Saturday, July 31, 2004

City Quiz

I saw this on a friend's blog.

Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

I took the quiz and got:
Your dark exterior masks a caffeine driven activism. You'll take up a cause and you'll get ugly to advance it.

Guess I'm in the right place!

I was undecided on a few of the questions, and took the quiz again and chose the other answer. This time I got:
Las Vegas
You Shine bright and partake in all the vices. You'd rather burn out then fade away.

Looks like I'm a west coast kind of person - I can agree with those results. While the east coast has its charms (I've lived in Brunswick, GA for half of 9th grade; Silver Spring, MD for my high school years; and NYC for four months, before I moved to Washington state) I do like the west better.

Rice Alums

Tonight I drove into Seattle to the Roanoke Park Place Tavern for a Rice alumni meeting. Our alumni group is called RAIN - Rice Alumni In the Northwest. Catchy name, don't you think?

RAIN met regularly for years, but then the woman who ran the email list graduated and moved away. She gave plenty of warning, but I suppose the rest of us were too lazy to do anything like take it over from her. That was over two years ago so we hadn't gathered in quite some time. I made some good friends in the group, including Tom and Lila, and a few others I keep in touch with since they've moved away.

I was looking forward to the event since after such a long break, this would likely draw a large crowd of alums. Tom and Lila were there tonight and I was happy to see them. Lila has made a few interesting career changes and is currently in law school, so I asked her all about how her first year went. I talked to a few others, including some friends I hadn't seen in a long time. The group plans to meet once a month so we'll see who the hardcore attendees are after a while!

I must eat a better dinner tomorrow, as I just had beer and nachos. ;)

Friday, July 30, 2004


I've been playing around IRC lately, and since that is already goofing off in the highest degree, I decided to write a simple IRC bot. My day job is software development, and I thought this would be a fun diversion.

An IRC bot? What's that you ask? Well, assuming you have some background in IRC as a user, a bot is just a program that provides some service. It may fetch sports scores, log all text and produce stats, or grant ops to users that join the channel. Fancy bots do crazy stuff like let people choose music to play, run webcams, and so forth. My goals are far simpler!

My immediate goals for the bot were: keep a channel open, and greet users that join that channel. Since this is a learning experience, I decided to be more "hands on" about writing the bot, and not just take an existing one and modify it slightly.

I started by googling for existing IRC bots, preferably ones I could download and examine to see what I was getting myself into. Google turned up several written in PERL, Java, and C# - any of these languages would be fine. I have two windows boxes and one linux box, and all those languages are available. I also skimmed the IRC specs just for basic information.

In my searches I came across a JAVA API for IRC bots! I couldn't resist starting with such a great foundation, so I began reading the documentation for PircBot.

At risk of peeling back the curtain and piercing the aura of difficulty surrounding software development ;) all it took to make the bot greet users was this code:

public void onJoin( String channel, String sender, String login, String hostname )
sendMessage( channel, "Hail " + sender + "! Welcome to the harem." );

In addition to this, I just had to fill out the correct server and channel to join.

To be honest, it took me longer to update my Java SDK to the latest version and remember how to build and run Java apps than it took me to get a bot up, running, and greeting users. I also enhanced the bot code so it takes the bot name on the command line. Thus, once the bot is ready, I can easily launch several copies and give each one a different name.

Now, this implementation isn't very sophisticated. For example, the bot greets itself when it joins the channel. I decided that looked really stupid so I made a minor enhancement:

public void onJoin( String channel, String sender, String login, String hostname )
if ( getNick().equals( "harembot" ) && !sender.equals( "harembot" ) )
sendMessage( channel, "Hail " + sender + "! Welcome to the harem." );

The extra code does this: only a bot named "harembot" will greet users, and the bot named "harembot" will not greet itself.

That wasn't so hard, now was it?!

I left the bot running over night and found it had been disconnected somehow. So, I added in two different methods for reconnecting. The first cycles through the various servers until the bot connects successfully, and the second just keeps trying to reconnect to the same server. Right now I'm running both methods to see which one results in a more reliable presence.

The other thing I added was ops granting. This was interesting as I had to learn about various modes and the messages involved when a user gets ops or has ops removed. I may cover this later, but right now I also have my various bots recognizing each other and granting ops when they join. I need to take it a step further and implement a system where I can add people to a list for the same treatment.

So this is what I do sometimes to relax sometimes, rather then veg in front of the TV (which hasn't even been turned on in 5 days). However tonight I'll probably watch something in my Netflix queue.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Camera Memory

I'm taking a vacation to New Zealand in November, and an important consideration for me is my picture saving strategy. This will be the first major trip I've taken since I bought my digital camera - previously I had an APS camera.

In Florida, I just saved my pictures to my notebook. But on this trip, I won't be taking a notebook computer with me, because both notebooks I have are through work, and this isn't a business trip.

Apple sells a media reader that lets you copy pictures to an iPod, but unfortunately it isn't compatible with the iPod mini, which is what I have.

I just decided to my more memory for my camera. I was using a 128 MB compact flash card, and that holds about 70 pictures at highest resolution and lowest compression. That isn't nearly good enough - I'm planning to take far more pictures than that.

So, I bought two 512 MB high speed compact flash cards. At highest resolution (2048 x 1536 for my camera) and lowest compression, that should hold around 280 pictures per card. I'm considering bumping down the resolution one notch to 1600 x 1200, which should result in about 480 pictures per card. That should be plenty, although I might buy one more 512 MB compact flash just to be extra safe, so then I would be able to save around 1400 total pictures!

I splurged a bit for higher speed flash memory, because the 128 MB flash I originally paused noticeably between pictures as it wrote to the card. I tried a few pics yesterday with the new CF card, and I did notice it pausing less after a shot.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Board Games

Tonight I met with some gaming friends at my former employer.

I've always enjoyed games, both board and computer, and found some people with similar interests where I used to work. We would gather once every other week or so and play in the evenings, just to take a break. I used to play Scrabble with another group there, but it dissolved so now I just play on the computer once in a while. Scrabble and backgammon are my two favorite "classic" board games, because they require both luck and skill, and are therefore fun. I don't find chess to be enjoyable, for example, because it is pure skill.

