Portland Trip

Portland Trip

We had a nice trip down to Portland. What a great city — feels much more old world than Seattle. Narrower streets, older buildings, just a lot more style. A great city for walking around. ANd you have to love no sales tax.

We stayed at the Heathman Hotel. We recommend it if you ever get Portland way. A beautiful lobby in which they host a holiday tea. It was booked too far in advance for us to partake but we will try to do so in the future.

We visited Reed and Lewis and Clark Colleges. Both beautiful campuses. Reed felt more like a midwest or east coast campus with older buildings and a lot of deciduous trees in a suburban setting. Reed has about 1400 undergrads, 77% from outside the Northwest. It is a very short drive into downtown Portland.

Lewis and Clark is a bit further out, also in a suburban neighborhood. The campus feels more typically northwest with a lot of douglas firs, etc. A little larger than Reed, about 1800 undergrads.

A great trip and I am sure we will go back to at least Reed when L starts making formal visits this spring.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Hope everyone is having a great day. We are all well and enjoying the day together.

This past weekend we went to see, among other things, a performance by The Bobs. What an amazing group. They did some great a capella holiday music, and the most astounding a capella version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. I know this sounds bizarre, it was but it was great. Worth a night out if they ever come your way.

We also saw two movies this weekend — Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and A Beautiful Mind. Both great flicks.

If I had to choose between them and a night with The Bobs, The Bobs would win every time.

L begs to differ. She thought The Bobs were scary.

Pictures

Pictures

I am trying out some simple picture posting ideas. You’ll see on the left some links to photos. These are stored up on Shutterfly as we use that as a photo printing service. You can actually print photos from there if you want some of these.

Let me know if any problems viewing these.

College Thinking

College Thinking

One constant theme of conversation in our house these days is college — in particular, where might L go.

I have no idea where L will ultimately decide to go — I am enjoying learning about schools with her and watching her think thru the decision. I am sure she will make a great choice.

One factor will certainly be our location. The West, and in particular the Pacific Northwest, is just not as well provisioned with lots of private universities and liberal arts schools, certainly not in the way that the Midwest or East is.

Working from North to South, some of the schools we have talked about in a positive light include:

– the University of Washington
Reed College
Lewis and Clark College
UC Berkeley
UC Davis
Stanford
Santa Clara University
UC Santa Barbara
Pepperdine University
UCLA
Claremont McKenna
UC San Diego

Other schools we have considered but probably ruled completely out are Gonzaga, UC Santa Cruz, and Harvey Mudd. Interesting schools all but not a good fit.

And then there are some that we may learn more about — Caltech, Loyola Marymount, University of San Diego, University of Redlands.

All lists are very dynamic. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

Gosh sorry for being gone so long

Gosh sorry for being gone so long

This is a super busy season for us — Thanksgiving, then L’s birthday on 11/20, then C’s birthday on 12/5, then J’s birthday on 12/15. Of course, Christmas and New Year’s coming.

Birthday highlights — L is heading to the Jingle Bell Bash tonight with her friends for a big night out. Should be major fun. J took his group of friends to the local lasertag emporium — I think I enjoyed that as much as anyone. And on C’s birthday, the Christmas ships stopped in front of our house and did their annual carol concert — wonderful timing.

Volleyball continues to keep L busy. Her high school team had their end of season awards banquet on Friday, and L won the Coach’s Award for the third year running, and she won awards for having the best service percentage and the greatest number of assists. Oh and she was named to the first team league all-star team. She is also getting busy now with her club volleyball team.

Yesterday we all attended a Christmas singalong with the Choral Arts Northwest troupe at the symphony hall here in Seattle. A great time, C and I both loved their rendition of “still, still, still”. There is something about a great choir performance that is so uplifting.

Happy Holidays to you all.

Busy Weekend!

Busy Weekend!

On Friday, I finally joined the ACLU and the EFF after years of claiming I was going to. I am all for tracking down terrorists and bringing them to justice, but in our zeal to do so, I hope we don’t crush important civil liberties.

On Friday night, We went to the Father/Dottir Dinner at school and had a wonderful time, while C and John stayed at home and had a movie night. Great bonding all around.

On Saturday, we went with the rest of the lemmings to see Harry Potter. While not an A+ movie in our view, it was still a great deal of fun. We all agree, we like Ron the best.

On Sunday, digital age disaster! We had taken a lot of pictures Saturday with our digital camera, hoping to use one for our Christmas card. And we had a lot of other pictures in the camera. On Sunday I took the compactflash memory card out of our camera and attempted to upload the pictures to my PC. Oops, the card was corrupted. And it was no longer readable by the camera. All our pictures were gone.

