Sunday, December 30, 2007

Great video on housing bubble from housingpanic blog!

How to get your Capital One Rewards Card 25% annual bonus...

For some peculiar reason beyond my comprehension, the 25% bonus that makes this the most superior cash back card in the consumer credit ecosystem does not explain how you receive this bonus in their brochures or on their website, so I gave them a call.

Transferred to India to ask the question over a VOIP solution that was choppy and hard to understand, transferred back to the US for the actual answer, I was told that the balance is automatically applied to your balance one to two billing cycles after your november bill and is applied to your previous october through november balance. This is great news and the right way to do it. Just wanted to share because I know most people I know have moved to this card due to 1.25% return on everything you buy being the best you can find. And if you find a better one, please share! This assumption is based on the fact that there is no way I buy enough groceries or gas to make the 1% plus 5% on gas and groceries a better bet, but maybe if you buy lots of either of those they are better.

The other thing that makes this card a must have for your wallet is NO foreign exchange fees. Citi cards have huge fees for any business done in foreign currencies.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Book Review: The Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker

Quote on front cover “A brilliant piece of intellectual history” from the Washington Post. Sure, if you consider a survey paper ‘a brilliant piece of intellectual history’. Beinhocker annoys reader with supposed insights that are really just obvious statements about business dynamics. Book is divided into 4 sections. The first and second related to defining traditional economics as the neoclassical approach, what we were taught in school about economics was wrong, and that the economy really acts as a complex adaptive system. Gee, that’s freakin’ brilliant! At least he doesn’t take credit for that observation and points to the folks at SFI for arming him with the data to repeat this now well understood notion. I don’t mean to be bitter here, but he doesn’t say anything really new. He does summarize how complexity theory and economics have had an affair for the past couple decades and references work by Mandelbrot, Holland, etc. to give credibility to his point(s).

He also summarizes his points about economics and its ‘truth’ as a complex adaptive system by summarizing results of the Sugarscape experiments which also demonstrated the notion of punctuated equilibrium in economics. He summarizes the work Mandelbrot did disproving the random walk hyptothesis, and summarizes a bunch of obvious business implications of complexity theory in section 3. Section 4 gets a bit more philosophical and discusses the implications of sections 1 and 2 for civilization overall with epiphanies like “companies don’t innovate, markets do”. Blech. “if a company’s total resources are fully committed to executing legacy business plans, it will be incapable of evolving any new ones (page 346)”.
If you haven’t read anything on complexity theory and its application to the stock market chapter 2 would be okay but reading mandelbrot’s recent text (reviewed previously in my blog) is much better.

Here’s what annoys me: It doesn’t tell me anything new, the book is called the origin of wealth and I guess I got my answer: its born from complex interactions of agents whose optimal path is dependent on where they are located in the current fitness landscape….thanks man. You should pay attention to these issues when thinking strategically about where to take your business.

Another reviewer mentions that he is ‘a storyteller of first rank’. I’d have to agree with that. Author does actually tell a good story, its just a story I’ve already heard. Author is also extremely well read and has an extensive list of citations and references at the end of the book. He does a great job summarizing things like the Sugarscape experiments and makes complex economic arguments easy to understand. I could see some parts of this book being a reasonable text for a tour for undergraduates or high school students.

I will give it a 3 out of 5. Its an average read, but I’ve reviewed other books that are better elsewhere in my previous blog posts. By better, I mean they have more meat on their bones, are more efficient, and don’t seem to wander all over the place. I feel like I’m reading his first draft. Part III could be dropped out altogether and would have strengthened the book.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Oatmeal Wars, part II




Returning to the oatmeal saga: Previously I used John McCann's oatmeal from Trader Joe's as my oatmeal of choice to cook in the rice cooker. After extensive research and testing, I found what I believe to be a superior product, and I'll explain why. The product is Bob's Red Mill stone ground oatmeal. The primary reason is that I was having problem with a 1 cup serving boilng over in my Zojirushi rice cooker. Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oatmeal is giving me no such problems. I also think the texture of the oatmeal is slightly better.

This was discovered when we recently paid a visit to the Bob's Red Mill grocery store in Portland, OR. Was a fun experience, they had lots of dried stone ground goods besides oatmeal including whole wheat chocalate cake mixes and a bunch of other goodies. Its about 20 minutes from downtown but worth the trip! Lots of healthy stuff to eat, and they serve a breakfast and lunch menu to try out their products. As I move my diet towards less processed foods, I can imagine Bob's Red Mill products becoming quite popular in my pantry!

Half Life Saga Summary....

I was commenting the other day after finishing half life 2 episode 2 that I was having a hard time remembering what the story was all about. After all, the first half life happened like 8+ years ago. Shonuf, stumbled upon this link today.

4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss




i was blown away by the content and succinct representation of said content. i thought it was going to be a fair amount of fluff, robert kiyosaki type 'one good picture and 250 pages of big font double spaced obviousness', but i had some vacation time and what better way to spend vacation time than figuring out how to get more vacation time?

tim ferriss is smart. he's also quit witted and a good writer, or at least he convinced me of that (heck, for all i know he outsourced the whole book). better yet, he had one person do the actual content and then paid a comedian in india to add ' 3 funny parts in each chapter' for 4.50 an hour....i wouldn't be able to tell and the result would probably have been just as good by taking his own advice.

if you are interested in how to get the most out of the time you work, whether trying to reduce your time at work or not, his points are excellent and good to hear, although most producers i know (about 1 in 10 employees) practice these tools regularly already. he discusses points about when and how to read email, tactics on how to spend less time in the office and more time working where you want (for many that is moving from place of low productivity to high productivity), and how to outsource many components of your life. He talks about dreamlines, essentially mapping out a plan of what you want to do and a step by step plan on how to do it.

i had a fairly strong emotional reaction to this book. it has a ton of appeal to me, mostly because i hear what tim is saying and strive to practice much of his advice already. so i had these strong feelings of 'yes yes, that's exactly what i've found to be the best way to do it', to other moments of his missing the point of some of the interactions that take place on a day to day basis in the hallways of business.

it seems tim's end goal is to spend less time in the office and therefore get more time to do what he wants, and i like his idea of pursuing one kinesthetic and one intellectual goal in each of the places he lives for awhile, but i'd like to counsel him on a few things about the work environment as i see it. it sound like he's been in some bad job situations, and not understood what the point of some of the interaction that takes place on a daily basis. in america, the corporation has become one of the social tribes. it is within these tribes that a significant amount of mentorship and stewardship is practiced. we leverage our time in the 8 hour day in these interactions helping those around us with making a better life through understanding how to achieve their goals. we're not there to produce products. we're there to produce better people. to produce those better people, we work on a shared goal, a product of some sort. through this shared goal, we all end up learning more about ourselves and how to relate to others. during that process we pick up tools that we leverage not just in our jobs but in our personal lives as well. likewise, many of us actually are still naive enough to believe that the tools we produce will raise the standard of living of people throughout the world.

all the points stated above seem to be lost on the author who seems to be a fairly typical self absorbed mid 20s guy on this front. his goals seem to be purely to optimize time utilization for himself and its not clear that he understands the stewardsship or mentorship roles many people have in those big offices.

this book has no one single overall message, instead he has lots of interesting ways to think about life, what its meaning is, and good advice on how to pursue those things whether within the confines of the corporation or striking out on your own to sell vitamins or whatever is your ticket out of corporate servitude.

while i'd advocate many of the ideas put forth in this book, i'd also say i doubt anybody could seriously take them too literally. the origins of his feeling the need to search so hard for something else and have such a disdain for meetings, etc. were due to being enveloped in a culture that fostered useless meetings and had some magnetic attraction to non-type A personalities to sit around and talk about random stuff all day. in general, i just don't work in that type of environment. its fast paced, people are succinct and to the point, and when the meeting is over and its time to go people get up and walk out (or in many cases hang up). you have to foster and build a culture like that in your business, and his time at TrueSAN just wasn't like that. his career experience in the middle of the internet boom was at a surreal time for all of us in tech, and its no wonder he thinks its such a soulless experience, but i disagree with him on the implication that because his experience in the middle of hiring everyone with a pulse for whatever they wanted to do applies when all the excess capital gets washed to the next boom industry.

highly recommended reading, very good use of time, and fun. 5/5. estimated reading time: 2.5-3.5 hours. thanks to brent insko for the recommendation.

Book Review: The First 90 days

Full title: The First 90 days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, by Michael Watkins. Carl Marshall recommended this book to me when i was making a recent job transition. One year later i finally had the time to read it. Its aimed at sr. level executives (or just sr. leaders) and has lots of good tools to make a successful job transition. Even though its primary value is the first 90 days, it has value at any time in your job, particularly addressing some of the common problems in organizations and how to lead a group through those problems. Its like this: if there is a transition happening, the tools in this book can help you understand what phase your organization is in. After this, it will help you formulate a plan and the required relationships and tools to help in that particular business phase. For
example, identify which of these 4 situations your business is currently involved: turnaround, sustaining, startup, realignment. Next, apply tools in book to achieve success. Very good book, very quantitative, very dense, 4/5.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Portland Housing Blog auction story from the O

Oregonian has an article on the Auction as well. See Portland Housing Blog for more info.

