How I spent the first 20 minutes of New Year's Eve

I learned a great many things to kick off New Year's Eve.

  • First, the rock band stage kit is hella kewl. $30 at gamestop for a fog and lightshow for rockband enthusiasts... highly recommended. The lightshow is sync'd with RockBand (1 and 2), and the fog is timed for the solo sections. Well executed novelty.
  • Second, our smoke alarms are sensitive (see aforementioned fog) and wired together so that all 6 in our house go off simultaneously. I like that, although tonight it was a little bit of a pain.
  • Third, our kids can sleep soundly through aforementioned 6 smoke alarms going off. Either that or the sound killed them. Will find out in the morning when I offer them doughnuts for breakfast.
  • Fourth, I can now detach and reattach our smoke alarms from their ceiling-based wiring harnesses with speed that rivals any formula one pit crew.

And nye is only 20 minutes old. Can't wait to see what tonight's party brings.


The end of another year

As I approach 40 these years are really starting to fly by. Not only am I amazed that 2009 has come and gone, but I am amazed that a decade has come and gone. Seems like yesterday I was trying to explain to people why Y2K wasn't an issue, that Purdue was heading to the Rose Bowl, and we were waiting for the schmucks in Florida to figure out how to cast and count votes for a Presidential election. Since then, I took down my shingle and entered the corporate world, Purdue football has gone to the crapper, and our wonderful politicians have collectively put several nails in this country's coffin.

Even before the recent moves that will allow the federal gov't to take over 17% of our economy in the name of (he he) "health care reform" (side note: I just love when the gov't creates a problem then taxes the hell out of us to fix it) I had resigned myself to the fact that our national debt load and forthcoming tanking of our dollar renders everything I knew about financial planning useless. Strangely enough, that's reduced my stress load immensely - there's nothing I can do about our forthcoming implosion, and there's nothing that I can do to hedge against it, so why worry about it?

And thus starts my annual year-in-review post. Yes, early this year, and why not... everything this year so far has been ahead of schedule, now that I have finally figured out this whole work-life balance thing. As I tell people, I'm glad I spent three years at Amazon (best business training in the world), but I'm equally glad I left. Hard to describe, but that sums it up. Microsoft is going very well, even with the current turmoil of me going through three bosses in three weeks a couple months back. I launched cashback on then-Live-Product-Search-now-Bing-Shopping, kept the site available 24x7 during the brand launch and black Friday/cyber Monday, and even managed to see my family in the process. Whodda thunk it.

The big change of the year has been sending Spencer to private school all the way in Bellevue. Actually it's more convenient than it sounds, as in May Microsoft moved me from Redmond to their new building in downtown Bellevue. I was even able to chaperone on their class field trip to the Museum of Flight. We like the school so much, and Spencer has made such tremendous progress, that we are thinking of sending Garrett there for kindergarten next year. And yes, that probably means we will start seriously looking at moving to Bellevue, even if we can't sell our current house in the Snoqualmie Ridge because the wonderful city let the developers build too many houses in the area. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

In sports, I watched the Lions continue their futility, Purdue football underachieve-then-overachieve in the same season, Purdue basketball return to its rightful spot at the top of the Big Ten, the Red Wings choke in the Stanley Cup Finals after being up two games to nil, have been to a dozen-plus Seattle Thunderbirds games to get my fix, and three Seahawks games this year. Highlight was a roadtrip down to Oregon to watch a fantastic football team against one of the nation's top teams. Strangely enough, that was the day Garrett became an Oregon Ducks fan. Because, well, they beat Purdue.

I really upped the bar on myself on hiking, tackling Mount Teneriffe, Mailbox Peak, Mount Washington (in the snow), and Granite Mountain all this year (and yeah, a couple trips up Mount Si too, but that's now just a warm up). I have my eyes set on Mount Adams this year, with a friend at work gracious enough to teach me the basics of mountaineering. Reminds me I need to get off my ass and get to the gym to drop a few pounds before my tests start in March.

Amy and I have probably enjoyed more dates this year than any year since before Spencer was born. Nice to have the kids old enough that we don't worry about them while we are out... in fact we tend to worry more about the babysitters. They're also old enough that their play room has been transformed significantly - gone are the little kids toys, replaced with the start of a game room (MY game room dammit).

Garrett has turned into quite the football afficionado, with a new favorite team almost every week (although he seems to opt for Dallas quite a bit recently). He can tell you which team has white jerseys at home and which ones wear colors at home. He can also tell you the Lions still suck. Oh, wait, that's me.

All in all a good year, I miss our friends who are now in Germany, and the boys continue to grow faster than I can keep up with them. Here's an early Happy New Year to everyone and a prosperous 2010!


Before there was corporate email...

... we used to send humor around by voice mail. I remember this bit actually bringing down our voice mail system because so many people forwarded it. This is still the funniest damn thing I have ever heard. If the entire free world hasn't heard it by now, they should. Rated R for language.

I don't know if we ever found out if it was real or fake (all evidence pointed to real).



Dear JaJ J: stay out of foul trouble

Purdue looked good against a deep and athletic Tennessee team last night. It's the first time I can remember since 1994 that Purdue looked like they belonged on the court against a big time team. They were as quick and fast as Tennessee, they penetrated well, they created their own shots, and they played terrific team defense. The weakness I saw was that they couldn't stay out of foul trouble to save their life.

With Lewis Jackson out I thought Kelsey Barlow did an excellent job at the point. Good penetration, excellent defense, and he has some size so he can scoop up some boards. But boy does he need to work on his free throws.

I've read about Patrick Bade, and he seemed to have good stats. I thought he held his own pretty well last night. One frustrating stretch he missed a couple putbacks and ended up fouling, but still he at least got to the back to have a chance at the putbacks. He'll be solid coming off the bench.

Which leads me to JaJuan Johnson. Man, JJ, you can't get in foul trouble. No matter what. Let the other team have a less-than-perfectly contested shot. You don't do any good on the bench, and the trio of Moore, Hummel, and Johnson are as good a trio as it gets in the country this year. That is what Purdue is going to ride to the final four. Even if Marcius comes back and is a solid backup.

Love the idea that Bade, Marcius, and Barlow will get lots of PT this year before the tourney. Damn these kids are going to be tough to beat.


the jury is still out

But today gave me a glimmer of hope that after 50 years the Lions have found their franchise quarterback. 5 TDs in a game is a lot for a rookie even against crappy competition like Cleveland. And 422 yards is a Lions record, more than the great Scott Mitchell ever put up. Some of his throws were excellent, and today he showed he can move to create plays. We'll see when the dust settles at the end of the year, but I continue to like what I see from Stafford.


Review: Boxley's in North Bend

A couple weeks ago my wife and I spent a couple hours at Boxley's in North Bend, a new restaurant featuring live jazz five nights a week (Wednesday through Sunday). It was a Thursday, and we got their for the 9pm "show" and just had drinks and desert. Their chocolate cheesecake was incredible, and the live music was great as well. By the time 10pm rolled around, Amy and I were the only people left in the place, and on the way home we talked about hoping "this place makes it in the valley."

Fast forward to tonight, Amy and I had a date night and decided on Boxley's for dinner and music. We arrived at 6:15, hoping for a slow dinner, drinks, and desert and to stay for the 7-8pm live performance. When we got there, very few tables were occupied, and my first thought was "man, on a Saturday night? This place ain't going to make it!" By 6:45, halfway through our fine meal, the place was packed. And the Saturday night show put the Thursday night show to shame. Great act, terrific food, outstanding service, and a great atmosphere. Amy and I are now hooked. This place gives Jak's a run for the money, not that the food is that good, but the overall experience is better. A tough decision come our next date night.

Dumb as a box of rocks

We have got to raise the expectations on our youth and their ability to comprehend the most basic of common sense situations. This trophy kid mentality has got to stop.

