Sunday, May 30, 2004

Who says there's no such thing as a free brunch?

Just down the beach from the beach house we are staying in is the Quinault Casino. Getting there by road involves a 2 mile winding trek but it is much closer if you just walk down the beach. We went there for Sunday brunch which, if you ignore the oddly minty-flavored soda was really quite good and reasonably priced at under $17 for adults and $9 for kids.

It is when you walk out of the restaurant that you see the real draw to the resort. The casino is like a mini-Vegas sitting in the center of the building. Lots of binging slot machines and 2 rows of about 10 gaming tables. Certainly nothing on the Las Vegas scale but the rules are the same. When brunch was over, we dropped the kids off at the arcade and Leslie and I set ourselves a 30 minute limit and I went to the blackjack table and sat down. The dealer was one of the fastest dealers I've seen. So fast that Leslie couldn't keep up with what was going on and she headed off to the video poker. When I sit down and win my first hand and get a blackjack on your second one I figure this is going to be a good day. Zippy the dealer kept the cards coming and in general they were pretty good. A couple of good doubling opportunities came and I cashed in on them. After 30 minutes, I was up $75, Leslie was up $38 and we left with more than we came with even after paying for the brunch and video arcade. Fun!

I am really glad there isn't one of these just down the street from my house. :)

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Normal People Golf @ Ocean Shores GC

When I play with the people I usually play with, I get a view of the game that may be a bit different from what most people see. While vacationing at Ocean Shores, WA for Memorial Day weekend, I got a good taste of what normal people play like.

When I say normal people, I mean people who don't regularly play on country club courses, people who don't go out and buy a $500 driver when it comes out just to see if it improves their scores, people who ACTUALLY DO drop their pants around their ankles and hit their second shot red-faced and bare-assed when their tee shot doesn't make it past the women's tees. These were my playing partners today.

I showed up at the course around 10:30, hit some range balls, and was eventually sent out to the first tee to wait for my group to show up. I watched a variety of players walk up to the tee box and use the most interesting swing techniques to get the ball in play. No two alike, nothing like the "correct" swings I am used to trying to emulate and nearly every one of them still effective at getting the ball into play. When my threesome shows up, they immediately apologize in advanced for what will be a slow day but I say that we're all there to have fun. One of them hasn't played before, another hasn't played more than a few times and the third plays at this course regularly, but hasn't played since last fall. Two of them have woods that are made from -- wait for it -- wood! It turns out that most people play with the clubs they have had for years and don't treat Saturday as "go try out new equipment day."

They each tee off with shots that skip along the ground to between 75 and 125 yards off the tee box. I take my 3 wood and hit a tail wind enhanced 280 yard drive right down the middle of the fairway. They are impressed, I am shocked but try to play it cool ;) I end up missing the GIR but sinking an improbable 15 foot putt for par and I am feeling like a golf god!

The feeling fades, though, as I lose one ball on each of the next two holes by pulling shots into the river and end up with double bogeys on each hole. The play is really slow and I am making the best of it helping the guy who hasn't played before figure out the difference between clubs, how to hit sand shots and where to find his ball. He has an interesting swing where he keeps his arms perfectly straight and pivots at the waist to hit the ball. He takes about 12 practice swings before each shot and then generally skitters the ball along the ground around 50 yards. After a while, I show him how to hit down on the ball instead of scooping it and then the ball starts flying. The next shot goes well over the green (it turns out that a 4 iron wasn't the best choice of club from 85 yards) but on the next hole, he ends up parring a par 5! At no point, though, did any of them get upset with their topped or chunked shots. They just walked up to it and hit again, counting each stroke they took and having fun just hitting the ball.

