Sunday, December 12, 2010

Reading Android Karenina

This isn't quite a book review, but I'm about 1/3 of the way through Android Karenina a ?co-written? book by Leo Tolstoy and Ben Winters.

The story is quite enjoyable, definitely a blend of steampunk and old Russia. As I read the story I'm continually thinking how the original event has been changed to fit in the steampunk world! I've never read Anna Karenina, but this book makes me interested.

I think that might be one of the goals of Quirk Books, the publishers of this and others (Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, Pride and Prejuidice and Zombies). If they put a new spin on an old work it might cause some interest in the old work. I'm sure it offends purists and maybe english teachers, but I'm enjoying myself.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this tale of love, cheating and intrigue. I'm hooked!

More to come on this later, when I work my way through the tome.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ranting about Pulling Right for Emergency Vehicles

In this post, I'm going to sound like an old man. A grumpy one.  Honestly, I'm not old enough yet to be a curmudgeon, but there are some things that just call for rants.

When I was taught to drive, in the state of Nevada, I was taught to pull to the right and stop for emergency vehicles with sirens on.  It didn't matter which direction the emergency vehicle was coming, overtaking, crossing paths or head on; you were to pull to the right and stop.

Same thing with school buses, if they were stopped with their lights flashing for kids boarding, you were to stop, no matter what side of the road the bus was on (unless the road was divided).  There's no telling what kids may do - they have a tendency to dart.

I'm no driving angel, but there are a few rules that are sacrosanct and you just don't break them.  These are a few of them (respecting school zones is another).

Since I've been taught to drive, I've lived in several other states and now reside in Washington state.  Each state has different driving rules and driving conventions.  But the rules are the same for emergency vehicles in Washington.  I've even blog/ranted about it before!  Yesterday, I saw the most surprising display of not pulling to the right.

Yesterday, Saturday 13 November, sometime about 12:30 PM, I was driving eastbound on Interstate 90, between Bellevue and Issaquah.  I was in the car pool lane coming back from swim practice.  Traffic was moving just at the speed limit, because there was a motorcycle cop (Bellevue,  Issaquah or Sammamish police department) a little ways ahead.

I checked my rear view mirror and saw that I was being overtaken by a Washington State Patrol with lights and siren on.  Dutifully, I moved to the right.  Knowing that traffic wasn't going to pull to the right and stop, I did make sure to move 2 lanes over, giving the WSP the most room I could and avoiding my own car crash.

The WSP vehicle blazed by, continuing down the carpool lane.  However, it had to change lanes when it  overtook the motorcycle cop, because he didn't move over to let the emergency vehicle pass.  I was aghast.  Of all the people on the road, the motorcycle cop has the best idea of what it means to have lights and sirens on.  It was just incredible.

No wonder people in Washington don't pull over.  The marketing campaign is misdirected and even those entrusted to enforce the laws don't respect it.  I just hope that by the time the ambulance is coming for this old man (I've still got a few years) that people do pull over and let it by.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A few milestones

Everyone has milestones in their life, points in time where something significant happens.

  1. My wife and I recently celebrated our 14 year wedding anniversary.  Its been a fun 14 years as we've changed together and built a family.  I love her dearly.  I'm looking forward to many, many more.Kissing under the cherry blossoms
  2. After a travel swim meet, my daughter went to the mall with some friends of hers.  My daughter is 11 years old and some of her friends are a few years older.  My daughter came back with a bag from Victoria's Secret - and a small bag at that!  On the good side, she just bought some perfume, but I'm not ready for my daughter to be shopping at Victoria's Secret.
  3. My MINI has over 100,000 miles!  Since Kid 1 sits in the front seat, he noticed that it was getting close a few days ago.  It was a great exercise in critical thinking, we estimated when it would roll over.  We were off by a day because I ended up driving to an additional swim practice.  Since there were no kids in the car at the time, I snapped a picture.99,999 miles

PS. If you're involved in project management, a milestone cannot be a date range. A milestone is still a point in time.  That would be a project phase.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hiking to Melakwa Lake

This weekend, I had a backpacking trip planned, but it was canceled as it was going to be rainy on Saturday and Sunday.  Friday, however, was still to be a pleasant day, and since I already had the day off, I decided to go hiking.

I headed to Snoqualmie Pass and to the Denny Creek trail head and to Melakwa Lake. I feel comfortable solo hiking there as I'm familiar with the terrain.  I think, though I've not confirmed it, that AT&T has some coverage at least a few miles into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.

I was ready for a two night backpacking trip, so I just had to downsize my gear for a day hike.  I have the tendency to to pack heavy and even getting rid of a bunch of gear, I still packed heavy.  I did however bring my water filter in lieu of a 3rd liter of water - I would be able to refill at the lake when I stopped for lunch.
It is the season of mushrooms here in the Pacific Northwest.  I saw all kinds of cool looking ones and it felt like I took more pictures of mushrooms than scenery this trip.  At the start of the trail, there was a couple just picking mushrooms and throwing them into a Target bag.  They asked me what I knew about mushrooms because, "one of their co-workers picked a bunch of mushrooms and sold them for $100."  I know enough about mushrooms to know that I'm no expert and wouldn't be picking them without someone who really knows local mushrooms.  I hope that they find an expert rather than a mark.

