Sunday, November 16, 2008

Grinning while blogging

I love my wife. She does little cute things, which just make me smile.

Like right now, she is writing a blog. And whenever she does that, she has this little grin on her face. She really enjoys blogging and I can tell whenever she is doing it.

Its such a different face than when she's writing a long email to the parents in our kids' classes or scheduling something on her calendar.

It's clear that she likes it and is having fun.

No pictures. Its too early on a Sunday morning, you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Call of Cthulhu

My wife has succumbed to a new evil...

She has discovered Hulu. It bills it self as helping "people find and enjoy the world's premium video content when, where and how they want it."

She's finding it, alright, "in the midst of black seas of infinity; and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Funny ad sequence

I was returning from voting today and I heard an ad on the radio for the new Triple Steak Burrito at Taco Bell.
The "benefit" that this burrito brings is Steak, Steak and more Steak. It's steak, flavored with steak, topped with more steak.

It sounds pretty good.

The ironic thing was the next ad.

"Are your triglycerides high? Can you spend up to 2 weeks in a clincal trial?" A medical testing clinic here in the Northwest is trying to round up volunteers for some clinical trial. They need the people that eat the Triple Steak Burritos.

So, they guy who schedules the ads either has a great sense of humor or is a great marketer, as these two ads complement each other. Talk about hitting the target audience.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Caramel Candy Corns


Caramel Candy Corns, originally uploaded by beau.raines.

This bowl used to be almost full. But a handful here and a handful there and I've eaten the candy level down.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in my sneaking of the caramel candy corns (yeah, that end is supposed to be brown). They are pretty good.

And in the background, that isn't a Starbuck's drink gone bad, its a terrarium.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

How my mind wanders

I was taking my youngest, Kid 3 someplace tonight and my mind wandered:

Sarah Palin - hot
Tina Fey - funny Palin skits
Funny Skits on SNL
Sofa King

and I said outloud, "Its Sofa King huge!"

Kid 3 says, "What did you say?"

Boy, did I tap dance. And he didn't buy it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

There's a hobo in my house


cimg7496, originally uploaded by beau.raines.

Nope, not some bum, but a spider. And its big too.

The kids found this spider in the house and cornered it. Heather was pretty sure it was a hobo spider and she was right (Beastie Boys reference) and was keeping the dog from eating (or trying) it.

I caught it under a pint glass and when it's legs were fully splayed out, they barely fit underneath it. I then slid a piece of cardstock underneath it.

I really didn't want to deal with it right away. I hate spiders. And snakes. But the younger kids were gone, so the risk of the glass getting kicked over and the spider escaping were small.

So, while I finished up what I was doing (and did some research), Kid 1 took some pictures of the spider.

The Brave Photographer

Heather instructed me to not let the spider loose in our backyard, so I gingerly picked up the cardstock, pint glass and spider, but the cardstock was bending too much! I was afraid that it would scitter out the gap and bite my hand, arm, leg, face, etc.

So, I gingerly transferred the cardstock, pint glass and spider to a cookie sheet and headed out the door. I walked down the middle of the street (more room to jump to either side, in case the spider escaped) mumbling too myself how much I hated spiders.

I walked around the corner and down to the big street, across the big street to the green space (which is soon to be new homes). I went 820 feet (I measured in Google Maps) and with two streets to cross, those should pose sufficient obstacles to its return.

Practicing benevolence, I didn't kill it.

I hope it doesn't come back and bite me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Discovering my contacts

About a week ago, Kid 3, the 6 year old, watched me change my contact lenses. He was interested in them and wanted to see them. I showed them to him and said that I would be changing them on 8 Septemeber and that he could touch them and do anything he wanted with them.

He was very excited to be able to "discover" (a euphemism for explore, I guess) my contacts. He had plans of cutting them into parts with scissors. With the kids school and swimming, he was already in bed when I changed my contacts that day.

Being a good Dad, I kept the lenses for him! I put some water (why use solution when I wasn't going to use them again) in a small candlestick holder and dropped both lenses in there (didn't need to keep track of right and left anymore, either). After they dried out and I refilled the water a few times, we finally got around to discovery this morning!

He got his scissors and we went up to my bath room for the discovery process. He held them in his hand, saw how thin they were and tried to strecth them. I was surprised by how stretchy (O2 Optics, evidently they are primarily made of silicone) they were and with his little, wet fingers, he was unable to break them.

So, snip, snip went the scissors.

"Can you put them in your eyes if they're cut up?"

"Nope, that would really hurt."

"Do your contacts dry out?"

"Yup."

"Can you put them in your eyes if they're dried out?"

"Nope, that would really hurt."

So, we stretched and cut the other lens and finally threw them away. I added the small PSA that we handle contacts for your eyes with clean hands, "because an eye infection really hurts."

As he was putting his scissors away, he asked, "Can you wear contacts if you can already see okay?" I explained how they were like glasses and would make your vision funny when I remembered designer lenses.

"But there are lenses that make your eyes all black, like a cats, red, silver and don't affect your vision."

"Oh, I want some of those," he said.

So, someday if you see my son with all black eyes (to match his black nails), think back to this post!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

An international conflagration

I started a fire in Europe today. Nope, unlike some of my friends, I have not left the country recently. Amelia, a friend of mine on Twitter, tweeted a few days ago, that she was looking for a recipe for chicken parmesan.

I recommended a Williams-Sonoma recipe that I had just tried, Provolone and Pancetta Stuffed Chicken Breast. It's not chicken parmesan, but it was really good.

She tweeted that she was starting to make dinner and then an hour later there was this:

Oops, housewife career nearly cut tragically short. Had a little fat fire incident. All is well now. The Bean had to be evacuated next door.
I almost burned down a house, a little kid and Ameila making dinner, all while drinking espresso in the morning!

So it turns out that it was just in the pan and that dinner came out okay. Amelia said, "it was just on oil fire. The pan is finished but everything else was still on the bench, sweet."

As a public service announcement, watch out for grease fires when cooking. Ameila says, "damn it happened fast!"

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'm famous!

I'm in the midst of my 15 minutes of fame!

I commented on a blog posting over at Lifehacker on why I switched to Linux and my comment was used in their follow up article!

Here are my golden words!

I had been curious about linux for a while. I'd used it in computer labs in college, and some on servers at work, but never on my own PC. I enjoy tinkering, but never had the time.

The tipping point was during the Christmas holiday last year. My work PC's disk failed and I was able to get it up and running faster with an Ubuntu install (restored my data from an online backup). I kept Windoze installed in a dual boot mode once I got a new disk, but use it less than once a month now, if at all.

Why switch?

1) Almost anything I want to do with Windows, I can do with Linux.
2) It runs better on older hardware. Think green, use your computer longer.
3) It's free. Sure, I have to put more time into it, but it costs less out of pocket.
4) Tons of free software.
5) More functionality built in - you pay for backup software with Windows. With rsync you can backup to anywhere!
6) More stable.
7) Easier to maintain - even when its not your machines. I'm afraid that my kids computers don't get their windows updates.

I guess number 8 is that it appeals to my inner geek. Linux really unlocks the power of your computer and these much more user friendly distros let you just use Linux or really dig into it and USE linux.

Check out the post, check out Lifehacker and hey, check out Ubuntu, too!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Good bye, Lingo, I'll miss you

Today, I canceled my Lingo account. So, if you've have a phone number for me that ends in 0016, you should get rid of that number; it's disconnected.

