Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday before?

I slept in heavily today. At about noonish my girlfriend J called to say she was returning home early because work was light. So I turned off my alarm and resolved to be woken up by the pitter patter of her feet.

The only problem with getting up at 1pm is you really don't get much done. That's ok, since I really didn't have anything to do. However, I did cheat on my hair stylist.

I wonder if its an unspoken rule not to cheat on hairstylists? I mean, presumably everyone does it, but do they cry a little when they learn about the violation of stylist and styled confidentially agreement? I guess every hair stylist knows they'll eventually be cheated on, but it must sting each time anyways.

So I also had my first and only meal of the day at 5pm from Pagliacci's. This makes it hard to have my B vitamins, so I have been feeling tired this evening as a result. I also watched the first half of Canadian Bacon - it feels very creepy after the last number of years of world goings on. J fell asleep so now it looks like it's time for WOW again as usual. Looks like my guilders want to run The Sunken Temple aka "ST".

I must say, I am hoping my new company gets me a spiffy new Macbook pro. I am bringing my WOW disks just so I can game on it. That way J can play my Powerbook, I can play my new Macbook while we're away. And when we're back, I have my spiffy iMac in addition to a new spiffy Macbook pro. And in one fell swoop all WOW gaming needs will be taken care of.


So I just did over 400 miles in one day. The path from Nelson, BC to Seattle, WA is fairly long, and one major disadvantage is I had to traverse Spokane at rush hour.

Spokane is a surprisingly nice town I don't really want to spend any more time in. Sorry, but the downtown is the only thing unique going for it, and the scenery and terrain while nice is not awesome. Add in the whole conservative thing, and actually interacting with people there may not be so awesome. Might as well visit Vancouver, or San Francisco or anywhere else.

Plus the drive, oh my! Although this time the 4 hour drive seemed to go by faster. The slowest part is from Spokane to Vantage/The Gorge. Flat, straight, with lots of opportunities for speeding. And lots of State Patrol using every speed measuring device measured. I've seen radar, laser and I've heard of planes. I always see cops either speed trapping people, pulled people over, or passing by me with lights, I just don't bother speeding. As tempting as it is - that is some nice highway - the actual asphalt that is.

So now I'm back in Seattle, with tomorrow my last actual day with my old employer. Rumor has it they want to exit interview me, so perhaps I'll go there tomorrow and give them an earful. Or not, after all, no sense burning bridges, right? If they can't figure out what is wrong, they certainly don't deserve to be told, right? Still debating exactly what to tell them. Probably half truth and half "figure it out yourselves".

Then Saturday I board an airplane (with J) and fly off to my new fabulous life. Almost literally, since it should be fabulous, but I will return to actually work here. So I will fly then return to my new fabulous reinvented life. After all, half of actually getting something is actually imagining it.

So, Thursday: Drive all day, Friday: pack all day, Saturday: fly (not all day thankfully).

I was considering asking the check in airline employee where I can make a "symbolic but probably useless complaint about security." After that guy who was detained at a TSA checkpoint I'm not so sure now. Clearly airline security is really just a "how scared should you be" thing, not actually anything useful anymore. There is much to be said here, most of it said much better than I.

I'm tempted to bring water just to have it confiscated. Just for fun, after all, as everyone knows, H2O is an essential ingredient to life, and one must have it on hand at all times. Plus the little shops beyond the security line gouge like crazy. Maybe it covers the cost of xraying your soda bottles?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Editorializing the BC Border guard strike

I noted previously that the BC border guards walked off the job in response to apparently what was an armed and dangerous threat. With the arrival of the Harper government, border guards in Canada have been making much noise about how they are unarmed. Of course, the answer is obvious: arm the guards. However, an editorial in the Vancouver Sun points out that giving border guards weapons and 3 weeks of training is not really securing the borders.

I'm going to have agree with all the points this editorial makes. Providing permanent police stations at the major border crossings makes all the right sense. Handling dangerous situations is something that is difficult to train for. That is why police are generally given a significant amount of training.