Case 1, Les Miles of that fine academic institution Louisiana State University. Down by 2 and with the ball at about midfield with 26 seconds left and 1 timeout left, this genious decides to let 17 seconds run off the clock before using his last timeout. Apparently he thought giving Ole Miss 15 seconds to get into field goal range might be too much time, so let's run down the clock. And, amazingly enough, nobody from the coaching staff to any of the players thought "shit, we should probably call a timeout here".

Then, to top it off, LSU, with nine seconds left throws a hail mary and catches it inside the 20 with 1 second on the clock. And man you thought you had asked the entire team and coaching staff to write an essay on quantum physics. Total confusion, the QB looking to the sideline "what do I do coach?", and they don't even get a play off. I'd say dumber than a box of rocks, but I really don't have anything against rocks to be that insulting. I mean, rocks have been really useful around our current house.

After the game Les Miles, the standard of intellectual genius, stated that there wasn't enough time left to get the field goal unit on the field. Well first, he's wrong - Purdue did exactly that in 2001 against Minnesota (and made the field goal to boot). Second, even so, my gosh, how hard is it for anyone to say "oh shit, 1 second, snap that fucker as fast as you can and put the bitch in the end zone." I mean, my god, that's standard operating procedure for grade school playground football when the end-of-recess bell rings and kids run "1 more play."

And then we have the fine joke of a situation in South Bend Indiana, where the University of Notre Dame has managed to rope Chuck Weis into a 10 year contract worth $4M+ a year (currently the buyout is $18M). This for a coach whose winning percentage is less than that of his previous two predecessors, the second of which was only given three years before given the boot.

At least in ND's case it's a private institution. If they want to piss away their money, good luck. It's not taxpayers footing the bill for a University's stupid decision.

Maybe it's just a sign of me getting old. But I get less and less tolerant of people who fail to exhibit enough common sense to warrant consuming the earth's precious oxygen. I had a teach in high school with a stamp "too stupid to live" he would use on people's papers. It had some parents in fits how "insensitive" he was. I thought it was great that someone called a spade a spade.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review

Ok, I hang my head in shame. I did not run out to the local Gamestop, Fred Meyer, or Walmart Monday night at midnight to pick up the latest installment in the Call of Duty series. Maybe that means I have to turn in my gamer card.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I expected a lot out of World at War. While the WWII weapons and maps were fun, it didn't offer a different experience than Modern Warfare. So, I assumed that MW2 would be an incremental step like WoW was. Bzzt. Wrong.

I won't cover the entire game, instead I'll talk about the myriad of improvements.

  • Pick your kill streak bonus. Awesome. Instead of the three standard options at 3, 5, and 7 kills (without dying of course), you now get a selection of about 20. It starts at the standard UAV (revealing enemy locations on the map) for a killstreak of 3, and caps at a killstreak of 25, granting you, get this, a tactical nuclear bomb that "brings a swift end to the game." The catch is a) you only get to pick three, and b) only the standard 3 are unlocked at the beginning. You have to level up to unlock the others.
  • You still get the three groups of perks, but now each perk also "levels up" as you get kills using it, enabling "better" versions of the perk.
  • Better secondary weapon choices, including moving shotguns to secondary weapon.
  • Throwing knives and riot shields. Enough said.
  • You now get experience points for protecting your teammates. If an enemy is firing at one of your teammates, and you save your teammate, experience points. Boo ya.
  • Sentry guns. This is wicked. Automated sentry that picks off any enemies that walk in its path. You can get this as an unlocked bonus for killstreaks, or as a random item in a cool new "ammo drop" feature that drops a random item as a reward for a 4 killstreak. Just beware that the drop can kill you if you stand underneath it. Just sayin.
  • Death streaks. That's right, those of you (like me) that have a habit of getting pwnd over and over now get a reward of your choosing. For example, you can spawn with extra health
  • "Mosh pit" game type that randomizes all the other game types (team deathmatch, domination, hq, etc).

That's off the top of my head. I know I am missing a lot here, but I've only played for a couple of hours.

The maps are excellent. Haven't found a map I don't like, which is rare for a first person shooter game.

Also, I would bet good money that they have adopted part, if not all, of the Rainbow Six Vegas physics engine. The gameplay has a very similar feel, which in my opinion is an upgrade.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled gaming...


Giving credit where credit is due

Great job by the Purdue football coaching staff and the players today to beat Michigan in the Big Outhouse today. After laying a goose egg in Madison last week which included accomplishing an amazing feat of completing just 5 of 23 passes, I must say seeing Michigan favored by only six was very tempting to bet my life savings on the Wolverines (seriously). But Purdue came out inspired today, never let up, played with heart and intelligence, and pulled off something that hadn't occurred in my lifetime - a victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor.

This Purdue team has to be the most inconsistent team I have ever seen in any sport. Last week's goose egg, a loss to Northern Illinois, a home loss to Northwestern, a blowout loss to Minnesota. On the flip side, a win over tOSU, outplayed Oregon on the road, and a win over Michigan in Ann Arbor. Granted, Michigan is not a good team by any stretch of the imagination, but they do have more talented players than the Boilers.

After the Oregon game I really liked what I saw from the coaching staff relative to playcalling and gametime adjustments. Then that seemed to disappear altogether (even in the Ohio State win, I thought OSU gave us the game more than Purdue beating them) and I thought we had seen an aberration. I saw the same strong playcalling and gametime adjustments today against Michigan. Which begs the question: do Hope and his staff have any sort of football strategy or philosophy? Or are they winging this week in and week out? Hopefully this team can gain some consistency.

A bowl is now within reach. It will take a home win over Michigan State and a road win over IU. Both very average, beatable teams, but also both teams that can easily hand Purdue a loss.

I think these next two games are important for sizing up Hope and Purdue for the coming years. If Purdue wins out I will say I am damn impressed after starting the season 1-5. If they lose out, I'd say overall the season was disappointing. In between? Then there is Hope for the future...


A night out with Spencer and his friends

With Spencer attending a new school this year, it occurred to me that he hadn't seen some of his regular friends in a while. And since our weekends tend to be pretty busy, I suggested to S-man that he invite a couple friends to a Seattle Thunderbirds hockey game so he could hang out with them for a while. So tonight I took Spencer and two of his friends from the last few years down to the Showare Center and took in our third Thunderbirds game of the season.

This was the first time I can remember that I truly got to see Spencer in his element. Normally if I see him with his friends, its either a) in some school or sport activity with lots of parents and kids around, and he's focused on some other task, b) he has friends over but not in my sight, or c) very short stints in passing. With a 30+ minute drive to and from the game, plus 150 minutes of time together in the arena, I felt like Jane Goodall observing monkeys in their element (although I'd argue it's probably easier to make sense of monkeys than three eight year olds).

My favorite part was following the three as they walked to the arena shoulder to shoulder. Spencer was happy, socially confident and comfortable, and responsible. I probably could have told the three I would meet them outside after the game and not seen them for the next couple hours, and they would have been just fine. It's a snapshot in my mind I won't forget.

Thank you, Spence, for allowing me to tag along. Can't wait until we do it again. And not just because I don't have to talk to any adults (that's just a bonus). Just hope the T-Birds put up a better fight next time.


By my recollection, that makes four

As in, four Purdue wins over top ten teams since I started following Purdue football in 1988. (Sheesh I am getting old).

Had to wait until 1996 to see my first - a blistering 9-3 win over #9 Michigan in West Lafayette. A couple years later, Purdue beat #4 Kansas State 37-34 in the Alamo Bowl, and followed that up the next year with a 52-28 drubbing of #5 Michigan State in West Lafayette. And then a 10 year drought until today's big win over Ohio State.

I still remember that 1996 win over Michigan. Back when ESPN2 couldn't even afford capital letters (remember those days?). Amy and I were two of about 33,000 people in attendence to witness that, the week after Jim Colletto announced his resignation. The goalposts came down and were soon deposited in the Wabash River.