Portland Home Auction by REDC and Buena Vista Homes




I stopped by the auction today to see how it was going. The room was actually quite full. I watched for about 30 minutes and took a few notes on what places were selling for to get an idea of how far out of market value current list prices are. Assuming the 'previously valued at' on the price sheets we were given is current list price, I have found that the homes were selling on average around 75% of the previously price. This includes a 5% fee that the auctioneer tacked onto each sale. A hefty profit for the auctioneer considering the work involved!

This was mainly for homes within the portland suburban area but NOT considered downtown. Also, this is not a large or statistically significant (>30) sample. However, it would be enough to influence the amount I would pay for a home in the pdx suburbs. To add creedence to the value, a number of economists seem aligned with this current overvaluation of the market. I've read quite a few who have expected that if people cut prices ~20% the market would pick back up.

Insert Mystifying white space here.
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NeighborhoodSq. Ft.Sold w/ 5%prev. val% of prev. val$/sq.ft.
hamilton ridge261624675039200062.95%94.323
hamilton ridge2332246750361950 68.17% 105.81
jcksn hills pII3581 456750 529950 86.19% 127.55
vista heights2550 34650046595074.36% 135.88
sunrise hts 2935 367500 487950 75.32%125.21
lincoln hts2550 341250424950 80.30% 133.82
avg. 2761 334250443792 74.55% 120.43

Friday, December 14, 2007

Portal is the most subversive game ever?

This may be old news to the game folks out there, but I found this article very IU. I say 'IU' because it reminds me of the discussions I used to have with friends when they'd come back home from school at Indiana University and were in the midst of a class on feminism or some class they watched movies like Top Gun and critiqued them for gender/sexuality themes. The link is here.

I've also found, as a resident and often time typer of Portland, that my fingers CANNOT move to type Portal correctly the first time EVAR!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The mortgage fix...

okay, real quick: i'm thinking about doing a refi due to mortgage rates dropping a bit. i'm just wondering if i can get one of those new types of loans. you know, the one that if i get in over my head, or say i don't read the terms of the loan, the government/big banks will just let me keep the lower rate for awhile longer. yeah, that's right, the one that gives no reward to the people who did their homework, looked at the numbers and said 'ain't no way that loan makes sense for me, look at what it does after 2 years'.

now, i definitely feel bad for the people that were lied to by mortgage brokers and such, but this feels very unfair to people that did the analysis and did the responsible thing during the years of low interest rates. where's our reward for doing the right thing?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Friday, November 23, 2007

Managing Humans: Biting and Humourous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager

I just finished a book recommended by Matt Pharr, a recent hire in my Advanced Visual Computing Group at work. We were discussing some of the challenges of our work environments and he sent me a link to this book. If you are a manager, architect, team lead, or even a jr. engineer I'd recommend a review of this book. It has a conversational blog like tone but is very well written bite size chapters. If there is one thing I got out of this book was a reassurance that I was not alone in the spectrum of what I do on a daily basis for my job. Covering NADD: nerd attention deficit disorder, distinguishing The Zone from The Place, discussion of the nerd cave, organics vs. mechanics, free electrons, etc. all provided a colorful, useful way of thinking of the various people including yourself that you come across with every day in an engineering organization. Unlike many business books I actually recommending reading all the chapters becuase they actually cover very different material, not 1/3 the book full of some new ideas than 1/3 rehashing those ideas then the other 1/3 trying to sell you the other books the author has written. 4.5 out of 5 stars for an engineering manager, of little value to others in non-technical fields

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Cooking Oatmeal in a rice cooker

Oatmeal...in a rice cooker?

Stacey and I had been frequenting a local coffee shop over on Hawthorne, Common Grounds, handily one of the best of many in portland. They have had some impressive oatmeal on their menu, and we were dropping a few pennies a week on this stuff. Way better than the instant oatmeal i eat fairly regular in the mornings at work. I decided to try to recreate it.

First, I went to trader joes and stared at the various oatmeal offerings...irish oats, rolled oats, steel cut oats, various instant oats. I decided to go for a very innocent, old fashioned looking can of John Mccann steel cut oatmeal.

Next, I went home and followed the instructions, boiled some water, put the oatmeal in, total freakin' disaster. Didn't absorb the water, was a glutenous mess. Reminded me of my experiences trying to cook real rice. That's it! Use the rice cooker.

So, I pulled out the rice cooker and looked at the settings. Turns out there is one called 'porridge' on my fuzzy logic zojirushi 5000 so i went about setting it up, turning it on, and putting in the appropriate ingredients (oats and water as described on the oat meal container). After about an hour and a half (including 45 minutes soak time that the rice cooker appropriately counted down for me without any intervention on my part...i love this thing!) the rice cooker beeped at me and out came some absolutely DELICIOUS oatmeal. Great stuff, I mean legendary for those cold winter days.

I also added some organic brown sugar, craisins, and homemade granola from Elephants Delicattesen to give it some crunch and sweetness. I'm not sure the 'organic'-ness adds to the brown sugar, I think its more like 'not the cheap stuff' that makes it better than just average brown sugar.

So, takes longer than the instant stuff, but it tastes great. I'll be adding this to the cooking arsenal.

Portland homes go on auction block...

From a portland housing blog comes a very interesting link about an upcoming auction in portland suburban homes. This might come in handy, say, if you were relocating from a town, like say, maybe seattle, and maybe wanted to pick up a good deal on a house, might be worth at least checking out.

Graphics doesn't matter anymore for games?

Thoughts on games....

I've heard it said more than once "Graphics doesn't matter anymore for games...".

Improved graphics in games is like all the other components of a platform. The end result of a bunch of these various factors: screen size, audio, gameplay, level design, ..., amount of memory, make the game experience.

Gameplay for humans takes place on whatever platforms we have. We had dice made of ivory and marbles made of stone and jacks made of steel and now we have games made of silicon and plastic. Games allow us to engage and teach early and provide a form of play that should probably sit somewhere in maslow's hieararchy around the self-actualization and esteem building component of the pyramid. This gets lost because so often in order to get there we engage in shooting things. Most games aren't about shooting things they are about solving conflicts or figuring out puzzles.

My point, poorly articulated above, is that the argument that there is some platform that suffices as complete for gameplay is backwards. We define as a society what to create playable experiences upon first, then we create forms of play with those devices, not the other way around. In other words, games track technology...it tracks the current social and industrial capital. Therefore, there will be no point at which games will have 'whatever they need forever'. Furthermore, the creation of both games and productivity at each level is what inspires the components of the next level. Our need for play is just as important as our need for production, and it is neither silly nor incorrect that the future of our silicon be driven by one need or the another.

Looking at the Wii and the xbox, basically two larger form factor gaming platforms of this era is really looking at two points in the design space and creating a set of interesting, mostly playable experiences. One doesn't kill or outdate or outmode the other one. The amount of ink spilled on these arguemnts is silly. its all uninsightful, unthoughtful noise to generate pageviews on the lower rungs of the information hieararchy. Furthermore, boardgames, cardgames, etc will continue to evolve with society, exposing us through play to social norms of the day. They give us a safe place to explore leadership, spirtuality, magic, power, loss, winning, sportsmanship, relating with others, and the whole host of other lessons in life we need to survive and succeed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home Theater Update....

Here we are, unloading the goods, call this the 'before', that's Charles in the back of our rental pick-up:





So, last year I put off buying an HD TV for two reasons: spent too much money on furniture already (although, i have to say, we got a great deal and an amazing couch). The second reason was the fact that the 60Hz TVs had motion artifacts around the edges of fast moving objects I found intolerable relative to my CRT.

This year I've researched, studied, analyzed, lost sleep, and came up with my perfect TV (for this year anyway). Its a 120Hz Sony XBR5 w/ motionflow (motion estimation and smoothing). Now, motionflow wasn't impossible at 60Hz, it just didn't seem to be included, its not related to 120Hz.

Gaming is amazing on this TV. I was kinda getting annoyed because content, especially ports from the PC, are absoultely unplayable at 480i (Orange Box, for one example). I wasn't even able to read the text on Dead Rising which was a bummer and made that unplayable.

Now to go hunting for that HD-DVD player!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Friday ads posted!

From Charles comes this link to black friday ads. Thanks dude!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Countrywide says profitable in Q4, yeah right!

and the stock shoots up 32%?!?!

is ANYBODY watching what's going on? moody's finally issued updated ratings on CDOs to the approrpriate JUNK status, the dollar is falling, the CEO has dumped 2 MILLION shares since May 1. He keeps cheerleading as the ship is sinking.

