Sunday, October 20, 2013

Minmlist game, wk 3

This week, I purged a set of 27 pretty disparate items. The week largely started with things from my office -- which has already been pretty trimmed back, but quickly spread to everywhere else in the house.

Day 1: Three encased coin collections
Day 2: Two book safes, camping spices

cayenne pepper Laughter is the best medicine.

Day 3: Two carabiners and a stitch plate
Day 4: Male-to-male stereo cable, tupperware container, would-be micro camping alcohol stove
Day 5: Racquetball racquet, baseball glove, xkcd 'compiling' shirt
Day 6: Two Japanese-style lanterns and a Chinese wall hanging
Day 7: Express shirt, compression sack, extra bike helmet

With week four starting tomorrow, I expect I'll start paring back my wardrobe a bit and possibly hitting my hiking and camping gear again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fall in Seattle and making butter

We had a late night yesterday due to us having company over. While the boys usually get to bed between 7:30 and 8:00, it wasn't until 10:45 or so that they finally got to bed. So this morning, we had some deviation from our normal Sunday. Andrea got up with the boys and let me sleep in, and we traded a bit later. After playing downstairs and outside for a while, I decided to take them on a walk. They got on their scooters and we went down toward the village, stopping by the tennis courts so they could play on the turtle and enjoy the fall leaves:

Jacob: "Dad, my cheek itches. No, the other one."
Reed: "My nose itches. Both sides."
For a full two hours, we walked/rode scooter, played in the leaves, went to Serendipity for a snack and play time, and made our way home.

After getting home, it was already past noon, so we grabbed some lunch. The four of us then got in the car, grabbed a few necessary groceries, then went to Discovery Park. I've been wanting to go for a long walk around Seattle's largest park for a while. It's been too long since I've been there. We took a different route through the park than usual, exploring different paths altogether.

This was the second largest walking stick Reed used.
 After perhaps two hours walking, the boys and I made our way to the beach while Andrea went back for the car. By now, Reed was getting a bit chilly, so he got an extra layer.

And we made it to the beach where we played; looked for crabs, sticks, mud, and other goodies; and we got our feet wet.

Finally, we made our way home. Earlier, when at the grocery store, we picked up a pint of heavy whipping cream. I decided today we would try the experiment of making our own butter, so I filled two small mason jars halfway, sealed them and we started shaking them like crazy.

Of course, I can't make homemade butter without bread to go with it, so our bedtime snack was straight-from-the-oven bread with salted, freshly-churned butter on top.

Today was a great day.

Minimalist game, week two

Last week's kickoff of the minimalist game was an easy reduction of seven items, but this week, we doubled to two items per day.

Day 1: LexisNexis badge, MTU student ID
Day 2: Flag and geek patches
Day 3: Motorcycle pants, another hemp necklace
Day 4: Helmet cam case, captive bead ring
Day 5: Two blaze orange bandanas from my hiking gear
Day 6: Flint for fire starting and a set of bamboo flatware and chop sticks, both also from hiking gear
Day 7: Bump keys, glass picture frame with MTU post card

Admittedly, my jetsam this week is pretty small stuff: it could all fit into a small box. Yet save for the motorcycle pants, these are all things I've had for a minimum of two years, though some of them go quite a ways back -- my MTU ID goes back to around January 2001.

I'm already looking forward to next week. After the first week, I had a bit of trepidation about turning up the heat and getting to 90 items by November. As it stands, though, the only difficulty will be finding the time to go through my things.

The more I get rid of, the more less I find I need.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Starting the minimalist game

Today is the conclusion of week one of the minimalist game that I am doing with Carrie, et al, in which we're getting rid of progressively more unnecessary items from our houses. A brave few (Rachel, for example) are doing the full n items on day n for a total of 496 items in 31 days:

Most of us, however, are taking the more moderate approach of one item per day in week one, two items per day in week two, and so on. I've been a bit of a laggard in keeping up, as most of the weekdays I didn't get home until 7:30 or later. Nonetheless, the set of items I'm eliminating from my life are as follows:

Day 1: One-Minute Mindfulness
Day 2: SanDisk Sansa MP3 player
Day 3: Linksys WRT54G router
Day 4: Pair of PJs
Day 5: hemp necklace
Day 6: Virago
Day 7: Leatherman

The sale of my Virago, I think, takes this week's prize as the biggest big-ticket item to be sold or discarded

The remaining goodies have been laying around the house unused. I suspect before too long, I'll have to resort to further culling my hiking and camping gear, which is already reasonably minimalist.

