Monday, December 29, 2008

Oatmeal in a Rice Cooker: The Oatmeal Wars: Part IV

A few people including myself commented that the previously written blog that cooking the Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats (determined to be the best after a number of taste tests) resulted in an overflowing rice cooker. The obvious solution is to reduce the amount of rice and oats proportionally. Since I wanted at least two servings I tried 75% and that still resulted in overflowing. However, I recall that Stacey washes rice before cooking it and the result was better tasting, fluffier rice. I decided I’d try the same thing with my oats. Result: worked like a charm. Ended up having no bubbling over of the oatmeal and it tasted great. So, new rules: reduce water and oats to ¾ cup of oats and 3 cups of water, stir/rinse in a colander until the water is almost clear. It will start milky and get clearer the longer they are washed. If just running the colander under water than just work them for about 60 seconds. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Starbucks Oatmeal: The Oatmeal Wars, Part III

I was walking through the airport one day a few weeks ago on my way to LA, saw that Oatmeal was now being offered by Starbucks. Having an idea of what good oatmeal should taste like, I wanted to try some but wasn’t particularly hungry. This week, with 14 inches of snow on the ground christmas day I decided to walk over to the local starbucks at 21st and overton and give the oatmeal a try. Blech! Its advertised with this picture of beautiful oatmeal and all these fluffy letters talking about ‘wholesome and nutritious’. Turns out, its just rolled oats with some hot water poured over them. nothing more than instant oats. For fruit: some really dry and hard raisin things, its clear that craisins are superior topping for oats. The brown sugar wasn’t awful, and a little packet of nuts (no, nuts do not go on oatmeal).

Avoid the Starbucks oatmeal. For the price of it, you can buy yourself a box of quaker oats, ask for some hot water, and be just as well off.

What they COULD have done, to actually do something truly customer oriented, would have been to have real oatmeal cooked up in each store in the morning, served fresh with craisins and some organic brown sugar. Charge 3.25 and everyone would be happy. When you attempt to cheat customers with solutions that only go half way you can tweak your balance sheet in the short term but in the long term you create negative value. Starbucks no longer has any brand trust with me. I can’t trust their baristas to have any pride in their work and I can’t trust their food to have any authenticity to the ‘premier experience’ they are trying to create.

Economic reflections, Gold, and Peter Schiff

While taking a little vacation time I’ve been chewing on my investing strategy for 2009, changes I want to make to my portfolio, etc. I grabbed a couple books at Powell’s the other day that, after sitting down, I discovered were actually written by the same author, Peter Schiff. The two books were Crash Proof: How to profit from the coming economic collapse and The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets. I had seen Peter on a few Youtube CNBC videos discussing his views on the economy and decided I want to get more of his perspective. I’m not sure about some of his conjectures: in one sentence: buy commodities (think mostly gold), and foreign stocks. Duh. Fundamental to his premise is that we incorrectly give faith in statistics compiled by a government whose vested interests to maintain stability is to keep these numbers in check. Perhaps even worse, we put faith in Wall Street itself to provide us things like bond ratings (whoops!) or give merit to investment houses who make more money the more often we buy and sell stocks. A question that’s been looming in my head about the past 8 years is this: did we create any real wealth in the past 8 years? If we really calculated what I might call a ‘true GDP’ would it have gone up? It seems to me the answer would be NO. Essentially, consumers used inflated home prices to justify loans to get money to spend on krap to fill their gigantic spaces of suburban sprawl. Money changed hands, but the fundamentals of a strong economy would be if that money was used to buy things like manufacturing tools and technology to get better productivity: more chemicals for cheaper prices, more efficient fuel consuming devices, longer lasting paints, stronger structural materials, more efficient fabrication facilities (intel calls them ‘fabs’). How much of this occurred relative to people acquiring buying higher end coffee that has turned into the swill that any sufficiently advanced capital market provides? (TODO: short essay on the decline of quality and value during the maturation of a capitalistic enterprise as investors seek to maximize return). There is a difference in the dotcom boom. This was fueled by real value. Metcalf and Moore’s laws observed real productivity boosts for business. The consumer was given a greater degree of choice and price transparency.

Schiff has an important thesis about the stock market and its ‘true value’ has declined over the past 8 years. To draw this conclusion, he uses gold instead of US dollars. The US dollar, and all other major currencies, are fiat currencies—backed not by anything real but instead by the faith and credit of the institution that issued them. If you assume the real rate of inflation is 8% (and I agree with something closer to this number than the CPI the government gives) then the Dow has lost 42% of its value. If you use gold, the Dow was worth 43 oz of gold in 1929 and is worth less than 12 oz today. (granted, gold rallied over the past few years) [page 26 of author’s note]. My question is simple: why is gold any better than the faith and credit of the us government? One might say ‘because its real’. What does that mean? Its real? You mean its physical? Oh, okay. folks, IT’S A SHINY ROCK. It has no more intrinsic value than an economy. Its pretty? Its limited? To a similarly artificial degree, so is land. so what would we obtain if we divided the Dow by the avg. price of a square foot of land in 1929 vs. 2008? I don’t understand humanities fixation on gold as a ‘gold standard’. By the way, I can pound lead with some additional goodies (protons, neutrons and such) and make gold. At some point, this becomes economically feasible, so the ‘gold is fundamentally limited’ premise is simply not true. What about oil? Well, oil is only good so long as it’s the most cost effective energy source. As soon as it breaks that barrier, oil is just some dirty junk better left underground. I simply don’t have a good way to measure any real value..I can observe relative fluctuations. Is economy science, religion, or math? We use math as a tool in our economic arguments but this does not make it math any more than using math in science makes science any more than a religion backed by math.