I have a philosophy: judge a man by his actions, not his words. if HE is selling, why should YOU buy?

i'll bet we'll see a press release, sometime in q4: "the credit market did not stabilize as we anticipated, in fact, what we saw was just the tip of the iceberg" and suddenly they will act suprised as the real estate market continues to falter. ugh...the knife is still falling. check out merrill lynch, they claimed 6.2 billion or so loss about 2 weeks ago, then announce earnings and say 'whoops, it was really 8 billion'.

Those 'useless' strands of DNA

DNA thoughts....

i'm not a physicist, and i'm certanly no biologist. however....one way to track civilizations progress in any domain is the resolution with which we can measure in that domain and how it increases. in physics, everything was composed of the aristotelian elementals of air, water, fire, and dirt, then we found the molecules, then the atoms via cloud chamber trails. now, we're trying to figure out a recipe for atoms that allows us to create the illusion of a deeper understanding of the world around us from ever smaller particles, strings, and other random theories.

so, moving to how this relates to DNA, we've observed its useful to speculate about DNA as a composition of a 4 state encoding labelled A, T, G, and C. combinations of a set of these, many millions of components long, makes a DNA strand. we've decoded some of these strands, call them genomes (the easy part of deconstruction), and now are working to understand how to interpret this mass of information.

something funny scientists do...when scientists couldn't figure out how light travels through empty space, speculated it must be travelling through a medium called 'ether'. later they figured out what it was, but that didn't change a few generations of textbooks. with increasing resolution of scientific devices we found out what that 'ether' was. in space, we can't figure out where all the mass is coming from, so we call the stuff 'dark matter'. 'dark matter' is a placeholder for 'stuff we don't know about, but stay tuned...'.

Some scientists now claim that there is lots of junk in our DNA strands. This statement is irresponsible. it creates the illusion this is proven, and is the opposite of the application of the scientific method. quite the opposite: we don't KNOW what its used for. think about this from a programmer's perspective, and a few heuristics: 20% of a codebase is executed 80% of the time. meaning 80% of the code a programmer writes is rarely/never executed. this hardly makes it useless or junk. quite the opposite, this is the code that handles the corner cases that might cause a crash or handle a defect or insufficient data returned from some other component of a complicated set of components working together.

its there for robustness. i am scary suspicious that these 'useless' code strands are likely to contain some important code. maybe some components are currently dormant, maybe some really is just extra storage. maybe there are things happening during recombination beyond the resoultion of current devices with these subsystems? maybe they are just components that are only triggered when other components are triggered, like a chain reaction that lights up those code segments. the parallels between a programmer's logic and the program that resides in your DNA are uncanny.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Team Fortress 2: What I learned about leadership from a 12 year old

My squad leader is younger than me. He is faster than me. He is a better communicator than I am. He is able to be calm and cool under fire, gently reminds those with lesser skills on ways to improve, all while keeping himself alive under hostile fire and achieving a common goal with the 5 other squad mates. He comes over to show me where to hide. I learn from him, I am a better player because of his gentle advice and positive reinforcement. And for years, he has been honing and developing a set of leadership skills beyond his classmate. I can't imagine what school is like for this kid.

Maybe recruiters should look to their favorite MMOG to find some solid leads. Within the Narnia forest, is that the next CEO of Apple behind the tree with a bow and arrow aimed at me?

Parents should limit the amount of time kids waste doing homework so they can focus on important areas of development. Get an XBOX, get a future.

Based on discussions with co-workers at a recent lunch at an Indian Buffet: Josh, Aaron, David P.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Zune-ness of Zune 2.0

is there a single more ugly device on the planet today than the zune?

pray tell, how did microsoft do this? sure, version one, first one out the door, the OEM manufacturing could only do this box like plastic thing that looks like its from a second rate taiwanese manufacturer. but...they liked it so much THEY DID IT AGAIN!! its an ugly hunk of crap that no user could get past. maybe its actually an experiment to find some interesting lower bound in aesthetic but maximum leverage of the brand to get high ROI.

get the folks that designed the xbox360 controller to design a zune. hint: think smooth edges, SMOOOTH.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

iPhone Safari Browser Web Links not working...

came across this post in the apple web support discussion forums and it worked:

Re: Safari - links not opening when clicked
Posted: Oct 2, 2007 8:09 AM in response to: Ashley Gwozdz Reply Email


A friend of mine bought a new iPhone yesterday and came to me with this issue a little while ago. I've never experienced this myself, but I suggested that he reset the application by holding the home button for six seconds. For him, this reset of Safari solved his problem.

Portland Condo Market continues to sour quietly...

While there have been one or two articles on the market of condos in Portland, nobody in the press is discussing the death of the Pearl. On a run yesterday by the waterfront I went by a building where the normal 10+ units for sale with all the signs posted FINALLY had some lower prices after a year of holding onto irrational valuations. There are holes in the ground with no construction workers. Its quiet, like remnants of a bombing in a city the world has forgotten. The beautiful Wyatt has moved from condo to apartment, the civic up the street on burnside isn't selling.

The sooner these folks wake up and get the prices back down to reality the sooner we can get on with it. They are holding on and telling how 'things are just going back to normal', but that isn't how markets work and there is no normal, only a bouncing back and forth around a theoretcially 'normal' line of 6 month inventory.

While not really suprised by the lack of coverage, I am disappointed. Not that I ever had any faith in mainstream journalism, but the lack of any quantitative profiling of the cave in is interesting. Makes me think about some of the conflicts around the world going. Seems if the press isn't there, it isn't happening.

One reasonable article from last week is here. They say Portland is immune from the downturn that's infected other big cities. Job growth remains strong, and people continue to move to the area, providing demand for urban living. "It's steady as she goes here," Scanlan said. "There's no reason to panic."

Adam and Stacey Engaged!

After 3+ amazing years Stacey and I have decided to get married. We've had a great time, travelled around the world, and even lasted a two person kayak trip. I think I surprised her when i handed her a brown paper bag stapled shut, the look on her face was: "why do you think i would want a croissant at 9pm at night?" There was an engagement ring inside. She always said she wanted it to be a suprise.

Over the years Stacey has continued to demonstrate a superhuman sense of compassion, understanding, patience, and fruit consumption. I marry her not because of what I want for me, it is what I want to be for her. Through her happiness I receive a feeling of completeness and happiness far greater than I can through any achievement of my own. I look forward to the challenges we may face together.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Book Review: Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

This was a fantastic book, very educational. Think of this as the thinking man's version of fast food nation. If you want a deeper dive into where your food comes from, gain a better understanding of our vastly distorted agricultural free market, this is your book. 4.5/5, just don't waste time with the last 1/3 of the book, by then you have gotten the main point. As a reader, you have a right to not waste time on the 'drivel' portion the writer is forced to write to attain a certain page length. The first 2/3 of the book is filled with real data, real experiences, references to other literature to give a picture both of what things are like now and what they could be like.

I especially liked the education I was given on the grass farmers in Virginia and New Zealand and the distortions to the corn and meat economies. This book has moved me to look deeper into the origins of my food supply. Also digs into the marketing hype of the 'organic' food movement. Unocvers some of the inconsistencies in what you might think is going on vs. what is really going on when you purchase organic food. Stay raw, stay close to the source, know your farmer....perhaps unrealistic, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to a higher plane of existence.

Recommended as part of your educated consumer arsenal, 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich

This book is awful. I thought it was going to be about her perspective on landing a 'suit and tie' job at some big Fortune 500 company. Instead, the ENTIRE book was just a long winded essay on the 'job hunt'. Fortunately, its only about a 3-4 hour read but i was really disappointed. She goes from job hunt session to job hunt session. I did think she is the first one i've heard publically point out the religious tie-ins to the capitalistic regime in America, I think that issue could use some more discussion. She also provides a good set of references to get more details. However, it felt like a tour of an underbelly of our society that exploits a market of perpetually unemployed white collar employees. I feel sorry for the people who are being exploited, but this book is not nearly as insightful as a more expensive exploit may have been, one that actually required her to get a job in white collar america and address the challenges of employment in this sector. Generously, I give it a 1 out of 5 stars, I'm glad I waited to find it in the 80% off bin.

Monday, September 24, 2007

iBrickr

David P. pointed me to this app for your iPhone. I'm gonna try it out, hopefully tonight!

Use at your own risk – worked fine for me, but who knows if Apple/AT&T go psycho and nuke your phone for it eventually…

http://iphone.fiveforty.net/wiki/index.php/IBrickr

iBrickr is the app to let you upload free ringtones, install custom apps, etc. The wiki I linked is one of the central iphone hacker resources for stuff like custom apps and other stuff for the iphone.

-David

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Good article on housing market

Oregonian does what it should have done a few months ago. Finally started to report on the changing dynamics of the real estate market in pdx. Good article by Robert Bruss on buying rental houses located in the Homes and Rental section of the Oregonian. I'd link to it but it takes freakin' forever for anything from the oregonian to come up, and they do this annoying thing when you want to see an article where you have to type in your zip code and age, and its just ignoramous so I'm going to not wait any longer. However, the author has his own website, which came right up and has much better information anyway, so i'm going to link to it here to reference for myself in the future.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pearl District Condo Slowdown...

