Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sarasota pictures

My only birdie at TPC Prestancia

Rainbows and Dolphins in Sarasota

The aftermath of the overnight wind storm

Pretty flower :)

Friday, November 26, 2004


What do you get when you combine a turkey with a duck and a chicken? Give up? OK, what about when you stick a chicken inside of a duck, and then stick the duck inside of a turkey, and then cook it? You get a Turducken.

And Turducken is good.

We went to Alex's house last night for our thanksgiving feast. Now cooking and eating is a competitive thing within our group. We are always trying to improve upon previous years' attempts and each year we take it to a new level. Two years ago, we did the deep fried turkey thing in our back yard. It was very simple and also very good. Last year was the Thompson's Turkey which took something like 8 hours to cook since you need to basically keep coating the turkey with an egg based paste of some sort. This year was the turducken and it is the most involved of the preparations to date.

Alex and Kat spent four hours (!) deboning a turkey and a duck and a chicken. Then they made a variety of stuffings, one from Andouille sausage, another with shrimp, and stuffed the birds with stuffing, then stuffing the birds with the other birds. Then the cooking begins. Now a turducken is a meal in itself but we didn't stop there. We had mashed potatoes where the quantity of butter in them may well have exceeded the quantity of potato in them. An amazing sweet potato au gratin that made a return appearance from last year and some of the best macaroni and cheese I've had (hint... bacon makes things better). 3 Pork Surprise where I think the surprise was finding out there are 3 kinds of pork, though Walter suggested that the surprise would come much later when we all caught on to the fact that Alex only has one meat thermometer and it was in the turducken. And of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without having both types of cranberry sauce, the one with the berries and the one with the flavo-ridges™.

Then there were the desserts. Leslie made pumpkin cheesecake and an Apple Cranberry Ginger pie that more than one person there thought was the best pie they had ever eaten.

So how was the Turducken? In a word, fantastic. Tender and delicious. All of the birds came across well and the stuffings were great as well. I would rate it the highest of our past 3 attempts, but then I didn't have to spend 4 hours deboning three birds either. The general consensus was that the best flavor for amount of work award goes to the deep fried turkey, as long as you don't burn your house down in the process.

So how do we out do our selves next year? I was thinking that the Turducken concept could still be taken a bit farther. There is certainly room for a quail inside of the chicken. And maybe a sparrow inside of the quail. And the whole thing could be put inside of a nice sized ostrich. So perhaps next year we'll have Osturduckenailow?

Mmmm, I can't wait!

The Turducken

A cross section view

Hillel can't get enough of those Flavo-Ridges™

Thursday, November 25, 2004

3 rounds - Golf @ Willlows Run, Bear Creek and Trilogy

Yeah, technically this should be 3 different entries but let's face it. No one really wants that much detail about three rounds over three consecutive days where I pretty much played the same way each day. So nyeah.

Paul, Rick, Dave and I started out at Willows on Monday (gotta love the holiday weeks...) Rick let me borrow his 10.5° 410cc Nike Ignite driver since mine wasn't helping me much over the past few weeks -- at least not reliably. I think this really is the key to these three rounds. The driver worked great (or I worked pretty damn well with it). I was hitting long drives straight down the fairway most of the time. In fact, I think the most remarkable thing about Monday's round was that I out drove Paul 4 times when we were both hitting drivers. This has never happened before. Ever. Not even once. OK, maybe once if Paul like missed the ball entirely and I didn't but if that ever happened, I don't remember. Ordinarily, that might upset Paul, but not today since he was really on, ending up even for the round. His quote was, "You can outdrive me all day as long and as long as I end up even for the round, I'll be happy." My irons and short game did pretty well on Monday and the only thing that didn't really work was the long irons and fairway woods. I parred all four of the par 3 holes and birdied 18 for a final score of 81. As a follow up to my best round ever at the plateau, this one came in second place.

The next day, Dave and I played at Bear Creek. The driver was still on. I used it on just about any hole I could and while it wasn't foolproof, it was in good shape most of the time. I had a few more irons issues that day and my fairway woods still didn't help me much, but it was a good round again. The most interesting shot was on 16 when my drive was a bit right and my second shot was about 120 yards uphill to a plateau green but there was a tree blocking my shot. I figured that if I could get the ball up fast enough, it might make it. I took my 9 iron, added a bit o' loft to it and took a good swing at it. I made good contact, but I had absolutely no idea where it went. I didn't see it in front of me, didn't see or hear it land, but on the good side, I didn't hear and trees being hit either. I'm relatively certain that my ball left our dimension and went to ancient Rome for a little while. Fortunately, when it returned it dropped about 2 yards short of the green in the fringe leaving me a pretty easy chip towards the hole. Phew! My final score at Bear Creek was 88 which was 2 strokes better than my previous best there.

Finally, Rick, Paul, Doug and I reunited from our Pebble Beach adventure last January to take on Trilogy. Just to make it fun, we dialed in 15-30 MPH gusts of wind and a bit of rain to make it more interesting. We weren't sure we were actually going to get the round in, but I figured that this is the way golf was intended to be played, so out we went. It took me a couple of holes to get used to the conditions, but once I did, I was playing very well. Between the 7th and 15th holes I had 6 pars and the rest were bogies so I was feeling pretty good about that. Unfortunately, 16 and 17 were both doubles, and while my final score of 86 won't even figure into my handicap calculations (even if we were still officially counting) it was still a good solid round. I didn't hit as many fairways, but most of that was related to the high winds grabbing my tee shots.

The strongest point was clearly the 10.5° 410cc stiff Ignite. Looks like I'm a gonna need me one of those. But for now, I'll just keep borrowing Rick's. Do you think he'll notice?

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Willows Run Eagle's Talon
Score: 81 (10.161 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 8
Fairways: 9/14
Interesting stat: Second round rating score ever for me, outdrove Paul 4 times.

Bear Creek
Score: 88 (13.064 round rating)
Putts: 30
GIRs: 4
Fairways: 9/14
Interesting stat: Best round at Bear Creek

Score: 86 (14.883 round rating)
Putts: 31
GIRs: 5
Fairways: 6/14
Interesting stat: Um... It was so wet, I fell on my ass twice while walking down hills.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Pictures from Dublin

I was in Dublin for a visit to our localization team last week with some people from our team. We didn't have nearly as much time to get out and take pictures as we did in Germany, but we did have about an hour on the morning before we flew home.

Flowers at a market

That's an ambulance whizzing by

Trinity College Panorama

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Oh, Grow Up

According to the Seattle Times, President Bush refuses to accept repeated congratulatory phone calls from Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Reportedly, this is because the administration is still mad at them for pulling out of Iraq last April.

I've also heard that Bush isn't inviting Spain to his birthday party and has scribbled "dumm meanie!" all over Zapatero's yearbook picture.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Calculus lesson

It has been over 20 years since my last calculus class. Remember limits, derivatives, integrals and and calculating the area under a curve? If I remember correctly, limits were a particular pain, yet were fundamental to the understanding of calculus. Textbooks always gave definitions that were...well...too mathematical for my liking. Here's an example:

DEFINITION: (Graphical idea of a limit) A limit of a function f is the y-value approached by f as x approaches some fixed point. In particular:
(i) limx->a+ f(x) is the y-value that f approaches as x approaches a from the right.
(ii) limx->a− f(x) is the y-value that f approaches as x approaches a from the left.
(iii) If limx->a− f(x) = limx->a+ f(x), then we define limx->a f(x) to be their common value.
(iv) If limx->a− f(x) 6= limx->a+ f(x), then we say that limx->a f(x) does not exist.

uh... yeah...

Here is a better way to describe limits and it can be summed up in on very simple statement.

Eventually, it never gets there.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Election Map Revisited

There is an interesting site here that takes the same election map I referenced earlier and tried to show what the distribution of voters is really like by scaling the regions based on population.

This is the original map.

And this is the revised map that looks like I felt after the election...

On a related note, I am currently in Dublin, Ireland with some people from my team and quite a few people have come up to us and asked us what the hell America was thinking by re-electing President Bush. I can only sigh and say I don't know. I wish I had one of these shirts.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Best Round Ever! - Golf @ Plateau

Combine the best parts of the last two rounds, and make the wedges work, and you have today's round at the Plateau Club.

Dave, Rick, Paul and I went out this morning at around 8:30. The weather was good, the course was a bit wet but otherwise it was a nice day for a round of golf. Once again, I kept the Cleveland TA5s in my bag this week. I started out bogeying the first four holes, which wasn't a bad way to go particularly given some bad breaks like hitting a tree branch on my second shot on 1 and having my second shot on 3 go so far right it was nearly on the tee box for 4, but some well placed wedge shots got me close enough to make bogeys. Then on 5, my second shot stopped just 5 feet from the hole and while I was unable to make any of the 3-4 putts for birdie today, it was good to at least have a chance at it and all of them ended up being easy pars. I finished out the front 9 at 41, just 5 over par and headed to the back where the hits just kept on coming.