I only saw three other groups while I was out - the solitude was quite nice on the trail.  I was passed by one lady on the switchbacks to Hemlock Pass, both of us headed to Melakwa Lake.  When I go there, I saw her on one side of the lake and then went the short distance to Upper Melakwa Lake.  She could have her lake all to herself, and I had mine.
Upper Melakwa Lake
As soon as I sat down on one of the large boulders to cook and eat my lunch, a light rain started.  For some reason, this typically happens to me. I'll stop walking and then the weather starts.  I moved to the side of a large boulder to have a little shelter and boiled some water for my lunch and hot cocoa.

I refilled one quart of water with my water filter, treated it and packed up to head out.  My water filter is so cool.  Its smaller and lighter than a quart of water and living in Western Washington, there are always plenty of water sources.  I can safely get away with carrying less water (recall that I like to pack heavy) than I would normally carry.  Had I not brought the filter, I would have carried 4 quarts of water (I know, probably overdoing it)!

I finished my lunch and surprisingly the sun came out.  I was expecting the rain to continue for the rest of the afternoon, but I was glad to not hike in the rain.  In fact, I debated a few times actually putting on my sunglasses!

All in all, it was a nice hike.  Looking out the window as I type this, its raining, which would have made for a less pleasant backpack.  I'm glad I was able to still get outside!


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Things I learned during summer

As summer draws to a close, I think about the back to school "what I did over my summer vacation reports" so I started to think about mine.  My summer was quite jam packed with a work project which consumed most of the summer, but I learned quite a few things.

  1. A light rain fall, all day long, will start to soak through the seams of my softshell jacket.  Its always great to know the limits of your gear and now I do.  It rained on us one day while we were on San Juan Island, so it wasn't dangerous and it was nice to get back to our house and get un-soggy.
  2. My wife enjoys hiking much more when there is a nice destination.  Destinations which qualify as nice include wild flowers, water falls and lakes.  She likes the water a lot.
    Wildflowers and Mount Rainier
  3. My daughter prefers lululemon to Juicy Couture.  Even thought both are expensive, I think I can endorse that, because at least lululemon projects an active lifestyle while Juicy projects clubbing and Paris Hilton.
  4. Technical fabrics are great.  See number one in this list, but I've started wearing wicking shirts while running, hiking and just around the house.  The really do wick away the sweat that much faster which contributes to me being warmer all around.
  5. Getting away, even if for a few days, makes a great vacation.  We rented a house on the San Jaun Islands for 5 days and it was a great break.  It was really nice to have a full kitchen, but also nice to be in a vacation spot.
  6. Outlet Malls are cool.  We stopped at the Seattle Premium Outlets and the ones in Burlington on the way back from our vacation and got a lot of great back to school clothes for our daughter.  The boys wanted to stay in the car, so they didn't get very much cool stuff.  Pooey on them.
  7. I've learned a whole lot about Subversion, php, mysql, apache, bugzilla and Ubuntu, but I'll go into that later.  I've got a few servers with a LAMP stack which I administer and they're running pretty well!
Though I'm not in school, I'm always learning something.   I hope you enjoyed your summer too!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A vacation finally

The swim seasons (yes, plural) have come to an end and my gigantor work project which has had me working every day since June 14th has come to an end and we are taking a vacation.  For the last 3 days, we've been in a house we rented in Friday's Harbor on San Juan Island. Its got a great kitchen and the guy left us his kayak, though I'm not sure if we'd use it solo - maybe next time.

There is no TV, no phone, no microwave and it is great.  Yes, there is wi-fi and with Skype I've made a few work related calls, but really its been work free.

We've explored all over the island, checking out the historical sites and sitting by the water.   We've explored lots of beaches, checking out the light houses and the kids have probably raised the sea level with all the rocks they've thrown in the water.

We checked out the Whale Museum, but have not seen any Orcas in the wild. Yet.

Today, I watched the tide come in, just sitting on the beach for 3 hours.  Yeah, I got a little burned, but I actually re-applied sun block today (not just putting it on once).  

But most importantly, my mind was clear. I listened to the waves crash and the rocks on the shore roll under the force of the waves.  I watched my kids play in the cold water (they're crazy that way, it doesn't matter how cold they are).  I didn't think about student loans, bills, work or to do lists.  Its been a long time since I've been able to do that.

With all that I've been working, the fact that I can clear my mind and not worry about anything has been super relaxing.  I've even slept in - 8:30 and 9 am, which is incredibly decadent for me.  This has been a great weekend and I've really needed it.  And I'm loving it.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The problem with independent kids

This morning, Scout and Kid 2 left for 5th grade camp.  I had a bunch of work I needed to do before 8am, but unfortunately a work crisis took precedence over my early morning work.  Needless to say, it was a busy, kinda stressful morning.

But Kid 3 ate breakfast, got ready for school (he even made sure to bring the bag of clothes for his Shakespeare play), gathered money to buy lunch (I don't carry any cash) and left for school.  That all seems okay, doesn't it?

Well, he let neither his older brother or me know that he was leaving for school.  And he left 50 minutes early!

It's not cool when you try to get a progress check on how the morning is coming and find that you can't find your second grader.  I did a quick check through the house; his shoes were gone, his backpack was gone.  He must have gone to school.   I remembered hearing the garage door open, but I assumed that someone was putting their swimming stuff in my car,  prepping for the afternoon.

I'm no paranoid parent, but I wasn't going to wait for an hour for the roles to be updated and see if he had made it to school.  Who knew how many more crises the morning would have.  I stopped what I was doing and stormed off to school.

There was no one on the playground, so I went into the office to see where, "if someone came to school really early, where would they wait?"  The office lady was really nice and did a a school wide announcement asking for kid 3 to come to the office and if anyone had seen him this morning.  Almost immediately, the phone started ringing and teachers reported that they had seen him and just a moment later he stuck his head in the office doorway.

