Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dip Once or Dip Twice? - New York Times

Science in action!

Practical application of science, answering questions posed to us in Pop Culture.

Dip Once or Dip Twice? - New York Times

So, what do you do?

If I'm with family, I'll flip it around and dip the other end. If I'm in a public place, I'll only dip once. How is that for situational ethics?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The First Jott Users Group

Living in Seattle has some really nice perks. We are close to the mountains, which are supposed to get 26 inches of snow tonight. Seattle is a big city, but with less crime, less traffic, less pollution, less of the bad stuff.

But one of the cool things is that Seattle is one of those startup centers. Okay, its not the Bay Area, but lots of really cool things have come from or are going on in Seattle.

One of those is Jott.

Being a Jott user in the vicinity of their headquarters, I got invited to the First Jott Users Group and I got to meet some of the cool people from Jott, check out their digs, munch on some hummus and spinach dip, give some feedback and learn about what they have in store for the future.

We were asked to keep most things confidential, and I will. You won't be able to get it out of me; I'm pretty tough that way. But what I can say is that the Jotters are doing a great job keeping it simple, making it better , making it fit into people's work flow and then adding slick functionality on top of that. They even talked of "hyper-cool" things that they couldn't even tell us, they were so super secret. They've got lots of cool things coming.

Jott is a great company and product. With their voice recognition, you can cross the boundary from your voice conversation to text message or to an email. As more and more states pass laws against texting while driving, this will be a valuable function for many people. With Jott Links, I can Jott to Zillow, my Google Calendar, find products on Amazon or most importantly to me, add tasks to my Remember the Milk to do list. You can even make reminders out of your Jotts. It was neat to learn how some of the Jott team wants reminders on time and others early (I'm in the on time camp, btw). The company is also very focused on the customer. It was cool to meet the people that actually read and respond to my Jott Feedbacks. They really care and want to make a product that people need and can use, not just one that is cool.

Another thing that was cool was to be able to meet other Jott users (Jotters are people that work at Jott, so we'll have to figure out something else to call the rest of us). It was neat to see how some people were all about the web interface and others about links and others about getting collaborative, corporate teams to use the tool. We got to see how people use Jott, their hacks and more importantly, learn about some of the old skool, almost forgotten Jott techniques.

Since these are not secret, just lost, I will share them here. At the "Who do you want to Jott," prompt pressing 1 will automatically create a Jott to self. This is helpful in a noisy environment when you can't get past the voice recognition. Pressing # will end your Jott, again useful in a noisy environment. As voice recognition became better and noise canceling headsets were more prevalent, the old style of Jotting was lost.

Check out Jott. Sign up for Jott. Tell them I sent you.

Where did all of the Seattlites go?

Yesterday, Seattle got another dose of winter weather. On the Eastside, we had snow (albeit not very much) and a snow day was called. Not a snow day for me, either in work or B-school, but for the kids.

As the time approached for me to leave for school, I kept checking traffic and the roads were all green and wide open. This seemed very strange to me. Maybe the weather was creating a problem for the traffic reporting sensors. This is Seattle, where a little snow snarls the roads!

Work kept me, so I didn't leave any earlier than usual. I was a little worried, but if I was going to be late, so were others. It took me far less than the usual amount of time to get to school - the roads were in fine condition and wide open! It was bizarre?

Where was everyone yesterday?

Did they just stay home?

Did they go to the mountains to take advantage of the snow?

I think that this one is going to be a mystery to me for a while. The traffic was exactly opposite of what I expected it to be based upon the morning conditions.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Web 2.0 saves the day

I've spent the week at a Supply Chain Planning software company's training facility at their company headquarters. What has been interesting about this trip is that all day long, I have internet access, but not my PC. Web 2.0 has kept me sane, productive and connected during the business day.

  • I've been able to check and keep up on my email, both Gmail for my personal mail and my company's webmail.
  • I've used Meebo to hop on instant messaging for pressing work issues as well as the even more important playing in the snow pictures.
  • I've been able to add tasks to my Remember the Milk to do lists
  • I took notes from our sessions with NoteSake, an online note taking webapp.
  • With ScanR, I'm able to capture the contents of the whiteboards from our brainstorming and training sessions.