Matt Fife pointed me to this link:

Most of the media is paranoid to report on the virtual halt of condo sales in the pearl. Finally the Wyatt has thrown in the towel. This beautiful building is going to go to apartments, with only 25% of the units sold.

Condo sales drop in Pearl

The Wyatt reports sales of just 25 percent of its units.
By Alan Scaia
Friday, September 21, 2007
Developers in the Pearl report a drop in condominium sales. The owners of The Wyatt say they have sold just 25 percent of their condos, so they have decided to rent the units as apartments.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Free WiFi in Portland! or not....

I've meant to post about this for some time. Free wifi is supposed to be pwning portland. Problem is, this technology was never meant to 'blanket' an area. The
802.11a/b/g specificaion was very specifically built for small scale deployments. Wimax was the sister technology, better suited to wide scale deployment. Attempting to use 802.11 a/b/g for anything else is not wise, and the flawed efforts to blanket this town and others with 'free' technology is going to prove a failure. I remember thinking to myself 'who are they kidding, somebody will eventually do a story and break this open and talk about how stupid of an idea this is'. Eventually, some sane IT person will point out the specifications purpose and its lack of ability to do the magic the politicians envision. Why, so late in the specifications lifecycle, would one even try this? To me, its totally irrational behavior. When an architect builds a specification, it is designed for a specific purpose. Deviate from the intended purpose, and you are walking in dangerous grounds. We necessarily restrict our usage model to increase reliability, simplicity, security, cost, etc. Sometimes specifications and architectures can be extended in some rational capacity, layering another one or two generations on top of it. However, you don't drive the 3 member family across the country for Christmas in a scooter and this is exactly what is being proposed and will fail miserably attempting to use 802.11 a/b/g wireless across an entire city. I recommend using the public resources in a reasonable fashion and including some pragmatic, rational engineers with significant RF credentials the next time. Maybe it won't be such a screw up.

My understanding is up to this point no taxpayer money has been spent on the project. My voice will become louder if this changes.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hood to Coast: Longest Relay Race in the World!

This weekend we went out for a little journey. 12 people plus 2 van drivers completed the world's longest relay race: 179 miles. Legs are sore but everyone is doing okay. Yesterday I was saying 'never again', today i'm saying 'can't wait til next year!'.

www.hoodtocoast.com: :As the largest running relay race in the world, The Hood To Coast Relay stretches 197 miles from the top of Oregon's majestic Mt. Hood down to the beautiful Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon. Over 12,000 runners and 4,800 walkers in Portland to Coast, share in the experience of this annual event now in its 26th year! Come join the excitement this August 24th and 25th, 2007!

Teams from around the world come to participate in the Nike Hood To Coast Relay, Portland To Coast Walk and Portland To Coast High School Challenge. Each race has a range of participants, from serious runners and walkers to teams just out to enjoy the adventure, (and maybe out-do one another in van and oufit decor!).

"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Richistan




Richistan was written by Robert Frank, a writer for the Wall St. Journal and is a tour through the upper class, broken into 3 categories of rich, super rich, and ultra rich. Interesting enough to scan through in a 3-4 hour read, but borrow my copy . One constant is the lack of feeling content or happiness everyone seems to feel. At no matter what level and what they have, they also want twice as much. Flashback to scenes in the street of Shanghai where people seemed to have relatively nothing in a very small dwelling on the street but smiles all around. No, I didn’t ask them, it was something you could feel in the air. I’m not saying its better to be poor in Shanghai, but it all comes together in the ‘money does not buy happiness but it sure helps’ adage. These people are saddled with enormous amounts of obligations and many STILL spend beyond their income production which seems amazing if you are worth $20 million. Discussing the book with Chris Wilkerson he suggested I read Social History of the Rich, which sounded a bit more thoughtful than this book.

The journalistic writing style of this book makes it readable, but the lack of analysis makes me yearning for a bit more when spending the amount these books cost. There are quite a few nuggets of data and I enjoyed the tour, but for a guy who has spent several year wandering around with these folks you’d think he’d be able to make a few more astute observations than pointing out the obvious lessons. Maybe though, the world just isn’t that complex. Ultimately, happiness comes from a search within, and the physical motions and actions we take act only as distraction to a true course.

The Richest Man in Babylon




Josh recommended I take a read of this book. It’s a parable to remind us of the fundamental principles of creating a good quality of life. Fundamentals include saving 10% of what you earn, hiring experts to do things you don’t know how to do, and a host of other notes worth reading and re-reading every couple years. Also has stories of those who were unhappy in their lives living to spend rather than spending to live and not ever learning the mental rewards of hard work. It’s a classic, written in the style of Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and would go onto my ’10 books you should have read as a kid but didn’t’. Internalizing its lessons early and re-reading them periodically will lead to a better feeling of well being.

Monday, August 06, 2007

OLPC: one laptop per child

so, i'm writing this entry from an olpc at siggraph.

very nice little device for a couple bucks. keyboard is rough to use. feels toy like which is good for audience. suprised at all th features wreless usb audio ports etc. cute green handle.

this is not an iphone.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Jobs hunting beyond monster....

there was an article in the wall street journal that recommended some websites for those that were beyond entry level positions offered on monster and other common job boards:

a list of them here:

theladders.com
6figurejobs.com
executivesonly.com

A couple others to look at:
accessquery.com, recruiterlink.com, onlinerecruitersdirectory.com, searchfirm.com and i-recruit.com.

No, not job hunting. Just good info to keep around somewhere that i thought others might be interested in.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Posts I'd like to write...

here's what I'd write about if i wanted to spend more time inside today:

A recent article in Communication of the ACM that recognizes computation as a natural process. More along the lines of a natural science approach rather than an engineering approach. My simple observation is that none of this is 'truth'. In the beginning of the industrial revolution, the world was clearly a machine to the intellectuals of their time. When timepieces were born, the universe was clearly a set of gears. When computation engines (CPUs and other realizations of Turing Machines) being our primary productivity drivers and most 'like a thinking device' we see the world as...sure enough, a computing device!


A few movies I've seen recently that I think are worth mentioning: The Last Mimzy was worth watching. Its kid friendly with some peculiar drug references and secretly a big ad for a large semiconducter company. Black Snake Moan fits some kinda weird southern culture love story that was really good, but you either get it or you don't and I am probably too poor at articulating myself to explain. Transformers was actually really fun and worth paying to see. Spiderman 3 was not as good. Haven't seen Fantastic Four yet.


LBOs are drying up. The cause is the credit markets drying up (saying 'we won't contiue to fund anymore debt at these crazy low interest rates'). The effect is that they do things like look for smaller investors to unload at the top of the LBO market. Now that they've spent time soaking up all the easy money with 20%+ returns they'll try now try to sell them to you and me (individual investors). We have no hope of seeing those returns and should avoid them. When money is cheap these deals make sense. As interest rates have risen the returns must decrease. Blackrock Group investors have experienced this and they are now having trouble finding money for Chrysler and Cadbury Schwepps. LBOs are yesterday's cash cow.

Portland real estate market. I think its unethical for journalists to stay so quiet with the current real estate market and the 6,000 (not accurate) condo units going up in the Pearl and NW Portland that seemed to have actively slowed their work in hopes of a turnaround. I want data on the current market and nobody is writing about how bad it is. I've seen a few signs that people are finally deciding to lower prices by a bit in the neighborhood. I'm not claiming some kinda huge crash or anything in Portland, but I am suprised at the lack of information regarding units on the market, etc. and the story of how these new condo buildings are doing.
RMLS only reports the first 200 units in the 97209 zip code. There is a story there to be written for a journalist with the guts to take it on.

People are so confused about games and education. Play is ABOUT learning. We could do so much with games to teach students. I learned so little in my public school education relative to my education playing games. I think experiential learning and putting people in scenarios where games could be used could be revolutionary. Let the capital markets figure this out, there will be billions made in teaching people through play. Don't forget, the best teachers fooled you into thinking you were playing when you were actually learning. Education should look so different than it does today and I don't have time or space here to begin to communicate my ideas.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harptallica!

This is cool. Two girls playing Metallica on harps. Its Harptallica. Link from Matt Fife.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Nico Galoppo added to places to stop by...

Nico is a Ph.D. student working for my team this summer getting us smart on physically based modelling and soft body simulation. Added a link to his blog on the right. He has a great video posted from youtube, very funny. Check it out!

David Bookout published on gamedev.net

Check out Dave's article at gamedev.net on Shadow Map Aliasing. Dave is a graphics software engineer who I am working with on a Graphics SDK. He has previously published source code and articles on shadow mapping and shadow volumes on mainstream graphics hardware. This is a survey of shadow map techniques and a discussion of the tradeoffs of various implementations. Lots of great figures and math!

Shadow Map Aliasing
by Dave Bookout
http://www.gamedev.net/reference/programming/features/smaliasing/default.asp

First Draft Review of Technical Writing...