My driving was much better than last week, I hit 9 of 14 fairways and missed a couple of them by only a little bit. My wedged were quite good and even when I missed greens for one reason or another, I frequently hit it close enough that I could one putt to save par. On 15, my tee shot was a little left but landed softly on the green. 2 putts later I had a par. On 16 -- my nemesis hole -- I hit a great drive that went straight as can be and landed at the top of the hill about 200 yards from the hole. Just getting to that point is a major victory for me since that hole and 18 have ruined so many good rounds.

I finshed out 18 with an 83. Beating my best round at the Plateau Club by three strokes and when you take into consideration the difficulty of the Plat vs Bellevue, this was a much better score than my 79 there last January. I think I can chalk most of this up to being relaxed. Even though my shoulder was pretty tight, I just made sure that I was not tense during the swing and it really made a big difference.

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Score: 83 (9.588 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 4
Fairways: 9/14
Interesting stat: Lowest round rating score ever for me.

Election map

This map shows the distribution of democrat vs republican districts based on the presential vote last Tuesday. Here's what I've learned:

1) Democrats like water.
2) There is a remarkable correlation between the populations of Republicans and cows.

While we're at it, here's an interesting table from my 3d website. Not surprisingly, a conservative site claims to have debunked it though since truth is no longer an absolute, I think they're on crack.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Quotes of the day

"President Bush is unredefeated"

"I can't believe I actually disagree with 59 million people about something"

"When the Roman Empire fell, was it as obvious as what happened yesterday?"

"Secession is the new black."

Though I think the image that best sums it up is at the Leslie Show

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween!

We had our annual pumpkin carving yesterday. We all chose characters from

Here we are a-carvin' away at the pumpkins

And the results on our porch

And here they are all lit up at night.

Return of the TA5s - Golf @ Plateau

Today seemed like a nice day to go back in time - equipmentally speaking - so before my round at the Plateau Club with Paul, I pulled out my Nike Pro Combo irons and replaced them with my older Cleveland TA5 irons. The goal was to see how hitting some "easier" irons would do now that I was pretty consistent with the Pro Combos. For those who don't know, the TA5s are generally referred to as game improvement irons, they have a wider sole than my pro combos and are a bit bigger. This makes it a bit tougher to hit them fat and the extra weight under them should get the ball up quicker.

I started out at the range and was hitting them great. Each shot flew high and straight. I was able to work them left and right much better than I could before I used the Pro Combos. I felt really relaxed as well, which was nice. We started on the back 9 today and it started out pretty average. A couple of bogeys but good iron shots. Then on 12 I hit the green in regulation (something I didn't do at all last week) and two putted for a par. On 13, I missed the green in regulation by about 12 inches and still got the par. On 14, I sliced my tee shot but it bounced off a tree and back to the fairway (phew!). I was able to come away with a bogey there too so after 5 holes, I'm only +3. At this point, I'm actully tied with Paul. Whoa.

Now hole 15 at the Plateau Club is subject to some sort of weird voodoo. While it is only about 150 yards downhill, it plays closer to 160 and it is pretty narrow and requires a carry shot over a bunch of evil junk. Usually it is a 5 iron to make it to the green for me, but I don't trust my 5 iron that much, so bad things happen to me. Today I felt more confident with the TA5s, though, so I took my 5 iron and hit a beautiful shot... until it sailed the green by about 20 yards. At least it wasn't short and in the junk though. This is where the round started to fall apart for a bit. From this point through through 18 I lost my focus. I think I was just thinking about pizza or something but I had a hard time getting my driver or putter to work for me. At the turn, I got a snack and things came back into focus again.

On the first hole I again hit the green in regulation and got a par. By the end of the 5th hole, I was right at even bogey golf again and I wanted to do better than last week's 89 so I set a goal. 2 pars and 2 bogeys for the last 4 holes. On 6 I hit my second shot into the water and ended up with double bogey. So much for that game. On 7 I hit the green in regulation and 2 putted for a par. Same thing for 8. OK, I got the two pars, but now I need to get a 3rd par to make up for the double on 6. Sure enough, my third shot hit the green and I 2 putted for a third consecutive par and a final score of 88. Yeah!

I lost 4 balls during my "unfocused" holes but on the rest of them I was making good shots from the from tee to green, so I was pretty happy with today's round. The TA5s were a nice change of pace, I may try them again next week just to see how it goes. When it is wet on the course -- like it will be for the next 8 months -- having a more forgiving set of irons should be helpful.

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Score: 88 (13.868 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 6 - much better than last week's 0!
Fairways: 5/14 - terrible
Interesting stat: 4 more penalty strokes than last week, but a slightly better score. If I hadn't been wild off the tee on the "unfocused" holes, it could have been a great day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Red Sox Win The World Series!

Kick ass!!

Clearly this is a monumental event. The moon even disappeared for the last half of the game!

So now a Massachusetts team has won the Super Bowl and the World Series this year. Let's see. What other major event could a team from Massachusetts win this year...

The Red Sox victory causes a lunar eclipse!

Monday, October 25, 2004

380 tons -- that's a lot right?

OK, so according to the IAEA, 380 tons of explosives are missing from an Iraqi military facility. I'm pretty sure that is a lot. Let's see -- 2000 pounds in one ton -- that's 760,000 pounds of explosives. This isn't the box of dynamite that goes missing when some guy wants to dig up his back yard. Moving 380 tons of explosives requires -- a coordinated effort. Removing it from a facility that the US has known about for many years and was one of the places that the weapons inspectors visited time and time again -- man it must have taken thousands of people to get through all of that security.

unless -- it was unguarded.

But that couldn't be the case right? I mean we went there to keep terrorists from getting the weapons of mass destruction. This is the exact kind of thing that we would keep a close eye on, right?

Oh... wait... There's a loophole here. Do you see it? See our goal was to keep them from getting weapons of mass destruction but we didn't say anything about massive weapons of destruction. Do you see the difference?


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Live Diamond Cam!

Hey, this is cool. During the World Series, you can watch the Fox Diamond Cam live on the web.

Sometimes Technology Sucks

I am my own IT (Information Technology) manager at home. I don't like that job, but it is my own fault for setting up a network requiring 3 servers for various services (mail, DNS, web hosting, file serving, home automation, media server, blah, blah...) and a number of client machines and devices strewn around the house. As time goes by, the list of things I need to deal with gets so long that I need to take a weekend to fix as many of the issues as possible.

This was one of those weekends.

My DNS/Web/Mail server was running extraordinarily slow (15 minutes to boot). (WHY?)
Mail server didn't automatically start up when the server rebooted. (WHY?)
Desktop machine didn't have enough memory to edit lots of photos (easy to fix)
Media Center PC needed an OS update to the latest version (Ugh!)
My iPod wouldn't charge when connected to my PC (on the contrary, it would drain the battery quickly) (Why?)

Earlier this week I needed to repair the OS after my hard drive got corrupted (this is after that same machine was gone for 2 weeks because it stopped being able to charge its battery).

So I went to Fry's yesterday and ComputerStop today to get miscellaneous parts, spent hours last night rebuilding the server, and more hours this afternoon doing a complete reinstall of the server (it turns out the perf problem was the hard drive) then reconfiguring all of the services on the machine. Of course, it didn't go flawlessly. My ethernet port on the server is unable to connect to anything when it has a static IP address (WHY?) Mail server wouldn't start up (WHY?) There is a scripting error on one of my web sites but it doesn't show the right error messages (WHY?)

Anyway, most of these problems are either fixed, or worked around for now. Now it is time for some baseball and the Glenlivet.

Another first? Golf @ Plateau

I played at the Plateau Club with Paul today. It was a good round, puncuated by a remarkable statistic. Zero penalties/lost balls. None. Finished the 18 holes with the same balls that I started with. I don't think that has ever happened before. It helped that I hit 11 of 14 fairways. And even though my irons weren't doing great, they were at least pretty straight -- just a bit chunky from time to time. Unfortuately this led to the bad statistic of the day, zero greens in regulation. I was able to scramble pretty well and came away with 5 pars but no GIRs.

After a surprising par on 13 (thanks to a long one putt) I decided that I wanted to make 2 more pars before I finished. I made another long putt on 14 and was halfway there. Then on 15 I missed the par putt by about 5 inches. On 16 I hit a great tee shot and second shot and again missed the par putt by inches. On the par 5 17th I had a great tee shot to the middle of the fairway, then I nailed my 3 iron to about 67 yards. I had hit this <70 yard shot three or four times today so I thought I had it. I hit the wedge, it was perfectly on line, but it was a few yards too long and bounced off the back of the raised green. DANG! Just missed the par putt again. On 18 I had a great drive, but my second shot ended up in the bunker just short of the green. Bogey again. Didn't quite hit the goal, but I was glad to be putting for par on all of those holes. If I clean up those iron shots, it will clearly make a big difference.

Duffergeek Stat Zone:
Score: 89 (14.724 round rating)
Putts: 32
GIRs: 0 -- ZERO! This was the yucky part
Fairways: 11/14
Interesting stat: Zero penalty strokes!

Friday, October 22, 2004

From the buy high, sell low department...

I bought some shares of Google today. I meant to do it a while ago but it seemed a bit over priced. Then it went up 70%, so now seems like the perfect time to get in.