Lingo is a great service. I've been a long time customer (back when their service wasn't great) and stuck with them while they matured. For less money than I pay for local service, I got all kinds of great and useful features like:
  • simultaneous ring
  • call forwarding
  • caller ID
  • call waiting
  • free, unlimited local and long distance calling
  • free, unlimited international calling to western and central europe
  • voice mail to email
  • voice mail notifications by text message
  • and more
Again, for less money than I paid for local phone with call waiting, caller ID and call waiting call ID I got all that.

So, why did I leave them? Total cost of phone service. My company pays for my cell phone. I love Skype (the quality is great and the rates are excellent). I use Grand Central, so all the phones ring at once and I get visual voice mail. I don't really need 3 phones. GrandCentral, Skype and my cell phone are good enough.

What do I lose out on? I lose the ability to use a real phone. I lose some free international calling (which I've only used to call Switzerland for work and I don't do that any more). Will I miss that? Nope.

I would recommend Lingo service to anyone who wants phone service, with lots of features included and wants to use a real phone. I'd recommend Skype to anyone who wants great phone service cheap and is willing to use a headset.

In this day and age, there are all kinds of technologies for voice communication. You don't have to pay a bunch for phone service any more and you can get service that fits your needs. And now, I'll be saving some dough.

If you've got questions about how they all work(ed) together, let me know. I'd be happy to share my experiences!

Friday, August 29, 2008

You can't fool me, I use Ubuntu

I often get unsolicited Skype Chats. I block those people right away. This one, however, was especially good.

What? Some monitoring service says I have system vulnerabilities? Oh, should I download the "patch" right away?

Ha, ha you silly spammers! You can't fool me, my OS wasn't listed on your affected systems list. They go back as far to list Windows 95! Who uses that any more?

Be safe. Download Ubuntu today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jott is out of beta and here is what I have to say

Jott, that really great voice to text message and email transcription service recently announced that they are no longer in beta. And along with coming out of beta, Jott offers paid plans.

I've waited a few days to write this post so I could go through the stages of tragedy. I didn't want to write something when I was irrational. Lots of people seem pretty upset about it, based on the comments on other blogs. But really, the business of business is to make money. I did get used to using Jott for free. It stinks when something you've grown accustomed to changes, but really, for me, Jott is such an indispensible tool that I will keep using it.

The guys and gals at Jott did a great job of building a great tool. In fact, the other day, I was at a session and I signed up for 3 more. Before I had left the building, I Jotted my Google Calendar and didn't have to think about it any more. Last week, I had a project that was in the final stages of implementation and I used Jott to communicate to the people on the project team.

Jott provides such a flexible and convenient way to communicate. I can Tweet, send my self notes, blog, text my kids and wife, send emails to work mates and more. All this with the power of my voice!

Jott now offers 3 plans: a free ad-supported plan, a $3.95 and a $12.95 plan. They each have differing functionality in length of messages, how you can manage your Jotts, what other services you can link to and other devices. I was a little taken aback by the fact that the basic (paid) plan only had 15 second messages - but when I went through my Jotts, most of them were really short. There were only about two a month that were long - and these ones were really long and spanned mulitple Jotts already.

It would be nice if you could pay annually instead of monthly, which would probably drive the price a little lower, knowing the time value of money (MBA is paying off)! But that would probably scare off some people at the same time. My bet is that the payment terms will change somewhat in the near future. Pricing is always a difficult game and I can't imagine what kind of discussions they had about it.

Here is what Jott has to say about exiting beta.

LifeHacker had an article about alternatives, if you want to explore them, but as for me, I'm with Jott. None of those other services seem to have the integration with other services down as well as Jott does. Good people, great service and it helps me in my life.

This does beg an interesting question, which I have seen asked elsewhere: what will you do if your favorite web app starts to charge? Whats the value that you put on your productivity and convenience?

In the terms of Jott, its the price of a Grande Mocha. For that price, with the way I use Jott, it is well worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Never too many cups

You already know, I enjoy espresso. But you don't know, that I also like collecting demi tasses. A few weeks ago, Heather made some snarky comment about how many I had, so I figured that I would make a photo collection.




www.flickr.com







Yep, I'm like an old lady with a spoon collection, a japanese teen age girl with Hello Kitty thingys.

I've got a collection of espresso cups. I try to rotate through them, but there are a few that I like a lot, like my MINI cup, my stainless ones, my red one and the stackable one (though I only have one of them).

Do you have any collections, strange or otherwise?

Hiking, Burning and Twittering

Yesterday, I took the kid to the Denny Creek slab. It was a nice hike and the kids had fun playing in the water.

The Denny Creek area is
  1. very crowded
  2. a fee parking area
  3. a short, easy hike
  4. a gateway to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area
  5. nice on a hot day
I'll definitely have to come back here again.

Kid 2 said, "This was the best hike ever. The only thing that would have made it better was if Mom had come!"

Sliding
The intrepid adventurers
Denny Slab

I had been slow cooking some short ribs, so when we got home, the house smelled great. All that was left was to make some corn fritters and we'd have a great dinner. As I was frying the fritters up, the corn popped and splashed huge amounts of hot oil.

Every one in the kitchen was burned, at various times, several times. I was burned (and swore a lot) on my arm, Heather was burned covering for me while I nursed my burnt arm, and Kid 2 was burnt 8 feet away!

As I finished up, some more splashed and luckily, I closed my eye, so my eyelid took the burn. I only think a few will blister, so I'm okay. I hurt a lot last night.

And the fritters were good, just not worth the pain.

And I've signed up for Twitter. What you say, I just did that? Yeah, I couldn't see what it was good for. But my wife signed up and sent me an invitation. So, if cool people like my wife are on Twitter, I'll follow her there!

You can follow me too. I can't promise that I'll tweet frequently or of substance, but I want to be like Jim Jones and have followers!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm blogging this...

I'm blogging this. It has finally happened. I made dinner tonight, just a piece of salmon and Heather said to me, "I'm blogging this". Check out her blog for the rest of the story. listen

Powered by Jott

An international vacation

My family and I recently took an international vacation, like many of my other other friends. We took a quick jaunt over the border to Beautiful British Columbia.

Heather used Priceline.com and got a great deal at the Delta Hotel by the airport. The hotel is about like a Courtyard Marriott in the US - nice but not great. It worked fine for sleeping in.

We spent the first day riding our bikes through Stanley Park, with a quick flat fix at a local bike shop. Stanley Park is beautiful with walking and biking trails through out it. We just rode along the outer perimeter, along the water, but we could have spent much more time in the park.

The second day was spent in Whistler. It rained on us, so we didn't do too much. We did see some Pro Dual Slalom bike races. We'll probably come back in the winter (before the 2010 Olympics) and ski some here.

The third day was spent at the Aquarium. Vancouver's aquarium is pretty nice, though (I'm still no sure if its a good thing or not) they have lots of non-aquatic life exhibits. I did see 3 beluga whales, one of which was a baby beluga.

Driving back, it took a little while longer to cross the border than the 10 minutes on the sign and evidently some lady going north caused problems with false claims of a suspicious device. But we made it back home in one piece!

