Thursday, September 30, 2004

Financial Planner

A few weeks ago a solicitor found me at home on the weekend, and I agreed to come in to listen to a short presentation on financial planning. Normally I am suspicious and cynical of offers of this type, because if I were interested I would rather get a referral from a friend who is working with one.

I was also lured in by what I thought was a dinner offer, but that didn't happen. Instead, I listened to the planner cover a bunch of information I already knew. I'm not a finance guy or have that kind of background, but in 1997 I took up personal finance as a hobby and have learned my fair share over the years.

It was a bit amusing, hearing an argument for diversification turn into a conclusion for compounding, as the planner got confused midstream. What was also interesting was hearing the planner's background: an engineering degree (hey, that's what I have!) and the training course provided by the parent company, which in this case was Edward Jones.

In the end I left resolved to update and tweak a few things on my own. I have a few friends who use one and I may ask if they think it is worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Impending Natural Disaster

Florida has been hit by four hurricanes this season, and California just had a earthquake. We here in Washington don't want to be left out!

It appears that Mount St. Helens might erupt soon!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Black Diamond Triathlon

This morning was the last tri of the season, an olympic. Well, sort of an olympic - the bike course was shortened by two miles due to construction, and there wasn't a way to extend a different section of the course to make the distance come out correct.

First of all, this event was far more crowded than I expected. As I moved through the packet pickup line I found out that in addition to the sprint and olympic triathlons, there were also a half-marathon and a duathlon. No wonder - this event is usually fairly small but this morning it was unexpectedly busy.

My goal was to improve my time from Cascades Edge, a tri held in early June that is the same course as Black Diamond. However, since the bike courses were different it is difficult to compare times. I'll probably try anyway tomorrow, calculating average speed on the bike and deducting how long two miles would have taken... My other goal of beating three hours fell short by about 10 or 15 seconds! So, not the strongest finish to the season.

The swim was delayed by 15 minutes as we waited for fog to lift, so the buoys were visible. The swim course was a double loop of a diamond shaped course, and we waited until the farthest buoy came into view. Unfortunately, the fog came back during the swim, as I could not at all see the far buoy from the corner buoy. I'm an OK swimmer, not fast but with the wetsuit for warmth and flotation (plus I wore the sleeve inserts for extra warmth), I am comfortable enough to grind it out. However, I discovered that I really need to see the next target to swim towards, as sighting off other swimmers and just moving into the fog was making me nervous.

It was still overcast when I started the bike course, and fairly chilly, so I decided to wear a jacket over my wet bike jersey. So I'm sure T1 was slow as I had to wrestle with the sleeve inserts, move my race number, and put a jacket on. The bike went well otherwise.

I felt like I had a great run - I payed attention and only one person passed me during the run, while I passed a dozen or more people. Of course, due to wave starts many of the women I passed were already 5 minutes ahead of me. Plus as slow as I am on the bike I'm not exactly finishing with the most competitive and fastest runners.

Results are up: I did 3:00:13, just 13 seconds over three hours. But since the bike course was 2 miles short I did slower than at Cascades Edge in June. My swim was 39:33, slow but expected as I took extra sighting breaks. Bike was 1:22:33, which was about average for me (16.4 mph over rolling hills). I did have a great run though, 50:11, which is only 3 minutes slower than my straight 10K PR set on a flat course, and this tri run course had a few small hills. So that's a great way to end the tri season, with a great run. Another exciting development did occur - for the first time, I didn't finish last in my division (once), or second to last (3 times). I finished ahead of 2 others in my division! ;)

This is a nice event but I think I would have been just as happy to end the season at the Kirkland tri. Late September is starting to push your luck for good weather and warm days in this area.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Snoqualmie Falls

We got a late start and since the day turned out to be pretty nice, I thought it would be fun to visit Snoqualmie Falls, a nearby waterfall.

We took some pictures at the upper observation deck, and I suggested we hike down to the base for a few more. It had been many years since I visited, and I didn't remember the trail being so steep, or being unpaved for that matter. Oops, I felt a little bad as Heather and Gail didn't have the right shoes for such a hike. Nevertheless, they seemed to find it enjoyable! Good thing I didn't take them up Mt. Si, which is four miles one way up a steady incline, with no view of anything until you reach the top.