See Rachel's blog, The Thirty One Day Minimalist, for a month targeted at 496 items to purge.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Okay, team - split up

On Friday, Jacob and Reed really wanted to have a date evening with us - separately. It was too late, so we made Saturday Daddy and Reed, Mommy and Jacob date morning. Reed and I hopped on the bus and started making our way to Pike Place Market for our adventure. The first attraction we came to is the big brass pig:

I chose Pike Place as our Saturday destination specifically because yesterday was the eleven-year anniversary of me proposing to Andrea:

Proposed on a rainy Saturday in 2002
So Reed and I went to buy some flowers for her:

 On the way back, Reed found some acorns that he alternately stomped on and dropped in a stream of rain and watched flow down the sidewalk.
...Bought flowers on a rainy Saturday

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

From the archives: hanging out with Sheryl Crow

Eighteen years ago, I met Sheryl Crow at the University of Minnesota. She came to visit the oncology ward, and I happened to be there that day with Matt. Some kind person had a Polaroid camera and snapped this photo of me with the Grammy winner:

I don't know who that guy on the right is, but everyone seems to be happy around Ms. Crow.
Just the other day, Andrea got her new scanners for the business she's going to start (professional organizing of your home), one of which is a high quality photo scanner, so one of the first photos I scanned was of this happy encounter.

Seeing this image made me think about time I spent at the U of M with Matt; of listening to Tuesday Night Music Club; and of my life (in generalities and specifics) during the 90s: very painful, difficult times and fond, nostalgic memories.

During the eight months Matt was in the hospital, I know that Sheryl Crow, Hootie & The Blowfish and Clint Black all visited patients and family members. (I've got a great picture somewhere of Matt and Clint Black that I'll have to find.) I'm sure there were many others, as well. It's great to stop every now and then and think about people such as these that have done small acts that have had a major impact on others.

Monday, July 8, 2013

[X] Camp Muir; [ ] Mt. Rainier Summit

Yesterday, I drove out to Rainier with another guy I met from Microsoft, and we hiked (along with hundreds of other people) to Camp Muir which is just over 10000' elevation, approximately halfway between the visitor center (~5400') and the summit (~14400').

We started at 9:00 at the visitor center with not a cloud in the sky. The summit looks rather small and totally doable:

Even after the 9.4mi round-trip hike that included a 4.5hr ascent, the summit from Camp Muir still looked deceptively small and nearby. From the Muir Snowfield, it looks a little more menacing:

For what it's worth, Backpacker rates the Muir Snowfield one of the ten most dangerous hikes in America -- due mostly to extreme weather (which I didn't have yesterday) and the "x factor."

We took a bit of a detour on the way up to see Panorama Point, and I did take a panorama shot in which you can see Mt. St. Helens and a good portion of the Cascades.

The hike up was quite exhausting. We were able to glissade occasionally for a speedier and more fun descent. Overall, I'm less sore now (but more sunburned) than after I did Mailbox Peak.

You can see the rest of my pictures in my Camp Muir album in Picasa.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

On scooping up my son and being scooped up

Note: I wrote this post on February 1st but delayed publication due to my discussion about some dissatisfaction with work. The original post follows. -Adam

Back in August, we up and moved from Minnesota to Seattle in what we figured would be a bit of an adventure. At the time, I was getting antsy for some sort of a change. The opportunity to work for Amazon presented itself, and hey, they would cover the costs in moving to a city that I've always thought would be interesting. It seemed like a no-brainer.

As it happened, though, I found that I wasn't particularly satisfied with the change. Some part of it is "the grass is always greener," and some part of it is that I just never seem to be fully satisfied. Regardless, on Wednesday, I was having a lousy day. Andrea and the boys called me up and asked if I wanted to join them for lunch, so she picked me up, we drove around downtown a bit, trying in vain to find a parking spot. We ultimately settled on Whole Foods, going inside, grabbing an a la carte lunch and enjoying each others' company for around 45 minutes.

Somewhere along the way, each of the boys found what I can only assume are wooden coffee stirrers. They used them to stir their ice water, occasionally licking water off.

Reed was having a bit of a rough time that day, as well. He got some pizza but decided he didn't like it. He wanted my pepperoni pizza, which I gave to him, but then he was upset because it had broken in half.

