Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More Coffee

Cool... Starbuck is announcing new larger coffee (the Plenta) -- offered starting tomorrow. So cool.

Also... Google Maps Envelope Beta. This is a cool new offering - gives you a printout that you fold up to make an envelope with map bubbles for the to and from. I wonder if the map is upsidedown if the destination isn't southwest from the sender's address.

Interesting... YouTube now has a text-only mode that's supposed to save them money. I don't see the appeal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Odds and Ends 18

-EXTRA-

"Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste."
-- Seth Godin

-1-

CROSSCUT.COM -- Seattle's last unnamed places - great article on naming Seattle's unnamed. And some suggestions.

-2-

LASTPERSONBLOGGING.BLOGSPOT.COM -- Of Cats and Cookies - Lori's a better writer than I. Any inconsistencies between hers and my accounts is due to my faulty memory.

-3-

MSNBC.COM -- Animal shelter turned into a ‘house of horrors’ - apparently if you let them die in their kennels, you get to keep your euthanasia rate low. My first impression (reading this the day we put our cat to sleep) was "God, if thinking of murdering someone is the same as actually doing it, please forgive me for killing Tim Trow." But after a few days, I have to ask... why did none of the other people mentioned in the article do anything sooner? (But then... how many Germans went along with Mr. Hitlet? Amazing what lack of judgement humans can display.)

-4-

KIRO.COM -- Digital Billboards that Watch You - a small camera in the billboard determines your gender and approximate age and serves up advertising that it thinks will appeal to you. It also tracks your eyes to see how long you actually watch, self-optimizing to be even more relevant to the next person who stops to look at it. No images of you are retained, just general demographics designed to offer even more relevant advertising to people and more specific stats about the types of advertisers who would work best in that particular display. (from Sam)

-5-

LIFEHACKER.COM -- Jumping Jacks Increase Productivity at the Office

-6-

SETHGODIN.COM -- Maybe you need new friends

-7- VIDEO

Theme song medley. From Christy.



-8- VIDEO

Now that is an elaborate stunt.



-9- VIDEO

Chat Roulette Piano guy. (Some swear words.)



-10- VIDEO

Cat vs. Machine

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Scanning Entertainment Weekly

Oh, how they pile up. After Lori's done with Entertainment Weekly, she tosses it on my side of the bed. And I move them to a pile on the floor next to my bed. And when I clean up, only a pile on my bookshelf. Staying home sick today, I decided that my side of the bed needed some work. So, I pulled out the stack and leafed through them, mostly to add movies and books to my want to watch/read, but also a few articles were interesting along the way. (I got through 18 magazines with 26 to go.)

Yeah, some of these are about movies that have already come out, but still interesting reads.

10/17/08 - Cheeta (76) from the Tarzan Movies: It's Hard Out There For a Chimp

10/24/08 - First Look: Star Trek - movie that rocked

10/24/08 - Elizabeth Banks: Elizabeth's Golden Moment - good for her

10/24/08 - The Mentalist: Crime Pays

11/07/08 - Mickey Rourke: Mickey Roars - probably haven't seen any of his movies.

11/07/08 - A Better TV Website in Four Easy Steps

04/17/09 - Anna Farris: Do I Look Funny?

04/17/09 - Michael J. Fox: Man at Work

05/22/09 - Breaking Up With Disney - prediction: within a few years, we'll start to see efforts by Disney to offer an post-child "career track" with other fare, either from the studio or in partnership with other studios, complete with planning and everything to help prevent future Lindsey Lohans.

05/29/09 - Eminem: Inside the road to 'Relapse' - I'm a poseur who only owns one or two of his albums which I bought on iTunes

07/10/09 - Harry Potter: This Magic Moment

08/07/09 - Web Obsession: Hello, Kitty!

01/22/10 - NBC's Late Night Disaster

01/22/10 - Avatar: The New Face of Movies

01/22/10 - The Return of Pee Wee

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Little Bit Louder Now

Spring is here. I got a lot of work done in the yard today. I laid out a bunch more weed barrier, put down seven bags of bark, trucked several loads more dirt and weeds to the back yard and the front yard is starting to look good. Of course, I've pretty much done all of the easy stuff. I also am not sure that I'm even half-way done. I don't think I'm going to be done by the next assessments. I just hope that I will have done enough to get a congratulatory placard and not a form generated letter indicating that there is more work to be done. Actually, already it looks better than last year, so that could be a good thing. Plus, almost no moss on the roof. Do need to install zinc strips this summer, though. I also did put moss killer down on the lawn tonight. Supposed to start killing moss within hours and also cause grass to get greener. So... I'll have more obvious blotchy patches of healthier grass and dying moss? Swell.

Right now we're watching FlashForward. I'm kind of hesitant to watch it. I'm worried that they're just burning them off and suddenly there won't be any more episodes without it being resolved. The good thing is that there's a book that this show was based on. The cool thing is that the author of the book has consulted on the script or written an episode or something. But there are some differences between the book and the TV show and I like one of the changes they made for the TV show a lot. I feel like I've already written about this.

I finished a book today called "Bad Blood" - it was really long. It was OK. There was lots of talk about the tunnels bored (or being bored) underneath New York and how tenuous the water situation is in Manhattan, as well as history lessons on the water system. I think if I lived in New York, I'd find that a lot more fascinating. The only thing I did really find fascinating is that they're boring further underground than the height of the Empire State Building - that there are generations of families that that's all they've done. And they typically die young poisoned by the gases and dust from the drilling. And, if this fiction book is to believed, also family feuds that persist over the decades.

Now I'm reading Stephen Colbert's "I Am America (So Can You)" - I think I'm going to return it to the library incomplete. I see how it could be funny, but it just doesn't amuse me. I guess that's no surprise, really - I can't get into his show, either.

I had two cups of coffee for breakfast. A late lunch with nachos and a soda. Then with dinner, two more sodas. I swear, I could drink one or two more right now. I don't know why. I just really, really want more soda.

While our front yard is taking shape, our backyard is still embarrassing. The grass is really, really tall, there's a bunch of wood to clean up from last July, there's piles of dirt that need to be moved (because I didn't have a wheelbarrow until December). I have a new thing to put under the grill but it's been sitting in the garage for a few weeks now (I moved it upstairs so it's near the grill at least.) I need to repaint the deck. The list goes on and on. Inside the house, there's the chair rail to add to Ben's room. The ceiling fan in Ben's room needs to be mounted more safely. There's some grout from the tile job that needs to be redone. There's other small tasks related to the job still to do. The work in the front yard, however, has inspired me.

It's only a matter of time - I will get a lot done this summer. Of course, I must do it out of sight of Ben. He saw me out front working and he started banging on the glass storm door and got really mad and started screaming. Apparently it's OK for me to leave for work, but it's not OK for me to be outside where he can see me but can't be with me. Unfortunately, we can't have him just outside yet, he doesn't have any concept of boundaries or danger or following instructions. But, someday. And then, I will enlist his help. Rachel went with me to Home Depot (we still can't find her smock) to buy the materials but after helping for about five minutes, she announced that princesses didn't work in the yard and went inside. Oh well. At least I had my iPod.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Don't Want to Write. Ha.

I really don't feel like writing tonight. You'd think that I'd be more interested in doing this, but, yeah, don't feel like it. Lori, Rachel and Ben were sick last night and so we didn't get a lot of sleep. They did better today, but I stayed home to stay with them. For one thing, it allowed Lori to spend some time resting herself. They didn't show any additional signs today which was good. And I seem to have escaped it myself. Which is good, I have a lot to do tomorrow.

So I hung out with the children today, played, read a lot in the book I'm reading. I feel like I'm halfway through the book and I'm still not sure what I think of it. It started as a legal drama and then moved into the tunnels under New York where they're working to build new tunnels to bring water into the city. I think that if I lived there, I would be much more fascinated by it. But, because it's a fiction book, I've been moving through it quite quickly.

I've still been stalling on taking care of more Carol stuff. I did remove all the upcoming reminders from Remember The Milk for her pills and brushing and stuff, but there's still more real stuff to do. There's a partially eaten bag of food that I guess the rats at the dump can enjoy. There's also two unopened cans of soft food. My original idea was to ask the vets if they could just give them to the next person to have a cat diagnosed with kidney failure, but then I couldn't bring myself to do it, and I'm sure it would have just been a pain in the neck for them... they'd either have to set them on the counter and wait, or someone would get tired of them being there and just put them back on the shelf and sell them again. Although at this point, I'm not sure I care. I guess I shouldn't let the food go to waste. And then there's the cat boxes. Now that we're down to one cat, we don't need two cat boxes. I and Carol moved into the new apartment a week or two before we got married. Morticia came over at that time, too. That gave Lori a quieter place for packing and stuff (though I wonder if it made it lonely). But ever since then, I've been cleaning up after more than one cat, and at one point, it was four cats. But now there's one, I think it's safe to go back to a single litter box. We will also start saving money on cat litter.