Philosophical arguments aside, Peter’s book has been a good read so far, and I do think it is influencing my investment thinking. The last influential author was Benjamin Graham who advocated a 50/50 strategy between stocks and bonds. This adjustment in thinking has had benefits in the recent past. With that said, I should point out I was pummeled in 09 regardless of the diversification, just less so than I might have been had I not taken his advice. Now, I’m challenging the current ‘US as stable place for my money’ and entertaining thoughts of more direct international exposure and commodity markets. The bubbles in India and Shanghai have burst, and this may have provided good entry points to these markets.

XBOX and the battle for the living room…

Changes…changes…changes….was looking at my stack of XBOX360 games and thinking about the conversations 8+ years ago about ‘the battle for the living room’ that PCs were going to face. “How could the PC ever get in beyond the hardcore hobbyists?” Recall the conversations of how futile it would be for Microsoft to even try to get a Windows machine into the sacred living room. I now have 2 xbox 360’s, 10+ titles purchased at $60 each, a number of online transactions for movies or the yearly XBOX live accounts renewed for the third time recently (approx $600+$600+$150+$50 > $1400). They consume a significant portion of my entertainment dollars as well as my time for relaxation in every form: alone and with friends in both meatspace and cyberspace. When we have parties, some portion of the guests end up on the xbox for some portion of time, typically playing guitar hero style or trivia style games. While it may not have reached its full financial payoff yet for shareholders, I think this XBOX thing has been a monumental success, 25 million units in living rooms throughout the world and growing. A more interesting analysis would put together the amount of money made per title, avg. # titles purchased per year in each geography as well as online content amortized over the 5-10 year life cycle of the console and get a number that I think more than justifies their decision to enter this ecosystem. Way to go Microsoft. Might be good lesson for other large companies to learn from when entering entirely new ecosystems, seems their persistence and bringing in the right talent allowed this battle to be won. I appreciate, as both an investor and consumer, Microsoft’s permission to let the inmates run the asylum. In many cases, this would have been a catastrophy, but in this case created a more interesting world for us all.

I’ve heard people say ‘the wii has won’, as if that was a competitor. Sure, people split their dollars between these devices, but ultimately they also compliment and reinforce the acceptance of similar play metaphors for the living room. Similarly with the playstation’s of the world, they will compete for the split of consumer’s wallets but validate the battle because they all can be successful in this space. In this round, Sony seems to not have gotten the numbers MS did, but this will reinforce their vigor to get it right the next time around. In the end, humanity benefits in this competition, despite the Orwellian oligopoly this ecosystem has become.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Me at the top of a hill in Mendoza Argentina.


Me at the top of a hill in Mendoza Argentina.
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Me in China
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Mike's dog Murray!
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on top of mt. st. helens.
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testing the blogthis feature in picasa2...
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Gears of War 2: Insane checkpoint glitch in Act III

On insane mode, in Chapter 3 Act 3, when you have reached the entrance to the temple at the top of the mountain, it seems there is a bug in the checkpoint system. When you go through the temple entrance, it does not register the checkpoint. To address the issue, go backwards to the start of the chapter. There will be a giant tree fallen across the path, drive to this point, then turn around and go back to the temple entrance adn the checkpoint will clear. I hear this also affects hardcore mode.

Gears of War 2: Killing Bloodmounts

The Gears of War fest continues. Yesterday 5 of us managed to hit the 50 horde levels achievement. So, the bloodmounts, how to kill?

Two relevant facts: a well placed shutgun shot will dismount the rider on the mount. Additionally, shots at the head of the mount itself will cause it to pause to knock off its metal facemask. while the mount is performing this action, one can continue to pump rounds into its head. If you haven't dismounted the rider yet, he will fall off, then get back up but a quick chainsaw will take care of him. If you have dismounted the rider, remember he's still alive, just knocked off, so he will come after you, but he's relatively weaker and less of a threat than the szhizophrenic mount, so take care of the mount first.

What best to shoot the mount in the head? We've varied through just about every weapon here, pick your favorite. Typically the Lancer is good because you can leverage the chainsaw when the rider jumps off.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gears of War 2

Been online for several nights this week with friends blasting away through Horde mode on Gears of War 2. We're through 48 stages, 50 we get an achievement. Its been an awesome awesome trip.

Kim P. also recommended Left 4 Dead...have to check that out as well. But first, we get through 50 levels of Horde!

Impressive new robot

Just watch!