I capture a few common traits among almost all the articles and books I've reviewed. Note that I consistently do ALL of these things on my first drafts, and so does nearly every article I ever read in draft form. Save yourself and your editor some time and scrub this stuff yourself. These are just some notes I wrote for myself and want to keep around for later reviews.

The single most significant common mistake in all level engineers technical writing by 90% magnitude over anything else I ever review:

common comma problem: you can get rid of the comma by swapping the two phrases that make the sentence. it usually reads remarkably better when you do this. this is a result of writing it how you think it. this doesn't flow as smoothly and is not an email or blog entry which vary in expectations of quality.

this is, by the way, probably my most significant issue, as well.


Too many commas: two phrases joined together by a comma. common thing to happen: comma isn't needed at all (therefore, if it can be read without it, get rid of it for simplicity). Agh!!

space is required between references and text next to references: foobar is a good candy bar[xxx99] should be 'foobar is a good candy bar [xxx99].

periods at the end of a reference in your references section. i don't know why, we all always miss these. in fact, in the GUIDELINES for the book we're currently writing some of the example references were missing periods. agh!


[foo99] authors. title. more info

should be:
[foo99] authors. title. more info.

I realize you might find a strunk and white like book that says the first is acceptable. its wrong, its not elegant, its not clean, its ambiguous if you have some that can end in a period, and some that don't.

english writers not writing american: not a read issue, but in general striving for consistency in a book we want all words to be spelled consistently. i'm not claiming one is more correct, i am simply saying consistent:

synchornisation should be syncrhonization.
initialisation should be initialization.
(ed: thanks to jake for pointing out typo in original posting for initialization.)
zed is z.

figures are not mentioned in text, this is not proper technical writing. All figures should be cited somewhere in the text.

figures are not numbered correctly (embarrasing).

writing like its a conversation in prelude or prologue, especially at the end of a paragraph or beginning of a paragraph.

the article) : 'now, just bang out a the piece of code and we are done'. 'a bunch of functions just need written up, and you are done'.

Mostly, I wanted to capture this stuff, so that I don't do it myself ever again[lake07]. :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sweet Tea in Virginia and the Mason Dixon Line

A fun little shockwave app a friend Matt Fife pointed me to. You can check out his blog over on the right. i need to take a look over there myself.

Here's the neat little app. Those that are sweet tea fans will appreciate.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More apps for the iPhone

Appleopolis.com, for instance, provides a directory of iPhone applications, while Mojits creates a virtual homescreen on your iPhone with icons for your favorite Web programs.

From here.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Cool iPhone Apps and Developers Guide

If only one had infinite time!

http://iphoneapplicationlist.com/

Here is the iPhone Developer Guide I found pointed at from the above site. Lots of good info to get started developing iPhone Apps.

My favorite so far is the movie listing app suggested in the WSJ yesterday here. You type your zip code and can get to all movie listings in your area. Next, you can click a time to purchase and it takes you directly to fandango (who charges you a buck to get you a ticket, a BUCK!! This should be like $.25. You can also click on address and it jumps you to a visual representation in Google Maps. Ahhhhh...

One week with my iPhone

So I've had my phone for a week now. Last night we left to see some music in Lake Oswego at Lacey's, forgot to look up the directions. Whoops! (This is the Josh problem...when you hang with Josh, the fun moves to fast, you can't think straight, and you end up driving 20 miles out to the suburbs to see live music....explain that one.

oh, so back to the story...out pops the jesus phone to gasps in the car...how's that going to fix it? I SMS google for
Lacey's Lake Oswego, OR. Bam! up pops the address. I type it into google maps (there's probably a way to get it straight into GMaps, but i don't know it yet). My home address is already bookmarked. Bam! Google maps provides driving directions on the screen to our destination, step by step if i'm interested.

The battery life rumors: I don't get it. I have used the phone for hours every day at this point and not even gotten it below 50% (yet).

I did have an episode yesterday, a couple funny things. i had it in my pocket, it was pretty hot outside, and when i tried
to unlock it the unlocking slider on the screen wouldn't slide. I had to lock/unlock the phone with teh physical button on teh side. I rebooted and it fixed the problem. About 20 minutes later I got a phone call and noticed the screen was blank so i couldn't push the 'answer' button. This was strange. I couldn't shut the phone off (or couldn't tell it was shutting off cause the display (driver) was crashed it seems. I did get the menubar on the top of the screen but nothing in the big window in the middle. I took it home and redocked it to the computer and it was fine after a rescynch and reboot.

If you're the kind of person looking for a reason to not buy the phone you can feel great relief and vindication that I have had a problem. The wait and see attitude has been validated. This in fact is usually my stance with technology (see recent $1 billion charge for xbox overheating). In this one case I felt willing to deal with a few expected glitches in such a revolutionary device. In fact, I expect even more serious glitches to come. along with new features :)

How to get a free iPhone

Just for fun, I thought I'd post the status of my free iPhone. Here we go:

Current Price 26 shares at 132 = 3432
Bought 16 AAPL @ 124.9894 = 2000
bought 10 AAPL @ 89.53 = 895.30
Total cost basis: 2895.3
Total Taxes: 0 (roth IRA)
__________________________________________

Total Gain(loss): 536.7
Total Phone Cost: $600

Maybe I shoulda bought the 4GB version, woulda had a free phone in 7 days!

Sweet Phone. Sweet Sweet Phone.

Monday, July 02, 2007

3 days with my iPhone

A few comments about this device: first and most important: it is not a phone, it is not a computer, it is in fact something in between. A mash-up of all my favorite things my computer can do for me with all the things my phone used to do for me only better. plus an mp3 player.

the interface...oh the interface...i could write poems about how nice it is. the touch screen works great. the zoom feature on google maps by squeezing your fingers together or moving them apart is truly intuitive.

today on the way home from work, i looked up mac and cheese recipes in the parking lot of fred meyer and just walked in to

the screen is beautiful. battery life is (so far) easily a full day. just got ipod functionality last night.

haven't tried bluetooth yet.

2 megapixel camera is solid.

edge network can be slow, wifi worked well. i wanted to post this blog entry via iphone but maybe i'll do that later.

keypad on screen is okay/still getting used to it.

voice quality, etc. is great.

love the visual, downloaded voice mails. this productivity enhancement ALONE justifies the price for me.

hoping i don't lose it, my new iphone.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mossberg WSJ iPhone review

Great review of iPhone in the WSJ today here (subscription may be required for access). From the article:

"Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software. And it synchronizes easily and well with both Windows and Macintosh computers using Apple's iTunes software.

It has the largest and highest-resolution screen of any smart phone we've seen, and the most internal memory by far. Yet it is one of the thinnest smart phones available and offers impressive battery life, better than its key competitors claim.
"

iPhone pricing for existing customers...

For only $20 you'll be able to upgrade to interactive voice mail and unlimited data over the at and t edge network if you are an existing customer. I think that's pretty reasonable.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iPhone details...

Normally I'm not big on standing in line waitin for hot consumer products. While I expect it will probably be a waste of time, I'll take my laptop and some work and wait for this one..

Nico Galoppo, a Ph.D. student from UNC in my group, pointed me to this link. This is one beautiful device. How to pay for it? I've purchased a chunk of apple stock. My thinking is that it will eventually be a free phone as the price goes up, though it may take some time.

Awaiting my iPhone....

Monday, June 18, 2007

Josh Doss published in Game Developer Mag!

Josh Doss, who works in the Advanced Visual Computing Graphics SDK team, just got his article published in game developer magazine. Check out his work at: http://www.gdmag.com/homepage.htm.

Inking the Cube: Edge Detection with Direct3D 10
By Joshua Doss
“Detecting outlines and edges is particularly useful when a video game uses cell-shaded characters. In this technical feature, Intel's Joshua Doss explains how Direct3D 10 allows programmers to …”

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Starbucks Loss of Theatre and the Howard Shultz memo

 


I’ve been meaning to pen this for some time now. A few months ago Howard Schultz, the Chairman of Starbucks, released a well publicized memo to the employees (http://starbucksgossip.typepad.com/_/2007/02/starbucks_chair_2.html) . First of all, I want to point out that Howard is correct that something is going very wrong with his child. He addresses several issues correctly including the ‘loss of theater’ at the stores. However, I think that Howard has COMPLETELY missed some of the most significant gaps that is driving away customers. One thing not mention in your memo is the most important aspect of the Starbucks experience: excellently trained staff who care deeply about the product they are pouring into my cup. The Starbucks experience once was a knowledgeable staff who took time to pour a shot and spend time watching the temperature of the frothing milk. What is so unfortunate is the quality is so incredibly varying. I’ve had lattes from Shanghai to Seattle and used to regularly hit the Starbucks bar at the airports or downtowns in cities who lacked any coffee culture. While it was never my first choice in Portland, Seattle, etc. it was a place I could go to get a reasonable latte. Now, the customer experience is so bad I have evolved to just skipping a drink on many a travel itinerary, preferring to wait until I get home or find something else, anything else, even a Nescafe machine behind a deli counter which seems to have trained their employees better than the ones I’ve become accustomed to being serviced by at Starbucks: apathetic individuals who seems to barely give you a glance let alone eye contact while you take your order. Additionally, the stores have become so full and confusing with such an array of crap it resembles a convenience store more than a coffee shop. A few coffee mugs and some CDs is fine ,but you have stuffed animals for goodness sake. Who does that? Also, I’ve repeatedly found your stores filthy. Most particularly, these are your airport locations, sticky tables, dirty floors, straw paper everywhere. In these stores you have really one option: full time person cleaning. That’s it. Sign up. Starbucks has moved from my third place to the last place I would go for a coffee. I have found the frappucinos fairly reliable, I guess its hard to screw those up. These are fine in the summer but not exactly my rainy winter drink of choice.