I shoot a pretty mediocre 47 on the front 9 in 2 hours and 35 minutes and when they stop at the turn to wait for some other friends behind them, I go ahead to the back 9 as a single. From that point, I don't see anyone else on the course for the rest of the day. The pace of play speeds up dramatically as does the quality of my golf shots. I par 3 of the first 4 holes and finish the back 9 with a 41 in 1 hour and 25 minutes. My 3-wood was generally very good today. No subsequent 280 yard drives, but on the par 5s, I would generally be on the green after 2 shots with it and a wedge. Wedge play was good. Irons were weak on the front 9, but good on the back. The high point there was that the longer distances seem to be starting to lock in. I was hitting 140 yard 8 irons and 185 yard 4 irons so that was encouraging. There was a stiff wind all day long which would grab a lot of shots so it was tough to say how much was me not hitting straight and how much was me not taking the wind into account enough. The fairways were pretty narrow, with houses on either side for most of the course so my driver never came out.

In all, it was a fun day on the course with some very friendly local folks who showed me a different part of the game that was fun to see.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Day One: Splorg, Salami and Tears

The best layed plans.... Leslie and I were going to play golf this morning, but the weather did not cooperate. It was pouring rain all morning so instead we went to check out the Splorg. It is actually a really nice library with a lot of cool features between the building and the way everything is layed out. I particularly like how the non-fiction section is built as a spiral which allows them to add many more books over the years to sections and keep them in the Dewey decimal system ordering without ever having to rearrange the whole library (which I guess happens a lot at traditional "flat" libraries). The meeting room floor is all red with lots of strange curvy walls. I'll definitely need to go back with my camera soon. It is a very interesting building.

Next, we went to Salumi for lunch. A little place in Pioneer Square that we had heard about from Hillel. It was fantastic! We got a meat and cheese plate with a little bit of bread and some garlic, salami and potato soup that was also really good. The gorgonzola cheese just stole the show, it was great. This place reminds me of some of the places we would visit in NYC. A small family place with just fantastic food.

Then we came back over to the east side for me to be fitted for my contact lenses. I figured I would try them out and I ordered RGP lenses since I heard they were much easier to get in and out of my eyes. I am a real wuss when it comes to my eyes so I didn't want to have to deal with "peeling a sticker off of a marble" as Leslie describes it. It turns out that RGP lenses are...uncomfortable. The doctor described it as having an eyelash in your eye all the time. My eyes were tearing up like I was in an Onion chopping contest. And since they are smaller than soft lenses and hey jump around in your eye when you blink, you can easily see the edges of them drop down each time you blink. I did get them in pretty easily (4th try for my right eye, 2nd try for my left)and they popped right out when I wanted to get them out. I did some eye chart tests while I had them in and then repeated when I took them out. The doctor admitted that these lenses would not be as sharp as my glasses and that was true. Interestingly, when I took them off and tried the same test, it was actually as easy to see without them as it was with them in. So... let's see.... discomfort from having pieces of plastic in my eye, odd blurring effects when I blink, and I see just as well as when they are not in. Sounds great! She did say that it would get better after a week or so, so I will stick with it for now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

School's out for the summer!

My 67 day weekend has begun. It still doesn't feel like it yet. I'm guessing it will take a few days to sink in. I just keep thinking that Alice Cooper song today. I wonder why :) I did the math, and this is my first summer vacation without school or a full time job since 1982.

This is a great oppportunity to re-connect with the rest of the world. Very cool!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Mail Filters

Only two days left before my 67 day weekend starts. I am figuring out my mail filters for my work email. I want to still be reachable by some folks and there are some messages that I'll want to get while I'm out, but 95% of the mail I get I'll just want to delete. I think the current plan is to accept mail from certain people if it is sent to me directly and mail from anyone if it is sent directly to me with the word SAVE in the subject. Otherwise, it's going in the dumper.

Seems simple enough, but now I need to wade through Outlook's UI for this which is different for Out Of Office filters than it is for regular filters.

Work is hard ;)

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Making a gradient is harder than it should be

So I wanted to make the banner on the top of this page a little more interesting than the rounded red rectangle. A nice gradient should do. Much easier said than done. I ended up having to create 3 DIVs, one in the dark color with the rounded edges on top, one with the lighter color and rounded edges on bottom, then a third one in between that actually does that gradient using a DX Image Transform to actually get the gradient. I bet that if I view this on a non-IE machine, it will look icky.