Friday, November 28, 2008


so...what is tapas spanish for? overpriced small portions of mediocrity?

by having these small portions you usually end up with a bill larger than getting an actual meal.


Funny and introspective coffee shop review...

was trolling the review boards for the local restaurant scene and found this well articulated review of a local place, the pharmacy cafe, RIP as of about a week ago. it was personality conflicted and never really quite sure what is was.

Nom e.

Portland, OR
1 star rating11/15/2008
This is a great place to witness the progress of human societal breakdown and the disintegration of the real-world community.

Through the large plate-glass windows lining NW Glisan you can see a few people scattered about, and even sitting next to one another at busier times, with their faces lit up from the business side of an iridescent apple and their ears plugged-up with white wires. They won't look back, nor up from the screen, nor at one-another.

Welcome to the new cafe life, where a congress of zombies type anything interesting they have to say into a device, sealed off from the world around them.

But then again one can't blame them after experiencing the place from the inside. Just the act alone of stepping to the counter can trigger an episode of mild depression.

There are random products scattered around the counter from horrible looking cookies under scrunched layers of plastic film, to bagged chips and candies. You feel like you're waiting in line at an independent gas station. Dark, filthy, and dank. The music blaring forth is usually loud and industrial.

You'll wait at the counter for 5 minutes before someone appears. They are always working in the back. Always. Moving supplies, or fixing something or other. Then they will make you a terrificly bland coffee-drink.

The dessert counter is terrifying. It seems that their desserts are end of the day donations from the lunch pails of local children.
What appears to be half-eaten apple pies, squished brownies, and a smattering of other foods only made unpalatable by their close association in this fluorescent death chamber will make you feel cheap, dirty, and tainted.

This place lacks a purpose, vision, or point. They don't take food, drink, nor coffee seriously. They do take trying to sell anything seriously. Coffee? We got it! Beer? That too! Heck, we'll even try to force an impulse purchase at check-out.
Gas? Where's the gas? Coming soon!

Only then, after experiencing this little piece of hell, will you understand why the poor souls inside are so intent with distracting themselves from the here-and-now.

The rest of the reviews and source are located here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Midwestern retrospective and Time editorial

Had a good visit back to the midwest. One of the most worthwhile aspects intellectually was the suprisingly thoughtful constructions that had been created in support of the McCain-Palin ticket. Conversations with an older generation of folks with compelling arguments of support for the superiority of this ticket over Obama. Brought home the disadvantage of the lack of political discourse in Portland. It seems everyone is a liberal and nobody debates the other side. Then, when you enter battle, you go weak and unarmed.

in this information age, I was startled how we had self selected for a variety of reasons information that the other parties did not possess. How does this happen? we're delluged by data. Too bad the same can't be said about knowledge and wisdom, which unfortunately require some combination of time, reflection, and experience.

"In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one."

Editorial here

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election results....

Summed up nicely in video below.

The closure to those mistakes is inspiring. It has been said many times that leaders that rule through fear are weak. May the universe give back what you have given.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

PS3 DVD Playback vs. XBOX 360 DVD playback vs. stand-alone DVD player

Recently I did a comparison between a mid-range Sony DVD 1080i dvd player and the dvd playback capability in the PS3. They were both hooked to the same TV through an HDMI cable. My thinking was that the PS3 would be better or similar to the DVD player. This was absolutely not the case: the stand alone player was far superior in details and lack of blockiness that were present in many scenes with the PS3. I would not recommend using a PS3 as a stand alone DVD player and find the small price of a true DVD player worth it. I recall being similarly disappointed in comparisons with the DVD player in the XBOX 360, but I am using component output for that unit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gears of War Game Designer CliffyB interview in New Yorker

Allen Hux, otherwise known as 'irregular z-buffer wizard', pointed me to this article in the new yorker that gives some insight into the game development machinery that is Epic.

Trivia of the day: Where does the 'kill' sign, the skull inside the gear that you see when you get damage, originate?

$10 for first person to email me the correct answer.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Article by Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning

Found this interview with Lorne Lanning. I find his comments about merging of content creation pipelines for movie, gaming, etc. very aligned with my thoughts on where the entertainment industry will evolve in the next decade. See the article here. Lorne's gaming experiences and content are some of the best in the business. One of my top 3 favorite gaming experiences has been Stranger's Wrath, and Stacey's was Munch's Oddysey.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Travels to Salta Argentina

After our 20+ hour bus ride from Mendoza into the Andean highlands we made it to Salta. This is a pretty bustling town in the northwestern part of Argentina. There are some beautiful colonial style buildings in the middle square. Today we also saw a fairly random parade display in the main square with horses and a bunch of folks dressed in gaucho clothing. We also walked several kms through town to an artesenal market. More of the same stuff for sale: ponchos, mate cups, bombillas, leather goods, some weaved stuff, and all the jewerly they sell at the mall stands and lollapalooza festivels. Yesterday i bought a nice watercolor painting from a vendor on the street for a good price. People are warm and friendly everywhere. Had a fantastic dinner last night at a traditional restaurant, El Solar del Convento, with some great service. Woke up to no COLD water in the Condor Pass hostel...that was a first! Normally, its no HOT water. They fixed it right away though. Once again, wireless access points everywhere. Tomorrow we head back to Buenos Aires and have a day and a half before we head back to the US to return on Sunday.