So if you own Google, now is probably the time to sell...

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Go Red Sox!!

I started watching the playoffs in the 5th inning of game 4. I figured I would watch it all end that game and grumble about the Red Sox blowing it again. Then something happened that was quite unexpected. It turned into a real game. A good game! I drove home listening to the 11th inning on my XM radio and then watched them win it in the 12th. Cool!

Then I was hooked. For the next 3 nights, I drove home listening to the game on XM and then watching them somehow pull it out. Man, that was fun! I love an underdog story, but it is much better when it is the Sox beating the Yankees!

Now I have to watch all of the World Series games.

I was hoping that the Astros would make it into the World Series as well, then it would be a big metaphor for the presidential election. That means, of course, that the Cardinals will win game 7 tonight.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Jon Stewart Shakes it up

Leslie said it best -- Jon Stewart is my hero.

Here's what he did: - Choose or Lose - Headlines

and here's the transcript:

And the actual video clip:

Jon Stewart's Brutal Exchange with CNN Host

Unexplained goodness - Golf @ Plateau

Tony, Paul, Rick and I headed out for a very wet round at the Plateau Club today. I haven't played with Tony for a while and since he used to be a member there, it was fun to get him back out on the evil track of lost balls we call the Plateau Club.

But today was different for me.

I started out at the range and couldn't hit anything very well. When we headed to the first tee, though, after taking advantage of a flexible "start of round" ruling, I had a nice tee shot to the left half of the fairway, followed by a three wood across the junk to the fairway and a wedge onto the green. Whoa. Two putts later, I was off and running at even par. On the second hole, I had a good tee shot to about 150 yards. Lately, I have not been getting my normal distance off of my irons, and with the rain I figured that I should take an extra club to make sure I got to the green. I nailed the 6 iron and it flew past the green and up onto the hill behind the green. Huh? I was making really good contact and getting good distance even in the yucky weather. Neat! I got out of 2 with a bogey. The rest of the front 9 was pretty consistent. If I hit a bad shot (like the crappy little dribbler on 5, I would make up for it in a later shot. Putting, in particular, was really working for me today and I turned a lot of potential double bogeys into singles on the front 9 finshing with a 45 - perfect bogey golf and right on my handicap at the Plat.

Side note: I have a nice Gortex jacket that keeps me warm and dry when we play in the rain, but I have found it is really hard for me to do a full swing when I am wearing it, so for the first 9 holes I kept taking off my jacket in the pouring rain for each full shot, then putting it back on after the shot. What a pain! At the turn I stopped by the pro shop and picked up a short sleave rain shirt and that made it much easier for the second half of the day.

On the back 9, things started to click.I had a great approach shot on 11 from about 170 yards which stopped about 9 feet from the pin and I made par there. Same thing on 13. Even when I had some really bad shots on 14 and 16, I was still able to come away with double bogey and offset it on the next hole with a par.

So I came to 18 at 15 over. Now 18 is where many good scores have gone awry and today looked like it would follow that pattern. I pulled my 3 wood into the trees and while it is possible for it to get through if it misses all of the trees, I heard a couple of "click"s as it went through. I figured I would go look and see if I was lucky enough to make it through. Sure enough, the ball made it through and was sitting in the fairway with only 150 yards to the pin. I got a bit distracted with Amsterdam stories and messed up my approach shot but my next wedge flew between a couple of branches and landed softly 10 feet from the hole. As it had happened earlier in the day, the putt rolled true and while it tried to lip out, it ended up falling backwards into the hole for back to back closing pars and a total score of 87. This is my second best score from the golds at the Plat. Despite the weather, I was feeling pretty relaxed all day long and that paid off. Having only 30 putts and one penalty helped a lot as well.

Duffergeek Stat Zone: (Oooh! New Feature!)
Score: 87 (13.012 round rating)
Putts: 30
GIRs: 4
Fairways: 8/14
Interesting stat: 75% GIRs on par 5s. Just missed the one on 9 by about 2 feet.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Spam Victim

Some moron sent out a crapload of spam with my work email as the return address so he didn't have to deal with the bounces. I've gotten about 3500 bounce mails so far today and they are still coming in.

Just for that, I'm not going to go visit his website.

Update - 10/12/04 8:45 am. Now up to 6500 bounce mails. There should be a special place in hell for these people.

Update - 10/13/04 6:45 am. 9000. Thank God for filters.

Update - 10/14/04 4:30 pm. 11,100. It is kinda slowing down...

Saturday, October 09, 2004

It's a Sa-Holiday -- Golf @ Sahalee

Sahalee Country Club was the site of the 1998 PGA Championship tournament and the NEC World Golf Championship in 2002. It will host the 2010 PGA Championship. It is also practically in my backyard. Given this, it is odd that even though I have lived here for over four years, I had never played there until today. Alex's friend Kat (who is now Paul's and my friend as well) arranged for us to play with a co-worker of hers who is a member and past president of Sahalee. Today was that round and it was a lot of fun.

Now I've played Sahalee many times before if you count the Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 video game on XBox. In fact, I played it this morning and shot a 63 so it was a bit of a shock to play it for real and not be able to hit the ball 380 yards like I can on the XBox. This certainly had some impact on my score. In fact, I have a whole list of excuses why my score would not be so great today in "real" golf:
1) It was raining
2) I haven't played for 3 weeks
3) I was on planes for 12 hours this week and I'm stiff and sore
4) It's a new course that I don't know that well (unless I have an XBox controller in hand)
5) I'm a whiny golfer and my shoulder was tight
6) I don't like playing in my rain jacket
7) George W. Bush. Not sure why, but I'm sure it is at least part his fault

Paul and I warmed up a bit at the Plat before heading over to Sahalee. We then met Bob and had lunch and then warmed up some more. The course, the clubhouse, the practice facility are all top notch. It is a beautiful course in excellent condition and it really was a joy to play. That said, I had a ton of double bogeys today. Many of them were because my driver was consistently right for the front 9 and my irons were a bit chunky. I was mister 2 putt though and my chipping was not bad. My overall score was 99 which included only 1 par (on 18), hitting 2 GIRs and only 5 fairways. Yuck.

The fun part, though, was that even playing like I was today, I did not lose balls. When I hit a bad shot, I would find the ball, just in the trees somewhere and I would need some sort of interesting recovery shot to get back into the fairway. That is much more fun than just having to drop a new ball. On the 4 holes where I needed to hit a provisional, I always found my ball and didn't need the provisional. In fact, the only time I lost a ball was when I hit a fat tee shot into the water on 17. If I had played like I did today at the Plateau, I would have lost at least 2 sleeves of balls and scored much worse with the penalty shots. The good news is that I know I can do a lot better at that course. It is extremely fair and if I just had a better game off the tee today, I would probably have shot something closer to 89.

Paul, on the other hand, was on fire today. 3 double bogeys, 1 bogey and 14 pars for a 79. He had a great day.

The net is that it is an excellent course in fantastic condition and I am looking forward to playing there again at some point. Hopefully soon :)

The Mosel Valley tour

A panoramic view of the Mosel River at Cochem from the Castle Reichsburg.

Castle Reichsburg through the grape vines.

The town of Alken, Germany and the castle on the hill.

The vineyards climb the hills behind the town of Alken.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Germany Pictures

This is the cathedral (dom) in Cologne. It has been around since the 12th century and unlike the rest of the city, it survived World War II.

The Mouse Tower in Bingen.

An old castle just across the Rhein from the Mouse Tower

The town of Bacharach

Amsterdam Pictures

There are 750,000 bicycles in Amsterdam for 1 million people. 3000 bikes are stolen every day.

Boats along the canals. They say the canals are three meters deep. One meter of crap, one meter of bicycles and one meter of water.

Apparently, you need a sign for this. Since it is the only sign like this we saw, I'm assuming the rest of the city is fair game.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Best Disney Ever!

While we were walking around the various towns along the Rhein and Mosel rivers in Germany one thought kept occuring to us. This is the best Disney ever! Everything looks so authentic, yet we never saw the cast member signs or anything that was obviously animatronic. The food was so much better than the usual Disney park restaurants and no matter how far we walked, I never could see Spaceship Earth.

In general, everyone kept to their accents and nearly everyone spoke German. The buildings were huge and didn't display the forced perspective that you usually see at Disney theme parks.

I don't know how they made the rivers appear so long! It seems like we drove for miles and miles and we would occasionally see the same boats but the scenery always was new. Truly a feat of imagineering excellence!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The last 24 hours

This is Boppard, Germany - the last pit stop on our whirlwind tour of Germany and it was here that our remaining three teams spent the last twelve hours resting and socializing before the final leg of the Amazing Photokina.

Each of the teams was up by 6:15 am local time. Team Rick was the first to leave at 6:55 am because they chose to skip hotel breakfast and get an early start.

Team Duffergeek was the next to leave at 7:30, followed closely by Team Tomasz in the giant van. Due to space constraints, Team Duffergeek needed to transport two of their suitcases in the Team Tomasz 'swat van'.