But it does look better than before.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Wet! -- Golf @ Willows Run Coyote Creek

Paul, Doug and I made it out to Willows Run this morning for an early 18. It was kind of cold and there was a wind blowing so it didn't look like we were going to get away with a nice weather day. The wind was nice at the driving range though. I was playing around with delofting my irons and playing them a bit more back in my stance. Between that and the tail wind at the range, I was getting really nice distance from just about everything. My pitching wedge was out to about 125 yards, 7 iron to 155, 5 iron was making it to the green at 180 and my 3 wood was consistantly past 210 yards. Cool! My driver was still slicing though, so I benched it for the round. It suited up, but never got in the game.

We headed to the first tee and I hit a nice 3 wood right down the middle about 210. The rain started at this point, but not too hard. I hit a 7 iron to the green (GIR!) and 2 putted for a par. After a sloppy double bogey on the 2nd hole, I shot par on the next 2 holes and was sitting at +2 after 4 holes. Very nice. My only 3 putt of the day was on the ninth hole and my front 9 score was 42. At the turn, it got a bit worse. I struggled a bit with my tee shots and had 2 holes where I played my second shot from an adjoining fairway. Then I made the mistake of thinking that it was cool I didn't lose the ball. On each of 14, 15 and 16 I lose a ball and double bogey each hole though I par'd each of the par 3's on the back 9 and came up to 18th hole +14 for the day. My irons were a bit left, but rarely out of control and I expected that with some of the swing changes I was making and at least on the front 9 I was compensating for it.

Coming up to the tee on the 18th, the sky opened up. It was simply pouring all the way up that long par 5 fairway. I had a great tee shot to the middle, flubbed a 5 iron about 50 yards, then layed up nicely short of the water hazard. 53 degree wedge over the water to the green 2 putt for bogey. By the time we got into the club house, we were drenched. It was a fun round though.

The best shot, though, was Doug's approach shot on 18 over the water which was a bit right of the green. It hit the rocks on the edge of the water, bounced further right, off of the bridge across the lake and landed next to the practice green. Amazing luck to stay out of the water. None of us could ever do that if we tried :)

Friday, May 21, 2004

5 days left...

My Sabbatical begins in only 5 days (and 2 of them are the weekend). I'm really thinking of it as more of a 65 day weekend. Lots of fun things planned including Golf school, 2 big tournaments, a couple of trips to Vegas, lots of time with my family and some fun projects around the house. OK, I need to start working on that project list because it isn't nearly as fleshed out as my golf schedule.

I still don't think that it has registered yet that I will be out for that long. There is so much cool stuff going on that I am really going to miss it though I know there will be plenty of fun left when I get back ;) It is going to be nice to see what the world is like when I don't head in to the office each day. Eric (let's call him... Jeric) mentioned today that some people who have done this said that two months was long enough to just begin to get a sense of a bigger world out there, but short enough that it doesn't really give you that satisfaction of living in it. I am betting he is right.

The Splorg

I think we're going to visit the new Splorg on Sunday when it opens. OK, technically it is the Seattle Public Library, but since it the url for their website is, I will henceforth refer to it as the Splorg :)

Very cool building!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Cool Photo Retouching Site

Photo image retouching. Man, it is impressive what they can do with digital images and Photoshop! It also make you realize that in advertising, nothing is real.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

36 -- Golf @ Newcastle

Today is Rick's Birthday (happy birthday again) and so we played both courses at Newcastle. This is the first time I've played 36 holes in one day and it was fun! The only odd thing about it is that after 36 holes, they all start to run together, it is tough for me to remember that many of the highlights. The summary goes something like this:

My driver sucked today. Every time I hit that thing, it sliced. OK, with one exception which was number 10 on the China Creek course. A long downhill par 5 where I played for a big fade and instead it went perfectly straight and long into the trees. Hmph. I tried it again a few more times but then finally gave up on it and went with my 3 wood.