Saturday, September 25, 2004

Visit From Friends

Late Friday, two friends from Canada came to visit: Heather and Gail. They got in late but we all stayed up even later anyway, chatting and playing around with Gail's computer, a VERY nice 17" PowerBook. The design of this computer is just beautiful, especially compared the Dell notebook I'm currently borrowing from work.

I like PC's and have built my last five computers. You can't really do that with a notebook computer. Seeing and using the PowerBook really makes me want to get one, but I also have a list of other (cheaper) purchases to make first! Besides, with three computers already plus a notebook borrowed from work, it is hard to justify getting yet another one. ;) On top of that, I have most of the parts for another one and am deciding what swapping around I can do. One plan would be to switch the Aquarium Jukebox PC to one I will build, and then turn the Aquarium Jukebox PC into a Linux system so I can eventually experiment with MythTV and HDTV decoding.

Anyway, early Saturday morning I finally dozed off...

Friday, September 24, 2004

New Zealand Planning

Tonight Krisanne and I met to work on a rough itinerary for the upcoming New Zealand trip. We'll probably meet again when Eric can make it to do a little bit more.

We are all arriving a few days apart, so we are structuring the trip as an invididual section at the beginning, and will meet up in Christchurch on November 16th or 17th and travel around the south island together.

Krisanne has a pretty good itinerary of things to do on the south island. For now, I'm going to try to nail down what I will do in the few days before meeting up in Christchurch.

Roughly, I will:

1) Spend a day in Auckland.
2) Spend two days in the Lake Taupo area. Nearby attractions include:

  • Mt Ngauruhoe, otherwise seen as "Mt. Doom" in the Lord of the Rings
  • Pohutu Geyser
  • White Island - active volcano!
  • Waitomo Caves - glow worms and blackwater rafting

I probably can't do all of the above, so I'll just try to visit Waitomo Caves and Mt. Ngauruhoe. White Island is actually north of Rotorua and might be too far to squeeze in.
3) Spend two days in Wellington, visiting some friends.
4) Then, go to Christchurch for the south island portion of the trip.

Obviously, there is more planning to be done!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hurricane Karl

Unlike all the other hurricanes which are hitting land, the one that shares my name looks like it will spend its time over open water!

Just maybe, Iceland will get some extra rain.

Hurricane Karl's projected path.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Lunchtime Geocache 2

Today was a beautiful sunny day, something that will be in short supply soon, so some friends/co-workers and I decided to geocache again. We picked out a cache that each of us had tried before, but couldn't find. The theory was, with four of us, we would definitely find it.

We were indeed succesful! The first waypoint was where each of us had looked previously, but didn't see. The waypoint, which listed coordinates for the final location, as it exists now was definitely not there before. So perhaps the original clue had fallen or gone missing, and people complained so the cache owner stuck a far more permanent clue.

Looking everywhere...

Davis and Rich are double checking the GPS coordinates, while Christina examines the hiding spot of the first waypoint.


Rich, me, Christina, Davis

Success! We found the microcache, which was the size of a keyholder, hidden nearby.

Davis and Rich checked their list of waypoints, and we saw there was another cache nearby. Since it was such a nice day we decided to try for that one as well. We walked a block and searched the ivy in a park. After a few minutes, I spotted the cache and brought it over to everyone so we could sign the log.

Another find

Today's efforts brought me up to 82 finds!

RSS Aggregators

More and more of my friends have blogs, and the way I dealt with this was to use the "Open in Tabs" feature of Firefox. This conveniently would open a tab for each page, and then I could check for updates by flipping through them.

Tabbed browsing, by the way, is critical to me; I cannot imagine going back to Internet Explorer and being stuck with a new browser for each page. Much less opening each page one at a time!

A recent update to Firefox introduced live bookmarks, a way to view RSS feeds. RSS feeds, in turn, basically summarize a site's contents, and many popular blogging sites automatically create RSS feeds for other programs to use.

