Wednesday, August 29, 2007

House guests

The in laws are visiting.

I have to remember to close the bathroom door when I pee.

When can we get rid of those wires or Wi-Fi to supersede wired Ethernet

The Wired and Wireless blog on ZDNet has an article entitled, Wi-Fi to supersede wired Ethernet. The article focuses on how some people feel that 802.11n is going to replace wired ethernet.

It's doubly ironic for two reasons (and that is redundant - both fun words to say). Firstly, I am in the process of upgrading my home wi-fi network to 802.11g. Sorry to dash your visions of me, I'm a gadget lover, but not always an early adapter. Secondly, I spent hours yesterday rewiring our home AV equipment for our new HDTV (notice how I slipped that one in there). With a Tivo, a DVD and now a cable box, there are so many cables to connect everything. While I was doing that, Heather asked me when it was all going to be wireless?

That day might be coming. Right now, you can't get a clean enough, fast enough wireless connection to move the amount and quality of data for a good audio-video experience. When it comes to speakers, we can't move enough power over the air to drive the speaker.

The article mentions "pervasive mobility" and that is a significant benefit to faster wireless technologies. Right now, we have that mobility with voice communications, because we accept lower quality audio for voice communications. However, a home theater setup isn't mobile, so until the costs come down significantly and the quality goes up, those wires are here to stay.

Plus setting up those wires is your Red Badge of Home Electronics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Camping at Mount Rainier

We left our house Friday afternoon and drove to the South West corner of Mount Rainier National Park. Along the way, it came out that Parker only brought a pair of Crocs and that he didn't go get a pair of shoes when I inpsected his gear. We got to visit a Super Wal-Mart to buy him some shoes. As we got back in the car, Alec pointed out that he had shoes on the floor. Ugh. So, we were back on the road and finally got to the park after dark (there are hardly any times recorded during this adventure; I really did unplug). We stayed at the Cougar Rock campground, a few miles up the hill from Longmire.

Cougar Rock was an alright campground. It was a little close to the road (lots of big trucks with the construction at Paradise and Park reconstruction going on) and the sites were located close to each other, but it was still a nice place. The ampitheater has programs Friday night, which we just missed and firewood is available for purchase there. The rules of Supply and Demand push the cost up; outside the park firewood costs 2 - 4 dollars, inside, where no gathering is allowed, $6.25!

It was great for several reasons. First, I enjoy camping, hiking and being in the outdoors. Second, I really love the high country, when you get up close to the tree line. Third, there was no cell phone coverage, and as much as I live the digital lifestyle, it was great to unplug. Finally, and most importantly, I got to spend time with my family and enjoy some of our summer vacation.

Saturday morning, I got up, made hot water for shaving and coffee and didn't have to wait long for everyone to wake up. Heather stuck her head out of the tent and asked what time it was. I looked up, saw some daylight and said, "Daytime." I think deep down inside, she didn't mind my sarcasm because I was so unplugged. I have been working a lot lately (in fact I had to make some coverage plans so that I could go camping on the weekend). We had bacon (1 1b) and eggs (7) and a double batch of buttermilk pancakes for breakfast and then got ready to hike.

Heather made lunch and with the kids, she mixed trail mix. I bought lots of different dried fruits (craisins, apricots, mixed fruits, golden raisins) and nuts (smoked almonds, mixed nuts) and large M&Ms (not the large bag, but large M&Ms - which haunted me later). While the trail mix was really good, I didn't buy enough chocolate.

CIMG6105Heather wanted to see waterfalls to take advantage of her new camera, so we decided to hike the Wonderland trail from our campground, along the Nisqually and Paradise rivers to see Carter, Madcat and Naruda Falls, and then push to Paradise and take the shuttle back down to Cougar Rock. The views along the way were beautiful, although we couldn't see the mountain for the forest (and clouds). We had to cross several streams where they had repaired bridges and at lunch on a bridge abutement that was under construction. We were able to see lots of the flood damage, especially as we crossed the Nisqually River.