Friday, September 19, 2008

travels to bariloche Argentina

we've spent the past three days in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Bariloche is a fairly large town set in the lakes district and serves as a jumping off point for lots of national park and winter sport activities. We did some horseback riding for an entire day cmplete with some empenadas roasted on a fire and some yerba mate with our hosts....was a super cool day. I was a little freaked out a few times going through some deep water on my horse when it decided to start playing in the water. Our guide casually explilained it wanted to roll over and it was no big deal...whatever. Scared me quite a bit. Despite those moments it was an incredible journey that went pretty far out across several ranches in the area up I to the snow pack then back down again. A big challenge was keeping warm since we've packed lighter than ever for this trip. 2 weeks with carry on only and if I can I will always do this in the future!

Bariloche is known for it's chocolate and there's several little shops around, all with a slightly different taste and their own unique styles. It's been fun just sampling them. Our favorite have been at a place call choula gouya and another who's name I think is mama lua.

Our hostel here is awesome. It's on the 10th floor of a mixed use building right in the heart of town. Has a weird feel to it because you feel like you're entering an office building, take the elevator to the top
Floor and look for a discrete door labelled '1004'. When you enter it feels like a typical hostel but with giant windows and great views all around the town, the mountain ranges, and the lake.

We leave later today on a 20+ hour bus ride to the wine region and town of Mendoza. After a few days there we will be taking another 20+ hour ride to salta in northwestern Argentina deeper into the Andes.

Meltdown has arrived!

hold onto your hats. Market looks to finally be in a real correction mode. Healthy for the long term, always scary at the front. Very happy to have readben Grahams ' the intelligent investor' back a few years ago and have been diverifying away from the stock market since that time to a more balanced portfolio. Makes times like these a bit less nerve racking.

I've gotten messages from a few folks asking opinion and such, I think mostly wanting to commiserate about the situation. I just want to remind myself and anyone else thnking ok g term that the wrong thing to do is get panicked and sell if you have a long term strategy. I recall several studies that showed if you were out of the market for it's best 10 days over the past 10 or so years you lose over half of the gains the market made over that period. I should look the details up later, it's quite significant. It is important to not try to predict when those days will be.

Selling now could get you cut by the same knife twice.

Travels to Argentina - buenos aires

Spent three days in buenos aires. Got to walk around town and sample the various neighborhoods. Favorite was Palermo area and the microcentro. We stayed at hotel frossard which was good location for first arrival but a bit touristy. Lots of people mentioned the steaks here as something to be amazed by butnso far it's been quantity over quality. Price is amazing, around ten bucks for a huge steak. Wine has been equally even a better value actually living up to expectations completely. One great suprise is the homemade pasta everywhere. A real treat.

Visited the street markets and got a sense of the local flair. Stacey found a nail in her quiche at a famous cafe where lots of writers artists and such from argentinian history have their photos on the wall.

Was pleasantly suprised at proliferation of wifi nearly everywhere it made sense. Mccafes, bars, random restaurants and coffee shops. The folks in Argentina love their cafe con leche. It's in everything they can shove it in and get away with it. Basically Its a soft caramel substance . Tasty but preferred in smaller quantities.

Writing from my iPhone from a hostel in the Patagonia.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Stacey the handyman!

Stacey does it again...replaced the entire faucet today. Crazy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mountain Biking Trails near Portland

was looking for some specific references to Scapoose and found this link by a bike shop out in Hillsboro area.

Hunting for Insurance, Allstate wins!

I recently went on a hunt for a lower cost/better value insurance for our two cars and one condo. I’ll share my experience here hoping it saves others some time/money. Realize that situations vary widely and what was best for us may not be best for you.

First, I constructed a representative situation for us and posed this to 5 insurance companies: nationwide, progressive, country, state farm, and allstate. There are 100+ insurance companies, and I really did not want to talk to every one of them. I had determined the optimal allocation as a single male with a condo was the condo with one company and the car with another, but there is some additional hassle with that as well as not leveraging the discount one receives when they carry multiple policies with the same company. As a single male, I was not able to get a sufficient discount to put vehicle and condo with the same company. The reason was simple: some companies classified my car as a sports car and some as a coupe. Progressive happened to have classified it as a coupe while Country classified it as a sports car because of the Type-S VTEC. The cheapest for car insurance was different than the cheapest for the condo even after factoring in any discounts.
After getting estimates back from these 5 companies (which took 5+ hours of leg work). I reduced down to 2 scenarios to get detailed bids. [1] Allstate and [2] a Progressive/Country combo were the lowest, so I did the detailed bids where we give them VIN numbers, driving records, condo details, permission to run credit reports and got specific numbers. After this process, Allstate came out as a killer deal when combining all the policies, discounts, etc. I was actually quite surprised by how much I could saved, probably around 35% when compared to a no discount scenario, IN ADDITION to being the cheapest before any discounts were applied. So while this process was rather time consuming, the end result is that we will save several hundred dollars a year, so the ROI will be worth it.