Well, the live bookmarks worked OK - what it did is create a folder for each site, and then listed each entry as a page in that folder. Handy, but it wasn't a good system for checking 20+ sites - I'd have to hover the mouse over each bookmark and wait for it to load the data. Doing this for 20+ sites was a drag.

Today, I stumbled on a nice, easy to use, news aggregator called Feedreader. This program understands both popular RDF summary standards (RSS and Atom), and works great - so far! I added in all the sites I normally poll via Firefox into Feedreader, and now I can click on a tree view and see the latest posts. I've configured Feedreader to check each site once every four hours, so I'll leave the program running and tomorrow morning I should be able to see updates without actually checking every site.

As far as my friend's blogs, those are now mostly covered. Blogspot and LiveJournal generate Atom feeds... pretty much I can check everybody's blogs except three friends: one friend who rolls her own blog (Breigh), and two who use Xanga, which apparently doesn't create an RSS feed for non-Xanga users.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Kirkland Triathlon

This was a city triathlon, so it was scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. instead of 9:00 a.m. like my other tris this season. This was also a sprint, so the distances were 0.5 mile swim, 12 mile bike, 3 mile run (these were the advertised distances; some sprints are 20K bike 5K run). My friend Francesca signed up a few days beforehand so we met after setting up our transition zones and waited for the start together. The race began about 15 minutes late, and my wave was 5 minutes before hers so we wished each other luck and I went to the holding area when they called my wave.

The swim was OK, but I was blocked by some slower swimmers and breaststrokers. I think my best strategy at sprint tris is to seed myself towards the front, but to the side, so the good swimmers will take the straight line to the buoy and I'll have a bit of space to work with. This course was in Lake Washington and shaped like three sides of a rectangle. The water felt cold and first and after the first turn I finally settled into a rhythm and finished up. I brought a thermos with some hot water to drink, and I had a sip as I was a bit chilly from the swim.

The bike course is hilly, featuring two good climbs and several sustained grades. On the other hand, the last two miles are downhill back into the transition zone! It was rainy leading up to the event, so the roads were wet, but fortunately it didn't rain during the event itself. Due to the wet roads I had to take it a little bit easy around some corners.

About 4 miles into the course, Francesca pulled alongside me and said hi! We rode close by until a hill near my house, when I was able to pass a large number of people. However, I'm pretty sure they all got me back as around mile 8 Francesca came up behind me and whizzed by again. I followed her (in a non-drafting sense!) all the way back to transition and we switched to the run and started off together.

The run was mostly flat with a slight grade to run up in both directions. I set off as fast as I could manage, limited by side stitches. It was a simple out-and-back and I pushed as hard as possible for the last half mile, so I know I am grimacing in my race photo. After finishing I wandered up to an open spot and cheered Francesca when she ran by a few minutes later.

Times are up: I did 1:38:22, and Francesca did even better at 1:37:22.

Me and Francesca

Here we are, packing up after the event. My bike is laying on the ground on the left.

Francesca Loves the Bike Start

Francesca, at the scene of the start of her dominating race leg!


One of my computers is a dedicated jukebox.

Unfortunately, this computer has been acting up so I need to figure out what is wrong and fix it. Twice in the past days it has shut itself off, for reasons unknown. The system is pictured below and I've had some fun modding it - I used glow wire drive cables since I also added an aquarium side panel. The aquarium lighting was dim so I stuck in a blue cathode light as well. :)

This computer just sits there and holds a copy of all my music, ripped to MP3 format. Yes, I know there are many better formats, but MP3 works on every device I have, from my car's CD player to my iPod mini. When I want to listen to something, I just fire up iTunes, Windows Media Player, or WinAmp (these programs all have various advantages and disadvantages). Playing music this way is infinitely better than searching through a stack of CD's for the right one, at least to me.

Since I can re-use the CDRW and some harddrives, the total cost of a replacement computer is about $300: $155 for the case/mainboard/power supply (Biostar IDEQ 200v), $70 for a CPU (Athlon XP 2400), and $80 for memory (512 MB). The onboard sound and video are good enough for the intended use. The CPU and memory are chosen for good price/performance ratios, I don't need the latest and greatest (and most expensive). I like the Biostar SFF systems; my other two computers are basically clones.