The Alamo Bowl win is still probably my favorite win ever by a Purdue team. The defense played phenomenal against a potent, fast offense. It catapulted Roosevelt Colvin and Chike Okeafor into the NFL, and started the Drew Brees legend. Even though Drew had a relatively poor game (he completed less than 50% of his passes, for like barely over 200 yards, and had something like 2TDs and 3 picks), he had a last minute drive that was one for the ages.

The 1999 win over #5 MSU wasn't really an upset. Purdue was ranked in the top 25 at the time, and MSU, while piling up Ws, wasn't exactly a dominant team that year. I expected Purdue to own MSU, as did everyone in the stadium, and that's what happened. If I remember right Purdue jumped out to a 28-7 lead by early 2nd quarter and never looked back.

And then the drought. Much has been made of Purdue's inability to beat a ranked team, let alone a top 10 team, since 2003. Six years is a long time. Even Colletto managed Ws against ranked Cal and West Virginia, and Akers beat OSU in Columbus.

Since moving to Seattle, days where Purdue plays a top ten team is pretty much treated like a holiday, even in the past few down years under Tiller. We plan our day around it, make a party out of it, and of course wind up disappointed.

So today, while I hurried up after Spencer's soccer game to start the recording of the game, I also didn't treat it with the specialness reserved for Spoilermaker opportunities. What were the odds? I mean, this is a Purdue team that needed two late TDs to pull within 7 of mighty Northern Illinois. Sheesh.

Today's game reminded me of the 1996 win over Michigan. You watch this team, and you say "you know, there's some talent here. Not NFL talent, but talented kids who can play football." Then you watch them shoot themselves in the foot week in and week out. Then they put it together and bite someone, and actually look pretty good in the process.

Boiler Up. Who knows when we'll see a W again, let alone against a top ten team. Here's to it not being 10 years...


Spencer's Eee PC

A few weeks back Woot had Asus' Eee PC 900 for $170. I checked the memory, it had 1GB, and I damn near ordered two of them. Makes a perfect learning laptop for Spencer.

I didn't realize it didn't come with Windows - it comes installed with Linux. But it's bundled in a user-friendly way. It comes with StarOffice, and I had to play with it to upgrade FireFox to 3.0. Took a few tries, but eventually got it right.

Wireless connectivity is pretty easy, and it charges quickly. Best of all it's intuitive enough for an eight year old. I was a little worried about the X-Windows interface but that hasn't been an issue.

If there's a downside is that I will have to download some basic features to allow Spencer to do some more things with it (like view HD movies, which are not supported by the default media player).

So Spencer now has a laptop. He loves it. And like most people he's figured out how to play games on it. Although he's already created his first spreadsheet :)

I think the Lions have a QB of the future

After four games, Matt Stafford is showing he belongs in the NFL. I've only caught one of his games, but from looking at highlights he looks good. Strong arm, looking off safeties, going through his reads, and stepping up in the pocket when he needs to. Reading NFL defenses will take time, but I like his progress vs. what I remember from other top QBs drafted in their first year like Aikman and Manning. Can't remember a time in 35 years I've been excited about a Lions' QB.


All these bitter pills are starting to taste the same

No, I'm not talking about the Obamas crashing-and-burning in their attempt to land Chicago the 2016 Olympics (apparently the IOC is smarter than the average American). Another Saturday, another WTF happened relative to Purdue football. Danny Hope now reminds me of Jim Colletto. I don't think that's a good thing, although I didn't exactly hate Jim Colletto or the time he was here. He elevated the program from joke-of-the-nation to we're-not-as-bad-as-IU. Which was a step up.

I realize Tiller left a pretty bare cupboard. Still, I expected more out of this team at this point. I just have an eerie feeling that, just like Colletto had some early success, Hope just won't get over the hump.

And damn UW for not closing the door on ND. Not that I care about UW, but any ND loss automatically makes it a great weekend.


I'm tired of the moral victories

After 20+ years of following Purdue football closely, I'm done with the moral victories. Seen plenty of them. They're no longer impressing me. I enjoyed them during the Colletto years. I even enjoyed them during the Tiller years, but since we haven't beaten a ranked team in 5+ years, I've gotten numb to them.

Likewise, perennial visits to bowl games that didn't exist 30 years ago doesn't impress me either. I simply want to see a 10 win season occasionally. Say once every 10 years. Then I'll get excited. I'll suffer through some losing seasons to do it. But put together a great season now and then. Tiller got close a few times, and in 2003 and 2004 he had the talent to do it but never closed the door.

After last night's game, not sure if Hope is the one to get us there. Four games is certainly too early to tell (after all, two games into the season I liked the direction the team was heading). 1-3 against two MAC opponents and a ND game at home certainly isn't building confidence in me. And a couple things concerned me last night 1) the lack of offensive production in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, and b) the lack of aggressiveness on defense down the stretch. The former speaks to weaknesses in the coaching staff's ability to game plan and adjust properly; the latter speaks to the mindset of the coaching staff. This team will get eaten alive in the Big Ten if that doesn't change. Akers deja vu? At least Colletto consistently had offenses in the top three of the Big Ten, even if his defenses couldn't tackle to save their life (wait, didn't that happen last night?).

That said, it's been a long time (2004?) since I felt Purdue looked like a real football team, and the showings against Oregon and ND have convinced me they belong in the Big Ten. And not just because the Big Ten sucks this year. So I do have hope for this team. Just frustrated Hope isn't closing the door sooner with this team as I had expected.


In retrospect, it was a great game

When you're in the moment of Purdue giving up 17 points on stupid turnovers and missing extra points, you lose sight of one thing: the Purdue-Oregon game was a great game. 6 or so lead changes, a tie game at halftime, great efforts offensively and defensively, and last minute heroics where Purdue had a chance to tie with a minute left.

We had a great time in Autzen, of the best road trips we've had. Nothing will ever beat Purdue's 41-16 drubbing of the Irish under touchdown Jesus, and it's hard to top Penn State as an overall environment, but Oregon was an overall good experience.

The drive down was beautiful as would be expected. So long as you close your eyes through Portland. Sheesh, anyone who doesn't like Pittsburgh should really take a view at Portland. Traffic wasn't too bad, which was surprising given there is literally only two ways into Eugene. And they have great parking/transportations options - never seen anything as easy and organized as their bus system.

Autzen stadium, if you can get over the plethora of green and yellow on your eyes (if snow is God's dandruff, then the inside of Autzen stadium is God's vomit), is a nice, small stadium with lots of activites. They open their practice field up with big screen TVs, tables, and food for fans to enjoy before the game, which is a great idea - haven't seen that done anywhere either.

Overall the fans were fine. One bitch of a lady on the bus put Spencer in tears with her taunting (half Spencer's fault because he's so sensitive), but I got to yell at her so that was a bonus. Started the trip off poorly. But most fans left us alone, and a few where actually nice to us.

Of course it rained, and our smart selves left our rain gear at the hotel. Not sure what we were thinking.

Wasn't until I watched the game on tape until I realized that Adams DIDN'T NEED TO JUMP FOR THE BALL on the two point conversion. Damn, we're in OT if he keeps his feet on the ground (the ball hit him right in the chest).


Can't say enough good things about BCS

No, not the Bowl Championship Series, but Bellevue Christian School (Three Points Elementary to be specific). Located near Lake Washington and 520, it's a small private school that Amy and I decided would be worth our $$$ to send Spencer as he entered third grade. And so far I we haven't been disappointed. Spencer loves it and is enjoying it more than his old school. The teachers and admin we have met have been absolutely great to work with. He is being challenged daily, in a reasonable way, and Spencer is already being pushed far harder than he was at CVES. Plus Spencer is a bible-thumper at heart so he loves the environment. "I have chapel today Dad!" He says it like its a good thing.

I drive him the 35 minutes to school, which is 5 minutes from where I now work. It's occurred to us maybe we should just move to Bellevue, and while we aren't in a hurry it certainly wouldn't surprise me that we make a move while the market is down and we minimize the trading up cost it would take for us to move there. The drive allows me to have some bonding with him, and it allows him to have some focused study time without his brother pestering him. Its created a riff in my work schedule, but so be it - I'll manage. And Microsoft has a great culture to support work/life balance and families, so it's almost expected that I'm not in the office before 8:30 now.