Everyone’s situation is different, and the quants at each firm have different goals and risk profiles they are tweaking every year, so if you’ve been with the same insurance company for 3+ years its probably a good idea to take a look and review your policies. Progressive was creeping up this year after actually going down in some previous years.

Insurance agents can be frustrating. When finalizing our insurance plans, we found numerous errors before finally getting the final policy in place. On the car policy we got listed as renter, the address was wrong, they started charging us as if we had coverage when all we wanted were bids, we were listed as single at one point, etc. Some of the insurance folks were just baffled and seemingly afraid of their computers. Looking over their shoulders as they enter information is informative because you can see how the systems are setup and obtain a more favorable cost basis. One example was ‘profession’ which can give you a discount. For example, there is no category for software engineer nor architect yet there is one for programmer! (this tells you how outdated and slow the insurance companies are in updating their IT systems…the allstate folks were typing information into a WYSE/VT220 terminal emulation program on a Windows machine). They didn’t give me a list to pick from to see what might apply to my situation, just asked what I did, so had I not seen the actual categories one day in the office I would have had no idea that I was eligible for a discount for the category of ‘programmer’. When I said software engineer they didn’t see a category for me thus I didn’t get the discount. Agh! In summary: Go into the office, review each and every component of your policy to ensure it matches what you expect, and get a printout of the policy details to make sure what you tell the agent actually gets entered into the system. Also, ASK WHAT THE OPTIONS ARE and get a listing of them, best face to face or by entering the information yourself. And don’t drink any coffee that day, your likely to explode in the insurance agent’s office at how slow everything moves.

With Allstate, when the detailed policy came in the mail from headquarters everything was listed including all the discounts in an easy to read format. When talking with the agents, they seemed a bit confused and unable to tell me exactly what discounts were being applied and how much. When I asked for an explanation for how they didn’t know they said it changes from year to year, the IT changes from year to year, and its just difficult to keep up with all the changes and discounts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Travels to Sarejevo

Spent the past week in Sarejevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The people here like stay out late and people watch on the streets as people walk by the cafes and bars. They also have outdoor areas where people were watching sports on huge TVs and projectors in the middle of the street, kind of communal television. Unlike the TVs in most bars in the US that serve as background, it seems these folks actually come to these outdoor areas to watch TV with friends and sip a coke, coffee or beer. Computers do not seem to be a major part of anybody’s life. I think in the whole city I’ve seen 3 internet cafes, one wireless connection at the sister hotel to the one I’m in (no room at the wireless equipped hotel), and one store with a wi-fi connection sign (which for the life of me could not relocate the next day in the winding streets of the section of town built in the byzantine era!). Lots of small cars in the streets, HUGE and steep hills to walk up around the edges of town. Its warm here, in the middle of the day the sun beats down like any meditteranean city, but the humidity did not seem bad this time of year.

One thing you can feel here is the heterogeneity. Mashup of all different religious temples dot the hillsides, Muslim temples and catholic chuches, all of them hundreds of years old. Probably something most people in eastern Europe are used to but for those from the US this strikes me. Music is an interesting mashup that actually was quite appealing: rock beats and Islamic chants, also some Bosnian loves songs play in some places. Kids drive by and have rap and red hot chile peppers blaring on the stereo to give the occasional reminder of English words.

The city is in a valley surrounded by mountains with a stream running through the middle and the best tasting water I’ve had EVER, including any bottled water, I can’t believe how soft it is. I walked most of the main parts of town with little shops and places you can get Bosnian coffee, which is a served in a little pot with a handle, some sugar, a tiny cup, and a Turkish delight. Its very good, nice to have something a little different in the coffee department. The people here have been super super friendly as well, and I’ve been surprised how many speak very good English.

This is the place World War I started, and I got to stand in the very spot that the Archbishop was assassinated, setting off the conflict (him, not me of course). Also was the city that was under a 3+ year siege when the Bosnian Serbs sat in the hills, shot mortars and sniped down into the city, cut off all water and fuel supplies, killed over 10,000 people. Since that happened a little more than 10 years ago, the topic is still fresh in the people’s minds. For three years they wonder why Europe did not come to help them (some theories: many in the city were muslim? no critical resources? Didn’t know there was a problem? Couldn’t afford it? Policy of non-intervention?). Finally, Bill Clinton saved them. It was not the US, for 3 years the US ignored them as well. Somebody moved Bill Clinton to address the issue, that’s what I remember, and that’s how it should be remembered. I remember no rallies for the people in the region. I remember watching CNN, I remember apathetic voices on the television, if you don’t remember listen to how we talk about the people of Darfur today, like what happens to them isn’t connected, like these are not our problems. On the other hand, we complain about money going to fight somebody else’s wars. It’s complicated, more some other time.