The other purpose my Jukebox serves is to be a ReplayTV server, using the very handy DVArchive. This program turns a computer into a networked ReplayTV - it can copy shows off the ReplayTV, or let the ReplayTV play shows off the computer.

When the new parts arrive I'll build it, move over two harddrives, and it should be up and running with just a few other tweaks. However, I really like the look of the aquarium case mod, so I'll just leave it running in the corner.

The jukebox is running Windows XP, and I considered switching it to Linux. But, I want Windows for this system as there are a bunch of multimedia apps I use (TMPGEnc, DVD2SVCD) that are Windows based. Plus, I can put a game or two on it and play the occasional network game when someone visits. The jukebox is currently a VIA EPIA M10000 mini itx system, which means it really isn't powerful enough for games.

Besides, I can always build another machine to run Linux and be a MythTV box!


Blue Glow

Friday, September 17, 2004

Lunchtime Geocache 1

My friend and co-worker Davis and I decided to do a geocache during lunch. We settled on I Roar! and drove to a nearby trail to start the search.

After searching a candidate location (i.e. the base of a tree) we moved to another tree and started to search. The GPS gets you close but the final spot might take some time to pinpoint. Anyway, after about 10 or 15 minutes I finally spotted the cache, attached to a plastic dinosaur!

Dinosaur Cache

The little capsule unscrews to reveal a small piece of paper which serves as the log. Unfortunately the pen we brought was out of ink - also, the log was a bit damp so we were afraid of ripping it. So, we took pictures of the cache instead, to prove we found it.

That was cache number 80 for me! I've been trying to get to 100 for a while, but have been rather lazy about geocaching over the past year.

Proof I found it!

Close Encounter With a Foul Ball

I attended my third Mariner's game of the season tonight, with my friend Krisanne, and we saw them lose yet again. I will close out the season having only seen the Mariners lose!

Tonight however, something extra exciting happened. Normally, Krisanne and I chat and occasionally watch foul balls land all around us. This time, one arched overhead, and headed straight down. It took me a second to judge the angle, and I realized it was in fact coming straight at us - it would land so close to my seat I didn't even have to move to grab at it. I held out my right hand and tried to clutch it one-handed, but the ball bounced off me and landed a few rows back. Had I been quicker, I might have been able to take my jacket off and trap the ball, or put my left hand out to help with the catch. But, I broke my left wrist (scaphoid bone) about three years ago while snowboarding, and didn't at all want to risk an injury to it. So I deliberately didn't bring my left arm and hand up. Basically, I would have been extremely unhappy had I caught the ball but tweaked my wrist.

My right hand stung for a few minutes, but felt normal again by the end of the game.

Of all the dozens of baseball games I've watched over the years, this was the closest I've come to catching a foul ball.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

NHL Lockout

It looks like the NHL will vote to lockout players starting tomorrow, as a new collective bargaining agreement was not reached.

This of course doesn't directly affect me. I'm just a fan, and I chipped into a season ticket pool to split some tickets for the Vancouver Canucks 2004-2005 season. If games are cancelled or the season is abandoned, we'll get a refund or have the balance applied towards future tickets. So we won't be out the money, it is more the annoyance and inconvenience of having to repick the games based on a revised schedule.

I'm not exactly sympathetic to the players. I see each sports team as a small entertainment company, where the employees are the players. I think they are paid well enough for their "work" already. As far as suffering by living under a salary cap, well cry me a river. The owners sometimes do things that bug me as well, such as dupe a city into building them an arena. I hate that too.

I've read the NHL players aren't willing to accept a salary cap. Well, other leagues have them and seem to get along just fine. I think the NHL players need to grab some reality; the sport isn't as popular and doesn't have the TV revenues and so forth of other sports.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Amazing Race

One of my TV viewing guilty pleasures is The Amazing Race, which is actually pretty good as far as reality TV.

The show features teams competing to get to the next checkpoint, solving a few puzzles or challenges, and getting to travel all over the world. Granted, they don't have a lot of time for sightseeing. Usually the last team to arrive at a checkpoint is eliminated. This season is almost over; next week's episode is the 2 hour finale.