As we left the store, Reed tripped but caught himself enough that he only dropped his coffee stirrer on the floor. That wasn't much solace, though. He now knew his stirrer was dirty and that he couldn't put it in his mouth. I watched him for a moment as he looked at his stirrer and at his ice water, realizing that they would never be the same. He broke down then and there.

I didn't know where he found that stick, and I looked around briefly to see if there were any near us, to no avail. So I scooped him up in my arms, gave him a big hug and kiss and told him it was okay.

That evening, I talked with my Mom and Dad on the phone. As is somewhat typical, we discussed the weather (about 50 degrees in Seattle versus 10 or so in Minnesota) and how I'm liking my job and Seattle. And as has been typical, I am really enjoying Seattle, but less-so the work I'm doing. I'm in a difficult situation (in one of those "first-world problems" kind of ways) in that if I were to leave, I'd be on the hook for repaying a sizable signing bonus and nearly as sizable moving expenses, not to mention the cost in moving back to Minnesota would be non-trivial as well. Without missing a beat, they both told me that if that's what we decide to do, let them know: they'll fly out to Seattle, help us pack up a truck, and we'll all drive our stuff back. It was very thoughtful, and it's great to know that I've got that support.

As I was walking from the bus stop into work the next day, I was thinking about that conversation I had with my parents. It hit me all of a sudden that, in their own way, my parents had scooped me up and told me it would be okay.

On top of that, I realized that while Reed's concern about his coffee stirrer wasn't truly important, it was important to him. So I figured that while my concerns about my current situation are important to me, maybe they're not truly important.

Friday, May 31, 2013

It's day n at Amazon

I started at Amazon only nine months ago, and today is my last day. There have been many interesting things I've done and learned at Amazon, including two submitted patent applications and at least as many in the pipeline.

Microsoft has wooed me away with the promise of massively parallel data processing. I start Monday within the Bing Information Platform. My commute to Bellevue will certainly be longer than to downtown Seattle, so we may end up moving to the east side in the near future.

Truth be told, I've not been terribly enthused about what I've been doing on Amazon's Personalization Platform team. That's not to say that I'm bitter. Far from it. While I haven't been enthused about Amazon, I found it to be a great experience, and I think I've grown quite a bit in the last year in many ways.

For my last day, I did get to sign my third patent application, which was rather interesting timing on an idea I've cultivated over the last few months. With every patent application, Amazon gives its employee contributors a clear acrylic puzzle piece:

I turned down the first two pieces in order that I not waste a hunk of plastic. (For most people that know me well, this comes as no surprise.) When I signed this application, I didn't have the time to turn the piece down, so I promptly gave the piece to a co-worker.

I'm rather excited about the prospects within Bing. I never thought I'd be working at Microsoft, and I consider myself very fortunate to have a chosen career that I enjoy and that affords me opportunities to work on interesting projects and to live in a region that I enjoy so much.

So once again, the adventure continues.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where do you want to go toda^Wnext week?

A year ago, Amazon contacted me to see if I'd be interested in joining a team that does personalization using machine learning for Amazon subsidiary companies (Zappos, IMDB, Audible, LOVEFiLM, ShopBop, and so on). Within about a month, I had been flown out to Seattle, interviewed and was made an offer the next day -- as Andrea and I were sitting at a Starbucks discussing an apartment we had just looked at. Yesterday, I notified my manager that I intend to leave Amazon at the end of the month.

To make a long story short, I am leaving Amazon to go do work that I think and hope will be more fitting of my interests and passion. While I thought I'd be at Amazon a lot longer than nine months, I think it's best for me to make this change.

Starting Monday, June 3rd, I'll be working for Microsoft's Bing Information Platform using their massively parallelizable data processing language, SCOPE, and its corresponding scalable, distributed filesystem, Cosmos. For my friends at LexisNexis, SCOPE is analogous to ECL while Cosmos is very Thor-like (as best as I can tell, as of now).

I'm actually very excited about this change. The position I've accepted sounds quite interesting, and while the language and systems I'll use are new to me, the concepts are very familiar, given my six years at LexisNexis Risk.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why have two dressers when one will do?

In my ever-ongoing quest to get rid of stuff we don't need, I scored big by consolidating Andrea's and my clothes into my dresser. Tomorrow, we'll see if we can't sell Andrea's old dresser at an all-neighborhood garage sale here in Fremont tomorrow.