After the Bosnian Serbs killed 8000 people in 3 days in other areas of the territory, the UN negotiated control of the airport to bring in food and medical supplies, 3 flights a day, hardly enough for a city of this size. I saw a secret tunnel that was dug under the airport that led to routes not controlled by the Bosnian Serbs. Gaining the airport opened a channel to supplies: the people dug a tunnel from the city, under the landing strip, and into the hills that they controlled. Before the tunnel, If they tried to cross over the strip at night the UN would shine lights on the people trying to cross. When the lights shined on them, they made easy targets for the Bosnian Serbs in the hills. If somehow you made it to the airport, the UN would round you up and return you to the city under siege. This was part of the agreement with the Bosnian Serbs.

I didn't know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why I love this city

Portland, you make me proud.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trip to Visit Northern Exposure location (Roslyn, WA)


After finishing the 6 seasons of Northern Exposure we decided we'd take a little road trip to Roslyn Washington where a significant portion of the show was filmed. We had lunch at the Brick, also prominent in the TV show, and walked the main street in this quirky town, complete with seemingly stray dogs just wandering about.
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The Brick from Northern Exposure


here's an image of the Brick, one of the favorite hangouts of folks in the show Northern Exposure.
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Chris in the Morning from Northern Exposure


Here's Minnifield Communicatins KBHR with Chris in the Morning pontificating on recent mental comings and goings....good way to start many of the shows.
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Dr. Joel Fleischman's place from Northern Exposure


Here's the storefront where Dr. Joel Fleischman had his Dr's Office. In the window they still have the Dr. Joe(l) Fleischman sign painted. Very cool!
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Free Cassettes at Everyday Music!


A few months ago i was stopping by a local new/used CD store to check for some new music and out in the trash bin I found this! A treasure chest of casettes being tossed!
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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Idea for the Bioshock game to be made a movie

a dystopic ayn rand storyline also identified as a continuation of the deus ex series is going to be made into a movie ( i'm sure its not the first person to think of this but it seems in this case there is a unique opportunity due to one of the critical in game mechanics: the ability to choose whether to harvest the little children to increase your magic power or to rescue them from their trance. Here’s the basic idea: 2 versions of the film, released at the same time, one is ‘the savior’ version, the other is ‘the harvester’. Film them both at the same time to keep costs down, each 85 minutes of film, both have unique goodies to help you better understand the world to incent seeing both films. As a consumer, I think this would be worth watching both, and as a studio, I think the cost structure is would be favorable and the folks seeing both movies would be pretty high, with the caveat that the differences have to be sufficient enough to have word spread its worth seeing both. Of course the dvd package will include both versions with an extra level of gameplay, etc. you’ve got the plotline, now harvest!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Consumer Spending and Inflation Visualization

A great visualization of consumer spending habits by the NY Times.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

new iPhone SDK with OpenGL ES emulation

got this email from apple this week:

The fourth beta version of the iPhone SDK adds OpenGL ES support to the iPhone Simulator. You can now quickly build and test your mobile applications and handheld games using OpenGL ES on the iPhone Simulator.

Sweet! Now OGL ES programs can be written for the emulator.

Detailed report on housing overvaluation in America

A great report from National City on housing prices in American, how much they're overvalued, and where. Bend, OR is #1 most overvalued market in the US, and Portland is #11. See the .pdf here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Evansville, IN high school team crushes competition!

way to go mater dei high school, 2,834 MPG. while a long time rival of my own castle high, this is an incredible feat! they beat out some of the best colleges in the world!

cool to see a little small town news make it to cNet.

read the article here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008 by McDonalds ?!?

Mcdonald's launches and a whole list of cafe's in Washington! Taking on Starbucks in their home turf. Free coupon as well as mini-games on the website.

My experience at McCafe's in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand has been very positive.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Gas Leak, Yikes!

A few days ago I made some dinner…some fresh caught sockeye salmon, cream sauce, and some fresh noodles with peas on the side. It was frickin’ amazing. Anyway…later that day stacey asks if I smell gas. ‘well’, yeah, I do kinda, but just figured it was ‘cause I just cooked’. Next day, we still smell gas. Next morning she calls the gas company to come out and check out the situation. Sure enough, gas leak. I was out working on edits to a SIGGRAPH paper so I wasn’t around. Gas dude tells her where the leak is and how to fix it, she’s off to home depot, buys all the gear, gets in there and replaces the gas line. Cool or what?

Anyway, gas leak is gone thanks to Stacey.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


had an awesome time at the Wynn in Vegas this weekend. was a total blast and great to see everyone. seemed we just got engaged a few months ago. time flies! next, i plan the portland gathering.

Monday, March 31, 2008

2007 Portland Street of Dreams data...

recently, a few friends and i were talking about the street of dreams. we were wondeirng if the homes for sale last year had sold yet in portland. here is the data. apparently, one of them has sold, the others are still on the market!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Joyous iPhone SDK is released!

