Kayaking in Olympia

In November I went to Olympia to see Erin. One of the mornings we went to an interesting place on the water for brunch called [[http://tugboatannies.com/|Tugboat Annie’s]]. For $20 you get your choice of breakfast, coffee, and a couple hours on the best kayaks of 2017. It was a great deal, though since it was foggy and cold in November nobody else was taking up on the offer and we were told we could take as much time as we wanted. The breakfast was good (yay Hollandaise), and we read through the binder of instructions while we ate. Then we headed out to the kayaks and picked out a couple and got inside. I went out on the water first, and since I had never kayaked before, only rafted and canoed, was a little unstable at first. I quickly got the hang of it, though, and was soon sliding through the water with ease.

We started off along the Western coast and explored a logging area where they took the logs out of the water and either chipped them or put them on barges or put them on rails. It was hard to tell, and since it was a Sunday morning there wasn’t any activity. In fact, it was dead out. There was a lot of fog, the water was eerily calm, and there was no traffic making noise. We could whisper to each other and hear birds in the distance, but that was about it.

We continued to move North along the inlet, chatting and exploring the coast and piles of logs chained and floating in the water. Once we got to the end of the log pile, which was enormous, we followed it around and went back South. For a while a seal was curious about us and followed us around.

Eventually we made it back to the marina and checked out some of the boats, then returned our kayaks and locked them up, and returned the keys to the restaurant. To our surprise, we had been gone pretty close to two hours, and it was about right for us. It was chilly out, we had done as much exploring as we wanted, and we had had fun. It was a nice little adventure.

Chicago Conference/Halloween

With only a couple weeks before Halloween, Erin and I still hadn’t made plans for Halloween. We had options in both Olympia and Richland, but neither of us wanted to be in our home towns, hoping instead to find something fairly large and fun somewhere else.

In a parallel story, I was working on going to Chicago for a conference. The same company that had sent me to San Diego was now preparing for a conference in their home town of Chicago, and had expressed an interest in bringing me there not only to attend the conference with them but also get familiar with their offices and meet the people with whom I may have worked to integrate our software. It was a pretty important conference on emergency management called TCIP (Technologies for Critical Incident Preparedness (http://www.ctc.org/)), and was essentially an opportunity for government, corporate, and emergency response people to get together and talk about needs and what technologies can fill those needs. Anyway, it was the perfect conference for me to attend for a variety of reasons.

Our parallel stories met in a moment of clarity when it occurred to me that the conference ended a day before Halloween, I have friends in Chicago I’d love to see and who would gladly put me up for a night, and there was no reason Erin couldn’t come, too. So I made my plans to go to Chicago for the conference, and she made her plans, and she arrived the second day of the conference. During the day I attended the conference, and she went off and explored the city and a couple graduate schools she was interested in. In the evenings we had dinner and explored the city some more. I was lucky enough to get a hotel room at the Hyatt Regency where the conference was being held and had a great view that included the river, the lake, downtown, and even Navy Pier:

On Thursday night we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant called Catch Thirty-Five, then saw Wicked, which was amazing. Afterward we met up with Adam and Sarah at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower and had a great view of downtown at night. It was really handy being downtown because we could either walk or take a taxi anywhere we needed to go.

Friday the conference was winding up and by noon was over. Before I finish with the conference, though, there was something really cool about being there. There were screenshots of software I had written in four of the booths there. One of them was a client using mobile software in San Diego. Another was a group visualizing sensor data in Los Angeles. A third was the PNNL booth showing off some mobile stuff and some visual analytics stuff. And the fourth was a DHS booth showing off more of the same research from PNNL. It was really cool to be able to go up to those booths and see the screenshots and introduce myself (some of them I’d only ever exchanged emails). I was able to do work on a few different projects while I was there, get some good ideas, and attend a lot of the conference sessions that were really relevant. In some cases I think I even had more expertise than the people presenting. I guess that’s a sign that I should be getting more of my knowledge out of my head and into papers and conferences and not just software. Still, the conference was a very good thing for me to have attended.

After it ended, I had arranged to go down to the offices of the other company to meet them and show them some software and answer their questions. It was an interesting demo, full of technical… challenges. I managed to delete a database moments before the demo, which caused some problems, but fortunately I had a backup. It wasn’t a full backup, though, so there were some issues, and some things required being behind the PNNL firewall for it to work. Unfortunately, the lab was going through a bit of a crisis at the time, and had cut off most of the internet access. Still, I managed to show what I wanted, answer their questions accurately and completely, and even get them interested in some more parts.

After the meeting, Erin and I met back up, then went to the pier to see it and get a hot dog, then walked back to get ready for the night. We met my friends for dinner late at a place called Greek Islands Restaurant, where we all stuffed ourselves pretty well. Then it was out to Wicker Park for some drinks and bar hopping. I had my Napolean Dynamite costume with the wig and hair, and Erin was a medieval peasant:

The quality and number of costumes was astounding. We had so much fun going from bar to bar, seeing everybody dressed up and having fun together. Some really elaborate costumes that had to have taken countless hours of construction. We made our way to most of the places in the Wicker Park area, pushing through throngs of people. It was getting late, and the others decided to leave, but Erin and I stuck it out for a while longer, but not much. Then came the inevitable closing of some of the bars, and that meant all the taxis were being snatched up. We spent a long time looking for one. Eventually we decided to pick a main direction and start walking, thinking that if we got out far enough we’d find an open taxi heading into the throng before picking someone up. Ultimately, it worked, and we got back to the hotel safely.