I do think that Cash is a little sad, he seems to be a little bit more mopey. But, he's also enjoying the freedom - we've been allowing him upstairs a little more and he's even been willing to stay around Rachel and let her pet him. But I think he does feel a little lonely, especially when we make him sleep alone in the laundry room. I had caught him a few times near the end there snuggled right up against Carol. You sometimes wonder if animals know this kind of stuff. If a dog can smell cancer, perhaps that's not too far off for an animal to know if another animal is on their way out - smells, sounds, actions that are more apparent from their level.

Today kind of ended up feeling like "a Saturday without anything." I have kind of wondered what that is actually like. I did a little laundry washing and folding and putting away, but I didn't do a lot of chores tonight, and I didn't go anywhere until really late in the evening. I did also do some work, checking the Blackberry throughout the day, talking on IM for a little while with some of my staff and sitting down at the laptop for a few tasks that needed to be done today. But tomorrow, the real Saturday, I think Lori has something in the morning and then we have something in the evening, and then between those two things, I need to run to Home Depot and buy a lot of bark and then lay out a lot more weed block and pour out a lot of bark in the front yard. Maybe also some more gravel for the path. The part I've already done looks great, but it was the easy part - it was relatively clear, since all we were keeping was the rose bushes I was able to just clear the rest, pansies, weeds, etc. But now we're getting into areas with other plants that are closer to the ground. They're going to be more difficult to work around.

And then tonight I had to run an errand - we were out of milk. It was really nice driving in the car after dark, and then walking around the grocery store remembering when I had to do all my own shopping and I could buy whatever I wanted. (Might explain why I was in better shape until I went off to school.) But tonight, I bought only what I was on a mission to buy, no deviations, no Cadburry eggs (actually, only because I didn't see them near the register). And the weirdest thing of all, they wanted my phone number for their little loyalty program and out of thin air I pulled up a 6 year old phone number from the house in California and it was right. I was amazed. I couldn't remember that number while we actually lived there. Before we had children, in California, we would take walks late at night. Moreso when we lived in Los Angeles, before we moved out to the real deep suburbs. There was great places to walk, lots going on. One time we saw Eddie Murphy hanging out the side of a taxi on a flatbed howling and barking and cheering us on. (If you've since seen the movie - Nutty Professor - it wasn't late one night but daytime and he was cheering at two dogs procreating in a grassy neighborhood, not two 20-somethings strolling down a sidestreet in front of closed storefronts. Ah, the power of movies.) But, yeah, now the only time I find myself driving at night it's because there's a screaming baby. Of course, last time that happened, he stopped crying after 30 minutes and I drove around for another hour and a half. Lori wasn't exactly thrilled with that, wondering where we were. But it did allow me to see a part of Seattle I'd never seen - West Seattle, where you can overlook downtown and where people are out walking and jogging and riding bikes in the middle of the night. I told Lori she can expect more of that with a next child - me taking long drives - and I would later take Lori back to that same area when we were on an anniversary sans children so she could see the wonderful views I had enjoyed that night.

But now, the fake Saturday is coming to an end. Lori still not feeling wonderful, dragged herself upstairs after the show we were watching ended and I guess I ought to be heading up myself if I want to do any more reading tonight.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ghost in the Machine

Can I just say how cool Pandora is?  I've created some cool stations, like a one of fast beats based on "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga.  I'm building another one of female calming music based on "Mercy" by Duffy.  Right now I'm listening to one that I seeded with Michael BublĂ©.  It's mostly him and Norah Jones so far, but I've heard some Sinatra and Dean Martin.   Even cooler, it's on the Blu-Ray player playing over the TV so that I'm not taking up any of the computer to play it.  (So I can still watch little videos and stuff.)

Things are... weird.  I'm still processing the death of Carol yesterday.  And today we had a memorial service at the start of our weekly chapel at work for the (now seven) murdered Pakistanis who worked for World Vision Pakistan.  They were all Muslims, mostly residents from the area where the office was.  They were working on programs that benefitted the people who lived through a major earthquake a few years ago.  Estimates were that as many as 4 million people were left homeless as a result of the quake that killed over 70,000.  The programs they were working on were devised by people in that community, a coalition of local governmental leaders and Muslim faith leaders (since the area is predominantly Muslim).  So these attackers, striking a blow against the American imperials were really dealing a blow against their fellow countrymen.  So stupid.  One woman who I think was only injured, it was her second day there.  Five of the seven were younger than me and one, my age, had a one-year-old.  He and his wife had tried for eight years before conceiving him.  We listened to an audio recording accounting the work they were doing, how the office was decorated in bright colors and how the attackers came in and shot up the place and then as they were leaving detonated a bomb that destroyed even those wonderful colors.

So death's been on my mind a lot lately.  I can't imagine what that was like there that day.  I've seen a few dead people in my life, but they've all been nicely laid out in coffins, dressed nicely and looking at peace.  I have seen people under sheets on TV, I once saw a guy on live TV ram his minivan into the back of a semi, killing himself, but you couldn't see anything.  And once after a bank robbery I saw a man dressed in body armor and a mask carrying an automatic rifle down the street in Hollywood -- while the helicopter hovered overhead -- take a shot to the head, blood spurting as he crumpled to the ground.

And then there's animals.  I've seen dead birds, all manner of roadkill, a dead dog at the end of a long blood trail (our Jr. High school bus drove on the wrong side of the road for the length of it and we all stared not realizing at first what we were looking at until we got to the dog) and I've even seen the head of a dog alone on a California freeway.  I remember my frustrated and harried mom dealing with Zachary as he was dying, putting him into a box and putting us all in the car.  I think he was gone before we made it to the vet's office.  All of that has bubbled back to the front of my brain as I've thought of the lifeless eyes of Carol and Tinsel once their life has ebbed away.  Lori says I was there for Morticia as well, but I have to honestly say I don't remember it.

But the ever-practical me has also started thinking of the more practical considerations.  I think in some ways, I've been bracing myself for Carol's death for months if not years.  I knew she was going to pass and all the messes I was cleaning up in the laundry room were never fun.  And it became even more clear once she had to start getting the pills twice a day.  I wouldn't say I resented it, but I knew things would be easier once I wasn't having to force them down her throat twice a day.  But I worried - would I be able to grieve?  Could I mourn?  Could I be empathetic?  I was relieved to learn that I could, crying several times yesterday, my face mangled up in anguish as I waited outside the vet's office for Lori and Rachel and Ben to arrive with Carol.  (I do not want to ever be videotaped in that state, it's gotta look downright horrific how twisted up my face gets.)  So in some ways, I guess I had been prepping myself for a time when she would no longer be with us.

But I also feel guilt.  Because our flock had grown so large, we didn't spent enough time with all of our pets.  That was one of the reasons we surrendered Barkley.  It was a vicious cycle.  She spent too much time cooped up in her kennel, so when we let her out, she was really full of energy, which made her hard to be around, so she'd end up nipping or jumping on you and suddenly she'd find herself back in her kennel.  We're told she ended up on a farm with a much smaller dog.  I just hope she didn't eat that other dog.

I feel guilt because Carol didn't get enough attention.  And as a younger kitten, she was also couped up, living for a year illegally in a an apartment where I hadn't told the manager I had bought a cat so she was never allowed up on windowsills and lived in the massive walk-in closet during the day when I was gone (it was bigger than my kitchen in that apartment).  And because when I got her she was so tiny that I was afraid I'd roll over on her, I never let her sleep on the bed with me when she was little so she never really learned how to do that.  Also, according to the vet, the people that had the kitten mill had probably weaned her too soon (she was probably only 3 weeks old when I bought her) and she had never learned to cover her business in the cat box, but occasionally just went elsewhere when she felt like it.

But I still remember the day I got her.  I stuck the antenna of my ridiculously large Nokia 100 (it was 1997, afterall) into the cage and she jumped for it immediately.  I carried her up against my body out of the mall instead of putting her in the box.  And halfway home, I had to pull off the road and find her because she had crawled under the seat and I was worried she was going to come out and get in the way of the pedals.  I'm gonna miss that cat.  And I'm going to do better with pets from now on.

Starting with Cash.  When I was there with Carol on Monday, I asked if we were due for anything on Cash and they looked him up and said they had no vaccination records for him.  We had used a couple of different vets since we moved here, but is it possible that between all the sickness of the other pets we somehow failed to get him his vaccinations at all?  Pure negligence.  Sometime in the next few weeks we're going to get him in for all of his shots and then schedule him for a yearly checkup.  We do that for ourselves (well, at least dental.  I'm not so good personally on regular checkups.), our children and our cars get regular oil changes.  If we aren't willing to spend the time and money to have our pets regularly checked out, then we don't deserve to have them.  It's time to start being responsible with them since they are like associate family members or something.

