The Amazon company picnic

This is the second year that we've enjoyed the Amazon Annual Company Picnic. Held at Mountain Meadows Farm in North Bend, they provide a wealth of food and activities for people of all ages. From a huge toddler play area, to water rides, to wall climbing, to the infamous broomball tournament, Amazon does a great job. And it takes place at the base of Mount Si.

Spencer gave wall climbing a try, but he's a little small to reach between grasps. He told the helper he would be back next year when he was 6 and taller!

Apparently it rained a little; we got there late, and missed the rain. But we did get great parking and missed the traffic :)

Yet another iTrip mini

Sigh. My fourth. This one I had to get off eBay, as retailers aren't carrying them anymore.

I really like the iTrip mini for its ease of integration with the car audio system. No wires (like with a cassette or CD adapter), and its form factor is simply an extension of the mini. Plus, its cheaper than anything else out there (although I am on my fourth...argh). I've been without a way of listening to audiobooks in the car on the drive to work (with my recent product launch I've driven myself more than I've vanpooled), and it's driving me nuts.

So, why am I on my fourth iTrip mini? Glad you asked.

The first one simply stopped working after about a month. Hoping it was an anomaly, I bought another, and that lasted a while. Until I snapped the plug off it. Argh. This last one, I don't know what happened, but one day the pins were bent all over the place. Hmmm, I do have two kids... gee, might they have had something to do with it?

Speaking of the iPod mini, it is truly a shame that Apple doesn't make them anymore. Very durable, small form factor (small enough is small enough), lotsa storage. The durability is key for me. I am in the market for a new one when I can get a decent deal on eBay. This second one I will put songs on for the kids. I'm tired of deleting my stuff for theirs when we go on trips :)


Now for some complete nonsense

Ok, it's late, I'm watching Spencer to make sure he's ok, I just poured myself a bowl of Life cereal, and I am too tired to work anymore.

Now what?

Hmmm... let's fire up Google Analytics and see what people are searching on to find my blog!

I set my date range to the beginning of my Google Analytics account (November 2005) up to the present date, and performed a keyword analysis.

So, what are people searching for that find my blog?

  • The most popular term is "geocaching", accounting for 29.14% of visits.
  • Next most popular is "Rattlesnake Mountain hike", coming in at 5.76%. There are a number of hiking variations as well; in total, coming in at another 25% of hits.
  • Lots of individual hits on variations of "Snoqualmie Ridge"
  • Lots of individual hits on variations of "Bob Brinker"

None of which are suprising given that, I, uh, blog about those things!

The more interesting piece is perhaps this subset of the hundreds of terms that show up down the list that generate a hit to my site:

  • "stairway tipping studies" (WTF?). Brian, if you are reading this, look it up and add to Duh!Scoveries!
  • "apartment above potbelly's in West Lafayette". Mmmmm... Potbelly's
  • "psychological analysis of the Incredibles". Dude, it's a movie.
  • "hot dog npv". WHAT? Is someone really trying to figure out the Net Present Value of a Hot Dog??? And how the hell would my blog show up on that search???
  • "carpet color decorating rules stairway living"... huh?

And thus ends my most useless blog post in the last couple years... and that's saying something!


Spencer home

Wow, that was fast. Spencer checked into the hospital at 7:15, and left at 11am. Not sure what I expected, but not that fast.

He's doing fine, able to talk, pain not bothering him yet due to the medication. First thing he wanted to do was build his new Batman lego set. He got his wish :)


Spencer goes in Thursday...

to get his tonsils and adnoids removed. I'm not worried about his health, but I am worried how he will react in an operating type environment. He's at that age (5) where he's old enough to understand when things "aren't right" but not quite old enough to comprehend everything that is going on.

He got a new Batman lego set tonight, and I already committed to help him put it together when he gets home from the hospital.

Please, Lego, stop making cool sets. I can't afford them after Spiderman, Star Wars, and now Batman.