My 3 wood rocked today! It got to the point where I was hitting it 200-220 in the fairway or close each time. Why go back? I only hit one 3 wood shot from the deck today and it wasn't great but off the tee, it was really good.

My Taylor Made Rescue 3 and 4 irons were also very good today. Either straight or a slide fade almost every time. Even the miss hit ones went pretty straight, just very low and not nearly as far. I never saw the hook on the 3 iron that I was getting for a while, I think largely because I didn't do the casting (outside in) move on them today which I was doing a lot previously.

Irons were hit and miss today. They tended to be good on the par 3's (hit 1/2 of the greens there) but for much of the first round, they were pretty wild.

Putting was pretty weak. 35 putts in each round though Rick said I was lined up right every time, so I need to look at that some more. I had a lot of opportunities to sink reasonable putts and I missed them almost every time. This is definitely a place where I can shave 4 to 5 strokes per round.

Interestingly, China Creek is the easier course, and I played worse there (particularly on the back 9). I shot a 93 at China and an 88 at Coal Creek. Given that the last time we played Coal Creek, I shot 100, this is a big improvement. I actually preferred Coal today which was interesting since I remember it being much nastier than China. A big part of it was probably using the 3 wood and staying in play. I had 4 fewer penalties on Coal Creek which accounts for most of the improved scoring as well.

A fun day though. Lots of things to practice in the coming weeks.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Fixing my Digital Rebel

I took my Canon Digital Rebel in to get fixed today since I figured I don't need it for a couple of weeks. I went down to Glazer's in Seattle and while they were very helpful, they also said that it would be 3-4 weeks before I got it back. Whoa! I am going to need it for some of our upcoming trips in early June so it looks like I will need to deal with the malfunctioning screen on the back of the camera for a while longer. :)

I did, however, drop off my 75-300 IS lens to get fixed. It's focus ring gets sticky and that really messes up the auto focus. I can probably do without that lens for a few weeks.

Making the big transition

OK, I've migrated my old Userland Radio site over to Blogger. Well, actually I just added a link so you can get to the old info on the new site.

The next up was getting the RSS feed working again which I did by using FeedBurner. Now you can click the feed icon in the sidebar, or in the footer to get to my new RSS feed. Whee!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Let's give Blogger a try

I'm trying out new software for blogging. Blogger has the advantage of always being available for me to post because it is an online service. Let's see how flexible it is though...

I suspect the hardest part will be migrating the old posts over. Icky!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Relax! -- Golf @ Plateau Club

I played alone at the Plateau Club yesterday -- strange because while there was gorgeous weather there was no one else either in front of, or behind me for the whole 18 holes. Because of this, I took a chance to try some different shots, try a few different ways of playing some of the holes. The problem is that just about everything that was going well was also going poorly for part of the day so it was hard to take anything away. One holes 2, 6 and 17, I hit the green in regulation with some beautiful shots, but then 3 putted for bogey.

On other holes, my approach shots were crappy, leaving me way off the green, but then I would sink a long putt to get to my bogey. 16 was a good example. Drive to the left side of the fairway, second shot not bad but behind a tree to the left of the green, third shot an overzealous bump and run that runs all the way across the green. Fourth shot a chip that lands about 15 feet from the hole. Sink the putt for bogey. Sheesh.