One lonely dresser, sans partner.
What used to hold only my clothes now stores them in the top two drawers (the first of which is only about half-height). Andrea's clothes sit comfortably in the lower drawers.

"How could you reduce necessary clothing storage volume by half?" you ask? In small part by purging unneeded clothes, but I think in larger part, it was the use of a handy-dandy trick I learned several years ago for packing clothes for travelling: roll them up. There are also plenty of videos showing interesting ways to do so (for example).

The disembodied head of Curious George approves.
Through a goodly amount of evenings organizing, purging items and subsequent trips to Goodwill, we've eliminated much of the stuff that occupied our 1400 square foot rental. The basement is largely empty, save for a few toys, my moderately sparse office and a few shelves of items in the storage room.

Yet there are still more cows to release.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Caterpillar is with an "a", not an "e"

Yesterday was a pretty wild day for us. I spent the day in Bellevue, Reed had his first day of morning preschool, Andrea did a ton of running around and watched some friends' kids, and our boys adopted a caterpillar named, alternately, Catery or Caty (sound familiar?).

Their day was all sorts of crazy-out-of-whack, so I let them stay up for a little while in a misguided attempt to wear them out. We drew some pictures, played in the living room, read some stories, watched some videos of actors reading bedtime stories, and probably a half dozen other activities. I told the boys they had to say goodbye to Catery and release him outside. This sent them into terrible despair. There was much wailing. After about 45 minutes of intense negotiations, we finally arrived at the position of letting Catery sleep on the front patio outside his mason jar... with several notes the boys wrote to him, most of which were tiny, caterpillar-sized.

They finally got to bed around 10:00 -- two and a half hours after they usually are. One might suspect, then, that they'd sleep in a bit. Not so. Around 7:00, I heard Reed come to the realization that Catery was outside, and he immediately bolted for the front door, opened it and went outside, frantically looking for him. And he found him on one of the steps. How fortuitous! So this morning, the boys were taking turns gently handling Catery (Elissa would be so proud).

What is the appropriate color tie to go with your caterpillar?
Reed was so excited to be playing with his dear old friend that he could hardly stay still -- which is why I couldn't get a particularly great picture of him. But he dressed up for it, anyway, wearing one of my ties.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Beginning (or rather, continuing) to simplify

When we left Clearwater, we had a house that was nearly 3000 square feet, which, I hate to admit, is more than 20% larger than the average single family home size for the year it was built. We moved to Seattle after purging a huge amount of stuff. Now we're in a house that is nearly 1400 square feet. Still I see things all over the house we don't use. I aim to fix that.

Last weekend, Andrea and I went through our closets and dressers. Currently, each of the four of us has a dresser that is basically full of clothes, and Andrea and I have clothes in the closet. I recently donated my two suits, one of which I hadn't worn in seven years; the other I wore exactly one time two (or was it three?) years ago.

What resulted from our brief trip through our clothes was a burgeoning pile of clothes in one of three varieties: "this doesn't fit" or "I don't like" or "I don't wear for some reason."

We also went through our CD collection. You remember CDs -- those things that came out 31 years ago? Now that we each have a smart phone and a laptop, I figured there's no reason to keep any CDs except maybe for road trips. (Unfortunately, my car doesn't have an auxiliary input.) So we donated those to the Seattle Public Library.

One of the albums I donated was The Aeroplane Flies High, my Smashing Pumpkins box set that I was careful to never listen to, lest I scratch the CDs. And one of the shirts I donated was my SP Zero shirt. Andrea looked at me funny when I put The Aeroplane Flies High into the donate pile.

"Don't you want to keep that?" she asked. I shook my head. "Are you sure? You love that band."

I've become quite firmly of the opinion that entirely too much stuff is held onto for sentimental reasons or for just-in-case reasons. And as I get rid of more and more excess junk from my life, I've found it actually very relieving to be rid of it. It opens up the space in our smaller house. It requires less mental processing to acknowledge and think about the things that are there. It takes less physical work, too, as we don't have to clean up, care for, work around those items.

We've got big plans for the future. Those plans don't involve an excess of stuff, and it's better to get rid of them now.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nothing lasts forever. Almost nothing.

This morning as +Andrea was dropping me off at work, I pointed out to Jacob and Reed the hotel that is being demolished to make way for one of Amazon's three new buildings:

Jacob asked a great question: Do buildings not last forever?