Photos can be found in this flickr set! I'm still adding to it, so come back for the next couple of days.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Swimming Bash

I am at a sports bar right now, watching the Olympics. The kids' swim team sent 17 to the trials and 2 made the team and our head coach, Sean Hutchinson, was selected to be the Women's coach.
So, for those of you that really know me, watching sports on TV isn't my thing. But free food and beer is! The appetizers and beer at SPORT restaurant are okay by me!

And the Olympic swimming is alright too, though the Thundersticks are a little loud.

Gmail update

Okay, Gmail's back. Over an hour and a half...

It doesn't look like they added any new features to my account. Oh, well. At least my mail is all there.

Gmail error

Uh-oh. I'm getting the Gmail "your account is experiencing errors" message. I've waited a few minutes, but I'm beginning to get impatient!

I've heard terrible stories of people losing everything. I'm keeping my chin up - they were just launching a new feature and messed it up. Yeah, thats what I'm sticking with.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Being productive with Remember the Milk

As the next installment of my productivity tools blog series, I'll outline the capabilities and how I use Remember the Milk to remember everything from the groceries, work tasks, paying the bills and the things my wife and kids mention for birthday gifts.

Remember the Milk (RTM) at its core, is a web based to do list tool. However, recognizing that you aren't always at a computer with web access, the RTM team has done an excellent job of integrating with off-line and mobile tools, from the iPhone to text messaging.

A great thing (and there are lots of them) is that RTM is free. A few of the mobile platform integration tools are only available to premium members. The RTM team is quick to respond to problems, even though there are only 3 of them and they have a great user driven forum.

Features

RTM is a feature rich application with multiple lists, tagging, robust searching and a smart list feature based upon saved searches. I have work and personal lists and a general shopping list, which acts as the foundation for a grocery smart list based upon the 'groceries' tag. My most important list is my Today smart list, which combines all the tasks from all the lists which I should be working on today. I've found that this type of focus dramatically increases my productivity – I spend more time working on things, rather than figuring out what to work on.

You can receive reminders on a daily basis (the list of things for today) and specific to do's at a specific time. Reminders can be sent via email to multiple email accounts, SMS, all kinds of instant message protocols. My daily reminder goes to both my personal and work accounts, so that no matter where I'm checking my mail, I get that reminder of what to do today. I also get a text message at 6:45 am everyday, so I always have a portable list right there in my cell phone.

Though many productivity systems frown upon the use of prioritization, RTM also provides a numbered, 1 – 3, prioritization schema (the colored boxes). I still struggle with this, as there are some days when I only get to the tasks I've prioritized as number 1, bu there are still tasks which need to be completed that day. Individual tasks can have multiple notes (notepad icon next to tasks) to record the finer details of the particular task, which I use for phone numbers or the detailed SQL for the query that I need to run that day.

I don't make much use of the collaborative portion of RTM, but you can send tasks to or share lists with other RTM users. One of the drawbacks I find to this is that contact management inside RTM is lacking a bit, but it is a task management tool, not a contact manager.

Finally, RTM will generate a fairly nice printout. I use it more as a checklist (a trip packing list) than a printable daily to do list, partially because my work is done at a computer and I find that the mobile versions of RTM meet my needs. One of the continually requested improvements to the printable lists is the specifics of the notes, which I can understand why people would want that.

Cross Platform Integration

Another great thing about RTM is that it can be integrated with so many different tools. You can display your tasks on your Google Calendar, as an iGoogle gadget or desktop widget. There are plugins for Gmail to manage, display and create tasks right in your email client.

RTM supports integration with several third party applications, most importantly, Jott and Twitter. I'm not a Twitter user, but it provides an easy way to add, list and complete to dos by SMS. I'm a heavy Jott user and I can add to dos with my voice!

For those users with a handheld device, there is a mobile optimized website, a Blackberry version, an iPhone version and a synchronization tool for Windows mobile devices (these last three are all paid functions). You don't even need to have an expensive, high-tech device with wireless internet access – even a simple cell phone with the ability to text message will give you the full functionality of RTM (Jott or Twitter and RTM together).

RTM was one of the first applications to make use of Google Gears for offline web support. I can still have RTM when I'm on a plane or someplace with no web access and when I get back online, all my tasks re-synchronize. Its almost like there is no excuse to forget if you use a tool like RTM.

Using Remember the Milk

RTM is the most important productivity tool for me. With all of the things that my family and I are doing it gives me a great, one stop spot for my to dos. With the integration with Jott and tasks by email, whenever I think of something that I need to do, I can quickly and easily make a note of it. For these reasons, RTM is one of my most trusted capture devices for GTD.

It's great as I use the last chipotle pepper that I can take my cell phone and email it to my shopping list that I need to buy more. I can keep track of my work deadlines, personal to dos and my homework due dates all in one place make sure that I am able to divvy my time up between the different activities. Remember the Milk has become so inter-twined with my everyday life that its almost gotten to the level of “if I don't write it down, I won't do it.”

You can sign up here or take a tour!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What do your kids watch on TV?

Do your kids watch Chowder on Cartoon Network? I enjoy a good cartoon and I enjoy double entrendre like the next guy.

But there are some things that get my eye brows to raise. Like this...


video

"Oh, yes. The lifegiver." And that sound he makes.

Am I off base here? I'm most definitely not a prude, but this is definitely pushing the line in a children's show. I'm not alone, and this came from the animator's college paper!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Done with summer courses

For seven weeks, I am free of school! Yesterday evening, my team made our final presentation for Leading and Managing Organizations and I turned in my final paper on my social capital. It feels great to be done with classes again and surprisingly, the weather here has turned back to summer again!

Now, I can breath a sigh of relief and catch up with the rest of my life again.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Use Scanr and feel like James Bond

Scanr.com is one of several websites where you can send a picture and they will mail back a PDF of the picture. Scanr has worked it's way in as one of the tools I frequently use to be more productive.

I first learned about Scanr, and other services like it on Lifehacker.com. As I checked them out, Scanr.com had the simplest and most straight forward sign up process. You simply mail a picture to doc@scanr.com, wb@scanr.com or bc@scanr.com (more on the last two later) from your device (computer or handheld device with a camera) and you are returned a code to associate your device with your site login.
You get a free trial period, which turns out to be unlimited usage for almost 6 months, to try out their service. Since I signed up, they started showing their subscription plans and I can convert my trial to a paid account. Since I'm cheap, I'll keep going with the free version for a while.

Those that know me, know that I am a geek. I'm proud of being a geek and when I'm in a meeting which has seen heavy white board use, I'll bust out my camera and take a picture of it. I used to then transcribe it later, but with Scanr, in minutes I can have it turned into a PDF and meeting notes can be sent on their way.

I currently have a boss who loves to sketch stuff out on a white board. He doesn't have a meeting without using the white board. We were at an off-site training session and he had to go 6 hours without touching the white board which I'm sure was pretty tough for him. But after the days training, we stayed late and made use of their spacious white boards. And as I saw my compatriots picking up their pens to take notes, I quickly pulled out my camera and said, "I've got this one."

I make good use of Scanr for documents too. In my MBA program, we get graded group assignments or sample exams with feedback and since we are spread all over the Eastside, we email them around. But paper is really hard to email. So, again, out comes the camera and I feel like James Bond stealing secret documents as I stand there and shoot pictures of the pages. I send them to Scanr and I get back my PDF (which reported supports color now, though I haven't seen it yet).