The final score was 90, though I played enough "try it" shots that it is hard to feel like that is a real score since you really aren't supposed to play two balls, or take any practice shots during a round. One thing I did start to figure out, though, is that as a round goes on, I get more tense and tension leads to inconsistent shots. I start trying to control the club too much and then I lose control of the shots. I started to see this happening yesterday and made a conscious effort to relax and most of the time it made a huge difference. I took out my 4 iron for my tee shot on the 15th hole and made one of the most relaxed swings ever. It was a fantastic shot and the ball just took off. It went about 20 yards past the flag but it was still quite nice to get that feeling. The same thing happened with some pitch shots where when I relaxed the club just slid under the ball and it was as smooth as silk. Again, it went way too far but that is because I am figuring distance for a different swing than I am using. So I need to work on this relaxing thing. Perhaps I wil go to the range now and try it out.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Getting Organized

I have a lot of pictures on my computer. And a lot of music. Perhaps not compared to some people I work with, but compared with most normal people, I have quite a few. Over the past six years, I have taken (and kept) 18,500 digital photographs and I have ripped almost my entire CD collection which comprises nearly 600 discs. The challenges have always been how to quickly and easily get to all of these files from the different computers in my house and how to back them up safely. In the past, I've kept both collections up on a file server but as they continue to grow, and as applications that use this content continue to count on them always being on the local computer (and have crappy performance when they are not) I've been trying to figure out a better way.

So last night, I started using FolderShare to solve this problem. I organized my folders of photos into years and created FolderShare libraries for each year. Then I did the same thing for music. Music was a bit tougher since I can't change my folder hierarchy without breaking my in-home music player and FolderShare has a limit of 10,000 files in a library. By getting rid of WMP's album art files and a bunch of desktop.ini files, I got under the limit though, we'll see how long that lasts....

Then I went to other PCs in the house and started subscribing to those libraries. On my main desktop machine, I subscribed to all of the photos libraries within the My Pictures folder and it started syncing them. Then on my Media Center PC, I subscribed to the music library. Looks like it will be a while before they are done syncing but I am looking forward to being able to work on local files, add new ones locally as well, and then have all of the locations synchronized to the changes I make on the files. Now I can use Digital Image Suite to tag my photos and all of the copies of those photos will be updated with the metadata. Windows Media Player can add the levelling and metadata to my music files and it will flow back to my server copies as well.

The syncing continues..

Monday, May 03, 2004


I'm watching 10.5 on NBC. Wow, this is amazing. For something as hyped as this it has the worst of everything! Terrible acting. Inane script. The cheesiest special effects in any disaster movie ever. The silliest science. This movie makes Airplane! look like a Nova special.

My favorite part is that they can travel to any place in the state of California in about 15 minutes. The scientists go from their command post (where is that? They can feel every earthquake there!) to Northern California and back in a just a couple of hours. The governor's daugher and ex husband got from Redding to Barstow in the back of a pickup truck in the biggest traffic jam in history in a few more hours. An earthquake chased a train up the tracks creating a fault only just wider than the tracks until it ate the train, then it stopped (must have needed more iron). Fusing a fault line? Huh? Dule Hill's character arrives at a tent city large enough to hold Los Angeles and starts calling out for his wife, like she can hear him among the 20 million people around them (he finds them). Oh yeah, and Bo Duke used to be much better at getting out of a car through the window.

It's so bad, I can't stop watching!

10:08 - The FEMA guy is going to climb down the hole!!! What an ass. Why don't they send down the guy who fell off the truck?

10:13 - Would his cell phone still work 400 feet below ground in a 4 foot wide hole?

10:14 - Nuclear warheads can be opened without any tools

10:16 - That's gotta hurt. I guess it was a bad idea for him to send everyone away before climbing down the hole.

10:18 - Hi Zach? You're not going to believe where I am!

10:20 - Why does anyone think I care about these Nolan guys?

10:21 - They have an amazing ability to keep electricity during earthquakes.

10:22 - Cool, a satellite that shows underground nuclear explosions as fireballs

10:23 - This isn't over yet. Damn. It isn't a disaster movie until you've toasted L.A.

10:28 - YAY Washington is saved!

10:29 - Couldn't they just drill another nuke to stabilize it? Oh my god! I'm thinking like THEM!

10:32 - Magnetic pull affecting a river? No.. It's the San Andreas Toilet!