Bus transportation is actually included in the tuition, which was a surprise to Amy and I (we figured we'd be dropping another $100/month for the bus), so Spencer takes the bus to Issaquah, where Amy picks him up. She has a story to tell about the first day, just ask her about it, just make sure she is sitting down and has a drink in her hand when she tells it.

We'll see how the year goes. But I can certainly see next fall me cutting a check for 2x to send Garrett to kindergarten there.


After a little over seven years and 135000 miles, I said goodbye to my beloved 2000 Audi S4. Gonna miss my first world-class sports sedan. My goal was to drive it into the ground, and last week the engine started acting quirky. Might have been as simple as a couple bad spark plugs, or could have been something more serious. But now that I am driving spencer 20 miles to school every morning, I decided I needed something more reliable.

My S4 had front quarter panel damage from that wonderful snowstorm a few years back, the cat had died, and had a few minor issues with it. Plus plenty of scratches and dings to boot. Not worth fixing IMHO, so I traded it in last week. I actually got three times what I was willing to take for it, so I call that a big win. Of course they never drove the damn thing or took a look at all the warning lights going off, they just walked around the car. Good for me.

Spencer cried when we left the dealership with a different car. He loved the way I drove it. Sheesh, I can't wait until his first pet dies on him. Took me a while to calm him down, and even after a week he still talks about missing my car.


And thus ends summer

Almost anyway. Been a busy August. Earlier in the month we took our first trip to Idaho, squeezing a trip in three days between Amy's work and Spencer leaving for camp. In those days we met up with my uncle in Spokane, spent a day in Coeur d'Alene, and spent a day at the Silverwood Amusement park, supposedly the largest amusement park in the Pacific Northwest.

Silverwood was fun. I imagine it is about the size Cedar Point was in the early/mid 70s before CP realized that roller coasters would be its ticket to fortunes. There are a few coasters at Silverwood, include what I call a real one (one that roller coaster entuhsiasts would actually ride) - in fact its the best coaster I've ever been on. Granted, I haven't been on one for 10 years (I think Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando was the last real coaster I've been on), so I have no clue what's new out there there days. The rest of the park was what you'd expect - lots of rides and games for the kids - but it also has a large water park connected to it. One admission price gets you into both areas. The water park has two large wave pools, and Spencer and Garrett chose to spend most of there day there. Although we did get Spencer and Garrett on one of the big roller coasters. While Garrett insisted on going, afterword he sputtered that it was too scary and he wasn't going on again. Sadly, no pictures, we didn't want to take a camera in and lose it.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Coeur d'Alene. It's probably the best known lake in the Pacific Northwest, so I imagined something 10 times busier than Lake Chelan. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't very busy - of course we timed it so we wouldn't be there over a weekend. Then again, northern Idaho is chock full of lakes, and Lake Pend O'Reille is only 20 miles north, and Priest Lake is another half hour north. What I was surprised was the lack of watersports right on the lake. I could only find one Jet Ski rental, and they didn't rent by the hour (half a day minimum), and the kayak rentals brought your kayaks to you and you had to wait for them to pick them up. I didn't take either of them up while we were there, instead just swam in the lake with the kids at two different beaches. And got sunburnt real, real bad.

There wasn't a lot of water activity, much to my surprise. Seems much more like a residential area where the residents enjoy lakefront views. Total opposite of Lake Chelan where everything is a resort, campground, or hotel. Not bad, just different. We had a great time and we will go back soon.

The month of August saw the family take in a Mariners game against the good guys (White Sox). The good guys went yard in the top of the ninth for three runs to beat the home team, in what was largely a boring game. We went during the week and Garrett had his run of the cool play area out in center field.

I also took Spencer to the Seahawks home opening pre-season game. Unfortunately, the pre-game announcement of "what to do in case of an emergency" dragged on for a while, Spencer took it all in, and was scared to death the entire first half. "Dad, should we go to the emergency exit?" "Dad, when is the emergency going to be here?" "Dad, we should sit closer to the emergency exit." "Dad, do you know what to do in case of an emergency?" "Dad..." Finally I put the kid's mind at ease and we left at halftime. At least Matt Hasselbeck through a couple TD passes that Spencer got to see.

Finally, I took a day off work this week and the family went to Wild Waves in Federal Way. The kids had been there a few times (Garrett loves telling the world that this was his third trip there), and it's basically a smaller version of Silverwood. It used to be a Six Flags, which is odd because I've always thought of Six Flags as big theme parks. On the way back we caught a couple periods of the Seattle Thunderbirds scrimmage at the Showare Center.

So Monday Spencer starts at his new school in Bellevue. Not sure how the logistics will work out, I will likely drive him to school every day and he will take the bus home. There's a bus stop out in Issaquah so apparently a lot of kids outside Bellevue attend. Will cause some havoc at work because I'm used to getting to the office early so I can get out at a decent hour, this will throw a wrench in that. But I'm excited for Spencer and I'm glad that even with our late start in talking to BCS we were able to get Spencer in.

swimming in lake coeur d'alene

the boys thought the mudgy the moose statues around town were cool

spencer worried about some stupid impending emergency about to strike

i've taught garrett how to cross his eyes.


oh yeah, i forgot a rant...

... related to the Sounders game. My biggest turn-off to soccer is the utterly-frickin wussbags that writhe on the ground in fake agony when so much as the wild blows a little too hard. Makes it really hard for me to consider soccer a real sport watching that. I had to keep telling Spencer "he's faking it... yeah, he's faking it too... yep, you got it, he's faking it."

Fortunately nobody stood up and yelled "I hope he dies!" but I would have laughed at that just as I did 10 years ago against Notre Dame. Just sayin.


My first Sounders game with Spencer

Oy, I've put this off a couple days because frankly, I really don't know what to say about it. I'll start with my conclusion - I won't shell out that kind of money for a Sounders game again.

If I were one who enjoyed watching soccer, I think I would have had fun. Not quite as big of an event as the hype in this town had led me to believe, but still, quite the lively crowd, fairly knowledgeable, and a nice setting for the game. Problem is, I'm not one who likes watching soccer. Like golf and baseball, I'm a much bigger fan of playing the game than watching it.

Spencer was excited about going, he had a good time, although he liked watching the game from the club level indoors than standing in the stands. Even if we did have 20th row seats at midfield (great seats scored by me). He noted that the players stand around a lot, which is something I've coached him he can't do in soccer. I didn't have an answer for him. Thanks MLS players.

Traffic was a mess due to the construction between Quest and Safeco. Worse than a Mariners or Seahawks game, believe it or not. And boy, despite the club level not being very crowded, they had tons of people guarding every entrance to make sure someone didn't wander in who didn't have a pass. God forbid someone walks around the corridor up there without a pass. Maybe a few of those folks could have been working the long lines at the concession stands. Just sayin.

As for the game, weather was great and the two sides played to a nice 0-0 tie. Plenty of missed opportunities for both sides. And a red card for each side to boot. Not a bad game, certainly not one for the ages.

I'm not sure why I am down on the whole experience. Maybe relative to Seahawks (where the play is interesting and the crowd is abuzz), the Mariners (where the environment is fun even if the play on the field is not), or the Thunderbirds (intimate environment and constant action), it just came up short. When I factor in that I shelled out $100 for two tickets (more than I spent last year on Spencer's first Seahawks game), I think its safe to say I'm glad I took Spencer but he will be buying tickets out of his own money next time.


Catching up on last weekend

Last weekend was pretty eventful. I took Friday off and did a premium hike taking on Granite Mountain and winning. Views were amazing, the hike exhausting, and the solitude refreshing.

On Saturday I had the boys all day, and we went and saw the Seattle Thunderbirds practice. I was excited that their hockey store would be open with 25% off everything; turns out all they were selling was their crappy stuff they can't get rid of during the season. Still, the boys had fun, and we stayed there a full hour an a half, which is an hour longer than I expected them to hold out.