Another use I have is for online homework submissions. I'm an engineer way down inside (it goes with the geekiness), so I like to do homework with a pencil, a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil, to be precise. However, this makes it difficult to submit homework online, one of the recent developments in education. But with Scanr, it becomes a non-issue. I can do my homework by hand, convert it to a PDF, embed it along with the spreadsheets or documents and then post it online.

Scanr also will convert business cards to a .VCF file, which is useful if your address book supports them. I don't trade too many business cards, so the few times I've used this feature has been a bit of a novelty.
Once you have your scan within Scanr, you can send the document to your contacts, either as an email or a fax. Scanr provides the ability to create a contact list by importing from several different address books and integration with Plaxo. I have used it to fax medical receipts to my insurer and class documents to my classmates. My results with Scanr have been pretty good.

The photos don't have to be perfect and if they aren't, the provide some brief pointers on how to improve the quality. It only takes a few minutes before my scans show up on their site. I think that the user interface is a little plain - its pretty functional with out much panache. I think that their subscription prices ($2.99 per month or $30 for two years) are a little higher than I would want to pay for a service that I use on the frequency that I use Scanr. They do have a 40 uploads for $10 plan though, which seems much more reasonable to me. With my continued studies and my continued geekiness, I foresee continued use of Scanr.

The ability to quickly convert documents into a PDF all the while feeling like James Bond stealing secret documents is all in all pretty cool.

Sign up for Scanr here .

Back in room

Ahh, the miracles of mobile blogging.
We're back in our room, no fire.

Hotel Fire Alarms Suck

I don't normally post blogs at this hour, but I'm standing in the parking lot of a cheap hotel with my family and a shrill siren in the background.

It sucks, but it doesn't appear that the building is burning. And it's not raining either.

But what really sucks is that we are here for the Pacific Northwest Section Long Course Championships that Kid 1 is swimming in. No one wants to be woken up in the middle of the night before a big race.

Monday, July 28, 2008

How to make your Blackjack quiet on startup and shutdown

I'm one of those people who turn their cell phone back on as soon as the plane hits the ground. But from now on, I won't be one of those people whose phone makes an annoying sound!

On my last trip, as I started up my phone, my seat mate, who had the same Samsung Blackjack, asked if there was a way to make it not make the startup noise. Not sound, but noise. The Blackjack, as provisioned by AT&T, makes this horrid whooshing sound when it starts up. I think it is a hold over to the fax connection sounds as the phone makes its 3G connection.

At the time, I did not know how to stop the noise. But now I do. A quick google search yielded this on the AT&T forums:



Agunat wrote:
Is there anyway to shut off the loud noise the phone makes when I turn it on or off? It is really bothersome to me and others in the room.
Agunat



It's easy..just turn off System Sounds from your profile.
Other posters mentioned that you could edit the registry (it is powered by Windows Mobile 5), but that always comes with the warning of being brave (and requires additional software).

Why didn't I do that search right there on the plane? That would have been cool (and geeky) But nameless seatmate, I hope you find the answer, because it is really simple!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm a big geek, as if you didn't already know

This weekend, I watched Drillbit Taylor which I thought was a hilarious movie. Basically, the premise is that a group of dorky (not geeky) high-school boys hire a body guard to protect them from the high school bully. There is more to the story than just that, but I'm not too much of a spoiler.

The boys post an online ad and end up interviewing a lot of potential body guards (you can imagine the mix they get from an online ad) at some coffee shop.

When they get to Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson) and they ask him about his experience he says, "I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate."

Recognizing the line from Blade Runner, I chuckle. My wife, who had watched the movie previously with the kids, gives me the big you-are-such-a-geek look, because one of the dorky (who must be a little bit geeky, too) says, "Hey, isn't that from Blade Runner?"

Yeah, I'm a a geek to have recognized the line, but don't you feel a little pity for all the kids who saw Drillbit Taylor and didn't get the significance of that line? Its such a statement of experience. It says something about what humanity is defined or how we try to protect our own humanity.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.

Being productive with Jott

Jott – Bring simple back to your life, anywhere.

I first read about Jott on Lifehacker and thought it would be cool. I tried it out (the simple sign up was really nice) and it fit right into my lifestyle. I'm often away from my computer and network access, but I always have my cell phone. Jott is a great capture device and inbox for Getting Things Done.

Jott provides a free service that transcribes voice to email, text message and other web services. Their transcription is done through a combination of human and computer transcription and they indicate that their computer transcription is doing the majority of the work these days.

Jott is a great way to communicate with groups. You can setup groups in your contact list and then send group emails and group text messages. I've made use of this when we were working on a group project at work and I had to provide an update on work that I was doing while my team mates were commuting home, so that they could continue working on the project. I use Jott groups frequently with my MBA team, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and delayed getting to class.

Recently, a buddy of mine expressed surprise at the 47 pounds of gear I was going to take on an overnight, winter camping trip. As I unpacked my gear, I used the kitchen scale to weigh it. I used Jott to record the results with my voice and then put it into a spreadsheet later. It made data collection really simple.

I use Jott to send most text messages instead of my QWERTY keyboard on my phone. The fact that you can email from a non-internet enabled phone is really cool (and can save a buck or two on service, too). I use Jott lots to text message my wife when she is at swim meets and swim practice where the loud environment makes it challenging to hear the phone.

Jott reminders are pretty cool, though they need a little refinement in my opinion. With my voice, I can create a timed reminder and receive a text message 10 minutes before that time (thats where the improvement is needed, I want my reminders on time). This has been useful to use my phone as an alarm clock when my wife (and maybe me too) takes afternoon naps or when she asks me to remind her of something at some later point in the day. I don't have to remember, Jott will do it for me!

Jott is also integrated with other web services and even has an API to integrate beyond just sending an email to the service. With the Zillow Jott Link, my wife and I can be driving around and quickly settle the “how much does that house cost” guessing game. She's usually right because she's more in tune with the housing market. I can add to-dos to my Remember the Milk to do list, even adding tags and due dates with their natural speaking interface.

When I'm away from my computer, I can Jott directly to my blog on Blogger and they support many other blogging platforms to. Its also convenient to add events directly to my Google Calendar, so I don't have to worry about losing the little appointment business card (or worse, if I don't a reminder card).

Jott has links to lots of other services that I don't use, too and the link of services integrated with Jott grows frequently.

I use Jott just about everyday. Not only can reach out with so many other methods of communication, Jott sends me copies of what I Jott with the control to even receive it on my phone as a text message. I only do that for the important things, namely adding to my calendar, once I've built up the trust in the system.

Jott is super useful when driving. Sure, its common sense to not be distracted while you drive, but I live in one of those states that has passed no texting laws and will require a hands-free device in a few months. Not only is it easy, it is safe, too.

Most recently, Jott released an iPhone app. While I don't have an iPhone, its apps like these that make me want to get one.

On my last work trip, I Jotted my expenses to myself as I made them. I had several cash and expenses on my personal credit card (where they didn't take American Express) that I wanted to keep track of. It really made the post-trip reconciliation quick and easy. All of my expenses go straight into a Jott folder called expenses and with them all in one place, it makes it easy to fill out the expense report when I get home.

For my birthday, my family got me a Jawbone headset. I love it and the noise cancellation allows me to use Jott in even more locations (like quick notes from swim meets and basketball games). Jott was one of the reasons that the Jawbone made it on my wishlist.