I explained to him why this particular building was being demolished. The company I work for bought the land and the hotel because they want the land so they can build a tall building for people to work in. In order to put the new building up, they had to take the old one down.

So no, buildings don't last forever. Cars don't. Nothing lasts forever. Not even people last forever. Then he had this amazing response that has me still beaming. He said, "Dad, I know something that lasts forever." 

"What?" I asked.


Maybe to him, this was a random idea he threw out. Maybe he had a deep thought here. At least to me, this is an incredibly abstract, mature concept. In fact, I just read an interesting blog post a few days ago about the importance of numbers to emptiness in Buddhist philosophy and how John von Neumann - a "founder" of computer science - demonstrated that numbers can be bootstrapped in the absence of anything physical.

In other words, numbers exist in emptiness -- forever.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Ninja and the Photographer

Our boys have taken to being ninjas, covert moves and all. So much so that today, I made them masks out of my old Perl shirt, cutting eye holes and trying to fit them as best as I reasonably could given my lack of expertise in sewing. Here's Jacob holding an empty spool from when I was toiling over thread and needle. I think he said it was his ninja bomb:

Not at all weird.
Hiding from Mom.
While I was getting Jacob's ninja hood set and taking the above picture, I noticed Reed grabbed my camera and started playing with that.
My boys on their very different life tracks, neither of which, apparently, involve shirts.
So I let him take my picture:

While I took his:
Pictures of people taking pictures.
This was all before 9:00am or so. We spent the rest of the day going to Discovery Park, organizing the storage room (and purging quite a bit of stuff we don't need), playing, and even getting my motorcycle towed to Seattle Used Bikes. It's in rough shape, so I'm calling in the big guns, which is to say, anyone that knows more than "gas goes in the tank, engine goes vroom, brakes make it stop."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How would you prepare for Groundhog Day?

The other day was Groundhog Day, which got me thinking about the movie of the same name, which is one of my favorites. The film never tells us how long Phil is stuck in his time loop, but the director thought maybe 10 years and the screenplay author thought maybe 30-40 years or even as much as thousands of years. They intentionally avoided presenting the dark side of being caught in a (potentially) infinite loop, though that would probably make for a very interesting horror or thriller movie.

Groundhog Day has even been called "the most spiritual film of our time," praised by some Catholics as a representation of purgatory and by Buddhists for its telling of karma and rebirth.

Had Phil Connors known he was doomed to repeat the same day over and over again, I wonder what he would have done to prepare. So as a pointless thought experiment, here are my musings on what I would do if I knew it was coming, assuming one day to get ready. (By the way, I'd love to hear what others would do in such a situation.)

First off, things I would not do: basically anything that would leave me regretting "yesterday" for the next ten years. No getting drunk the night before, no staying up late to see if anything interesting happens at midnight, no run-ins with the law that would doom me to ten years in a holding cell, no petty fights with Andrea the night before. You get the idea.

So what would I do?
  • If my Groundhog Day falls on a work day, I'd take that day off. I'm not spending the next ten years getting a call from my boss asking if I'm okay or if I'm coming in.
  • Get supplies. I wouldn't want to run to the grocery store every day for milk if I didn't have to, so let's stock up on all the necessities. And because I'm sure cereal will get boring quickly, having enough ingredients to make a host of dishes is also important. Salt, flour, sugar, milk, eggs, and so on.
  • I'd need a reasonable amount of cash on hand. Maybe a few hundred dollars. Sure, credit cards will still work just fine, but there's no lack of use for cash. Stop by the bank for a handful of various denominations.
  • Get the house in order. Go through, clean the place up, dust, vacuum, wash and put away dishes. Make sure there's a full roll of paper towels handy, a clean hand towel in the kitchen and bathroom, a new roll of TP, and enough soap, shampoo, and so on. Along these same lines, the car's gas tank should be filled to the top and cleaned out. Who wants to spend the next ten years driving around in a car that has crumbs all over and needs to be filled up after 20 minutes of driving? And as of right now, my motorcycle is on the fritz, so maybe I'd rent a nice new bike for a day.
  • Get myself in order. Shave, shower, get to bed at a reasonable time. Despite knowing I'm about to be stuck repeating the same day and all it entails -- weather, traffic, possibly crabby kids, and so on -- I'd like to think a bit of relaxation the night before would reduce cortisol and generally make for a better tomorrow.
It all seems pretty tame, doesn't it? But in my mind, all these little annoyances would really add up over time.