Anyway, in the board games group, we started playing RoboRally but hit some problems. The game is fun but moves were taking so long we would often play for two or three hours and only complete one (out of four or more) of the victory conditions! We tried a few other games such as Formula DE before discovering Settlers of Catan, a game all of us really liked. So much that we played all the expansions and eventually needed a break. As Yogi Berra might say, it was so popular we stopped playing. We tried Tikal (good strategy game but suffers from decision paralysis), Carcasonne (game of the year but didn't quite captivate us), Princes of Florence (very good game), Torres (very strategic, and sometimes the best move is to help an opponent), Ra (I like this but not everybody enjoys auction games) and many others. These games are all great fun but each takes a while to setup and play. Plus, we'd have to review the rules for several minutes beforehand. Nevertheless, we would cycle through the games and buy a new one every few months.

Lately we've been playing games that move a bit faster, such as Evo. One friend got so good at this game others started making special house rules meant to even things up! Card based games are fun and quick, such as Fluxx, which is fast and easy, but a bit random so we lost interest. High Society, Cartagena, Bohnanza are among our favorites.

Tonight we played Illuminati, a game about secret societies taking over the world. Your Illuminati group spends its turn either destroying, neutralizing, or dominating other groups, which may be in the power structure of a rival Illuminati group (the other players). It was close game - the four of us were each within another turn of winning when someone finally did. That's the hallmark of a good game, when everybody is in it until the end!

NOTE: all these links are to I'm not affiliated with them, just a happy customer. It was easier to link to their online catalog than chase down all these links at the respective companies.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Ending the Exercise Hiatus

I didn't exercise at all during my recent business trip to Orlando, which puts me behind on my training plan. There are still eight weeks to my target race, but since I'd just like to finish the event, it is still possible for me to enter. Yesterday I rode my bike with a friend from her house to Seward Park and back, a nice 23 mile round trip.

Today I decided to run. I was eager, in fact, perhaps too eager. I filled up my water flasks, put on my heart rate monitor and my Forerunner, and headed out. I decided to run from work, along a street, onto the Sammamish River Trail (a multi-use trail), and onto the Power Trail (which I recently discovered). To sum things up, I ran for 1 hour 43 minutes along 8.3 miles.

That may sound slow, and it is, but that was my goal: long slow distance. I run with a heart rate monitor and try to stay within certain heart rate zones. I have friends that run on RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and it seems to work for them, but I like to keep an eye on my heart rate. Heart rate is a great measure of how hard you are really working - it will vary with the weather, how tired and/or sick you are, whether or not you are climbing a hill or descending, and so forth. If I keep a constant heart rate, I slow down over time; conversely at a constant speed my heart rate will creep up over time. Naturally, my body isn't a machine and things will vary slightly, but I find heart rate to be really useful.

There are many complicated systems, some present five or more target zones. I prefer to keep watch on just three: aerobic, or below 70% of my max heart rate; anaerobic, or above 85% of my max heart rate; and the middle zone, above 70% and less than 85%.

Below 70%, your body burns more fat to supply you with energy. This is why walking is such an excellent exercise - it is easy on the joints, and burns fat. Above 85%, your body burns more carbs to supply your energy requirements. Carbs contains fewer calories per gram, but they are easy to metabolize and so that's what your body chemistry draws upon when it needs energy fast.

For my event, I'm mostly training aerobically, below 70%. That's the zone you build endurance in, which is what I'll need. It doesn't make sense to train hard (all the time) as during my race I'm not going to be running anywhere near my speed potential. Generally, to maximize training efficiency, I try to train aerobically or anaerobically, and stay out of the middle zone which is too fast to build endurance and too slow to build speed.

Today I kinda of blew that. My heart rate chart shows I averaged 78% the entire time. It was hot, the course had a few hill climbs and it is always difficult for me to keep my heart rate down while going uphill, without slowing down to a walk. Next time I run the same course I can compare - try to stay within my target heart zones better. Later, I'll run 8.3 miles along the flat SRT and compare heart rates and times.

heart rate 040726

Monday, July 26, 2004


I don't follow many TV shows, but one of the ones I really like is CSI. I've also gotten into the spinoff CSI: Miami, and will undoubtedly do the same for latest spinoff, CSI: New York, which debuts this September.

The reason I like these shows is that science is the main plot element, unlike all the other police and law dramas on. A crime is committed, and the team goes out to gather evidence and then reconstruct what happened based on the evidence.

I also like the Discovery Channel show "New Detectives" which is similar - it details the forensic science behind solving a crime. One key difference is all the crimes in "New Detectives" are real cases.

One minor downer is pretty much all the crimes are homicides, although some are accidental death. On the other hand, sometimes the circumstances are so bizarre it is funny!

Anyway, two costars on CSI staged a salary protest but it has been resolved now. Good news - the show will go on on!

Do Over

At lunch today, chatting with a friend, we talked about what we would do over in our lives. My list is quite small actually.

First, instead of playing in the band in junior high school, I would have taken German. I spent 7th through 9th grade (half of 9th actually) in Frankfurt, Germany (West Germany at the time) at an American junior high school, and it would have been a great opportunity to learn the language. Instead, I used my electives to play in the band. It was fun, but it isn't something I do anymore. My high school taught up to five years of German, so it would have been perfect: two years in junior high, three more in high school. I don't know if I would have continued in college, but anything would have been useful.

The other thing I would have done differently is entered graduate school in computer science directly. I was an electrical engineering undergrad, and completed my degree in four years. Then I went into grad school in the same field and spent two years as a full time grad student, one year as a part time grad student, and then I switched to computer science and got my Master's in another year and a half. So that wasn't very efficient, now was it! I did all the coursework for my M.S.E.E. but didn't do the thesis. I want to emphasize: that doesn't mean I was "close" to the E.E. Master's - far from it as any grad student will tell you.

That change would possibly have made a profound difference in my life, however. I would have graduated with the C.S. Master's in 1992 instead of 1995, might have worked somewhere else instead of Compaq, might not have met one of my best friends Bev, may not have wound up moving to Seattle, and so forth. So on the whole I'm not sure I'd be better off making that change.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Dreaded Question

The other day my boss and I went to dinner, and we talked about various things. Books, sci-movies, and then he brought up something I was dreading:

"Have you thought about relocation?"

I made a non-committal grunt and he talked about the various benefits: cheaper cost of living, more visibility in my group which would benefit my career. I was half listening as my mind wandered around. I am single and have no family in the area, so perhaps I am an easy first target. I don't think the main group is trying to relocate all 18 or so of us in the Redmond office - some of them wouldn't leave. But for me, the only real thing keeping me in the Seattle area is the fact I mostly love it, and that's where I've built my life for the past few years.