Anyhow, back to the practical.  So there's Carol's special food to toss because it probably wouldn't be good for Cash.  There's her stuff in the catbox (it's been almost 11 years since I've only cleaned the catbox of one cat), and there's other stuff to unwind as well.

So one other weird one.  I was playing on the Nintendo Wii tonight. We put Cash and Carol into the system when the Wii Fit Plus version came out and we could do Pet Stats.  As soon as you sign-in, we all run in (Lori, Rachel, me, Carol, Cash) and Ben crawls in.  (That was how we realized the other day just how much weight Carol had lost.)

And if you move your cursor over the cats, they meow.  They're just little avatars, you have about 16 possible combinations - 4 markings types and 4 color choices.  So there's a little all black "Cash" and a gray tabby "Carol."

Anyhow, I was doing the Island Cycling and I rode past a cat and it meowed at me.       So I pressed the button to ring the bell and Carol started running alongside me.  As I approached a flag, I rang the bell again and Cash ran ahead and tripped the flag for me.    

And it hit me.  I had planned to remove Carol from the system in the next few days.  But, what if we just left her in there?  Sure, every so often it will say "I haven't seen Carol in awhile." and that will be sad, but if we leave her in there, then we'll see her running along the track during running (she can even lead you if you run past the human trainer), and she could help us in the Island Cycling and Segway Balloon Popping game.  So in a way, a virtual version of Carol can live on.

I know that sounds a little weird, but right now, the idea is comforting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carol the Cat

Carol the Cat relaxing at one of her resort properties
(MSNBC undated file photo)
April 15, 1997-March 16, 2010

Carol the Cat passed away today, a victim of two incompatible diseases common amongst cats - hyperthyroidism and kidney failure. Treating one would often result in the other becoming more pronounced and this tug-of-war just wreaked havoc on her frail, aging body.

Carol led a long and varied life. Despite being one of the few EGOT winners, this was not well known beyond the small circle of friends she chose to associate with. She was very modest, keeping her awards at the back of her cat carrier, except for the Oscar which had to be repeatedly fished out of the cat box. Carol seemed to agree with the common prevailing thought that her award for 2004's "Metro Now" was simply a career achievement award after 2003's upset for in which her much more critically acclaimed turn in "The Almighty Sand Dollar." went unrecognized.  Carol would also gain fame for her critically acclaimed screenplay "Bonus Ares" which was on track to become a major motion picture before the untimely failed merger of AOL and Time Warner saw many green-lit projects canceled.

Carol displayed a penchant for seizing opportunities from a very early age but learned quickly how difficult it was working in a human-based financial world after seeing her "Jingle Cats" idea stolen after it was ruled that cats can't hold copyrights. Vowing never again to make that mistake, Carol retained the firm of Litigis, Mao, Clauw and Payne to handle all of her financial transactions for the rest of her life and began operating under the nom-de-plume "Jerome Furripants." Carol would ultimately release four albums that all went platinum.

Carol quickly turned the royalties into a vast real estate empire stretching from Los Angeles to Tokyo to St. Petersburg as well as ownership stakes in three major midwest sports teams, though she had no interest in sports herself.

Carol also developed an politics late in life, however, it was to become a dream unrealized. In an unprecedented turn of events, Carol found herself thrust into the limelight along with 500 other candidates for a special election for governor of the state of California. However, a statement on her blog declaring "Unions protect the lazy. Abolish unions and get back to work!" written in frustration during the recent writer's strike would prove to be her downfall.

Carol fled the state in disgrace seeking the colder climes of Washington state. Carol traveled to the new state accompanied by her associates Morticia, Cash, Tinsel and Barkley along with a group of humans. Morticia and Tinsel unfortunately passed away of kidney failure and hyperthyroidism, respectively. And Barkley the dog would also soon part ways for a new home.

A few years ago, Carol was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism which led her to drop from 13 pounds to 4 before she was diagnosed and began Tapazole treatment (a pill forced down her throat twice daily). She regained several pounds and was again healthy until January when she began to again show signs of marked weight loss. This time, the diagnosis was elevated kidney levels. It was time for a new lower protein diet.

It also meant that she and Cash could only fed when they could be separated. So she would have to eat twice a day, locked in the laundry room. Especially in the beginning when she had trouble adjusting to the diet and threw up regularly. She seemed healthier for a little while but then began to lose weight again. By the weekend it was completely obvious things were going south and that she wasn't eating and yesterday I took some time off in the middle of the day to go home and collect Carol and take her to the vet for another examination. They did blood work and we took her home. She was obviously having trouble walking. Over the past few days, I was sure that we were nearing the end so I had spent a little more time with her, but it's hard to know if she was in a lot of pain or not.

This morning, it was obvious that we were incredibly close to the end. She was really unable to walk and at one point trying to walk on a pile of laundry, she fell over on her side and wet herself. It was very sad. I was pretty sure today was the day.

They called right away this morning with the news -- the kidneys were much worse. If we wanted, we could be taught how to inject fluid under her skin, but that would only buy us a few months, probably. There was also a more costly option, but there was no guarantee it would work. Or, it might be best just to "put her to sleep." That is a horrible lie we tell ourselves, calling it that.

But the options they outlined would have been for us, not for her. So after picking up Rachel from school, she brought the kids and met me at the clinic and, well, that was it. It wasn't quite as simple - they had trouble finding a vein, even tried shaving one of her legs before deciding even that wasn't going to work and bringing in a second person to help while they used a different vein lower on her body. She fought it, but it was obvious it was simply the situation she was fighting. This wasn't a disease or an injury she was going to bounce back from, her body was simply giving up.

So I held her head in my hands and talked softly to her at the end. We had made the unfortunate mistake of giving the kids food just before because they were both getting anxious so it was a little disappointed that Rachel was distracted because she had wanted to witness it, but she missed it.

Carol did go pretty quickly once they were successful in inserting into a vein. I told her that I didn't know if I'd see her again, but that I loved her and that she'd soon be free of the pain. And then she was gone. I just wish pets would close their eyes as they died as a final sign of release.

Carol the cat was named after the Youth Director at our church when I was in high school - a wonderful person who had a big influence on my life in those years and a lasting impact on my life ever since.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Odds and Ends 17 - Transportation

-1-

ENGADGET.COM -- Porsche 918 Spyder concept is the most beautiful hybrid we've ever seen - 0 to 62 in 3.2

-2-

ENGADGET.COM -- Martin Jetpack priced at $86,000, mere mortals will soon be able to buy one too

-3-

INHABIT.COM -- Ferrari Unveils 599 HY-KERS Hybrid Supercar - nice

-4-

ENGADGET.COM -- Lotus outs wild Evora 414E Hybrid plug-in concept car

-5-

ENGADGET.COM -- TAG Heuer and Tesla Motors team up to show off products you can't afford

-6-

GOOGLESYSTEM.BLOGSPOT.COM -- Google Maps Adds Biking Directions

-7-

ENGADGET.COM -- Tesla switches gears, plans to keep Roadster till 2012

-8-

SEATTLETRANSITBLOG.COM -- Signaling on MLK, parts one and two.

-9-

SEATTLETRANSITBLOG.COM -- Light Rail Measure Planned for 2011

-10-

Humor -- Cat on steroids lifts car

I came here to watch the sun disappear into the ocean

I've stared at the blank screen for 26 minutes now. Of course, the other screen was blaring at me. If it counts those 26 minutes, this will be a forever-to-750 post. The whole time I've also been doing free step. I'm not sure how effective that is anymore. My friend Sam's been telling me about a program that has "muscle confusion" at its core. Every day, it's something new, and it's using different muscle groups together in unconventional ways. The theory, which is apparently quite successful is that your body never knows what's coming next and so it's like when you do several reps and then you skip a day and your body is working to rebuild. Only every day it's something entirely different so after a few days your body is just working like crazy on rebuilding all different muscle groups at the same time. I'm intrigued. Of course, free step is quick and easy and I can walk for 30 minutes every morning and an hour every night and use the laptop the entire time and watch TV, too, if I want. I have to assume it's doing something.

I am about 11 pounds lighter than I was last year about this time when we do our annual fitness checkup for work. It's worth a decent chunk off of our insurance premiums each year to stay healthy. The baseline minimum required was 71 and I got a 75. And weighing less should mean a higher number. Also one of my cholesterols was too high, but it was the one that apparently you can't change very easily. They had plenty of recommendations for changing the other one and none for changing the one of mine that they didn't like. But otherwise I had a lot of good scores. I wonder if you lose points for not getting enough sleep.