A more interesting question is: what am I going to do for the next ten or forty years? In Groundhog Day, as I recall, Phil learned about French literature, how to play the piano, and he learned everything about everyone in Punxsutawney. Seeing as how I tend to be a fiend for trying and learning new things, there are plenty of things I'd love to spend nearly limitless time doing, including but not limited to:

  • Playing guitar
  • Speaking a foreign language. On my list are one or more Scandinavian languages and Japanese.
  • Improving my parkour.
  • Meditating more regularly.
Somehow, this comic seems particularly relevant.

How would you prepare for your own personal Groundhog Day?

Friday, February 1, 2013

A dash of blue paint makes a big difference

The other day, Andrea discovered a Fred Meyer not to far from our house. I'm not too in-the-know here, but apparently it's a really big grocery + everything else store. She went to get us some groceries, and she came back with two gallons of mis-tint paint. Tonight, she went to work with the blue.

I took a before picture and was immediately photobombed:

So I took another one with a better white balance:

As is typical with our painting jobs, Andrea does all of it while I shower her with words of encouragement. When she was done, the result was quite good and very reminiscent of our bathroom in Clearwater:

(She also did the wall outside the kitchen, but I didn't bother with pictures.)

Tomorrow, I expect the weather to be in or near the 50s, so we'll probably go to the zoo with the boys. If I'm lucky, I can make some work on fixing my motorcycle just enough to get it to the mechanic a few miles away.

Edit: Here's a shot of the wall leading into the kitchen. The blue now really makes the doorframe and the built-in cabinet stand out.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

I want my God back; and they send me a girl.

With Andrea and the boys in Minnesota, I've had a bit more time for reading. One of my goals is to read more fiction, so I finally opened up God Knows by Joseph Heller. +Elissa Ballman lent this to me some time ago, as I recall, after we discussed Heller's more famous Catch-22.

God Knows is the retelling of King David's life in the first person. It's terribly funny and, surprisingly enough, at times rather sad. One of the most amusing features is that Heller made Solomon a complete idiot (presumably prior to him receiving his famed wisdom from God):
   "Solomon, my wise child, how in the world did you ever remember all that?"
   "She wrote it down for me on my tablet. She also put this little bell around my neck. To remind me to look."
   "Sooner or later I was going to have to ask you about that bell. I thought it might be in case you got lost. You and your mother are very close, aren't you?"
   "I like to believe that we are," Solomon answers with a nod. "She sits at my right hand whenever we are together. We always think only the very best of each other. She thinks I'm a god, and I think she's a virgin. Tell me, Father," he inquires with enormous gravity, "is it possible that my mother can be a virgin?"
   "There you have me."
   "She's been married twice."
   "I wouldn't jump to conclusions."
   "I've been thinking hard about it."
   "I thought I smelled wood burning."
   "I've been thinking also that I would have forty thousand horses and twelve thousand horsemen. I want to speak three thousand proverbs, and my songs will be about a thousand and five. From Dan even to Beersheba, when I have my way, every man will dwell safely under his vine and his fig tree, if I leave him his vine and leave him his fig tree. I want to cut a baby in half."
   "Good God! You do?"
   "I do."
   "To show how fair I can be. Everyone will think I was very fair."
"Everyone will think you're nuts," I feel I have to let him know. "I think you'll go down in history as the biggest damned imbecile who ever lived if you tried even a single one of the things you've mentioned today. I won't breathe a word of your stupidity to a soul, and you don't say anything to anyone about any of this either. We will keep it our secret."
   "I want to build a navy."
   "Oh, my God!"
I found myself laughing out loud all too often while reading on the bus or at home. Surprisingly, based on a quick check of Wikipedia's page on David and of Solomon, it looks like Heller was quite accurate with many of the events and people he described in his book.

Having enjoyed God Knows so much, I might just re-read Catch-22 this year and relive Yossarian's struggle to survive the ever-increasing number of bombing raids.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From the archives: a hobble through Discovery Park

Shortly after I got back into town, I was bummed by my inability to go on a long, arduous hike like I had wanted to -- on account of my bum foot. Nonetheless, I found that I could hobble along at a slow but reasonable clip if I wore my hiking boots.

Not far from our house (less than a mile) is this great big park -- Discovery Park, which turns out to be Seattle's largest park. So I drove over there and went for a hike. I meant to post these pictures earlier, but better late than never, right?