After that we did a quick tour of the Museum of Flight, and checked out the new control tower exhibit, which, except for the new signs, I could not distinguish from the old control tower exhibit. The museum is very hands on which the boys love.

On Sunday, we went back to the Museum of Flight to partake in a biplane ride. We shelled out more money than we probably should for a 20 minute flight from Boeing field around Elliot Bay and back. Because there were four of us we couldn't do an open seater, so we were tightly wedged into a cabin plane. The takeoff and landing made me a wee bit nervous, Garrett couldn't see because he was too short, but Spencer loved it. It was quite the experience and glad we went on it.


Wii Fit Plus

Just saw on twitter that Wii Fit Plus is due this year. Haven't read what it will be, but here's what I'm hoping: let me workout, please.

After a year of trying I've basically given up exercising on Wii Fit
for one reason: it loves to interrupt exercise and waste my time. I don't need to hear instructions over and over. I don't need feedback from a virtual trainer. I don't need to know my "score" or how I rank over time. I just want to exercise. 30 minutes of time spent on Wii Fit amounts to about 10 minutes of real exercise. Bah, I've got better things to do with my time.

A great feature would be to let me set up my routine, set up rests between them, and go! That would be a simple feature to deliver.

I do like that I've learned a little yoga, but at some point I am way beyond learning and into practicing, and the wii fit doesn't recognize that.

I love the idea of the balance board, heck, tracking my BMI automatically in the wii is worth it for that alone. Here's to getting some good exercise programs on the wii in the future, the promise is there, someone please deliver on it.


A quick trip to Mount Rainier

Quick of course is relative - for us its a two hour drive to Sunrise, the closest point for us in the Mount Rainier National Park. It sits 6400 feet up, about 40 minutes inside the park boundaries. It affords an up close and personal view of Mount Rainier, which almost doesn't seem fair that one can drive and get a better view than climbing one of the various peaks of the Cascades.

Weather was beautiful today, but hot. We didn't do much hiking, we will save that for a cooler day.

This is at a vista about 5 miles out from Sunrise.

You could see Mount Saint Helens today; you can always recognize it due to its flat top.

A close up of where a huge amount of snow has broken off. Making me rethink that I want to summit Rainier someday.


Amazon Fresh on Snoqualmie Ridge

Woot! Just learned that Amazon will start delivering Amazon Fresh to the Ridge starting Tuesday. Boo ya! I like the new grocery store on the ridge, but they don't do everything, and their prices on some things are pretty high. Competition will be good.


Success with the Orion

At some level I have to call this a success. I set out today to try my hand at using my Orion "cooker" as a smoker, something that everyone on the Interwebs says can't be done. I didn't have high hopes, and used a small, cheap piece of 3.5 pound pork shoulder to give it a try today.

After a generous rub on the pork and stuffing it with as much garlic as I possibly could, I lined the bottom inside of the Orion with some large mesquite wood chips, ensuring that the wood was in contact with the walls of the cooker. I actually wedged them between the walls and the drip pan, keeping them in place. I also stacked them a couple high where I could, convinced that I couldn't get enough smoke anyway to do the trick. Note that I did not soak the chips in anything - I left them dry, knowing the cooker generates enough moisture on its own.

After putting the shoulder on the top rack and sealing it up, I used less charcoal than it normally calls for, and to compensate I cooked it longer (5 hours instead of 3). The result? A wonderful, black, fall-apart-in-your-hands hunk of meat rich with smoky mesquite flavor. In fact, I think it's a little too smoky. Looking forward to how it tastes with a generous helping of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce during tonight's neighborhood gathering.

Now, I'm not going to argue that this is smoked to perfection. I'd certainly rather have a real smoker to do the trick. However, I challenge the blogosphere that claims you can't get any smoke out of the Orion. And, I still say with the Orion that most of the time I'd rather have 95% flavor in a third of the time (and a tenth of the work). Today was actually an exception - I did have the time to attend to a full bbq, and I wished I had a real smoker. Sigh.

Next time, I would probably do the following:

  • soak some of the wood chips a little. A little steam won't hurt. But, need to have enough dry ones to create the smoke.
  • find smaller wood chips. Chunks of wood really don't help when trying to wedge between the drip pan and the outer wall.
  • sprinkle the wood chips with some seasoning. I think the chips will get hot enough to do the trick for this.

Bon Apetit to moi.

Geocaching.com iPhone app review

I don't yet have my own iPhone, I will be getting that in August. But since my wife has had hers (December) I've found more and more reasons to use it. The best one just might be geocaching.com's application.

The iPhone 3G has a built-in GPS receiver (GPSr), which I don't believe the first gen iPhone does (don't quote me on that). I certainly wouldn't use it to geocache, but it's accurate enough for car navigation or location-based services. The geocaching app can use the GPSr to find nearby caches. It will list them out by name and distance; clicking on one will give you more detail - size, description, logs, and hints. In other words, all standard fare you get on the website or as part of your .gpx downloads. You can also use the app to navigate to the cache, which will bring up a map (you can set whether you use Google Maps or Bing maps, for example) showing both your current location and the cache location. Or you can bring up a compass view - showing you direction and distance to where the cache is.

But the best feature, in my estimation, is that you can record your cache logs right from the phone. These are called field notes, and you can record found it/didn't find its and record a log. These are then submitted to your geocaching.com account to your field notes section. They don't post directly to the cache listing - you have to do that from the website. Not sure why they force another step, but still better than trying to figure out all the caches you found when, say, you're on vacation for a week and find a couple dozen.

The app also allows you to save cache descriptions for offline use. And this is a really nice feature of the app - it recognizes that people doing serious geocaching are probably not within distance of a cell phone network or Wifi, so the app is offline-friendly. You can't search while disconnected; however, you can still submit field notes (they are stored locally until you connect again).

This app will set you back $10. Considering you'll never had to download pocket queries again, it is a no-brainer companion to your geocaching toolkit.

The $25,000 question is whether you could realistically use only your iPhone for geocaching (assuming you pretty much do urban caches), and I think it would be a challenge. The GPS is just not accurate enough on the iPhone. But damn is it nice having a device able to pull down any nearby caches you want no matter where you are.

Happy Birthday America!

What a great country we still live in to enjoy the freedoms we do. I just wish the more people understood that with freedom comes responsibility.

Going to try to make some pulled pork for this evening's grill out, and also going to make sure all the kids go to bed tonight with all their fingers. Other than that, a relaxing day with the kids.


Two down, five to go

I have a goal of hitting all the major mountains in the Snoqualmie River Valley by the end of the year: Mount Washington, Mount Teneriffe, Mailbox Peak, Mount Defiance, Granite Mountain, Silver Peak, and capping it off with Snoqualmie Mountain (ouch). I did Mount Si, Bandera Mountain, and McClellan Butte last year, hence the seven and not the full ten.

I hit Mount Washington in the snow a month ago to kick off the season, and I failed to complete Teneriffe last week (I had done Rattlesnake Mountain the day before, and I am just not in good enough shape yet to tackle back-to-back hikes).

Today, I completed Mailbox Peak, by far my most challenging hike yet. Doing so gives me confidence to hit Teneriffe next week when the new trail is complete (will be just as steep as Mailbox), and pretty much leaves me in a state where I can take on the other mountains in prep for a hike up Snoqualmie Mountain which is a killer.

The weather did not cooperate today, which means no good views (thus no pics) of Rainier, Baker, etc. That's not surprising, as the "two months of perfect weather" doesn't start until mid-July. Still, tough killing myself 4000 feet up and nothing but cloud vapor to stare at.

Looking forward to the rest of the season.


This one was hard

I've waited a couple days to post this to calm down from Stuart's stupid first period penalty Friday night. I won't blame the loss on him - the Wings had their chances - but man you cannot kill your momentum that way.