Team Duffergeek headed off north, missing the turn to the highway but based on previous explorations knew that the more scenic route was just as fast. After a few kilometers, they turned west and headed across the countryside to meet up with highway 61. Once on 61, the fun of Germany highway driving really took effect. Averaging in the 160 to 170 kph range Team Duffergeek was in the zone and the Mercedes wagon was happily humming along. Through some excellent navigation and a series of accidental optimizations, Team Duffergeek was able to avoid much of the traffic that slowed the other teams.

Team Duffergeek arrived at the airport only about 3 minutes behind Team Rick and could have made a beeline to the finish line at the gate, but they needed to wait for Team Tomasz to get to the airport and collect their bags. An unfortunate yielding that could spell doom to TD's chances of winning. Team Tomasz rolled in about 15 minutes later and the Team Duffergeek contingent was off and running for the airport.

They checked their bags just behind Team Rick and headed for the gate. Team Rick chose this opportunity to eat breakfast, leaving the perfect opening for Team Duffergeek to race to the gate and the championship!

It's a good thing we defined the finish line as the gate -- and that we didn't tell anyone else we were racing.

The flights that followed were long, though uneventful. The flight from Dusseldorf to Copenhagen was on a turbo prop and the vibrations made my seat feel kind of like an iJoy. My iPod slid across my iTrayTable from the vibrarions, dancing to it's own rhythms.

When we got to Copenhagen, everyone had their own seats on the flight back to Seattle, except for the Poo. He had to wait for a seat assignment while the rest of us got through to the gate. Still no sign of the Poo as we boarded the plane. I did see the other Davids who were in Economy Plus get bumped up to business class but it wasn't until after we had taken off that Lara and I headed up to see if the Poo had also been afforded such luxury due to his name also being David. Sure enough, there they all were, looking quite content with their business class socks on.

Throughout the flight they would occasionally come back to the slums and visit (and gloat). We did guilt them into bringing us back a couple of cookies. The rest of us in cattle class would meet in "The Spa" between movies. The Spa was the back galley of the plane -- part of the floor next to the emergency exit was very warm and just a few steps away it was much cooler, so we would take turns warming and cooling our feet while chatting. It sure beat sitting in the chairs for 10 hours.

We arrived back to Seattle a bit behind schedule, did the Seattle Internations luggage dance (pick it up at baggage claim #1, walk it through a door, put it back on a conveyor belt, go to baggage claim #2 and claim it again) and headed our separate ways.

12 days
4 countries
tens of thousands of pictures
hundreds of beers
one Amazing Photokina.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Boppard, Bacharach and Bingen - Eurotrip 2004

A bunch of us took a couple of days after the end of Photokina to drive around the Rhein valley area of Germany and take a bunch of pictures. There were actually 12 of us and we rented 3 cars and split into groups of 4. We left Cologne on Monday and headed down to Boppard, a small town on the Rhein river just south of Koblenz. Once we all checked in to the hotel, we had lunch together to figure out where we would go next. We decided that each car would head off in their own direction because each group was looking for something a little different.

David (the Poo), Rob and Lara were in my car and we decided to drive down along the Rhein to the town of Bingen because we read about a tower called the Mouse Tower. Apparently, many years ago the archbishop of Mayence, who was a pretty evil guy, escaped to this tower and was there devoured alive by mice.

Along the way, we saw many castles and at first we would stop and take pictures of each one. After about 10 or so, it started to lose its novelty and we would just call out "castle!" whenever we saw one. We made it down to Bingen and found the Mouse Tower and we took many pictures of it. The sun was getting ready to set so we waited a while to see if the light got better but it never really did. Across from the Mouse Tower is a large vineyard growing Reisling grapes. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures of that as well.

On our way back, we took a random turn towards the town of Bacharach. No idea why we decided to turn here, but we were glad we did. Bacharach is a beautiful little town with lots of little alleys and walkways that go to interesting shops and restaurants. Up on the hill above a church is the ruins of the Werner chapel (Wernerkapelle) and the town is also surrounded by vineyards. We found a little restaurant along a raised walk that seemed to be hidden down a back alley. I have no idea how one would ordinarily find this place but it looked pretty good and we could sit outside and watch the river (and trains) go by so we gave it a try. We ordered 4 dishes and passed them around. The highlight was a wild boar dish that was fantastic, though the pork chop with bacon was also really good. The only dish that was so-so was the salmon and that is probably because we are pretty used to good salmon in Seattle.

We walked around a bit more after dinner, with Rob trying to take some night shots of the town square, then we headed back up to Boppard for the night.

On Tuesday, we decided to drive down along the Mosel river. Again there were many cute small towns and vineyards where we stopped to take pictures. One of the highlights was lunch in Klotten. There was an Italian Restaurant called Pizzeria de Giovanni mentioned on a sign and since that sounded pretty good, we headed that way. The pizza was really good -- authentic Italian pizza like I had in Rome a couple of years ago. The best part, though, was the fly. David ordered a latte and when he finished it, a fly landed on the edge of the cup and started drinking. Shortly afterwards, it started running around the edge of the cup really quickly. The caffeine was kicking in. Then it just sat there drinking more foam. We even moved the cup around to get a better picture of the fly but it would not leave the foam alone. Giovanni came by and shooed the fly away and at that point it started landing on us and not wanting to fly away. I'm pretty sure it knew we were from Washington and it was asking us to take him home with us so he could go hang out at the numerous coffee shops in Seattle. He was really quite insistant but alas we left him behind and headed south towards Cochem.

Cochem is somewhat larger than Klotten. The main thing that made us stop there was the Reichsburg castle high on the hill above the city. The castle was built in the twelfth century and was blown up in the 17th century but was rebuilt from the original plans in the 19th century and is now owned by the city of Cochem. We walked up the back way to the castle, past more vineyards and up to the castle gate. We took the tour, which was in German though they gave us a sheet of paper in English which explained pretty much what the tour guide would say about each room. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures including panoramas of the Mosel river from the castle itself.

After the tour, we walked around the town for a while and did a bit of shopping. While we seriously considered heading over to Belgium for dinner and dessert in Luxembourg, we instead headed back up to Boppard where the groups all met for dinner and relayed stories of our trips.

This kind of trip is the best way to see Germany. We could go where we wanted to on our own schedule and there are so many interesting things to photograph. I could definitely see doing a much longer trip like this in the future, perhaps heading further south to Munich and into Switzerland. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around and to communicate with people even though we had heard it was harder to find English speakers outside of the big cities. The fact is, though, that we could figure enough German out to order food and go shopping and the roads and towns are well enough marked that it wasn't hard to figure out where we were.

This was definitely a highlight of the Photokina trip. I wonder where we'll go in 2006 :)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Driving in Germany

I picked up a rental car in Germany yesterday for our fototour-2004. About 12 of us are taking 2 extra days here to drive down the Rhein valley and take pictures of the people, countryside and castles.

Renting a car in Germany is different than what I am used to. It took a while to find the Avis office since it is tucked away in the train station but once we found it, signing up for the car was no problem. We rented 3 cars so there were 3 of us picking them up. The guy at the counter said "ok, let's go find your cars." We walked out of the train station and walked a block down the street. He handed me a key and said, "Your car is down this street and around the bend, it is at a gas station. The next car is down a different street, then left and then another block or so. The third car is about two blocks that way. Good luck!" and he left.


It turns out that he was right and I found my Mercedes station wagon waiting for me (nice car!). I unlocked the door, plugged in the keyless key and started it up. Then I stepped on the gas and was driving in Germany. Now the roads here are crazy. They don't go straight but they are often one way, it is kind of like driving in Boston, only with all of the signs in German. I was trying to get back to my hotel which on a map looks like you take a right and then a left and you're on a bridge. Here, though, I needed to take two lefts and then two rights to get on the bridge. I did the first 3 steps correctly but took the first right instead of the second one and ended up going the wrong direction. Oh no! I'm lost! The street is one way, there are no left turns, I can't even see where the traffic that wanted to go in the other direction is.

When you are going the wrong direction, the signs don't ever mention where you want to go. After a little way, I found a left turn light and then I made another left and started to see signs with the word brücke which means bridge. OOOooo... good sign! I eventually wound my way over to the correct bridge going in the right direction and I did a little celebratory dance in the car. From that point on, it was no problem getting back to the hotel.

Today we head out on our journey. Should be interesting. :)


Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mt St Helens go boom?

Mt. St. Helens has started erupting again, and I am on the wrong continent to follow it, but the forestry service has a webcam at the Johnson Ridge Observatory that let's you see the latest pictures from the volcano.

I went to the Johnson Ridge Observatory with Kate's class a couple of years ago. It is one of those places that gives you a sense of the power of the volcano. One of the rangers pointed out a discolored piece of rock on a hillside about 8 miles from the volcano. He said that the discoloration was actually a large piece of the top of Mt St Helens which was blasted all the way over there during the 1980 eruption.

Johnson Ridge is definitely a great place to visit -- but not today.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


Some of us had a free day on Friday so we took the train to Amsterdam to see what it was like. Some other people from our group had been the day before and regaled us with their adventures at some of Amsterdam's more 'scenic' locations. Eric said that while they all brought their passports, they had never needed to show them so we might not even need to bring them.