Unfortunately, one of the teams I absolutely despise is still in it. Tonight they came in last and I was hoping they would get axed but this round was a non-elimination round and they survived. The team that bugs me is Colin and Christie - she is fine, but he is a world-class idiot.

In a previous show, he tried to rip off a taxi driver in Africa. He was generally abusive, even to the police when they showed up. He clearly could get away with that behavior because the cameras were filming - had a film crew not been there, he would have been extremely lucky to not be beaten, robbed, and left with multiple broken bones. He also has a short temper and is always yelling at something or other.

I hope any of the other three teams win!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Ride to a Picnic

Today I mananged to combine exercise with a social function: I rode my bike to an alumni picnic.

The day didn't start well as a few minutes after I got up it started to rain heavily. But, by the time I was ready to head out the door, the weather cleared up.

The alumni picnic I rode to was held at Magnuson park in Seattle, which is conveniently close to the Burke-Gilman trail. This trail leads around the north end of Lake Washington, and eventually becomes the Sammamish River Trail which ends in Marymoor Park in Redmond. I can pick up the SRT about two miles from my house, mostly downhill along road with bike lanes, so it is very convenient.

At the Rice Alumni picnic, I talked to Ken, an alum who is a tenured professor at Green River community college. It was pretty interesting, hearing about the course load (teaches two classes per quarter) and a few other details of a teaching-only position, with no research load. Of course, having the summer off is really nice as well!

I helped myself to a few slices of strawberry-rhubarb pie before leaving and riding home. Total round trip was 38.9 miles, a nice ride.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Conference Call

Tonight I was just sitting at home watching TV and reading some magazine articles, when I popped in chat for bit. It turned out that some Orkut friends set up a conference call and invited people to call in, so I did. What the heck, I don't have long distance charges when I call from my home area!

It was interesting to hear voices of people I only know through the computer. I met one person before, Daniel, but hearing the voices of Loralee and Tammy was fun. We didn't talk that much, I mostly listened and would toss in a comment every once in a while.

I asked Tammy if she thought I had an accent of any kind. She said I had a bit of a twang. Can you believe that?! I think she and Gail have been talking and Gail put her up to claiming I have an accent. ;)

OK, I did live in Texas for over 10 years, as a student at first and then a regular working guy after that. I'm sure I actually do have a slight accent, even after living in Washington for the last 7 years.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Horses in the Redmond Watershed

I was having a great run today at the Redmond Watershed, bounding along the trail. I turned a corner and found the way blocked by a woman on a horse talking to another one standing by the side. As I ran towards them, slightly uphill, the woman on the horse gudgingly moved the horse. She stared at me the whole time like it was some huge burden for her to quit blocking the entire trail.

As I passed she called out in a patronizing tone "yoo hoo, excuse me, sir, you're about to get a hoof in the head". I didn't even slow down and yelled out "Move to the side and quit blocking the trail". In a few steps I added "This is a public multi-use trail so share it".

I was mad as hell at the lady on the horse. She was an older woman and later I thought of yelling "Grandma, if your horse touches me your grandkids are gonna lose their college fund" or "how about you two idiots move your conversation to the parking lot" but I was already out of earshot. Grrrr. In a few minutes I passed two runners heading the opposite way and I hoped they spooked her horse so it tossed her off into the trees.

I hate horses on the trails. Not only do they crap everywhere and thus foul the trail, their riders are annoying and arrogant. Bah.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

ESR Board

I joined the Eastside Runners shortly after I moved to Kirkland last year. I like to be involved in clubs I join, so over the past year I showed up at various meetings and weekend runs, volunteered at races, got involved in the triathlon subgroup, and met a bunch of people.

As it turns out, a spot on the board of directors opened up, and one of the board called up and asked if I were interested. I was, and asked for more information about the positions. There were two: Volunteer Coordinator (Vice President), and Social Chair. I was a bit leery of the volunteer coordinator position, as that sounded like a lot of responsibility and time. I mean, if that person is lazy then an event might be a disaster for all involved! I wasn't really sure what Social Chair was, and was informed that person's chief responsibility is organizing the summer picnic, holiday party, and various quarterly meetings.

I was a bit hesistant but then I was told the summer picnic was already planned, and nearly all the arrangements for the holiday party were done. Plus, other board members would help... I got to thinking, why not do it. I know that in any group, only 10% of the membership is active at best, and help is always needed.

So I said I'd do it, and at the summer picnic I was elected Social Chair.

Tonight was the first board meeting at which I was an officer. I showed up and found I already knew most of the other officers through the triathlon subgroup that I was involved in. No wonder they thought of me when a vacancy appeared!

We had dinner (pizza and salad) and got to business. Topics we covered were club finances, scheduling future board meetings, better membership renewal methods, newsletter, clothing sales, our rewards program, and sponsoring some children in a fun run. Eventually we spoke of the holiday party and the fall meeting, two topics that fall into my area.

Fortunately, there isn't a huge amount to do. For the holiday party, I just need to bring snacks as the main courses are already purchased and the facilities are rented. For the fall meeting, I just need to call around to the local libraries and secure a meeting room for 20 to 30 people, find a speaker, and setup refreshments. The refreshments are my discretion - the last meeting I attended the food resembled a post-race banquent (i.e. bananas, oranges, bagels) and the other board members said if I were to shake things up and bring chocolate and cookies nobody would mind. I even have a lead on a speaker - another board member knows a doctor who specializes in sports medicine and wants to speak on nutrition. To top it off, the meeting isn't scheduled until late October (the 26th) or early November (the 2nd), depending on when I can find a meeting place.

I suppose sometime the ESR homepage will update and list me as a board member. ;)

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

VIE Rhialto

I received my third proofreading assignment for VIE a few weeks ago. It was a book I had read many years ago, Rhialto the Marvellous, fourth book in the Dying Earth series, and I had been pecking away at it over the last two weeks. I didn't finish up in time for the original deadline, but should finish up very soon and just be a few days late.

The things we are supposed to look for are text errors, such as skipped numbers in subchapters, misspellings, quotation marks out of place, etc. The hard thing is misspellings, as Vance, especially in his fantasy novels, often invents words, so it is hard to tell at first if the word is spelled wrong or invented. For example is poinct which we determined was just a Vance-ism.

Part of the reason I was late is I notice inconsistent British and American spellings in the text, about midway through. The text referred to colour and honor, so I made a note to be extra alert for this as I skimmed from the beginning again. Right now I'm not sure if the British or American spelling is preferred, so I'm noting all of the words like this.

This will probably be the last proofing assignment as the project is just about finished. I might try to get a hold of my favorite Vance novels (the Lyonesse series) in electronic format, as all three of my proofing assignments have been sent as PDF files.

Monday, September 06, 2004

SJJ Half Marathon

I have a Labor Day tradition: run in the Super Jock 'N Jill half marathon. It started six years ago when I attempted it for the first time. Back then, it was my end of season goal, and was a stretch for me. This year, I hadn't been doing many long runs so it would also be a bit of a stretch.

The course changed three years ago to include a hilly section in middle, replacing a flat but congested out-and-back at the end. Last year the first big hill midway really hurt and by mile eleven I was shredded, forced to walk/run the remainder. I kept that in my mind as we started, reminding myself to hold back until after the hills and evaluate then.

What I usually do is see where I am at ten miles. If I'm there around ninety minutes into the race, I know I have a chance to beat two hours as the event turns into a thirty minute 5K at that point.

So I started off and checked my Forerunner a few times each minuute to check my pace, trying to keep it around 9 min/mile. I was on pace at six miles, running through around 55 minutes. The hilly section followed and this time I had enough energy to keep on without having to back off too much. I found my friend Kathy around mile seven, and ran with her for a mile or two, talking briefly. She said she wasn't feeling so good and told me to keep going as she stopped for water.

Normally I stop at every water station, but today I changed things around a bit. I drank a half liter before the race along with some Vanilla Gu (which had a nasty aftertaste), and then just stopped at every other water station. I felt hydrated and one problem with drinking too much is feeling bloated or feeling the water sloshing around in my stomach.