It was so nice out this evening. I took out some last minute trash to the curb and decided to fill a greens can while I was at it. I had worked in the yard a little bit on Sunday and trimmed some trees and pruned some bushes, but left the trimmings where they fell. It was so nice out that I decided to get a can out and wheel it around and pick everything up. Might as well, we're paying for greens service every single month and rarely use it. One of these days I'll get a lot cleaned up now that I have an awesome wheelbarrow. I have a spot on the side yard that's just piled high with tree branches and other stuff. But I need to get a saw out there and chop some of the stuff down into smaller pieces. I could probably fill 2 or 3 greens cans. Which is fine, since we ended up with 3 of them. There was one (full, naturually) here when we moved in, then they delivered us one with service, and then when they screwed up our billing and took our other cans, they didn't take that can. So when they brought it back, they brought back another greens can. Waste Management isn't a good company.

Took Carol the cat to the vet this morning. The doctor (not the one she's seen the last few times) came in and asked some questions and then started telling me some pretty standard basic stuff and was upbeat. I kept asking questions and the way she answered them it was obvious that she actually hadn't bothered to look at Carol's chart before coming in. So finally I got her to go read the chart and when she came back she was much more subdued and had fewer choices and even mentioned putting Carol to sleep. We did another round of blood tests just to see if she's gone downhill since the last round in January and then they used an IV to pump fluids into her. She was noticeably heavier when I carried her out to the car. Tonight she started eating after a very short time of having the food in front of her, like 20-30 seconds. But, she didn't eat very much and since then has acted uninterested in food. I suspect that she's on her way out, but at least now we'll have a more authoritative answer.

We had a minor reorg to the massive reorg we have six months ago. They flattened out a little bit of the org chart in another group. Instead of refilling a recently vacant position, they elevated all the "l2's" up one to report directly to my boss' boss. (So now he has six peers instead of 3.) The org. chart looks really funny now. My boss' boss has eight people (seven direct reports lined across the page and the one administrative assistant off to one side) and two of those positions are vacant. And then there's some smaller groups lined across the page, until you get to me. I also have eight direct reports, including one open position we hope to fill soon. And that doesn't count one more person who I believe is coming on board soon who will report to me but do work for another group that will also pay his salary. (His specialty isn't the same as theirs. He'd support them but they'd have no adequate structure for him to fit into.) Fortunately, some recent changes has made my quite a bit simpler and probably also simplified things for the people who report to me and actually do the work. Except Thursdays. Thursdays I have one-on-one's with my staff. Most meet with me for 5-30 minutes every other week and one meets with me for 30 every week. So that's pretty much my Thursday afternoon every week.

But that's fine, there are a lot of really smart and creative people reporting to me and most of them work in an area that I didn't come up the ranks through so they're always teaching me new stuff. I love this job.

Odds and Ends 16

-EXTRA-

"You can't hold a man down without staying down with him." -- Booker T. Washington

-1-

SEATTLETRANSITBLOG.COM -- The Yellow Brick Road was an Enormous Boondoggle (humor)

-2-

BASICINSTRUCTIONS.COM -- How to Construct an Informative Presentation

-3-

SETHGODIN.COM -- "Try Different" (forget "Try Harder")

-4-

INHABIT.COM -- Maldives To Fight Rising Sea Levels With Floating Islands - the 1200 islands of the Maldives are all no more than 6' above sea level. Rising tides are going to put the entire nation underwater.

-5-

LIFEHACKER.COM -- Make a Possibilities Calendar to Take Advantage of Unexpected Free Time - clever

-6-

UNCLUTTERER.COM -- 10 more uncluttering things to do every day - some things I do, some things I wish I did

-7-

MASHABLE.COM -- Reuters to Journalists: Don’t Break News on Twitter. Reuters to the World: Yeah, We Still Don't Get This Whole Social Media Thing

-8-

MASHABLE.COM -- Google Easter Eggs Galore - fun

-9-

LIFEHACKER.COM -- Use Foam Packing Peanuts to Hold a Nail, Secure a Screw - while I'm a little dubious of the screw-securing nature, the holding-a-nail thing - so simple it's brilliant.

-10- VIDEO

MASHABLE.COM -- Rock Out with PixieTea and Her Amazing iPhone Band - pretty cool. Catchy even if you don't know Chinese.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fading Carol

I am amazed that of all of the people I've searched for online, I'm amazed that I've never come across Carol Maakestad. Of course, she could be married by now, and as a teacher she's got good reason not to make herself available too much online. Many of my teacher friends have worked hard to make themselves scarce online. And I have to admit that I stopped looking online for people for awhile after finding the obituary for one of the people I was looking for.

But I again tonight find myself looking for her. I last saw Carol in the parking lot of a school in the spring of 1996. It was my farewell tour. I had gone to my parent's house earlier that day and packed up the rest of my stuff. I had stopped and seen Patty Hoem Armstrong to say goodbye and then I stopped and saw Carol before heading back to school. School was almost out. I can't remember the timing exactly but I think I already knew that I was California-bound.

Carol was a really big influence on my life during my high school years as the leader of our youth group at Silverdale Lutheran Church. Until tonight, my search was further hindered by the fact that I couldn't perfectly remember her name. I knew there was two a's in her name, but I couldn't remember the exact placement. Tonight I was able to find enough details to know where she probably lives now, city-wise, but that was just one of those pay-for-details things and that's not what I'm looking for. I don't want to be stalker-like. My philosophy has always been to post a list of the people I'm looking for and let them contact me if they want to. I've had some cool successes over the years with this method.

Anyhow, yeah, I'm thinking of Carol tonight because my cat of the same name is dying. I got Carol as a kitten in May 1997. I'd been in California for a year and feeling a little bit lonely and thought I'd get a cat. I tried to think of non-people names for the cat, but never could come up with one, so I decided to name her Carol as an homage. I realize that's possibly silly or weird, but well, it is what it is.

Anyhow, so after four apartments and two homes, having to share me with a wonderful woman and then two children, having welcomed three other cats (and seen two of them die), a puppy who became a dog and lived with us for a few years, it looks like Carol may not have much life left in her. (Mom and dad, I know you've agreed to watch her later this month. Please don't let this post scare you.)

Anyhow, in recent years the cat has developed hyperthyroidism which has resulted in twice-daily pills shoved down her throat and now something else that I can't recall the name of which has resulted in a low protein diet. Of course, that has meant needing to separate the two cats for feeding. This has allowed us to monitor Carol's eating. And in the past few days, she's barely eaten, and even then, only if it's if out of my hand. We'd been occasionally weighing Carol on the Wii Fit and I did it yesterday and she'd dropped 1.8 pounds to just under 5 pounds. She just wants to sit near us but doesn't want to eat.

It's hard to watch. I haven't heard her stomach growling the way Tinsel's did at the end (Yes, we ended up with cats named Carol and Tinsel. Slightly intentional.) Anyhow, Tinsel also had hyperthyroidism but not the protein thing, but in the end, we think she stopped eating as well. So it's hard to know if I should continue to encourage her to eat, even forcibly, or just let her waste away and hope it's more peaceful than ravaging? Because I'm certainly not going to actively help her end her life. I've killed bugs and even the world's slowest hummingbird (had managed to get caught and chewed on by Barkley the dog and the humane thing was to end its life) but I'm not going to take my cat's life.

She doesn't show any outward signs of pain other than stiffness with her walking.

The one thing that I did read is that if a cat (or a person) stops eating that acid will build up in their stomach and that will make them less interested in eating (anorexia) and that will eventually kill them. In the olden days, a cat would just go off somewhere and die but Carol's an indoor cat and there are coyotes here so that's not a circle of life thing I can get behind.

I may have to end up taking her to a vet to ask them to assist her, but I hate that idea, too. Tinsel had the hyperthyroidism much longer and seemed healthy right up until the end. The night before we could tell it wasn't good and the next morning we found her sleeping in the cat box. We took her upstairs and it was clear she'd had a stroke and she just lay there unable to move. We took her in and they explained that there would be two shots, but they had barely injected the first one and she gracefully passed on while Rachel and Lori and I stood there. I watched her for a long time willing her to start breathing again.

Morticia was getting old, but also not necessarily showing any signs of sickness. Lori had taken her in on a Thursday because of really foul breath and what looked like a bloody tooth. They called the next day and said that she had experienced massive liver failure and that they said it could be a matter of days or weeks before she died and that it would be incredibly painful and they really recommended putting her to sleep. And that night before I could even get home from work and say goodbye, she was gone.

