hopes that my slumber is interrupted by all the lights we left on, coming back on.

Still warm, still well fed.

Day 3, December 17th, 9 am

Still no power, although, we do have hot water in our water heater. Evidently (and the credit goes to Heather) our gas water heater needs no electricity to function (as opposed to Heather, who needs coffee to function) and I took a hot shower this morning.

I think Heather is in there now. I should go take a look.

11:45 am

Almost 60 hours with no power. I've ran out of clean socks and I have no more cargo pants (to hold my flashlight, journal, pen, multi-tool and phone). My toes have been cold for a while, I think it has more to do with no clean socks and I've added my down vest as an insulatory layer.

I've been able to get a good enough signal on my cell phone to get weather from Google SMS. They're forecasting rain tomorrow and highs in the low 40s. At least it isn't snow.

I was not able to get a good data connection. I would like to check my email to see what the news is reporting on this situation and maybe find out where there is power. I'd like to get everyone out of the house for a sense of normalcy for a while (heat, light and something to occupy us other than our glowing personalities).

2:40 pm

We took another expedition to see how far we could go. What was passable before is impassable now, but because work crews are cleaning things up.

So, we headed the back way to Redmond (where they reportedly already have power), but based upon the backup, it was closed. We took some back roads and ended up in downtown Sammamish.

There were lights (both illumination and traffic lights) and we stopped for lunch. We ate at Acapulco Fresh (which was really good). They had heat. And we got gas.

We took a different route home and ended up on the other side of the closed road. Luckily for us, they have finally opened the fire access road, so there is a way into our neighborhood.

Our expedition was also fruitful in that we had good enough cell phone coverage to receive calls and check voice mail.

My messages were funny. One was from Myla, wondering why I wasn't on Friday's phone interview, obviously before her "Are you okay" text message. One was from another co-worker divvying up some work to be done - I couldn't really disagree could I? Number 3 was my mom wondering if we were okay.

5:30pm (final entry)

So, we decided that we had had enough. We are going to the movies. Hopefully, we will drive to where there is power. Fandango tells us that Casino Royale is showing in Bellevue. We'll go there, all bundled up like homeless people to wander amongst those finishing their Christmas shopping in the Bellevue boutiques.


While we were at the movies, the power was restored at our house. By the time we returned, the power had been on for four hours, so the house was warm again. We stayed up much later than we should have because the kids wanted a warm dinner. Who can blame them.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A lot elephant, some donkey

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

I saw this on my wife's blog. It will make it more clear for some of you. Although, I think that the survey was biased and didn't have enough choices.

How to get me to smile

I don't think I'm depressed. Really. I've read some other's posting about their feelings and I have nothing like that.

As I was heading out today to take Alec to swim practice, I grabbed a hooded, pull over sweatshirt. Since it was going to be a few minutes before I left and I was going to talk to Heather, I put the hood over my head so the sweatshirt was hanging down my back.

For some unknown reason, I took the sleeves and tied them around my chest. As I pulled them snug, I just smiled. It felt like I was being hugged.

I convinced Heather to try it out. She didn't get the same feelings of elation as I did.

Try it out, if you are feeling low. I remember reading an article about some engineering students designing a vest with inflatable bellows to simulate hugs for either depressed or autistic people.

I'm back, faithful readers

I'm back.

The Northwest was subject to a really bad windstorm (I still haven't caught up with the news) and Sammamish was subject to a power outage for almost 72 hours.

But all is not lost. I switched to my faithful Moleskine and kept on blogging - or maybe just logging. If it isn't on the web it can't really be a blog, can it?

I'll try to get it transcribed today, but I have a lot to catch up on!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Demonstration models needed

Not to brag, but I have some skills!

Heather says:
He also is becoming quite adept with unhooking my bra -- one handed -- before I realize he's snaked his hand up the back of my sweater. Damn! I can't even unhook my bra that fast!
I would be happy to demonstrate my skills!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Dry cappuccino!

I have successfully made a dry cappuccino! That is my drink of choice and I usually don't get the proportions right.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

She excites me!

Tomorrow is trash day. Maybe there will be some rushing around in a short nighty.

Heather is a hot blogger!

Beau, your blogging is in need of improvement

Today, I stumbled upon a post I wrote back in July of 2005. This it was my second post, but somehow, it got into my drafts.

I made some iditorial notes and republished it. So, for those of you that won't go as far back in my archives as 2005 (why not!), here is a link.

What tarot card am I? Uh, oh.

You are The Devil

Materiality. Material Force. Material temptation; sometimes obsession

The Devil is often a great card for business success; hard work and ambition.

Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the major arcana, the Devil is not really "Satan" at all, but Pan the half-goat nature god and/or Dionysius. These are gods of pleasure and abandon, of wild behavior and unbridled desires. This is a card about ambitions; it is also synonymous with temptation and addiction. On the flip side, however, the card can be a warning to someone who is too restrained, someone who never allows themselves to get passionate or messy or wild - or ambitious. This, too, is a form of enslavement. As a person, the Devil can stand for a man of money or erotic power, aggressive, controlling, or just persuasive. This is not to say a bad man, but certainly a powerful man who is hard to resist. The important thing is to remember that any chain is freely worn. In most cases, you are enslaved only because you allow it.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Thanks to Helen for this link.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Talk about tough love

Check out what this family did to help their son get back on the right path.

Tough-love remedy for an unruly teen: Two years. With monks. In Cambodia.

I don't know if I could do that to my kids. My kids suck the life out of me at times, but they really are good kids.