I've managed to carve out a pleasant life for myself in the Seattle area. Since I moved here in 1997, I've made friends, gotten healthier as I took up running, biking, and swimming. I participate in triathlons, play volleyball, and snowboard in the winter. I bought a house close to work a little over a year ago, like my job, and enjoy how things are going in general... with the exception of my personal life - that has been essentially and unfortunately non-existent during my time here so far.

Orlando seems nice enough - it has a few unique attractions besides the theme parks. I'd have to give up snowboarding, but perhaps I could replace that with jet skiing or some form of boating. Or maybe I'd stay far away from the water - it doesn't help reading articles about alligator attacks!

I'm 35 and frankly dread moving and starting all over again. I've done that a few times, and it is exhausting adjusting to a new place and making friends. It takes years and these days one of the only things that would get me to move is a woman I intend to marry, and then I'd probably try to get her to move to me first, if we aren't in the same area already.

The good news is I am relatively certain nothing will come of this for months - we are busy through October attempting to meet a firm deadline, and after that I have some vacation in November and the holidays in December are always hectic. Since it takes a while to relocate the earliest I think this topic will seriously come up again is January of 2005. Plus, we are a viable remote site in Redmond - it isn't as if I'm the only person in my group not at the main campus. I think I can fend off relocation talk if it comes up again. What will be difficult is if, for whatever reason, I have to move for my job. So far it isn't being phrased that way.

Friday, July 23, 2004

New Music

This year I decided to expand my music horizons. I have a CD collection, but it is dominated by late 80's and early 90's bands. For a long time I didn't buy any new CD's and just listened to the radio. Earlier in the year I asked some friends to loan me a few of their favorite CD's. Not music they thought I would like - I wanted music they liked.

Eric gave me Circle of Dust, Cranes, Gus Gus, Psykosonik, Massive Attack, and Sister Machine Gun. I was excited because honestly, I had never heard of any of these groups before.

Krisanne gave me Jude, Morphine, Neil Finn, Sinéad Lohan, and Ryan Adams. At least I had heard of Morphine and Neil Finn!

Ben loaned me Leonard Cohen, Matthew Sweet, and some Radiohead. I also know he and his wife Jenny like Weezer. Of these, I had only heard of Radiohead and Weezer.

Gail sent me some Sam Roberts and Nina Simone, neither of which I had heard of.

So far this is working out great - I am getting suggestions of music I've mostly never even heard of! I've bought some new music as a result - Thievery Corporation, Crystal Method, Massive Attack, Visqueen, Weezer, Radiohead. I went to see Crystal Method and Jude in concert, and enjoyed both.

My latest friends to give me some music to try is Noelani and her husband Dustin. They are fans of "non-mainstream" bands such as NOFX, Dead Milkmen, Ugly Casanova, and DK [EDIT: now I know that DK stands for the Dead Kennedys]. All these groups were new to me except for the Dead Kennedys, and I'm pretty sure I haven't heard any of their music. I haven't had a chance to listen to it all yet - so far just the NOFX. It's catchy, some songs use other styles (reggae, 50's) and override that with a fast punk twist. Can you imagine that? Interesting lyrics also.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Japanese Review

I've taken Japanese off and on for several years. It's fun and I enjoy it, and I realistically don't expect to become fluent. I would be thrilled with a junior high reading and speaking ability. Heck, reading and speaking at the elementary school level would be great!

I took Spanish in high school, but didn't take the class seriously. As a result, I didn't really learn anything. When I lived in Germany, I used my electives to play in the band, which I enjoyed doing, but that is a decision I would redo if I could - I would have taken German instead! I didn't have a language requirement in college and would have had an extremely difficult time squeezing a language in if I had one.

You always hear how children pick up languages quickly. This may be true, but I personally think most of the reason for this is children are often immersed in a language, either through school, their parents, or where they live.

Japanese is difficult but not too bad. Pronunciation is far easier than Mandarin, a language famous for subtle and difficult pronunciation. Japanese has an alphabet - actually two alphabets, each of which is properly termed a syllabary - the hiragana and katakana. Kanji characters overlap with Mandarin.

Anyway, another Japanese class started up so I'm reviewing while in Orlando. I've reviewed the hiragana (ひらがな), the katakana (カタカナ), a few simple kanji, vocabulary, and verb and adjective conjugations.

An example of a verb conjugation will illustrate how the kanji and hiragana are used.

The verb "to go" in Japanese is iku, written in "romanji" (i.e. roman script). In hiragana that is いく. But it would be normally written as 行く using kanji - 行 is pronounced い which sounds like a long E in English. In Japanese, each verb has a root and a stem: the root is written in kanji, and the stem is written in hiragana. All grammar (including conjugations) is written in hiragana. iku (いく or 行く) is called the plain form or dictionary form. From that, the polite form is ikimasu (go; いきます or 行きます) and past tense is ikimashita (went; いきました or 行きました).

Something else interesting in Japanese is the adjectives conjugate. That's right, in English something is red or is not red, and the adjective "red" is unchanged. In Japanese, that would be in plain form, akai (red; あかい or 赤い) or akakunai (not red; あかくない or 赤くない)!

Fahrenheit 911

I saw this movie tonight. I'm sure you've heard all about it so I won't drone on and on.

What I thought was most sad was the lady who lost her son in the war. Obviously, there are hundreds of parents in the same situation.

What was most interesting to me was the scene where Moore is out trying to get congressmen to enlist their kids into the war. None of them went for it (only one congressman has a child in Iraq, according to the movie).

The movie closed mentioning a similar theme to a book I read, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. In the book she said the poor are the most generous people - they give up spending time with their kids to be nannies, they give up their own clean house to be maids, they make other people's lives better by their own hard work. Similarly, many recruits of our armed forces are from poorer areas, perhaps cities with depressed economies. These people join and are willing to risk their lives so the rest of us can benefit and have our freedom. And in this tragic case, their lives have been wasted.


I added a friend whose IM account is through AOL. Since I already have the MSN messenger client and Yahoo! messenger client running, I decided to try one of the multi-protocol IM clients rather than add another one.

Before getting too far along I created an AOL screenname. klbarrus was already taken (maybe by me some time ago! but I don't remember doing it and obviously wouldn't remember the password) so I tried variations of "dreadpirateroberts" until dreadpir8rob3rts was accepted.

After a search on Google I found GAIM, Miranda, and Trillian. All offered interop with MSN, Yahoo!, AIM, and other ones I'm not familiar with.

I started with GAIM. After a simple configuration screen I was up and running. I IM'ed a friend on each network just to make sure it was working, and everything was fine...