So it's really hard to know if Carol is silently suffering. I kind of think she is, but I wish she would give us more of a sign.

I told Rachel tonight and she got a really sad look on her face and I told her that we just need to be nice and loving to her as long as she's with us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

15th. Avenue Coffee and Tea - an unsolicited comment

Dear H.S.,

I visited your pet project "15th. Avenue Coffee and Tea" today. While I enjoyed the experience, I have to admit... I felt a little lost. You've trained me so well that I didn't know how to order... could I call it a "Caramel Macchiato"? Should I ask for a "grande" or a "medium"?

I went with "Macchiato with Caramel and White Chocolate" (what? No white chocolate?) And I asked for a medium. And what's with no coffee cake? I thought it was a coffee shop.

After the initial confusion, everything was swell. But since this is supposed to a trial of something different, I would like to make the following notes.

(1) I would add some more local flavor. I used to regularly go to the big green coffee chain on West Foothill in Monrovia and the one on Fair Oaks in Pasadena and they always had pictures on the walls drawn by local school children or flyers for upcoming events in the area. I loved how it felt integrated into the neighborhood. (Much like the "pooch of the month" out from of 15ACAT next to the water dishes. But bring that inside.)

(2) I'd lose the "inspired by" tagline. It reeks of misplaced vanity. If you're trying to do something new, don't put it in the shadow of its bigger sibling.

(3) How about a little shelf of take-and-leave books? I think I saw board games and there was a dad and son playing with the Legos on the table behind me, but what about books? (I didn't see any from where I was sitting. Sorry if there was some.)

(4) I know you're going for homey and I loved the massive tables. But if the tables are away from the walls and the power plugs are along the walls, you're going to see people creating trip-hazards with their laptop power cables. Maybe you could hide them in the table (a raised wooden box that flowers can sit on?) or underneath by the table legs or something

But otherwise, I enjoyed the experience. The music was great, it was really laid back. It was dark and it wasn't slick. It was fun, it was casual. The food, good. The other customers all friendly. It was the kind of thing I remembered from the lazy Sunday afternoons in Encino where I'd get a pastry on a glass plate and a coffee in a glass mug from the mermaid and sit outside with my feet up on the edge of the fountain reading Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Just a very pleasant and peaceful experience.

15ACAT was the first stop on my Daddy/Daughter Day with my five-year-old. And we have to drive for 45 minutes to get there. When she first found out we weren't going to Starbucks, she was sad. She kept bringing it up during the drive, in a whisper. But as we were leaving 15ACAT, she asked if we could come back next weekend. (Later in the day we went to Pike Place and I showed her the brown store, the historical roots of the big chain and she excitedly told her mom when we got home that she'd gotten to see the first one.)

While it won't be next weekend, we will be back.

James in Federal Way

Daddy/Daughter Day

Today was a good day. Daddy/daughter day. Sometimes these are a few hours, sometimes these are spend with far too little quality time and far too much driving time. Today was probably one of the best D3s yet.

I woke up at 8 when I heard Rachel running to her bathroom. When I came out, she was already back in her room playing quietly. As soon as I came in, she started picking up all her Littlest Pet Shop characters off her bed and putting them back in her bin. She had said she was coloring before that but had put all of her crayons and coloring books away when she was done. Score one for the new art storage bin Lori got her yesterday.

So we went downstairs and I got her breakfast started and then went down to feed the cats and do my morning Wii Fit stuff. She came down and I made a list for her of responsibilities she needed to take care of, which she quickly did, from bringing down the laundry (she said she skipped our room so as not to wake up mommy), made her bed, a few other things. When I came up, I had to help her clean up her breakfast dishes and Lori did help her get her clothes picked out and on and everything, but she did a lot and let Lori sleep in which was cool.

Typically we start these days with a trip to Starbucks. She gets a steamed milk with vanilla, I get a drink and we split a piece of coffee cake. She found out that we would be going some place different today and was ok with that. Although she did bring up Starbucks a few times, even pointing one out, but every time, speaking in a low whisper. I learned later that she had also whispered to Lori before we left that we weren't going to Starbucks but going somewhere else.

We got started later than I wanted to, and then had to stop and get gas, and then cross town a little bit and drop off some library books. And then, getting close to the freeway, she announced she needed to use the restroom. So stopped at Target to get that taken care of, and then we were finally off.

Our first destination, 15th. Avenue Coffee and Tea was a little harder to find than I had expected. I was relying on a general idea of where it was and the directions to get there, but in retrospect, I probably should have used the GPS. We did finally find it, but it took another two-to-three blocks to find parking. We walked back, eating bananas Lori had sent along with us. We had to stop at a public garbage can to toss out parts that had started to get mushy, but hopefully we didn't look like we had just pulled the bananas out of the trash.

Got to the coffee shop and I have to admit, I was a little lost. Could I call what I wanted a Caramel Macciato(sp?) or did I have to call it something else? And for size... should I say grande or just medium? (I decided on medium and I decided on calling it a Macciato with Caramel and White Chocolate. Turns out they didn't have white chocolate. And their mediums felt a little small.) Anyhow, yeah, I felt a little out of my element. Also, no coffee cake. What? A coffee shop with no coffee cake? Ok, a cherry and chocolate muffin that didn't seem to have any chocolate, but was still quite tasty none-the-less.

We sat and ate. It was a very nice time. I had tried to sit on around the corner from her so there'd be eye-contact when we talked, but she wanted to sit next to me. I made it work anyhow, I guess. But we talked about school and stuff, but she didn't have a lot to say. We took our time, she really had to work hard at savoring and at patience. But we ate and drank slowly and it was pretty nice.

And then the walk back to the car. The day was interspersed with really nice beautiful blue sun and cold overcast clouds and wind. At one point later in the day Rachel would be struggling to walk against the wind and I think it even snowed a little bit on us.

Next, down towards the Pike Place Market. Again, the GPS might have been a smart choice, but I wasn't in any hurry. We ended up parking on the street near some lots that would have given us more time for like a dollar more or so, but that's fine, the time we had was enough. We did end up parking further away than I realized. After I got home and looked at it, we were like seven blocks away. Anyhow, a nice walk to the market. We saw fish thrown, we saw flowers, art, jewelry. We saw the first (or second?) Starbucks ever (a fact she would excitedly later relate.) We bought Bugles in a hidden little grocery store I never knew existed inside the market. We bought gummi bears and chocolate-covered gummi bears (which I also never knew existed) and just generally walked probably the entire market. She decided after one that she didn't like chocolate gummi bears, so I was happy to eat them while she ate the plain ones. We didn't stop in too many shops because she didn't ask to, but she was really enjoying herself despite the crush of the crowds, and even used the restroom twice by herself, even standing in line with all the other women.

Ok, so this was weird. You know how your picture of someone doesn't change, and then you see them after a long time and you're surprised that they've actually changed? Because for people you're around all the time, the changes are so subtle and different that you don't notice it. But when there's a big gap of time, it can be surprising. Well, I was starting to think that this one shop must be gone and then I turned the corner and there it was, just like I remembered it. It was a place where a woman paints watercolors every day. We have a small framed three-panel that I bought back in 1996 before leaving for Los Angeles. Well, the shop had not changed one bit. But the woman, well, she was 14 years older as would be expected. So it was weird to see that she looked different and even now as I think back... how long has she been going there nearly every day of her life? Wow.

Anyhow, yeah, so a fun time at the market. Walking back to the car I saw a Seattle shop and so we went in. I figured Rachel and her mother share the love language of gifts so I might as well get Rachel something she could remember the day by. We settled on a pink zip-up hooded sweatshirt that said "Seattle" on it. I would later ask her what her favorite part of the day was and she said it was getting that sweatshirt. So apparently I bought her a sweatshirt that every time she wears she can think back of the fond memories of the time I bought her that sweatshirt,

We had shells last night with a cheese sauce and shredded chicken and shredded carrots in them. Between the color of the carrots and the shredded nature of the chicken, you could have told me it was crab and I would have believed you, if not for the fact that Lori doesn't like seafood except the occasional fish and chips liberally doused in vinegar. So now I've been wanting some crab meat. Or even some krab meat. I'm not too picky. So figured I'd find us a seafood place for a late lunch.

So we got back to the car (in the wind and rain/snow) and since we were above the Battery Street tunnel, just followed that until we ended up rejoining it on Aurora to cross Lake Washington, taking the very first exit on the other side. Then I tried to quickly get as close to the water as possible and stumbled upon Ivar's Salmon House and Fish Bar. We went to the Fish Bar which turned out not to sell crab, but we had some nice fish and chips nonetheless. Afterwards, we went into the Salmon House, designed like a Native American Longhouse (and dedicated as a historical treasure within a year of its opening in 1970). It had great views of the lake and a lot of neat photos and Native America and Native American-inspired art. And then we wandered outside and found a dock where we were right out on the lake with just us and the ducks. (Look it up on Google Maps, you can see what it looks like in the summer when there are lots of boats docked.)