I was prepared to take notes on the training computers. I took my Linux install off my flash drive and put back the Portable Apps, so I could run my own apps and take my notes home with me easily. But the computers were actually in another building, so I couldn't even access the USB port, so that didn't quite work out for me.

But Web 2.0 came to my rescue. It didn't matter which computer I was on, my notes were there. And when I got back to the hotel, everything was there on my computer.

Web 2.0 you are all right.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Trip in the way back machine

I am sitting in a Starbucks in Reston, Virginia with a big grin on my face. I'm tooling around someplace I thought I would never see again. I dropped some people at the airport and Reston was close. I had time to kill so I dropped by.

Lots of places look different when you come back to them after 20 years, but Reston (once you get out of the business areas) looks about the same as I remember it. Maybe it is a little more worn, but it is still the same. I could drive from our old house and get to my elementary school. I knew where a shopping area on one of the lakes was, so I came here.

Usually, I'm not a nostalgic person, but deep down inside, I must be. Being here just makes me smile.

  • I saw the sign post that I ran into and cut my head wide open 10 days after we moved here.

  • I see that they've taken out the basketball courts by my old house.

  • It looks like somebody removed the shrubberies from the front of our old house.

  • The community pool was still a pool.

  • The school playground has been rebuilt, is smaller and has a fence around it.

I'd drive by a street and say to myself, “Scott lived that way,” or “David lived over on this street.” It's kind of crazy how much I recall. Its just weird - I don't think I would want to live here, but in some strange way, it is good to be back.

I didn't think that I would visit Reston. Firstly, I didn't think I would have enough time and secondly, I wasn't sure what the appeal was. I'm glad I did stop, though. It got me smiling and in a few hours, I'll be linking up with a college friend for dinner. Its a good day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My bag just isn't as fast as me

I flew to the East Coast on Monday and thank goodness for my wife, I left home in time to catch my plane. There was an accident on 405 which would have really put me behind schedule. She told me about it, I took an alternate route and breezed around the accident.

As I was getting ready to leave, Heather asked me where was my suitcase. I had already staged it in the car, but I gave the smart-ass response, "Oh, these are all the clothes I'm taking for a 5 day trip. I'll just turn them inside out and wear them again." Little did I know, that smart-ass remark would come back to haunt me.

Because of weather, we were delayed arriving into Chicago, where I had to change planes. We arrived at B6 and my departing flight was at C20. I had about 5 minutes until the scheduled departure and all the status boards said my next flight was on time. So I sprinted through the airport. I did answer my phone when Heather called to say it was snowing, but every other chirp and beep that my phone made was ignored.

Much to my surprise, I made it on the plane. I didn't ask if the plane was actually delayed, since I was still catching my breath; I was just glad to be on my plane. It turns out that this plane was indeed delayed because it needed to be de-iced and we ended up getting into Dulles about 30 minutes late.

I went down to the baggage claim and as I came to the realization that my bag should have been the last bag on the plane and therefore the first one off - I realized that I should be wondering if my bag actually made it on my flight to Dulles. In this day of modern technology, United Airlines had a kiosk to check for missing or delayed baggage. And sure enough, "Your bag has been located and is delayed."

So, I geeked out while I told the kiosk where I was staying and several contact phone numbers and reveled in how easy it was to report my bag missing. No waiting in line, no irate people standing around. I'm sure that I missed out on being able to get something for my inconvenience from a real live person, but I wasn't really that put out.

I can go overnight and wear the same clothes the next day, no one will know. I can do without my toiletries for a night (plus the hotel had some to give me). I was even able to get by without my gloves, hat and jacket, but it is cold on the East Coast in winter.

My bag didn't arrive by the next morning, so I went to my meetings feeling a little underdressed. But the company I was at is on the casual end of the business casual and that is alright with me. And when I got back to the hotel this evening, there was my bag behind the front desk!

I'm excited that I get to shave with my own razor and brush my teeth with my toothpaste. But that is what I get when I am faster than my bag.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I'd rather be in the mountains

Friday, I flew to Oakland early in the morning. Someplace before the plane arrived, I looked out the window and to one side was a beautiful sunrise and from the my side of the plane, I could see snow capped mountains.