Carter and Naruda Falls were beautiful, but we missed Madcat Falls, as did a group of hikers that came up on us while we were eating lunch. It was a really nice trail and a really nice hike. The total hike was about 5 miles, with about a 2000 foot elevation gain. I would characterize it as a medium intensity hike, primarily because of the elevation gain. We only saw 4 or 5 other parties, except at Naruda Falls, which can also be accessed off Paradise Road. We then finished off with the mile or so up to the Paradise visitors center. The hike from Naruda to Paradise moved into mountain meadows with lots of wild flowers. We were lucky to still see them blooming. In early spring, I bet it would be beautiful.

We spent some time at the visitor center and just before we caught the shuttle, the clouds broke and we were able to see Mount Rainier. It was beautiful. The glacial ice was so blue, it was just a great sight. I'm glad we were able to see the mountain. Then the clouds closed back up, the bus departed for our campground and it started to rain lightly.

Mount Rainier

We returned to our campsite and prepared dinner. Dinner was supposed to be spicy chicken skewers, but our fire didn't get hot enough. I did have a contingency plan and we just stir fried the pieces on the griddle. The people at the next campsite asked if I was a chef, because they had never seen anyone stirfry while camping. As cases of mistaken identity go, this one falls in the most cool in my book. We made s'mores for dessert and then went to check out a night ranger program (not the band, but a ranger program, at night). They had park rangers acting as key people from the park's history (John Muir, the Longmires, the first Park Superintendent, Fay Fuller, the first woman to climb the mountain, etc). It was interesting, but if you paid attention in the visitor center, you learned all the same things.

The rain continued through the night, but I don't think anybody noticed, because everyone was tuckered out. We stayed dry (the puddle went underneath my sleeping mat) but Heather's clean clothes got dripped on and wet.

Sunday was our last day, so we made breakfast and went up to Paradise to hike the Skyline trail to the Glacier Vista. The kids didn't want to hike anymore and I don't think Heather's heart was in it, so we headed down the mountain to go home.

I think it is really cool that we have such a nice National Park so close to home. The farside of the park is only 2 hours from our house! I really would like to spend more time there. As I said before, I really like the high country and I think that Mount Rainier was nicer than the Yosemite valley. It is so close, we can go for day hikes and I hope to do some light backpacking in the near future. Heather even suggested a guy trip - so guys lets start planning something!

I was a little concerned about the campground, as the National Parks are often over-crowded but it was a nice campground. It wasn't the middle of nowhere, but it wasn't elbow to elbow either. I would stay at this campground again, but I want to stay at a back country campsite next time.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Nice enough weather, nice company, beautiful scenery. You can see more photos in my Flickr photo stream.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My first Craigslist listing

I just made my first Craigslist listing. Nope, I'm not posting to missed connections or looking for more women, I'm selling my old router/wireless access point and wireless cards. I'm upgrading to the faster, but not latest in technology, 802.11g.

For the week that Seattle Craigslist keeps ads up, you can see my ad here.

I used a disposable phone numbr, which seems pretty cool but Heather suggested that I don't use PayPal for the financial transaction.

So, we'll see how it goes and if I can make 50 bucks and turn it into one 802.11g wireless adapter. I've got to get our Wii or Tivos online faster too!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New wifi access point, new KMFDM album

I didn't think I'd be writing a post like this tonight, but it fits.

I was out picking up pizza and I heard that KMFDM would be on the C89.5 Worldwide and so I called up Heather to see if they were having a show tonight in Seattle. No dice, just a radio thing. So when I got home, I kept the radio in my MINI on and ran to the entertainment center.

Heather asked me why the music was on in the car and I responded, "so I can have a seamless audio experience."

She didn't want to listen to the radio show, because she "doesn't like my music." So Parker and I sat in the garage in the car listening, while the pizza cooked.

Once the pizza was ready, I decided I would sit in my home office and stream the music. And that is were I am right now. Eating pizza, listening to KMFDM streaming online, downloading some very large work files and using my new wifi access point.