This walkout smells like a politically oriented action, even though it's in response to an actual situation. A more reasonable response would have been to request visible RCMP backup on site for the duration of the threat. Of course, reasonable responses doesn't drive headlines, and awareness of the border guard union demands.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sunday Driving Adventure

I like nothing better than 11 hours of driving in one day. Here is how do to it:

- Leave Seattle 10:20am. (After going to bed at 3am the previous night, this qualifies as a miracle)
- Arrive Vancouver, BC at 1:15pm. Luckily I missed the border guard strike
- Leave Vancouver at approximately 2:30pm. Start west.
- Stop in Chilliwack - gas and snack.
- Stop in Princeton - bathroom and beverage stop.
- Stop in Grand Forks - gas and food.
- Arrive in Nelson, BC at 10:20pm.

Minus the hour and a bit, that makes for nearly 11 hours of driving.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Last Friday

I took the bus to work, for the last time. I might have to go back in a week for exit interview, but I will never go there again for actual real work. Strange though, it didn't really feel different, although perhaps it should.

Of course on your last day, you never should actually do real work, and today was no exception. I think I spent a grand total of 3 hours at work, and left to a goodbye happy hour at 4. Happy hour came and went, and I ended up at a resturant/pub in Capitol Hill with J and a bunch of the regulars. Unfortunately my previous late night made me hit a wall around 9 so J and I ended up just going home. Lucky her, she went to sleep right away, and also lucky me I stayed up playing WOW and messing with Mindstorms.

Lego Mindstorms

I am a pretty heavy Mac user these days. I have a Powerbook and an intel iMac. I was very happy to hear that the latest Mindstorms kit I got fully supported the Mac. I installed the software on my Powerbook, did a few very simple things, and realize "hey, this would be faster on my iMac". Luckily I also have bluetooth on both computers, so no wires, right?

Well it turns out, the bluetooth connection just does not work on the intel iMac. It turns out that they do not have an universal binary yet, and it ALSO turns out that bluetooth does not actually work on intel with the translated PowerPC binary.

The strangest thing was how difficult it was to confirm this on something legit. As you can see that page is a far cry from the main pages, yet it showed up fairly high in this google query.

Poking around finds a gizmodo article from Aug 1st talking about how a universal binary is available. Now when this is the 5th hit for the query "lego mindstorms "os x" universal upgrade" and the previous 4 are either macnn or macslash stories, it seems to me that in fact there is no upgrade yet.

Looking for the upgrade far and wide, I have fallen flat. If I can't find it by now, it probably does not exist.

This is very tragic, and significantly reduces the utility of mindstorms. Lego, if you're listening (and you're not), get that universal binary out!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thursday Sept 21st

Second last day at Amazon. So sad to be going, it's really weird to spend five years doing one thing, then all of a sudden, everything is over.

My old manager and team came out to supper (thank you expensing), to an excellent Indian place called Roti in Queen Anne. It was a great supper, and the team did up some going-away cards.

The first one was a "Our Sympathy" card - trying to cut me off at the pass (no secret: I am very happy going where I am, and I feel a little bad about those left behind). It was great, I absolutely deserved all the sarcastic words. Great guys! - They are all men, it's a fact of working in tech! There are some women, all great, but not on my team.

The next card was serious, and it was pretty hard to read. I'm so lucky to have worked with great people who are just plain old awesome! I was surprised by a few words from some people I didn't realize I had such an effect on. That was very touching all in all.

Finally ... present time! What? Luckily my old manager is very set in his ways, and insisted on getting me a goodbye gift. He asked several times "what should I get for the person who has everything" - and he eventually found it - with it being the new Lego Mindstorms set. I guess bringing in all my lego last fall really made an impression on people!

But I must say, this set is very very cool. It's stupidly advanced, with bluetooth so I can program without USB, and really advanced sensors and servos. The "motors" are actually servos with a 1 degree accuracy on measurement. Meaning you can say "move the motor exactly 30 degrees" and you'll get 30 degrees. The sensors detect light, sound, distance and touch. Combined with a powerful ARM7 based controller, the whole package is surprisingly advanced! They even got LabVIEW to make a version of their software for them.

All this stuff just floored me, I really can't believe that I made such an impact. I worked in a very isolated part of the company and for quite a long time I felt I was not making as big impact as I could have, but it looks like I wasn't entirely correct.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I just bought myself an iPod video. The new 30 gb is pretty sleek, although I guess technically it's the same size as the old 30gb video. The beautiful thing is they have improved and changed the video stuff, because the Pirates movie I bought from the iTunes movie store plays perfectly on the little thing. The slickness and interoperability is everything you expect out of the downloadable music.

While technically Amazon's Unbox has better selection, the iTunes music store has much more going for it:
- Users feel like they own the music/movies. DRM is unobstrusive.
- The items you download work perfectly on the iPod (of course).
- iTunes is available for Mac and Windows. (Sorry Linux users, maybe you should do as I did, and get a Mac?)
- You can copy the music/videos and play on up to 5 computers.

Right now only Disney's movies are on iTMS, but it's a matter of time until the other major labels realize how much better things are.

Of course, most of this is plan as day to practically everyone - except of course the purveyer of Unbox.

The other cool thing I learned about is that I can check GMail from my cell. Any cell can visit and you can log in and view your email. Aside from slow cell phone load times (why are all cell sites so slow?) the UI is very minimalistic and works well. I can read email, compose email, and otherwise meddle with it. The biggest problems are:
- Cell phone is slow to load. This isn't strictly Gmail's fault, all sites are like this.
- Typing in messages sucks. Hard as texting.

While I do like the look of those blackberries, I'm not sure I really need one. But I do like gadgets and wireless access. Maybe I should see if TMobile will upgrade my PEBL's firmware to the newer one that has EDGE, because the one I have now does not. Without EDGE the GPRS speed is about 5kB/sec, with EDGE it should be more like 30 kB/sec.

This is mostly rambling, but unless there are requests, that's all you get for now!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

WOW is back up

So my server is back up. It's nice to be back, really gives a good ending to the evening. Plus I was able to post a bunch of auctions since there are about 500 (vs 5000 normally) auctions up. Because most people don't have a historic view of the market, and without competing auctions to compare to, I'm hoping my auctions will sell quickly and net me a goodly amount of gold.

In the game I have an alternate character which I created to hold my extra items I want to auction. Because I can just mail items off to that character from any mailbox in the game (there are mailboxes in every town), I don't have to worry about bag space, and I also don't need to worry about the 'right time' for Auctioning. I will have a big pool of things to auction and when the time is right I can put them up easily and quickly. My auction mule character hangs out in Thunder Bluff near the bank, mailbox and the Auction house. I can post 10 auctions in 2 minutes and take advantage of the market upswing on Sunday nights.

This'll come in handy later when I need to earn 800 gold for my elite mount.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday night

You might think I would be busy playing WOW, and normally I would be. Unfortunately due to "upgrades" my WOW Realm (server) is offline for about 36 hours. While I wouldn't say I am getting the jitters (yet), I am kind of "oh my, now what?".

On my other notebook I was reading my old email, and behold on the screen is an email entitled "40 percent of World of Warcraft Players Addicted" by our ex-intern who was QUITE sick of hearing our WOW-inspired conversation during lunch. Of course I am not addicted, I can quit anytime I want, I just don't want to and quit asking thank you very much.

So I'm watching Pirates of the Caribbean which I download on the new spanky-fresh iTunes movie download store.

Of course, why not use Amazon's unbox? Ah yes, well I am a mac-head, so no go, I don't have a Windows XP box to even install it on. I can't personally believe how wrong Amazon got it. The general public is fairly well informed about DRM issues, especially now iTunes has trained users to expect more than highly locked down music. I predict that once iTunes movie store outshines Amazon's by quite a bit, the reluctant Movie houses will come to their economic senses and sign on with Jobs and Disney.

The picture quality of the movie is excellent. It doesn't seem to be H.264, but Quicktime says it is "AVC0 Media, 640x272" - whatever that is. I copied the video to my Linux/Samba drive and am playing back on my other desktop iMac via Samba in Quicktime and all is well. No "download twice" crap that Unbox apparently makes you do.

Ironically we used to trash Apple because they didn't provide options for advanced users. In this case however, Apple is working out quite nicely. Obviously there is still the whole DRM thing, but so far it is manageable. With the iTv device next year, Apple's music store will reach your TV, something no one else currently does or can do with video downloads.


I woke up feeling under the weather. I am taking a vitamin B and CrMg regiment, but I skipped Sunday. Yesterday was not great as a result, and this morning I felt a cold coming on. So I slept in until the latest possible moment - which turned out to be 11am. I had lunch with some old friends at work, so I had to get there by noon. Thanks to the power of cars I in fact made it there at 12:05.

Now having arrived at noon, having a lazy lunch, what would be the next logical step? Yes, a slurpee run with a good friend who shares the same name as I. We did the International District to Seattle Center run (where the good 7-11 is), giving plenty of time to bitch about Amazon. Nothing more cathartic than complaining about things you can't control.

I made a big deal out of a program at my (current) work that seeks to identify good incoming MBAs and make sure they get properly cross trained. There is no parallel program for technical folks. This just cemented in my mind that the company is MBA-land and really is not a place to do good technical work. If I needed convincing that my move was good (I don't), this was perfect evidence that the company is firmly in the hands of MBAs. Another good example is the substandard PC notebooks that are furnished, and the low quality 19" LCD screens. I'd rather take my old 21" CRT.

That CRT met it's end one day while I was using it. I heard a pop and everything in front of me defocused. I freaked out for a moment and took off my glasses, before I realized it was my CRT going kaput. While the CRT was huge, heavy and very "thick", it had better rez and looked better than the LCD that replaced it. I have considered many times bringing my 23" Cinema Display to work, but then I wouldn't have it's awesome coolness to use at home. Now that prices fell I was considering buying one for work, then (large unnamed internet company) hired me, and they don't skimp on hardware, so problem solved.

I think another symptom of MBA land at my company is that our VP and Senior VPs don't have relationships with the individual contributors. We're talking about the people who make the company go and yet you don't even talk to them? Not to mention all the managers who informed me that managing upwards was a major skill to be learned. As far as I can see that skill involves hiding the truth just enough to not be lying but also meeting expectations.

That might seem a little harsh, and it probably is, however why wouldn't a company that depends heavily on technology want a good rapport between the top level who makes policy and decisions and those who pull the levers as it were. The idea that the techies and the management speak two different languages seems to be promoted mostly by those who want to take the job of translator. If the management of a high tech company can't take a little "CPU" and "RAM", then why did you hire them? And believe me, this is not a case of an IT department versus the business who doesn't know IT. This company exists because of tech, not in spite of it.

In the end, I think of myself as the invisible hand of the market. "We" did something wrong, and the ultimate punishment is your employees voting with their feet (ok, the OTHER ultimate punishment is failure). And yes, turnover is a form of failure - you haven't retained the best and the brightest and you've allowed huge treasure troves of knowledge to walk out the door. While NDAs protect you from your information leaving, it doesn't prevent people from using their talents elsewhere. I don't really feel sorry for the company, but I do feel sorry for my friends who will have to suffer this December because I'm not there.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Monday was a pretty slack day as usual. Now that I no longer am staying with (giant ecommerce company) all those long term projects just don't seem to feasable anymore. Thus I don't need to do planning, or code reviews or any number of other things. It is frankly, totally and completely awesome. I do provide some consulting to other team-members, which mostly involves hearing myself talk. I might even pen some documentation too.

In the evening I got the "must buy something new" itch. Unfortunately none of Apple's current offerings seemed tempting. Not actually needing anything I merely went home instead. J and I watched last week's house in preperation for Tuesday's house.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Lazy Sunday was very lazy indeed. I did grand total of getting up by the crack of 2:30pm, visiting J's parents out in the boondocks, and nothing much else. I may have played WOW in the wee hours however. Luckly J goes to bed at like 10:30pm to get up by 5:30am (ouch!), so after 10 it's WOW time to the max.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I was woken up at noon by a text from A-Dawg saying that he needed my help to move. After breakfast, showers, me and my GF (hereafter known as "J-Slice") arrived at his apartment at the early 1:30pm. They had rented a huge-assed 26' truck, and had already filled it up with furniture. It looked like they could fit quite a bit more, but they said it was going to take 2 trips.

They moved to a cool house a few blocks off Broadway on Capitol Hill. Very nice house, with an awesome kitchen, great bathrooms and sweet skylights. Luckly there was many helpers, so the moving went by quickly and without incident. Except for the friggin "heavy couch" - never ever buy a hide-a-bed.

J-Slice and I ditched the movin' boys and went shopping quickly downtown. Traffic was horrible of course, which reminds me - never go downtown by car on Saturday. After finding a new wallet for her dad, and a new tiny wallet for moi, J wanted to bake some muffins for the heavy liftin' boys. After making me promise not to make fun of her, quick muffin baking enused. I must say however cinnamon streusel dudes are pretty frickin' awesome.

This time they had finished loading the giant-huge-assed (did I mention it's a stick?) truck a second time. Following them throughout the streets of downtown it looked like the truck was having a few problems. Later I found out that the differential was broken when U Haul checked it in the next day.

The rest of the move was fairly uneventful. Tidying up the evening was a few hours of WOWing. Making level 42 was my big accomplishment.

So much for Saturday.

Friday, September 08, 2006


So on Friday I decided to arrive to work by 11:00am since I had a meeting at that time. I arrived 5 minutes late of course - this time it was the bus schedule! Really, honestly!

It was a meeting talking about this system I originally wrote last fall. I'm the expert in this system and my boss(es) are worried about the loss of knowledge (as they should be). We stumbled through the meeting, me barely caring, but offering tidbits and whatnot.

After lunch I was tooling about the office when my co-teammate, guild leader and friend "A-Dawg" (his real name) was gearing up to leave. He is moving tomorrow and needed to pack, since it was only partially done. While he was putting on his bike boots, I said "I'm coming to your house now, I'll take the bus while you bike home." So I hopped up on the bus and after 30 minutes I arrived at his apartment. I wanted to check out his World of Warcraft setup, and interfere with his packing.

Luckly for both of us he has Guitar Hero for the PS2, and I sat down and proceeded to play the game for something like 4 hours. This is the best game I have played since World of Warcraft, plus I really felt like I was a rock star. In fact I'm pretty sure I can become a rock star with some Guitar Hero training. I called my GF who came and hung out, but I'm afraid watching me destroy songs she knows wasn't fun so it was time to split.

After getting home we were tired, so it was time to break out the WOW again. Luckly my GF plays, so she at least understands the phrase "bind on equip". A bunch of my guildies were up so we hit up Stranglethorn Vale with some 40s and one of our 60 priests. We wiped a few times which sucked, especially since we weren't even in an instance.

This time I think I went to bed only at 3am. Maybe 4? I can't remember.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


So after staying up until 1:30am playing World of Warcraft (possibly the best video game ever), I then stayed up even later reading the rest of jPod. I must say, it feels like he just rewrote Microserfs for Generation-not-X, whatever 20-somethings in the '2000s' are called (ie: my generation). Since it's set in Vancouver, I love it despite the feeling that I've already read this book.

Deja-vu feelings aside, the book briefly made me think about starting heroin. I think life might be more interesting if I was a heroin addict, but I decided not to - not necessarily because it is illegal, but the other downsides, including trying to get off of it. Plus acquiring the substance would be hard in Seattle I imagine, there doesn't seem to be as many addicts here - or at least nothing as infamous as Main and Hastings.

After my non-marathon WOW 1:30am session, then comes the book reading session - by light of the LCD display too I might add. This finished at 4:30am, which means getting to work by 9am is not really possible. Add in that this is my last month here at (unnamed ecommerce giant) after which I will be joining (large unnamed internet company), I think I actually woke up at 11am. Of course all morning I'm ignoring phone calls from my chiropracter's office (twice) and the front door (once). Luckly it's the delivery company dropping off my new battery for my Powerbook - my old battery was dying, and just in time Apple did a recall. Hooray for recalls - I didn't have to shell the $130 for a new battery.

So I wind my way through downtown Seattle, first stop the Columbia Death Tower (oooh, so black) to get my back cracked. Cue Simpsons joke. Then next stop Kinkos/fedex - where I fedexed my giant paper pile to (large unnamed internet company) located in Mountain View. After which I arrive to work just in time to see the clock strike 2pm.

Another day, another morning perfectly executed.