All, in all, everything was okay.  But its not cool to realize that your kid isn't in the house and though you have a pretty good idea where he is, not a definite one.  But it just wasn't the way I wanted to start my morning.  Do you know where your kids are?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sometimes the Mega Roll isn't such a great deal

Last week, I needed to do some grocery shopping and I was going to squeeze it in while Kid 3 was at swim practice.  The Factoria Mall in Bellevue was close by and has a Safeway, so I stopped there.

As I was walking towards Safeway, I remembered that there was Target in the mall.  Target has much better prices on things like shaving cream and paper products, so I decided to split my shopping into two chunks and pick up toilet paper and kleenex at Target and the rest of the groceries at Safeway.

Seems like a logical, fiscally prudent thing to do,  no?

What I didn't realize was that the Target was on the opposite end of the mall from Safeway and where I parked.  But it was no biggie, I knew I was going to get the better price on toilet paper.

In the Target, I found the toilet paper section our brand was on sale!  With a small smirk, I knew that I had found the best deal.  As I compared prices (interestingly, Target doesn't post per unit pricing like they do at grocery stores), the Mega Roll package was the best deal.  Sixteen Mega rolls of the right kind of toilet paper (Ultra Soft, not Ultra Strong)  what could be better?

Well, I realized the first downside to the 16 pack Mega Roll. The package is big. Very big.  Having a social conscience, I didn't have Target put my paper in a bag, I carried it in my own two hands, back to my car.  All the way back to my car.  It seemed much further when I was carrying the big package of toilet paper and a several boxes of Kleenex.

I proceeded to buy the rest of my groceries at the Safeway, pick up Kid 3 from swim practice and then return to the Factoria Mall to eat dinner.  Since most Saturday's I'm at one of the Starbucks over there, it prompted this tweet.

I spend too much time in Factoria. Dinner and grocery shopping tonight, Saturday AM at starbucks.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

I was able to get the groceries, the swim bags, Kid 3 and the Mega pack of toilet paper home in my MINI without further incident.  A few days later, Kid 2 comes to me and asks whats up with the toilet paper.  It wouldn't fit on the toilet paper roll holder!

Kid 2 and I took pictures, which I unfortunately cannot find at the moment.  But the roll of toilet paper was 1 inch larger in diameter than the regular sized roll.  Because the paper roll is sort of compressible, it would fit, but the roll wouldn't turn.  There was so much toilet paper, but you couldn't get it when you needed it most.

So, sometimes the Mega Roll might be the best price per square foot of toilet paper, but in the end, its not such a good deal.  At least I got the right kind of toilet paper, not the Ultra Strong kind.

Post Script
While writing this post and looking for the Charmin website, I discovered a free offer, while supplies last, for a Charmin Mega Roll Extender!  Why didn't I discover you sooner?

No more Mr Scruffy

Its done. After 14 days of no shaving, I took it all off.

In the morning, I looked like this:
Scruffy Day 14

and after lunch:

The full day by day slide show is on Flickr.

Which do you like better?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick updates on blogging and shaving

Check this out, everybody.  My wife has started blogging on The Stir at Cafe Mom and her first post was published this morning.  Go read what she wrote!

On other matters, I've continued to not shave (is that proper grammar?) for the ninth day in a row. I don't think I've ever gone this long.

Scruffy Day 9

Check out the full slideshow on my Flickr account.

Happy Hump Day!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I should blog since I'm not shaving

Last week, I crashed on my sisters couch when I was on a trip.  While I brought my full set of toiletries (it fits in a TSA approved quart size ziploc bag), I did not shave in the morning.  When I returned home that evening, I received some rather positive "feedback" from my wife that she liked the scruffy look.

So, I've stopped shaving for a while and am growing out the scruffy look.  Each morning, I've taken a quick snapshot of the daily growth.

While this lasts, I'll keep adding to the slideshow on Flickr.

Let me know what you think of the scruffy look in the comments.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Field trip to the Zoo

Yesterday, my wife and I chaperoned the second grade field trip to Woodland Park Zoo. We really lucked out, because the weather was great in Seattle.

The two of us were assigned two kids to chaperone, one of them being our own Kid 3.  Other groups had a higher kid to parent ratio, but I've gotten used to it. The teacher isn't slighting my ability to supervise kids by giving me a smaller group. I can keep 'em in line better than some!
Doesn't look too hard to keep in line, does he?

But back to the zoo.  It had been a while since I'd been to the Woodland Park Zoo (I think we still had kids in strollers) and I really enjoyed seeing the exhibits.

Kissing Komodo Dragons
 We went into the zoo and all identified what animals we wanted to see and then headed out to find them.  Kid 3 had the map and was pretty good at his map reading skills.  We hit the petting zoo (not open until 11 am - but a good linkup point while Scout paid for parking), the penguins, orangutans, meerkats, komodo dragons and more.

It was a fun field trip and I'm glad that I had the day off to go to the zoo with Kid3 and Scout, and the rest of the second grade.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working over Spring Break

My kids just finished up their two spring breaks.  Why two? One week, the kids had no school and this week that just finished, they had had no swim practice.  During the first week, their mornings were free and in the second, afternoons were free.  I tried an experiment to put them to work during the break.  You'll just have to read the rest to see how it all turned out.

As I've completed my MBA, I've been trying to catch up on the things I've pushed to the side.  Like filing the paid bills and other important papers.  I have a box underneath my desk that I've just been dropping the things to be filed into.  In a functional sense, its an inbox.  But not in a classical sense.  Its much too big, an overflowing moving box for books.