You know, this could be like compulsory military service in some countries. It serves as character development, although it doesn't build the national pride that I see in those countries. Compulsory military service won't fit in the United States or with the way the military is designed. So what about compulsory Buddhism?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Traveling with a carry on

As I've previously posted, I've been doing quite a bit of travel lately. In my efforts to streamline and minimize my airport time, a while back I purchased a rolling suitcase that I thought was carry on sized.

The thing is that I purchased it right before the ban on liquids and gels in carry on baggage. I didn't have any small size toiletries, so I just kept on checking my bag.

On my last trip, I left my razor and shaving cream (an almost new, full sized can) in the hotel. So, for this trip, I had to go buy new stuff. I took the time to find the under 3 ounce travel sized containers. I was so excited because I was able to find my brand and type of shaving cream in a small container.

I pre-packed it all in a quart sized ziploc bag and packed it in an easy to get to spot in my bag. I checked in online at home and was off to the airport (by way of a swim meet in Kitsap).

I arrived at the airport and I wasn't going to be one of those people who is trying to cram their gigantor bag into the overhead bin, so I checked with the carry on bag sizer. Yes, astute readers, you know where this is going already. It wouldn't fit. Incredulous, I waited in the check in line (unfortunately, I chose Horizon, where they can only check me in, not accept my bag) to ask if it would fit or not. And just like the sizer indicated, it wouldn't fit. Evidently, the MD-80 has the industries smallest overhead bins.

So much for saving time. I had to check the bag (at least I did it before I tried to get on the plane, saving myself some embarrassment). I had to claim by bag later - which in San Diego wasn't an issue, they were very quick. Going home will be another story. Alaska Airlines in Seattle is very slow to get bags out.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Christmas time is here

This is the weekend when my street puts up Christmas lights. What makes it a notable occasion is that someone rents a cherry picker and the whole street puts up lights. It takes very little time to put lights on the upper reaches of your two story house when 3 guys are doing it.

I'll post some photos in a while - once the street gets all gussied up for Christmas.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Getting Things Done this week

This week has been a hectic one, mostly due to work. I was traveling for two days and had less than optimal internet access. I couldn't download my email to deal with it when I was offline from the office I was in. On the way home, I couldn't remember my T-Mobile wi-fi account, so I couldn't even catch up in the airport before I got on the plane.

Wednesday, I had an inbox with 2 days worth of high priority emails, some high priority tasks to do and a 3 hour conference call that ended up going 5 hours, plus some additional time rescheduled for Friday.

I was able to take advantage of the GTD practices and I accomplished a whole lot. One of the tenets of GTD is that if it can be done in less than 2 minutes, do it now, otherwise put in on your to-do list (mine is Remember the Milk). Taking advantage of priorities, I was able to tell people when I would get the things done and what things I should be doing right now.

It was great! Every day I worked hard, used the system and kept my head above water. I only had to postpone 1 task - I was amazed at how effective I was amidst all the emails and chaos.

GTD is a great system and I'm glad I discovered and implemented it. The next weeks portend to be just as busy and I'll need all the good technique to get through it.

Implementing GTD has been a life changing process and really made both my personal and professional life much more efficient and effective.

Ran out of gas

Saturday was going to be a one post day, but something happened today that warrants an extra one. You can read Heather's recounting on her blog.

As the title implies, we ran out of gas this morning. We had a swim meet in Kitsap and had to leave our house at 5:55 am in order to make the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry.

The kids got up with out complaint just after 5 am and got ready. We were only a few minutes late leaving our house and I noticed that the fuel gauge was already on E. I wasn't worried about it, because I hadn't heard Heather talk about how low on fuel she was.

About a mile from our house, I felt the car stutter. Only after it happened the second time, did I realize what it was and put the car in neutral.

We coasted to a stop on the side of the two lane road. Because I was wearing shoes, pants and had a jacket (Heather was in a nice short skirt and sandals - going to a swim meet, rememeber), I walked home to get a gas can and to drive for gas.

I flipped the collar on my pea coat up and headed out into the dark, foggy and cold morning. As I started up the main street into our development, the fog was settling on the sidewalks and getting icy. I had to walk on the grass, because I could get better traction there.

It took a while, but I found a gas can and took my MINI to the gas station.

In my rush, I filled the gas can too quickly and it splashed out. I wiped it off as best I could, but I already smelled like a gas station attendant. I didn't want my car to smell that way, so I unrolled all the windows. At 45 mph and 28 degrees, there is quite a wind chill.

I got back to Heather and the the kids and started pouring the gas in. I must have chosen the slowest gas can we had at home - it had no air inlet. So, I stood in the lane of traffic for about 3 minutes while filling the car.

After taking my car back and filling up Heather's Expedition, we ended up missing the ferry. We drove the long was around (across the Tacoma Narrows) and ended up about 40 minutes late.

We didn't miss all of the warmups and I got some exercise this morning. All's well that ends well. Hopefully we take the ferry home. That will be enjoyable.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My kids are well trained

I was working and my youngest came running into my office a few minutes ago. "Daddy, Daddy, come here. We need to show you something." I could hear excited voices coming from the family room.

I go over there and they have paused the Tivo on a screen from Ben 10, a show they watch on Cartoon Network.

Yes, that is MINI Coopers on the screen! How is that for a sighting!

When we go for a drive, they always call out the MINIs that they see. They are no longer faked out by the new Volkswagon Beetle, either.

What great kids I have.