... until I decided to clean up my buddy list. On Yahoo! I have a "friends" group and a "work" group - this isn't to say I'm not friends with my coworkers! it is just a group so I can find people easier - while on MSN I have a "Friends" group and a "Work" group. Basically, different capitilization. So the GAIM buddy list had extra groups and I thought it would be nice to merge all my friends into a common group. I attempted to do this by dragging my Yahoo! friends to Friends, and everything seemed to be OK, until I got a weird status for some: "not on service list".

Hmmm. I quit the GAIM client and logged into the official Yahoo! client and discovered my Yahoo! friends were missing. So, I re-added them. Yahoo! requires the other person to approve an add, so I entered a brief explanation, along the lines of "I think I screwed up and deleted you".

Once that was finished up, I hit on the safer idea of renaming the groups with the official client. Thus, I changed "friends" to "Friends" and "work" to "Work" in the Yahoo! client. Later when I logged back in everything through GAIM, it worked as I had hoped: I had one Friends list and one Work list. One friend still showed up with an error status so I added her again through the official client, and now it seems to be just fine.

I like how GAIM implements chat - GAIM uses one conversation window and gives each conversation a separate tab. I prefer this over having a bunch of windows open all over the place. GAIM supports official client smileys, displays your friend's pictures, has nice buddy list status icons, and is easy to use. Some of my friends occasionally webcam, and getting that working might require the official client. Other than that, everything else is working fine.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Florida Fun - Airboat Ride

Another thing on my to do list was to take an airboat ride. If you've seen the movie Wild Things, an airboat is what Matt Dillon pilots around in one scene of that movie. Otherwise, an airboat is a flat bottomed boat with a giant fan on the back.

Me and the Airboat

The tour I took was on Lake Tohopekaliga, which is in the headwater system of the Florida Everglades. We saw a few wild egrets as we sped around, but mostly it was lily pads.

Lily Pads

The highlight of the trip was spending some time near wild alligators. The tour guide revved the engine floated us slowly towards a gator nest. This caused the nearby female alligator to become defensive and come out of the water near her nest. I was nearly within touching distance of the alligator which was actually a bit scary.

Gator and her Nest

We also stopped at another gator nest, but this time the gator hid under a marshy area just a few feet away. We could just barely see her nostrils above the mud, proving that gators are essentially invisible. They are quite skilled at camoflauge.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Florida Fun - Indoor Skydiving

I saw this when I was here in February, and made a mental note to definitely do it next time I was in town. Since I'm here in Orlando again on business, I had the chance and it was the MOST fun I've had in quite some time. I may go again before returning home!

SkyVenture Orlando is a building with a giant vertical fan. It generates wind at speeds of up to 120 mph, and on this column of air you can simulate flight.

After signing up, I climbed up the stairs and met the other people in my group. We then watched a short instructional video on correct form and hand signals. Correct form helps the air flow over you evenly: legs slightly bent; arched up from your hips; elbows bent; arms forward and relaxed; hands near your head. After a brief quiz and practicing form on a table, we were given a flight suit, goggles, helmet, ear plugs, and elbow and knee pads. The flight suits had small padded handles along the arms and back which could be used to grabbing and helping correct someone's position while in "flight".

The flight chamber was a small circular room with a mesh floor and ceiling. The walls were clear plastic and there was an observation room on the other side. Finally, the fan cranked up, and when it was my turn, I entered the chamber.

To enter, you hold your arms across your chest with fists under your chin, and gently lean into the room. The instructor grabs you and helps to lay you out horizontally while you stretch out into correct form. I entered and soon was floating on the air current! The instructor reminded me to look up and straighten my legs, but on the whole I got the hang of it quickly and experimented with floating up and down by subtle bending from the waist. It was so fun, I know I was grinning like a fool as I floated around and looked at the audience (friends and family of the others in my group). Too soon my time was up and I exited. To leave the room, you grab the door frame and pull while stepping down.

After a few more minutes, it was my turn again. After floating up and down and doing well controlling myself, the instructor showed me how to start a controlled horizontal spin. He mimed what he wanted me to do, but for whatever reason the first two or three times I didn't catch on and did it wrong. Basically I was only tilting my hands and rotating around my wrist. After another demo, I saw that what he wanted me to do was dip one shoulder slightly and raise the other one. After doing this, I began to turn slowly and was soon experimenting with spin while floating around the chamber. Again, my time was up all too soon and I exited with a giant smile on my face.

I didn't get any pictures, because I was there by myself. However, I bought the video of my time in the chamber and if I can transfer that to the computer, I can isolate a good picture or put the entire thing up for viewing.


A few cities around the country have this opportunity: see Flyaway Indoor Skydiving and SkyVenture.

I highly recommend this - it is not to be missed!

Florida Fun - Gatorland

Okay, I did go to a park, but GatorLand is a much smaller affair.

Gatorland, as you probably already guessed by its name, has a whole lot of alligators. Dozens and dozens, and all of the four species of gators:

  • American - Florida, Mexico, Central and South America

  • Cuban - Cuba

  • Nile - Africa

  • Saltwater - Southeast Asia and Australia

While I was there I walked around the entire park, and watched an alligator wrestling show. Gatorland also has a nature/swamp walk, bird sanctuary, snakes, iguanas, tortoises, wild turkeys, and even a bear (an illegally captured black bear was too domesticated to be released back to the wild so Gatorland offered it a home).

Gatorland Entrance

Baby Gators

Pair of Parrots


Bird Tree (there were so many I thought of a condo!)

Toothy Grin

Warning Sign

Swamp Walk

Holding a Baby Gator

Meta Post - blogging

It's been one month since I started this blog!

I thought of keeping a blog for a few months, but until recently I didn't have the motivation. I thought it would be difficult to write and format each entry, and more difficult to write the content. But, I saw more and more friends keep a blog and it looked fun and not too overwhelming, so I decided to try it.

As it turns out, modern blog sites make keeping one really easy. I have a website also and was looking into to all sorts of hosting options... and then I noticed many sites let you keep your blog on them! They may not offer much space for pictures, but I can host the pictures on my website and solve that problem. As for content, so far that hasn't been difficult. I have many interests and the entries wander among them.

My initial goal was to blog every other day, because I thought it would be too hard to write about something interesting every day. I've found the opposite to be true - many days I have several things to blog. I keep a list of possible topics to cover in case I'm out of ideas, and I haven't covered everything yet. One big topic that will be recurring is sports: triathlon and volleyball. I don't want this blog to turn into a training log, so for those entries I'll try to write more than just time/distance/location information. I've also avoided talking about various social and political issues, but I might comment every now and then if something really strikes me.