So five of us headed out early on Friday morning on the express train to Amsterdam which took about 2.5 hours to get there. About 1/2 way along the trip, the passport control officers came through the train asking for our passports. I had figured that I should bring mine in case of emergency, so did Lara and David (the poo) but Jordan and David (skippy) didn't bring theirs. The look of panic on their face was priceless. We showed them our passports, Jordan explained that he didn't have his but he showed them his drivers license which seemed to be ok but David, had absolutely no photo id on him at all. After a minute or so of us vouching for him, they gave up and continued on. I also brought up that the EU website mentions that you don't need a passport to go between EU countries but logic would state that you would have some sort of photo id in this day and age...

Since Eric had mentioned that we didn't need passports, we decided to let him know what was going on, but have a little fun with it as well since he had kept us informed with the progress of his trip to Amsterdam the day before via SMS. The following was the SMS conversation that ensued:

Me: Ugh! They made us show passports in Holland. Jordan and Skippy didn't have theirs. Do you have the number for the consulate?
Eric: are you serious or joking?
Me: Yup. Passport thing real I was both serious and joking -- the passport part was real
Eric: Us embassy #020 575 5309
Eric: How can I help. And who is skippy? Are they getting sent back?
Me: Crisis averted. Arriving in Amsterdam

Later, I sent the following messages to Eric as a status update on what we had seen.
Van Gogh... yup
Pigeons... yup
Lots o' bikes... yup
Being serenaded... yup

So we got to Amsterdam and started to walk around. Wow, what an amazing city for taking pictures! Open squares, small alleys with tons of character (and characters), canals, museums, hundreds of thousands of bicycles... and that doesn't even include the more "unusual" aspects of the city. It seemed like there was a cool picture to take around every corner. I'm still working through all of the pictures I took but I'll post some later.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Do I look German?

On the first day of the Photokina tradeshow in Germany I was working in our booth showing off the editing features of Digital Image Pro. Now, at a tradeshow in Germany you get a lot of German speaking people (weird, huh?) so there was also a person at the booth with me from one of our international groups who spoke German. As the crowds began to grow, people would continously come up to me and start talking to me in German. This happened all day and while I would say that perhaps it isn't that strange given my location, it started to get more common at places outside of the show.

After the second night we took a tram to a restaurant in a different part of town. There are about 8 people from our group on the train and only a few other people. After a pretty short trip, a woman who appears to work for the train system gets on the train, looks straight at me and begins saying something that sounds pretty official. I have no clue what it is and as she leaves we all look around to see what other people do. One person gets off the train but everyone else stays seated. Odd.... Why did she look at me as she said this and not the rest of our group? We press on. When the train gets to the next stop it stops. And the sudden lack of engine noise kinda indicates it isn't going to start anytime soon. This must have been what she was trying to tell us about though I still don't know what she said.

After a minute or so, the train driver comes out and is about to get off -- bad sign ;) We ask him what is going on and he says that the train can't continue because there is a cathedral across the bridge that is broken. Huh? How do you break a cathedral? We get off the train and start walking towards our destination. Sure enough, we come to an intersection with a lot of emergency and constuction vehicles and a church tower that is distinctly leaning towards the road. We, of course, walked around that and eventually found our restaurant but the "Leaning Tower of Cologne" was on the front page of the newspapers the next day.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Photokina in Köln

I am in Germany this week at the Photokina conference in Cologne (Köln). This is my first trip to Germany and it is very cool. About 12 people on my team flew from Seattle through Copenhagen to Düsseldorf and then took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel.

The only remarkable moment on the trip here happened when I was just starting to get to sleep on the flight from Seattle to Copenhagen. My seat was right next to one of the lavatories so it was really noisy each time someone would use the facility. I had just dozed off when something whacked me on the head. I looked over a bit groggily and saw a woman sitting on the floor in the aisle next to me looking a bit out of it. I asked if she was OK and she said "no, I don't think so" and then proceeded to lie down in the aisle. I tried to press my call button, but it was broken. At that point, Dave (who was lucky enough to get Economy PLUS seat on this flight) comes out of the lavatory right next to us and sees the woman on the ground. He looks at me and then steps over her and heads back to his seat. I guess having someone lying in the middle of the aisle on the plane isn't that unusual for some people. As I am about to get up to go find a flight attendant, the woman says "Oh, wait a minute" and crawls into one of the other lavatories and I don't hear from her again. Weird.

I didn't get much more sleep after that due to the fact that I was sitting next to a pretty big guy and we spent most of the flight trying to negotiate space usage between us -- without ever actually speaking.

When we got to Copenhagen, we walked through passport control (new stamp!) and then had to walk through a big mall to get to a different terminal of the airport. Most signs in the airport were in multiple languages and of course, I was pretty tired but it was interesting to think about my perceptions as I walked through the airport. Part of the time, I would be completely unable to read anything and it was like I was in a dream where you can see the writing but you can't figure out what it says. At other times, the nearby English translation would get processed before I even really thought about it and it was like there was nothing strange about it at all. This continued into Germany where many of the words are either the same, or clearly related so it isn't that hard to get by.

David (no, not Dave, on of the other Davids on our trip -- there are 4 -- let's call this one little David) mentioned as we were walking through that mall area that sometimes you hear a group of people in a mall back at home speaking a foreign language, and this time, we were that group. That made it much cooler :) It is definitely a lot easier to travel in a foreign country when you are with a bunch of people who speak your language.

More on the trip throughout the week due to the fact that this hotel has a broadband internet connection. YAY!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Apparently, my career is about to sizzle!

According to Yahoo my career is ready to sizzle. In actuality, it is just more famous people talking about how gorgeous and buff I am.

I have to admit, though, that it has always been my dream to play the Human Torch and I am thrilled and honored to finally have that opportunity.

They did get one thing wrong though -- I'm not single. Silly tabloids. :)

¿Dónde están los irons?- Golf @ Plateau

After getting home really late from the Glow Ball event last night, Rick, Paul and I moved our tee time from 7:18 to 1:00. Dave was planning on joining us and I sent him email last night about the change but apparently he didn't get it since he showed up 6 hours before we did (Sorry Dave!)

In general, my driving continued to be good, as was my short game but my mid irons decided to take a vacation. We started on the back 9 and after a par on 10 and two great shots on 11, I was sitting 150 yards from the pin. I took my 7 iron and figured I had this shot locked when I pushed it off to the right and into the woods. Huh? The same kind of thing happened with my tee shots on 15 and 7 (both par 3s). I just couldn't make good contact with my 5-7 irons. Short irons -- no problem. Rescue and fairway woods -- rockin'. Putting wasn't even that bad.

The other thing that really got me was penalty strokes. I had five of them. I think a bunch of that is just the Plateau Club. I am getting tired of hitting slightly off tee shots and just losing the ball altogether. Sure, I should just hit it straight but that just ain't gonna happen :)

Next week - Sahalee!

It's dark, it's raining, I'm drinking -- and we're playing golf - Glowball @ The Plateau Club

Rick, Paul and I were joined by our wives last night for the Plateau Club "glow ball" event. This is where we play an alternating shot scramble at night with glow in the dark balls. Sounds like fun! Just to make it more challenging, though, we started drinking at dinner just before the event and then -- on the third hole, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain. We were at 2 over after 4 holes when it started to back up. Standing around and waiting in the rain in the middle of the night sucks, so we bagged it and walked back to the clubhouse but it was actually quite fun.

They had said there would be "plenty" of glow balls but it was not long before the Plateau took it's ball tax and we were down to just 2 balls. When we are supposed to be hitting 3 balls for each shot, that makes it a little more difficult. Fortunately, one of us would usually top a shot and we could retrieve it pretty easily. It is amazing, though, how playing in the dark was not as bad as I though it would be. I had several very good 3 wood shots, my irons were a bit tougher but when you can't see how the clubface is aligned, it is harder to hit it straight. Rick's putting was on in the dark. He has been complaining about not being able to read greens and when he couldn't read them at all due to darkness, he made a lot more putts, including our birdie putt on 2.

If it hadn't been pouring rain, and if we had had enough balls to just play, this would have been a great event. As it was, we had fun and it was certainly memorable! Now I need to go and play the same course in the daylight. Perhaps I'll just close my eyes....

Monday, September 06, 2004

1.88 Rounds - Golf @ Plateau and Bear Creek

So it's Labor Day and my intention was to both sleep in, and play a bunch of golf. Paul had us scheduled for a 7 am round at the Plateau but given that it was the morning after our Luau, I wanted a chance to sleep in a bit so Paul rescheduled the tee time for about 8 am. (whoo! that's some good sleepin'!) Dave had us scheduled for a second round at 1:00 at Bear Creek. 4 hour round at plat - drive to Bear Creek - no problem.