All I could think of while I looked at it was that I'd so love to be on those mountain ridges, watching the sunrise. I really love the winter time and the mountains.

I spent about an hour on Saturday at Winter Trails Day, trying out different snow shoes. It was great to get up in the mountains, even if it was just a short while.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My newest favorite magazine

I've got a new favorite magazine. No, this isn't some pervy post about the newest laddy magazine (but if there is one, pass it on to me, so I can check out the articles).

My newest favorite is Sunset. Sure, everybody has been reading it for years, including all my grand parents. And we've subscribed to it for at least a year now in our house. But it wasn't until just recently that I noticed it.

I really like getting into the outdoors, as my recent posts about snowshoeing indicate. One evening at dinner, I was looking at my wife and over her shoulder I noticed El Capitan, all covered in snow, on the cover of Sunset. My wife is hot, but that definitely caught my eye. I'd love to go to Yosemite in the winter with no crowds or wander though Paradise Meadow at Mount Rainier when it is under snow (and I might still do that this winter).

As I was reading it, I found more stuff that I enjoy - namely smoked salmon. There was an article with quick recipes to make with smoked salmon. Cooking is good. Salmon is good. Quick is good. I made Smoked Salmon Vermicelli for dinner that night. It was very good and very easy.

Since I had the El Capitan issue out of the basket, the next night, what did I see over my wife's shoulder, but a cover article about comfort food. You know me, I like eating just about as much as I like cooking, so I was all over comfort foods. Tonight, we had Beef-Ale Stew with Green Onion-Buttermilk Dumplings. It was really good. I'll definitely make more of that. It took two trips to the grocery store (I forgot to buy onions the first time around), but it was great.

My new favorite magazine - good eats and great places to go. I'll be checking out more of this Sunset magazine. And any laddy magazines that pass my way, too. :)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ubuntu is easy or Computer recover with Linux

It seems to be the time for hard drive failure in our house. Heather has had two hard drive failures in the last two years and I have finally had my first disk failure.

On Christmas Eve, my windows PC gave me a blue screen of doom error. I decided that it was a good time to turn it off. When I turned it on Christmas afternoon, my disk was clicking and clacking and the BIOS found no bootable disk. Not a good thing to happen.

I wasn't concerned because all my data was backed up with Carbonite. A good backup strategy is a great idea, no matter how you do it. Comcast provides some backup software with the free with subscription McAfee Security Center and there are scads of online backup services. But I really like Carbonite because it runs in the background and backs up to a remote site. I can selectively restore files or even to a new computer!

But, I needed a computer. Okay, I really wanted a computer - I store recipes online, I keep my tasks with Remember the Milk, and I was sure to get one or two Christmas greeting emails (I use Gmail). Just about everything I do an use is web based, so as long as I could get online, I was good to go.

I had also been wanting to play with some distro of Linux. This was my excuse to do it. I downloaded the latest Ubuntu Live CD, burned it to a CD (on my wife's computer) and just like that, I was able to boot my PC.

It was super easy! Unfortunately, it did confirm for me that my hard drive was entirely fried. But it wasn't a big deal, I had a working computer until my company was able to send me a new hard disk (well, a new laptop, too because it was time for a new computer anyway).

So, I've been running Ubuntu Fiesty Fawn for a short while (and know that I will continue to do so in the future) and here are my thoughts:
  1. Incredibly simple install. You answer a few questions and then it does its thing. You don't have to sit and supervise it.
  2. Package managers (either with the command line or a graphical one) make installing software so easy. I was very quickly able to get the software I wanted up and running (and it automatically installed all the required other libraries as well). For those still running Windows, check out Appupdater for that same type of functionality.
  3. Almost all of the software is free! Free! Ubuntu is free!
  4. Linux does a better job of memory management than Windows. I can run the same several memory intensive applications (Open Office with giant spreadsheets, Google Earth, GIMP and then several Citrix based java apps) simultaneously with better performance under Ubuntu. Linux will keep an older computer running longer than under Windows!
  5. There is so much information available online to support Linux. Sure it helps to have a smart friend (I've got a few of them) for computer support, but there are all kinds of forums and blog postings out there. Okay, at the same time this can be problematic - some of it wasn't up to date, but there is lots of information available.
  6. Ubuntu has a great UI. Most people think of 'nix and the command line, but you don't have to use the command line (editor's note: the command line is such a faster and easier way to do stuff, so check it out). The learning curve was almost flat from a user standpoint. If you are a just turn on the computer and use it person, you can do that with Ubuntu. If you want to get into the backend of the system, you can do that with Ubuntu.
  7. I'd like to give serious props to the Wireless Network Manager in Ubuntu. Under Windows you always have to enter your wireless access point's WEP key in hex (numbers 0 - 9 and A - F). With the Gnome network manager, you can actually enter the plain text phrase - real words that are easy to remember and know that you typed correctly. Oh yeah, and you only have to enter it once as opposed to twice (or more if you type it wrong) under Windows.
So far the only thing I still have to figure out (and it is from a lack of looking, not that Ubuntu can't) is to manage my music and iPod. For the time being, it isn't a problem, because I manage my iPod on my daughter's PC, but I'd really like to be able to do that at some point.

Ubuntu is definitely as good an operating system as Windows, if not better, both technically and cost wise. The applications are out there and they too are as good as or better than the commercial alternatives. I'd recommend checking it out and thinking about it for your next OS.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sun worship?

Yesterday, we had a sunset. Yes, in the rainy, wintery Northwest, we actually had a sunset.

In fact, it was such an occurrence that my 5 year old came to me and said, "Dad, Dad, come look at this in the kid's bathroom. It's so pretty!"

I wasn't exactly sure what he was going to show me in the bathroom, but I'll check it out. He stood on his tippy toes and was looking out the window at the sunset over the neighbors' houses.


It was really pretty, as you can see.

"Take a picture of it so Mom can see," he announced, since she was out with the other kids.

She enjoyed it when he showed her the pictures we took, since evidently there was no sun where she was.

Winter must be really rough this year, when even a 5 year old recognizes the beauty and rarity of a sunset. What is getting me through is that I came to the realization: when it is raining here, it is snowing in the mountains.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Reducing the Stigma of Incontinence

Recently, a article was pushed to me through an RSS feed, entitled Panel Urges End to Incontinence Stigma. It was surprising on multiple fronts:
  1. This was in Forbes magazine, a reputable news source.
  2. I don't see what this has to do with business or finance, which is what Forbes is known for.
  3. This panel was a government sponsored panel, by the National Institutes of Health.
  4. I was even surprised to learn so much about incontinence.
Did you know that there are two types of incontinence, each with two subtypes?

Urinary incontinence is the more common type; previous estimates have put the number of people with this condition at around 13 million. Actually, more than 20 million women and 6 million men have experienced urinary incontinence at some point, the NIH panel concluded.

The two most prevalent subtype are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is leakage caused by physical pressure to the abdomen, such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, jogging or lifting a heavy object. Urge incontinence is a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate, sometimes called overactive bladder.

Fecal incontinence is harder to measure, even more stigmatized and thus hardly ever studied. The best estimates suggest it affects up to 5 percent of the general population and up to 39 percent of nursing home residents.

A better factoid from the article is that "one in four US adults will experience some kind of incontinence". I think that means we should all be investing in Clorox or other detergent manufacturers.

But more surprisingly, the panel recommends, ""We as a society need to get over our discomfort with this subject..." Tax dollars at work suggesting that we should be okay with incontinence. This is going to change how parents raise their kids! This is going to change how kids interact with each other in locker rooms or with the stinky kid in pre-school.

What is this going to mean for toilet paper manufacturers? Are we as a society going to start to use less toilet paper? Is the toilet paper industry going to spiral into financial despair, requiring a federal bailout because we are all okay with a little anal leakage?

How about salty snacks and fat substitutes, like Olestra? Are we just going to replace all the fats with man-made fats because a little anal leakage is okay? Invest in Frito Lay, I say!

What about the clothing industry? Are pants prices going to increase because the butt and crotch portion will require absorptive reinforcement? Will demand for underpants increase because people will carry multiple sets to get through the day?

The implications are mind boggling once we are okay with a little incontinence.

But(t) being the rebel I am, I'm going to go against the government on this one. Cleanliness is next to godliness is how the expression goes and that works for my butt too!

For more resources on incontinence, check out this search on the NIH website. There's more than you could want to know!