Jott is also a local Seattle startup. I'm all about trying new things and Web 2.0 services and its that much more cool when you can actually meet the people behind the company. They are great at responding to feedback and incorporating that feedback into the newer versions. Because I live close by, I've been able to participate in focus studies and user group events. Not only is Jott a cool service, but they're cool people, too.

Sign up for Jott here.

Edit 26 August 2008: Jott has announced that they are no longer in beta and have paid plans. Read my thoughts here.

My 10 year old sense of humor

I was flipping through my Williams-Sonoma risotto cookbook because the weather here has turned cool and I'm thinking about things to eat that are warm and hearty and I found a great looking recipe for Gorgonzola Risotto with Grilled Beef. As I read through the recipe, I started to smile as I read about Toasting Nuts.

Put the hot nuts in a clean, dry kitchen towel and rub them together vigorously to remove most of their dark, papery skin.
Yes, I have a 10 year old sense of humor, not an archaic one, but a juvenile one.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Productivity Tools

My Productivity Tools and Techniques

pro·duc·tive (prə duktiv, prō-) adjective

  1. producing abundantly; fertile productive soil, a productive mind

  2. marked by abundant production or effective results a productive day

  3. bringing as a result (with of) war is productive of much misery

  4. Econ. of or engaged in the creating of economic value, or the producing of goods and services

  5. Linguis. designating any affix or method which can be and still is used to make new forms “non-” is a productive prefix

Etymology: ML productivus <>productus, pp. of producere: see produce

From YourDictionary.com

We all want to be productive. We all have limited resources in everything we do and nearly limitless demands on our resources. Our time is usually the most limited of the resources and those demands on our resources include work, family, friends, school, video games, blogging...

There are lots of things we can do to become more productive and there are many blogs, seminars, books that try to teach us how to be more productive. Over the next few weeks (or months depending upon the other draws on my time), I'll write about the tools and techniques I use to be more productive.

I'm no productivity expert or life coach. I'm a married father of three young kids, working in corporate America, attending Business School at the University of Washington, who enjoys cooking and getting into the outdoors. I'm a geek when it comes to computers. My kids are involved in competitive swimming and I telecommute (though as I type this in early March, I am on a plane on my way to Oakland for a week long meeting).

This list is not a “woe is me” list; its not about how tough I have it. I know that I have a lot of things going for me. The list is meant to illustrate some of those competing demands on my time. With all those things going on, things that my wife and I have chosen to do, I need to be able to best use my time.

Tools and Techniques

Getting Things Done

Remember the Milk

Jott

ScanR

Online Grocery Shopping

Note taking

Online Banking

Google Calendar

Google Documents

Gmail

Grand Central


Over the course of the next few months, I'll post write ups on each of these tools.


I have Roger to thank for the inspiration behind this series. I wrote about some Web 2.0 resources I used and he asked for a review and this is what it turned into.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday night dinner by myself


Tonight's dinner, originally uploaded by beau.raines.

Last night, Heather and the kids went to see the American Idol show in Tacoma, so I had the afternoon and evening to myself.

I ended up going to the grocery store (we'd been out of orange juice for a while) and I had a craving for avocados. This was my final product!

I enjoyed soy-cilantro chicken on skewers, grilled marinated tofu and a tomato and avocado salad. Accompanied by Rouge Chipotle ale and a peanut soy sauce dipping sauce.

While I was cooking, I had some Reed's Ginger Beer - it had been a very long time since I had seen that in the store and so I snatched it up. We'll have to see what the kids think since it is an acquired taste.

I also made strawberry ice cream while Heather was out. Strawberry ice cream requires that you macerate the berries, strain the liquid out and then puree some of them. If you're keeping track, thats 5 dirty dishes in those steps alone. I didn't empty and reload the dishwasher last night (it was a 22 ounce bottle of beer so I didn't do too much after dinner other than sit on the couch and watch a movie). When Heather came home later, we were talking and she asked if I had a party because of all the dishes! I'm going to go start Heather's coffee and empty and load the dishes now, for those of you that may be wondering. :)

Earlier in the day, I was chatting with a friend about cooking and meals and it some how came out that we use cloth napkins at every meal. You can see that even in my dinner by myself, I have a cloth napkin. She was a little surprised about the cloth napkins. We don't do it from an eco standpoint, I think it is more about the dining experience.

It has already been ascertained that I am weird, but is it out of the ordinary to use cloth napkins (especially white, restaurant grade ones) at every meal?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The internet has lost its fun factor

The internet just isn't as fun as it used to be. Sure, it's great for research or to be organized or stay in touch with friends. It's a great tool for communication and productivity, but I'm finding it lacking in the entertainment arena.

I enjoy blogging, don't get me wrong. That is fun, but not entertainment. I need to think a little (which is good) in order to write a post (in fact, I pre-wrote this post with pencil and a moleskine journal).

I enjoy reading other's blogs and checking out my friends photographs, but for pure recreation, I'm just not finding it.

Maybe when it comes down to it, I'm thinking about games. YouTube clips just don't do it for me. I'm looking for something diversionary and completely different.

Dear Readers - what do you do on the internet when you aren't working, blogging or connecting with friends?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The smells of summer

With the arrival of nice summer weather in Seattle, we have been keeping the windows open more. Today, on the breeze, was the smell of poo.

Helen, was it you? Or do I have one of my other upwind neighbors to thank for the "smell of summer?"

I'm less than pleased with this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I ran yesterday

I ran yesterday morning (7 July 2008), when I took Alec to swim practice, 2.5 miles on a track. There was too much background noise when I tried to post Jott, so it didn't transcribe well and the post didn't go through.

Thanks for the comments on my other post. I'll respond to them later today.

Friday, July 04, 2008

And I ran

I'd like to say, I ran so far away, but alas, I cannot. Suffice it to say, I ran today for the first time in a long time.

I'm only walking mildly funny and I've only stumbled a few times going down steps and stairs.

My goal is to get back into running, at least twice a week and I'll blog about it, just a short one, just to keep me honest.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weather

My computer, running Ubuntu, has icons in a system bar to show certain things. When I sat down this morning, I saw something I hadn't seen before - a yellow dot. My first thought was it was some cautionary alert.

But then I realized that it was the weather applet!

I had never seen the sunny weather indicator before!

I should have been able to connect the dots; I went out this morning to get coffee beans for my wife and when I came home, I didn't take my sunglasses off because of the sun streaming through our kitchen window.

Today looks like it will be a nice day. I'm wearing shorts (and ankle high socks, for those that it matters). I'm glad to be home again. I just spent 4 days in California, but it wasn't very sunny there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I wish my office was like this!

It's kinda long, but it is pretty good. I didn't know there were so many different NERF weapons!



But wait, it could be... The kids are on summer break and my office is at home...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Continuing to have great weekends!

Heather and Daughter had a swim meet in Tacoma and Son 1 had swim practice and then played with a friend, so Son 3 and I had another Saturday morning together again. After his swim clinic, we headed into Seattle to pickup my graded final exams and wander around the University.

We got the University at 11:36; had we arrived at noon, parking would have been free. We stopped by the MBA Lounge, and grabbed my finals and he and I played some foosball! It was a bunch of fun and he is about as good as me at foosball (which either means I'm not very good or he is really, really good for a 6 year old). However, this fun time suggests to me that if we ever convert the toy dump play room to a game room, we should get a foosball table.