I showed up at the course and I am definitely still feeling the effect of four of Alex's particularly potent Mai Tais from the night before. I'm playing OK, not great, but not horrible. The round, though, is going slowly. Not insanely slow but enough that it is starting to look like I won't be able to make it through 18 and make it to Bear Creek in time. For some reason, I kept ending up on the edge of bunkers. Not in them, but close enough that I have really weird shots to make. Then, on 11, my phone dies. While up to this point, the battery indicator has been saying it was full, it was clearly confused because it was completely dead. And this is a "smart" phone.... So now I've lost track of my score, it was heading towards a 93 or so but by the time we got to 17, I had also lost track of enough balls and the hour was getting late -- so I bailed :)

I drove over to Bear Creek and got there just in time for us to head out to the first tee with Dave, Clint and Kevin. No warm up, but I had just finished playing 16 holes so I should be ok. Almost. I figured I would try to play with the Titleist Pro V1 balls they had given us at the Plateau Club member/guest. No way was I going to pull these puppies out at the Plat. Tee it up and BAM -- a nice slice well right of the fairway. Ick! Stuck behind a tree, I try a low hook to get out from under the trees but back in the fairway. It does what it's supposed to do, but way too much and hooks across the fairway into nothingness and is gone. Fluff a pitch shot. Twice. End up with an 8 on the first hole. OK -- maybe I don't like Pro V1s.

I return to my old Nike Super Flys and the round immediately starts to get better. a couple of pars and a birdie on the 8th hole and even with the 8 on the first hole, I shoot 45 on the front 9 - Even par for a bogie golfer. The back nine starts off with 2 double bogies but then on 12, a reachable par 5, I hit a great drive into what Dave calls "the go zone" and pull my 3 wood to see if I can hit the green in 2 but I hit it waaay fat and it only goes about 20 yards. Oops ;) My next shot with the same club is great though and it is just left of the green and just past the hole proving that if I had hit it correctly, I COULD have made the green in 2. I chipped it to a couple of feet and made the putt for a par. I also parred the next hole - a cool downhill par 3 that Dave said is always a 9 iron. I've always used a 9 iron before and I've always been short so this time, I took an 8 iron and was pin high about 10 feet left.

The rest of the round was all bogies for another 45 and an overall 90 for the round which is 4 strokes better than any other round there. I liked 18 where Clint was trying to catch me (he was 3 strokes behind) and I pulled my drive so it was just under a tree. I backed into the tree with a 6 iron and punched it back to the fairway, hit a good 3 wood, then hit the green and 2 putted for a bogie. Clint got a par, but I still beat him by a couple of strokes - of course, he had a couple of very strong Tequila shots while we were playing which might have affected his score :)

The best part of the day was my tee shots (not counting 1). My swing plane was consistent and noticeably better than a few weeks ago and the result was much better driving. That was good to see. The Ignite continues to be my driver of choice though an encounter with the Nike rep at a demo day earlier made me start to wonder if I should not only have a stiffer shaft, but also a less lofted head as well. Perhaps I should just try the 9.5° version with the NV65 stiff shaft and see how that works for a while. Hmm......

Sunday, August 29, 2004

AirTunes - Ca Ca?

Apple has a new device that operates both as a WiFi base station and as remote speakers for iTunes. Now, I don't need another WiFi base station. Particularly one from Apple since I have already had 3 Airports die on me and have vowed to not rely on them for my wireless network, but the ability to remote my iTunes playback to speakers built into my house sounded great to me so I figured I would try it out.

I bought the Airport Express at the same time that I bought my iPod. After I had the iPod up and running I gave the Airport Express a try. I installed the requred software on my PC, unwrapped it from about 10 layers of SaranWrap&tm; like plastic, hooked it into my wired network and plugged it in. I launched the Airport Express Assistant and it brought up a dialog saying that Windows is not allowed to manage wireless networks on this computer. Huh? Just not true, but perhaps it was because this PC doesn't have a wireless card. I tried it on my laptop though and it gave me the same warning. It turns out that the dialog doesn't matter, though, because if I kept clicking through the wizard (er... assistant) it did show me the Airport Express but when I tried to have it join my local wireless network, it couldn't find it. Dead end.

I then tried the Airport Admin Utility which did let me configure it so I set the correct network name, gave it the 128 bit WEP key and turned on Airtunes. Then I told it to save the setting and that was the last I saw of that device. From that point, it would not show up in any config utilities that Apple provided, it didn't have an IP address and even if I tried to do a hard reset on it, it never showed up again. Dead. Make that 4 dead Airport devices.

I took it back to the Apple store yesterday and got a new one. After waiting 20 minutes to talk to someone at the Genius Bar, they looked at it for a couple of minutes only to confirm that it was indeed dead. They gave me a new one and I went home. Followed the same steps. It once again disappeared from the radar, but this time it did respond to a hard reset. I tried a bunch of different options but every time I gave it my wireless network name, it just died trying to connect and since it ignored it's ethernet port once wireless was configured, there was no way to talk to it without a hard reset which threw out all settings.

It turns out, though, that I could try to get the AirTunes part working on a wired connection so I turned that option on and plugged the device into a nice power amp that was powering the speakers for my Media Center PC. The result was a very loud hum that would not go away. It wasn't the cable. Perhaps it was because the Airport Express was so close to the power outlet (since it doesn't have a separate power cable, the unit plugs directly into the outlet) but it was completely unacceptable. The pair of speakers did show up in iTunes but even when I tried to play music through it, with the hum and all, I never actually heard music. iTunes was smart enough to know when an audio cable was plugged in but not smart enough to actually make music come out.

While I assume there is a way to disable the wireless networking features of the Airport Express without locking it up, I was not able to find it so even if this wired solution had worked, I would have either had a non-secured wireless access point to my net, or I would have had 2 networks, both secured differently. No thanks.

I returned it to the Apple store. The sales guy suggested I get rid of my current wireless network and replace it with the Airport Express. Yeah, like that's going to happen given that this appears to be my fifth Airport with hardware problems.

So as far as I can tell, with the Airport Express:
1) You can't join it to an existing wireless network with a WEP key
2) It must be a base station, even if you already have one and don't need that part
3) It is unusably noisy (the Apple sales guy says it works fine for him so maybe it is just a coincidence that both units I had were seriously flawed)


Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Second Return of the Ignite - Golf @ Plateau Club

Paul and I went for an early round at the Plateau Club this morning. I thought it would be interesting to try the Ignite driver again. I had put away the Ignite before my trip to Hawaii because the Taylor Made R580 was giving me better results, I figured it was because of the stiff shaft. Over the past couple of months, though, I have been developing a more consistent swing with my driver -- more smooth than before and working on keeping the plane less upright and my arm straighter. So I figured I would see how this updated swing works with the Ignite. The answer is that for today at least, it works great!

I hit 9 of 14 fairways and two of the misses were just off in the first cut. My approach shots were even pretty good today, my 5 wood in particular was rockin'. On 3, I tee'd off with my 4 iron and had about 190 into the green. I hit my 5 wood and the ball rolled to about 6 feet just left of the hole. It was the first of 4 putts for birdie I had today and while each of them still took 2 putts to sink, that is 4 pars from GIRs. A strong improvement. In fact, if I hadn't started off with 2 double bogeys (and finished with 2 doubles in the last 3 holes) it would have been a stellar round. As it is, I had an 89 which is one of my best rounds from the golds.

I think the most interesting moment of the day occurred on 5 when Paul and I both hit good drives to the fairway and as we were walking up to the balls, a young coyote comes out of the woods and starts eyeing us suspiciously. As we keep walking towards it, he walks over to Paul's ball and picks it up and starts to walk off. We both start whooping at it and that scares it enough to drop the ball and then walk back to the edge of the woods. Now if he was heading towards the hole, perhaps we would have let him get a bit closer before making him drop the ball. :) As it is, the coyote spit must have been pretty lucky as Paul hit the shot to the green and then drained a long putt for a birdie. This hole was another of my GIR pars so we were none the worse for wear on this hole.

This is the second round where we were just not that worried about the score and so it was nice and relaxed. Perhaps the fact that we were playing pretty well made that easier, but it was a good fun round.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Where's the Ark? Golf @ Plateau Club

Paul and I had a 7:09 tee time this morning and as my alarm went off at 5:55 I listened to the sound of pouring rain outside my window. I looked out our front door, half expecting to see an ark of some sort go sailing by but all I saw was a lot of water flowing down the street. I stumbled to my laptop to IM with Paul and figure out what our plan was. We decided to wait for an hour to see how things went. When I checked in again it was starting to let up so I suited up and headed for the Plat.

We decided to skip that pesky warm up phase and went straight to the back 9 where we knew that no one would be ahead of us. It was still raining though much less than it had been over night. I hit a nice 3 wood to the middle of the fairway (who needs warm up time anyway..) and as I looked down towards the 10th green I noticed that the whole area to the left of the green was underwater. In fact, the bunkers were filled with at least a foot of water as well. This was going to be a wet day.

I hit my second shot to the green and two putted for an opening par. Nice! I started tracking my score, but would later give up on that as it was so wet, I really couldn't post anything realistic given the number of times I would have to move my ball to someplace that wasn't under water. We had a good time though. A total of 13 holes of no pressure golf where we didn't really care how we scored and could try a second shot if the first one got too wonky. My driver was going left today but generally staying in play. On 16, rather than slicing it into yuckiness, I pulled it past the trees on the left and put myself in a great place for the second shot. The three wood was shorter than I wanted, largely due to the wetness of the fairways but I still came away with a nice bogey which on that hole is a victory for me.