I passed ten miles at 91 minutes so I knew I could finish under two hours. I pressed on, felt a blister developing on my toe, but was able to ignore it as for the entire race, I was trying to recall a conversation I had a few weeks earlier. I have a pretty good memory but it isn't photographic and had related part of the story to another person, but felt I had mangled it slightly. Anyway, thinking about this kept me disassociated from the race and my minor pains so I was able to push a little harder.

I finished at 1:57:35 by my watch, and right at 1:59:00 official time. Basically, it took me 1:25 from the start of the race to cross the actual start line, which is when I started my watch and the Forerunner. One thing that really bugs me about this race is they hand out timing chips, but don't have a timing mat at the start line! Therefore, the chip only counts official time and if you are like me, lining up between the middle and end, you lose some time because it takes a while for the field to advance across the start line.

Anyway, I'm really pleased. 1:57:35 works out to an 8:58 pace, really good considering the course has a hilly section. My friend Bev wants to do a 1:51 half in Sacramento, which is on the edge of possibility - that course is flatter. Still, I'd need to do about 30 seconds per mile faster, which might be tough.

Grad School Friend

On Sunday I drove to meet a good friend I hadn't seen in at least ten years - Akila. We attended graduate school together, and a few common classes. We were in slightly different areas so we would mostly either study together or pass time in the computer lab.

She hasn't changed at all over the years - she looks exactly the same! She said I did too except I have a higher hair line now. ;) Anyway, we had lunch and I met her husband Suresh and her two kids Varun and Madurya.

After seeing her I'm resolved to track down a few people I've lost touch with.

Akila and Me

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Bay Area Beach Party

Some Orkut friends had planned a beach party in the Bay Area, and I thought of attending. I toyed around with idea for a while, and decided I would also try to visit my friends who live in the area. However, two of the three of them were out of town so I shelved the idea.

Then, I got to thinking, I'm not doing much over Labor Day weekend, this would be kinda fun. With about a week to go before the event, I made the arrangements. I also got in touch with my third friend who lives in the Bay Area, and found out she would be in town, so I planned to visit her, her husband, and kids.

Since I waited so long to buy tickets, I didn't have much choice on flights. As a result, I woke up at 3:50 a.m. to get to airport for a 6 a.m. flight to San Jose. What was shocking was the flight was packed and they asked for volunteers to be bumped!

In San Jose, I picked up my rental car and drove over to meet Noelani and Dustin for breakfast, delicious homemade berry pancakes. Soon afterwards stopped by the store for a few things, and drove out to the beach near San Gregorio.

The beach party was fun. Noelani roasted corn, chicken, and cooked red beans and rice. Soon, others arrived: Joanna and Ed, Geordan and Audrey, Colin, Sandy, Richard, Topher, Thomas. We wandered down the beach, added onto a small fort we found, waded in the ocean, boogie boarded, and just had a fun time talking to people.

Audrey brought some devil sticks so I gave them a try. I couldn't quite get the hang of it and would drop them after thirty seconds or even sooner. They were fun so I might try buying some so I can practice.

We wrapped up around 6 p.m. and drove back to Dustin and Noelani's for dinner and more entertainment...

Dustin and Noelani

That's a French loaf wrapped in foil. Later we would grill some drumsticks.

Geordan and Audrey

Audrey is holding the devil sticks. I tried to get an action shot but it didn't turn out.

Eric, Joanna, Topher

Me and Noelani

Noelani and Audrey

The boogie boarders are sizing up the waves...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Japanese Class

The Japanese Class is over for the quarter - this morning we had the final exam.

This is the fifth class I've taken here in Washington. All have been taught by a Japanese woman who runs a small business named the Y&Y Language Institute. Classes have always started out with 20+ students, and are whittled down to a dozen or so by the end.

The first two classes were largely devoted to learning vocabulary and the basic writing systems (hiragana and katakana). In the third class we started learning kanji and spent more time on grammar, while the fourth class was a review session that covered a few new grammar topics, but no new vocabulary. In this most recent class, study shifted to grammar. We still learned a few more adjectives and verbs, but the majority of the class was spent learning new grammar.