We wandered through the Burke Museum (free because I'm a student). Unfortunately, the same exhibits were there last time when we visited. In eight days, though, we might have to go back. There is an exhibit on Polar Bears coming, 28 June - 31 December.

Son 3 chose Mediterranean food from Sammir's Mediterranean Grill and we took our food back to the University and ate on the grass. I'm not sure why he chose food from the med, but I'm not complaining - it was pretty good.

We came home and played some more Wii (another one of our typical Son 3 and me activities) until the rest of our family go home!

Chalk one more enjoyable weekend day up with Son 3.

Father's Day Weekend

No, we didn't celebrate late, I'm finally writing about it.

It was great!

I could stop right there, but I'll share more. The weather was excellent - one of the first great weather days in a long time. And when I mean great, I mean like San Diego great; blue skies, hardly any clouds, not too hot. It was just a beautiful day.

Then, my wife and kids took me to Alki Beach, some place in Seattle I'd never been before. And its a real beach! Sand (and women's beach volleyball that day), waves, roller bladers and bikes on a little path; it felt like we were in California. I didn't realize that people actually wore bikinis in Seattle either!

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Alki Beach really felt like Santa Cruz, you were on the beach, yet you could see the mountains. I was really in awe all day long.

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We got lunch at Christo's and then walked down to the tide pool area where Daughter had a school field trip a few week's earlier. We got there during high tide, so we weren't able to see many tide pools but we had fun dallying on the edge of the water.



We tried to stop at the Alki Bakery, but they were out of baked goods! Entirely. Being the supply chain geek, I couldn't help but realize that they failed to account for both the increase in demand due to the holiday and the causal factor of the great weather (I think the weather was the one that tipped the scale). So we went to Starbucks instead (at least their local, right) for cold drinks.

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I can't tell you how great it was to be free of school, enjoying a father's day with my family and having such a beautiful day to enjoy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Schools out for summer!

Today is the last day of school for my kids and they are all quite happy!

So am I - my grades for this quarter were posted yesterday and I was quite pleased with the end result.

Summer time (at least from school) has arrived. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate as well and summer will finally arrive. It's shaping up to be a nice day today - blue skies with high clouds at my house.

Here's to summer!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer is here?

I think that summer might have arrived. We've had two beautiful days in a row! I will write about my great Father's day separately and some other things I've done recently, but tonight, I want to write about how nice it has been.

Today, I saw nothing but blue skies all day long. Heather was at swim practice and I called her to see if she wanted to have a picnic dinner. She was up for it and we met on Mercer Island at Luther Burbank Park. It was a great time.

The kids tell us that it should be a nice afternoon tomorrow as well. This is probably good for Son #1, since his school is letting out after something like 2-1/2 hours; he'll get to enjoy the nice weather.

If tomorrow is as nice as today, I'll be rooting for another picnic dinner and I might even work outside on the patio table! I hope good weather catches up with where ever you may be!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Done. For this quarter.

All my finals are done and submitted.
Now I can breath a sigh of relief.
Until classes start again on July 7th.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Shopping

Yesterday, I got some new shorts - its spring time, so it is nothing remarkable.

My oldest son and I went shopping, sort of a strange father-son activity:
  1. refit the liquor cabinet with vodka, tequila and rum and some bloody mary mix
  2. I needed new socks
  3. my wife strongly encouraged me to get some new shorts
  4. oldest wanted to buy some candy
We ended up going to about 6 different places, which made the experience all the more humorous, as I forgot to buy the mixers at the liquor store and Target. We ended up at Safeway, with a detour at REI, where on top of the mixers I bought steaks and potatoes and mushrooms for dinner.

I got home and showed off my shorts to my wife - all of which she approved of. I was fairly certain she would find them acceptable because before we left, she said that our oldest had good taste. At the store, he stood outside the changing room and gave the shorts a thumbs up, down or in the middle or the best vote of 2 thumbs up. I have now doubled my non-soccer short wardrobe and none of the new ones are khaki!

I started to prep dinner and realized that I bought steaks for braising not for grilling. I didn't want braised meat, I wanted grilled steaks, with oven fried potatoes with a sage leaf, sauteed mushrooms and onions and a salad. My dinner wasn't going to be stopped, back to the store I went.

Sure, I did some other things on my Saturday (chess with a 6 year old, bike rides, working on final exams), but the amount of shopping that my son and I did approached silly. And thus, I share it with all of you.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yesterday was a rough day

Yesterday was a rough day. Not because of work or school or kids. I was out of coffee beans for my espresso machine. Barring one sip of my wife's drip coffee, I had none.

And though I claim not to be an addict, at about 11 am my head started to ache. As much as I tried to deny it, I knew it was from a lack of caffeine.

How could someone living in the greater Seattle metro area where Starbucks are so prevalant as well as many better, independent cafes, run out of coffee beans. That I blame on the day before. It was a rough work and school day. They two just flowed together with a brief family dinner in between.

I really intended to buy more beans, but at 9:45 pm I was ready to call it quits. I should have known better.

I bought beans last night and have enjoyed many an espresso today. Today is a good day - no work, not too much school and I've got coffee!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sync your iPod in Ubuntu with Virtual Box

I did it finally. I've been able to sync my iPod under Ubuntu. Now, I cheat a little bit and I use Windoze XP running in a virtual machine, but it works! This is the last hurdle for me to cross - managing my music under Ubuntu.

Using Virtual Box, I am able to run Windows XP on Linux, and inside that, I am able to run iTunes. I keep all my music on a removable USB drive, so I am able to access it by mapping the removable drive to my virtual Windows.

Virtual Box supports USB connections to the guest machine, but only with the non-open source version of the software. It is still free, though.

In order for the guest machine to recognize the device, you have to setup a USB filter. I'm not sure what you are filtering, but it makes it work.
Once you have it connected to your virtual windows, the sync takes a while to start, but it really works.

Now, all isn't well. There is a known bug that some applications have problems writing to mapped drives from the guest machine. ITunes is one of these (Microsoft One Note is another); trying this causes a blue screen of doom. But I was able to get around this.

I started iTunes on my guest with a new library, all on the virtual machine. I was able to purchase a song from the ITMS and save it in the virtual machine. I then closed and re-opened iTunes, with my real, mapped drive music library and added the newly purchased song to my library.

It is a little inefficient and takes up some more disk space, but it is much better than making a 40 GB virtual machine in order to store my music library inside. Now, with a little cheating, I can using iTunes Music Store and sync my iPod, all under Linux.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Catching up

I've been swamped of late and been unable to pay attention to this blog much. This quarter school has been intense. I've had lots of great ideas floating around that I wanted to blog, but I've never gotten them written down. I could use Jott, but I was hoping to make more substantial postings than 30 seconds allows.

Ubuntu Hardy Heron
I've almost switched 100% to Ubuntu, as I've posted before. There are a few applications that I run in a virtual Windows XP, but I'm loving linux. The OS is fast, stable and free. Recently (in terms of blog posting) I upgraded from version 7.10 to 8.04. I had all these great things I wanted to write about the upgrade process; but I can sum them up in just a few words - it was easy and seamless. As a newb, I was thrown by the fact that my kernel was upgraded at the same time, but I quickly figured that one out.