On 18, my second shot was also a bit short and landed in a bunker. When I went to find it in the bunker, I was concerned that it had rolled down into the foot deep water that covered most of the trap but instead, it was in a small canyon left by the run off, about 5 inches below the top of the sand and sitting on the black plastic lining for the bunker. I don't know what the rule is, but since trying to hit it would probably damage the bunker, I figured a free drop was in order.

Nothing else terribly remarkable to the round. This is a good indicator of what play will be like in a few months. Perhaps this year we can just stop scoring when it gets bad and just play for the fun of it. That would be cool.

I bought an iPod

I finally took the leap. I’m not sure what took me so long. Perhaps I was waiting to see who would win the format wars, or some odd sense of loyalty. Perhaps I was just waiting for something better to come along or for the next generation but nothing ever did. So today I went to the Apple store in Bellevue and picked up a 20 gig iPod with the new ClickWheel technology.

Apple does a great job with packaging (well—they have for the past 6 or 7 years at least). It is always an interesting experience opening a Mac or some other Apple product. The iPod was no different but in some ways, it was stranger than I expected. Pulling off the outer wrapping felt like I was trying not to tear the wrapping paper that someone had clearly spent a long time trying to get just so. Then I unfolded the black cube inside and was greeted by the words “Designed by Apple in California”. As I opened the left flap, it said “Enjoy.” Ahh.. a bit of class, and a bit of good old American (or at least Californian) nationalism.

Then as I open the right flap, I am confronted with a warning. It says “Don’t steal music” right on the top of the iPod. Whoa! I’m getting a stern talking to from an electronic device I just met. It also has the same warning in French, German and Japanese (I suspect). Strangely, only the German version seems to say please. It makes the Enjoy a little bit less friendly, like someone is saying it cautiously through squinting Clint Eastwood eyes with their hand on their revolver just waiting to draw at the first sign of Kazaa.

I go to the Apple website and download and install iTunes. During the install, it starts to yell at me about some file being busy, then it brings up a dialog with the title “Error” and the only thing in the dialog is the number -2003 and an OK button. I click the OK button and it comes up again. I hit enter and another dialog pops up and disappears, then my computer starts to shut down. WAIT – I’m writing a blog entry! Stop! NO… DON”T DO IT!!

It’s too late. The computer proceeds to shut down and everything that I try to copy and save this text is in vain.

I reboot.

Why did I need to reboot? I can install Windows Media Player updates without rebooting. OK, start re-writing this entry. Odd sense of loyalty... Wrapping paper… Stern warning (except in German)…

Now I run iTunes. I don’t want it to search for MP3s. It will convert my WMAs to AAC but I don’t want that either. Really, I don’t want AAC anywhere; let’s just stick with the format that works on all of my players.

I need to get all of my music in a form that makes it easier for me to sync to the iPod, so that will take a while. I looked at the iTunes Music Store for a few minutes. It is very nicely done though I am curious about some of their searches. I click on the Van Halen II album cover, then click to Fair Warning. On the right side it says that people who listened to this album also bought 4 other Van Halen albums (no surprise) and “Hymns Ancient & Modern” by Passion Worship Band. Somehow, I don’t think so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Lens Shopping 2 - Decision Day!

Thought it over, talked with a bunch of people. I am going with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS and a 1.4x extender which gets me pretty close to the zoom that I had with the 75-300 IS but much sharper and better quality. I can also get a 2.0x extender at some point and get all the way to 400mm. Flexibility!

Order placed -- should be here by Friday.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Another 36 hole day - Golf @ Plateau and Bear Creek.

Do you know what is wrong with playing 36 holes of golf in one day?


It has been a really long time since Rick, Paul and I have all played together at the Plateau. Like months. That streak has ended though and we all headed out at 7:08 this morning. This was also my round for the club's PGA Championship tournament, where I combine my net score with the final round score of one of the pros in the PGA Championship tournament. My strategy for that is to always choose who was in the lead at the end of the third day, so today my partner was Vijay Singh. The good news is that Vijay won today. The bad news is that he sucked doing it with a +4 today. Ernie or Phil would have been better. Tiger would have been better. Hell Woody Austin would have been better and I've never heard of him.

Anyway, we started out very early and I started out kinda icky. Sliced the tee shot, then hit my second into the junk. Ended up with a triple bogey on one. Once I got warmed up, though, it got better. Not a lot of outstanding shots, though my drive on 8 was longer than usual, bouncing over the left bunker and nearly rolling down the hill (if it had been a bit more to the right, it probably would have). On 7, we all either par'd or birdied. On 15 we all hit the green with our tee shots (when is the last time THAT happened??). 16 hosed me again. Par 17. Hit my best tee shot on 18 in a long time, right up to the left bunker but it stayed just short of it. Second shot was to the bunker next to the green, but it took me two to get out and then two putts so I ended with a double bogey. The total score for the round, though, was 90 (posted 89 due to the triple on 1). With my course handicap at 18, I shot net even par. Damn Vijay!

After the round, Rick and I had lunch, then I headed over to Bear Creek for the back 18. There I met Clint, Dave and Kevin (and Lara for the first few holes) and we teed off once again. For the first few holes, my driving just sucked. I sliced everything and it wasn't until the 7th hole that Dave noticed I was coming back too far outside. Once I fixed that, my drives got much better, though the damage was done on the front 9 (49). It is funny how I can just forget a key part of my swing like that, in the middle of the day. Okay, not funny, kinda lame.

At the turn, the drinking began. We took a cooler with a couple of drinks o' choice for each of us and Clint and Dave both had a nice hit of Tequila. They loosened up nicely for a while, but after another 4 holes or so, things started getting sloppy :) Clint, who was only +6 after the first 13 holes proceeded to go +3, +4 and +6 for the next three holes. Yow! :) I was pretty regular with bogeys, an occasional double and less frequent par, ending with a 96.

Kevin had an interesting day. He kept hitting his putts 10 feet past the hole. It was really strange. At the Member/Guest tournament a few weeks ago, his putting was great but today he just had speed issues. I don't think it even mattered if the putts were downhill or uphill, they would just go and go. By the time we got to 17, it had become the joke of the day so he was sitting over a tap in of about 6 inches and he just slams it about 30 feet. I cracked up. It was another fun round at a nice course.


Saturday, August 14, 2004

Lens Shopping

My birthday is coming up and I am looking at getting a new lens for my Canon camera. I have a few consumer lenses (28-135 IS, 75-300 IS, 50 f4) but after the last Blue Angels shoot, I have come to the conclusion that I need to have at least one good long high end lens and probably one good wide angle one as well.

The problem is that there are sooo many cool options. I played with the Zoom Telephoto EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS at Glazer's today and it was pretty cool. The autofocus is much quieter, smoother and faster than the one on my 75-300 IS. The 100-400 is also sharper and, while we're at it, heavier. It is cool. Now I could also use the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS which is not nearly as long but it is clearly faster than the 100-400 and it should be sharper as well. They both have advantages and disadvantages.

User reviews of both of these lenses are very positive and either way it will be a clear improvement over what I have now, so perhaps I can't go wrong.

Then there are the wide angle zooms. Super Wide Angle EF 16-35mm f/2.8L vs. Super Wide Angle EF 17-40mm f/4L. I don't have anything that wide and I don't want to get the consumer lenses anymore but there is a pretty big difference in cost between these lenses. Looks like I've got more research to do.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Blue Angels Day

Each year, the Navy's Blue Angels fly at Seafair in Seattle. This is one of the highpoints of my year, I love to go and take pictures and watch them fly. The speed and the sound are so cool! This year, we went to Hillel and Deb's new house which has a great view of Lake Washington and we were able to watch them from their deck. It was a great vantage point.

The Blue Angels is also when I compare how my camera gear stacks up compared to previous years. It isn't hard to get pictures of them from a distance, flying in formation above the lake. What I keep trying to do is get closer and that requires a long lens and good auto focus. Last year I had my Canon G3 and it was terrible for this. Its auto focus was so slow that by the time it took the picture, the planes were long gone and I had a lot of pictures of empty gray sky.

Then I bought the Canon Digital Rebel and a 75-300 mm zoom lens. This made a lot of difference, the auto focus is much faster than the G3 is, and I also have a manual focus mode. Plus the 300mm lens should get me a lot closer and the 6.3 megapixel should let me crop and still get good detail. The results? This year's pictures are definitely the best so far, but I still had problem with auto focus. Granted, taking pictures of small distant things against a big blue sky has to be a challenge for auto focus but it seems weird that when it is near the farthest zoom already that it tries to go all the way to the opposite extreme, then go back out to infinity. This takes enough time to let the planes get away, so I needed to switch to manual focus for most of today's shooting.

Thanks to Hillel and Deb for hosting this year!!

Below are some of the pictures from today.