I'm certain eventually I'll cut back to a post every other day and perhaps go down to once a week. Lately I've been stretching the content out by posting one item per day, so perhaps that day is approaching. I hope to recognize when I reach this point, before the blog becomes vapid with daily trivia such as "Today I woke up and brushed my teeth with hot water. Then, I ate some grape nuts with fresh blueberries, one of which was sour...".

I'm having fun keeping this going... thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Florida Fun - Canal Tour

The Disney and Universal Studios theme parks dominate tourist attention, but for this trip I sought out lesser known adventures.

For instance, a canal tour. When you hear that, you may think of Venice or St. Petersberg, two cities with extensive canals. Winter Park, Florida probably doesn't spring to mind! But, a small canal system exists - a big industry in the late 19th century was timber and logging, so canals were built to connect several lakes together and move lumber around. In those days, a sawmill was on the shores of Lake Virginia and there was also a railroad line! Now the area is surrounded with some high-priced real estate (summer homes of wealthy industrialists of the era) and Rollins College.

Harp Fountain

Elephant Ear Leaves

Canal to Lake Virginia

Nice home!



Friday, July 16, 2004


I've been cooped up at work or the hotel all week, and I am getting a little stir crazy. I decided to get out and go geocaching, so I looked up a nearby cache and went to find it during lunch.

Geocaching is high tech hide-and-seek, played with GPS units. You play by searching for caches posted on the Geocaching website. You can also hide a cache and post coordinates. Caches may be well camoflauged, but never buried in such a way that digging is required. Some caches are easy to get to ("drive by caches") and some require extended hiking through difficult terrain.

The caches themselves are typically ammo containers or large tupperware boxes, with a notebook, pen, and assorted tchotchkes inside (think: last year's Happy Meal toys). Microcaches have become popular - these are film canister or candy box (altoids boxes work well) sized, or even smaller. These can be very hard to find as the hiding possibilities are immense. Some caches are two or more stages ("multicaches") where finding one cache yields coordinates for the next step. There are also travel bugs, which are tagged items with the goal of traveling somewhere.

Your first cache may require a leap of faith - I remember walking in a park with my GPS unit, searching around a tree, and feeling like this was some elaborate hoax.

This would have been find #80 for me, but alas it was not to be. I wasn't able to spend much time searching so after about a 10 minute attempt, I left.

Approaching the Cache

Under Observation

While I was looking for the cache I noticed I was being watched...



Last January, I decided to have my teeth straightened - my lower teeth are a bit crooked. Instead of regular metal braces, I went with Invisalign. What appealed to me was the fact invisalign is removable, and that allows me to brush and floss normally!

The toughest thing about this decision was needing three teeth extracted - the extraction process was a bit tougher than usual. I had thought about getting braces many times, but always stopped because I knew I'd need a few teeth extracted, and I just didn't want to do that. But, I finally caved in and went ahead. Someday when I'm old I might miss those three perfectly healthy teeth I had extracted. Or not. ;)

The way it works is your orthodontist takes an impression of your teeth, and then Invisalign uses that to make pairs of trays (as my orthodontist calls them) for you to wear, a pair for every two weeks. The trays are slightly out of alignment with your teeth, so the trays push the teeth straighter. Each pair of trays is worn for two weeks, and then you move to the next set. I only visit the orthodontist once every six weeks, and come away with three new pairs each time. I wear mine anywhere between eight and sixteen hours a day, depending on where I am in the two week cycle.

Today I switch to a new set, pair #31 out of 40 (upper teeth) or 49 (lower teeth). Typically a new pair is kinda tough to put on, and results in this odd feeling, sort of between having something stuck in between your teeth and a gentle but firm squeezing around your mouth. But over the days it gets easier and easier, until it is time to slip on the next pair in the series. The changes are subtle but definitely happening - the gaps I had from the extractions are filling in as my teeth move.

I took a picture of the trays but it came out rather blurry. I'll reshoot later.

Thursday, July 15, 2004


One of the things I have to do to occupy myself is a reading assignment.

I recently joined as a volunteer proofreader at the Vance Integral Edition or VIE. The VIE's goals are modest: to produce archival quality version of Jack Vance's works, and it is working with Vance himself to do this. The project has been working at proofreading and publishing for three or four years now, and the work is nearly complete. The VIE volumes are quite nice, and I've been lucky to score a few from EBay, including my favorite Vance novel Lyonesse!

An interesting thing about the project is some of the titles are changed, which I can only assume means that Vance prefers the newer titles. Example include Suldrun's Garden instead of Lyonesse (I should get used to calling it that, although Lyonesse: Suldrun's Garden became common after The Green Pearl came out), Mazirian the Magician instead of The Dying Earth, Cugel the Clever instead of The Eyes of the Overworld, and Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight instead of Cugel's Saga. Something else I noticed is the order of the storied withing The Dying Earth is different - the book opens with Mazirian the Magician instead of Turjan of Miir.

I'm a bit of a collector - I own at least eight copies of Lyonesse or Suldrun's Garden:

  • 1 Vance Integral Edition hardback, bought off Ebay
  • 1 Underwood Miller hardback
  • 1 Berkeley hardback
  • 3 ACE paperbacks (1 trade paperback, 1 regular paperpack that was the original copy I read, 1 "pristine" regular paperback for my collection)
  • 1 UK Edition paperback, bought on a trip to Australia
  • 1 electronic version in MS reader format

My first assignment was The Kragen, which I think is part of The Blue World. I recently received a new assignment, Guyal of Sfere. I've already read it as it was previously published in The Dying Earth, a fantasy classic. I'm sure nothing significant has changed, only perhaps some minor text corrections and an occasional word substitution.

The complete set is rather expensive, and I already own most of it anyway in other editions. Now that the VIE is available in "special collections" (i.e. subsets) it is tempting to get the "Fantasies and Sagas" group... but it is still expensive for books I already own.

A common theme in Vance's work (Lyonesse, Tschai, Cadwal Chronicles, Maske: Thaery, etc.) is that of the lone adventurer versus a hostile world, and the struggle to outwit, swindle, or otherwise best all the obstacles. Of course, it is the details along the way that make me love the stories so much!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Investment Club

I recently joined an investment club. Eric, a friend of mine through volleyball, invited me to attend meeting of a club he is in. I attended two meetings, met most of the other members, and decided to join. Yesterday was the first meeting in which I would have been a full member, and I missed it.

The club is named Capital Hill Investment Club, which acronyms nicely to CHIC. The club in turn is a member of the National Association of Investors Corporation, an umbrella group of investment clubs. I was familiar with the NAIC before attending the CHIC meetings through an official investment guide I bought some years ago.

The way the club works is each member will contribute $50 a month, and then the club will follow NAIC procedures to evaluate various companies. We'll all vote on what to buy or sell. The primary goal is to learn about investing and how to evaluate a company. Our secondary goal is to double our money in five years, which will require choosing stocks that appreciate about 15% a year. The club has around ten or twelve members so we'll have a reasonable amount of money to invest, which will let us keep between ten and twelve stocks in our club portfolio.

I think it will be fun. I've been investing here and there on my own and this will bring some discipline I can apply. A few times a year each member will be required to pick a few companies to study, so expect future blog entries on that. I am fascinated by the pharmaceutical and/or biotech industries, and will probably pick companies in those areas.

Monday, July 12, 2004


The redeye flight was packed - I thought I was going to be involuntarily bumped (which has happened to me only once) but I received a seat assignment after all. There probably isn't much demand for a single person to get bumped, the airline was looking for groups of two or three. That's because 75% of this flight was families headed to the theme parks.

Anyway, it is HOT here. I lived in Houston for 10 years, which has a similar climate, but I moved away several years ago and have lost my former heat acclimation. I'll tough it out though - I know some of my coworkers are looking for a sign of weakness in order to tease me. ;)

I'll be accused of bringing rain down. Check out this 10 day weather forecast for the Orlando, FL area:

weather forecast

Of course, who knows how accurate a 10 day forecast is.

Yesterday I mentioned bringing some DVD's with me. Sounds pretty lame, eh? Well, it'll keep my busy in the evenings, besides studying Japanese and computer chatting! I was here in February for two weeks, and then I visited Kennedy Space Center to see a rocket launch (a small communications satellite launched into orbit), visited again on the weekend to take the tour, visited Universal Studios (I just HAD to see the Terminator show!), and saw the Cirque du Soliel show "La Nouba". I'm not really excited to go to Disney - it will be crowded and rainy or hot. However, Disney's Animal Kingdom might be interesting to see.

If I can do a day trip I'd like to drive down to the Everglades, visit Tampa Bay, or visit Gatorland (a local theme park).

Sunday, July 11, 2004


I'm traveling out of town for two weeks for business, and I'm taking a few things with me to do in the evenings.

One activity will be to watch several episodes of a TV show via Netflix. It's great that TV shows are now coming out on DVD, because that lets me get them through Netflix. Add in the benefits of no commercials, minimal wait bewtween episodes (watch an episode or more a day as you feel like it), and convenience, and watching TV this way might become my preferred way to do it!

Through Netflix, I can watch shows:

  • on channels I don't get: Sex and the City, Sopranos, La Femme Nikita
  • I just missed when they were on: Freaks and Geeks, Firefly, Babylon 5
  • I've heard were good: Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG-1
  • I missed some episodes of: Smallville

Anyway, two friends at work highly recommended Stargate SG-1. I found a great fan site, and was shocked to see the show is in its eigth season! There's no way I can start a show eight seasons in and not be completely lost, so I queued up season one of Stargate SG-1 and have 3 DVD's to watch while I'm away.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Hagg Lake Olympic Triathlon

I'm back from Oregon! Hagg Lake triathlon was my fourth olympic distance tri, tenth tri overall, and it was the most difficult and fun. I did 3:09:01 which I was very pleased with given the challenging course.

Swim - We had a wide swim start which was great - no jostling with everybody for position. Hagg Lake was balmy and I fell into a nice rhythm and exited at 33:55.

Bike - This course was HILLY. It was a double loop course, each loop had at least five good climbs, so that made ten or more hills for the bike course! I finished the bike course in 1:33:19. Check out the elevation profile:

Hagg Lake elevation profile

heart rate 040710

Run - The out-and-back run course was along those very same hills (!!) - so just in case you didn't notice them during the two bike loops, you got yet another chance to bond. The sun was coming out and it was getting warm, and as a result the 10K was pretty tough. Total time was 56:19.

Toss in a few minutes for both transitions (3:37 for T1, 1:52 for T2), and it came out to 3:09:01.

During one of the many climbs I thought of bike gearing, a topic I will cover in a future blog entry.

After the Race

After the race with my bike

Mom's Birthday

Today is Mom's birthday. She looks pretty young - once she came to pick me up in high school, and my classmates thought she was my sister! I don't think anyone would make that mistake now, but all the same she looks younger than she really is. ;) I called up to say hi, and she was thrilled.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Packing for a Triathlon

I'm driving to Portland, OR tonight because I have a triathlon tomorrow morning - the Hagg Lake triathlon, and I'm doing the olympic. That will be 1.5K swim, 40K bike, and a 10K run.

Why Portland? Am I that competitive? Not really, I'm fairly slow: MOP at some sprints (Middle of the Pack), and BOP at olympics (Back of the Pack). I haven't done anything longer but my goal this season is a half-ironman... Anyway, I'm into triathlon for fun and fitness so it really doesn't bother me. People like me are more endurance oriented and not so much power oriented. Somebody on Tri Newbies Online jokes our motto is "can't go fast, may as well go long". ;)

I picked this race because:

  • I am looking for variety - this is my third season in tri and I want to try some new races
  • I've heard it is a fun race - with a challenging bike course
  • Timing is good - I'll have 3 evenly spaced olympic distance tris from June to August

Tri Gear

Here's what I'm taking down with me, from the lower left:

  • two white towels, for transition area
  • Sugoi racing shorts
  • Promotion sleeveless wetsuit (folded up on top of towels)
  • Swim goggles
  • Ear plugs (I get dizzy without them)
  • plastic case for goggles and ear plugs
  • extra goggles and ear plugs
  • triathlon bag - cram all this stuff into it
  • two Clif bars - chocolate mint and black cherry almond
  • one hammer gel - orange flavored
  • Giro bike helmet
  • bike gloves (inside helmet)
  • Thorlo socks
  • Specializied bike shoes
  • Smith sunglasses, dark lenses
  • yellow lens inserts (in pouch under sunglasses)
  • Saucony Grid running shoes, with speed laces
  • blue Performance bike jerseys - long sleeve and short sleeve
  • body glide (below shoes)
  • 1 liter REI plastic bottle, with 3 scoops of Endurox inside
  • two bike bottles
  • fuel belt plus two fuel belt canisters
  • Polar heart rate monitor and watch - I have the S720i model
  • race belt
  • Camelback
  • "mini blaster" bike pump (in sleeve on camelback)

That's a lot of stuff isn't it? Plus of course, my race bike!

race bike

Do I need all this stuff? Well, technically no. Events will provide water on the run course, so I don't really need the fuel belt or canisters. I just added them in because I train with them. I probably don't need the Camelback either - I train with it because it solves a hydration problem, plus the pockets let me carry stuff like spare inner tubes and a pump. The fact is during a tri if I get a flat, it is over - I'll just wait for a support car to come get me. The extra bike bottles are for filling up with water and drinking on the way to the race in the morning. I'll fill up the 1 liter jug in the morning, shake it up to mix the Endurox, and fill one bike bottle for carrying on the bike. The jug will stay in the transition zone for me to sip at T1 and T2. Two bike jerseys? I'll just need one, depending on weather that will most likely be the short sleeved one. I bring my extra goggles and ear plugs just in case. Lastly, I'll wear my contact lenses for during the event.