To contrast with my mostly US experience, I found the stores in Shanghai consistently fabulous. Now I wonder why that is? Could it be your simply paying more attention in your international role out of the cost of sacrificing US quality? Every day for 8 weeks I purchased at least one drink. I found the lattes consistent, reliable, and the staff friendly. The purchasing area and seating areas were immaculate and interesting. Orders were not lost, staff made eye contact and actually seemed interested in what they were doing. Additionally, they seemed to know what they were doing, which I just don’t see in the staff you have today at the US locations. I think there is an illusion that by installing those automated machines in your locations you have somehow roboticized the coffee process and that you can hire or train less because of these machines. Far from it. These machines seem to have tolerances and variability just as any machine (think the syrup adjustments in fountain drinks), however with these machines being more complicated they seem to have even more opportunities for variance than fountain drinks. I’ve had just as much variance in my drinks with the machines as I have without. Additionally, how the milk is frothed, temperatures, and how to pour it into the cup are all important factors. I’ve lost track the number of times I’ve had a barista just hold the milk under the frother for about 20 seconds and dump it into my cup over the espresso shots, slap a lid on it and toss it on the counter. If I wanted a giant warm cup of milk I would have asked for one thank you very much. I contrast this to World Cup, Common Grounds (best lattes on the planet), Ken’s, St. Honore, Extracto, Victrola, Bauhaus, or one several other locations who take time for each cup. Your short term approach to creating bottom line revenue growth is killing off your long term reputation. So, Mr. Shultz, while you have raised the alarm that something is wrong, I feel you have missed a few of the most important points and you are ultimately in the position to fix them.

My specific recommendation(s): challenge the people that work for you to be inspired to see something beyond a 21st century soda jerk. I believe you can make great strides in improving the experience through training and education of your jr. workforce. In addition to incentives around cleaning up some of the airport and other most filthy locations, bring in talented baristas with deep training and passion and send them throughout the land to infuse passion about your product. Send young, enthusiastic employees or consultants from the best coffee shops to visit places that lack a coffee culture to inspire and grow enlightened employees. Sponsor contests among employees for both quality and creativity.

There are enormous intangible benefits to this training. I realize pay is a factor in retention, but so is growth and opportunity. Let everyone in the company know there is a chance here to become a better person, a more cultured individual. Incent them with trips to understand the origins of the bean better. Trips to Seattle for a coffee college or a tour to see how the machines they use are built. Guest regional lecturers from the Starbucks travelling ‘coffee corp’. Let them know about educational and career opportunities. Don’t just tell them why they should care, SHOW THEM with actions that allow them to achieve what interests THEM. Only then will you return to your roots, providing your customer with a great expresso experience.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Rotary phone in Russia

 


Not sure I like the way blogger forces me to add an image from within picasa right now...for some reason my toolbar has disappeared from the blogger editor that allowed me to insert photos, but here is the rotary dial phone from the office in the nihzny airport!
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Travels to Russia: Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow

The Arrival
i arrive at the airport, or the airstrip, as the bumpy landing reminds me. this is not the same. i walk off the plane, onto one of those old 'walk down' ramps you always see the president use. its about 80 degrees and humid. nobody speaks english, no signs are recognizable. i go into the airport, above the door it says 'nizhny novgorod' in english. at least its the right place (when buying the ticket i was one click away from buying a ticket to novgorod, which is apparently NOT anywhere near nizhny). my driver is inside. he makes no sound as i walk up and say hi, yes, that's me. he turns and walks toward the door, i say 'i have to wait for my bags'. he doesn't understand, 'luggage', 'suitcase', he looks at the backpack on my back like i am nuts as i point at it. finally he says 'baggage' and i say yes and point back inside. we go in. we and about 20 other people (out of how many hundred on a plane?) wait for our bags. i find out why nobody has any luggage.....mine is gone. of course, everyone else gets their luggage. i go out to find somebody at midnight in an airport with NO gates that speaks english i can explain the situation to. i am lead back into a room straight out of the 30's.

there is a green phone with a rotary dial and two large women are there. i'd say they greet me but they don't. they just speak russian at me. (if you ever hear your spouse complain to you about your tone and you don't understand what the big
deal is, send them to russia). they yell at each other for 20 MINUTES and finally decide that they will try to decipher what i am here for. i proceed to do charades and point at my ticket. i get led into another small room with another rotary phone and a tv with a dial and walls with wallpaper falling off. she points to a chair next to a desk, gets out a form, its in russian. i have no idea what it says, everything is different. in europe you can get by, not in russia, the letters are all different. i pull out my itinerary, passport, luggage claim tags. we speak at each other in our native langauges for awhile and get a few lines filled out 'name', 'flight', i try to suggest they copy my information to give to
someone the next morning but that just gets a puzzled look. i realize there is no copy machine here anyway, who am i kidding?

after another 10 minutes i go out, my driver is still waiting, saying nothing, just standing there. i go back to the two ladies. mostly, they yell at each other. after another 10 minutes, some guy with a cell phone comes in, they yell at him
for awhile, he makes a call, then things start to move. it was weird, suddenly she could use HER phone too. she calls somebody, i think in moscow, who can speak english and hands me the phone. she talks to me, explains my bag is in moscow,
and i will get it tomorrow (note i think she meant to say it MIGHT be in moscow and you MIGHT get it tomorrow but who knows)?

its been 45 minutes, i go check on the driver, he's now sitting in a chair, but saying nothing. i go back, the women both mysteriously acquired english skills in the past 10 minutes, broken but we can communicate. i am to drive back out to the
airport, one hour from my hotel, to see if my bag has arrived. at this point, i don't care. i just want to go to bed. my cab drive is still waiting when i exit. we walk to the car and drive to my hotel. we drive by about 100 casinos, two mcdonalds, various dance clubs. there is a bowling alley and casino in my very nice hotel which has 24 hour room service, good because i haven't eaten in like 8 hours. i have no clothing. i have enough electronics to take over a small country
on my back but no underwear. and i see nothing wrong with those priorities.

Day Two

Killing in the name of...

i go to the office, its uneventfully corporate. the phones work, the food in the cafe is palatable. the coffee machine works fine, the printers work. we have a wonderfully productive day, it feels great. teh team is doing amazing work, i am
super happy and impressed. i had lunch with the local manager. i was thinking about it last night, the fact that in the past 2 years i have spend a significant amount of time in countries previously considered hostile (read: communist). both
the last two places my parents would think their kids would never spend time. think about this for a minute: as soon as 1998, we were afraid of having bombs dropped on us from these people. now, i am having lunch in a country peopel used used to get shot at if they left, and now i am having lunch in a building in that country. i spent time building technology to help defend my country from these people. it comes out during the discussion that the man across the table from me used to
work at sarov. sarov is the los alamos of russia. so here we were, literally trying to kill each other 10 years ago (or protect our country from the killing machines of the other place), talking as if it never happened. i think about this
again when discussing the mathematics of snowflake generation and modelling the collection on tree leaves when it reaches a critical threshold and falls off, startled when i hear the engineer say 'this is quite beautiful'. what is going on here, we aren't to use words like 'beautiful'. this is the same engineer that later shows me a new technique for generating smooth surfaces never before implemented in real time. i think its good we never decided to blow each other up. they make some very significant suggestions for improvements to the software architecture, thinking its going to be a huge debate (they scheduled 90 minutes for the meeting) and were preparing me beforehand for a bloodfest. all of their arguments are well thought out and spot on. i approve in about 4 minutes but let them finish the presentation so they didn't feel i wasn't listening, but the point is i was listening and they were exactly right. they probably don't realize their long list of criticisms was on a piece of software i wrote in under two weeks and i know badly needed a re-
architecture. we've been building our entire SDK from that codebase and i am thrilled to have it overhauled. i leave the offce at about 9pm. its still daylight outside. back at the hotel, i decide to take a walk along the river. walking up
the hotel steps two men in suits are throwing out two other men in barefeet sweaty and with enormous beer bottles in their hands...in some type of heated discussion. i go to my room, drop off my stuff, and take a walk outside. i cross the first
street and realize in my head i better be extra careful because the cars are driving so fast. at the second intersection a bus drives by with no hood, engine just out there, belts going, noisy as all hell. going about 60 in a pace he should be
doing 40. he hits a piece of debree, its a car bumper sitting in teh street. honking goes on all around me, the car bumper flies up in the air, lands about 5 feet from me, nothing feels safe here. absolutely nothing.