Downloaded the iPhone SDK a few days ago and i've been playing around with it. had to scrounge up a macbook and download mac os x 10 to get started, no windows development capability (yet). the SDK is very cool, and apple has lots of great information on their website including some demo apps and extensive documentation....looks like they've done this before :). just playing right now but have a few proof of concepts of cool new things to do with an iphone i wanted to try out. ran into a few things i wish they would have spelled out right away on the site that i've learned:

you can use a simulator to do development (the Aspen Simulator), very nice with identical in look/feel to the iphone EXCEPT for the things that are not yet completed. a few of those details i've learned so far:

the accelerometer is not yet simulated. this was mentioned in a document buried somewhere deep in the SDK. at least provide us with a left/right button to simulate sending events along a specified x,y, or z axis ASAP please :)

there is no OpenGL ES simulation yet. i confirmed this later with some documentation, but i originally poked around for a few minutes to determing that this wasn't possible. the documentation also points out that rendering a transparent EAGL surface (alpha blending w/ the framebuffer) is 'very intensive for the GPU and not recommended'.

SDK developer vs. the developer program:

when i attach my iphone it asks me to have a newer version of firmware. since i do have the latest version i conclude that downside of only registering to download the SDK is that you cannot develop for a real device with just the SDK, you have to be in the developer program, and that was a very limited subset that i am not a member of.

for now, i'll workaround these limitations, plenty for me to get used to in the apple development world, including objective C, XCode, and i'm sure i can dig up an OGL simuator for my PC somewhere's on if i need it. i can put the pieces together when i get access to the developer's firmware update.

for the OGL ES simulation, this should be easy enough, just compile into the simulator an OGL ES .dll that supports all the API calls into OGL ES via emulation on x86. this shouldn't be more than a week's worth of work provided the source code is already developed for an OGL ES software simulation, but i can understand it not being the top priority this early in the game. later they can connect it into the real GPU hardware on the platform you are running Aspen for acceleration, but this gets complicated with various IHVs hardware needing OGL ES drivers or wrappers around the definitely existing OGL drivers, etc.

just wanted to capture these notes for anybody else joining the revolution.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Nihzny Novgorod

Spent the week in Nihzny Novgorod. This time I was with a few folks from work who had been there before. My experience this time was much better than the previous trip, and I’m motivated to pick up more Russian. We’ve eaten at some great places and I’ve had a good time with the team here but inside and outside the office for the week. Jet-lagged and weary though at 4am in the morning. we leave in about 24 hours for the Nihzny airport.

Staying at the Nikolai House near the main pedestrian walkway and the kremlin. Its not as nice as Alexandra (place I stayed last visit, which had a river front view, big room, individual controlled thermostat, and I believe better channel selections including CNBC). However, Nikolai’s location is much much better because you can walk right out to the city area. Also, doesn’t feel so crazy in the winter. Summertime there were a lot of kids drinking out in the streets and such, cars were going by really fast all around and music blaring around every corner. Fewer cars, more pedestrians and tons of snow! It has snowed every day since we’ve been here, and I’m glad I came prepared with a couple coats, hat and gloves.

Travels to Frankfurt

On my way to Nihzny Novgorod I had a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt. Took the time to head to the main shopping area/downtown area and wandered around with co-workers. Kinda cold this time of year but wandered around, found the Zara and some cool churches and such.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oregon Drivers....

This is not a rant about Oregon Drivers being bad. Actually, I see less accidents here than ANY state i'v ever lived in. Also, I generally think the drivers here are really good. For me, having lived in NC, IN, AL, NM, OR, and PA, one constant I observed is that people think 'the drivers here are awful', and 'the drivers from the nearest neighboring state' are even worse. Its the same little localized urban legend everywhere.

However, one thing I've noticed for quite awhile about Oregon drivers that has just baffled me is this: they seem to not understand that the slow lane is on the right, the passing lanes are on the left. You don't get to decide which lane you get to drive in: the law states you drive in the right lane if you are moving slower than the other traffic. Additionally, for traffic moving up behind you, it is against the law to pass on the right. You create such a dangerous situation, and its like nobody seems to even notice their in the wrong, its baffling.

In oregon, I am just blown away by the number of people who think that the right thing to do is spread out across 3 lanes of traffic then drive either the same speed or SLOWER in the fast lanes. This is very dangerous and very illegal. Once you pass, you are supposed to get back to the right as soon as its safe...why does nobody seem to know this? don't we take the same driver's exam?

I've noticed new posted signs on most major highways now that state 'slower traffic keep right'. These signs are new and prolific throughout the highway systems near portland. I hope they have their intended effects. I recommended this in a face to face conversation 2 years ago to the head of PDX Metro (its like the local version of ODOT and they are also in charge of the MAX, streetcar plans, etc.). Maybe they actually listened. I even offered to pay for the signs on highway 26, in addition to one that says 'Maintain your speed uphill'. My offer still stands.

Equiment ettiquette (also known as : baubles in babylon)

Why do men seem to think its okay to have the latest bang and olufson bluetooth headset in their ear all the time? If you don't care how you look, I don't care either, but just to be clear: you DO look like a dork. And when you have one of the older motorola headsets you look like a cheap dork.