Though not nearly as bad as the Wings' early exits in 93, 94, or 96, this one was a tough pill to swallow. The Wings were a better team, with home ice advantage, and it was theirs to lose. And they lost it. I thought Anaheim and Chicago were better teams, and maybe having to play them wore the Wings down to the Pens' benefit. Regardless, a huge opportunity to erect another pillar in the Wings' dynasty was lost. I really wanted Lidstrom to get his 5th Cup (that would be more than Gretzky or Bossy by the way), maybe next year. Or maybe I can't stand the thought of an overrated classless whiner like Sidney Crosby hoisting the cup.

It's still an amazing 20 year run the Wings are on.

And Holland is crazy if he hands Hossa another $7M in the future. I'd rather take my chances elsewhere for that kind of money.


No consequences for Malkin, of course

I agree that Malkin shouldn't be suspended for game 3 for his instigation penalty with 20 seconds left of game 2 (Of course I think the instigator rule is stupid to begin with). However, you can't let the guy off scot free - the guy served 20 seconds for an instigation for Chrissake's.

Maybe the rule should be you sit for 5 minutes the following game, or for all instigations you sit for 30 minutes of ice time or the rest of the game, whatever is longer. I don't know what the solution is. But basically the NHL just said you can drop the gloves when the other team is outclassing you and there is no consequences. That makes no sense. Either fighting is in or it is out. Pick one, Bettman, and be consistent about it.


Bing is not Google

Actually, I don't know what Bing really stands for, and I wasn't part of the branding/marketing behind it. But I am part of the team that is working on the shopping part of Bing, and I must say these are exciting times. Although not as exciting as when it is actually released (even if I will be spending all night in the office).

My favorite writeup so far.

Update: I now have a new favorite writeup. Er, video.


A great Original Six series

I'm almost ashamed to admit it took me a couple of games for me to get fired up about the Wings/Hawks series. A very different Chicago team than the last time the Wings faced the Hawks in the playoffs. No Belfour. No Roenick. And Chelios now dons the Winged Wheel. Go figure. The Hawks of old were a much easier team to hate. The reverse is also true.

Still, I like what is hopefully going to be several years of a renewed rivalry. The Hawks showed some skill, but lacked the poise and grit that the Wings have acquired over the years. In fact the Hawks remind me of the Wings teams of the late 80s/early 90s. Except they had good goaltending.

Despite the Wings domination I still really enjoyed this series. Primarily because I watched most of the Hawks/Canucks series and saw how well Chicago came back from multiple goal deficits, keeping me on edge despite nice leads.

Now on to a rematch with the Penguins, and I really, really hope the refs are not as soft on the Pens as they were last year. This is hockey, folks, Sidney (girl's name) is going to get bumped from time to time. He's not a quarterback, after all, and this is a real sport. I must say I wish the Wings were playing someone interesting the the finals. The Pens just don't do it for me.

It is still amazing this is the same organization I followed 30 years ago. Back when there were 21 teams, and the Wings were perennially one of five teams that never made the playoffs. Now if they are less than a 2 seed you call it a disappointing regular season, and anything short of the Cup finals is a choke. As big of a joke as the Detroit Lions are, the Red Wings are a model professional sports organization. Maybe they should make Illitch CEO of Chrysler.

Looks like two more weeks of the beard. By then it might actually look like one. Amy says I've set a world record for longest time without shaving and still not having a beard.


In rememberance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country

Their contributions to our great nation has preserved our freedom to do stupid things like blog and twitter.


So now I work in Bellevue

The Search organization at Microsoft is slowly but surely consolidating its entire team to the new offices being built in Bellevue. My team moved this past week to the City Center Plaza, which isn't done yet but apparently enough floors are complete to start moving the cattle in.

I must say, I think it will be nice working in Bellevue. My concern about the move was primarily around traffic and parking. In general, it is hell getting through Bellevue, the I-90/405 interchange, finding parking, etc. And that's on the weekends. I expected a workday to be infinitely worse. To my delight, I've found that traffic is not bad before 8am (nice that this entire town is a sleep-in town), and since only the first three floors of our new 26 story building are occupied, parking is not yet an issue. Although it will be in time - there's clearly not enough parking to support the entire building when it's finished.

Back to "it being nice working in Bellevue," by that I mean it's convenient to a myriad of lunch locations, shopping (Bellevue Square is a couple blocks away), Lincoln Square, etc. Nice to be in a city instead of "just a campus of Microsoft office buildings" that is Redmond. Already our team has enjoyed a fine lunch at El Gaucho and a movie at the local movie theatre (Terminator Salvation). Although having 27 Starbucks within two blocks is really annoying.

Oh yeah, nice having my own office again :)

New digs are so nice I took the family there today so they could check it out for themselves.

OMG great food in Snoqualmie!

Yes, folks, its true. Apparently there is not a law outlawing tasty food to be served by establishments in Snoqualmie.

To be fair, there are a couple of restaurants on Snoqualmie Ridge that I like - Uncle Si's Pizza and Ana's I have no problem with. But you won't find be partaking in anything from Finaghty's, Mike's, or Sebastiani's so long as I'm sober. Also, this "crappy food in Snoqualmie" thing is really more of a "crappy food in Seattle" thing. Sure, there are excellent restaurants here; however, the hit ratio has to be the worst in the country if not the world.

The other problem is that we've been recommended a lot of restaurants in the area. All as "great" places to eat. Only to find that Amy and I won't partake in a more than a couple of bites before asking for the bill. So far only two of the myriad of recommendations we've gotten have panned out.

So when Amy came home a couple months ago saying "the new Italian place in town is supposed to be the best around" I was skeptical at best, ignoring her at worst. But after securing a babysitter for Friday, and not wanting to be out too late, we gave this new place a try.

Gianfranco Ristorante Italiano is an authentic Italian restaurant nestled in a little hole-in-the-wall in downtown Snoqualmie. I don't remember seeing more than six tables in the restaurant, and two of those were two seaters. Fortunately there was a table "in the back" for us when we got there.

The first thing I noticed was that the wine list didn't have a token couple of bottles from Italy - 90% of their wine list (about 80 choices in all) was from Italy, with a generous set of choices from Northern Italy, Tuscany, and Southern Italy. We opted for a lower priced red wine from Tuscany, and even Amy - who isn't a big wine fan - enjoyed it.

I scanned the simple menu and spotted a couple things I wanted to try: their beef tortellini with prosciutto, and some dishes with the chef's "famous gorganzola sauce." I asked the waitress if I could combine the two, and she obliged. Chalk one up for the customer. And what an excellent combination. The gorganzola sauce was outstanding - Amy ended up mopping up most of it as I made the tortellini disappear. And the tortellini was perfectly cooked and stuffed just right.

So finally, Amy and I have a destination for a decent meal that's within 5 minutes of us. And their kids menu is basically any dish they make, half size, half off. Not too shabby.

Gianfranco, welcome to the neighborhood. Looking forward to dropping plenty of duckets there over the coming years.


Happy Birthday Spencer

Now that Spencer has his own email account (and uses it) and is getting internet savvy I have to be careful about my postings. Spencer had three friends over yesterday for a birthday get together, two of them spent the night, and we had a pretty relaxing day today.

Amy made a tank cake that was hella cool. Tasty too. Even at midnight. Theme was basically army, due to Spencer's recent fascination with Civilization Revolution, a turn-based XBox 360 game that Spencer is quite good at. In keeping with the spirit of the game, Spencer had swords, arrows, guns, shields, and set up countries for everyone, but make sure everyone knew they were at peace with each other. Not sure what exactly they were fighting in the backyard but they were at it for a few hours.

Spencer must be at that tweener age where the kids can supervise themselves and create their own fun together, but not at the risk of doing something so stupid that the police end up involved. As such we let the boys hang out in the playroom and watch movies until they fell asleep, while Amy and I snuck off to the backyard to enjoy the nicest evening of the year. By nicest I mean 40 degrees that felt colder than that even with multiple layers of clothes.