And then finally back in the car for a drive through Eastlake and Southlake. Rachel was already asleep by then. I was just able to marvel at the wonderful buildings and all the restaurants and I started to really resent Federal Way. Well, I mean, more than usual. At one point I was even driving alongside the poorly acronymed South Lake Union Trolley which is actually enclosed and very sleek and very orange. So cool. (The Link also passed overhead just in front of us both ways on the 5. Cool.) I love driving in big city traffic. I think people are less stupid. Or they're diluted by the fact that you just have to calm down and go with the flow. The lanes are narrow, there are bikes in the road, trucks stopping to make deliveries or busses to pick people up. Roads randomly lose a lane for parking or construction. You just have to be more fluid, more aware and more "whatever" - I really learned this from Patrick Lee riding with him in Pasadena and realizing he never honked. Now, Pasadena's still not a huge city, but I just realized that so many times, you don't need to honk. You just change lanes, you just fall back, you just wait patiently. The "I'm the only one on the road" mentality you see in smaller towns and even on the freeway just doesn't fly on the surface streets of a major city.

What a really nice day.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Unfocused

Well, now, that didn't take long at all, did it? I have no excuse. But what's worse, I don't have anything to write about it. I've just woken up. I barely remember my dream. Well, I remember weird bits and pieces.

First, there was a house, new to us. And we had lots of people over. And Rachel and her friends colored on the wood floor with pens. Most of it wiped off with a wet wash cloth, but one of them had gotten hold of a Sharpie.

And there was something about venetian blinds. And something about properly locking all the doors.

And then something about seeing an ad for a house for sale and walking down the street it was supposedly on. It was in Florida and the street was really close to the water, so the houses were right up against the street and right up against the water. I came to a curve in the road and there was a big three or four story house. I was looking at the outside shape, modern. Yellow. Lots of glass. I noticed an ambulance in the front drive and the legs of a body on a stretcher sticking out and thought to myself "Gee, didn't even wait until the body was cold to put the house on the market." Only then I looked more closely and realized it wasn't a house at all, but like a bustling hospital or clinic or something. You could see all kinds of hospitally things throught the windows. Which was weird because the building had lots of windows on all sides (so you could see through it to the water beyond) so it didn't seem very private. But there were no signs on the building and besides the ambulance, only one other car on the small bit of paved area out front. So in that respect it apparently was quite private.

And then I went somewhere and was waiting for an elevator. I had something about the size of a tape measure in each hand. One of them might have been my Blackberry. The other was... unsure... almost like a purple Cheerios container that you think are cool for children until you realize that you can only fill them half full and if you give it to a child they will just spill Cheerios everywhere. Well, that's what it looked like. It was actually far more solid. But this big guy comes up and pulls it out of my hand. I rip it back out of his hand and he gets mad. Then he gets on the elevator and I push my way on, too. Which made him even more mad. The elevator was really, really old. It only had one button. You'd press it and it would advance a floor and then you'd press it again to make it go again. I think the building must have been pretty short because that could get annoying.

Anyhow, it was at that point that I woke up. I remember feeling disappointed because there was still so much of the first house to explore but also because I hadn't figured out where the advertised house for sale was. And because I didn't know what the things in my hand were and who this guy was who had tried to take one of them from me.

Oh well. Back to reality. If there's anything, I guess it's a little more well-known. Exercise, rain, laptop, cat that won't eat. Friday. Big project underway at work that I'm thankfully very disconnected from.

And now I'm back to a loss for words. I'm awake, but my mind is nearly a blank slate. I am hungry. My throat is still scratchy. I am still congested, though at the moment I feel really good. I need to lead devos on Monday. Will I remember to spend a little time at work today preparing for them, or will I last-minute wing it again on Monday? I hate winging it. I feel like I'm wasting people's time when I just read straight from a book. Of course, lots of people do that. Of course, I often am bored by that.

So... today... I'm expecting that today will continue the quiet streak. I don't know how long that will last. Maybe until the end of the big project? Anyhow, I plan to take advantage of that to continue to get caught up. I have almost emptied my inbox but I have lots of handwritten notes that could be entered into the computer for better searching. I think I just need to start taking my computer to meetings to take notes no matter what people say. And this is why I need a tablet PC of some kind so there's no screen there blocking me and making a little wall because I hate that when people do that, it just feels so anti-social.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bacon Theory

So there's a saying "Bacon makes everything better."

However, I think there's a problem. I think bacon can't make bacon better. You can have a better situation because you have more bacon, but the bacon itself is already bacon. It can't be more bacony.

Tried to come up with more analogies but couldn't come up with any except that you can't make water wetter by pouring more water on it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hey, you, what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down

Alright, let's do this thing. Seven minutes to go. Or will I get stuck partway through and have to jet? Or just end up being really late again like I was yesterday? Unrelated to my writing, I was just spending too much time in Google Reader instead of getting ready for work. I made it to work on time, but barely.

Last night, I learned that five of my colleagues were killed when someone exploded a bomb and then opened fire on them at our office in Pakistan. We have 40,000 people in our organization, so I'm pretty sure I didn't know them*, but it's still incredibly sad. For their coworkers, for their families, and even for the people who did this... these were Pakistanis killing Pakistanis who were working to help other Pakistanis. It's amazing how short sighted people can be over the idea of religion. (*I used to have a lot more Facebook friends of colleagues around the world, but I did a paring back a few months ago and got rid of a lot of people I didn't know personally.)

I think it's this kind of thing that makes people point to religion and want nothing to do with it, labeling extremists as their easy excuse to separate themselves from the idea of believing in anything. But anyhow, I don't want this to become yet another thing about religion. I don't feel I really have the chops to do it justice.

So... hmmm... topic change. I'm blanking. I don't know if I want to write about how my dad had a birthday that he celebrated with mom and grandma and doesn't seem to want to celebrate with his children and grandchildren. (Wouldn't work too well now, we're all booked up since we couldn't get a commitment from them to put anything on the calendar.)

Maybe next year Jeff and Hilary and Andrew and Lori and Rachel and Ben and I may just have to force the issue and have a party at their house, whether they're there or not. That, actually, would be kinda funny. To go over there, decorate, eat cake and then leave. They'd come home to find dishes in the sink, some cake in the refrigerator, some decorations and a bunch of wrapping paper in the recycling.

Nope, didn't make it. Over halfway but time's up. Ok, I'll keep writing for a few more minutes.

Our health thing is coming up again at the end of the month. I hate how it comes so soon after the holidays and right at the tail end of the unpleasant weather. We suggest that if it came in late August instead that we'd all get better results. I suppose, however, they might argue that would be because we all "crammed" and worked hard in the nice months and that it's probably not healthy for us to do poorly for much of the year and then just improve at the last minute... yeah yeah yeah... marathon not a sprint blah blah blah. Still, it seems cruel. I guess the only thing crueler would be to do the thing in early January.

I got a 75 and you had to have a minimum of 71 in order to get the discount on your health insurance. I think I'll do slightly better this year, I'm a bit lighter. Not sure how much, maybe 5 or 6 pounds. No, wait... Wii Fit says 11 pounds. Nice. So maybe I have found some benefit. (Been doing it since last April but feel like progress is slow.) My latest trick that's been working is I've decided to tell or email Lori everything I'm eating. It's really helped me stay away from the giant evil boxes of candy my boss has kept on his corner of the table right next to me. At the end of the month, he moves a little further away so hopefully the candy goes with him. If it doesn't I might have to protest lightly. But I'm encouraged. Even if it's not entirely accurate, I think that's more than I was expecting to have seen lost. Especially considering I haven't used extremely drastic measures.

I have also tried to do better with nighttime snacking. I would often be hungry late at night, so I'd snack after dinner. That's partially gone because I would have to tell Lori about it and I didn't realize until I decided that how often I would get a handful of trail mix or granola or Ben's goldfish grahams or little vanilla cookies from the top of the fridge or what, but apparently I was constantly getting into stuff in that time after the kids went to bed while I was cleaning up in the kitchen. The other night, on Lori's advice, when I did need a snack, I had apples and peanut butter. But a few other nights this week I've just gone to bed hungry and surprised myself -- I was convinced that I'd have trouble sleeping or that I'd wake up repeatedly during the night starving. I have, however, woken up in the mornings with a grumbling stomach, including this morning, so I should go get ready so I can get to work and have breakfast. After stopping at Fred Meyer to buy it, that is. Unless I forget my wallet again. Grumble. Happy day, all.

Odds and Ends 15

-EXTRA-

"The only thing worse than being exploited by multinational capitalism is not being exploited by multinational capitalism." - Fidel Castro

-1-

BBC.CO.UK -- Mapping the Internet - an over-time look at the growth of the internet by country

-2-

MSNBC.COM -- Detroit wants to save itself by shrinking - Fascinating - asking the Federal Government to help it buy up and/or condemn property in order to return entire neighborhoods to rural/farmland.

-3-

SEATTLE.GOV -- Amazing slideshow - wow, I ran out of time before I ran out of slides.

-4-

SCOBLEIZER.COM -- Coming soon: the disruptive molecular age of information - interesting

-5-

PROBABLYBADNEWS.COM -- Bad Man is Sorry - would more people read newspapers if they still wrote like this?

-6-

KANSASCITY.COM -- Portable People Meters are New Weapon in Radio Ratings War - I recently participated in a phone-based survey of my radio listening habits. It turned out to be only two questions... "I'm taking a survey about radio listening habits. Would you agree to participate?" "Sure" "During your morning commute, would you say you listen to the radio every day, regularly, often, not at all." "Not at all." "Ok, that's all the questions. I have today. Thank you!" - And I think that was a missed opportunity, I was looking forward to telling them that all the good radio stations are gone, DJs blab too much and there are too many ads, which is why I listen to a Saddleback podcast or music on my iPod during my drive.

-7-

SEATTLETRANSITBLOG.COM -- Signaling on MLK - a quick explanation of the complicated system designed to allow pedestrians, cars, trains and emergency vehicles to share the road. Cool quick read.

-8-

ENGADGET.COM -- Korea starts testing 'recharging road,' might make it part of its public transport system - non-contact magnetic strip on the ground produces power. Battery is much smaller than typical EV battery and with a public transportation scenario, sounds like magnetic strip would only need to be at certain locations like crosswalks and bus stops (so when the vehicle is stopped?) making overall cost of use much cheaper, too.

-9-

LIFEHACKER.COM -- Schedule Reply Windows to Minimize Interruptions - interesting idea - they keep their phone off and listen to and return calls three times a day. I do something similar where I turn off my email (in and out) and then crunch what's already in my inbox. I do use the Blackberry to watch for urgent stuff and reply right away with that if needed. And I do sometimes let the phone go to voicemail (since Google Voice will immediately translate it and email it to me). But so much of my time is spent responding to emails and voicemail that I couldn't just decide to only do it three times a day.

-10- VIDEO

Ok, I really feel like I ought to build one of these. Of course, it would also mean an easier way for people to walk off with a lot of tools at once. Lori said the music sounded like it belong in, uh, one of 70's (adult video). I told her, "well, it's practically hardware (adult video)".

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Negative 750

Now I know what happens when it hits midnight. It tells you it can't save and suggests you start over. I cheated. I copied and pasted. Stats

----

I almost forgot to do my 750 words. I'm sure there will come a day very soon where I will forget. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, soon enough I will forget to write. And I'll be sad, but life will go on.

It snowed today. I thought it was a trip when it was hailing, only to see snow moments later. It was a nice pick-me-up because I was having a dumb morning in which I had forgotten my wallet again. Now... usually this is not a big deal, but today, I didn't realize it until I was at the self-check at Fred Meyer. So I was starting to take the items back out of the bags to put them back on the shelf when the woman asked me what I was doing and said she'd take care of putting them back, which was nice. No sweat, I thought, I can just get Starbucks and that'll be a nice treat for feeling so dumb. Well, that didn't work because, natch, the Starbucks card was in my wallet. Note to self... get another Starbucks card or two to stash in the cars as a backup.

So, back home I went. Fortunately, we had some oatmeal there so I just took that. The other thing I needed, a battery for the garage door remote would have to wait. Lori went back out and picked one up today, but we'll see if I remember tomorrow to grab it before I leave. I probably will, though, since otherwise I won't be able to close the garage. So, it's probably silly to worry about it. Now if I could just stop forgetting my wallet. That would be wise.

So, yeah, it snowed a little bit this morning when I was getting to work, and just before lunch time, it was snowing a lot. That was kinda cool to see. By the time I went walking at lunch, it had really tapered off, though I hear that in other parts of town it was still falling pretty steadily. It seems late for snow, but I'll take it. Cheerful.

Work felt good today. We're doing something new that I had resisted, but I think the benefits are really making themselves evident. I think it's making things easier for the team and it's certainly making my life mounds easier. I'm actually now able to keep up with the workload at the moment and it's a lot less stressful. No more people trying to take advantage of me or going over my head if they don't like what I tell them. Well, almost no one. But with a policy so clearly evident to everyone, people have quickly accepted it with surprising little pushback.

It was nice at home tonight, too. We had breakfast for dinner. Smelled so amazing when I came in. Lori looked really nice, Rachel was happy and cheerful and little Ben was, as always, excited to see his dad. Looks like his cold is lessening. I'm very happy about that. I've got a touch of one myself, but it's not as bad as it sounds. Ben loves being held by me and hates it when I put him down. If I start counting down, he gets excited, as I get closer to one, he starts to look down and a little curl of a smile creeps onto his lips, and then after I say "one" I do a controlled gravity drop of a few feet before setting him gently on the ground standing up. He then immediately falls to sitting, screaming. Sometimes I think he's trying to duplicate the rush, but most of the time now it seems more like a mini-tantrum that his dad isn't holding him anymore.

So I'm trying to work on leading him around by the hand. He's not a big fan of it and doesn't do it very long, but it's something he's going to need. Bogus. It's cut me off because it's midnight. Rip off. I can't believe it. Well, I guess today is the day that I don't get credit. So new day. Happy Birthday, dad! I'm copying and pasting this and I guess this all counts for March 9, then.

At this age, Rachel and I would take trips to the mall and we'd walk around. She'd stay close and hold my hand. Ben won't do that, he'll be off and running. So if I'm going to start doing that with him, he's going to have to be in a stroller. I won't do a leash because the trip is optional. If we *had* to be somewhere and that was the only way to prevent him from being separated from us, I might consider it, but I'm not going to even think about it for an optional trip.

Ok, so I hit 750 words and it just accused me to copying and pasting. Pfffft.

Monday, March 08, 2010

All Roads Lead to Norton

Warning - a rant.

Grumble.

So our main computer is nine years old. It's had just about everything installed on it over time but it still performs rather well today. The interesting thing is that the three most commonly used programs, Firefox, iTunes and Chrome didn't even exist when we bought it. Ditto the commonly visited websites: Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, Remember The Milk and Flickr. It's been on DSL from PacBell, AT&T, Earthlink, Covad, and Verizon. It's now on Comcast, but it doesn't know that since it's always just enjoyed the wireless connection. We've swapped the original monitor for a flatscreen, added a firewire card, a 300MB second hard drive and it's on its second wifi card. Windows XP served it well in the beginning and serves it well to this day. It's even gone from Quicken to Microsoft Money and back to Quicken. (Because Microsoft killed Money.)

Over time, it's also had a series of antivirus programs. We started with Norton. That was fine for the first five years or so. But shortly after moving here, I thought it was time for an upgrade. So I bought the latest and greatest version of Norton. But it wouldn't install. Norton's technical support was no help. Finally, I gave up and put in my request for a refund. They were able to process my credit card for the purchase in seconds, but it took them three months to mail me a refund. Either they're processing a lot of refunds or they're holding on to the money for no good reason.

Next, I tried Windows OneCare. It worked rather well except that it didn't like that I also had Ad-Aware on the computer. I also had Spyware Blaster and Spybot Search & Destroy, but the only one it got mad about was Ad-Aware. Eventually I think it broke Ad-Aware.

I liked OneCare. It was set-it and forget it. Until Microsoft killed it. I swear, if I used Microsoft Excel any more, they'd kill that. I looked around, wondering if I should buy something or try the new Microsoft product. And then I realized... I bet my ISP has a poorly promoted free version of some program. Sure, they want to look like they care about protecting us or themselves. And sure enough, a decent version of McAfee. It installed fine, has worked quietly in the background. Never hogged the CPU, never dragged the computer to a halt, occasionally popping up unobtrusive little notes to let me know it was doing stuff. All was fine and dandy.

Until tonight, for unknown reasons, I checked my Comcast mail and what do I find? Comcast's apparently getting a better deal from Norton so we all have to get rid of McAfee.

sigh

So, do I give Norton another try or do I give Microsoft another try? Or do I see if I can enjoy the status quo by converting to a paying McAfee member?

Odds and Ends 14

-EXTRA-

"Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors......Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory." - Andrew Carnegie

-1-

UNCLUTTERER.COM -- Using a three-folder system to keep email under control - the average worker gets 625 emails a week? Yeah, that's like two days for me. I actually employ an eight folder system.