There were plenty of trails like this that very much reminded me of Mom and Dad's place in Minnesota.

That's not rain -- just dust on my phone.

Stairs with a broken foot? Not a problem.
Definitely not the biggest trees I saw, but  I am always easily impressed by nature.

I was surprised at how amazingly secluded places in Discovery Park seem. I walked into this clearing and had I not drove into the park from Seattle, I would have thought I was in the middle of nowhere. No city sounds, no other people within earshot.

And further proof that it's quiet and natural, though I dared not go any closer, lest it attack me.

I walked about 1.3mi that morning, and it was well worth the foot pain (which, by the way, should go away soon, as my foot is healing reasonably well).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bachelorhood Journal: Day 20ish

Day 20. Maybe. I somehow make it out of the house every morning and onto the bus. So far, I've even made it to work. How it happens, I'm not quite sure. Residual rum from the night before. The promise of sushi (which I missed today due to two meetings sandwiching our soon-to-be biweekly sushi get-together).

I constantly have to remind myself that the locals fear the cold. I found myself on the wrong end of "how about this weather?" today when I responded - much to my chagrin - "Isn't it great! It's so warm out!" Apparently mid-30s is not, in fact, warm, but rather cold. This probably also explains why I get odd looks at the bus stop.

In other news, tentative plans are in motion for a trip up Mt. Rainier. Some coworkers and I are planning on hiking up this bad-boy this summer, if all goes well. If you look carefully, you can see Rainier in the background of this picture.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 in books

In 2012, I read as many books as in 2011 (though not as many as I'd like):

Living Buddha, Living Christ (Thich Nhat Hanh)
True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart (Thich Nhat Hanh)
The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (Thich Nhat Hanh)
One-Minute Mindfulness (Donald Altman)
Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life (Len Fisher)
Farewell, My Subaru (Doug Fine)
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Richard Louv)
Programming Collective Intelligence (Toby Segaran)
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Fisher, et al)
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Richard Feynman)
Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive (Bruce Schneier)
The Zen of Zombie: Better Living Through the Undead (Scott Kenemore)

Not surprisingly, I didn't read a single fiction book this year, though this last one (a gift from +Krista) might be considered something close to one.

As I finish some of these books, I've been sending them out into the great big world with one of my projects,, as a way to both [a] get rid of household clutter and [b] to let others enjoy things for which I have little to no use. The World We Have and True Love are already out there somewhere; the former, I dropped off at Parkour Visions, and the latter I don't remember where I left it.

Farewell, My Subaru was a gift from +Aaron and +Elissa Ballman that I read and promptly returned so they could enjoy it. It was a very entertaining read about a man that setup a ranch in New Mexico and tried to live as off-the-grid and self-sufficient as possible.

Most the other books were actually library-borrowed. Last Child in the Woods is about how childrens' distance from nature negatively effects their behavior and cognition (and, inversely, how proximity to nature is good for us). I enjoyed it, but it did get a bit long and repetitive.

Programming Collective Intelligence was a somewhat tedious survey of machine learning. An interesting read, but one I wouldn't buy.

Getting to Yes, as with other books (and podcasts; see Planet Money's An FBI Hostage Negotiator Buys A Car) on negotiating are really interesting to me -- someone who has terrible intuition about negotiating. This book, written almost 30 years ago, was a great resource for learning about many of the aspects of negotiating deals.

Schneier's Liars and Outliers was a great, approachable book on security. Not merely technical security, mind you, but the gamut of topics from biology and evolution to psychology and society. This is a book that I would actually recommend to others that have no particular technical or security interest, as it helps you think in a new way about why people defect and why you can only go so far in law enforcement, counter-terrorism, and so on.

In 2013, I'd like to break my habit of reading only non-fiction. I'm considering Frank Herbert's Dune and Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, among a few others.

Bachelorhood Journal: Day 11

Day 11. I went to work on Day 2. Forgot it's a regular thing. Spent days 4-8 working again. This sucks.

Started bachelorhood making real meals, shaving regularly and so forth. Now I eat Oreos and have mostly given up on appearances. My natural, Minnesotan resilience to near-freezing temperatures combined with my mountain man beard scares the Seattle natives.

Mostly pre-beard.
On the plus side, my productivity at home is ever-increasing. I've been putting out more LOC for Babbage than I have in a long time. It won't be long now.

My trip to Discovery Park was awesome, and I even ventured out on the motorcycle on New Years Day: