A semi-daily chronicle of my life as a musician, a family man, and a citizen of Oregon.

Nov 29, 2007

I'm Mad at Microsoft

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest Microsoft fan in the world, but recently my views have been moderating.  This very moment I'm using Windows Live Writer to compose this post, which is a brilliant piece of software.  I've written about how much I love Photosynth.  This was all before Vista, though.  Vista has raised my ire towards Microsoft in a way it has not been raised in a long time.

A couple weekends ago Jen bought a new laptop.  It's an HP Pavilion db6500z, which admittedly isn't the best laptop in the world but at the same time is nothing to sneeze at.   Jen's purposes were primarily writing papers for school and surfing the internet.  The HP has an AMD Turion 64 x2 dual core and a gig of RAM.  Although I would have preferred to just stick with XP right off the bat, I wasn't given that option because all of the laptops at Fry's were loaded with Vista.  Resigned to Vista, we made our purchase and Jen happily brought her new tool/toy home.

As soon as I began setting the laptop up, though, we were witness first-hand to how big a piece of crap Vista is.  This laptop is extremely slow - it runs like Jen's version of ME used to.  And as anyone who has used ME knows, that's saying a lot.  I first attributed the slowness to all of the crapware HP loads on its machines, but after diligently removing any software that did not have an obvious purpose the performance of the machine has only marginally improved.  I've watched the hardware monitors as the laptop lags and the memory and chip are doing fine, it's just the operating system itself that is painful.

Resigned to the fact that a downgrade makes the most sense I did some research and it turns out that you can only get a downgrade from Microsoft if you have Vista Business or Ultimate.  Of course - the laptop came with Vista Home Premium.  What this all means is that in order to get the laptop downgraded we're going to have to buy an OEM copy of XP to install.  The OEM software doesn't really cost that much (<$100) but the principle of the thing is such that every time I think about it the veins in my forehead begin to pulse. 

So frustrating.  I wish Jen were open to learning linux.

Nov 28, 2007

Rain Boots

I've been quite enjoyably taking the bus to work since August.  I love riding the bus and MAX but now that it's officially winter in Portland I've run into my first trouble spot - the rain has been coming down and down and down, which means puddles.  Big time.  Big 'ol mess of 'em.  Having recently come to the realization that without taking some kind of action I would ruin all of my issues I decided I should buy some rain shoes. 

On the bus & MAX I already carry a laptop case and have a heavy coat for the cold, so I'm not really interested in finding a way to carry my shoes around with me as well.  I figured I would get some galoshes.  In my mind galoshes were a regular thing, like hair gel or wart removers.  Paddington wore them.  Remember?  They go *over* your regular shoes.  They are shoes for your shoes when your shoes aren't up for the job.

Galoshes are apparently a little more difficult to find than I anticipated.  Fred Meyer's, Target, Costco, all do not carry galoshes.  As I rode mass transit back and forth to work I began covertly checking out the footwear of my fellow mass transit riders.  Unfortunately my covert observations weren't very helpful.  I only learned that most people wear tennis shoes all the time no matter what the weather is. I did notice that rain boots are unfairly targeted almost exclusively at women.  Apparently girl feet get wetter than boy feet. 

Finally, without any other option available to me, I turned to the Internet.  Even on the Internet galoshes did not appear to be plentiful.  After a surprisingly long time I located a great pair of what are referred to as "Water Proof Overshoes" at workingperson.com.  Excited and motivated, I placed my order.

I have been less than thrilled with my experience at workingperson.com.  First off, I ordered the boots on November 11th.  I received the obligatory email immediately after placing my order letting me know that I had placed an order.  This was the last that I heard from workingperson.com.

I should have taken notice of a huge warning sign - the web site goes to pains to say that they don't charge anyone's credit card until an order has shipped.  Over and over.  They take great pride in this fact.  To be fair, they were as good as their word, I was never charged for anything.  That said, I never received my boots either.

When I went to their web site this weekend I could log into my account and see that I had placed an order but there was absolutely no status update on it.  It just said what address I put in and when I placed the order - that's it.  Frustrated, I sent them an email asking them for an update and reminding them that nearly two weeks had passed since it was placed.

Three days later, I hadn't heard anything yet.  I finally called them this morning and a person answered the phone who said that her "Internet" was down all weekend so she's way behind on email.   I asked if she could look up my order right then, and she reluctantly agreed.  She finally told me that the boots would come to her from the manufacturer on December 11th, at which time they would ship UPS ground for another 5-8 business days.  Of course, during this whole time there had been no indication to me that the boots were on backorder.  Disgusted, I canceled the order.

Based on the web site, I figured that workingperson.com was a pretty together organization but they obviously have a mess going on in terms of internal processes.  I've worked at a lot of places like this.  We can smell our kind. 

Not one to give up easily, I resumed my internet search tonight and after searching under the term "wellies" (a term I don't really even know the definition of but saw mentioned in a Portland forum during my search) I found just what I had in mind at zappos.com.  While they were a little more expensive than the boots I had originally ordered, what I found was more of what I was originally envisioning. 

Best of all, zappos.com has free shipping _both ways_.  They ship the shoes out OVER NIGHT for free, and if they don't work out you can ship them *back* for free.  Not only that, they don't have such a thing as back order.  If an item isn't in the warehouse, you can't order it.  Simple as that.

They also have a really cool feature on their web site called MULTI VIEW where you can see their shoes at all kinds of different angles to get a better idea of what you're looking at.  Also, they have an active customer review base so I could learn that since I wear a size 10.5 I should order the X Large size to accommodate all of my shoes. 

I'm almost glad that it didn't work out at the first place.  Hopefully everything will finish up as well as it started with Zappos.  If so I'd most definitely shop there again.

And most importantly, I will finally have galoshes.  Watch out, puddles!!!

Status Update:

Somehow one of the folks at workingperson.com saw this post and gave me a call yesterday to explain what had happened and apologize for the experience. It seems they had a number of technical problems in and around the same time that I placed my order that all kind of added up to what happened to me. The person who called me, Michael, was extremely nice and well spoken about the issues and did what he could to make the situation right by me. I very much appreciated the follow-up and will give them another shot, because they do have a lot of the cool work stuff I like.

Kudos to them for taking the initiative.

Nov 27, 2007

Yurt Camping at Fort Stevens

The weekend after thanksgiving we headed out to Fort Stevens (which is kind of by Astoria) to do some yurt camping.

Fort Stevens

For those of you unfamiliar with yurts they are the perfect winter camping setting, especially if you don't have a tent trailer yet like Jen and I.  They're nothing fancy, just a little hut with canvas walls, limited electricity and a little space heater but they are really really fun and a great way to get away with the family.  Our yurt looked like this -

Out of shot of the photograph to the right there's a little fire grate for if you want to do some outdoor cooking.  It was a little cold for that while we were there but we'll be making some fires in the future.

The yurts have a little skylight dome thing in the roof which is really cool and allows you to see the stars at night.

It was pretty cold at night and we ended up buying a second little space heater to stick in the corner, which was a great idea and much recommended for any potential winter yurt campers out there.

It was a very relaxing trip with plenty of time to read and hang out with the family.  Of course, we made our obligatory trip to the Astoria Aquatic Center which you must not judge by its super cheesy website.


While we were camping Jen taught Brianna to crochet and she's been making chains ever since.  Pretty soon she'll be making a pot-holder.

Nov 26, 2007

Thanksgiving '07

We had a great Thanksgiving this year.  We did things a little differently, having more of a lunch than dinner so that Andrew could spend time both at our house and with his dad's family that night.  For dinner we had Salmon, potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade egg nog, salad, french bread, bruschetta, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.

Our friend Heather came over to spend thanksgiving with us and in the afternoon Jen, Heather and Brianna got some beading time in.

When we were eating we went around the table and did a little exercise where everyone took a turn saying what they were thankful for this year.  One thing that struck me is that both of our kids said that they were thankful for being born, and after I thought about it I realized that they say that almost every year.  It's amazing and encouraging that they know this - that they're very lucky to be born and to be alive.  How wonderful to know that. 

Nov 23, 2007


Christmas is just around the corner....

Southern Anthem by Iron & Wine

This song is so beautiful and the video is amazing as well. I've liked these guys for a really long time.

There's a great set of lines in this song:

freedom, a fever you suffered through
and the dog drank from your cup
frozen, the river that baptized you
and the horse died standing up

Now on Facebook

That's right, I've finally succumbed to the mounting pressure and have joined facebook.  If you're interested in being my friend (god that sounds pathetic) my email address is:


As I was filling out my profile I was again reminded of how much I hate talking about myself.  I've always been one of those people that would rather others would just look at the things I do and make their own judgement with little to zero ability to sell what I do.  I totally get it, I like reading about other people and what bands, movies, and tv shows they like but for some reason on a level that is admittedly not rational I always get an uncomfortable feeling when I attempt to catalog myself in that way.

I'll add to my profile slowly, but thanks god for the flickr and last.fm applications that allow others to just see the things that I've done.  :)

Nov 22, 2007

The Procrastination Flow Chart

Finally, a flowchart to follow as I procrastinate - you know, in case I get lost.

read more | digg story

Nov 21, 2007

Layer Tennis Anyone?

Over the last few days I've been spending a lot of time looking at the layer tennis matches over at layertennis.com.  When you look at a match be sure to read the writing located over on the left-hand side of the screen - it's a key part of the whole experience.  Enjoy!

Nov 18, 2007

An observation on the late '90s .com bubble

I was listening to Buzz Out Loud today and one of the hosts made a reference to the '90s .com bubble and the business ideas that were prominent at the time.  They were talking about the whole idea of start-ups thinking "We're not afraid to make something that fails, we'll just keep making enough different products and services that when one of them launches it will pay for the whole all of those that lost money". 

I'm referring back to the time when the economy was driven by this new whacky medium called the internet and the influx of cash was such that it wasn't even expected that a company needed to be showing profit for years and years.  I think we all remember.

Of course, through the lens of '07 this whole time in history  looks pretty ridiculous. 

At my current job I'm project managing this big web site upgrade.  As a result I've been learning about all of these different software engineering methodologies like agile, scrum, extreme programming, and spiral waterfall. 

For a key portion of this project we've settled on a methodology that is radically different from what many of the not-so technical people in the company are used to.  Many of these folks learned software development in the course of their current jobs, where a lot of them have worked for the last 15+ years.  Some of these folks even perceive what they've learned as the *right* way to do things and any other method as the *wrong* way to do things. 

As a result I've been put in the situation of trying to explain to these non-technical people (of which I'm one myself) how the software development methodology we're using works and what the advantages are.

The simplest way to explain what we're doing is to say that it's incremental - meaning that the software is developed one piece at a time - and that it's iterative, meaning that the same process will happen again and again to build on the core of the most important parts of the software.  The hope is that by working in this way, the software is driven by its key purpose rather than by a feature.  Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the subject if you're interested in learning more.

I'm sure this seems like the most aimless post in the world so far but let me bring it back to my thought this morning... what stood out is that a key feature of the iterative approach is the practice of creating a first version of something which should result in a working piece of software, and simply throwing this first version of the software away, making use instead of the second version of the  software built as your working model that you share with others.  This is the beta version.

I wonder if a professional bias was exposed when these young developers ended up being the heads of these start-ups, talking to venture capitalists about the new way they work.  I wonder if the worldview of a software engineer could accept and promote an idea of "we'll just keep trying stuff" more easily then someone trained in a different model.

Could the .com bubble be blamed on the acceptance of an iterative/incremental method that was merely a good idea in the wrong context?

Nov 14, 2007

Sigur Ros

My friend Paul turned me on to this video tonight.  Very powerful.

Nov 10, 2007


This post inspired me to start making bread at home.  I made my first loaf today and it's delicious.  I think this is pretty great.

Nov 8, 2007

If 24 were done in 1994

This is a great take on why 24 would have been totally impossible 13 years ago.

Too funny, I completely forgot about paying for the internet by the hour.

Bonneville Fish Hatchery

Jen was talking all last week about taking the kids to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery for a fun field trip.   Perhaps, like me, you are skeptical of the charm and allure of a fish hatchery.  It may be that the thought of watching a bunch of fish being bred in captivity is less than enthralling.  It may even sound boring to you.

If that's the case, just like me, you'd be wrong.  It's actually awesome.

First off, there are these little sections of river for viewing - almost like ponds - where the trout live.  These aren't any regular old trout like the kind I used to catch back home in the creeks of Buffalo Creek in my sweet home of Colorad-y (spit- bing!).  No, these things are the size of small dogs.  They are absolutely gigantic.

These trout are also totally hip to the fact that you, as a person walking around the edge of the pond, are a likely source of food.  They congregate next to wherever you walk just waiting for the pellets of food to come raining down.

Farther up there's a deeper section where they have sturgeon.  At this particular hatchery there's a sturgeon named Herman who is over 10 feet long and over 450 lbs.  There's a little sturgeon center where you can go and see Herman and the trout that live there with him up closer via some nifty glass.

I've since learned that just as there were many Lassie's, there have been many Herman over the years.  More info on Herman can be found here.

We were lucky that we were visiting during the salmon spawning season.  This is a picture of the "crowder" where the salmon jump up into a holding area before they are eventually taken into the spawning room and mated.  In this picture you can see a chinook salmon trying to get up into it.

There's a tube that sucks the fish up into a truck for transportation to other locations.  Somehow I convinced Jen to stand under it.  mwuhaha.

Nov 6, 2007

Halloween '07

This year we had quite the Halloween.  Of course, there was the obligatory pumpkin carving.  We used a new technique learned from Martha Stewart; drill pilot holes into the pumpkin using a drill, making the carving lines straighter and easier to make. 

Honestly, this is the first technique we've tried that's come remotely close to working.

Thanks, Martha!

The party was lots of fun, and there were tons of kids there.  Andrew was a werewolf, and Brianna was a sassy diva. 

We had some twister going on as well as some bobbing for apples.

Believe it or not we didn't get any pictures of Jen as a boxer or me as her manager (all Don King stylee).  If anybody has some please let me know - I'd love to get some.

Nov 5, 2007

My Trip to the Wind Farm

In October I had a chance to go on the best field trip ever, Biglow Wind Farm.  Biglow is one of a bunch of wind farms being built in Sherman County Oregon, which is about two hours or so from Portland.  I got to go because of my work.

One thing you can't overstate is just how overwhelmingly massive these things are.  There really isn't a way to appreciate it unless you're right up there next to it.  We had a chance to drive up to one that was still being constructed and you can kind of get an idea just in relation to the people around it.

The Turbines are amazing.  The blades of the turbine rotate to make optimal use of the wind for generation, both on the hub (the thing the blades are connected to) and the base.  They are able to make up to 3 full 360 degree rotations before they need to unwrap the internal cables by turning back to their neutral position.  They are over 20 stories high and when those huge blades turn they're moving up to 130 mph at the tip.  I took this video which can give you kind of an inkling...

I got this picture of looking into the tower of a wind turbine while it was on the ground.  The ladder is held onto the side of the tower by strong magnets.

These things are just too cool...

And of course, the beautiful view of Mt. Hood.

If you're interested in the full set you can find it here.

Nov 4, 2007

Andrew's Birthday

Andrew's birthday is October 17th, and this year we celebrated with a party for his friends at Mt. Scott pool.  The pool is incredible - it's like the one we ritually go to in Astoria when we do the SOLV beach cleanup each fall.  It's got a huge twisty slide where you can go really fast, especially if you lie down real flat and point your arms down... well, you're just going to have to try it for yourself.  But when you do you'll agree that the slide is cool.

There's also a great current-thing where you can back-float and be pulled along in a channel and a really cool shallow area with tons of fun things for the littler kids.

  After the pool we headed over to Justin & Amy's house where we had a chance to hang out with Andrew's friends, have a little bit of food and open some presents.  It was weird because this was the first birthday where the boys weren't running around all nuts but were just more chill and trying to impress one another.  Strange change.

Andrew got his favorite- a chocolate ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins.  I think ever since he became aware of these things he's asked for them on his birthday.

This year we got Andrew a new bike for his birthday.  It doesn't have shocks, but it does have pegs - and Andrew was lucky.  He even gave Brianna  a ride on the pegs.  :)

Nov 1, 2007

The Onion Cracks me up

I read this in the Onion today and it made me laugh and laugh.  Too good.