Review: Day 3 of my Garmin 60CSx

I love it! While my eTrex was certainly a good device, I found it lacked the following:

  • Compass capability while not moving
  • Weak signal detection
  • Not very accurate... never got within 30 ft or so accuracy
  • Only 500 waypoints... I need a lot more than that!

On the plus side, very usable and simple interface, and very capable of supporting geocaching within the above restrictions.

So, off to find an alternative. After a lot of research, I ended up with the Garmin 60CSx, which gives me an electronic compass and a much more accurate positioning capability. Tried it out yesterday on a cache downtown, and bam, put me spot on. Nice to not have to look in a 50 ft radius!

A nice addition that I didn't realize I was getting was the mapping function. It stores street maps in the device, and overlays those with cache waypoints. Very nice for getting a notion of where city caches are located.

One thing I will be able to do with it, that I couldn't with the eTrex, is use as a automobile navigation device. Since I don't have an updated Navigation CD in my Audi, I am without help, and with the winding roads in Western Washington mountains, I find navigation systems to be a real nice-to-have!


Video Games for Kids

A product that has been great for Spencer, and now Garrett, is the VTech family of V.Smile products. We have had the V.Smile TV Learning System for two and a half years now, and the "games" for it are great learning tools. Better yet, we picked up a V.Smile Pocket - a handheld game system - that plays the same cartridges as the V.Smile system.

What's most interesting is that the V.Smile is just a retooled Super Nintendo, and the V.Smile Pocket is just a Gameboy retool. Ingenious way to save money and tap an untapped market by innovating "down" the chain.

All the games in this space focus on counting, letters, words, logic puzzles, problem solving, and trivia. I highly recommend the V.Smile family of products (we have the Art Studio and Garrett loves making pictures).

Now if only XBox 360 would create some educational games I would have an excuse to go buy one...

Denny Creek Slippery Slab

What is it? Read about it here!


A stroll around Gold Creek

Read about it here.

On the way back we stopped by the Iron Horse trail / Snoqualmie Tunnel. Will have to venture through it someday.


Twin Falls Hike

Spent half the day at Twin Falls State Park hiking the Twin Falls trail... read about it here.

A little landscaping

Somewhat of an oxymoron when you consider how small our yard is, but we decided to finally do something about that hill behind our house (those who have been here most definitely know what I am referring to). We decided to tier it into three tiers, with block steps up the middle of it, and soil in the tiers so we can do some gardening.

Couldn't really get a good picture of what it looks like, but here are a couple:


Start of Seattle Summer?

Seattle summers are so predictable that meteorologists will tell you summer starts here on July 12 and will last through September. Today looks like it will be a typical Seattle summer day - not a cloud in the sky, low 70s. Wonder if summer starts on July 8th this year...


A year in Snoqualmie

Definitely a great move for us, not only to the Northwest, but to the Snoqualmie Ridge area. I literally don't have a single complaint about this community, with the exception that it's growing fast and traffic will be a pain before too long.

Housing prices in this community continue to rise quickly; up 25% in the past year according to Zillow. One upside to buying a way, way overpriced house is that the 25% contributes directly to equity and net worth. Maybe not liquid, but as I discussed with Amy, we could sell our house now, move back to Michigan City and pay cash for the house we had there! Definitely a lesson in real estate investment as well, as most of the advice I've read is "buy in attractive areas," and that's panned out true here. I just wish I could afford to invest more in this area.

Snoqualmie Ridge is undergoing quite a bit of growth as well. A new retail block is being built (our neighbor will have a scrapbooking business in one of the new spaces), a new phase is being built off Snoqualmie Parkway, another retail strip is being built down the parkway close to Snoqualmie, and it appears they are starting constructing on the I-90/Snoqualmie Parkway interchange upgrade, with the first section being widening of the road to extend the four lanes all the way down the interstate.

Work, especially the product launch, has consumed a lot of my time, and I haven't been able to vanpool like I was. Going on 2.5 months of back to driving myself, which is noticeable on our expenses (gas and parking). The vanpool is literally free (it costs money but Amazon covers the expense).