I finally upgraded to 802.11g and I am doing all this via wifi, without any latency! It is incredible. Just like the new KMFDM. The album is really good, lots of self-sampling (a KMFDM trademark), but the radio show is hilarious. They are having all kinds of technological issues with the phones (dropping callers) and quite funny conversations with the callers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tonic water is no club soda

I made some italian sodas today for lunch, but we were out of club soda. I substituted tonic water. It doesn't work. The quinine was too bitter.

Save your tonic water for Gin and Tonics.

Club soda is for mojitos and italian sodas.

Learn from my mistakes.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Chain Saw Safety PSA

There are a lot of things that I don't want to touch. I don't want my finger to poke through the bag, when I am picking up dog poo. I am sure Courtney Love has some disease (or two). Moving chain saw blades.

I have the unfortunate pleasure (if that is the right word), to have done two of these already in my life. No, there was no bachelor party hookup with Courtney Love. Yes, I have stuck my hand in dog poo, kid poo and vomit. And yes, I touched the chain saw this weekend.

Luckily, I am still typing this with all ten fingers (it would be much more alarming if I weren't a touch typist - "I'm only typing this with two fingers"). I was trimming some trees and as I cut the branches, I would pull some of them away to get better access for the next cut. Stupidly, I held the chainsaw in my left hand, reached across with my right and pulled on the branch.

I actually felt the moving chain saw blade with the pad on my index finger and realized that I had nicked my middle finger knuckle! I'm not sure how I didn't seriously cut either of the fingers - a small band aid was all that was required.

Lessons learned
Wear proper protective equipment when you are using a chainsaw.
Put the chainsaw down if you need to pull on stuff.
Don't touch the chainsaw blade when it is moving.

I was lucky to keep my fingers.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

And I was worried about spilling coffee on my pants

As I write this, I should be driving into my neighborhood, returning from a two day trip to Oakland. But because we are working on our financial plan for 2008, I got asked to stay an extra day, which makes this all the more ironic/humorous/sardonic/insert your own adjective.

I've been reading a lot about minimalist packing and travel, some with ideas on how to pack, others on what to pack, yet others with the suggestion to buy most of your stuff on the road. I have a coworker who says he can pack for a week long trip in a backpack (and his back pack isn't that big). I decided that an overnight trip would be a safe way to try it out.

So, I gathered my toiletries, which is two quart sized ziploc bags, separated for the TSA screeners and the rest of the stuff and my clothes. I decided that I would re-wear my pants, so I packed a fresh t-shirt, pair of socks and shirt. It all fit nicely into a quart ziploc bag and then the three bags were able to fit into my messenger bag, even with all this stuff in it. So far, so good.

What I took with me for an overnight trip

I fly on the first flight of the day, so that I can be in Oakland before 9 am (yes, I get there before some marketers) and not have to spend the night away from my family. Since I've been really tired of late (the subject of another blog I have yet to write), I decided to let myself sleep in to 3:30am. It turns out the shuttle was a little delayed and security lines were really long and I ended up running through Sea-Tac International, all the way to gate B14, at the very end of the B concourse. I got to the gate as they were calling my name to board and I was 3rd to the last to board.

But, what made running through the airport easier was that I didn't have a second bag. My messenger bag was slung over my shoulder, my toiletries were in one hand and my laptop in the other. No rolling bag clipping my heels, flipping over, or slowing me down. On the plane, I didn't have to struggle finding space in the overhead bin. My messenger bag fit underneath the seat like always. Traveling light has its benefits!

Heather and I had been joking that with my plan to re-wear the pants, I must be careful not to spill coffee on myself. Little did I know that I should really try to avoid vomit splatter. Yes, I just went there. I got sick to my stomach Tuesday afternoon. In the middle of a conversation with someone, I burped up a little vomit and made a beeline for the bathroom. It was a really, really long way away. I ended up vomiting a little more and trying to avoid splashing on my self, wondering how sick was I really going to get.

Nobody wants to get sick 800 miles from home, with no spare clothes. Our Director of Procurement happened to visit the bathroom for his own needs and asked how I was, I think more so as a polite gesture. I responded, "I'm still trying to figure that out." On his way out he asked if I needed anything and I asked for a cup. He dashed out and promptly returned with a cup. I was grateful, that helped me with the final stages of cleanup - gargling out the leftover vomit from the back of my throat.

I wiped myself off with wet paper towels, just to cool off and get back to normal and went back to my conversation. I maintained a much larger standoff distance, just in case I had a repeat.

Day two was a better day for my stomach. No issues at all. Sure I avoided the Tabasco at breakfast, re-thinking my move as I reached for it, but it went okay.

Until I was asked to stay a day later. This, of course, has an impact on my family, makes scheduling plane flights and new hotel reservations a mess and I was traveling light! I had no spares. Luckily, my wife was flexible, our Admin skilled and Old Navy was close to my hotel. It was me, not our Admin, who bought me new boxers and a shirt so that I can look fresh in the morning.

All in all, this traveling light experiment was successful. I was able to pack just the minimum, I could compensate for the unexpected through purchasing additional clothes and I saw a lot of stuff at Old Navy that is really cool! I still have to figure out how I'm getting it all home again; I think that the USPS stuff-as-much-as-you-can-in priority envelope will be a key player, but we'll see. And I'll have to decide whether or not I do this again.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Life before Simple Syrup?

I'm not sure how I lived before I knew how to make simple syrup. Now, this isn't to say that I just learned how, it was about 2 years ago that I did. But now, I wonder how did I live without it?

I use it all the time; I'm glad it only takes a few minutes to make it, too. It really is simple to make.

I make Mojitos for Heather and other cocktails. I've used it to make candy and I love it in iced coffees (if it ever warms up again in the North West). I've used it in fruit toppings for crepes. It is just so versatile.

What I really want to do is use different sugars to make it. I would have done this today, but I was almost out of sugar in the raw (or better yet, I didn't have a cup and a half - that's not really almost out, is it?).

On a related note, they sell it at Starbucks, but the bottle is labeled "Classic Syrup." I guess they wouldn't want you to know how simple it is to make, would they.

And for those that don't already, here is the recipe.

1 cup water
1 - 2 cups sugar, depending upon how sweet and thick of a syrup you want (I use 1.5 cups)

Heat to boiling, stir til all sugar is dissolved, let cool.

Nothing to it. Hence the name, simple syrup.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

PC repair

My daughter's PC broke sometime in the last few days. And she broke down, too.

Something was amiss with her computer and it would take 5 minutes for IE to load a web page. So, I tried with Mozilla, same thing. Figuring that there was something with the networking hardware, I swapped out the wired NIC for a wireless one. No dice. If it wasn't a hardware problem, it was a software problem.

I checked for spyware (had to download the installs on another PC and do the sneaker network thing) and surprisingly, her computer was clean. No viruses, either. I even shut off the firewall (both Windows and McAfee), with no luck. I then took the other route and turned the firewall to the almost tightest setting, where it would ask before it let any connection in or out. Still no luck.

For grins, I tried to FTP to another one of the PCs on our home network and it worked, and blazingly fast, too. Hmm, the mystery deepens.

Finally, I just shutdown all of the Windows services. Some of them, I needed to turn back on so that networking and other things would work, but I got http transfers to work! So, then I started turning things back on.

And wouldn't you know it, it was the something from the McAfee secuirty suite. I uninstalled it entirely and her computer still worked!

Since it's a free download from Comcast for customers, I installed the freshest version and what do you know? It still works!

My mad computer skillz aren't gone and now my daughter is happy again (and there is less fighting about who is using whose computer).

Saturday, August 04, 2007

KFC ran out of chicken

Last night I went to the local Taco Bell Express/KFC to buy a bucket of chicken for dinner. My daughter and I stood in line and waited our turn. While waiting, I overheard the counter-people offering Empanadas because they were out of biscuits.

Undeterred, I still ordered the bucket of chicken we wanted. Evidently my wife has been craving fried chicken after Brittney Spears did something (non-leg spreading) with some fried chicken greasy fingers. We were warned, "We are out of extra crispy and it will be 15 minutes before it is ready."

"So, you are out of chicken right now," I inquire?