10:39 - Why are they going to Barstow when they can get anywhere in California in that helicopter in 15 minutes? Why are they wasting 2 doctors on one patient?

10:40 - How does she know "this is it"?

10:41 - Montage of cardboard house destruction

10:42 - OK, why would you put an earthquake evacuation center on the San Andreas fault? Or is something else rupturing?

10:43 - It's the new Grand Canyon!

10:43 - I'm betting the count gets up to ..oh I don't know... 10.5?

10:48 - Where are they running to? Crap, now I've lost my own sentence struture..ed..ness

10:50 - hmm... bad planning on that tent city location

10:50 - Ahhhh... soothing music. Perhaps I'll .... just....

10:51 - huh? YAY 10.5! Almost over!

10:52 - Did they film the shaky scenes by turning a steadicam into reverse?

10:53 - Know what they need right now? Moses!

10:54 - Oh..wait.... Everything is fine now. Everyone hug.

10:54 - wow. that sucked.

10:56 - Local news comes on to tell us that all of this probably won't happen.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Jinxed! -- Golf @ Plateau Club

Paul and I were joined by a co-worker of mine named Dave today at the Plateau Club. The day started out kind of rainy, but the weather improved so that by the end, it was a gorgeous day. My golf, on the other hand, did the opposite starting well, but deteriorating pretty quickly.

I have at least 5 reasons why this happened, which most likely means that none of them are true, but it is somewhat comforting to know that I have excuses that can help alleviate the sense that I sucked today :) I think it all started on the first tee, when Paul told Dave that I have the most amazing luck in the world. That I will get 9 out of 10 good bounces. Of course, this jinxed me in a big way and from that point on, I got no good bounces for the rest of the day. This, by the way, is not one of my five excuses -- though perhaps it should be number six...

I got par on the first hole (jinxes take a little time to take effect, I imagine there is paperwork or something). On the third hole (which is now playing from a new tee box) my second shot draws a bit too much and hits a hill to the left of the green bouncing into the water. Hmph. I take my drop and chip the ball to the green and it nearly goes in but nearly isn't enough and I get a bogey here. Bogey on 5 after a perfect drive to 100 yards away. This is where it gets nutty. On the 6th hole, I figure I shouldn't use my driver and I take my 3 wood for a safe shot. I pull it a little, but it clears the bunker and I see it taking some good bounces. There is a lot of junk at the end of the fairway at about 225 yards but I've never been in it, until today. Yes, my 3 wood goes all the way past the fairway and just into the hazard. The good news is that it is sitting up on a tuft of grass (probably needed just one more signature on the jinx paperwork at this point) and I hit it over the junk into the fairway on the other side. Flubbed chip, good chip, 2 putts and I'm double bogey. Clearly by this point, all of the paperwork is signed and I enter the jinx zone, because I double bogey the next six holes. I snuck in a couple of more pars on the back 9, but everything else was double bogeys from that point onward.

Paul played pretty well, scoring a 79. He had some great shots, including a nice birdie putt on 5 and a very nice par save on 17 when he thought he had lost his chance to break 80. I ticked him off when I kept pointing out that he tends to tee the ball up just ahead of the tee markers. It's not like that gives him any real advantage, and I know he doesn't mean to do it but I tease him about it from time to time. On the 14th hole, he did it and he got pretty annoyed. That was the only hole that he ended up with a double bogey so I stopped mentioning it. Heh.

Rick, it seems had two great rounds earlier this week at the Plateau Club, shooting an 84 and 85. I guess it's my turn with the icky game. I hope it goes away soon :)

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Cherry Blossoms at Arlington National Cemetery

Did I ever mention that we went to Washington DC in April? The first three days it rained like mad and was just foul. On Thursday, though, the sun came out and we walked all around taking pictures and seeing the sights. There were actually all sorts of cranes behind the Capitol building since they are building a new visitor center on the other side, but thanks to Digital Image Suite, they are conveniently missing from this picture :)