Good news is that I will be migrating to a new position in a new group in Amazon over the next week. Amazon Web Services will be my new home, and I'm excited about the opportunity to work in such a leading edge group and spread my wings. Already I feel I've made a bigger impact in that group than I have in the past year, and I haven't even officially started yet! I have even started another blog to keep my professional blogging separate from my personal blogging.

Looking forward to the possibility of spending the next 20 years in Snoqualmie Ridge. Can't imagine what home prices will be then... :)


Happy Birthday America

I know it's not politically correct to be proud to be an American, but I am. Looking forward to a day of relaxation, reflection, and barbecueing with the neighbors.


Angels Rest

Angels Rest was our most ambitious hike to date. Emboldened by our recent conquest of Little Si (2.5 miles one way, 1000 ft elevation change), we decided on Sunday to take on Angels Rest (2.2 miles one way, 1900 ft elevation change), a 20 minute drive from Portland.

This hike was my favorite of the Cascades so far, not just due to the challenge, but the variety of elements involved: streams, falls, rock climbing, trees, berries, you name it. The very top had some moderate rock climbing involved, definitely not for the faint of heart or those scared of heights. I tried to get some pictures that captured both (the rock formations at the top and the river/mountains in the background), but the pictures just don't do it justice.

About .75 miles into the hike we came across a stream and let the kids play for a little while. From there, not much of a departure from the trail, which is a constant slight grade uphill for the 2+ miles. Will post a picture after I

Close to the top... just have to climb that rock on the left.

Angel's Rest

View West from the top of Angels Rest

Spencer noted on the way down that going down was MUCH easier than going up :)

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls are apparently the most popular falls in the Columbia River Gorge area, an area that has the highest concentration of falls in the Northwest. We set out for here on Saturday, but no parking was available, so we headed out East a few miles to do some geocaching. When we got back we grabbed some lunch, and headed up the one mile, 600 foot elevation gain trail to the top of the falls.

Hike wasn't terribly interesting, as it is paved, and really didn't have any views or interesting scenery until the top. The top was nice, as it was more than just falls - the trail took you along the stream at the top.

Taking a break at one of our failed cache locations. This vantage point, which is right next to the river, had great views of the Columbia both west and northeast.

To do some geocaching, we departed the Interstate and took the old Columbia Highway, a 2-lane road that winds through the Cascades, higher up and more inland than I-84 does. We found this part that had some amazing views. It was interesting that way down below was a popular tourist viewpoint... apparently the state doesn't give the best views away :)

We finally made it to Multnomah Falls after a lot of side stops.

The view from the top of the falls.

The Oregon Coast

Friday night, after checking into the hotel, we got in the car and headed to the ocean. We had hoped to catch a little sun, a sunset, and let the kids play on the beach for a little bit.

Getting ready for our trip.

We have found a great little part about halfway between Snoqualmie and Portland. Great place to stretch the legs, feed the ducks, hit the wading pool, even geocache.

Sun was setting right as we arrived.

Back from Oregon

Will post some pics later today, especially of our amazing hike up Angel's Rest. We cut our trip short last night from our trip down to the Columbia River Gorge. Beautiful area of the country; unfortunately our trip was bittersweet as our car got broken into while we were hiking Angel's Rest. My work laptop and Amy's purse were stolen, but that was it. Spencer was actually quite funny during the ordeal. While I was on the phone with credit card companies and Amy was talking to the Deputy from the local sheriff's office, Spencer got out his . He and Garrett, despite missing lunch and closing in on 4pm (our hike took us 5 hours) was such a trooper while we were cleaning up our stuff.

Apparently, and this is news to me, vehicle breakins (or even vehicle theft) is not uncommon in Northwest parks. Several hikers stopped by and gave us some advice (not sure it would have helped... we had everything out of site, car locked, and back of car to the parking lot), and talked about how common this has become in the area. And, Googling last night on this uncovered that this is an apparent problem in the Northwest.