When I was in school I always found English class to be dull - we read novels or essays, and then had to write our own essays. I don't really remember studying grammar - I'm sure I did, but it has been a long time. Or, maybe I got a jumbled version as I moved around quite a bit. In any case, I only found English class to be interesting when the book or essay we had to read was interesting, and this only happened occasionally.

One of the things I find interesting in Japanese is grammar, and how it differs from English grammar. Until I began studying Japanese, I never really thought about English grammar much. I mentioned Japanese grammar in a previous blog entry, and here are a few more examples (I'm just going to leave the Japanese romanized rather than look up all the hiragana unicode codes):

1) In English, the adjective doesn't change when connected in series.

The car is new.
The car is expensive.
The car is new and expensive.

In English, new doesn't have to be modified. However, in Japanese, it does. (in Japanese, atarashii is new, and takai is expensive):

kuruma wa atarashii.
kuruma wa takai.
kuruma was atarashikute takai.

Here, atarashii needs to modified to be atarashikute to be correct. (Both takai and atarashii are "i" adjectives, and I'll just skip the "na" adjective case).

2) In English, it is usual to say
I don't think it is cold.

This may be in response to a question about the weather, and the speaker indicates, in their opinion, it is not cold.

In Japanese, the negation would occur on the adjective:
samukunai to omoimasu.

Which would translate to "I think it is not cold."

3) In English, all the verbs in a sequence are conjugated to the same tense. For example, a description of my morning might be:

This morning, I got up at 7, ate breakfast, drank coffee, and went to work.

In this sentence, all the verbs (got up, ate, drank, went) are in past tense.

In Japanese, only the last verb is in past tense. The other verbs are in "te" form, which is related to past tense but is not past tense.

kesa, shichi ji ni okite, asa gohan o tabete, koohii o nonde, kaisha ni ikimashita.

Here, the te forms of the verbs are used (okiru, to get up; taberu, to eat; nomu, to drink), and only the last verb is in past tense (ikimashita, polite past of iku, to go).

As much as I enjoyed class, I look forward to a break. I'm not sure when then next class will be taught - sensei usually waits for critical mass so it could be several months.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Husky Volleyball

In the evening I met some friends to watch Husky Women's Volleyball. It was an exhibition game versus Trinity Western University, and the Huskies won fairly easily.

It looks like the rules changed from last season - the libero, primarily a defensive position, is allowed to serve now. Either that or it doesn't matter for exhibition games as UW's libero, Candace Lee, rotated into the serve, to my confusion. The league I play in doesn't use the libero rule so it won't matter when I start playing again.

What can I say, it is fun and cheap entertainment.

Book Store

I usually can't get out of a bookstore without buying something. Today I went into a Barnes and Noble looking for one computer book and wound up buying a different one, plus an extra humor book that caught my eye:

Front Cover

Back Cover

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I have flipped through it and it looks pretty funny. The book is illustrated with 50's era graphics and has various "factoids" such as:

  • Did You Know? Canadians say "zed" instead of "zee" when talking about the last letter of the alphabet.
  • Did You Know? The plural of "moose" is "moose".
  • Did You Know? The handles on Canadian beer cases are big enough to fit your hands with mittens on.

The book devotes a full two pages to the nuances of "eh", includes several hockey metaphors (e.g. "He's gone down to block one too many shots without his helmet" means "He's crazy"), Canadian drinks (Calgary Red Eye), native monsters (Windigo), and much, much more.

This will be a fun book to read and tease my Canadian friends about. :)

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Comedy Show

Orkut friend John Lee was in town so we went to a comedy show. The original plan was to hit Garage, a pool hall and bowling alley, but we found out about a comedy show starring Robin Williams so we did that instead!

John came out to participate in the Hood to Coast Relay, a 197 mile relay run from Mt. Hood to Seaside, OR. He was able to take a side trip to Seattle to visit before returning to Manhattan.

Me, Krisanne, John

The show was really good. One interesting thing I read about Robin Williams is he doesn't have a fixed script for his shows - they are mostly extemporaneous. I've also read articles that report up to a third of each show is brand new material compared to the previous show!