One afternoon, I asked Kid 3 if he could sort the pile which had overflowed to the front of the box (to differentiate what had overflowed to the side of the box).  He gladly took it on and did a bang up job.  He was able to learn the difference between American Express Corporate and American Express Costco.   He noticed the size difference between our mortgage bill and the credit card bill from the same bank.  He sorted them, culled out the envelopes and miscellaneous inserts and filed them in manila folders.

I realized that I had stumbled upon something great!  He was out of school for the next 5 days and his time opportunity costs were much lower than mine (see I learned something from my MBA), so I asked him how much money he'd require to sort the rest of the box.  Learning Number 1 - dollars aren't the correct currency for 8 year olds, Nintendo games are.  So, I offered him one Nintendo Wii game of his choice.  He accepted the offer and said that he'd start on it the next day.

The next day, I had some shopping to do and went to Target.  While I was there, I passed through the toy section and saw the Nerf N-Strike Bandolier Kit set which I thought was really cool would go well to support the Nerf wars which run through our house.

When I mentioned the cool Nerf stuff I saw to Kid 3, he got all excited about it and wanted Nerf stuff instead.  So, I changed our deal to $50 of Nerf stuff.  And asked him when he was going to start.

He said he'd start the next day.  Warning alarms went off in my head, this wasn't going to get anywhere.

We were talking about it at dinner that night and he decided that he wasn't going to do it. It was too much work, but Kids 1 and 2 liked the idea.

I had Kid 3 explain what to do to them and he did, without any biases.  I explained that they would have to split the money, as it was bid as a job and that if all 3 of them worked, they would have to split the money 3 ways.  They all liked the idea and said they would start the next day (do you see a pattern emerging here)?

Well, spring break is done.  The box is still full (in fact I took the picture when I wrote the post, so its much improved over what it looked like at the beginning).  They couldn't go back to school saying "We sorted and filed papers for our spring break. And got paid."

I've sorted some of them, building upon what Kid 3 did.  I owe him 5 bucks for the work that he did, too.  I've even filed the newly received bills in the files that Kid 3 started.  But the box is still there, full to the gills.  I'll work on it and get it knocked out, kid labor or no kid labor.  But, boy would I rather pay my kids a few bucks to get this box out of my home office.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hiking Mt Si

Last week, I took some days off and tried to find someone to go hiking with me.  The Meetup groups I belong to let me down, so I planned a solo hike up Mount Si.  I knew that it wasn't going to be a really solo hike because Mount Si is one of the most popular hikes in the Cascades near Seattle.  Even on a weekday, I came across at least 10 other hiking parties, one of which I knew through my kids swim team!

Mt Si Route

The trail is well maintained and though its steep, gaining 3200' in 4 miles, is a nice hike.  The Thursday I went it rained and snowed and there was a little sun (yes, that covers a few of the 10 Essentials).  The temperature ranged from 40 - 32 degrees and with the effort climbing the trail, I kept plenty warm.

After the first mile, I was really feeling the burn in my legs.  I've had trekking poles, but had never really liked them.  However, having been asked, "Beau, are you just going to carry those poles strapped to your backpack," I decided that I'd give them a try.  The trekking poles made such a difference.  Just using my arms helped take some load off my legs.

But the real difference was on the way down.  I don't have the greatest knees, but the shock absorbers made such a difference.  I know that if I didn't have the trekking poles and my upper body helping on the way down, I would have had to take it much slower and probably wouldn't have been walking very much the next day.

Snow covered branches

At about 2600', there was snow on the ground, but the trail was still clear (its that popular that just the hikers boots kept the trail clear).  At about 2900', the trail was snow covered, not that much, but enough that at times some yak trax would have been helpful.  Even though it was a lot of hard work, it was very relaxing to walk through the woods in the snow.  It was great to clear my head and decompress from work.


When I got to the top of Mount Si, it was socked in. No view, in fact, no view of the peak and its scramble route.  I moved out of the wind and found a place to warm up my rice and curry lunch.  I changed into a dry shirt and put on my vest and hardshell to stay warm.   I was mostly out of the wind, but it snowed about 1/4" while I was eating, enough to fill in my foot prints.

On the way back down, about 3.5 miles from the trail head I found some car keys.  They were attached to a small swiss army knife so I stuck them in a tree at face level so somebody on the way back down might see them.  I thought about it for a while (and called my Dad for some trail etiquette advice) and the carried them to the trailhead.  So, if you lost a set of keys for a Ford and Subaru, they're stuck in the board at the trailhead.

It took me 3 hours to go up and 2 hours to come back down again, with about 45 minutes for lunch (I got really cold or I would have stayed longer).  Mount Si is one of those hikes people use to train for Mount Rainier and I was quite satisfied that I could hike it in a reasonable time, though I was passed by people in both directions.  But it was a great way to spend a day off!  I'll leave you with this picture of me having fun on my day off.

Stopped for lunch

You can see the rest of the slideshow on Flickr.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Busing in some life skills

My kids swim competitively, which translates to someone in our family is at a pool 7 days a week.  And since my wife and I are the only drivers in our family, this really means that my wife (mostly) or me are driving to a pool 7 days a week.  Our kids have moved up swimming groups and the practice schedule has changed to earlier in the day and further away from home.  Kids 1 and 2's practices are at the same place, Seattle University, but Kid 1's is before Kid 2 gets out of school.

To avoid my wife making multiple 30 minute trips to Seattle University and to teach some life skills, we've decided that Kid 1 (age 13) will take the bus.  Its about an hour bus ride on the the express, with one transfer in downtown Seattle.  Yesterday, we did a trial run of the trip with the whole family.