Spencer made out well today with loot. Lots of cash from the grandparents, he got a new bike, an awesome Nerf gun (I will be picking up one just like it so I can defend myself from his ambushes), a new Bakugan, and best of all no legos.

After an evening swim at the Pro Club we did some fine dining at Quizno's.


Pics from the Kitsap Penninsula

The family went over to the Kitsap Penninsula (which is on the west side of Puget Sound) a couple weekends ago. Learned some more about the history of the area, which is deeply rooted in naval bases, shipyards, and testing.

We crossed the sound using the country's largest ferry system.

I caught a glimpse of the recently retired USS Kitty Hawk:

Spencer was funny. Every time I took his picture about this destroyer he would take his hat off, showing respect for our military.

A shot of Seattle on our return ferry ride.

And the obligatory Mount Rainier shot.

I still can't get over that blown call

Seriously, I have been racking my brain to remember a worse call in sports. Can't come up with one. What I don't get... they didn't even try to get the call right.

As I read commentary from the league about the call, it's all about the refs discretion to blow the whistle when they lose sight of the puck. No shit sherlock. Of course refs can do that. That shouldn't be the debate. I still haven't seen anyone comment on this fact: the puck was in the net when the whistle blew. Barely, but it was still in the net. Thus, nobody can argue that the whistle affected the play.

Why this didn't go to review upstairs is beyond me. Isn't that the point of having replay in the first place? To get the call right? And why someone didn't say "well, sure, there was a whistle, but the puck was already in the net, so the whistle didn't affect the play, the Wings get the goal."

Hopefully this is the fire lit under the Wings' behinds that they need. Looking forward to tonight's game.


Thanks for the buzzkill, Lions

Man, was that a disappointing day two of the draft for the Lions. Last night I was pleasantly surprised to see a) the Lions didn't waste picks on positions they already have filled (RB, WR, MLB), b) they went after a franchise QB with the #1 pick, and c) they went after a big time TE in the first round. Very happy with day 1, and getting a big corner in the second round was icing on the cake.

So I get home after a long day, only to find that the Lions decided to piss away some picks on a) a third down running back and b) a WR who's only hope to see the field is as KR/PR. Dammit, this team was 0-16, which damn near by definition means they have lots of STARTING positions to fill. Especially since Millen and Marinelli ran off players like Rogers and Bly. Out of the ten picks, three of them wasted on non-incremental add players. Serves me right for looking for a new Lions jersey online last night. Total buzzkill. Thanks Mayhew. I was totally in your court until today. Please tell me you have some killer free agent signings up your sleeve.

And speaking of the draft, I was shocked to see Curtis Painter get drafted by the Colts. Their scouts couldn't have seen captain choke in any big games. Good for Purdue, hopefully that continues to bode well for their QB recruiting.

Back to the Lions, I am looking forward to seeing if Stafford develops into a Pro Bowler in the next few years. Nice thing about 0-16, you can be a little patient to rebuild. There's no down side.


What have I been up to at Microsoft?

It was made public today, a new and improved cashback experience. One of the reasons I've been in hiding is all the hours spent making this go smooth, and I'm proud of the effort our team put together to push things over the goal line. Funny, as Program Manager I don't actually do anything for the site; but I'm in trouble if the smallest piece doesn't work.

If you haven't tried cashback, give it a whirl. The few friends I've suggested to use it for specific product purchases have saved big bucks. Especially on big ticket items. I'm just looking for an excuse for a new HDTV.

And some of the press even likes the move.

Now on to bigger and better things.


Try some logical thought, people

To be clear at the onset, I am against almost all forms of taxpayer $ going to private companies. Can't think of a reason off the top of my head why taxpayers should be investing tax dollars in private companies.

Apparently Microsoft is the beneficiary of some so-called stimulus funds, coupled with other local taxpayer funds, to build a bridge to span 520 and create another connection between the two campuses on the south side of its complex. And this has many up in arms.

Set aside the fact that Microsoft is not getting this money in the first place, the local government is. Assume Microsoft was the beneficiary of funds? How is that possibly worse than giving funds to AIG, misc banks, GM/Chrysler, etc?

What do you think has a better chance of creating jobs? Money to a company like AIG that destroys value, or money to a company like Microsoft that creates value?

Who do you think has a better chance of creating taxable income?

I've said all along the non-sensical part of the bailouts is that you are giving funds to companies that have proven they destroy value.

While I would rather our government not write checks it can't cash, if pissing away trillions of dollars is a foregone conclusion under this administration and Congress, it would at least be semi-heartening to know that the $ is going to well-run companies.


I'm alive

This morning I took advantage of the kids and wife being out of town to head into Snoqualmie Pass and attempt my first skiing in 20 years. The Summit at Snoqualmie is nestled into the mountains that comprise Snoqualmie Pass, offering both excellent skiiing (powder even) and amazing views. Skiing is something I've been looking forward to doing since accepted my job offer with Amazon four years ago, and its about damn time I did it.

The rental center opens at 8:30, while the slopes open at 9am. It was predicted to be a beautiful day, following almost a week of heavy precipitation in the pass. Perfect timing to reacquaint myself to skiing. After a champions' breakfast of pop tarts, I was able to get there with front row parking a tad before 8:30.

A nice worker pointed me to the rental place, informing me it was the door I just walked by with the big sign that said "RENTALS" above it (wow am I observant), and by quarter to nine I had signed my life away and was decked out in the Summit's finest. I found a trail map and committed to memory the "super easy wuss hills" and their locations. Lucky for me they were right in front of me.

I made my way to the sissiest of all the lifts, pointed my skis into the "line" to make my way to the lift, and zoom I took off far faster than I expected. I couldn't turn in time, and I crashed right there in the line for the lift. Fortunately nobody around but the lift workers. When one of them stopped laughing she helped me up. I asked her if that was a sign I should head back to the car and she encouraged me to get on the lift. Apparently the folks at the top needed a good laugh too.

So I eventually get on the lift, make my way to the top, and get the feel of it again. Interesting on how a "few" extra pound and aging joints affect your balance on a set of skis. I made the first trip down with only a couple slight falls, second trip I fell once, and after that I was all good.

I did the same run a few times, noticing that the easy hill over had the lift operating but nobody on it. By this time quite a few people had made it my hill, it was 9:30 or so, so I decided to head over to the other lift.

Apparently I should have noted that this second lift takes you a wee bit higher than the first lift. I got to the top, veered to my left, looked down, and said "oh shit." While the bottom half of this hill was pretty level, the first half was much steeper. Damn. Either I take my skis off and walk down like a little bitch, or I break my leg like a man.

Break my leg wins.

Once I got going it wasn't bad, in fact I stayed on this hill for the next two hours as it was fast but I could still slow myself down without killing myself.

A note on snowboarding: until today I've always wanted to give it a try. After seeing the number of people falling, stuck, taking one of their feet out, flipping (wide world of sports style, kinda cool to watch), etc, I really don't think its worth the effort to learn.

My legs started to get sore by about 11:30, and by that time it started getting busy, and between dodging people who like to plop their butts on the middle of a hill (must be the same people that love to stop in the middle of concourses at sporting events, or the mall), and the lift lines starting to get long, I called it a day. I turned my skis in, and the little rental area that had me and two other customers this morning was jam packed with people - a hundred or so with a line out the door. Note to self: buy some skis.

After dropping my gear off, I made my way to the Guest Services area, and picked up a season pass for next year. It's good for the rest of this year as well, which will be at least this week, and my lift ticket today applied to the price. Five visits next year and it pays for itself, and applies to Alpental as well (backcountry powder skiing).

Now off to REI and see what I can find on clearance.


That's what I've been saying

For over a year now, after looking at our collective debt load (gov't and personal), there is only one conclusion: we are in deep doo-doo and will have a Japanese-style 15 year recession / flat growth on our hands. It's the only way the math adds up.

Sorry folks, time to pay the piper. Sooner we are willing to do it, the shorter this recession will be. The longer we put it off, the longer the recession. Our choice.