UPDATE: Check out the 2005 entry here

I love being able to see the helmets

I like the light on this one.

These guys are fast!

Look out Alex!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

It's August Already?!?!?

Wow, it is hard to believe that my 67 day vacation is over. Tomorrow I return to work after taking June and July off for my sabbatical. What a great time I’ve had! I compiled a few statistics about what I did this summer.

  • 2 golf tournaments
  • 4 trips
  • 4 books finished (8 books started)
  • 5 Islands in Hawaii
  • 8 new golf courses played
  • 43 blog entries
  • 524 holes of golf
  • 2317 photos (totaling over 5.9GB)
  • Thousands of email messages deleted automatically

I have lots of great memories as well.

  • The first trip to Las Vegas with Leslie. We saw lots of shows and had a great time gambling and hanging out. This was the trip where I got to watch parts of the US Open from a blackjack table at New York, New York. Very cool!
  • Spending time with family. I saw a lot more of Leslie, Kate and Zach, but I also got to spend a lot of time with my parents and Leslie’s cousins in Hawaii.
  • The second trip to Vegas with the guys. Lots more blackjack and food with a fun bunch of people
  • Watching the entire first season of Alias as a family in June. The second season is scheduled for August. In fact, catching up on TV shows on DVD is really great, even better than on a DVR.
  • Snuba at Molokini. I hadn’t heard of Snuba before but it is like scuba-lite. Once I got the hang of it, I loved it.
  • The helicopter tour of the big island of Hawaii. In fact we got to see the volcanoes from land, sea and air. And the waterfalls hundreds of feet high were simply amazing.
  • Watching a Navy H-3 helicopter hovering only a few feet above our cruise ship during the rescue.
  • The PIX team beach party. OK, I went back to work for one day, but since it was a beach party at Alki Beach, I figured that was OK...
  • Celebrity encounters on Hawaii. Odd how those stick with you. I saw Kevin Bacon so many times at the Grand Wailea, I started to wonder if I just saw everyone there that many times and he was the only one I recognized enough to remember it.
  • C# lessons for Kate and Zach. Ok, we only did this once, but they were so excited by it. I really need to do this more.
  • Contact lenses. Huh. Who knew I could do that? I actually really like them now.
So what did I learn? Here are a few observations from the past 9 weeks in no particular order.
  • You can win in Las Vegas – but only if you are good at rationalization. I went to Vegas twice in June and won money at blackjack both times. If you count flights, hotels, food and shows, though, it is a very different story.
  • Sometimes, a cloudy day is really nice. After more than 3 weeks in sunny Hawaii and another week of hot sunny weather in Seattle upon our return, it was great to play Friday morning under a cloudy sky. Perhaps this is what makes me the right kind of person to live in Seattle.
  • Hard contact lenses are a cruel joke that optometrists play on people. I tried hard contacts for a week. I can’t believe that anyone buys these things on purpose. Corollary: I actually can put my fingers in my eyes. I never thought I would be able to.
  • Service in Hawaii is generally lacking. Same goes for Fry’s. Perhaps they are all just hanging loose, but I was surprised how many times employees seemed absolutely put out when we visited stores and restaurants in Hawaii. I’ve come to expect that from Fry’s where it took me three trips to get a working motherboard.
  • “Golf is not a Game of Perfect” is not just about golf. This book, by Dr. Bob Rotella was recommended to me by a member of the Harvard golf team. It starts out talking about having long term goals in life and goes on to developing the mental attitude to help you achieve those goals. For sure, there is a lot of talk about how this applies to golf but I saw many parallels to work and family life that I plan on working on in the coming months.
  • I still like writing code :). I spent some time during the first couple of weeks writing a photos screensaver that integrated with Windows XP Media Center Edition. It was fun to get a chance to do that again. It got me thinking about when I was still writing and shipping my own code and how I approached it. For example, I didn’t postpone bugs... I fixed them. I fixed everything I knew about before posting a new version for testing. I could separate prototyping for actual product coding. I think we can do this better, even in our big projects.
  • Even with two months off work, I still only got 1/2 way through my projects list. I never got around to fixing my home mp3 system, or getting my GCT working, or tweaking DragStrip. Oh well, there's always the Christmas break.

So it's back to work tomorrow. I am actually really excited because I love what I do and the people I work with. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things, and trying to bring a fresh perspective. What a great summer!

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Plateau Member/Guest Tournament day 3

It all comes down to this. Two more rounds to see who wins our flight.

In case you're in a hurry -- we didn't.

Before we started, Kevin and I talked a bit about our game plan. First was to look at putts more carefully. We lost too many strokes on Friday by not looking from both sides and hitting something that went flying by that was obvious with a bit more inspection. Second, we would try to be more cautious if the first person to hit got in trouble. Just make sure we have one ball in play. This was after terrible performance on 18 the day before.

Our first match today (the fourth of the tournament for us) started on the 9th hole at the Plateau and then looped around to 1 to do the front 9. For some reason today, we just couldn't get it going. Consistently bad shots off the tee kept us from getting into scoring position, or wasted shots to penalties or recovery shots. Even when we tried to be more careful off the tee, we were both pushing the ball or hitting uncharacteristically crappy shots. There were a lot of places where we could have won the hole, or at least halved them, but we just didn't get it done.

Today, all of the par 3s had prizes of some sort for hole in ones. On 4, where Rick got his second ace a few weeks ago, the price was a string of pearls worth nearly $30,000. I had been consistently coming up short all morning long so I figured that I was tired and I should take a longer club here to try to get to the hole. Instead of my 6i, which is pretty standard for a 160 yard shot (it was 163 to the hole) I took my 5i. I took a deep breath and looked at my target, then let it fly. Hit that thing pure, a bit left and watched it bounce next to the wall, then roll past the green and across the cart path. It turns out that this is out of bounds. Huh. I didn't know that, guess I've never done that before. I went back to the 6i and hit my second shot (ok, third) and it flew just left, bounced just before the wall, then up over the wall onto the green and rolled just inches past the hole, stopping about 6 feet away. The person watching the hole for aces said "you know, if it went in, it still wouldn't have counted." Yeah. I know.

We ended up with only 2.5 points on this round which is a shame. Our opponents were playing pretty well, and there were at least two holes that they clearly won with a net eagle putt on 1 and a birdie putt on 4 but beyond that, we could have won any of the other holes if we were hitting the ball like we were yesterday.

Our final round was against the team that was leading our flight. Even with our bad first round, if we beat them on 6 holes, we would take the lead. We didn't do this math before hand, perhaps it would have been good if we did. Our tee shots continued to be ass for this round though. I once again pulled my tee shot on 18 (our first hole) into the trees on the left. I topped and pulled my tee shot on 11 into the trees as well. 12 was left in the bunker. 13 was pushed to the right of the fairway. 14 was sliced into the woods and it took me 3 to get out (I should have dropped). Even with all of this badness, we were still halving holes because our opponents were sucking just as bad off the tees. They managed to win a couple of holes outright, though and it felt like we were behind the whole time. We agreed we had halved 14 with 5s when they counted up Kevin's shots and said he had 6. We thought about it and agreed and thought we had lost that hole too. Then, on our way down to the green on 15 I thought about it and realized that they both had 6s as well. They weren't trying to pull a fast one, we were all just spacing it. Kevin and I won 15 by actually hitting the green. We were down 4-3 with two holes to go. We still had a chance at winning the match.

Then on 16, I hit a low pull fade into the junk, dropped and hit my third into there as well. I was pretty much out of it. Kevin sliced his tee shot and then had trouble getting up to the green. We pretty much fell apart and one of our opponents, who received a stroke on this hole, hit a perfect driver / 3 wood combination to be on the green in 2. We had to concede the hole and with it, the match.

On 17, I finally hit a good drive. Straight, high and on the left half of the fairway. Then a perfect 3 wood to about 60 yards. Both Kevin and our opponents lost balls on this hole so I was looking pretty good lying 2 at 60 yards while they were all lying 5 short of the green. I took my lob wedge and hit a perfect lob which hit the front of the green and rolled to 4 feet below the hole. I made the putt for a birdie and the match was over. We had 4 points and they won the match and the flight. We were exhausted, but finishing with a birdie on 17 was nice -- it was the Golf Gods' way of saying "Thanks for playing -- come back again."

As I am writing this, I am racking my brain trying to remember how specific holes went. The tough thing about a tournament like this is that I am looking at everyone's shots, trying to count how many strokes everyone has taken, really focusing on putts and how they will break (both mine and Kevin's). And on days like today, trying to figure out what will work (but not trying to fix anything) and just trying to stay focused and not worry about all of the other games going on. At the end of the day, it all becomes a blur. Where did my tee shot on 13 go? I don't remember, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't good. Or was that yesterday? I think that in general, my iron shots were good today and most of my trouble was off the tee but I could be glossing over a lot of stuff. I also think I made a couple of nice long putts to push some holes -- but that might have been yesterday too :)

We ended up with 25.5 points out of a possible 50. That means that we won more than we lost - but just barely. We were third in our flight. We certainly didn't embarrass ourselves and we had a good time. Better luck next year.