Major unhappiness. Thankfully I knew people at Microsoft who knew the experts on compactflash, and they directed me towards Ontrack. Not for the faint of heart, this is a pretty techy tool, I had to figure out that my compactflash card had a FAT32 file system on it and had to scan the compactflash card many many times, but I finally recovered 90% of the pictures.

Lesson learned yet again — back up early and back up often. Never leave pictures sitting around for months in your digital camera, get them uploaded and stored securely right away.

One more digital disaster — I love my blackberry, but I am getting blackberry thumb, a variant of carpal tunnel. ouch.

This Day In History

This Day In History

First of all, when it comes to doughnuts, we’re #1!

I hope the weather doesn’t prevent us from consuming even more doughnuts.

More importantly, let’s wish the microprocessor a happy birthday. In one form or another it has had a huge impact on our lives. Certainly on my life anyway.

I still remember the first Bowmar Brain that Dad brought home. Wow. I was entranced. I soon graduated to the TI-59, which introduced me to primitive programming. Then I managed to buy a TI 99/4 and had my first personal computing experience. This machine was a dog but the notion of personal computing was infectious for me.

I quickly ditched the TI (which again was a dog) and got an Apple ][ which was a great machine. I loved buying software in ziplock bags at the Microcenter on Lane Avenue. I loved the huge market of addon cards. I loved the nascent computer industry press — Byte magazine and Creative Computing were my monthly bibles.

Then I read an article about the Smalltalk programming environment in Byte magazine and was hooked on the idea of a graphical interface, and bought a Mac at the first possible moment — my second year in grad school, C and I had absolutely no money, but I managed to buy a Mac the first day it was on the market.

Then I moved out west here and had to adopt Windows and PCs wholeheartedly. By now I am probably on my 20th Windows PC in the workplace and probably 10th at home — my latest being a hardcore game machine from Alienware.

And of course I now use microprocessors in about 100 other machines in my daily life — in my stereo, in my car, in my MP3 player, in my cell phone, in my Blackberry, etc…

It has been fun so far…

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme

OK folks it is just a doughnut. Why this town has gone nuts over them I do not understand.

I guess we don’t have the Mariners to talk about any more. No one cares enough about the Seahawks to talk about them. The crummy local weather is old news. And the national news scene is just not very uplifting.

So we obsess about doughnuts. Topic number one every morning is Krispy Kreme gossip — how long is the line, have you had one yet, did you hear about the 5 additional outlets they are going to open in the Seattle area.

If we could only get a White Castle now…

Weblogs

Weblogs

Perhaps the best way to build a personal website these days is as a weblog, or blog for short. This site is an example — your typical blog is a set of short notes posted in chronological order, most typically with references to other sites. It is kind of the web equivalent of a diary!

You can get more information on blogs at lots of places — the blogger site has lots of info and is the tool that I use to build and maintain my site. Super easy to use, and I can add new items to my website from anywhere — at home, at work, at a friends house, anywhere. Weblogs.com also has a ton of info and you can buy software up here to help you build and run a blog (or any other kind of website). There is more info on these sites than I can possibly summarize, including a lot of info on or near the weblogs site concerning web services and xml which is a whole ‘nother discussion.

To get started building a blog using say blogger, you’ll need to first decide where to host your blog — i.e. what server will it physically reside on. If you don’t care what domain name you have, then you can use a free homepage service like Talkcity . You’ll have limited storage and probably some ads inserted in your page but hey it is free.

If you want your own domain name like I have, you’ll need to register your name at someplace like Network Solutions. This isn’t hugely expensive — $35/year is the listed price tho i think i have seen cheaper deals. Then you’ll need to pay some more to host the domain somewhere — you should be able to get this done for $10 a month or less. Or you can do like I do and host it at your workplace for free, though you will need a friendly employer.

Once you have your free homepage or hoisted domain set up, just point blogger towards it and go! I’ve skipped about a zillion details but part of the fun is learning how to do all this and I don’t want to spoil your fun!

Volleyball Season Finale

Volleyball Season Finale

Well L’s volleyball season ended today at the district tournaments in Edmonds. This was the first time that Forest Ridge had ever made it to the district tournaments and they faced a set of very tough teams. In their first match they lost to Orcas Island High School in a hard fought match. In their second match they were eliminated by LaConner High School.

It was a great experience for the team. They experienced the atmosphere and intensity of the district tournament for the first time. Despite losing, they all had a great time and felt great about their day. L’s team is made up predominantly of juniors so they fully expect to be back at the districts next year.

Carter Beats The Devil What

Carter Beats The Devil

What a great fun book. John and I have both read it, it is a great yarn. And for those with a Marion, Ohio background, it has just enough mentions of Marion and Harding and Nan Britton to make you feel right at home.