And what's with the utility belt? Dude, you're not Batman and you sure as hell couldn't get to the top of the building with one of those redundant devices, so put them in your pocket. Why is it men think its cool/okay to have these phones and junk hanging off their belt? I appreciate the 'i don't care what it looks like its practical', if that is your philosophy than fine, but again, DORK.

Actually, I think there is something from an anthorpological perspective going on here, like peacock feathers. These guys are showing 'Look at the baubles I have, I am desirable, I have all these baubles, if you hang with me you can be with a well baubled guy'.


People say they multi-task, but they don't. When they think they do, they distribute their resources among whatever tasks they are doing and the end results are proportionate. "Sure, I can do email on my blackberry and listen to you at the same time"....[a few minutes later] "what? sorry, i missed that, ....".

There is no such thing as human multi-tasking. However, there is microtasking. The sequential run through of a large amount of small activities in a relatively short amount of time. I don't mean breaking megatasks down into mircotasks in any conscious way, but microtasks are things like: clearing up/adding things to TODO lists, responding to quick email questions that are 2 sentences or less, locating something online, putting dishes into dishwasher, response to an IM, signing forms, addressing envelopes, paying bills...things that can happen very quickly and require very little thought, just action.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


An article in Barron's talked about here by Andrew Bary mentions that the MSFT buyout of YHOO is a bad idea. I couldn't agree more. Too expensive, no cultural alignment, exodus will ensue. More importantly, it says the following:

"Ballmer is a great operating man but he lacks financial acumen. He ought to be thinking more of Microsoft employees who own a lot of Microsoft stock and have nothing to show for it in many years. If the stock doesn't start doing better, Microsoft will lose good people."

I suspect there are other large companies whose top employees feel similarly, and are growing tired of subsidizing fat cats who sit around the organization pontificating powerpoint slides, action plans, and indicators in domains in which they have no knowledge, understanding, or experience. Meanwhile, the stock price languishes......

Thursday, February 07, 2008


yahoo has been one unexciting company in the past 5 years. given where they were, its depressing to see where they are today, a lack of interesting and useful innovations in a world so filled with opportunity.

the disappointing part about this bid is the fact that this is acknowledgement of a lack of aggressiveness on msft part. they should not need this to take out yahoo, they should be able to do it by being a better player. there seems to be no passion left in this company anymore, somebody took the helium out of their ballon. they'll still grow earnings, they'll still have things to sell that we want, but they won't have the talent they once did, nor the innovation, it'll be just sleepy more of the same-ness.

to the end of the microsoft era,


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Suprise! CEO of Countrywide lied.....

I posted here when the CEO of Countrywide said it would be profitable in Q4 that there is no way I bought it. Stock shot up so CEO and friends could dump at higher price points. Article here:

"The net loss for the quarter totaled $421.9 million, or 79 cents per share, compared with a profit of $621.6 million, or $1.01 per share, a year earlier. On Oct. 26, Countrywide projected a quarterly profit of 25 cents to 75 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 32 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates."

Hope nobody bought it.

My opinion: meltdown isn't over just yet. Reset your loans while Bernake tries to get rates down low enough that enough people can refi those 2 year ARMs.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Doing your S-corp taxes yourself...

Just a few notes for future expense tracking to make doing taxes easier. Useful list for a small biz with simple tax filing.

classifying your expenses with the same terminology that the tax man uses to make your life easier at end of year or end of quarter. Do it using these categories then tally it up at the end.

its not shipping, freight-in and postage
for storage, its rent, not storage

if you charge shipping and handling, that is INCOME. later, you will take it out as shipping

don't mix these up:
interest incoming (paid to biz)
interest outgoing (paid to loaner)

no donations: there are contributions, cash and non cash
donations at 50% level, at 30% level, need to determine difference

meals can be recorded on line 19 and line 5, along with a few other things that are redundant with some being classified as related to cost of goods sold. i guess the other stuff is 'the cost of getting goods sold'.

there are no office products, there are office supplies

deductions on first page:
taxes and licenses (yes, there are multiple places this is listed), one reduces income and others do not
interest (again, as a deduction, so its what you paid)

line 19 includes:
bank charges
consultation charges
delivery (not pizza)
dues and subscriptions
office supplies and expense
print and copy
pro fees
small tools

line 5 includes:
indirect labor

some categories to keep in mind and keep track of as well:
state income tax
local income tax

Yahoo! math

have a little stock ticker on yahoo on the left hand side of my home page...looks like this:

XXX 72.83 1.99 2.81%
YYY 74.74 1.24 1.69%
ZZZ 24.85 0.43 1.76%
WWW 60.61 1.20 2.02%
CCC 7.73 0.27 3.62%
Total M A 10.40%

Wow! Look at that, managed to get a 10% gain from a bunch of gains under 5%. i deleted fund names and total value, not relevant.

Wonder how this hasn't been caught?!?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Larrrabee press mention...

"In the meantime, Intel keeps very quiet on the Larrabee GPU performance and futures. Well, it doesn't need to talk much in advance, as the CPUs are feeding them well right now. By all means, they got a good team and nearly infinite resources to get the job done by the end of this year - if they do, another headache for a company using that NVDA stock sticker. µ"

Article here.