Not pictured is a small saddle bag with tire levers, bike tools, a spare inner tube, and a patch kit. All these items are of course utterly useless without a pump! Some people buy CO2 canisters for this reason, but at $6 to $10 a canister, it isn't something you would use outside of a race where time matters. And for me, since I'm slow changing a flat it doesn't make sense - 15 minutes to change the flat, 10 seconds to inflate? May as well take the pump, stuffed into a bike jersey pocket or in the Camelback. I'm thinking of wearing the Camelback because I can drink from it easier than reaching for a bottle. If you look at the picture of my race bike, the bottle cage is on the seat tube, which is harder to reach than one on the down tube. But the seat tube is where the mounting bracket is.

I'll also bring my floor pump, for inflating the tires the morning of the event.

Anyway, I gotta go - too bad it takes so long to make this entry, otherwise this would be a great way to double check my packing list! ;)

Office View

Gail posted some pics of and view from her office. Or future office...

So I thought I'd do the same. My view isn't as nice as hers, but this is the view out of my window to the northeast.

Office View

The line of cars is on NE 116th St, and the maroon truck (hard to see) is on the main road, Willows Road NE. The golf course is Willows Run golf course.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Trail Gem

I got a late start today, was busy through lunch, and it wasn't until around 4 p.m. I managed to slip out of work to go running. My goal was a 45 minute run on trails, and I headed out to the Redmond Watershed, which has nice trails. Unfortunately, it is around 20-30 minutes to get there from work, so I would have spent as much time just getting there and back as I would spend running - not the ideal situation.

I can run right out the door from home or work, but I really prefer trails most the time as a dirt or gravel surface is much nicer on my joints.

As I was driving through Education Hill on the way to the Redmond Watershed, I passed the Power Trail. It suddently entered my mind that if I were to run on the Power Trail, I would save myself at least 30 minutes of just driving. So, I parked and headed out.

It was great: a wide gravel path, not busy, gentle hills. Previously I had run on the portion of the trail between the Sammamish River Trail (paved multi-use path) and the road it crosses on Education Hill, so I ran the other direction, east towards another main road. I estimate the distance as 2 miles, so it was a 4 mile round trip. Crossing the main roads in both directions should extend the trip another 1 or 2 miles, and possibly more. Sometime I'll explore further to the east.

I chalk this up as serendipity: discovery of a great gravel trail much closer and convenient to home and work! This is exciting; I plan to run on it at least once a week.

Flowers by the Trail

Wading Back Into IRC

After considerable thought, I came up with a new nickname to try out on IRC: DPRoberts.

I wanted "Dread Pirate Roberts" but that is too many characters, so I abbreviated. I fired up my IRC client (XChat), filled out my user info as anonymously as possible, joined the #flychicks channel on EFNet, and just lurked. My whole goal was to comment every now and then and wait until somebody asked me "who are you"? to which I would reply "no one of consequence" or "no one to be trifled with"!

Eventually some people I knew logged on and I made a few sly comments to them... finally I got the response I was waiting for:

<noelani> Really...who are you?
<DPRoberts> no one of consequence
<DPRoberts> hehehe
<noelani> come on :)
<DPRoberts> I've been WAITING for somebody to ask that!
<DPRoberts> I love The Princess Bride ;)
<noelani> I love it too!!

As a side note, isn't Noelani a cool name? It means "Heavenly Mist" in Hawaiian.

Anyway, I wound up chatting with a few others: Krisanne, Alex (who was very anxious to hear from a woman he had a date with; he was seeking advice on how to proceed), Kate (back from a night of karaoke), Meg (taking a computer break while working at a summer camp). All in all, it was fun. I tried to watch The Amazing Race which was on TV in the background, but I pretty much missed the entire thing.

I'll probably just go with the userid klbarrus from now on.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Computer Chat

I've been chatting online for quite some time. The first time [cue dramatic music] was as a freshman with a friend named Mary, who had accompanied me to the computer lab - I had to pick up a printout. The computer lab was a bunch of terminals providing access to a VAX/VMS network. On VMS, the PHONE command popped up a request on another person's terminal, which they could respond to with the ANSWER command. At that time, the screen split in half and away you both typed. Mary and I probably did this once or twice a week for a semester or two - it was cheap fun for two people stuck on campus.

Later on in grad school I tried out the UNIX talk command, but never really spent much time doing this. By then, the rage was internet relay chat (IRC). Through IRC you could fire up your client, log into a server, and have hundreds of "channels" (i.e. conversations) to join. It was hectic, as with dozens of people on a channel the text flew by pretty quickly. Back then the channels were mostly computer related subjects, from linux support to people interested in trading files of various types. ;) I poked around a bit, sent and received a few files via the DCC subcommand, and lost interest, because I found something else...

That something else I found was internet bulletin boards. By using telnet, you could log onto a board and find a way to kill a few hours. They were more organized the IRC - you had a user account on the board, there were various topics to post under (e.g. movies, top ten lists, sports), and they also had chat rooms. The chat rooms implemented a subset of IRC functionality, allowing users to chat but not send files, for example. That was fine, as nearly everybody just wanted to post and chat. The BBS I spent most my time hanging out on was seabass, run at the University of Southern Mississippi. Chatting and posting there, I made a few friends, and we phoned each other to say hi, sent each other graduation invitations, etc. My nickname on seabass was docm, for Dr. Manhattan, who is a character from The Watchmen, a pretty cool comic book series I had recently read. I remember once working on a homework assignment with a friend Vicki (a.k.a. enchantrss - seabass had a 10 character limitation on a nickname) even though we were at different Universities - out assignments were similar and we worked together in the seabass chat room!