The ride actually went pretty well, and even with a slight delay in the schedule, we still made it in the right amount of time.  It was a bit of a stretch to get Kid 1 to ask the driver where the stop was, since we're not all that familiar with the transfer spots.  We've got a little work to do there, he asked, "Where do I get of for Fourth and Cherry?"  You can laugh, the driver laughed too.

We made it to the pool without event and then did a bit of a walking tour of Seattle, but we needed lunch first.  We walked past a few Ethiopian restaurants and a Haitian restaurant and found a great Vietnamese restaurant, The Lemongrass.  The food was great and the servers were quite friendly.  We were stuffed and needed to walk it off.

In the distance, Scout saw a church steeple and suggested that we walk there.  It was really fun to just wander around, with no particular place to go and take in the sites.  The weather was great, the sky was blue and the spring flowers were blooming.  It was the kind of day which makes for taking great photographs.

Today, he did a solo run and we met him in Seattle.  It was met with a little opposition, but his swimming coach thought that it will teach him to take care of himself.  

Tuesday will be the live run, so we'll see how it goes.  He'll learn how to get around a city and he'll learn some independence and responsibility from it.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

First thoughts on Ubuntu 10.4 beta 1LTS

The beta release of Ubuntu 10.04 came out about two weeks ago, and I've had a chance to play with it off and on.  You can run it from a USB drive and make no changes to your computer, which is quite nice from a testing standpoint.  My thoughts are a little late, since beta 2 is on its way and the final release is due before the end of the month.

As a starting point, I think Ubuntu is great because out of the box, its a full featured operating system.  It comes with an office suite, photo editing software, a music player, software to make backups and more.  More importantly it runs great on older hardware, extending your investment and it runs great on new hardware.  And its free.  Support is as easy as searching a forum.  Free, great and runs on the computer you have right now.

Gwibber - I'm excited about the updated Social Media application, because the latest versions won't run on what I have installed now.It has  nice UI and can update and view updates from many different social networks.  It even shows responses to your friends' statuses on Facebook!

Latest Firefox and OpenOffice - the latest versions are included in this release.  I was able to keep them up to date via standalone installs, but the standalone installs lacked the polish and integration that the Ubuntu team puts on the.  This gives OpenOffice support for the Microsoft Office 2007 formats (docx, pptx, etc).

The UI is pretty slick, too.  The new purple color scheme isn't quite my cup of tea, but it does look nice.  I also noticed some transparency in the in the terminal window which was a nice touch.

The new software center has a nice look for managing what software you have installed.  No need to find a program, download it and install it, using software repositories its a one stop shop!

There are a few disappointments, but not major things.

GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, is not included by default, but that is easily remedied by installing from the software center.

I'm a little saddened by the fact that Pidgin is not the default IM client.  Its replacement, Empathy has some cool features, like integrated video chat and more desktop integration, so I'll give it the old college try.  It currently doesn't support Office Communicator, as plugins for Pidgin do, but its open source, someone will build one.

Probably the biggest issue, as many others have noted is the close buttons on left and side of the window. WTF?  I think its a ridiculous move, but its open source and all configurable by the end user.  How To Geek has a simple post on how to fix it, which will probably be the first thing many users do.

A friend of mine says that Cisco VPN not currently working in this release and has had issues with his Verizon card.  These are important things, but this is just a beta release, so I'm sure that in a few months these will all get cleared out.

All in all, Ubuntu 10.04 will be a nice upgrade and is a Long Term Support release.  There are a few more releases before the final version comes out and I think the Ubuntu Community has done a great job with the Lucid Lynx version.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Changing Templates

Look at how I'm using my new found time!  I'm playing with my blog's templates.  My wife wrote a while back that she didn't like my blog template.  My stock blog template.  The one with terrible use of whitespace.

She found a nice looking one for Wordpress and I started to look into the Wordpress migration.  I hear its a headache, but not impossible.  And a friend of mine showed me Wordpress and it has a pretty nice set of features and is quite extensible.  I was about to really start the migration when, Mashable had a post about free blogger templates and Blogger in Draft released a template designer.

Some of them looked pretty nice, in my design challenged opinion.  So this morning, instead of running, I changed blog templates.
Clean Type
Daily Notes
The current stock template

Let me know what you think.  They all need a little bit of tweaking for my existing widgets (color, number of tweets posted, etc.).  Apurtus was my favorite based upon the preview, but seeing it with my blog, I really like Indicator.  Heather has weighed in that Daily Notes seems to fit my inner geek.

I have a modern, clean design aesthetic, bordering on minimalist.  On my computer, I use a dark theme (Dust for those who use Gnome).

Let me know in the comments.  It's not a democracy, so it won't be straight up votes, but your voice will be taken into consideration.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I checked my grades this morning and they've all been finalized for the quarter. Then later this morning, I got this email.
Good stuff.

Now, I need to have a party.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hitting the road

Now that I'm done with my MBA, I'm getting into those other things that I want do. This morning, I got up earlier (made easier by no late classes) and ran 1.7 miles this AM.
Sunset Runner from joshjanssen on flickr
On the good side, I ran intervals, which felt pretty good considering that it had been a really, really long time since I ran last. And as of the writing of this post, I have no soreness, muscles, knees or otherwise. On the downside, I couldn't find my running pants this morning and my watch/heart rate monitor needs a new battery.

So, I've got a few rough spots to work out, but it felt really good to be running again.

Thanks to joshjanssen for the image.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Done with my MBA, now I've got some free time

After a long 2-1/2 years, I've completed my MBA at the Foster School of Business. On Sunday evening I turned in my last final exam, though Monday morning, I immediately left on a work trip to Oakland. The change in my life is finally sinking in and I'm looking forward to the freedom.

There will be fewer posts and tweets about studying at Starbucks on Saturday mornings, though I'll probably still be hanging out there while my kids are at swim practice. I'm really looking forward to putting back some things in my life that the MBA program pushed aside.
  • Eating dinner with my family - the kids have been quite excited about this one, though we've yet to be able to do it. Family time is important, and I forwent a lot of it for the MBA. On the downside, they're so often at swim practice so, we might get to eat together, but it will be late.
  • Cooking dinner for my family and friends - I really enjoy cooking and with evening classes, I haven't been able to cook for a long time. I've been clipping recipes for a while without trying them out, so I'm ready to get going on this one.
  • Cocktails - I enjoy making cocktails, but I'm a lightweight. With all the late classes and early weekends, I've not been able to enjoy many cocktails. I recently purchased some bakon vodka which I'm excited to try out (Bloody Mary's for Easter Brunch) and a mojarita, a blend of a mojito and a margarita.
  • Putting physical activities back into life - while I was focusing on the mental part of my life, I let the physical part slip. I've not really ran since I started the MBA program. I'd really like to get back in shape and increase my endurance. It will help with the outdoor activities I'd like to do too.
  • Recreational reading - I picked up The Road by Cormac Macarthy and Contagious by Scott Sigler when I was at the library yesterday. It will be nice to read for fun and to read non-business texts. With this weekends swim meet, I've got plenty of time to do that.
  • Adding outdoor activities - I really enjoy hiking, camping and snowshoeing. I've missed our rather weak winter here in the Pacific Northwest, but spring time is coming. With no more weekend study groups, I'll be able to get out with some Meetup groups and take advantage of the Mountaineers membership my wife got me for my birthday. Its probably time to get my snowshoes off the floor in my office and put them away until next season.
  • Geeky tech stuff - I've got some computers that need new power supplies and new hard disks, it will be nice to be able to take care of them. I'm planning on learning more about php and play with the newly created secure areas on my home webserver (and figure out what its actually good for). I'll continue to learn more about Linux; this completion of school is timed perfectly with the release of Ubuntu Lucid 10.04b1. Expect to see some posts about my experiences with that!
  • Blogging - I'm looking forward to having more time to blog. Sure, I've been doing the micro-blogging thing on Twitter, but I enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences. Maybe I'll migrate to Wordpress and fix my template, because Heather so hates my current template. For any of you that might have done that, how did it work out?
The MBA program was a great learning experience and also a great networking experience. Sure I learned all kinds of great things about economics and finance, but the best lesson was that the problems that plague my industry also plague everybody else. Making ice cream has a lot more in common with airplanes, software and coffee than you'd think!

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Kids and Jello, Biafra that is

Warning: This post contains links to hardcore punk rock, which might aurally offend some of my fairer readers. In most office places, schools and churches, this music might not fit in. Just don't click on the links, they aren't necessary for the story. And if The Dead Kennedys fit in your office place and you need an MBA with Supply Chain Management experience drop me a line!

Yesterday, as I was driving the kids home from swim practice, we were listening to Moon Over Marin by the Dead Kennedys.

Kid 2 says from the backseat, "Is this guy part goat?" I had to smile, because I can hear where she's coming from.

If you haven't already, click on the link. I'll wait, while you listen. Listen to the way his voice warbles on the long drawn out words. Can you hear the goat, that my daughter hears?

We drove on and Kid 1 said, "Hey, isn't this the guy who sings..." As the gears in his head were turning, I fatherly pride started to build up. "... Holiday in Cambodia?" Even though we were driving at highway speeds, I gave my son a high five.

Yes, my son recognized The Dead Kennedys. How cool is that.

Shortly thereafter, the playlist moved ahead to a Jay-Z and Alphaville mashup, Young Forever. Yes, Alphaville from your high school prom (I didn't go to mine, so I can't be sure if it was the song at my prom). Its pretty cool. I won't put a link to it, since my warning message was all about hardcore punk, which Jay-Z and Alphaville most certainly are not.

But what was really cool, was that my daughter was signing along with the Alphaville part! It might be "recycled" but if old is new, it's still cool when we can share a musical moment.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Saving the company a buck or two

I returned home from a work trip yesterday and the ride to the airport was the best part. Sure, we got a lot accomplished in the meetings and I was on the way home to my loving family (they saved me a jelly donut), but the ride to the airport was quite entertaining.

My plans were just to take a taxi. I learned there were a few others who were going to the airport about the same time, so we decided to ride together and share a cab. In the last meeting of the day, our small group was offered a ride from another airport bound traveler.

The rental Nissan Altima was the ride for 5 grown adults, all with briefcases, laptop or messenger bags. The humor started when no one could figure out how to open the trunk. No biggie, it was less than 30 minutes to the airport, so we'd just carry our bags on our laps.

Everyone had traveled very light, as it was a day trip for most of the people. We all piled in and the three of us in the back were packed in tightly. At this point, the punchiness really started to show through.
"You're in the safest spot, you've got fully deployed airbags all around you!"
"Yeah, you guys are full of hot air."

Another Nissan Altima drove by and the guy in the middle seat said, "Hey, those people in that car are wondering why all those guys are carrying their bags on their laps."
"When we get the airport, its gonna be like a clown car dumping every body out."

Our driver started to take some windy way to the airport, through a light industrial area. Our CIO said, "I've never been to the airport this way. Are you sure you're taking us to the airport?" At this point, we started to wonder why we couldn't get into the trunk. "Who is in the trunk?"

Stuffed full with 5 grown adults, the little car started to get hot. Two windows were opened, but with my messenger bag on my lap, I could only flail my arms in the direction of the window switch. I was told, "Don't worry about it, you might open the door and we'll all fall out."

Conversation turned to when was everyone's flight. The one who was driving had to return the rental car and had the earliest flight at 6:09. Commenting that it was a strange time for a flight, the front seat passenger looked for the clock. "We need to hurry since your flight is soon. Its 540." Turns out the display he was looking at said 540 AM, but it was late in the afternoon and the display was the radio! So much for easy to read displays in that car.

We drove into the airport and our CIO offered to return the car for the guy driving, so he could make his flight. They guy driving declined and drove us all to the curbside drop off! It was quite nice of him, especially since he was on a tight time frame. He could have taken us with him to return the rental car.

The humor, though, doesn't end here. The backseat passengers all tried to get out of the car, hurrying so that he wouldn't miss his flight, but we couldn't open the doors. We try the lock buttons, the driver tries his lock button, but no luck. It turns out, the child locks were activated! The front seat passenger let us out and we all fell out of the car, laughing out loud.

All in all, we saved the company some taxi fares and had a fun drive to the airport. Early plane flights and all day meetings make people quite punchy! How much fun!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Birthday fun

My birthday was this week, on Thursday, but with my MBA and work and the kids' swimming, a week day birthday is just plain ol' inconvenient. Why can't these things come on the weekend? Heather may say that I'm older than dirt, but I'm not yet old enough to just wish that birthdays would skip me altogether. With all that we've got going on, Heather blocked Saturday for some double-super-secret birthday stuff.

Yes, she needed to block my calendar so that I wouldn't schedule an MBA team meeting or take the kids to swim practice at 5am.

So, after living up to Kid 1's Friday night challenge of staying up past 9:30pm (and he exaggerates, I typically go to bed around 10:30pm), I slept in to a luxurious ridiculously late 7:30am. I think Kid 1 and 2 were already awake, since they slept on the couch in front of the TV. Heather woke up a bit later and we headed out for the secret activities. All I knew was that the required uniform was jeans and a sweater.

It turns out that the sweater was almost overkill, because we had a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest. Crazy, almost spring-like weather (though winter is back today).

Our first stop for the day was a new Dim Sum restaurant which just opened in Issaquah, Macky's Dim Sum Restaurant. The food is good, all very fresh, and not oily, and the owner is quite friendly. It was a great word of mouth marketing find - I discovered it via the Issaquah Press's Twitter page and sent the link on to Heather and she chose it for the our lunch spot. We didn't turn down a dish they brought by and throughly enjoyed every one. The BBQ pork is quite good and the Turnip cake was a surprise delight for Heather. Their dumplings are wonderful, any one of them.

From there, we headed into Seattle. As we approached I-5 North, the traffic was looking awful, but Heather was getting off the freeway at the first exit. I had no clue where we were going - I'm not all that familiar with the area other than thats were Roger used to live. We ended up at the Frye Museum, someplace I'd never been to before. We wandered through and enjoyed the exhibits and we're pleasantly surprised by a new exhibit opening. We got to listen to a presentation about the exhibit, the art and more. The Frye's had quite a penchant for German painters and the salon hanging. I'll have to come here more often: parking and admission is free!

The museum went a bit faster than Heather had planned and so we headed to a park in Seattle, again, someplace we'd never been before. Just picking a destination and seeing whats there was a continual theme of the day, and played out quite well for us. We drove to Golden Gardens Park, but never found any gardens. There were beautiful views of the snow capped Olympic mountains and people and dogs playing on the beach. Heather let me use her camera, but had to remind me to save battery, as our dinner spot was going to have a great view of sunset.

At about 4:30, we headed over to Ray's Cafe for dinner. The timing was perfect, as we were seated the sun began to dance lower on the horizon, illuminating the skyline with a beautiful glow. We started with off-menu (ohh, aren't we fancy) sweet potato fries for an appetizer Heather had the Cioppino (delicious, peppery and creamy) and I had the crab and shrimp cakes (not something you find too often). The portions weren't so large, so that we had room for dessert and we ordered half of the dessert menu and forks all around and shared 5 different desserts. Every single one was great.

After that, Heather told the GPS to direct us home. I think her GPS has routing options of shortest, fastest and creepiest. We drove on surface streets, through a waterfront industrial area and it had to be the creepiest way home. We were only a block from a much larger, well populated, well lit street, but this was the way the GPS took us.

As we were driving South, paralleling I-5, we could see a large, well lit building up on a hill. It had a gigantic round window on it and it looked like a mausoleum. So, we headed out to see what it was. We had a rough idea where we were going and Google maps indicated that there was a cemetery close by, so I figured that it pretty much cemented my guess of a mausoleum.

As we approached the cemetery, I pointed out to Kid 2, the one who is scared of anything zombie related that the barb wire on the cemetery fence was designed to keep people in the cemetery, rather than keep people out. She didn't find it funny. Being that it was also quite dark out didn't help either.

We discovered another park, Volunteer Park, which has an arboretum and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, but couldn't find our mausoleum. As we wandered (driving) through the rather nice neighborhood, we stumbled upon St Marks Cathedral! It was the "masoleum" we were seeing. There is a gigantic rose window which at night, they illuminate so it can be seen from the rest of Seattle. The view from the Cathedral is beautiful - on a clear night like we had, you could see the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle and more.