Good unintended consequences

I'll bet good money companies will be thinking twice before accepting any more government money. Congress' bumbling of the AIG bonuses to people that earned them pretty much guarantees no company will be going back to Congress for free money, no matter how bad of shape they are in.

I'm sure there's a sociology term for a situation someone screws up so badly its a net gain. The inverse of the Peter Principle.

Now if they can screw something up to make individuals realize that they are morally obligated to pay back their loans.


Catching up

After 4+ years blogging here, I went through my biggest two month post drought ever. Life has been real busy, between ramping up of the little league season (where I have to get everything ready for the TBall season), and picking up a key, highly visible project at work, I haven't had time to even yell at my kids let alone blog.

Work is going very well. I made a smart move making the change to Microsoft, and while all jobs are going to have their challenges, I definitely fit in at the big M. Looking forward to the next six months or so and making a career here.

If it weren't being reported on CNN every three seconds, you'd never know by living in Seattle we are in a recession or that times are tough.

Spencer continues his climb through the Tae Kwon Do belt ranks. His next belt is his bodan, which is one step away from black belt. This is where they really start to ratchet it up and he needs to start putting some extra time in. I work with him the best I can, but if it ain't a video game, I'm not a lot of help.

I've become a Seattle Thunderbirds fan. Six games this year alone, and we will likely get season tix next year. Last time I adopted a new team was the White Sox when I moved to Chicago, so been 15 years since I've followed someone "new." The new ShoWare Center in Kent is awesome for hockey. Free parking, great sightlines, small arena (which means no huge crowds, no huge bathroom lines, etc), and a hockey atmosphere where everyone loves the game and is not there just because some corporation gave them tickets. Spencer and I went to Wednesday's playoff game by ourselves, we sat in the fourth row in the corner (had the row to ourselves), and we had a blast. Good guys lost, but the highlight of the night was Spencer and me getting on the overhead scoreboard.

Am I the only one who doesn't get "Earth Hour"? We only care about energy consumption one hour a year? Is that the message? My God, we as a people (globally) are just stupid. How the hell does our life expectancy continue to increase if we are so incapable of logical thought? The few intelligent folks out there must really have a positive impact on everyone else.

My car is six months and 10k miles past it's normal maintenance cycle. Damn I love German Engineering. Audi, I am sold for life.

I continue to hit the Pro Club 3-4 times a week. Spent three hours there yesterday in fact. Impressed that I am now starting to run without my knees or back killing me, and pretty close to being in good enough shape for a 5k. Amy even bought me smaller clothes as I was starting to swim in my old ones. Folks at work commented... "your wife go shopping for you?" Guess you can tell I am just not one cut out for clothes shopping.

Ironically, as busy as I've been, Amy and I have had the more "dates" in the past three months than we have in any three month period since Spencer has been born. We spent one date at the Pro Club, which while it sounds corny, is a pretty sweet place where some of the wealthiest people in the world (Gates, Allen, Ballmer) are members. Amy liked it so much she wants to go back. Another date we hiked Mount Si, and we both are so damn competitive that we insisted on not stopping so-as not to incur the heckling from the other. And our other date was a rather forgettable (for me) night at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle catching The Lion King. I. Will. Never. Do. That. Ever. Ever. Again. Ever. And I think Amy will make sure of that.

Purdue ended their season Thursday night. As great as last season was, this one was disappointing. A Big Ten tournament victory was nice, but that came after a lackluster big ten season (how do you lose 7 games in this conference?) and before a disappointing showing against UConn in the Sweet Sixteen. UConn all but gift wrapped that game for the Boilers, and they would have none of it. Still, great to see the Boilers back on the scene, and if Painter can find some frontcourt depth they will be tough next year.

The boys have both seemed to have turned a corner from a behavior perspective. Spencer, as hard as I am on him, has really been amazing the last couple of months. Keeping my fingers crossed that he can keep this up for 10 more years. And Garrett seems to be following suit. Still a 4 year old, with 4 year old reponses and tantrums, but he is also "getting in line" as he follows his brother's lead.

After six months of hard work Garrett is fully potty trained. Thank God. I thought he was going to be the first kid ever to wear diapers to Kindergarten.

Spencer is training to be a Jedi. Seriously. He chose not to dress up for "Wacky Wednesday" because "it's not the Jedi way." He also didn't want to sing in his recent school concert because "singing is not the Jedi way." I should have tried that line before decided to go to see The Lion King.

I am going through some inner turmoil on deciding what I am going to do for football season. I canceled NFL Sunday Ticket. I am fed up with the Lions, literally. I don't even know who their new coach is. Nor do I care. I suspect come fall I will be supporting the Seahawks more than the Lions. At least the ownership here seems to care about its fan base.

Now, I have to go turn some more lights on for "Earth Hour."


Thank you Matt Painter

Great to be excited about Purdue Basketball once again. Headed to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 9 years. Wow, nine years. And pretty lean since then given Keady only got them to the dance once after that.

I didn't end up going to the game. Was planning on heading down and scalping tickets, but based on prices on the Internet ahead of time, plus Gonzaga and UW playing, I figured cheap tix would be tough to come by, and I would have had the boys with me. So ended up watching here. And of course every time I'd jump up Garrett would give me "Dad what are you dooo-ing?"

Great game, although the officiating in the second half was atrocious. The refs wanted it close, they got it.

This Purdue team is the most fun I've watched since Big Dog was in town. We have a point guard that can penetrate. Can't score, but at least he can break the defense down. We have someone in the middle who can play d, rebound, take the ball to the hoop, and hit a 15 footer. No wonder all Big Ten. We have two players that are capable of carrying the team on offense if they need to. And nice depth that provides 3-pt shooting, solid D, and decent rebounding. Weak in the middle in terms of depth, and I think that will be the achilles heel in the next round.


Yeah, it's been a while...

... and if I'm blogging it probably means I am pissed about something.

Damn politicians. If I hear one more of these idiots whine about AIG I am going to shoot someone. AIG is not the problem. Idiot politicians who dole out ridiculous sums of money from responsible taxpayers and redistribute that money to people who have demonstrated they don't know how to run a successful business is the problem. Plain and simple. Both sides of the aisle, at all levels of government, and the mainstream media that argued for the bailouts and now are whining about AIG bonuses. Duh.

Idiots. Schmucks like me knew this was coming, which is why you don't reward bad behavior in the first place, it begets bad behavior.

As President Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problems, government IS the problem!" And he said that when interest rates and unemployment were double digits, making today's economic problems seem trite.


Some pics from Garrett's birthday week

We celebrated Garrett's birthday on Wednesday, followed by a small, short "party" (if you could call it that) on Saturday. My kind of celebrating. Some pics from the week:

With the economy the way it is, we opted for some hostess donuts instead of a cake. Boo ya!

Bakugan is king for both Garrett and Spencer.

The cookies are gone. I didn't even get one.

Garrett got a couple soccer nets, which we instantly coverted into more manly hockey nets.

And then the gloves were dropped.

All I can say, G-Dog, is get used to it.

Amy created a Batcave for the party. Although it was my idea.


Happy Birthday Garrett!

Looking forward to a batman-themed day for Garrett's 4th birthday.


Spencer gets his red stripe belt

Spencer moved two steps away from a black belt tonight, getting his red stripe belt. Amy and I are really slacking in capturing the moment - no video, no good pics of him breaking a board. Definitely proud of Spencer's hard work and focus though.


Stupid post of the day

You can find anything on the web. Even this time-based map of Walmart openings across the country.


Happy New Year!

A little belated, but at least I am still wishing everyone a Happy New Year on New Year's Day.

Had a good week this week - did my first snowshoeing with the family up in Snoqualmie Pass on Tuesday, and we hosted a New Year's Eve party last night with the usual suspects (our neighbors). Both were good times, and it was great to have our neighbors in Germany visit and spend the night with us last night.

The obligatory pics.

Just don't ask about this. Scary enough, this was one of the more sane moments of the evening...