Ignition Update Some of you

Ignition Update

Some of you have asked about the companies that we are investing in here at Ignition. Here is a quick rundown of our investments to date:

Seven — founded by a great entrepreneur, Bill Nguyen. This company is doing great, they are solving wireless network problems for large companies.

Avogadro — founded by longtime friends from Microsoft, this company was sold earlier this year to Openwave for nearly $100M at the time. A great set of guys, we wish them well.

RLX — working on next generation server designs that are orders of magnitude smaller, cooler, lighter, less power consumptive.

Gitwit — founded by a brilliant guy, Eric Engstrom. Working on the coolest technologies ever for cell phones.

Etrieve — down in Portland. Letting you work with your email and calendar by voice.

Airwave — working on next generation wireless networks. In stealth mode.

Radioframe — working on a very cool solution to allow your cell phone to work well indoors — in buildings, in parking garages, in all the places that cell phone coverage is weak today. Great set of guys behind this one.

IR — a team of very bright guys working on some secret stuff.

In addition we have some entrepreneurs sitting in our offices working on some very early business ideas that may become companies.

None of these companies are public entities nor are they likely to be so anytime soon. The market for public offerings is pretty tough these days. But most of them are good solid companies that will become cash flow positive and when the markets improve, we expect some very positive outcomes.

Halloween!

Halloween!

Wow we had a great night. I’d estimate that we had 250-300 kids visiting — we gave away a LOT of candy. All of L’s friends and their families came, as did J’s friends and families. And we had neighbors, and some coworkers, and whoever else happened to stop by. A fun night.

Highlights:

The flamelights we had in our upstairs windows really looked great.

People always love skeletons.

The glowing red eyes peeking out from dark corners and bushes really fascinated some of the young kids. Very inexpensive.

The fog as always was great. And we had super weather — scattered clouds, breezy, a beautiful full moon.

Lowlights:

Just one. As the party was breaking up, someone accidentally grabbed J’s trick or treat bag and left with it. All the candy he had worked hard to collect was gone. A serious downer at the end of the evening. We have plenty of candy left over, so he won’t go short on candy, but it is not the same as the candy he collected, which had stories and memories of the night associated with it.

Halloween Status All systems go.

Halloween Status

All systems go. Both foggers working — yard and doghouse. Pirate, Heartbeat, Greeting, Thunder and Lightning, and Doghouse soundsystems all operation. Giant Ghosts working. Lightning operational. Gobo spotlight operational. All skeletons in place. Skeleton eyes lit. All indoor lights working.

Going to be a great night if the weather holds…

Whistle While You Work I

Whistle While You Work

I wish I had the time of an 11 year old.

John spent nearly every waking moment this past weekend learning how to whistle. He made pretty good progress — Friday night all he could produce was a breathy puffing sound. By Sunday he was able to make a reasonable whistle, tho he can’t vary the tone much yet. I guess that is next weekend’s goal.

We of course are all going insane.

Icebergs

Icebergs

L brought home a paper last week on the “Iceberg” analogy for teams. How just a little bit of an iceberg peeks above the water, but it has a whole huge structure supporting its exposed surface, and how that whole structure is necessary for the top of the iceberg to achieve its height. And in teams — every player is important and contributes to the success of the team, even the players on the bench.

I love the Iceberg analogy for teams. Let me extend it!

Life is long. During our lives we will get to be on literally thousands of teams. Sports teams. Teams working on a lab problem or school project. Teams working on projects at church. Working as part of a community group. Working as a member of a nonprofit board. At the workplace as part of a project team. As part of a special project taskforce. A family working together on housework, on vacation planning, on holiday preparations, on the everyday tasks of housekeeping. For fun as part of a choir or stage production.

Literally your entire life will be spent as part of teams. There are very few truly solitary endeavors in life.

Our position on each of these teams will be different. Sometimes we will be a leader because of our experience and competence in the subject area. Sometimes we will be a learner because of relative inexperience. Sometimes we will get the public spotlight as the face of the team. Sometimes we will toil away in relative obscurity. And most often we will be doing all these each day — part of one team in the morning at work, a different in the afternoon, yet another in the evening at home or in the community.

We will all get to experience the full range of roles. Some of these roles will be amazingly gratifying. Some will be less fulfilling. But no on is on top of the iceberg their whole life, we will all get our turn on the top and on the bottom.

The true measure of our self worth is not where we are in the iceberg. We are going to be in different places at different times in our lives.