OpenOffice 2.4 was great, as it has enhanced support for Microsoft's XML document format, but I removed Firefox 3 beta 5 because prime time just wasn't ready for it. Developers haven't made compatible versions of lots of the plugins that I've come to rely on in my browser.

One of the funny things, as I was discussing this upgrade with my college room mate, one of my linux resources, I was upgrading to 8.04 from 7.10 and he was upgrading from 6.06 to 7.10!

Business School
This quarter has been very challenging from a time management perspective. Our two classes are almost entirely based on preparing case studies as a group, which is a big change from the previous quarters. It's take us most of the quarter to really figure out how to work effectively and we are still struggling somewhat. Its taken lots of really late nights (or early mornings, depending on your point of view) to get the work done.

Last week, my kids asked when I was going to eat dinner with them again (I wasn't there). My youngest had been keeping track, accurately, no less of how many dinners I'd missed because I was at school or working on case study with my group. Three more weeks and this quarter will be over.

Soccer Coaching
Yes, I'm coaching soccer again. This season is super low key - 5 kindergarteners playing 3 on 3 soccer. The goal here is to have fun and teaching the basics. I think I've been successful at that and I've been having fun too. I'm glad I was able to work this into my schedule and I think so was my youngest, too.

I can't promise much, but I'll try to keep up on this blog a little more. Maybe they'll be short quick posts, but I'll keep you in the loop!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

He's not paying...

I noticed my college room mate online this evening and his IM status message was pretty funny.


I wonder how his ISP feels about him not paying.

And if his ISP is actually reading this, it does say paying attention. I have no knowledge of sharing cable service or finding excess coaxial cable around frat houses.

For Mother's Day?

As Mother's Day is approaching, a lot of the ads that get into my mailbox are becoming mom focused. I quickly scan them and delete them, like most other ads, but the fact that they have Mother's Day themes sticks in my head.

I also get lots of spam. And almost 100% of the Spam is to enlarge my male organ.


Imagine my surprise when I see this ad from Red Envelope...

Compared to all the spam, that subject line seems pretty racy for Red Envelope and not quite the subject for Mother's Day.

But here is another twist. I followed the ad with the text, "Not everyone desrves flowers." Not quite the right sentiment with Mother's Day approaching, but I'll check it out.

Son 3 was quite surprised and wanted some explanation, "Is that guy POOPING in a box?"

His next statement was, "Click on his butt." I guess the surprise didn't last too long.


I was intrigued. I had to see what the product looked like.


It's chocolate. Or that's what they say at PooParcels.com. That's pretty disgusting. I wonder how they make them? Do they have a row of strange sex toys [safe link to my wife's blog] that extrude the chocolate? That might be too shocking too see!

I don't think that this targeted advertising is working well. Funny gifts, yes. But not for Mother's Day.

Now, I've got to figure out how I want to mail poo too...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My weekend with Kid 3

This weekend, Heather and Kids 1 and 2 had a swim meet. Kid 3 and I stayed home, partially because it is easier on him and because I had an MBA small group meeting in the middle of Saturday.

So, he and I got to spend the weekend together. It was mixed, as he came to the team meeting with me (I was the first to break the bring your kid to the group meeting), but we got to enjoy ourselves too. But most importantly we had beautiful weather while we were out and about.

We got to our meeting location early, so we played frisbee in the parking lot of Building 34 at Microsoft's Redmond campus. After the meeting, we played frisbee more in the parking lot and decided that we needed to find a park, not a parking lot.

I thought that there was a Burger King in Redmond (Google Voice 411 proved me wrong) so we drove back to Issaquah and got food to go there and then headed to Tibbet's park. We played frisbee, watched kids play baseball and then Parker played on the playground and I read a case study. Kid 3 eventually decided he had enough; he was getting hot wearing a black shirt.

We had a lot of fun and Heather called and said that we should eat dinner outside. I stopped at Safeway and bought steak, shrimp, asparagus, sweet potatoes, red onions and portabello caps to grill. After I had cooked everything, I got the validation of a lifetime, Heather said, "You overdid it with the vegetables." Can you believe it, too many vegetables? And what she doesn't realize is that I only cooked half of the vegetables I bought! There is a pork tenderloin in the fridge for tonight.

As it started to cool off, my arms were itchy. I thought at first that there were bugs out, but I actually got a light sunburn on my arms. Is spring really here?

Sunday held another half day of swim meet for Heather and the other kids. So, Parker and I made muffins and then made lists of what we should do. After he made his own Remember the Milk list, we realized that we needed to brush our teeth.


He joined me in the master bathroom and we brushed our teeth together. He brought his timer (pretty good for a 6 year old) and we brushed for 2 minutes. At the end, he said, "That was a long time." Maybe he doesn't use that timer all the time. But even more funny, he decided that we needed to write down on our lists that we brushed our teeth!

I had some reading to do and then we played Wii (he did check it off his list) and we headed out to do some errands (on my list). We drove to the outlets in North Bend to buy some soccer shorts to replace some that I got in college and Heather decided were dated, too short and just plain ugly.

We decided that we would eat lunch there too. Kid 3 was impressed that there was a Taco Time, Burger King and McDonald's all in the same place. I took advantage of that - he got chicken tenders from McDonalds, I got a cappuccino from the McCafe and then I got a burger from Burger King.

The unsnobby coffee from McDonalds is crap. They don't even steam the milk by hand. They have a machine that froths the milk and dumps the milk and coffee in the cup at the same time - all comingled and not a good cappuccino. It is cheap, but not good.

At Burger King, I decided I would have a Steakhouse Burger - the new Angus burger with onion crisps and A1 sauce. The guy behind the counter asked if I wanted the Classic or the Loaded version - has it been around long enough to be awarded "Classic" status? I wanted the lower calorie one and Kid 3 dumped his McDonalds drink on the floor of Burger King. We took my sandwhich and went across the street to the outside seating at McDonalds (and free refills on spilled drinks).

I saved $5 on shorts, $1.20 on gas (with my $ 0.10 per gallon discount at Safeway) and it only cost me $3.50 in gas to go there and back; less than one gallon in my MINI, and we got an enjoyable drive out of it too.

Kid 3 added to his list "Go to a lot of stores" after we got home. He sure knows how to make a to do list look as if he'd been productive!

All in all, it has been a fun weekend. I've spent a lot of time with Kid 3, a lot of time working on school and enjoyed the nice weather! I hope that you are able to take advantage of the good weather as well!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hardy Heron is here!

Today was the day! It came with great trumpeting - Hardy Heron, the latest Ubuntu distro has been released.

I had put on my RTM task list to download it today and once my computer booted (I needed to do some work with a Internet Explorer only site), I tried to download it. It failed at least six times while I was trying to download from mirrors in the US.

I got crafty and decided to try a mirror in Taiwan, before they were awake. No such luck. It failed too.

I never got more than half way through and it failed. I bet if I had tried to download a torrent, I would have had no problems at all.

I was working on some school stuff very late in the night and I tried to download it again. Being crafty, again, I headed East... I was able to download it from Czechoslovakia with out problem.

So, hooray, I finally have it. Its been burned to a disk and maybe this weekend, I'll install it!


Note: My wife is suggesting that this post is less geeky than my previous posting about Sam's Club, rice and economics. Feel free to weigh in!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Skyrocketing rice prices has Sam's Club limiting sales - CNN.com

What are they thinking?