-2-

RAPPORTIVE.COM -- Makes me wish I used email - removes the ads from the right side of Gmail and replaces it with contact information -- social media links, photo, personal notes you've added, etc.

-3-

PAPERRATER.COM -- Wow... I'm not so, um, good with words. I shoved my first "750" into this website and it tells me that my usage of "sophisticated words" is less than average. Tells me I need to use the Vocabulary Builder.

-4-

MASHABLE.COM -- U.S. to Allow Export of Web Services to Iran and Cuba -- cool. Policy is designed to gnaw at closed societies and pry them open. Booyah.

-5-

WASHINGTONHIGHWAYS.BLOGSPOT.COM -- State Route 100 - this guy and his wife are travelling all of Washington's highways, in numerical order, from start to finish, taking photos along the way. It's rather interesting and here's the latest.

-6-

KANSASCITY.COM -- The Oscars show went on and on, but the comedy sure didn’t

-7-

SETHGODIN.COM -- You Rock. Wait.. what?

-8- VIDEO

iPad commercial. Actually, I found the commercial quite annoying. But, still, is an interesting product. Show me it running Remember the Milk.



-9- VIDEO

Iron Man 2 Trailer



-10- VIDEO

So this is a harddrive that they've punched out numbers. Using strobe lights it displays what appears to be a steady lit clock. Kinda cool.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hope

My 750 entry for today. Actually a bit longer. Woo. Adam likes the anonymity, but to misquote Prof. Harold Hill, "there's always an audience, kid." (Not calling Adam a kid so much as I like how the real line's delivered by Robert Preston.)

----

Call it a self-esteem thing or something, but I constantly crave validation. I'd like to know that the thing I'm doing is the right thing, I'd like to think that people agree with me, I want to be going with the flow. However, many times it's the case where I feel like this isn't true.

Now, don't get me wrong. I can believe in something firmly, I can know something, without someone needing to tell me I'm right. Plus, I can stand against the status quo, but sometimes it bugs me. One of those places is Facebook. I'm sure if I did that survey thing again, it would tell me that a large majority of my friends are liberal. And that's just not a train I can get on. Do I unfriend them all and surround myself with people who think just like me? That would be a bit too drastic, but at times, the current against me is a bit frustrating. Does it make me want to change my view? No, not necessarily. Because in many ways, there are plenty of things I am not too fond of with the conservative point of view as well. To be completely honest, I'm a bit of a centrist. And the world doesn't have a place for centrists. Either you're squarely in one camp or you're squarely in the other and there's no place for someone who things that you should conserve states' rights and the environment. That both abortions and guns kill people. That we do need to provide a safety net for people, but that the government should dictate the terms, not try to take it on themselves where it will be much more expensive than it needs to be and fraught with problems, loopholes and fraud. Some would say privatization would have the same effect, but that's because the system isn't set-up to make things work well, the system is made to allow provide pork barrel. And that's why I rarely talk politics. But it goes hand in hand with what's been bugging me lately.

I think I lost a friend recently because I told them I was hopeful that someday they'd decide accept Christianity. Not in a pressuring way, but just in that's one of the things I was hopeful about. They said that they could have taken offense to such a statement, and that they were hopeful that I would someday decide Christianity wasn't for me.

And I admitted struggling with how that would be offensive. I struggle with how I would respond to that if it were posed straight to me. I know so very deep in my being that what I believe is true, so in some ways, I would struggle not to be dismissive or derisive, but I would not be offended. If someone so strongly believes something to be true, then what should they be, if not hopeful, that the people they care about would come to share their beliefs? Especially if it is something that theoretically has eternity implications?

And it all centers around one little word... Hope. Without it, what do we have? Why are we here? Is there a future? Why does anything we do matter? Hope is what makes it all possible. Hope for that future. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for our children. Hope for love.

President Obama marketed hope brilliantly. And people bought it. As well they should. In my opinion, it was magnificent. I was pretty close to buying it myself. I really struggled. I believed what he was selling. Just a few small planks in the Democratic platform I couldn't reconcile with.

Of course, not sure how well our President has been able to deliver on that hope. But since the Christian church seems to have abdicated the absolute best selling-point they have: a confident hope in the eternal future, it was wide-open and it was what people really needed to hear after the Cheney dictatorship.

But that's really not the point. The point is that we all need hope.

And for me, I find that hope in my Christian belief - my belief that Jesus Christ was so he said he was: God and man. Can I explain it all? No. Am I one-hundred percent positive? No. But I'm pretty darn close. And if at the end of it, I'm wrong, well, I've live a life that I'm fully confident in. Well, I have my skeletons in my closet, I am a sinner, but that's not the point. I have the hope that in the end, if there is an accounting for our lives (and I believe there will be), that confidence I have in Jesus means that my sins are paid for. And in the meantime, motivated by that faith, I strive to live a life that reflect those values and leave the earth a better place than I found it.

And it's that confidence, that faith, that brings me peace. I'm patient, this isn't a position I would push on anyone or preach about. If it's something someone wants, they choose it for themselves.

But in the end, who wouldn't hope their friends could find that peace and confidence?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

750

Trying a new site - 750words.com -- the idea is that if you want to do well in writing you need to write every day, like three pages, which is about 750 words. So I tried that tonight. Here's the stats.

I don't know if the words are visible, still trying to figure out exactly how it works. But, I copied it out anyhow and here it is:

So here's the thing. I don't want to appear dumb as I ponder how to begin. The last thing I want to do is the whole "look at me" thing as I monologue on and on about monologuing. Is that what I'm doing? Is that even how you spell it? Or would spell it if you were to verbize it? Huh. I guess so. In fact, maybe it is a real word because Firefox didn't have a problem with it, the way it did with verbizing. Oh well. Anyhow, yeah, so, where to begin. Because that's what this is. 99 words (except that "99" is actually word 100) on day one. At the top of the page, it's happy to tell me that I have zero points. Not sure what points are yet, but I don't have any of them. Seems to suggest that I should want some.

We're about to start a movie called "I Love You, Man" Lori's made popcorn. It smells really good, but I'm proud of myself for not having any. I'm trying to lose weight (and have been since 2006). That was the year I lost 27 pounds, stopped (my goal was 30) and then gained 27 or so pounds back. Where I've stayed for... forever.

So far, an R-rated preview. You rarely see that. And I'm bored. And Lori's skipping it. In case you were curious, it was Road Trip Beer Pong. Next, Star Trek. But we've seen it, so we skipped it. And then a dance movie skipped so quickly I couldn't figure out which one it was.

I'm hoping this movie will be good. Since it's got the guy from "How I Met Your Mother" and the chick from "Parks and Recreation" I'm hoping it's good. Because if it sucks, I may be a little less excited for either of those shows, both of which I like. Over 300 words already. That's cool. I wonder when I'll get to the point where I can write without commenting on how many words I've written. Or if I will keep at this. It's not necessarily easy.

I like how sparse this layout is. Just a white screen, a simple cursor and nice big text. Well, it's funny so far. And it's making me miss Los Angeles. The cool Los Angeles where it's dark but the air is warm and humid and the views are spectacular. But that was another place and time. That kind of went away after the kids and stuff. It might be cool to live there again. But I'm not sure it's the kind of magic you could recapture.

Yeah, now it's daylight in the movie. Traffic, clutter, crime. I guess I'll just remember the memories.

Hey, I kinda hit a wall there. Guessing I just got into the movie or something. I guess it's kinda funny, but it's also a bit crude. Not a big fan of stuff so crude. Hey... it's the guy from "Parks and Recreation" - that's funny. I hated him in Scrubs but I like him in "Parks and Recreation."

Today was a good day. I don't feel like I got as much done as I would have liked, but it was still quite the productive day. I had Rachel doing laundry which was cool. Other than loading in the soap, she can do all of it by herself, which is pretty cool. We were looking at the washer and dryer - thought it was kinda funny -- they have play/pause buttons to start/stop them. I also got to go to Home Depot by myself. That doesn't happen enough. We just got our tax refund and some of it's going towards working on our front yard, so I didn't really have to pay attention to what the amount was going to be when I got to the register. That what was pretty cool. That rarely happens. I guess maybe once a year. But yeah, got to buy stuff for the yard. And tomorrow, digging up the front yard, laying down 15-year weed block and dropping in lots of bark. Lori had wanted to rocks, but then she couldn't find any she liked. So, we'll try bark again. But the most important part is we get it done before April when the Homeowner's Association comes around with their little clipboard. I liked it much better when they were making other people clean up their act but they weren't messing with us because ours was fine.

Woo. Done.