The true measure of our self worth is how we comport ourselves as we fulfill our role. When we are at the top — do we express humility and thankfulness, do we try to teach others the way up, do we show understanding and compassion for those in other roles? When we are at the bottom — do we seek to understand the strengths of those above, do we seek to learn from them, do we strive hard knowing that the other roles will be strengthened if we work our hardest?

Emotionally it feels better to be at the top. But in the words of someone I once worked with, “Success is a lousy teacher”. I probably have learned the most in my life from some of my time spent elsewhere in the iceberg.

Volleyball Update Alright! Forest Ridge

Volleyball Update

Alright! Forest Ridge won the playoff game friday night to determine the sole champion of the Emerald City league. It was a hard fought match — U Prep won the first game 15-13. Forest Ridge the second 15-13. In the third, Forest Ridge went up 14-3, but U-Prep wouldn’t quit and fought back to 14-12 before Forest Ridge closed them out. A thrilling match.

As a result, Forest Ridge gets a bye through the Emerald City Tournament and the first round of district tournaments. Their next match is this coming Saturday at the district tournaments in Edmunds.

Northwest News 10/4 Well September

Northwest News 10/4

Well September certainly turned out to be a somber month. Even though we were not directly touched by the events of the month, we like all Americans have had a rough emotional month. We fervently hope October brings more positive happenings.

October is a big month for us. Schools are humming along — L seems to be most busy with AP calculus and AP chemistry, j likes Latin perhaps the best (is this my child?). L’s volleyball season is gathering steam; they are 5-1 in league play and have a big couple of weeks ahead. C and I are busy with the minutiae of household and family life. Work is going fine; we continue to find some interesting companies in which to invest despite the economic doldrums.

But what really keeps us busy is Halloween preparations. We have a great neighborhood for trick or treating — flat, reasonably dense for the ‘burbs, a lot of kids in the area. We’ve gotten in the habit of inviting our kid’s friends over and their families. And we’ve gotten in the habit of doing some, er, modest decorating. We?ve become known as the family with ?that Halloween house? and it is a great reputation to have ? all the kids in the neighborhood love to visit us.

This year I started planning our Halloween displays in about March. I started buying key gear in April/May. In late August I started deploying gear.

First out was the fog system. We have a water-based fog system that can blanket our yard, the neighbors on either side, and the street with all the fog you would ever want. If we run it full blast, in 5 minutes you can?t even see our house. Fog is great stuff, creates a wonderful aura and a chill in the air. I?ve had that system deployed and working for about 3 weeks now. I?ve also learned more about the pros and cons of the various fog systems available, if anyone wants a primer.

Next out is the sound system. I have 6 separate sound systems deployed with Bose weatherproof speakers. In past years I have used wireless speakers but they have a lot of interference and battery problems so this year I just ran speaker cable everywhere. We have four speakers playing a thunder soundtrack, a set of speakers at either driveway entrance playing moody welcome songs and scripts, a scary growling soundtrack up by our door, a creepy heartbeat and dripping sound off in a corner of the yard, and some mood music indoors. The right sound track makes a huge difference in setting the mood.

I am currently deploying all the lighting. I use a theatrical control system called DMX512 to control all the lighting. My PC runs the DMX control software and I have DMX cables run out to all the lights around the yard. I have a bank of strobes and incandescents which are synched to the thunder soundtrack to give a lightning effect ? very cool! I have a number of spotlights shining on props and doors for other effects. I also have a small fog machine up near our door that we use to surprise people, also controlled by the DMX system. Lighting is really the final key element to creating a suspenseful atmosphere. Oh yes I also use the x10 system to control some of the house lighting ? it is a far inferior system to DMX but a lot cheaper. Fine for controlling indoor lighting and small outdoor lights that don?t have to be synced with any soundtracks.

This month I will be deploying all the props ? we have a huge number of skeletons and a lot of loose bones ? all purchasable very cheaply from anatomical supply houses. We have a haunted doghouse, a sea serpent, cast silhouettes of the seven deadly sins, much pirate paraphernalia, gargoyles, lots of fake rats and bats, and a lot of window decorations and small lights. Oh and I replace all our outdoor lightbulbs with flickering candle bulbs, that alone adds a nice touch. One thing we stay away from is gore ? we don?t have any bloody body parts or anything like that. I would rate our house PG or PG-13 ? scary because of sudden sounds or lights, but nothing grotesque.

It is a lot of fun although a lot of work for just one night! There are a million projects I want to undertake for next year ? some sensors which drive lights automatically based on the presence of a guest, a thing called a vortex cannon which blows fog around, some floating lantern effects, etc. There is a huge community of folks on the internet who trade information all year long on haunted house ideas.

If any of you are ever out this way we?d love to have you by for Halloween. It is a lot of fun. And we?ll think of all of you this Halloween.