i walk across the street, the river is there. it reminds me of my home along the ohio river, with an equal amount of misquitos. i am eaten alive in minutes, large black misquitos. 'i might have malaria now' i think to myself. i walk about .5 a mile along a path along the river. its potholed. there are boats all about. the river looks cleaner than the ohio river. lots of young couples out. i get to a street with a place labelled 'bar' at the far end. a car full of young boys go by and yell something that was likely obscene at me. it feels weird, and uncomfortable, and i realize that's it, time to go back to the hotel. i walk back down the path. crossing back over the street, a large cadillac escalade comes out of a strangely placed garage door at the front of my hotel, the same place another car had exited when i arrived from work about 20 minutes earlier. it comes out at significant speed and nearly hits a new jaguar (the mix between old cars with no hoods and new cars is drastic). to miss the car, it veers straight at me. i jump out of the way. (i want to finish writing this, but i am being surrounded by fruit flies, what started as two is now about 8) so i am going to continue after i find a less infested place). I discover that not only have i no luggage, i also seem to have misplaced my sweater, which is a problem because i rather like my nifty northwest hipster black sweater. Spent awhile trying to determine where I misplaced it...moscow security is what i figure.

Update...next night I get some details of my location on a map, I get a map (good start). I realize I'm closer to the city center than I thought...spend a few hours walking around. lots of younger folks walking around the streets with those
large beer bottles. its hot, its very hot. no need for a sweater after all :)

Fast foward to departure:
most things remain normal for next few days. Suprised at how little i needed my luggage to make it. so long as i have my electronics, money, and toiletries I'm fine. i get a taxi ride to the airport. happens to be about an hour away WITHOUT
traffic. we drive by the kremlin and head towards the airport. more kids walking about. something striking about 10 minutes away from airport, a very old cart out in an agricultural area is on teh side of the road, there are some police cars and common folk milling about. an older women is hunched over a body with no signs of life, appears to have been hit by the driver who is just shaking his head and looking very....mournful. taxi driver looks at me but thinks i don't notice. i can't get the camera out in time as we drive by.

nihzny airport. no english anywhere. i get their about 90 minutes early. look around for a desk to check-in. information counter is staffed, no english. after approaching 3 or 4 people we figure out that check in will happen 'later', whatever that means. i figure since we're the only flight out tonight i'll notice when people start moving so i'm not that worried. check-in begins, we move through, proceed to wait for 90 minutes after flight is supposed to arrive.

when plane lands, we board immediately and head off to moscow.

I get to Moscow and manage to get my bags back from customs. My sweater was with the lost and found. Maybe someday I'll have time to write down that 2 hour debacle.

Travels to Spain: Madrid and Barcelona

madrid:

madrid was nice. was actually able to use a little spanish, although i came to rely on allison who had a much higher verbal aptitude in spanish than i. we spent two nights wandering the streets of madrid before heading to barcelona.

barcelona:
barcelona is awesome. we only got two nights there and i feel like i needed more time. some pics are below. barcelona is a sitting that has lots of art and beauty and museums and cosmopolitism. i was really impressed and want to go back. particularly impressive was the architecture and art of the famous artists gaudi which i had never seen in person before.

i was just mega impressed with the organic forms his work takes and the lack of its influence in modern building techniques given our desire for malleability of the world. i was anxious to try some absinthe since i heard about it, but let me say its highly, highly overrated. what a great marketing scam! essentially, its just a licorice based liquer, and for whatever reason its only available in barcelona. just not a big deal, unless of course the type i tried wasn't the real thing.

barcelona is a great place and i'd love to go back sometime.

Travels to Portugal: Lisbon and Sitra

we spent several days in lisbon. quite an interesting place. stacey was especially impressed by the number of zaras per square foot, which is roughly twice the total number in all of the US. most striking is the streets and side walks made completely out of small limestone, usually less than 6 inches swquare. every street has a different pattern. there are monuments everywhere, giant monuments. none of them give enough information to understand why there are there. there are cafes everywhere. tinly alleyways from a town built hundreds of years ago. very beautiful. and indeed, there is lots of port to choose from.

pictures later

we went to visit a sintra, a tiny portuguese town less than an hour outside the city, had some beautiful castles and other views.

Been doing a bit of espresso research...

After my trip to Europe the past few days I discovered the nespresso line of machines. Beautiful devices they are. basically, pod based espresso. I'm editing this via blogger, who assumes because my IP address is in Russia I must know Russian, so I have no idea when I click on a button if its the right one. Its like 'try this one...no, try this one...no try this one...'

A quote from here (http://davidkearns.com/CategoryView,category,coffee.aspx): "So do I miss that cup from Starbucks? Not at all. Even the worst of these pods are going to be better than 90% or more of the espresso that I've had from Starbucks. Any espresso drinker will tell you that they just don't have the machines or the talent to pull a proper shot. I stick to the frou-frou drinks at Starbucks that are over laden with milk and flavor syrups, 'cause their espresso just isn't good enough. Of course that means for my current double shot I am paying around $1-$1.25, at Starbucks, after loading it up with crap I didn't really want just to make the coffee palatable, I'd pay around $3.75-$4. And that is an expense I certainly won't miss."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A few diet hints to think about...

Consumer Reports listed top dieting strategies based on research and statistics gleaned from the National Weight Control Registry, which enrolls people who have lost 30 pounds and kept the weight off for at least a year. They were:

1. Eat a substantial morning meal

2. Crank up the activity

3. Fill up on "low density" or low calorie foods

4. Step regularly on the scale

5. Bore yourself thin as the more monotonous the diet, the less one will eat

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Intel officially owns up to GPU plans with Larrabee

From arstechnia article here: Project Larrabee — Intel has begun planning products based on a highly parallel,

"IA-based programmable architecture codenamed "Larrabee." It will be easily programmable using many existing software tools, and designed to scale to trillions of floating point operations per second (Teraflops) of performance. The Larrabee architecture will include enhancements to accelerate applications such as scientific computing, recognition, mining, synthesis, visualization, financial analytics and health applications. "

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Condos in the Pearl District

I was doing price comparisons for housing last year and kept a spreadsheet of a bunch of listings in the 97210 and 97209 zip codes. This past week I was running through the pearl district and noticed that there were a bunch of lock boxes on the outside of the marshall wells loft building and another building, each had over 10 (probably closer to 20) units clearly for sale. Buildings are going up all around the area as well. And, back to the price comparisons issue: same square footage units in these buildings were EXACTLY the same price this year. The local media is doing very little reporting about this. There are at least 130 units available (www.portlandcondos.com, search pearl district), and a bunch of listing s with similar square footage of the units I was looking at a year ago. Just a datapoint for any home shoppers. It’s a great area in Portland, but it appears to have hit at least a short term stability.

Another thing that happened last year was that there were several condos put up for sale, then taken off the market as winter approached. Those units are back up for sale, and I suspect holding at last year's prices.

I'd leverage this information in any purchase to your advantage.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Garmin Forerunner GPS 305



I got a new toy a few days ago for a bargain price off of Amazon. Here's one of my treks wearing my new Garmin Forerunner GPS wrist watch.

There can be only ONE! Notice how I walk on water with jedi like prowess.

Guitar Hero 2 and XBOX 360

I picked up Guitar Hero II a few weeks ago and its just been a blast. Made it through Easy and Medium without a hitch, but have been halted on my first song on Hard. Some great songs to play along with and its quite addictive. One of the best parts about it is that you can gte on, start playing a song in about 10 seconds, and quit after one song and still have made progress in your game.

I need to get a handle on being able to pick both up and down. Additionally, being able to move my hand quickly on the fretboard to hit the lower fret then move back up. When trying to get Star Power I always seem to lose the most significant portion of the bonus multiplier because getting the star power causes me to miss a note.

I also think that its going to be better in the long run to actually hold the picker between your fingers to make motion more efficient.

Hey Kim, Lookout! I'm after you on the leaderboards ;)

Portland Mercury Fashion Show

Sponsored by PBR!


Come see your favorite fashion designers in Portland.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Comments on C++ from Charles Bloom's online journal

I link to Charles Bloom's non-blog and hop over every couple weeks to catch up. Today I saw he wrote up a little piece i felt i really could identify with.

This was one that hit a nerve with me, being able to articulate how people think about complicated things, that their opinions tend to have less to do with that theat thing actually is and more importantly their familiarity wth them. i've found this true in how i relate to lots of things in my life from risk to friends to wine to all things technical. Unblog link here.

Charles Bloom:
03-14-07


"...In hindsight I see that at each point my view was not based on logic, but just on what I was familiar with. When I was totally anti C++ it was really because I didn't know C++ at all, and I didn't want to go from being a bad-ass C coder to being a crappy C++ coder. Then as I learned it more, my aversion was based on working with bad C++ coders and working in bad C++ code bases where complex features had been used badly and turned into a mess. I saw that ugly mess and the problems with them and didn't really understand the systems and just wrote those features off as evil without really understanding them. I still think that many of the C++ features are scary and need to be controlled carefully in the development environment.....Unfortunately, some of the things that make the overheads of C++ almost free on a modern processor (large caches, out of order execution, complex load-store units) have already disappeared from current consoles and may be disappearing on future PC's....this thought process makes me doubt the common assertions like "Perl code is an unmaintainable mess". Yeah, maybe, but I believe that largely because the Perl code I've seen is an unmaintanable mess. Maybe I've just seen bad perl code? I've certainly never tried to write a large clean app in Perl, so maybe you totally could and it would be fine if you had a strong style guide, etc....(I guess the best way to compare language speed is to look at those contents where people write speedy algs in different langs). "

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Gears of war to become a movie!

From here: "Lead game designer Cliff Bleszinki collaborated with screenwriter Stuart Beattie to produce the script. Gears of War is set on the fictional planet Sera, and the players is tasked with protecting the planet's inhabitants from creatures known as Locust Horde, which come from the center of the planet"

Sera had a unique look and feel. Should be interesting to see how this turns out.

How to treat your software engineers...

Gives us something to measure against:

http://www.fogcreek.com/About.html

"Good software development talent is scarce. The really great developers — the ones who change the world — are hard to find, attract, and recruit. Yet when we looked around, we discovered that the very companies that whine about not being able to find developers have working environments so bad they make Dilbert's cubicle-land look like paradise.

It starts with the physical environment (with dozens of cubicles jammed into a noisy, dark room, where the salespeople shouting on the phone make it impossible for developers to have a creative thought). But it goes much deeper than that. Managers, terrified of change, treat any new idea as a bizarre virus to be quarantined. Napoleon-complex junior managers insist that things be done exactly their way or you're fired. Corporate Furniture Police writhe in agony when you tape up a movie poster in your cubicle. Disorganization is so rampant that even if the ideas are good, it's impossible to make a product out of them. Inexperienced managers practice hit-and-run management, issuing stern orders on exactly how to do things without sticking around to see the farcical results of their fiats.

And worst of all, the MBA-types in charge think that coding is a support function, basically a fancy form of typing.

Who wants to spend their days there? It's no wonder they can't find developers. "

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Coffee Shop in Newport News, WOW and espresso

Last night we stopped by the Aromas coffee shop and got a latte. I commented that it was really good. The same barista is their the next day and I order a double espresso. No kidding, I’m sitting here with like 6 ounces of straight espresso. Guess its one of those ‘compliments get you far’ kinda things. I’m just gonna be a bundle of joy to deal with in about an hour  .

Unrelated to this observation, there are 3 guys in here all playing WOW on their laptops. They are sitting near each other and occasionally chat back and forth while playing. Thought it was cool. I’ve seen folks playing WOW but it was always on their own and such. This is the first time I’ve seen so many people together like this. Thought it was neato. Until we started to compete for bandwidth anyway.

New Hotel Annoyance

I’m sitting in my hotel room and the maid is knocking on the door. She wants to come in and turn down the bed, drop a few chocolates off, bother me after I’ve just spent 9 hours talking and talking and talking. Its as if they just hang out in the hallway waiting for guests to return to their room. Maybe this is a new way to try to get a tip out of the patrons. It is so annoying. I just want to be left alone. This is all in the name of service I guess. Do the people that run these places NEVER go on business travel? When you get back to your room, the last thing you want to do is interact with ANYBODY. And every night at this doubletree the maid service comes ‘knock knock knocking’ to spend 15 minutes fiddling about the room. I have phone calls to make, haven’t checked my email all day, and instead I have to deal with this situation. I tell her through the door, ‘thanks, I’m busy’. I said the same thing yesterday and I'll say the same thing every day.

Smelly Breweries in Chapel Hill, NC

Spent the week at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Computer Science Dept. doing recruitment. Went to both of the breweries at different times and experienced the same gross smell at both entrances. Having been a dishwasher for about 5 years I recognized it right away. Its suprising they haven’t done anything about it though because its awful, but everyone acts like there is nothing going on, its that rubber barmat from behind the bar smell. Ugh, its so bad. It doesn’t smell like that in the rest of the restaurant, but just at the doors. Weird. Had some excellent porkchops at Top of the Hill. Absolutely recommended.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Portland Aerial Tram





The Portland Aerial Tram opened today. Cost overruns aside this is going to be a nice addition to the neighborhood. Welcome Jean and Walt, the names for each of the trams.

Chubby Bunny




In the middle of winter in the pacific northwest the days are short and the rainy nights are long. To pass the time a variety of pasttimes have been adopted. One of them is called Chubby Bunny. The goal of Chubby Bunny is to stuff as many marshmallows into your mouth as possible. The winner is the one who has the most in their mouth for the longest period of time. Some recent photos of the action on a rainy weekday night are here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Arbitrage via iPod le canada!

Using iPods the worlds currency movements are predicted here.

Fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon

Since committing to avoiding the Trader Joe's wine aisle and all wines with animals on the logo I've been exploring some of the regional wines at the local Fred Meyer. I have found a fantastic 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Winery in Washington. The reason I think its so delicious is it has a perfect balance, low tannin taste. This is not a peppery or particularly bold wine, just incredibly smooth and drinkable. Total gem. David Lake (no known relation) is the winemaker at Columbia and is known as the Dean of Washington Winemakers.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Video Games used for education and training

Good article on using video games to educate in the future.

From article here: But young people in the United States today are being prepared for standardized jobs in a world that will, very soon, punish those who can't innovate. We simply can't 'skill and drill' our way to innovation."

Shaffer argues that youngsters heading into the work force will, from day one, have to compete with skilled workers from around the world with years of technological experience.

For this reason, children should be given the chance to use their innate skills of simultaneously listening to music while playing games, watching videos, surfing the Web and messaging friends from computers or cell phones, while learning about things like biology, history or physics.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Motivation through play

You can motivate people if they can see how what you want them to do is FUN. Output and employee productivity seem to be defined by the creative capacity of the manager or leader to describe the problem or issue to be solved in terms of a puzzle or challenge for the individual to solve. In finance it may be the analysis of a balance sheet, ROI calculations, valuations…all estimates playing with a set of numbers in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is a toy, not a tool, to play. The investigative journalist is essentially satisfying their instinctive curiosity, digging through real world records and files, to uncover something previously unknown. For graphicists, it’s a matter of scientific archaeology, digging around the stacks of physics and math to see what we can use as a starting point for modeling real world behaviors. Implementing these ideas, exploring the various options, to get something that looks and feels as intended.

You’ll know when you’ve succeeded because you will see a rapid acceptance of ownership of the idea by the individual. Leadership in this sense is not so much a manager but a chief inspiration officer, delegating these challenges to the folks that are interested in actualizing themselves. The tool for this is the following algorithm:

[a] task to be accomplished
[b] motivational profile of employee (what interests them: math, public speaking, programming, proving you wrong)
[c] describe [a] in terms of [b] with a reasonable deadline to solve the problem
[d] track progress and speak in terms of [b].

Windows Desktop Search removal

Windows Desktop Search took over my computer. This resulted in 20-30 minute times coming off standby, and a collapse in battery performance (likely due to hard drive spinning). MS vehemently states Windows Desktop Search will have no impact on performance, they are wrong. Every time I logged out and logged back in was torture. I removed it, the problem is gone. Now, maybe it was just a coincidence. I suspect they are saying ‘no impact on legacy desktop systems’. The problems were on a mobile IBM T40. The install occured as an update to the office productivity suite, outlook 2007 to be exact. Office 2007, in a seperate entry, i'd exclaim that I truly love, the ribbons truly rock! However, Windows Desktop Search has got to go for now.

To remove: Control Panel->Add/Remove Programs (wait 5 minutes for list to populate), go to Windows Desktop Search and select Remove. It is not under the Microsoft list of programs, its down lower in the alphabetical listing under 'W' for Windows.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Parallel Lines

Watching a movie, a documentary called Parallel Lines that tracks a women as she films her way across the US from San Diego back to her hometown NYC after 9/11. Mostly, she interviews lonely people in their struggles to survive in the world. The struggles to make ends meet and the struggle to come to terms with what had just recently happened in the world. I think, especially in the coastal cities, the middle of America can be so easy to forget, so hard to understand. This movie allows a perspective inducing portrait of middle America.

Bush should be announcing the 20,000 troop surge tomorrow. President Clinton mentioned recently that one of the problems he sees in the world today is that people are spending more time on the differences between us than what we have in common.

“Anger destroys the container its kept in” --a hunter in Ohio