The kid at the counter said, "No. It will be 15 minutes." Not wanting to debate the finer points of out of stocks and having the product when the customer wants it, I called home to see if burritos would suffice as an alternative. While I was calling I was overheard and questioned by two people about KFC being out of chicken.

This was also the same Taco Bell that ran out of tortillas for Crunch Wraps (seriously) and asked me to buy 50 Chicken snackers (in jest).

You've got to wonder if there is an opportunity for a suuply chain professional there? Good food, good humor...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Underwear models in my inbox!

I got this email from Amazon today. Look closely... At the words, silly. Look past the scantily clad ladies and you'll see that I was the lucky recipient of this email because of my "past purchases in intimate apparel."

Come on, I'm a guy! I can't remember my Dad's birthday, but I can remember every "intimate apparel" purchase I've made. And I haven't made any on Amazon. I even spent the time and reviewed my lifetime purchase history on Amazon (geek point, my first purchase was in 2001). No panties, stockings, garter belts, bras, bustiers, corsets or anything else vaguely intimate. It's all music, books, electronics and software.

Did Amazon's ad miss the mark? I don't think so. Who am I to complain about scantily clad women showing up in my in box? Amazon, keep them coming!

It's illegal to WHAT officer? from Guardian Unlimited: Travelog

The Guardian has an entertaining article on traveling, different cultures and how you can break the law through misunderstanding local traditions.

It's illegal to WHAT officer? from Guardian Unlimited: Travelog

The same as when we make these lists of weird laws in the US, there are some that just don't make sense (flushing the toilet after 10pm in Switzerland) or some penalties that are pretty severe (death for bringing pork into Yemen) or just weird (illegal to kiss on the railways in France - I'd weigh in that a train in France would be pretty romantic).

But I just love how the Brits use snog: " And don't snog that hottie till you finally reach the Gare du Nord."

I'm a big fan of snog.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Fun stuff from the weekend

This weekend was a really fun one! It's been a long time since we had a free weekend and with Alec's broken arm, we ended up not swimming at the champs swim meet.

So, we decided that we would try to take in the Rat City Roller Girls semi-finals, but tickets were sold out. Who would have thunk that grrls in short skirts and skates would sell out. Yeah, umm, never mind, grrls in short skirts can sell anything out in my book. So we missed out on that, but since we were in Seattle, we spent the rest of the day there.

We went to Blue C Sushi - not because we love sushi and our kids eat it, but because I had heard that they are using RFID to track the freshness and ensure billing accuracy in their restaurant. I am working with our RFID pilot at work, so I thought I would check it out. My thoughts were that the restaurant was stylish and cool, but the selection was lacking. But it was cool.

We wandered around University Village and killed the day. We ended up at the Apple Store over there and got our fill of iPhones and what not.

On Sunday, we went to South 47 Farm and picked lavender, raspberries and flowers. It was a ton of fun, especially since Heather had never been to a u-pick farm. I had been wanting to go here for a while, because I wanted to make lavender ice cream and didn't want to make a big dent in our decorative lavender in the backyard. The day was a little cool, but it was still a lot of fun and I took bunches of photos.

We stopped at Red Hook Brewery for lunch, which was yummy and the source of some more photos. Our timing was all wrong to go on a tour, so maybe next time.

Finally, when we got home, Chase and I started making ice cream. I steeped the lavender in the cream and let it cool over night. We made lavender brittle (a couple batches, because it wasn't coming out right) and the next morning I froze out the ice cream.

It is really cool that I used fresh herbs to make an ice cream dessert, but it didn't achieve the delicate taste profile I was looking for. Heather describes it as:
"It's like my mom washing my mouth out with soap, except for that there's not that burn on my gums."

Yes, I had her repeat that so I could record it and make sure I got the quote right. Now, it isn't that bad, but it isn't the dessert I was trying to make either.

This pattern of fun weekends will continue - we've got some camping trips to the Olympics and Mount Rainer coming up. That will be nice since I am burning the candle on both ends at work right now. I'm waiting for another candle burning at both ends to finish some work this evening so that I can do somethings with it before she gets to the office tomorrow morning. But it keeps food on the table and a roof over my head (as well as some other cool things).

That's all for now!