Skyrocketing rice prices has Sam's Club limiting sales - CNN.com

Retail chain Sam's Club will limit the sale of large quantities of rice amid a dramatic increase in the global price of rice.
The store will limit customers to four 20-lb. bags of jasmine, basmati and long-grain white rice, the company said in a statement. Its restriction mainly will affect businesses that buy rice in bulk, but the company said "a typical Sam's Club Business Member does not buy more than 80 pounds of rice in one visit."

If the price of rice is going up, limiting the supply is only going to further raise the price of rice. Its simple economics!

I'm not sure if this is to be a thinly veiled, "lets save the rice for the other people" or just an effort for Sam's Club (and Costco too) to further profit in a tight economic situation.

I was able to find news articles about this with a quick google search, but I wasn't able to find any press releases from either company. I'm tired, so I didn't look too hard, but it wasn't too hard to figure out that this is ridiculous anyways.

Good night for now. Think of what kind of great thoughts I could come up with if I wasn't holding my eyes open with toothpicks...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Espresso, every day, all day

I've been drinking lots of espresso lately. I've done it in the past, but one of the differences is that now, I'm drinking over the course of the day. It's now 7pm and I just heard the espresso machine go through it's cleaning cycle - its been 2 hours since my last shot, father.

Black Espresso ~ smart azz server

Lifehacker had a post on the benefits of small, frequent infusions of caffeine rather than a large blast and the link to the full, article on Wired is Caffeinate With Care: Small Shots Do a Brain Better Than Big Blasts

But I guess, I'm doing the right thing! The article refers to "frequent, small doeses" to "maximize alertness and minimize jitters." I have no issues sleeping or shakiness at all. Some of the people in the study even reported " periodic small shots made them feel clearheaded and calm." Zen through espresso any one?

I read an article about a UW researcher who has found new evidence that caffeine applied to skin might help prevent skin cancer! I found an article on Web MD dated 2002 saying the same thing, but hey, I wouldn't mind some young, cute barista rubbing espresso over my body to help protect me. Maybe Starbucks should offer that as a service to get people into their stores!

Thanks to CameoSteph on flickr for the picture.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Is it spring yet?

For the last two days, I've awoken to snow on the ground. The days have been cold and the skies grey.

Today, I can barely see because the sun is shining so brightly in my window. Is this spring or is Mother Nature yanking my chain?


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sixth grade jokes

We've gotten to that stage in life with our kids. Saturday morning Son 1 shared a joke that he learned from one of his friends.

I'm sure you've all heard variations on jokes like this, but it goes something like this.

Teacher to Struggling Student: If you get an A on this test, you can come to my house for a BBQ.
Struggling Student gets an A on the test, and goes to BBQ at the teachers house.
Teacher: Since you did so well, you can stay for a sleepover.
Teacher: Since there is only one bed, you can stay in mine.

By now, I'm sure you can see where this joke is going.
Struggling Student (now in teacher's bed): It helps me fall asleep to stick my finger in my Mom's belly button.
Teacher: Okay.

Now, Son 1 delivers the punchline. Remember, he is telling this to his MOM!
Stuggling Student: That was my finger.
Teacher: That was my belly button, either.
Both Heather and I scrunched our foreheads for a moment while we thought through the punch line. We quickly figured out that it should have been.
Stuggling Student: That wasn't my finger.
Teacher: That wasn't my belly button, either.

On top of misdelivering and misunderstanding the joke, he was telling it to his Mom. While there's no stopping sixth graders from telling jokes like these. But you don't tell them to your mom!

Friday, April 18, 2008

They didn't mention snow

This spring, I've gone back to coaching soccer. I've got a co-coach and it's kindergarten soccer. We're just working on the basics and the kids aren't old enough to have developed attitudes yet. Amongst everything else I'm doing, it is relaxing and Kid 3 really wanted to play soccer.

The program is really low key - two practices (one of which was optional) and then games begin. Its only Friday evenings, no goalies, no keeping score, just having fun.

The organizers said that practice would be canceled if it was raining. They didn't mention snow. Who would have thought that it would be snowing in mid-April in Seattle. By 6:30 when practice was ending, it was snowing pretty hard. The kids didn't care, they were having too much fun.

I like snow, no matter when it comes. I do wish I was a little more prepared for it, because I've been home for 30 minutes now and my fingers are still warming up. Happy Spring!

Friday, April 11, 2008

My kisses are electric

Tonight, when I kissed my wife, she jumped.

Don't sit there and tell me about static electricity.

It's my kisses.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Raped by higher education

I just bought my text books for this next quarter. I'm only taking two course, an Accounting course and a Marketing course. You'll have to forgive me if I'm walking funny, I've been raped.

My text books cost over $400. Two classes. Today, my wife and I went to the bookstore and purchased 1 reader and 1 text book. I had already purchased another textbook online. The cashier did a double-take when he saw what had been rang up for the two books sitting in front of him. He took a quick look at the books and knowingly said, "Ah, business school."

At least he was kind enough that as he handed me my receipt, with the typical, "Thanks for shopping at the bookstore," he also added, "I'm sorry for you and your classmates."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

That's not my thing

While I was catching up on the days news, my Firefox browser created some pretty funny tab names.

This one, I needed to get a screen shot of.

What kind of porn is this?

Really, that isn't my thing. I don't even want to imagine what government agents might do with their sunglasses, guns, badges or earpices.

The real article, though is one about DB Cooper and the recent spate of clues as to where he landed. Good Northwest news!

Just be careful of how many tabs you have open!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Value of Gold

Happy Saint Patricks Day!

Yes, my greetings are a day late, but the shock has taken some time to get over. It's not that work was tiring yesterday or I was stressed about my finance final or that I took a nap or that my teeth hurt from going to the dentist (they didn't, I need to focus on my gums more, though) or from being hung over from too much green beer.

Everyone knows that leprechauns like gold. Well, my youngest brought home a gold nugget from school. I guess it was what they used as bait in their leprechaun traps. Before you come to our house and rob us because the price of gold is so high, its just a small rock painted gold. It could have even been taken off the playground for all I know.

Gold nugget

Yesterday, as I was on a conference call, my youngest came to me, with a gleam of panic in his eyes. He quietly got my attention, “Dad, I dropped my gold.”

I muted the phone and asked, “Where did you drop it?”

“In the toilet.”

“I'll come help you in a minute. Don't do anything.” My call was wrapping up, so he wouldn't have to wait too long.

“But there is pee in the toilet.”

I was still on the phone, so I just decided to cross that bridge when I came to it. My call quickly came to an end and I wandered into the bathroom. The gold nugget was at the bottom of the toilet (because gold nuggets don't float) and the toilet had been pee'd in. Just like he said it was.

We didn't have any long gloves and as I wandered through the kitchen I knew that Heather would not stand for the use of a long spoon to fish it out. We had some short latex gloves, but they only cover up to my wrist, so they would just get filled up with pee.

With some consternation, I shot my hand into the toilet bowl, grabbed the gold nugget, flushed the toilet and washed my hand and the nugget with lots of soap and really hot water. I was careful to scrub the nugget, but not too much, lest the gold would flake off and be lost in the sink.

Yeah it was gross, but it wasn't that bad. It was over pretty quickly. This definitely pushes the limits on the grossest thing I've ever done.

But its one of those things you do for your kids. It was important to him and so I got it for him.