I just checked for the existence of seabass (, and it looks like it is no longer there. Google pulls up some references to it, but they look like entries in configuration files. Oh well, it has been 7+ years since I logged on. I wouldn't remember my password anyway.

Months passed and I didn't do any online chat, as I was busy and people I knew drifted away. That's because 95% of them were students, and we slowly graduated, got jobs, moved away, and didn't have the time anymore.

Then, in early 1997, I received email from a friend Rekha, who was excited about a new program she stumbled across named ICQ. I had never heard of it, but she convinced me to split the registration fee with her (register one copy and get a free one for a friend) and we tried it out. This was the first graphical chat client I tried and it was really nice - easy to use, easy to look people up. ICQ had generic chat rooms for various hobbies and I spent a bit of time there. I got busy, moved to Washington for a job, and kinda dropped off the ICQ map. My user account is still listed but don't bother using it as I've forgotten the password, and either email address I would have used to register back then are long defunct.

ICQ marked the rise of IM (instant messaging). AOL bought ICQ and put out AIM, Yahoo! and Microsoft decided they needed their own IM clients. No more logging into another server directly, now your online status is communicated on your behalf so you just run the client and a list of your friends appears. Talking to them is as easy as a double click.

Now I use IM as part of my job! I'm at a remote site and we use both Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Mesenger to talk to our co-workers at the main site - this is perfect for quick questions and short announcements, and of course deciding on where to go for lunch. So I'm basically logged into both of those networks all day during work. Up until recently, I would hibernate my work notebook before leaving for the day, and that would log me out of IM networks. I still do that but occasionally I log into IM at home, and chat with a few friends I've made (hi Gail!).

Now I'm even planning to try out IRC again, after being away for a decade or so. I have a few (female!) friends who IRC and they are claiming it is fun. It isn't that I don't believe them, I guess I just have this lingering memory from ten years ago, where the demographic of IRC users was a bit different than today. And, this is something I'm curious enough to "see". That's the shocking part, never in my lifetime did I think IRC would appeal to anybody other than male computer science students.

But, I never though an internet BBS would appeal either. In some ways Orkut and Seabass are similar - they both had discussion groups and user accounts. Orkut has way more eye-candy - picture albums and avatars, while Seabass had chat. Orkut also has about 1000 times as many users, lets you network friends, has a far more representative cross section of users, and the benefit of coming along years later. We can all thank web browsers for this, making things easier and graphical!

I've downloaded two IRC clients and will try them out soon...

Post Independence Day Picnic

It seems I have achieved some notoriety as an ice cream chef! Two families I'm friends with, the Dodrills and the Salems, held a post-Independence day picnic and invited me over. We had salmon and vegetables and dessert was homemade vanilla ice cream, made by me.

While the ice cream was brewing, the kids entertained themselves with the age-old game of "let's put ice down someone else's clothes". Here they are arming up for the next round:

Playing with ice

Jacob and John are picking up extra ice from the ice cream machine, Katie is standing behind them, Sam is looking on, and Ellie is drinking a Capri Sun.

Later, the ice cream was served to a room full of adults and kids, and it was quiet as everybody was busy eating!

Mmm, ice cream

Monday, July 05, 2004


After stuffing ourselves with crab, bean salad, corn, green beans, and some homemade vanilla ice cream, we combined our fireworks arsenals and prepared to launch them from the sidewalk. We had a great time setting off our fireworks. There were at least four other groups in the neighborhood also setting off fireworks, so there was entertainment in every direction!

My Arsenal

Tom's Arsenal

All of us took turns lighting our combined fireworks horde. We started at dusk and kept going for nearly two hours! Here are some action shots of the kids with sparklers:




Some of the better looking fireworks we set off:

Glittering Fountain

Blazing Rebel

Rain of Fire

As spectacular as big city-wide professional fireworks shows are, buying a few of your own and lighting them off is a huge thrill!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Fourth of July

My favorite holiday is the Fourth of July - Independence Day here in the U.S. It is a holiday that demands no travel or gift exchanging. Instead, it is all about enjoying yourself - relax with friends, picnic or BBQ, and watch fireworks.

Today I plan to run and bike, and then in the evening hang out with my friend Tom and his family. They live in Duvall, a rural community east of Seattle. What is great about that is that Duvall is rural... meaning, there is a more relaxed attitude towards fireworks. Sure, signs are around banning fireworks in public places, blah blah blah, but I'm sure the neighborhood empty lot or someone's driveway will serve just fine as a fireworks zone! He had some stories of the pyrotechnics from last year and I'm looking forward to a few roman candles and other assorted spinners.

One of my favorite July 4th memories was the year I visited my friend Kenton in rural Michigan. The fireworks committee was their neighbors, and we set of a steady stream of loud and colorful fireworks in a common field.

Saturday, July 03, 2004


... are my favorite post-workout treat on a warm day. Sure I eat bars and gels and fruit, but once in a while I'll visit Jamba Juice for a smoothie.

Having one every time from Jamba Juice would really add up, so I sometimes make my own following recipes from a smoothie cookbook.

The book has 50 recipies, but I've only made two of them: classico (orange juice, strawberries, bananas) and black beauty (vanilla frozen yogurt, grape juice, blackberries, blueberries). Both are delicious, especially when made with fresh fruit.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Evaluating a Restaurant

I almost always order familiar food when I eat at a new restaurant. I know they way I like certain dishes and use those dishes to judge a new restaurant's quality - a place may be five star, but if they mangle my particular favorite meal then I will have a bad opinion!

For example, in a Chinese restaurant I've never been to, I'll order either kung pao chicken or curry chicken. Mexican restaurant? I'll get a chili relleno. I'll order the lasagna at an Italian restaurant, and chicken vindaloo at an Indian restaurant. Thai food is a problem - I like so much of it I need extra time to decide between green, yellow, red, panang, or musamun curry. ;) And so forth for other cuisines.

Today we had lunch at work (my group is working to meet a deadline*) and they ordered Chinese food for us. Predictably, I ordered the kung pao chicken. Verdict: sauce is too watery and it wasn't my favorite vegetable mix - this had celery and bamboo shoots, which are OK, but not my favorites. My favorite kung pao chicken is simpler: spicy sauce, chicken, peanuts, and green peppers. A restaurant across the street from my undergrad university served it exactly that way, and I ate there at least twice a week while I was a student.

* Don't worry, I'm working too instead of just blogging. ;) I have some downtime waiting for a build to complete.