Alex's Personal Blog

News and updates for friends and family

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Laziness = try Blogger [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 09 Jul 2004 by

Since I've been promising everybody for the last several years that I would have my personal web site set up but still have yet to finish I finally decided to start a Blogger account so I can share my daily thoughts and discoveries with all of you. Thanks for stopping by. I will post an announcement here when my personal website is ready (some time before the new millenium).

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Election Over.... Let's Move On [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

For months we've been battling with commercials, telephone calls, flyers, and weekly visits from some political party or another. I've never felt so harassed during an election year in my life. Though not as happy with the outcome as I'd like to be I am happy to be moving on.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

World of Warcraft - Final Stress Test/Open Beta [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

I recently got on the "team" that is helping to test Blizzard's new MMORPG World of Warcraft. I must say that I'm pleasantly impressed. Not only is it colorful and easy to get into. There is a deceptive amount of depth to the game. The fact that it's also a part of the Warcraft Universe is a definite plus as well. I've been beta-testing EverQuest 2 for the past few weeks and have enjoyed myself but I found it a little difficult to get into (though less so than the original). The environments were big and beautiful, the quests were plentiful and there were always plenty of monsters to kill to build your characters up. One of the things that I really don't like about it is the fact that when you die you lose some experience that was, most likely, quite difficult to earn in the first place. When you're trying to complete what is supposed to be a simple quest and you keep getting killed because you're being forced into an area that you, as a low-level character, just shouldn't have to go into it gets a little frustrating. World of Warcraft, on the other hand, does not penalize you for taking risks. If you die you become a ghost and have to find your body. Other than that you can pretty much go anywhere without fear of losing some of your hard work. Another great thing about World of Warcraft is that you don't have to play it 24/7 to get anywhere. Most MMORPGs pretty much require that you're playing around the clock to compete with everybody else that's playing. In World of Warcraft you get experience bonuses for taking a rest every now and then. In other words sit still in the game or actually logoff. As a result of playing pretty much all day yesterday I've decided to preorder the game. It's very open-ended, it's easy to get into and it's not overly frustrating. As a casual MMORPG player I needed a game like this to come along. Hopefully the monthly fees won't be too expensive!

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Blogger Visited by the Secret Service [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

After the last presidential election a blogger named Annie posted some rather harsh criticisms of our beloved president. Because of the things she said she was recently visited by the secret service. Luckily after talking with them for a few minutes they realized that she wasn't a threat to national security and they went on their way. Unfortunately for her she now has a file with the FBI. Sucks to be her. Check out her Blog Post for details.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Astronaut First to Vote for President From Space [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

This is an interesting article from USA Today discussing the first astronaut to vote for president from space. An interesting point was brought up on a different blog that I read regularly: if you can vote electronically from space why is it so difficult for us to get it right on Earth?

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Election Results by County [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

I found this interesting graphic that was generated from the election results based on county. As usual the democratic color is blue and the republican color is red. Each county is mixed with a percentage of each color to give you an idea of how spread the vote was. I didn't explain it very well but once you see it you'll understand what I mean.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Apparently Kerry actually won [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 04 Nov 2004 by

Come on! You knew this was coming.... According to Tom Pain Kerry actually won the election. Somebody file a lawsuit! Isn't that the new American way?

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

The Internship Continues... [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 05 Nov 2004 by

I just found out today that the internship that I've been doing since July at Attachmate in Bellingham has been extended through the end of the year. This news is definitely a relief as I thought I might be out of a job for a month or more while finishing my degree. Hopefully this will make the transition from intern to full-time employee a little less stressful. With any luck I'll even get one of the full-time jobs I applied for at Attachmate in Bellevue. It would definitely be nice not to have to start at yet another company.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Posting Galore [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 06 Nov 2004 by

You'll have to excuse the number of times that I've posted the last couple of days. I've been wanting to do this for a while but just haven't made the time. With any luck it will slow down in a couple more days.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

Post OC lament [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 08 Nov 2004 by

Okay, so the premeir of the OC wasn't as funny or charming as some previous episodes have been, and Marissa's infamous lounge-chair-into-pool-freak-out was anticlimactic at best, but there's inrigue and hope in Theresa's tricky maneuver on Ryan, who can now skip happily into the life of privilege and frolic among the rich and tan. Since King George was reelected, I've decided to go ostrich for awhile and listen to happy music, watch happy movies (okay, Saved was only kind of happy, but really good, and Eternal Sunshine was sweet and happy and good too) and eat happy food--potato skins, salmon, apple crisp. Happy Monday.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

The Real da Vinci Code [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 09 Nov 2004 by

  This reads like an episode of <a href="http://www.abc.com">ABC</a>'s Alias.
  &quot;Is his mysterious three-wheeled cart a proto automobile? A remote-controlled robot? A rolling Renaissance computer? The quest to rebuild Leonardo's 'impossible machine.'&quot;
  by Tom Vanderbilt

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:45 -0800

The Cranky Gardener [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 by

The people in my family all seem to be gardeners so when I saw this t-shirt I thought it would be worth the investment for them. You can find this and many other great shirts at T-Shirt Humor. WARNING: Many of them are not for the faint of heart. :)

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Why JSP sucks [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 by

Java Server Pages are a technology that attempts to separate server-side Java code and HTML markup. Personally I love it but the guy who wrote this article makes some very good points about the flaws in JSP.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Missing: Woman's Finger Tip (REWARD) [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 by

How on earth this story got past me I don't know. This story is about a month old now but for those that haven't heard... Apparently a woman was "dining" at a San Jose Wendy's when she found a little more than beans and ground beef in her chilli. To her dismay she found a finger tip and a fingernail in it as well.I have three questions for this woman:How did you get the finger from the bowl to her mouth without noticing it on her spoon?And (more importantly) how in the hell did she manage to get both finger and nail in the same, small bowl of chili?Highly suspicious. I'm told that the woman has been known to make false accusations at companies to, presumably, get some nice settlements.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Is the lone coder dead? [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 by

There's a great discussion going on over at Slash dot about the demise (yes/no) of the single person software company. What gets me about this is that the U.S. patent office provides very little protection for small software businesses like this. If you happen to write some sort of ground-breaking new software product and you are able to get a patent on it you are responsible for defending that patent if somebody is infringing upon it. In other words the small company is left to hire lawyers (which is an expensive venture) to take on possibly large companies which have (and can afford) their own legal team. Inevitably the original idea will be "stolen" and there really isn't a whole lot a single person can do about it. As a single developer why innovate if your great idea has such a good chance of being stolen eventually?

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

American Dreams commercial free... at a price [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 23 Nov 2004 by

Sunday night, as usual, Sari and I sat down to watch our favorite show, American Dreams. We were especially excited about it this week, not only because of what was going to happen on the show but the fact that "commercial interruption" was to be limited because of a sponsorship from Ford. What I didn't realize was that no commercials came at a cost. Throughout the show there were pictures of old Mustangs with the Ford logo near them; on trucks, the back of magazines, on TVs that were on, everywhere. It was actually kind of fun to notice all the blatent advertising that was barfed all over the show. One character even asked, "Hey Jack, have you seen that new Ford Mustang?" The grand conclusion of the show was J.J. Pryer being given a brand new Mustang as his reward for coming home from Vietnam unscathed. Cheesy but he deserved it. The only commercial that was played was when the show was finally over. Ford had apparently been given about five minutes worth of air time to advertise their new Mustang (imagine that). The story was essentially the same as American Dreams. A young man finally comes home from war and as a result gets a new Mustang. It was like watching the American Dreams episode over again but during present day America. Don't get me wrong the message that was being communicated was very noble; so noble in fact that I agree with it (support our troops, stay safe, etc) it just amazed me how far a company will go to advertise their product.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

World of Warcraft [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 by

I posted a while ago about joining the beta of a game called World of Warcraft. The testing went very well and as of a week ago the game was released. I was lucky enough to be among one of the first 200,000 to play the game upon release. You read right... 200,000. 250,000 were sold all around the world on the first day of release. As a result the game servers were packed. The first two days were crazy. You couldn't go anywhere in the virtual world without running into hundreds of other players. Because of the demand for the game the server's would frequently grind to a halt causing all sorts of problems. Blizzard started with about 41 servers in the U.S. alone but quickly added 34 more servers to balance the load. Although there were a few hiccups at launch all the problems seem to be sorted out for the most part and it has been a very enjoyable and exciting gaming experience. Considering the host of problems that have plagued the launch of MMORPGs in the past I'd say that this has been an incredibly successful launch. Blizzard's tech support has been working on the game around the clock to make sure that every player has a great experience. It seems they've done it again. Here's a review of the game to get an idea of how great it is.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Graduation, Job and Moving [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 06 Mar 2005 by

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted last. It looks like November was the last time. A lot has happened since then. I think now that things have started to settle a little bit for me it's time for an update. First of all there's graduation. Yes, after six years of being in school I've finally graduated with a degree in Computer Science, a minor in Mathematics and a Web Programming certificate. All this stuff ended up being a ridiculously high 250 credits or so. It was certainly worth the time and effort though from there it was time to enter the real world...Next on the list is the job hunt. Well, lucky for me a few weeks before graduation I had gotten an interview with Amazon.com. Three phone screens and five onsite (yes, five, though they were all the same day) interviews later I have started there. I've now been there about six weeks and couldn't be happier with it.The environment is entertaining and above all challenging. My first day (week/month) was very overwhelming. There was, as you can imagine, a ton of information to learn. Even after six weeks there is still a ton of information to learn. In fact it seems like the more I learn the more I discover to learn. From what I've been told at about the four or six month mark is when most people just click with the environment. I'm not quite there yet.One more major thing to report... Sari and I have started renting a house in the Ravenna neighborhood in Seattle. It's about three blocks away from University Village which has a QFC with a Bruegger's Bagels (the best bagels and sandwiches), a Jamba Juice (my favorite alternative to the Starbucks next to work), an Apple store (this could get me in trouble) and many other assorted goodies. There is also a Kidd Valley (great burgers and shakes) a short walk away. I never really have to wander far from home to get the things I "need".Unfortunately for the moment Sari is still in Bellingham as she's finishing off school. She'll be done in June though, so it won't be too much longer that we're apart.I also want to apologize for the lack of updates over the last several months. The lack of having my own space to do my own thing has pretty much destroyed any motivation that I might have had to do the things that I want to do. It's strange how my mind works.With any luck I'll get off my butt and start posting a bit more often. I would really like to start showing off some pictures that I've been taking. It may be a little bit longer before that is a reality but, with any luck, it'll be sooner than later.

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Marlow about to have a baby! [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 06 Mar 2005 by

For my birthday last September I got the wonderful news that my good friends Matt and Marlow were going to have a baby. As I've been going through several life changes lately I hadn't seen them since I got the news. As luck would have it we finally got in touch with each other this week and hung out for a few hours and caught up. Though she would probably kill me if she knew that I was posting for all to see this is a picture that I took at the end of the visit.She's due on March 9th. My prayers go out to them as the get ready to welcome their new daughter Harper Shawn...

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Pager Duty at Amazon [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 08 Mar 2005 by

Only a job that I truly love could motivate me to get out of bed at 2:45a and work. Ah the joys of being on pager duty (for the first time I might add). The truth is this has been the worst of it which isn't really that bad it's just that it's now almost 5:00a and I'm still making sure things are okay.What can I say? This is love. :)

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

The Joys of Digital Photography [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 08 Mar 2005 by

I've been wanting to get a digital camera for quite a while now. Because of school and not working full-time, though I really couldn't justify the prohibitive cost of a camera that I would actually enjoy. When I finally graduated and got a job I decided to take the plunge. I ended up buying a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 based on my father's recommendation (he has one of the previous Lumix iterations). This is definitely a purchase I am happy with. The 12x optical zoom is great and that it has image stabalization is very handy.Though I haven't had a chance to play with all the features of the camera here are a few sample shots that I took of our cats Tigger and Lola:

Tagged: all personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Mysteriously Honest Display of Emotion [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 13 Apr 2005 by

This morning I got on the bus to work, as usual, and sat across from a middle-aged woman... and her dog. This was not the unusual bit, however. I opened up my book (again, as usual) and tried escaping to the magical world of Harry Potter. To my dismay the escape didn't last long. About half way through my bus ride I realized that somebody on the bus was crying. I looked up from my book to discover the woman with the dog reading her own novel and openly crying; not just tearing up, mind you, but full on crying, presumably at the story she was reading. Unfortunately I wasn't brave enough to look at what she was reading. I like to think it was a tragic romance novel.To be clear, this post is not meant to poke fun. I think it's great that she was comfortable enough to display her emotions so openly in front of several complete strangers.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Hats of Meat [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 by

  <img src="http://www.hatsofmeat.com/Images/2a.jpg" />      "One always looks neat, in a hat made from meat."      -Mark Twain
  'nough said.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:46 -0800

Cube MP3 Player [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 by

This is the smallest MP3 player I've ever seen. Very cool. Check it out.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

GTA not a factor in murder case, at least not yet [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 by

A man who used the "Grand Theft Auto" made me do it argument is going to jail, but a civil suit still looms. A media circus looms, too. I did a presentation on this very subject my last quarter in college. Hopefully they won't hold the game developer responsible.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Sari and I got pierced! [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 24 Aug 2005 by

She got her nose done and I got my eye-brow done again. I was told by the guy that did it that my previous piercing was done very poorly. It should never have been done right above my eye but more to the side of it (like it is now). Let this be a warning to all potential piercers that live in Bellingham, Wa: DON'T go to Kalamalka Studios on Meridian. They're horrible and I'm not the only one that thinks so..Bad Kalamalka. If you ever feel like getting a piercing or a tattoo done and you're in the Seattle area we highly recommend Apocalypse Tattoo as the location is clean and the staff are awesome.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Six Feet Under [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 04 Sep 2005 by

Sari and I just started watching Six Feet Under thanks to Netflix. Though the basic premise of the show seemed a little bit out there, we've been very curious about it. We had heard a lot of good things about the show from friends and family so we decided to give it a try. The show is definitely unusual. It's about a family that runs a mortuary. Each episode covers somebody's death and how it affects the family (as well as any other family drama going on). As with most pilots it was a bit slow but each successive episode gets better and better. We're hooked.It's been nice to have something to watch as we've been without cable at our new place for ages. There are no cable outlets in the house (except for the floors above and below us) and it would cost about $100 to have one put in in an appropriate spot. Instead we've opted to stay subscribed to Netflix and use the money that we're saving (along with some extra) to go to Europe next year. We really want to go to England, to visit some of my family, and France.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Eric Conveys an Emotion [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 07 Sep 2005 by

Eric Conveys an Emotion is a site devoted to... conveying requested emotions. The idea behind this site is so simple but he's got some really funny pictures there. My favorite so far is "Like Taking Candy From A Baby" (pictured) but "Inner Child" is also really good. Check it out...

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Apple iPod nano [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 07 Sep 2005 by

Apple has done it again. It seems they've combined concepts from the iPod shuffle, mini and original iPod to come up with this little beauty. It's definitely going on my wishlist.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

World of Warcraft Collectable Card Game [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 11 Sep 2005 by

If you've read any of my previous posts you'll know that I've been playing World of Warcraft since the beta test period a year ago. It's the first game in a very long time that has held my attentio for so long. Now Blizzard Entertainment is teaming up with Upper Deck to create a collectable trading card game that can also be used to get special items or priveleges in the actual online game. This was actually announced a few weeks ago but I thought I'd post a comic that sums it up pretty well (click on the image to get a larger version of it). Now that I'm making more money at Amazon I guess I'll have to start spending it on cards too. When will it end?

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

iPod nano Review and Destruction [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 12 Sep 2005 by

ars technica have posted a review of the new iPod nano which includes a "high impact" stress test which includes the normal drops but also includes being thrown from a speeding (50mph) car, being dropped from about 40 feet and being run over by a car... twice! The nano heald up surprisingly well. If you're interested in the new iPod then you'll definitely want to give it a read as it's very informative.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Concerns over iPod nano Being Too Thin... [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 by

I'm not quite sure how to summarize this one so I'll just steal a quote from the article itself... The iPod Nano joins a long line of negative cultural stereotypes, including the Barbie doll, the stick insect and Lindsey Lohan. While the comparison may not be entirely fair (the iPod is a far better actor), there is no doubt that the tech industry is fuelling an unhealthy trend with its ceaseless "thin and light" gimmickry. And while the original iPod was once considered slender, the release of the somewhat-slinkier Nano has made it look like a veritable beefcake. As one iPod owner explains, "I used to think my iPod was attractive, but now I realize it’s morbidly obese."He made some very good points.Is the iPod nano Too Thin?

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

The Onion Predicts the Five Blade Razor! [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 15 Sep 2005 by

It seems Gilette took the Onions predictions from February 2004 (WARNING: the language is colorful) to heart and created a five blade razor. Way to go! Here's some more coverage of the accomplishment:http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/09/15/business/razor.php

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Chew & Butts [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 by

This is a picture of a smoke shop that we found on the way home from the Gorge a couple of years ago.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:47 -0800

Fiona Apple at the Moore Theatre [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 by

Sari and I are at the Moore Theatre waiting for Fiona Apple to come on stage. For those of you that have never been here's a quick snapshot of the stage.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Brokeback Mountain at the Egyptian [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 by

Roland, Sari and I are at The Egyptian on Broadway in Seattle geting ready to watch Brokeback Mountain. It's had some very positive reviews so we're looking forward to it. brief review after the movie...Brokeback Mountain was actually pretty good. It seemed like a fairly believable story. The only problem I had with it is that it tended to be rather slow and repetitive at times. I would say that if you can see it as a matinee it would be well worth the money. I wouldn't pay full price for it though.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Hockey in Everett [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 21 Jan 2006 by

Sari and Roland and I are at a hockey game in Everett. The Everett Silvertips vs. The Vancouver Giants. It's my and Rolands first hockey game. It should be a fun time.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Clumsy Skateboarder [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 by

Funny story.... We're on our way to Eugene, OR to visit some family and we just stopped in Olympia to get some coffee. We were trying to take a right through a cobble stone crosswalk and a skate boarder was skating really slowly through, to the point of the light turning red. We honked our horn to get him out of the middle of the road and in his haste to turn around and glare at us his board slipped out from under him, he fell on his butt and spilled his coffee in the street. He was okay just a little embarrassed. I'm ashamed to say that I laughed. I really wish that I had been quick enough with my video camera. It definitely would've won on AFHV.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Eugene: The Trip So Far [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 28 Jan 2006 by

We spent most of the day yesterday driving down to Eugene to visit some extended family. After spending some quality time with then we're on our way north again to visit Sari and Roland's dad. This visit should be a bit more fun as we'll have a hot meal ready for us and be able to spend the night there instead of staying at a motel which will save us about $130. I believe it's fancy hamburgers and some crab on the menu. I'll feel a lot better when we're back at home though. I have a lot of pictures from this trip as well as a large backlog of others to post when I get back. I got some really good ones of Roland and a cow (together and seperately)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Roland Coming Home [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 by

We're in the final stretch of our trip, just now leaving St. Helens. Roland is having to leave his parents and all his friends behind to come stay with us for good in Seattle. He's incredibly brave for taking such a risk at his age. I hope that we can teach him what he wasn't learning in his home-town. With any luck he'll be starting school this week so he'll have more to do than playing video games, watching movies and playing on the computer.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Eugene Photos [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 29 Jan 2006 by

I thought I'd get pictures up quickly for a change. I just downloaded all the photos from my camera from our Eugene trip for your enjoyment. There are quite a few "repeated" photos and some aren't in focus very well but I think I got rid of most of the messy ones.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Seahawks Getting the Shaft?!?! [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 by

I'm funny with sports. I'm not a big sports guy but when I do watch them I get a bit psycho. I can't do it often because I get really angry and stressed out, especially when bad calls are made. I did it when I watched the Aussie Rules Grande Final and I'm doing it again with the Super Bowl today. Is it just me or are the Seahawks getting the shaft? There have been some really bad calls in this game which have cost the Seahawks two possible touchdowns and garnered the Steelers a touchdown they shouldn't have gotten. The refs are just stupid! ;-)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Seahawks in the Super Bowl [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 by

Choke, choke, choke!

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Everything Ends [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 02 Apr 2006 by

Sari and I just finished watching the last season of Six Feet Under and boy was it good. All the seasons have been incredibly satisfying in their own ways but the last season made me happy, angry and sad all at the same time. The show was concluded with the best finale I have ever seen. When I first started watching the show and found out there were only 5 seasons I was very disappointed. I think that if the show had gone on longer it would've started to lose some of its magic. The writing was incredible, the deaths were creative and the characters were all believable.If you haven't seen Six Feet Under or only seen the first few episodes I would highly recommend renting it. I've never been so hooked on a show before.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

It's A Boy! [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 02 Apr 2006 by

In slightly different news my sister had her baby finally and it's a boy! His name is Daschiell Gordon Polson. As soon as I get some pictures I'll post them.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Heading to Hawaii [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 08 Apr 2006 by

In about four hours Sari and I will be on our way to Hawaii. I'll be taking pictures and keeping a journal of what we do. See you all next week. [Posted]

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Alex's New Geeky Blog!

Posted: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 by

I've been wanting to create a new blog for my nerdier, less family-oriented side for a while but never really put the time in. Not much here yet but this is a good start.

Tagged: introduction
Updated: 2012-02-24 12:37:55 -0800

Establishing Habits [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 22 Sep 2016 by

Organizing projects to find common ground and plan them Inspiration without action is wasteful Using psychology of Habitica to help me get things done

Tagged: habit

House Hunting Blues [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 12 Jun 2006 by

Sari and I have been looking for a house for the last three weeks. We were preapproved for a loan about a month ago and started looking right away. Nevet in my wildest dreams did I think that finding a house would be so difficult. Last Monday (Jun. 5) we put an offer on a house that was in the Greenwood neighborhood in Seattle. The asking price was $379k but as we knew there were going to be multiple offers we offered $400k. The house ended up selling for $460k! The truth is that even if we had that much money we wouldn't have paid that much for it. We took comfort in that until tonight.After being discouraged with our first offer we finally found a house on Saturday that we really liked. It was the last of 10 houses that we had looked at that day. It was a bit farther north but still reasonably close to Aurora, Greenlake, etc. The asking price this time was $370k. Again we offered $400k and again some ass came in and will end up paying about $440k! This is getting frustrating.Sari and I are willing to push the financial limits with our first house. What we're not willing to do is compromise on what we get in a house just because some arrogant snobs are buying all the houses we like. We're not willing to buy a 2 bedroom fixer in south Seattle. All we can do at this point is be patient. People tell us on a daily basis that our house will come along. The question is will we be up against somebody who's willing to pay $80k-90k more than we are?

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

House Found! [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 by

Just a few days after posting about how we haven't had any luck with finding a house we found one, made an offer and had it accepted! You can see it's stats at John L. Scott. Here's a picture of it:

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:48 -0800

Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band Drummer) #41 [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 by

 

My dad just sent me a video of 12 year-old drumming prodigy Tony Royster Jr. and it inspired me to look for some videos of my favorite drummer Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band. If you want to see more check out this list on YouTube.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

New Look [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 23 Dec 2006 by

With the release of the new version of Blogger I decided to update the look of my site. It's a little more flashy then what I'm used to but I like it.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

New Years Resolutions (a bit late) [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 by

One of my new years resolutions is to do my best to stay in touch with the people that I care about. Historically I'm horrible about keeping in touch but I'm slowly getting better at it. When I've tried in the past I've done an all or nothing approach which generally works for a little while but then I fall back into the same old, bad habits. I've decided to take baby-steps this time. My first step is to respond to emails within a few days (so far so good). I think my second step will be to try and call somebody I haven't talked to in a while at least once a month. So far I missed January but I talked to my friend David Clawson for about 45 minutes the other night which was very cool. I haven't heard from him in ages so it was a real pleasure. My next step is to email Leanne Grimsby and Amy Olson, both of which I haven't talked to in ages. Once I've gotten that far I'll take a giant leap by starting to write to my family in England. I've only been over there twice to visit them so I hardly know them. It sounds rather morbid but I would hate for my Nan (grandmother on my mother's side) to pass away when I hardly even know her. I recognize her voice, I know a little bit about her and I have some fond memories of her. She bought me one of my first video games when I was young and she came over here when my mum was learning how to drive a stick-shift. My mum was taught that before starting up the car you need to make sure that it's in neutral, so she would "wiggle, wiggle" the stick-shift to make sure. I distinctly remember getting in the car with both my Nan and mum and having Nan say, "wiggle, wiggle" in her wonderfully comforting voice. It's really strange the things that you remember. Even now I can't help but tear up over those memories and how much I miss her and the rest of my family.One of my second resolutions was to post to my blog more often. Too often I find myself bottling a lot of stuff in which can be very harmful to your health. Having a place to vent, even if it's in public, is incredibly therapeutic. The stuff about my family in England above pretty much came out of nowhere. I started typing and couldn't stop. Thus, lesson learned.

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

I'm moving up in the world! [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 by

For the last two years I've been working for a support team. Basically what that entailed was dealing with problems related to the 5 different teams that we supported. Every three months or so we would start supporting a new team out of the five so we could get our hands wet with their software and learn how all the pieces work together. My official title was "Support Engineer". Here's the view from outside my office. Not bad.Now that I've been promoted I'm actually working on one of the teams that my previous team supported. Instead of doing support (grunt) work I'm now writing code and handling more complicated issues and projects. I already know everybody on the team and the manager, Mike Bundy, has been great with making me feel welcome. there are only 6 people on the team with one person leaving on Monday so it's very tight-knit.Definitely a step in the right direction. I've been asked by several people what my long-term goals are at Amazon. For the last two years it's been simply to get to where I am now. I have absolutely no idea where I want to go from here! :)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

Drunken Australian catches shark with his bare hands [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 16 Feb 2007 by

The headline pretty much says it all. It appears all those stereotypes about Australians aren't stereotypes at all! ;-)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

Kirsten Gets a Promotion! [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 20 Feb 2007 by

After two years of being an assistant manager for a few Starbucks stores in Bellingham and the Seattle area Kirsten is being promoted to a manager! Starting in March she'll be the manager of the Fremont store, just her style. To celebrate we went out and had some crab. Congrats Kirsten!

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:49 -0800

Fun with the Oil Furnace [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 24 Feb 2007 by

I was at home Friday night and noticed that the house was starting to get cold. I didn't really think about it until later on when I tried to turn the heat up and have nothing happen. The whole "you need to put oil in your oil furnace" thing had finally caught up with me We moved into our new house last July and ever since I had been putting off organizing an oil company to come fill up our tank regularly. When the tank dried up so did our heat.Back in September we had a company called Rossoe accidentally (on purpose) deliver some oil to our house meaning to deliver it to our neighbors. Needless to say I wasn't too impressed with how that whole situation went down. Unfortunately as it was a Saturday they were they only companies able to help us out. I've been determined not to use them for our oil company but as my pride comes second to a warm home I swallowed it and called them up. They filled our oil tank Saturday afternoon and when we got home from dinner and a play we were able to reset the furnace and have a warm house again.For those of you out there that have an oil furnace take my advice. Don't let it dry up. It sucks!

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

Goals for 2013

Posted: Thu, 03 Jan 2013 by

Almost 4 years ago, around this time I wrote about doing new year's resolutions differently. It's funny to look back that far and read about my good intentions in that single post but not reading anymore about my goals that I mention again. This year I'm going to attempt to identify what I've done wrong in the past and do things differently so that I can feel like I accomplish more in the year and avoid insanity.

Lets have a look at the goals I set 4 years ago and see how I've ended up:

  • Writing more: Technically I did write more (from 0 to some) but certainly far less than what I had intended by saying "more".
  • Continue to improve healthy habits: This is probably the one I've done the best at. Though I was hesitant in the original post I did end up running my first half-marathon in 2009 and have run several races since, including a full marathon in 2011.
  • Accomplish more personal projects: There have been a few minor things that I've done under this high-level goal though the only specific thing that I can think of is writing my own blog platform which I only just accomplished in 2012 (and am using now to share this post).

What exactly was it that was missing from the goals I set back then? First of all they were too vague. Take the writing goal for instance. The goal that I set didn't provide any specific means for measuring its success or failure. Again, technically I met the goal given that I wrote more than nothing but I don't feel that the goal was met. If I had come up with something more specific like "Write at least one blog post a month" it would've been much easier to measure the success or failure.

The second thing I should have provided for the goals was a time frame for accomplishing them. The "once a month" goal above would've have worked well for the writing goal. Really any timeframe other than "by the end of the year" would've been a big help in preventing procrastinating with regards to the goals.

One last thing that I can think of that would've helped is occasionally checking in to see how much progress I was making towards the goals to see if the goals should be adjusted, if they ended up being too unrealistic or weren't specific enough.

Now that I have these things in mind what goals am I going to set for 2013 you ask? While I have some specific goals in mind but I want to give some time to thinking about what those goals are and put together a plan for how I want to accomplish them. So really my first goal for the year is to come up with goals for the year. Sounds kind of silly but if I take the time to plan them out I think I have a much better chance of accomplishing them in 2013. I'm committing to coming up with more specific plans by Sunday evening (Jan. 6). That's not to say I'm going to have the whole year planned but at least have a few specific plans in mind to get started on.

Hopefully by this time next year I'll be able to look back and feel like I've accomplished what I set out to.

Updated: 2013-01-03 09:42:16 -0800

Checking in...

Posted: Sun, 16 Sep 2018 by

Every now and then I'll open up my blog (if you can call it that) to see when the last time I wrote something of use. I've always liked writing, but have been horrible at getting in the habit of doing so. This is clearly the case since I haven't written since early 2013 (more than 5 years ago at this point) and, embarrassingly, was me proclaiming I was going to get "this and that" done by the end of the year. While setting goals is good, I've learned from experience that the goals that I need to set need to generally be smaller in scope and be shorter term. I set a bunch of goals for the year, but those goals weren't broken down into smaller chunks or time frames which made it hard to track my progress with them (not that I was tracking their progress).

In my previous post I wrote about wanting to read a laundry list of books, some technical, some not. The list seems fine enough, but the fact is the mood that I'm in shifts regularly enough that thinking I would be interested enough in those books, whenever I got around to them, was wishful thinking. Especially if I was going to be reading them over the course of the year. Over the last several years I've started to get into the habit of reading one technical book, to read when I have an hour or more by myself to spare, and one non-technical book, to read before bed or while I'm driving (in audio format), at a time. Basically I let whatever mood I'm in drive what it is I'm reading. It seems simple, I know.

With respect to reading, I've been trying to use Good Reads to track my reading progress (using my Kindle) and to keep a list of books that I want to read at some point in the future. That way I should be able to jump straight into the next book, once I've completed one. This is much more visible then keeping all the books I want to read on my kindle and then trying to find the one I'm after. It's not perfect but it's a step in the right direction.

As far as technical books go, my ability to tackle them has been a bit hit or miss, especially now having a toddler running around the house. In order for me to really absorb what it is I've been reading, I need to be able to apply it on a regular basis. There are so many things that I want to learn, but the fact is if I don't come up with a project to apply what I'm learning as I go, I essentially lose it. The books that I've been the most successful with have been those that have a book-long project that is built up and improved as you read the book. Two books that come to mind are:

Both of these start you off with the very simplest knowledge you need to get some basic functionality implemented, and then build on top of the initial codebase, a lot of the times starting you out with less than stellar coding patterns, but backing those things out in favor of more improved ways of doing things once you have the knowledge to do so.

Both of these books I've been able to stick with because the projects are compelling.

I've also found success reading books on those subjects that I use on a daily basis at work. The most recent being Functional Programming in Java. Java 8 introduced lambda functions and functional programming facilities to make code cleaner, more efficient, etc. Because the codebase I was working on was starting to use these facilities, it was important that I be able to use them effectively. It was easy to read a chapter or a half, and then apply it the next day at work.

So what am I doing to try and actually accomplish things that I want to accomplish?

  • Jotting down ideas as soon as I have them, and taking notes whenever I think of new and interesting details. In this way I can capture enough details to help kick start whatever it is that I'm doing.
  • Planning things as much as I can. Organizing the notes above and coming up with a general plan of execution and then tracking these tasks somewhere. I've been using Trello.com for this as I can define swim lanes for each step of the development process. The planning step is hard but worth it as it allows me to focus what little time I have on specific tasks.
  • Doing my best to get a project that I'm working on to a stage where it's actually working so I'm not left with a bunch of half-implemented code. This blog is a good example. Written from scratch and has enough functionality to be useful but could easily be extended in a number of different ways to make it better.
  • Making sure the project is useful to me in some way. This will give me more incentive to actually get it to a working state.

I've only found success with this process once so far, but I'm happy with the results. I have lots of notes written for a number of project ideas to pursue at some point, and also have a mostly finished Alexa skill that provides me some benefit. My hope is to keep working on it until it's fit for consumption by other Alexa-using customers (right now it's hard-coded for just me, but the base of the skill is there and working well).

One last thing. I want to pursue writing a bit more, technically and personally; a journal of sorts. Even if they're only small bits of writing, it's nice to be able to look back and see what it was I was doing at the time, and I'm not super keen on Facebook or Twitter anymore, what with all the privacy-related crap that's been going down.

This was definitely a hodge-podge of stuff and not super organized but just wanted to get something on the books.

Updated: 2018-09-16 15:40:48 -0700

Caleb in a Movie?! [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 07 Mar 2007 by

We talked to Caleb tonight (Sari's cousin) and he asked us if he could stay with us when he comes to town with his band at the end of this month. Oh yeah... he's in this heavy-metal band that's actually doing well enough to tour. He's going to be touring from Mexico to Canada over the summer. In the mean time he's hitting Seattle for two shows. Here are some videos of them performing: Delay the Burial Video #1 Delay the Burial Video #2 Delay the Burial Video #3 That was a bit of a tangent... It turns out that not only is he a member of an up-and-coming band but he's also starred in a movie that was filmed late last year in his home-town of Gresham, OR! The movie's called How to Breathe and it's apparently going to be playing at the Seattle International Film Festival! I wasn't able to find the movie on the site but as soon as I do I'll post an update.

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

Sneaky Mum! [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 17 Mar 2007 by

I've been meaning to write about this for a while now so forgive me if speaking of Christmas is a bit dated... For Christmas Sari, Roland, Kirsten and I went over to a house that my parents were house-sitting for. My mum cooked a lovely dinner and the whole evening was really nice. Though I did a reasonable job of containing myself I was very excited about opening presents. That same child-like eagerness has always been there even if it's gotten less and less apparent as I've gotten older. When the time finally came I calmly moved to the living room and sat down waiting for the "onslaught". Little did I know that my mum had a sneaky trick up her sleave.The Nintendo Wii, a new video game console if you haven't heard, was released in mid-November and I had been craving one ever since. Unfortunately they were horribly impossible to find so I pretty much decided to hold off buying one until they were made more available (they're still hard to find, by the way).After opening a few presents she handed me one which I opened (very carefully). To my surprise (and dismay) it was a copy of a video game for the Nintendo Wii. Historically my parents have insisted on NOT buying me video games for Christmas in favor of more "productive" toys like LEGOs, for example, so this was quite a surprise. I immediately thought that this was her way of making peace with video games, though without a the system to go with it I was out of luck. A very nice gesture but she didn't quite understand that I needed more to be able to use the new game. I wrote it off as an honest mistake and figured I would buy the system eventually anyway. Not a big deal at all.Our Christmas continued and later on I opened another present only to find that it was the strategy guide for the game. She sure knew how to rub it in my face. I tried so hard to sound grateful but I'm afraid the disappointment and frustration in my voice was easily heard.She then handed me a couple more which ended up being extra controllers for the system. Even at this point I had no idea what was coming.About fifteen minutes later my mum said something along the lines of, "Okay, one more." She proceeded to hand me a reasonable sized box which had a bit of weight to it. It wasn't until that point that I realized this whole charade she was putting me through was all a game (which my dad was in on too, incidentally). I opened up the package and low and behold there's a brand-new Wii system. What a nice surprise! And she played it all off so well.It turns out that she knew somebody that worked for Nintendo so was able to get one pretty easily. Well done mum! Well done!

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

Taking in the San Francisco Sites Before the Make Faire [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 17 May 2007 by

We just landed at Oakland airport and are on our way to San Franciscio. Jason's Aunt Sheryl was nice enough to pick us up and is letting us stay with her while we're in town to save some money. Our first stop is going to be Golden Gate bridge and a fort which is apparently below the bridge. I've been to San Francisco enough times that I don't need to do all of the touristy type stuff but the bridge is a must. We'll also be checking at a new museum that opened recently at Gold Gate Park. After that we'll be going to the Pez museum! ;-) We have today and tomorrow to check out the city before the Make Faire Saturday and Sunday. I'll be blogging as much as I can from the fair on AlexUndercover.con. [Posted]

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

San Francisco Day 2 [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 18 May 2007 by

Today was day two in the San Francisco Bay area. We're staying at Shelly's (Jason's aunt) house in San Marino which is just outside San Francisco. She's an avid Pez collector and so has displays of her collection all over the house which is quite spectacular. Today was the day reserved for the wine-tasting portion of our trip. As Shelly is also a wine conniseure we had a pretty decent tour guide around Nappa Valley and the surrounding areas. The day turned out to be nice and warm; perfect California wine-tasting weather as far as I'm concerned. Our first stop was at Freemark Abbey. We tried six different wines including a 2003 Petite Sirah and a 2003 Zinfandel. In the end the clear winner was the 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Bosch� Estate. It had a very smooth finish and was my absolute favorite at Freemark. Unfortunately it also ended up being the most expensive at $120 a bottle. Maybe next time. Our next stop was a reasonably secluded winery called Montelena. It's hidden among a large group of trees and mostly in the shade. It has a large meeting area outside and has a pleasant walk around a man-made pond with a few gazebos. We were greeted by several ducks and few swans which have clearly been trained to harass visitors for food. It's claim to fame is beating several French wines in a wine tasting in the 70's which effectively put Nappa and California wines on the map. Once again we were greeted with several choices of wine to try by a friendly but saucy middle-aged woman. We had plenty of pleasant conversation with her and a young couple visiting from Georgia. In the end, as expected, the wine of choice was also the most expensive; the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate which was about $90. There was a smaller winery that we stopped at but unfortunately there was a private tasting going on at the time so we weren't able to go into all they had to offer. The owner of the winery was nice enough to give us all a sample of wine and allowed us to walk around the grounds a bit, however. After finishing our wine, returning the glasses, and apologizing for the interruption we were off to our fourth and final stop; The Franciscan. We got some fancy sandwiches from a nearby deli and kitchen shop (who's name escapes me) and enjoyed them in a small courtyard outside of the tasting room which was surrounded by jasmine. It was hard not to be overwhelmed (or should I say intoxicated) with the warm weather, the gorgeous smell of the flowers and of course the prospect of even more wine. ;-) After having tried wine all day it was really hard to tell the difference between them. We tried a red, then a white and finally a porte which definitely stood out from the others as it was the first of its kind we had tried. It was very sweet and didn't strike me as something that you would drink quickly. It was really yummy. On our way back to the house westopped for dinner at a nice Italian restaurant called Pasta Primavera. I had a really nice bowtie pasta dish with chicken breast and capers and of course some more wine. We then finished off the meal in true Italian style with a cappucino and desert (mine was cr�me brul� as I was really full). After our long day we had no other choice but to go back to the house and crash in preparation for the impending Make Faire the next day. To be continued...

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

FXM: The story so far... [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 by

I posted recently about getting a promotion at Amazon and how different the new position is compared to my old position. I started my fifth week with my new team, called FXM for Fulfillment Exception Management, and thought I'd give a brief update. Week #Activities% of tasks for new team1Wrap up chores from previous position0%2AWS Hack Attack class5%3Finish job management system migration100%4Stability Week - Made sure stuff that needed monitoring was monitored, cleaned up some code, migrated a system or 2.100%Without getting into too much detail (maybe I already have) the stuff I did for the first two weeks on my new team had nothing to do with it. The third and fourth week went much better but I haven't written a line of code yet. Week 5 is much different. I'm actually starting a decent sized coding project so I should feel more like a developer by Friday! :)One last observation before I wrap up this post. In my last position I was in a large room with 3 or 4 other guys. As the Support Engineer position is very much a "junior developer" type roll having several people in the room with different backgrounds and experiences really helps to facilitate learning and growth at the company. The problem is that it can typically be difficult to get any work done when you're constantly interrupted for help with a problem, etc. Now I'm in an office with one other guy and we're pretty much always working. The interruptions are few and far between which helps us to get more work done. Fewer "context switches" equals more work done.

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

5th Anniversary Get Away [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 by

Sari and I are on our way to Port Townsend to get away for our 5 year anniversary. We're on the Seattle to Bainbridge ferry and will drive the rest of the way there. We've reserved a one-night stay at a bed and breakfast there. We've never been on a ferry before. We just made it under the 5 year mark. Pictures to follow when we get back. [Posted]

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

The Harry Potter Plan [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 05 Aug 2007 by

For the last several months I've been explaining my "Harry Potter Plan" to my friends and family. Before The Order of the Pheonix movie comes out reread books one through 4 (so I don't ruin the 5th movie with too many, "This doesn't follow the book at all"s). See The Order of the Phoenix Reread books 5 and 6 before the 7th and final book comes out. Start reading The Deathly Hallows as soon as I get my hands on a copy.This plan, while fitting ideally with my usual "Reread all the other books before a new one comes out" plan, didn't go nearly as well as I'd hoped. In actuality it went something like this: Reread books 1-4 before the 5th movie comes out (so far so good) Read only a little bit of the beginning of the 5th book because I haven't had time to see the new movie yet. Still don't go and see the new movie. Book 7 is released. Give up on the movie for the time being and continue reading the 5th book.While a bit frustrating for me I eventually started lapping up the other books just fine. About a week ago I found out that a friend of mine who I'm going out to dinner with on August 10th had already finished the 7th book. My new goal? Finish reading all 7 books by August 10th. This looked pretty unlikely given that I had to read an average of about 180 pages a day in order to make my goal."How am I doing," you might ask? Well, I've been reading like crazy, more so than usual. I'm not sure how many pages a day I've been reading but it's been more than 180. I just now finished rereading book 6 (The Half-Blood Prince) and can now jump into The Deathly Hallows.I wanted to write this post because I suddenly realized how depressing it is that The Deathly Hallows is the last new Harry Pottter book that I will ever read. Ever since I found out the J.K. Rowling was only ever going to write 7 books I applauded her for it. There are certain authors that, despite claims that they'll only write a certain number of books in a series, go on and on and on until readers are so bored with the story that they just stop reading altogether. Some may argue that situations like this are not because the author is going for more money but because the author wants to continue developing the world that he or she has been creating. From the fan point of view I can truely see it both ways. When you truly love a story you can very easliy get emotionally attached to the characters and want to know more about them... as much as possible. On the other hand if the stories keep going on and on the author may make a "mistake" and forever ruin the character(s) for the fans. It's definitely a fine balance but I think Ms. Rowling has not only done wonderfully with the story but has been good at sticking to her original intentions.There is a part of me that wants to read more Harry Potter books after this one but the majority of me has decided that, yes, this was the right thing to do with the books. At least we'll have the last two movies (or, in my case, the last three movies). And, with that I'm going to start book 7.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

Sari's Road Trip [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 24 Aug 2007 by

Today is the day that Sari and Robert leave on their 9-day road trip. She'll be driving from here to Ohio and then flying back a week from Sunday. Quite the trip. She's a bit nervous but I think she'll do fine. "So what are you doing while she's gone," I hear you ask?

  Playing host for my parents while they wait for the air to clear in their home from the floors being refinished.  Playing lots of music with Jeremy, Matt and <a href="">Ross</a>  Catching up on some projects around the house.I'm pretty funny about free time. When I don't have it I'm always complaining about not having it but when I do finally have it for an extended period I find, more often than not, I have no idea what to do with myself. Hopefully I'll have productive and fun week this time around.Now playing: <a href="http://www.foxytunes.com/artist/maroon+5/track/back+at+your+door">Maroon 5 - Back At Your Door</a>via <a href="http://www.foxytunes.com/signatunes/">FoxyTunes</a>

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:50 -0800

England tickets booked at last! [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 by

I've been putting it off for months but I finally finished booking our tickets to England for next May. We've been wanting to go to Europe for a while now and Sari's never gone. May will be a good lull in our schedules and life so it's a prime opportunity. We used some of our air miles to pay for one of the tickets and it was an absolute bear to get through the purchase. Because we could only afford to pay for one ticket with our miles we had to purchase the other ticket with cash. Because they don't let you do that through Alaska's partner line I had to find a date that worked for both the mileage plan purchase and on British Airway's website (the airline we'll be flying). This turned into about 7 calls over the course of 3 days but I finally managed to find dates that worked for BA, Alaska, Sari and I. Disaster avoided.Apart from the arrival and departure dates we don't have any plans set in stone but we are planning on visiting as much of my extended family as possible, most of which I haven't seen since the 8th grade. We'll also be visiting Paris for a week which will be nice. Time to brush up and hopefully use my French skills. :)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

2013, a Look Ahead

Posted: Sun, 06 Jan 2013 by

This is a follow up to my Goals for 2013 post from earlier this week.

I've given my goals for 2013 some thought and have come up with some good and reasonable ones. I've tried to make them as measurable as possible so it will be easy to decide how well I'm doing throught out the year. These are mostly related to personal improvement of the usual new years resolution sort. Without further ado here are the goals I have for 2013 so far (obiously subject to change).

Books

I don't remember how many books I read last year but want to at least feel like I've read more. Given the normal, every day routine reading a book a month is probably too much while one every two months is too few. I'll commit to reading at least 8 books (one every 1 and a half months). Some books I hope to read:

  • A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three - With Season 3 of A Game of Thrones (on HBO) just around the corner I want to get ahead of it a bit on the book front. This will be the first book I'll read by February 15th or so.
  • Steve Jobs - I've had a copy of this since it came out more than a year ago. Steve Jobs was an incredibly fascinating person. I found his dedication to simple design and the user-experience incredibly compelling.
  • Enders Game - A sci-fi book that was recently recommended to me by a friend. Apparently this is one of those "I can't believe you haven't read this" kind of books.
  • Fearless Change: Patterns for Introducing New Ideas - Another recommendation from a friend about how to convince people of your opinions and the like.

There will definitely be others but this is a good start.

Technical Books

WARNING: Geek speak incoming.

While I feel like I grew a lot as a developer at Amazon last year after switching to my new team in December I really want to extend myself this year and learn some new subjects, mostly unrelated to what I do at work. Here are a few books I want to get through:

  • iOS SDK Development - I've been wanting to learn how to make apps ever since I bought my first iPhone more than 4 years ago. I have some simple ideas to get me going. I'll try and tackle this book by the end of February though I may end up extending that a bit to make sure I can get the most out of it.
  • Programming Ruby 1.9 - I have some experience with Ruby and love what I've seen so far but want to learn the language in a bit more depth, to the point where my skill in Ruby can actually be marketable.
  • Agile Web Development with Rails - Along with Ruby learning the ins and outs of using Rails to write web applications (what my website is written in). I know some of the basics but similarly to Ruby want to know it significantly better.
  • Effective Java - I've been programming in Java since I was in college and it's definitely my language of choice. This book is a collection of best practices and design patterns for the language.
  • Java Concurrency in Practice - I've got a good amount of experience programming concurrently in Java but my knowledge lacks the depth it should to be as effective as possible.
  • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master - One of the must reads for Software Developers that I've somehow managed to avoid for years. It's about time.

END GEEK SPEAK

Running

I've been running regularly now for the last 3 or 4 years. I've run a handful of half marathons and other shorter races and even my first full marathon in 2011. Starting in 2010 I started tracking my runs so I could look back and see how I've progressed. For both that year and 2011 I ran just over 800 miles which is great. After I ran my first marathon my running petered out quite a bit. My running distance dropped by about 250 miles last year so I want to try and get that number back up as much as possible for 2013.

I have two goals in mind:

  • Run an average of 15 miles per week. In general that works out to three five mile runs per week. Along with extra and longer runs and any races I run this should be very doable.
  • Run at least three races. I only ran a single race last year (the Seattle Half Marathon in November) but really want to do more. The three I'm definitely going to sign up for are the Mercer Island Half Marathon in March, the Rock & Roll Marathon (not sure if I'll do the half or the full yet) and the Seattle Half again. Some others I want to try and do are the Victori Half/Full Marathon in Octoer, and the Ragnar Relay: Northwest Passage in July. There may even be some shorter ones like the St. Patties Day Dash in March or the Furry 5k in June.

Home Projects

Last but not least there are a handful of small home projects that we want to do this year:

  • Get the tree trimmed out front - We have a lovely tree in our front yard which has grown a bit out of control. We need to get it trimmed, not only to prevent our house from being damaged but we also want to have it to decorate for Christmas next year, since we don't get Christmas trees.
  • Get the stairs cleaned and repainted (so it lasts this time) - We have two sets of concrete steps in the front of our house. We repainted them last year but the paint has chipped off pretty drastically so they look terrible. We need to clean them, repaint them and make them look great.
  • Get in touch with a contractor/architect to pitch ideas for improvements to the house - We have some great ideas for architectural improvements to the house but have no idea how much any of the ideas will cost. We need to run the ideas by a contractor and get a basic idea of the cost both monetarily and time-wise.
  • Clean the moss of the roof - The moss growing on our roof has pretty much gotten out fo control. This spring we need to clean it off and then treat the roof to prevent it growing back if possible.

Most or all of these goals we'll probably do in the Spring or Summer.

Conclusion

We're a week into 2013 and I've already accomplished my first goal. Not a bad start. One last goal I have is to check in at least once a month. I'll start at the end of January and every month there after. I'll probably make adjustments to this as the year progresses.

Updated: 2013-01-06 20:56:12 -0800

The Arrival [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 03 Nov 2007 by

We arrived Kauai at about 8pm and it had already gotten very dark. It took us about an hour to get our luggage, get our rental car (an Impalla) and then find our hotel. We're staying at the Aloha Beach Hotel on the east side of the island and the town of Kapa'a. We originally had a regular room but for some reason they upgraded us to a cabana near the water. It's like a little apartment detached from the hotel. It's very cozy.We woke up this morning to a rooster crowing at the sun at about 7:30. We got ready and went to the hotel restaurant for breakfast; just a simple buffet with all the usual stuff. we sat outside on their patio while we ate and watched storm clouds roll in from the ocean. The morning started off calmly but we were hit with a sudden downpour while eating so we had to move inside. The walk back to our room was a wet but warm one.The rain continued for about 10 or 15 minutes before slowing down a bit; and me without a rain jacket. We went to five different stores before we finally found a decent jacket at K-Mart. The downpours came and went several times throughout the day but they never lasted more than a few minutes.We eventually developed a craving to do some snorkeling so we rented some equipment for the week and did some in our hotel's backyard. They have a large swimming enclosure that was perfect for the first snorkel on our trip.We ended the evening being treated to a lightening storm. I tried to get some footage of the fireworks but my camera wouldn't pick it up. Oh well.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Exploration [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 05 Nov 2007 by

Today started out quietly (though I imagine most Kaua'ian days do). We're still not quite over the time change. Initially it was 3 hours behind but now it's 2 because of daylight savings time. The good news is that it makes the days feel longer. Around 9 we went for a quick snorkel again as we can't seem to get enough of it. We then went for a short adventure north to Annini beach. On the way we stopped at Bubba's burgers as it's been suggested to us several times.We've already seen most of the main sights of the northern part of the island so we were eager to see the extra stuff. Annini beach was beautiful and spread across several miles. The rain, as it did yesterday, would pour for about 15 or 20 minutes and then the sun and heat would come out again.We ended the day with a quick dinner at Taco Bell (the finest in Hawaiin fair) and then decided to go on a little drigin adventure. On the way back to the hotel we turned down a side street to try and get closer to the mountainous center of the island. We drove through lots of neighborhoods and eventually entered a very lush area of the island. We drove slowly down a single lane road and ended up getting close enough to where we could see several waterfalls and the sides of the mountains in great detail.We eventually came across somebody trying to back down the road and that coupled with a dog trying to jump into Sari's window signaled the end of our adventure as far as we were concerned.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Tunnels [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 06 Nov 2007 by

Yesterday was a bit disappointing but we made up for it with what we did today. Yesterday we wanted to do some more snorkeling so we decided to give Poipu a try. It was the first place we tried to snorkel during our first trip. We both must have looked pretty foolish given we were only sticking our faces in the water and promptly freaking out. We really wanted to make up for that embarrassment and hopefully enjoy the location a bit more than we did the first time. Unfortunately when we got there the water was clearly too rough to do any sort of swimming. The crazy weather around the islands was still causing a few rougj spots, especially around the south side of the island. It was recommended by the guys at Snorkel Bob's that the North Shore would be a bit more calm so we eventually decided to head to Ke'ee beach, regardless of the reasonably long drive from Poipu.Ke'ee beach was our favorite snorkeling destination the last time we were in Kauai. It takes crossing several single lane bridges as you get closer to the beach. Unfortunately we weren't there long before it started to rain again. Even the time we were there we saw almost no sea life. After the array of fish that we saw last time it was a real disappointment.After Ke'ee we were pretty tuckered out given we'd been driving so much. We went back to our hotel and spent an hour or two by the pool reading. We then went to the Coconut Marketplace for dinner (the first time since our last trip). We wrapped up our Monday by watching our NBC shows Heroes and Journey Man. Normally we have to record the shows and watch them the next day because of having to get up early so it was a nice treat. :-)Today we decided to get going reasonably early because we wanted to try out another snorkeling spot just east of Ke'ee called Tunnels. We ate a quick breakfast and then were on our way. We ended up arriving a little bit before 11am and luckily there was some parking left. There are two main entrances to the beach, both of which ar narrow dirt roads and the only parking is along the fences at the side of the roads. We parked at the end of the road and started the short hike to the beach.It turns out the effort necessary to get to the beach was well worth it. The water's only up to about 8 feet deep for about 5 yards from the shore at which pint it drops off sharply. There was plenty of corral with lots of sea life swimming around it to enjoy. To top it off because of the limited parking there weren't really that many people around.We went in a few times and took several underwater pictures. We spent in total about three hours on the beach and swimming. I also wandered up and down the beach taking as many pictures as I could. My long walk ended after I accidentally bumped into somebody sun bathing nude on the beach. That seemed as good a sign as any to return to our resting spot on the beach and enjoy some more snorkeling.Around 1:45 we returned to the car and drove to Hanelei where we stopped at a local cafe for some coffee and a delicious paninni. We were tired enough at this point to head back to the hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool reading, again. We wanted to spend as much time as possible outside before returning to the cold Seattle.For dinner we went to a restaurant called Wahoo which is just north of our hotel on the west side of the freeway, just past The Coconut Marketplace. The last time we were in Kauai we ate there and really enjoyed it. I had seasoned sea bass on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes and spinich in a pesto sauce. It ended upbeing the same thing I had last time which was absolutely delicious. If you ever come to Kauai and would like a fancier place to eat (dinner was about $90 with salads, desert, coffee and tip) I highly recommend it. The food was wonderful and the service was top notch. The scenery wasn't bad either.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Coffee [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 07 Nov 2007 by

Day five and we're still going. Though we've foregone the usual touristy stuff we're still finding plenty to do. With our hotel booking we were given vouchers for a complimentary continental breakfast along with an island orientation. It was the exact same presentation, in the exact same place (our hotel), with the exact same person doing it. We pretty much did it for the free coffee, pineapple and pastries. Everything being offered was either too expensive, uninteresting or we had already done it. We did pick up some good pointers for some sites we hadn't seen yet though.We'd been mostly hanging out on the north side of the island so we decided to give the south side a go. We pretty much drove until we found some interesting spots. We drove through Hanepeppe and past the road to Waimea canyon before finally turning around.On the way back towards Kapa'a we stopped at the Kauai Coffee Plantation and tasted some delicious, hot coffee in 87 degree heat. Yummy. We also wanted to check out some stuff in Poi'pu since we hadn't explored the town very much. We made it to a small market on the west side of town which was also the site of the Spouting Horn which is essentially a chunk of volcanic rock that sits above the water. There's a small hole that goes from the under side of the rock at about the water level out of the top of the rock. When waves come in it causes water to be sprayed into the air. I'd seen it on TV but it truly didn't do it any justice. It was really cool. I have video of it which I'll post when I get back.By this time Sari and I were very hot and sick of driving and so decided to go for a swim. We figured we might as well give the beaches at Poi'pu another try since we were already there. The water was a lot more calm than it was the other day so threw on our suits and went for a snorkel. We saw lots of new fish but unfortunately we forgot to get a new underwater camera. We plan on going snorkeling one last time tomorrow so hopefully we'll end up with some reasonable pictures.We had had a pretty long day at this point so we decided to call it quits, retiring to our room and wrapping up the evening by watching "The 100 Greatest Songs of the Eighties" on VH1. Stupid addictive TV.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Death and Departure [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 09 Nov 2007 by

Lame! Lame! Lame! Sari and I are at the Lihue (Kauai) Airport waiting to board a flight back to Seattle. It really feels like we just got here. I have yesterday (Thursday) and today to cover in this post.Yesterday we had decided we were going to head to Tunnels Beach one last time before going home so we got up relatively early and headed to the North Shore. When we finally got there around 10:45a we couldn't find any parking so we parked about half a mile away and walked along the beach to Tunnels. While the walked was very pretty walking that far in the sand, with such difficult footing, was a lot of work. We finally got to the beach and took a few minutes of rest in the shade before jumping in the water.After about half an hour of snorkeling we noticed a big to-do on the shore. There was a lifeguard riding an ATV from a neighboring beach closer to where we were snorkeling. A surfer had signaled for help on the reef that was about half a mile out. A lifeguard swum out to the reef to help him out. The surfer was complaining of chest pains and eventually lost consciousness. He was eventually put on his surf board and brought into shore on a jet-ski where the lifeguard continued CPR before the paramedics arrived. They all continued to work on the surfer for about 45 minutes and then took him to an ambulance where he was carted off to the closest hospital which unfortunately was about an hour away. He was pronounced dead upon arrival. The cause of death was reported as a heart attack.The whole experience was very surreal. A few of the other surfers on the beach were involved in the rescue attempt and the man's wife and baby were there as well. The couple were apparently on a second honeymoon, visiting from California. I've never watched somebody die like that. It really affected both of us a great deal. I can't imagine what his wife is going through right now. To be so far away from home, away from all of her friends and family when a disaster like this occurs. It sounded as if he was doing something he loved in a place that he loved though.After the surfer was taken away everybody on the beach was in a state of shock. After several minutes we went back in the water but we didn't have our hearts in it at that point. We got our stuff together and left not long afterward.On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a burger place that was recommended to us called Onu Char Burger. It was a little hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere with plenty of wild chickens and cats around. We had to wait about 20 minutes but the wait was worth it as the food was delicious. We definitely would've gone back if e had had the opportunity.When we got back we spent a little bit of time by the pool reading and then spent the rest of the evening starting the long and painful packing process.This morning we started a bit earlier than normal. The first thing we did was throw on our snorkel gear one last time and take a few final laps around the enclosed swimming area in Lidgate park, right behind our hotel. Not the thrill of Tunnels by any means but we took a few last pictures.We both got cleaned up, finished packing, checked out and then headed to our favorite breakfast restaurant in the Coconut Marketplace called Eggberts. We both had very filling helpings of pancakes. The only necessity we had left to take care of was to return our snorkel gear to Snorkel Bob's which we did grudgingly.At this point we had tons of time to kill so we bought tickets for the Fern Grotto tour up the Wailea River. It was a fun ride up the river with singing and hula dancing and ended with a beautiful view of the grotto where we were serenaded with the Hawaiin weading song.After the tour with still lots of time to kill we wandered around the Marina and found a large botanical garden with about 3 acres of themed gardens from around the world. We wandered for about an hour taking pictures and feeding the chickens and peacocks which were plentiful.The rest of the day consisted of eating, checking out Hilo Hattie for some souvenirs and then returning our rental car and doing the whole baggage check airport stuff. I think we're all up to date now. When we get home (tomorrow in the early, early AM) I'll be organizing and posting our photos and video for your viewing pleasure. Now on to the depressing flight home. Mohallo Kauai! Aloha Seattle!

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Photos [DRAFT]

Posted: Tue, 13 Nov 2007 by

For the first time ever I've posted our vacation photos only a few days after we got back. Prepare to be dazzled. :) Just click on the post link...

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

The Verdict [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 14 Nov 2007 by

I've had a change to decompress a bit after our trip so I thought I'd follow up with a list of the best and worst of the trip.

  Best New Discovery - <a href="http://www.smithskauai.com/tropical_garden.html">Smith's Tropical Paradise</a>  Best Restaurant - <a href="http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60616-d600079-Reviews-Wahoo_s_Seafood_Grill_Bar-Kapaa_Kauai_Hawaii.html">Wahoo Seafood Restaurant: Kapa'a, Kauai</a>  Best Fast Food - Ono Char Burger  Best Snorkeling Spot - <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&amp;hl=en&amp;geocode=&amp;time=&amp;date=&amp;ttype=&amp;q=kauai,+hi&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;ll=22.225468,-159.561095&amp;spn=0.010071,0.019612&amp;t=k&amp;z=16&amp;om=1">Tunnels Beach (Northshore)</a>.  Worst Moment - The death of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/inter-island_helicopters/1978347710/">Nolan McSkimming</a>. Nolan leaves behind a wife, and daughter and I'm certain much more. This affected both of us significantly.If you have an opportunity to visit Kauai I highly recommend checking out the places above. Here's a list of all the posts about our trip:  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/we-arrived-kauai-at-about-8pm-and-it.html">The Arrival</a>  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/today-started-out-quietly-though-i.html">The Exploration</a>  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/yesterday-was-bit-disappointing-but-we.html">The Tunnels</a>  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/day-five-and-were-still-going.html">The Coffee</a>  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/lame-lame-lame-sari-and-i-are-at-lihue.html">The Death and Departure</a>  <a href="http://www.alexpolson.com/2007/11/photos.html">The Photos</a>

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

Tunnels Dangerous? [DRAFT]

Posted: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 by

I mentioned Tunnels Beach in my posts about Kauai as the best place to snorkel. What I didn't realize is that in 2003 Bethany Hamilton, a young amateur surfer had her arm bitten off at that same spot. Scary stuff! Not that it's going to discourage us from returning. ;-)

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

Back problems and Europe [DRAFT]

Posted: Wed, 30 Apr 2008 by

It's been a while since I've written so figured I'd give an update as to what's going on for the one or two (or fewer) readers that I have. Back ProblemsAbout two months ago now I was in the shower washing my hair and the muscles in my back suddenly tensed up and I couldn't turn my neck and could hardly move my left arm. The pain slowly subsided over a few days and I thought everything was okay. Unfortunately the same thing happened again about a month later and rather than ignore it this time I decided to do something about it.One of Sari's coworkers suggested going to a chiropractor in Ballard called Divine Spine. They were very accommodating and were able to see me within about an hour of calling. Several measurements were taken regarding my posture, etc and because of the severity of the problem I was having they also took x-rays. I was also lucky enough to have time for my first adjustment. All the pops and cracks in my neck and back that ensued were intimidating but not painful. Mostly they just caused me to laugh out loud for some reason. Very strange.I went back to the chiropractor a few more times before being presented the results of my x-rays. It turns out I have scoliosis! Who is diagnosed with scoliosis at 29!? According to my doctor this is something that has been going on very gradually for several years. Since then I've been going pretty regularly and have seen quite a bit of improvement. I was also lucky enough to get a massage from our good friend Charity last Sunday. Sari and I were both like jello the rest of the day but also feel much better. Definitely well worth all the effort so we don't have to deal with as much pain when we go to Europe...EuropeSari and I have been planning a trip to the UK and Paris for about a year now. The plan is to visit some of my extended family around London and to of course see the sights in both London and Paris. Sari has never been outside of the country before (except for Canada) so she's a nervous and excited all at the same time. I expect it will simply feed her desire to travel even more in the future.FacebookTurns out there are a lot of old friends from my past on Facebook that I've been discovering lately. My latest discovery is my old friend Kim Drever who was one of my childhood neighbors growing up. We bumped into each other recently at our QFC in Greenwood and I was delighted to find her on Facebook as well.That's all for now. I'll be keeping a journal of our adventures in Europe though I probably won't be able to post them until we get back.

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

Photos from Across the Pond [DRAFT]

Posted: Mon, 09 Jun 2008 by

After about a week and a half of work cleaning up our photos from our trip to London and Paris they are now online for everyone's viewing pleasure. I've divided the trip into different Flickr sets based on where we were at the time. Unfortunately at this point there isn't much if any explanation to the photos though the really good ones are self explanatory. While we were in Europe I kept a pretty detailed journal so I'm going to create posts for each of the days we were there. Currently they're a little to detailed so I'll try and tone it down a bit but my hope is that others that there will be a few tips in there for those that plan on going sometime soon.Enjoy!

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

Missing England And Paris [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 19 Sep 2008 by

It's now been almost four months since Sari and I returned from England and my extended family. I realize how much I'm missing them. To live so far away from your family is tragic. Most of my friends growing up didn't realize how well they had it.I hadn't seen my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmother since I was in the eighth grade. The eight grade! For those that don't know me well that was a 16 year wait! We were only in Europe for two weeks, 9 days in England and the rest in Paris. Only part of that was spent with family. I got to see relatives on both my mum's aide and my dad's side. Our time was spread very thin. It was a very mean tease.I think next time we go we'll stay a bit longer but the question remains, when can that be? There were so many things that I missed in those 16 years. I don't think I could bare to go that long again.I've been sitting on my journal entries for our trip since we got back and am only now getting organized enough to get them together and post them for the world to read. With the pictures from the trip online I hope to make it an enjoyable read.Geolocate this postPosted with LifeCast

Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 10:20:51 -0800

A Lonely Friday Afternoon

Posted: Sun, 05 Oct 2008 by
Tagged: personal
Updated: 2012-02-24 11:04:07 -0800

The Historian

Posted: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 by

Based on a recommendation I got at a party I recently picked up a copy of The Historian at the library. All I really knew about the book going into it was that it was a story about people attempting to ascertain the true origin of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula). I've been really into vampire/zombie books lately so I though it might be a good read.

It turns out the book is more historical fiction than science-fiction. The reader is left on many a precipice of unknowns. As one question is answered many more are left unanswered and you are "forced" to venture through more of the book if you want to get at those answers. I'm about half way through it so far and can honestly say it's a great book. It's a perfect combination of historical fact with a great adventure story on top of it. It's definitely one of my new favorites and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Updated: 2012-02-25 16:16:26 -0800

The Bug Won't Go Away

Posted: Mon, 18 May 2009 by

I've been noticing lately how significant my desire to travel is. It's been just over a year since we left for Europe and that has been a bit difficult to digest. A whole year!? Where has the time gone? Over the last several years I've come to realize how much I love exploring. Not only from a physical stand point but also a cultural one.

On the bus tonight three foreigners (Scandinavian I think) boarded the bus and elicited help from the other passengers to figure out how they needed to get where they needed to go. It was fascinating to watch them ride the bus constantly being distracted with things which were likely brand new and wonderful to them. It's certainly a far cry from the everyday, boring ride which I experience.

I often wonder what locals thought of us as we struggled to just fit into the largely alien culture that was Paris. Not to mention the constant butchering of their language, though all that we came across were more than happy to lend a hand and even teach a little bit without being condescending. While occasionally difficult and draining I feel like we experienced Paris in a way we wouldn't have been able to otherwise. I hope that we'll be able to start traveling again soon. I must feed the bug!

Updated: 2012-02-25 19:30:16 -0800

More House Maintenance

Posted: Sun, 15 Feb 2009 by

I've always been incredibly intimidated by having to do any sort of home maintenance. Mostly it's the stuff that involves using tools, touching wires, and other crazy things of that sort. Owning my own home for the past two years has proven that there's no time for intimidation you just have to get off your ass and do it. Every time we think of something to fix or change about the house I jot it down in a to do list especially for house stuff. It's become apparent to me recently that the list was only growing and not getting any smaller. With Sari gone for a bit on Saturday I decided to "get off my ass" and do something about our ever growing list.

There were a few little things that I wanted to warm up with which included a new toilet seat, shower curtain and drip guards for the shower, all an absolute breeze. The big one was replacing our aging thermostat. It didn't keep track of the temperature very well and we would often be terribly cold or experience sweltering heat in our house. It was so old in fact that the small glass container of mercury was easily exposed by lifting the cover. It was kind of neat to watch it roll around in there but a bit scary at the same time knowing how detrimental to our health it could be if let loose.

I made several trips to Lowe's which is luckily only a few blocks away and eventually settled on a nice, touch-screen model. If I was going to go to such incredible lengths to replace something like a thermostat the new one better have some seriously cool bells and whistles and last a long time, which I'm confident this one will. The next issue was figuring out how to wire the new one up. Unfortunately the wires connected to the old thermostat weren't marked very well which had me a bit panicky for a few minutes. Luckily the manufacturer had been cool enough to scan in the old installation guide which looked like a photo-copy of a photo-copy but was enough to help me figure out which wire was for which. That in combination of the quarter inch thick manual that came with the new thermostat made it surprisingly easy to get the wires connected correctly and, as an added bonus, the base and frame was large enough to cover up the crappy job that the previous home owners did when installing the old one.

There's nothing more satisfying then putting effort into fixing a problem in your home and having the solution work the first time. In this case it was adding batteries, mounting the thermostat, turning up the heat and having the furnace click on. Cool stuff! We can now program the thermostat based on the day of the week which will be really helpful. Not only that but being able to accurately keep track of the temperature will mean the furnace not being run when it shouldn't be and thus paying a bit less on our electricity bill.Next up is patching all the walls in our home from the electrical work that we had done several months ago. It's fun owning your own home!

Updated: 2012-02-25 19:31:27 -0800

A Short Walk

Posted: Tue, 31 Mar 2009 by

This morning Amazon had an "All Hands" meeting. I thought it was at Benaroya Hall so I took my normal bus downtown and it conveniently dropped me off right outside the Hall. Upon arrival I quickly noticed that the normal throng of people outside was just that; normal. No Amazonians in sight.

Checking my trusty iPhone I was dismayed to discover that it was actually at the Paramount Theater!I walked quickly through several city blocks downtown and eventually ran into the migrating masses of Amazonians headed to the theater. On the way I ran into something curious; a smell. Yes, a smell, a pleasant smell by the way. Not just any smell. A smell that reminded me of walking through the streets of Paris . I'm not sure what it was that I was smelling. Pipe smoke? Fresh baked... stuff? It doesn't matter really. I love the fact that something as simple as a smell can trigger memories for me (for us) so overwhelmingly.

Unfortunately it was also a sobering reminder that it will be a year next month that we went to Paris and London. Time to plan another trip. The travel bug is starting to bite again!

Updated: 2012-02-25 19:30:58 -0800

Amazon Anniversary Adventure to Pike Place Market

Posted: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 by

This week is my fourth anniversary of working at Amazon. Most years I've forgotten about the date until several weeks later so this year I decided to go on a little adventure. As always there's some sort of necessary background first...

The characters in The Historian are constantly traveling all over Europe; partly for business and partly for the adventure of the book. When I was reading the book the other morning on the bus two of the characters were taking a train into Paris. They arrived at Gare du Nord, the same station that we traveled from when we went to Paris, and had lunch there, enjoying baguette sandwiches before continuing on another train. We had also enjoyed sandwiches which we often purchased from street vendors or small holes in the wall but they were the most delicious sandwiches we had ever eaten. They also, naturally became synonymous with our trip to Paris. While reading this part of the book I could feel my mouth start to salivate. I decided then and there that it was high time we make and enjoy some sandwiches like this so I promised myself that before the week was over I would take a trip to Pike Place Market to get the goods.

Early Friday afternoon I threw on my jacket and left work in search of the perfect sandwich. I hopped on a bus in the bus tunnel and arrived a few blocks away from the Market a few minutes later. When I was growing up and I would go visit my Mum at work occasionally we would frequent a French bakery in Pike Place Market called Le Pannier. I'll always remember the smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of the shop while walking in. The same wonderful smells greeted me at the door and I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the signs in the store in French and even the cash registers were adorned with French. Since I was in Paris the last time I had ordered something from a French bakery I toyed with the idea of ordering my baguettes in French but as everybody else was speaking English I thought I might get some strange stares so I opted to go with the flow.

While I was originally only going to get the baguettes at the Market I thought it would round out the adventure nicely to get everything we needed for the sandwiches there so I ended up buying fresh lettuce and tomato as well as some Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese.

Last night and again today we ate some very large, very delicious baguette sandwiches. Here are a couple of pictures of the finished product.It's strange to think that after having worked downtown for four years this was the first time I had really left work to go explore the city a little bit. It was a really nice afternoon and was great to see Pike Place again as I haven't been there in years. I think I found myself a new non-New Year's resolution.

Updated: 2012-02-26 16:21:14 -0800

The Reinvention of the New Year's Resolution

Posted: Sat, 17 Jan 2009 by

Now that the holidays are over (not to mention all the snow having melted) it's now back to the normal day-to-day routine for many, including me. Some would say that with the new year we have an opportunity for a new beginning. There are certainly reasons to celebrate the new year, including a new president being sworn in and the hope for an improved economy, environment, etc. etc. Typically this is the time to profess your dedication to one or more new year's resolutions.

I have in the past participated in this tradition with a reasonable amount of vigor but this year I've decided to do things a little bit differently.I heard somebody (may have been a friend or maybe even Oprah) ask recently why we should need an excuse to better ourselves? Why should we need to wait for the beginning of a new year to start working on our goals? Instead of committing to one or more resolution's, which I would've likely failed, I've decided to start a list of things that I want to accomplish in my life; both long and short term goals. I've done a pretty good job of accomplishing general health-related goals like eating better (NOTE: as I type this I'm eating pizza and drinking a beer) and exercising more (which isn't really saying much given that I hadn't exercised regularly for years after earning my degree) so it's time to move on to other things.

Instead of committing myself to a single goal I simply want to make sure that I'm constantly moving forward with at least one of them. A lot of my goals are long term which tend to be a bit intimidating. I believe the only way that I can accomplish these goals is to break them down into smaller, more attainable ones. Combining this with regular "check ins" to see what I've accomplished will help me move forward.

I realize this whole thing seems a bit structured but sadly that's really what I need in order to accomplish anything. Having gotten that out of the way here are some of the things I'm going to try and accomplish:

  • Writing more: I've loved to write ever since I was in Elementary school but definitely don't do enough of it. I want to start keeping a diary of sorts and sharing things via this blog. I would also like to work towards writing a book about the life of my father which I've written about previously.
  • Continue to improve healthy habits: I've been eating better and exercising regularly for the past several months. I also want to run a half marathon that's coming up in June. We'll see about that. :-)
  • Accomplish more personal projects: I have a reasonably sized list of projects that I'd like to pursue including organizing my photos and writing more code. Because I have a tendency to lose interest in a project after a while I want to make sure I stay focused and follow them through to completion.

Lots to work on but I'm only committing to gradual improvement. Maybe if I get saucy later on in the year I can commit to more but at this point I really need to take baby steps.

Updated: 2012-02-26 16:22:39 -0800

And All of a Sudden I'm an (Amateur) Photographer

Posted: Thu, 31 Dec 2009 by

I've always loved photography. I got some of that love from my father and sister who are both incredible photographers. Until just recently however 100% of what I've done has been simple point and shoot. I've been able to get some great quality pictures but really wanted to take it to the next level.

A couple of months ago Chase Jarvis, a professional photographer, came to Amazon to promote his latest book "The Best Camera is the One You Have With You". He was clearly very passionate about his work and wanted to get everybody else in the room fired up about photography too. That's really when I started to  give photography a bit more consideration. I hatched a plan to save up for a new DSLR (a Nikon D90), signed up for a beginning photography class at the nearby community college (which I start Tuesday) and have started to make photography part of my everyday life.

More recently I started reading Digital Photography School and came across an article about the concept of Project 365. The idea is that you commit to taking and sharing one photograph a day for a year so you can see how you progress with your skill and also to integrate photography into your every day life. Since I'm starting to take the art more seriously I thought I'd give it a try and joined the Project 365! group on Flickr and took my first photo this morning:

Since I'm only just getting into the details of photography I'm excited to see how quickly my skill and technique improve.

Updated: 2012-02-25 19:29:28 -0800

Shit-Storm with a Silver Lining

Posted: Tue, 05 Oct 2010 by

This has been an interesting few months, to say the least. It's been quite the roller coaster ride.

A few months ago my Mum was diagnosed with colon cancer. She started chemo and radiation treatments right away and has been dealing with the related side-effects since. I have to confess I've been in a bit of denial about the whole thing. I've never been really close to anyone with the cancer, or any life-threatening disease for that matter so it's been new territory for me.

At around the same time we found out our house was infested with ants, we found out we made a mistake on our tax return for 2008 (I won't go into details except that it was a stupid mistake) and as all four of our animals are getting older we're dealing with one health issue after another, one of which required minor surgery just last night. It has truly felt like a constant shit-storm of negativity. If you've read this far you're probably wondering where the silver lining is? It has to do with my Mum.

I went with her and my father to a pre-surgery appointment at Virginia Mason after she finished her chemo and radiation treatments about 6 weeks ago. They ran some tests and I'm happy to report lots of good news. The tumor on her colon has decreased in size by about 50% and along with that her colon is looking a lot more healthy than it was before the treatment. There's also no sign of the cancer having spread to other parts of her body.

She's still not completely out of the woods yet. She has her surgery to remove the tumor at the end of October and will likely have to endure more radiation and chemo just to be on the safe side but just getting this good news is a huge relief. Your continued thoughts and prayers are very much appreciated.

Tagged: mum cancer
Updated: 2012-02-25 19:28:56 -0800

Stories of My Father

Posted: Mon, 08 Dec 2008 by

There is so much about my father that I don't know. Over the years I've heard many stories about my dad's experiences growing up, his father, his wishes and much more (sometimes multiple times). Half of the stories I've heard from him first hand and the other half I've heard from friends, my mum or other people I wouldn't expect to hear them from. This is a real problem for me as it's been made abundantly clear that, in general, I didn't have enough interest in my father's stories growing up to really dig deeper and learn about him.Over the weekend Sari worked at the Starbucks in Fremont serving drinks (she usually works at the corporate offices but she was given the opportunity to work in the store for a day). I was there with my book and laptop sipping chai and enjoying my father's company. It was the first time in a long time that we'd been able to sit down and talk together without any distractions (such as broken computers...) and because of that I got another one of his wonderful life stories. It suddenly occurred to me how little I knew about my father. I had done a report in junior high about our roots in Scotland and I know that all of my relatives live in England but that's about it. It's only been in the last couple of years that I've really grown interested in my family background, which is very sad. I've decided that as a new year's resolution I'm going to commit myself to sitting down with my dad regularly and picking his brain. At the same time I want to put together sort of a mini biography about him.I've always fancied myself as a writer, though the amount of writing I have under my belt is limited to school assignments and the few and far between blog posts that I write. I hope this ends up being a good exercise for my writing but also will help me learn more about my father and perhaps the rest of my family in the process.

Updated: 2012-02-24 10:54:35 -0800

World of Warcraft Installation Problems Solved

Posted: Sat, 03 Mar 2007 by

I've been playing the World of Warcraft off and on ever since it's release in November of 2004. In general I've been really happy with it. As with everything else that I do in my free time I would occasionally move on to other things and, especially owning my own house now, most of my free time has been filled with house "to-do's". After playing through a bit of several characters to about the level 20 point I would inevitably start a new character to try and experience what all the different race/class combinations had to offer. As I had played through most of them I was really stoked for the release of the first expansion for the game, the Burning Crusade. Come mid-January of this year I received my coveted Collector's Edition of the Burning Crusade and started the installation process as soon as I got home. One of the great things about the Collector's Edition is that it comes with both a CD and DVD version of the game (similarly to the original Collector's Edition) so I didn't need to put in a disk, wait 10-15 minutes and then swap it out for the next 4 times. Not exactly a thrilling time. Just pop in the DVD, let it do its thing and start playing soon after... or so I thought. When the installation finished I feverishly started up the game, tried to login and... it started downloading another patch. Okay, no big deal. It's pretty standard procedure for a new Blizzard game launch. I waited a few minutes for the patch to download, installed it and finally started the game again. Only this time, after putting in my login credentials I got an error saying "Unable to Validate Game Version" which had a reference to a support page. The page mentioned something about the possibility of a virus and suggested downloading and installing two different virus scanners to make sure all was well. I run an "always-on" virus scanner so I knew that wasn't the problem. It also said something about a custom UI possibly causing the problem. That I believed. I had tinkered with the WoW UI a bit so it wouldn't have surprised me. They referred to a repair utility which would go through and check all the files. Once I finished running the utility (about 30-40 minutes later) I tried to reconnect again but got the same error. At this point the page instructs you to uninstall everything and reinstall from scratch!!! This wouldn't have been so bad except that installing two DVD's worth of game files takes at least an hour. At that point you then need to wait for the game to be patched, etc, etc. I grudgingly removed all of WoW's files and started the installation process. Since my original WoW DVD has the original version of it I was afraid of needing to apply patches before reinstalling the Burning Crusade. Much to my delight I tried installing the expansion right after the original disk and it upgraded my installation to v2.0. That's about two Gigs worth of patches I didn't need to apply manually. Hoorah!I launched the game one last time, it patched itself and even after that I was able to login in. Success!!! Or so I thought. For the last several weeks I've been very distracted by the goings on in life and so haven't played WoW. I was excited this weekend to pick it up and start playing again. I launched the game, tried to login and, once again, got the same error, even after logging in successfully before. I couldn't believe it. All the time I spent reinstalling the game was all for nothing. Once again I uninstalled everything and reinstalled. Once again the game patched itself to v2.03 but this time when I tried to login again it gave me the same error... yes... again. Whoever wrote this auto patcher clearly didn't think about how many paying customers he was going to locking out with his incorrect logic. Rather than start all over again I decided to try something. The current version of WoW (at the time of this writing) is v2.08 and I had v2.03. Rather than uninstall, download a bunch of large patches and reinstall again I decided to try and patch the game manually to the latest version. It turns out that was the correct solution. I had to download several small, incremental patches but once finished doing the patching I was able to play without any more problems. If you're running into simiar issues with World of Warcraft and the Burning Crusade here is a link to the patch mirrors. Follow these steps for what should be a successful installation:

  • Install the original game
  • Install the expansion
  • Install the incremental patches starting with v2.0-v2.03.
Starting points will vary based on the version of the game you get after installing the expansion. Check to see what version you have before installing any patches. When launching the game you will be able to see which version you have in the title bar of the game launcher.

Updated: 2012-02-24 12:37:24 -0800

The Trouble with Project 365

Posted: Tue, 11 May 2010 by

For those of you that I'm close to you know that I recently picked up a camera and committed to doing Project 365. That is taking and sharing a picture a day for a year. So far the undertaking has been a lot of different things. At times it's been exciting and inspiring and at other times frustrating and desperate.

Unfortunately for the last few weeks (or month even) most of my "efforts" have been pure desperation to get photos for each day. At just over 100 days in this is, from what I understand, I pretty classic place for project-goers to get stuck. I've spent the first few months of this project exploring my neighborhood and around where I work. It's been really great to see these two areas from a different perspective but it's become more and more clear that, as far as my inspiration is concerned, I've almost completely exhausted the possibilities of this limited scope. At least for the time being.

While I've grown in my photography a lot in the last few months I truly believe that my biggest growth is yet to come. I think that if I can really get myself in the habit of visiting some new and different places my desire to take photographs will return. Even visiting some familiar places and trying to get a different perspective on them would be helpful. Of course this is easier said than done given that my weekdays are generally filled with work and running.

Updated: 2012-02-25 15:52:56 -0800

The Cynical Voter

Posted: Tue, 02 Nov 2010 by

They get you through television, radio, mail, and by calling you. For the last few months we've all been bombarded with half (or less) truths from an array of candidates and groups supporting one initiative or another. With every election I find myself becoming more and more cynical. So cynical in fact I've threatened to not vote just out of spite though I know that won't solve anything. Each of the candidates spends more time putting down their opponent(s) then presenting exactly what it is they stand for and why they would make the best next whatever. Not to mention the fact that millions upon millions of dollars are spent to get the word out for the different campaigns. It's gotten to the point (and has been that way for a long time) where regular Joes can't run for an office of their choice simply because they don't have the money.

Some might say that that's what fund raising is for, but I say why should it be necessary to spend so much money when it could be put to much better use. I really think it's time that we overhaul our political system. I'm certainly not holding my breath though.

Tagged: propoganda vote
Updated: 2012-02-25 15:51:26 -0800

Better Builds with Maven [DRAFT]

Posted: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 by

As a software developer I'm constantly looking for tools and techniques to make the development process easier. I used to use a strict command-line environment and XEmacs for my Java Development until I was introduced to Eclipse which is a very nice, extensible IDE for Java and other languages (though it does Java best). The fact that I can refactor code (rename a class for example), constantly build in the background to check for errors, handle version control and project dependencies all in one place was a God-send. There was still one glaring flaw, however. Ant builds, while flexible, can be a pain to setup, even with an IDE, and because there's no standard for how to setup builds (because it's so flexible) the setup process can tend to be a bit frustrating. This is where Maven comes in. Maven is a Java tool who's mission is to standardize building a project and managing its dependencies. When creating a new project you create a simple XML document called a POM (Project Object Model) which describes the project as well as what its dependencies are.Maven defines a standard directory structure for creating projects. Because a standard is defined (though it can be overridden) there's no reading through complicated build.xml files to figure out what's going on or what targets you need to run in order to get the desired effect. This means that new developers to a project can get up to speed much faster. This also greatly simplifies the maintenance that needs to be done on the build setup of a project.With Maven the days of storing a project's dependencies in a child lib/ directory are over. When you build a project Maven will automatically download all the necessary dependencies and install them in your local repository. The local repository is for all Maven projects to use so, for example, if you use JUnit for testing purposes Maven would download the appropriate version (whichever you define), store it and make it available for use with all projects. This means you don't have to store your binary dependencies in version control. Maven handles it all for you.Maven doesn't stop there though. It can also handle generating documentation, building a website for your project and deploying your project to a shared repository for others to use and more. If that's not enough you can also integrate specialized Ant tasks into your Maven builds which will make the transition from Ant to Maven much more simple.Having said all this wonderful stuff about Maven there is a reasonable learning curve, though it's not nearly as bad as Ant's. For assistance here are some helpful links to get started with: The Official Apache Maven Site Maven in 5 Minutes - A great place to start! Maven Getting Started Guide - Once you've gone through the 5 Minute guide above this is a nice, more in-depth tutorial. Better Builds with Maven - Free online book that is a great introduction and also goes into quite a bit of depth. Proximity - For those that would like to host their own Maven repositories and Proxy external repositories this a very easy setup tool to accomplish just that.Happy coding!

Updated: 2012-02-24 11:34:25 -0800

Google Reader for Your Wii [DRAFT]

Posted: Fri, 11 May 2007 by

Now Wii users not only have the ability to browse the web but Google has released a Wii-specific version of Google-Reader (for RSS Aggregation) which takes advantage of the buttons on the Wii-Remote. I can't wait to give this a try!Google Reader for Your WiiPowered by ScribeFire.

Tagged: undercover
Updated: 2012-02-24 11:34:25 -0800

Trouble with Maven

Posted: Tue, 11 Mar 2008 by

I've tried to use Maven during my Java development but have found it rather frustrating for a few reasons.

The documentation is a bit sparse - Most of what you need is represented but setting up your own settings, deploying artifacts a repository and other more advanced subjects are under represented. Deploying artifacts is painful - This mostly goes along with the first point. The syntax, once figured out is far from obvious and much to verbose for my taste. That's one of the drawbacks of extreme flexibility... extreme complexity.

Because I tend to be a perfectionist when it comes to code I write at home I had taken a break from coding Java for a while (except at work of course).

Recently I've had some really good ideas pop into my head as well as how to implement those ideas so I wanted to get started again with Maven. I was able to utilize the the Q4E project which is a Maven plugin for Eclipse which I've found more stable and consistent than the original M2Eclipse plugin (though I haven't tried it in a while so it may have improved). This combined with my already POM-enabled projects in source control made for a pretty easy return to Java development. Unfortunately there was some frustration just around the corner.

When my new application was getting bulky enough to start needing some logging I decided to start using log4j which is commonly used in Java development. All I needed to do was add it to my project's POM as a dependency and Maven should have taken care of downloading it and adding it to my CLASSPATH but unfortunately that wasn't the case. Maven wasn't able to figure out how to get 3 of log4j's dependencies. Usually in a case like this it gives good suggestions on where to download them. Unfortunately the links that were given kept redirecting me somewhere on the Java site that wasn't what I was after. After struggling with the issue for a few hours I gave up and started using the Java SDK's (inferior, IMHO) logging mechanism but not being able to use log4j continued to nag at me.

This morning I decided to give it another try and this time the first thing I did was a google search which brought me to this blog entry. While installing a separate piece of software, Artifactory for a Maven Repository Proxy, this was something I had done using Proximity in the past so I was pretty familiar with what to expect. As I already had a server machine setup and ready to run Tomcat I was able to install Artifactory pretty quickly. Once installed I followed the instructions in the blog post and in the Artifactory documentation for setting up Maven to look at the repository proxy first and 2 of the 3 missing dependencies were downloaded no problem. I had to do an explicit search for jms-1.1.jar to get the last dependency but I followed similar instructions for installing it into my new repository. Long story short I'm now able to use log4j in my Java coding. I can also easily deploy the artifacts I create to my own repository with ease.

Now I need to stop messing around with all this stuff and continue my coding.

Updated: 2012-02-25 17:32:35 -0800

Interplay relaunches site, rehires original Fallout dev

Posted: Wed, 24 Sep 2008 by

Say what now? How cool is this?! I worked for both Babbages and Egghead Software during and after high school and played just about all of the games that Interplay published. It seems to have taken quite an effort on their part but hopefully this is just the beginning of the good news for this company. The first project to be an MMORPG based on the Fallout universe is very exciting. It certainly has a ton of potential. Hiring Chris Taylor was a great move also.

Updated: 2012-02-24 11:54:28 -0800

Rejoining The World Of Warcraft

Posted: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 by

I've been playing World of Warcraft off and on since before it's initial release in 2004. I've never been a huge fan of MMORPG's in the past either because they require far too much grinding or they place too much of a focus on the multi-player aspect and essentially ignoring the solo player (because I have such a busy schedule I tend to be more of a solo player in general). When WoW came along I was intrigued by the small barrier to entry, it's simple and effective questing system and it of course had the advantage of the Warcraft history built in. Because of my lack of focus when it comes to games (I'm far too easily distracted by other things) I would generally play for a few months and then take several months off from WoW. My latest hiatus lasted about a year. It took a new expansion to get me back into the game.

I've been playing again now for about 4 months or so and am delighted to say that I'm having a great time and not getting bored nearly as easily as I have in the past. Previously the highest level that I achieved for a character was 44. At that point I would either start a new character of a different class or just quit altogether. My current main character is a level 58 rogue. I'm glad I've really stuck with the game this time as I'm only now starting to discover the higher level content; content which I haven't seen before. Here's why I think WoW is such a great game and why it always keeps me coming back for more....

  • As mentioned before the barrier to entry is minimal. You can easily jump into a new character and figure out how to play it pretty quickly.
  • The interface is customizable. There are some fantastic add ons out there that make the game more fun and efficient to play all because Blizzard decided to make the interface scriptable.
  • It's feasible to solo. Although some classes are better than others for this purpose WoW is accessible for the solo player.
  • The stories and history of Azeroth that ate presented to you throughout the game is nothing short of astounding. There are definitely some truly creative minds at Blizzard.
  • There is a ton of content. The world is just huge. If you get bored questing in one area there are likely several others that will be suited for your character's level.
  • Multi-player specific content is reasonably accessible. The UI makes it easy to find other people to group with for the games instances and the rewards are worth it. Also the 5 man instances can be run through in a few hours so it's not a big time commitment.
  • The new achievements system adds an interesting twist. If after all the main content you start to get bored they have some very interesting and sometimes strange things to do for accomplishment points (and bragging rights of course).
  • Leveling isn't quite as difficult as it used to be. This is another aspect that makes soloing possible.
  • You're not penalized for not playing for a while. When logged out you actually become rested. When your character is rested you gain twice the experience when killing creatures for a while which can make up for some lost time.
  • Though I mainly solo I've started a small guild with a few friends and we run instances together occasionally. That only adds to the fun. Since I finally got a character past 55 I've been playing the new death knight class from the latest release and have also been able to visit Outland.
I'm still discovering new and cool things about the game. It's easy enough to suck you in and deep enough to keep you playing for a long time.

Updated: 2012-02-25 15:15:34 -0800

Backfilling Flickr Data in Aperture

Posted: Sun, 21 Sep 2008 by

This is a follow-up post to the Scripting OS X with Ruby post from the other day.

Step 1: Determine Flickr ID mappings

With the knowledge from that post I started to write some code which would help me get my photos' Flickr ids from my old data into my new data. I started by writing some Java code to export the photo name to Flickr id mappings using the Photoshop Elements library I wrote about. Because I had very rarely changed the titles of the photos it was easy to make the mapping from the base file name to Aperture version name (base file name: P1000243.JPG, Aperture version name: P1000243). The code I wrote simply output the expected version name and the Flickr id with a colon as the delimiter between them on each line of a file. Because of the work I had done previously it took about 10 minutes to write, debug and get my simple mapping file together.

Step 2: Backfill metadata from hacky app to Aperture

With the mapping file I was then able to write some Ruby code to go through each line of the file, getting the version name and Flickr ID and then applying that Flickr id to the corresponding photo in Aperture using the following script:

  #!/usr/bin/ruby
  require 'rubygems'
  require 'appscript'
  include Appscript
  aperture = app('Aperture')
  library = aperture.libraries.get[0]
  failed_images = Array.new
  file = File.new( 'flickr_image.export' )
  file.each do |line|
    (version_name, flickr_id) = line.split(/:/)
    flickr_id.chomp
    begin
    image = library.image_versions[version_name]
    image.make(:new =&gt; :custom_tag, :with_properties =&gt; {
      :name =&gt; 'Flickr ID',
      :value =&gt; flickr_id
    })
    puts("#{version_name} updated successfully.")
    rescue
      $stderr.puts("Version name: #{version_name} doesn't exist.")
      failed_images.push(version_name)
    end
  end
  images = failed_images.join("\n")
  $stderr.puts("The following images failed:\n#{images}")

If the version name I was after didn't exist in the Aperture library an exception would be thrown. This worked well for about 100 photos or so but I started to get the failed messages for just about every photo after that for some reason. Strangely enough the new meta data was applied successfully to all of the photos in the list regardless.

Step 3: Check my work

With all of the failed messages I saw above it was very important to check my work as the exceptions were unexpected.

  • In Aperture I did a search by looking for any photos in the library which didn't contain the "Flickr ID" meta data.
  • Click on the magnifying glass icon to the right of the top-level Library in the Projects Pain.
  • On the right side of the HUD that pops up click the "+" drop-down and select "Other Metadata".
  • In the entry that appears at the bottom of the HUD select "Flickr ID" from the first drop-down and "is empty" from the second drop-down. If "Flickr ID" isn't an option then you likely don't have any photos with that metadata included.
  • The photos that show up are all of the photos in your library that don't contain the "Flickr ID" data.

Most of what I found wasn't surprising. Almost all of the photos that showed up were ones that I expected to not have a Flickr ID yet because I hadn't uploaded them. There were about 200 or so that I had uploaded, however. All of our wedding photos, which I had uploaded using my hacky app mentioned in the previous post didn't appear to have saved the Flickr mappings when running. In order to back-fill that information I had to go back to some scripting.

Step 4: Backfill from Flickr to Aperture

Because all of the data I needed (again, version name and flickr id) were already contained in Flickr and the number of photos in the Flickr Set and the Album in Aperture were the same I decided to use Ruby to get the data and again add the metadata to the photos in Aperture.

By browsing to the set that contained all of our wedding photos and viewing the source I was able to get all the photos' Flickr IDs involved. Just look for a section near the top of the page that looks like:

  this:global_sets['72157600654403170'] = new Object();
  global_sets['72157600654403170'].id = '72157600654403170';
  global_sets['72157600654403170'].title = 'Alex and Sari's Wedding';
  global_sets['72157600654403170'].description = '';
  global_sets['72157600654403170'].photo_idsA = [721448862,720575657, ... ,722434609];
  global_sets['72157600654403170'].primary_photo_id = [722434609];
  var page_set = global_sets['72157600654403170'];

The line you want is the one that looks like

  global_sets['????'].photo_idsA = ...

The comma-delimited list on that line is all of the Flickr IDs involved.

By writing a Ruby script that would get the name of each of the photos corresponding to the Flickr ID I could then add the meta data to Aperture. I copied the list of IDs from above, replaced all of the commas with newline characters (one ID per line) and wrote the IDs to a file called flickr_ids.

I then wrote a script to read in each line of the file, get data on the Flickr photo and write the photo's name along with the Flickr ID to a file to be read by the first script:

  #!/usr/bin/ruby
  require 'rubygems'
  require 'flickr'
  KEY = 'YOUR KEY HERE'
  flickr = Flickr.new( KEY )
  flickr_ids = File.new('flickr_ids')
  flickr_ids_export = File.new('flickr_ids.export', 'w')
  flickr_ids.each do |flickr_id|
    flickr_id.chomp!
    begin
      photo = Flickr::Photo.new(flickr_id, KEY)
      parts = photo.title.split(/./)
      version_name = parts[0]
      flickr_ids_export.puts("#{version_name}:#{flickr_id}") 
    rescue
      $stderr.puts("Photo with id #{flickr_id} not found.")
    end
  end
  flickr_ids_export.close

After changing the name of the file imported I used the existing script to set the Flickr IDs and I was done. This assumes that the photos in question are public on Flickr.

I realize this is a problem very specific to my custom code and this specific problem but hopefully my experience will show how easy it is to do some pretty great things with Ruby.

Updated: 2012-02-25 16:34:09 -0800

Scripting OS X Software with Ruby

Posted: Fri, 19 Sep 2008 by

Ever since I discovered Flickr a few years ago I've wanted to develop an application to synchronize the data between it and whatever desktop application I was using. At the time I was using Photoshop Elements on Windows and was able to "decode" the data model used in the Access database that stores all of it's data. Using that knowledge I created a library in Java to read the data into Java objects. On top of that I was able to throw together some simple code to upload images and add metadata in Flickr using the Flickrj library. It was inefficient but got the job done... eventually. Since it worked well enough I pretty much abandoned further development in favor of other projects.

Fast forward a year or two and I started to desire moving to the Mac platform and iPhoto or Aperture. I wanted to be able to adapt my existing code to export to one of the new apps and then export from there to Flickr. Unfortunately the Java support on OS X does not necessarily intend interaction with native applications which makes this kind of process difficult. After asking how this process might be accomplished on some Apple development forums I eventually gave up. For the time being I settled for exporting meta data to the images, adding them to Aperture, and painstakingly reorganizing them into sets. Not a fun process. I then added the popular Flickr Export plugin to send my photos to Flickr. Unfortunately Flickr Export is only intended to export (no syncing) and if I update meta data in Aperture it won't be updated in Flickr which is a bug as far as I'm concerned. Because I am the way I am I've always felt uncomfortable with this process. To top it all off the images that I've already stored don't have the Flickr IDs stored in the images so all that information was lost in Aperture (though I still had the mappings stores on my Windows box).

It seems I've found a way to kill two birds with one stone. The first issue I wanted to solve was to get Flickr information into Aperture so Flickr Export wouldn't upload photos that were already there. I knew I could do this pretty easily with AppleScript but as I don't know AppleScript and the syntax, while intended to be more readable is incredibly cryptic, I wanted to avoid it at all costs. Plus I didn't feel like learning a whole new language to write what would essentially be a use-once, throw away script. Ruby to the rescue! There are two Ruby libraries which can interact with OS X applications that I evaluated: Ruby OSA and appscript.

While Ruby OSA has a much nicer Ruby-like syntax and is able to generate API documentation for OS X applications you're unable (as far as I can tell) to access objects in collections by name. More specifically I wanted to be able to get an image from my Aperture library by name. I could write a quick method which would iterate the whole set of images but with about 5000 images in my library it would be terribly inefficient. I eventually settled on the appscript library which can do this and do it efficiently. Armed with this knowledge I'm now able to write code which will take the Flickr IDs associated with my old photo library and add them to the images in Aperture. Additionally using the code for these libraries as an example (or the Objective C version of appscript) I should be able to do similar operations using a combination of native code and JNI calls.I'm really excited about these prospects and hope to apply them to future development to make my Aperture to Flickr workflow more efficient and reliable. I'll post more about this effort as I make progress.

Updated: 2012-02-25 17:20:03 -0800

iPhone Madness

Posted: Fri, 11 Jul 2008 by

Crazy, crazy, crazy!

I've been waiting to buy an iPhone for ages. The day finally arrived so I went down to U. Village around 7:30am, only 30 minutes before they opened, to stand in line with the other crazed Apple fans. It turns out that people started to wait in line the night before and had wrapped through U. Village all the way back to Office Depot. The Apple employees estimated that they would be able to get through 100 customers an hour. At that rate I would be out of the store by 11ish. Come 9:45a the line had hardly moved so I gave up for the time being.

After working from home for a while, stewing about the fact that I hadn't gotten my hands on one of the shiny new phones I started forming a plan. Head down to the Apple store after work and dinner. Nothing too shocking but I was hoping that the lines would've died down a bit by then. Luckily Sari was very supportive of my adventure, especially since I was getting her one too (a belated birthday present), so she suggested that I head down as soon as she got home at 5pm. It's a good thing she did too because the line was still long and the store was slowly running out of stock. Luckily the line only went through the undercover area in front of the store so it was about half the length but it still took a long time.

The fact that it wasn't raining was a plus. Not to mention that the Apple employees were constantly passing out water, snacks and sunscreen to protect their customers the 5 hour (yes 5 hour) wait in line wasn't too bad. The other "waiters" were also very friendly. There was sort of a passive aggressive, underlying bitchiness due to the long wait but we also shared a common hope in getting the iPhones we were after. Near the front of the line the Apple employees would start coming out every so often and warn us that we might not be able to get a 16GB iPhone in black as they were going fast which added strain to the line. Luckily when I got to the front I got two of the last black 16GB iPhones available in the store. When I got back home with the new phones both Rob and Sari sat on the couch for a good half an hour just playing with them, googly eyed.

All in all the experience was very positive and despite standing in the same place for long periods of time wasn't too exhausting. I certainly wouldn't do it again any time soon. At least not until the next iPhone release. :)

Updated: 2012-02-25 17:20:33 -0800

Jak and Daxter Returns! [DRAFT]

Posted: Sat, 10 Mar 2012 by

I don't play a lot of video games anymore but every now and then I come across a game that really holds my attention to the end. One of those games was Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. I don't play many games through to the end but did this one, even playing through a second time to collect all that you could. Naughty Dog (the creators of the game, as well as Crash Bandicoot and more recently the Uncharted series) decided that Jak and Daxter (along with its two sequels) were popular enough to warrant an HD, collection rerelease. I finished the first, got through about 90% of the second but never played the 3rd. Since I still loved the game I thought it would be a good opportunity to pick it up again so I bought a copy.

It originally came out on the Playstation 2 several years ago and I picked it up because it was eventually being sold as a classic so it was inexpensive. It's a platform game with lots of sense of humor and a cool story. It also didn't require you to do things in any particular order so it never really got boring. Each area of the game has a handful of levels. In each level you have to complete certain tasks to collect power cells. Collecting enough power cells will allow you to move to the next area of the game.

The levels are varied and the visuals are great. There are also a handful of mini-games sprinkled throughout to keep things fresh.

I started playing the first (HD) game again recently and it's been difficult to put it down (again). I'm about 85% and as soon as I'm done I'll be playing through the entirety of the second and third games as well.

If you never played the games on the Playstation 2 I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the trilogy for the Playstation 3 and giving it a shot. It's a lot of fun and doesn't require hours commitment, though you'll probably find yourself playing longer than you need to because it's so much fun.

Updated: 2012-03-21 07:10:33 -0700