Having found our mystery destination, we headed home. It was an enjoyable day, out and about with my family. I enjoy visiting museums and spending time with my family relaxing.

Thanks Heather and Kids 1, 2 and 3 for the great day!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snowshoeing at Gold Creek Basin

A few weeks ago, I asked my wife if she'd like to go snowshoeing as a family and she said that she'd like to, as long as we went for under 3 hours. Anytime getting into the woods and snow is great by me, so I agreed to that constraint. I sought out some locations where the elevation gain was minimal and we went out Saturday afternoon.

The kids had swim practice that morning, so Kids 1 and 2 and I were all up just after 5am. After their practice, I rented snowshoes at the Issaquah REI and headed home for lunch and final preparations. I've taught the kids enough about layering, that they're pretty good at getting the right gear for a day outdoors in winter, but there is always something that is hard to find. This time it was sunglasses, though lucky for them, it was quite hazy in the mountains. With a warm lunch of Macaroni and Cheese in our stomachs, we headed up to Snoqualime Pass.

I had read about Gold Creek Basin, and with its total elevation gain of only 400 feet over the 4 mile trail, that was where we were headed. A Washington Sno-Park pass is required to park there (which I had to run in and buy online while everyone sat in the car ready to go) and the "trailhead" is pretty easy to find. As you drive along FS 4832, you'll come to FS 144 just after the valley opens up. You can walk up the FS road with some small lakes on your left.

The first 4 miles (though we didn't go that far) stay in relatively safe avalanche terrain, though our weekend it didn't matter. There had been freezing rain all morning and there was a significant crust. While it didn't bond much with the snow below, it did make the snowshoes almost unneccessary and provided continual enjoyment for the boys to break off large sheets of crust.

On the off-chance that we'd find some spots to sled, the boys dragged sleds behind them. They didn't lag too much, but I didn't mind either, as I was also doing a bit of a load test myself. Next week, a friend and I are going snow camping and I was seeing how much stuff I could get into my daypack. Its a larger daypack (45 L), but I was only able to get 3/4 of what I wanted to carry in there. I'd be okay if I wasn't interested in eating! I also was reminded to think of how I load gear in a pack - it turns out I loaded all of my liquids (2 L water and 1/2 L hot cocoa) all on one side of my pack. Our trip wasn't long enough nor my pack heavy enough for it to bother me, but its a good thing to remember. I'll use my larger pack next week and have plenty of space.

Scouts Honor, Kid 2, 3 and I stuck to the road, but Kid 1 snowshoed through the trees. Since he was in the trees, he could see the lakes better and when there was an iced over part of the lake, he asked if we could go down there. We went down a steeper portion (reminder of the lesson: when you have trekking poles, you don't need them, when you don't have them is when you really want them) which everyone slid on their butts down the hill and stopped for some pictures by the lake.

As boys will do, there was some more exploring of the ice along the edge of the lake, when Kid 1 realized that "the snow next to the ice is actually over ice over water." Unfortunately, he learned this lesson when one foot broke through over the top of his boot. Luckily, it was just above freezing, he was wearing no cotton, his boots (my old Intermediate Cold Weather boots) are prett good and we weren't too far from our car, we were able to continue on without having to stop and change a sock.
Post Card Views
We could see the road on the other side of the lake and decided that we would walk around the lake as our way back to our car. Others had snowshoed before us around the lake so we just followed their path on an easy jaunt around the lake. Kid 3 asked if we could stop for a break and we broke out the hot cocoa. As we sat there an enjoyed our still quite hot beverage, ScoutsHonor kept saying that we had postcard views. The view was beautiful and it turns out that at that spot, we only took pictures with her camera! We sat there on the side of the trail until the cold started to seep through ScoutHonor's pants and headed onward.
My favorite view of all
Because we were so close to the summit and the ski area, we still had cell phone coverage. Everyonce in a while, I could feel my phone in my pack vibrate, but Kid 2 was texting her friends and posting to facebook.

I used my Christmas present GPS to check the time and when sunset was and we had only about 45 minutes before sunset and the clouds were already low-hanging. We continued on around the lake, ScoutsHonor setting a little quicker pace, until we found a small knoll where some other people were sledding. The total height was maybe 10 feet at the highest, but it was steep enough that the sleds would go. The kids got several runs in and even made a little jump. I started to get cold there (I didn't layer up like I did when we stopped for cocoa) and we headed off.

The sun had set by the time we made it back to the car and there were still 1 snow shoer and 1 cross-country skiier who were heading out. Kid 2 had her headlamp, though it wasn't because she was bringing the 10 Essentials, she wanted to be able to read in the car as we drove home.
All in all, it was a fun afternoon. The snow conditions were terrible and at that elevation only about 3 feet deep which will make digging a snow cave a little challenging next week, but we still were outside. My GPS told me we went for just over 2 miles in 2-1/2 hours (70 minutes moving, 80 minutes stopped) which meet Scouts's time and distance criteria. Gold Creek Basin is a fun place to come for an easy cross-country ski, snowshoe, or if the conditions are "right" just a walk in the woods. There's not much opportunity for sledding, but the views are beautiful.
And yet another one of the views

Take Exit 54 off I-90. Go north. under overpass a few hundred yards. & turn right onto F.S. Rd. 4832 & head east approximately 1 mile. on this road that parallels the westbound lanes of I-90. Park along the shoulders of the road near the small bridge, by FS 144. There were porta-potties there when we went in early January.