The next morning I had to check out of the hotel because it was for the conference, not my weekend vacation. We left our bags at the desk for the day and took a bus up to Lincoln Park, where we first looked for a place to have some brunch and happened on the most fantastic place ever. It was a buffet brunch that obviously catered to the Friday night partiers. The place is called Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap, and it was amazing, and we weren’t the only ones who thought so. The place was full of people who looked like they were recovering from a long night.

After brunch, we went back to Lincoln Park to see the zoo. At first we only saw the farm animal section and were quite unimpressed, Erin having grown up on a farm, and me having grown up in Montana. Surely that couldn’t be all to the great Lincoln Park zoo. We continued our exploration of the park and thankfully found the rest of the zoo, which turned out to be pretty cool and bigger than we expected.

After the zoo we sat down for a while and planned the rest of the day. We didn’t have a hotel room, we wanted to inconvenience Adam and Sarah as little as possible, we wanted something cheap, and we wanted something convenient to the L. We tried a few hotels, we tried a few hostels, and we did some hard looking, thanks mostly to Google Maps on my mobile phone. Sadly, we came up with nothing, though. In the end we called Adam and he was more than happy to have us for the night. We took the bus back to the hotel to pick up our bags then got back on the bus to go to Hyde Park and Adam’s place.

Once we arrived we chilled for a while. Erin took a nap while Adam and I watched a movie. We played some Mario Kart, too. Sarah was at a conference, and when she got back she had to prepare for an evening party as part of the conference. We planned for her to go to that while Adam and Erin and I went to dinner, then we’d pick her up and go to a nightclub. I donned my Napolean Dynamite costume and we headed out. Sadly, all the places we tried to go to eat were closed, and we spent over forty five minutes looking for a place to eat, finally settling on a place that sold pizza by the slice in a part of town I could never find again. Sarah gave us a call when she was done and we returned to pick her up. Then it was off to the club. We picked Excalibur because it had everything in one place, and since it was cold outside we really didn’t want to be doing a lot of traveling. It was a good choice. The main dance floor was just ok. We went up a few floors and across the hall to the techno floor and spent most of our time there. We also meandered down to the other stage on the first floor, but didn’t stay there long. Mostly we were in the techno section. Even though it was the day after Halloween, people were still dressed up in their costumes, and it was again a lot of fun to see everybody dressed up. There was also a breakdancing circle at one point, and I was lucky enough to be near it, so I jumped in and did some Napolean dancing in my costume, to great effect. Sadly, I think I was the one there with the best skills to offer. The other people who tried the circle weren’t nearly the caliber I’d expect in Chicago, so I was a little disappointed. Meh.

One observation I’ve made about noisy clubs is that my cell phone is great for communicating. Rather than yelling into other people’s ears, I’ll just type a message and show it to them, then hand them the phone and they’ll type a response. Since my phone has a full keyboard and touch screen, it’s easy and fast to type or draw pictures. The other huge benefit, and I’ve great responses to this, is to type out my drink order before I get to the bar, then just show them the screen when they get to me. No yelling, no confusion, it’s fast and easy and you can order more complex drinks than the basics. It’s really a win-win.

The four of us seemed to be done with the club all within 15 minutes of each other, so none of us felt bad about leaving; it was just unanimously time to go. We made our way out and headed back to Adam’s where we crashed in the living room. The next morning Erin and I both had fairly early flights, so we called for a taxi to get to the airport and let the others sleep in. We got through security with no problems, and I walked Erin to her flight and said goodbye, then headed to mine.

It was probably my best Halloween so far, and a really good conference, and I love Chicago, so I don’t know how the experience could have been any better.

Beauty and the Geek – The Full Story

Many people know that I applied to be on the show Beauty and the Geek. This is the full story of what happened.

Back in late 2007 there were a lot of advertisements on the radio about a casting for the show Beauty and the Geek. I had never seen or even heard of the show, so but my interest was piqued. I watched a couple episodes online and was surprised how well the geeks were portrayed. I was not interested in a reality show that made an effort to make the characters look bad, but this one showed the good sides of most of the people on the show. So I thought I’d give it a shot. I went to the casting, which was a local radio DJ sitting and interviewing people in front of a camera. I was one of only a few guys there (there weren’t a lot of girls, either, and a few got turned away because they weren’t 21). I went up for my interview and did fine. I cracked a couple of my signature corny jokes, I told some good stories, and I came across as a smart and likeable geek. Apparently the casting company thought so, too, because a few days later I got a phone call from them asking me to submit an application and video. And I only had a few days before it was due. I raced to fill out the paperwork and make a video and was fairly happy with what I submitted to them (http://wyzgyz.org/batgold). I also sent them a hard copy of the paper work and a dvd of it. Unfortunately, this was during the writer strike, and my mail wasn’t delivered because they wouldn’t cross the picket line. I let the casting people know what had happened and that they could pick up the application at the delivery company, and they thanked me, but never picked it up. It was returned to me a few weeks later. I assumed they had gotten all they needed from the material I submitted online.

I heard nothing, the show was filmed and aired, and frankly I thought I had dodged a bullet by avoiding season 5. There were a lot of quirks that made me glad I wasn’t in that melee.  It was frustrating to not hear anything from them, though, and wonder if or when I would hear from them again and have to tell friends that asked that I hadn’t heard anything.

Then around October out of the blue I got a call from them again. They said they would be starting it up again, filming in December, and I was at the top of their list. They wanted me to make another video, do some paperwork, and have it to them in 48 hours. I understand Hollywood is all about speed, but all my plans for the weekend disappeared in the blink of an eye. I spent a few minutes thinking about what I would do, and finally came up with an idea that I thought would work. The only problem was, I had to act immediately because it relied on other people and they were only there that night. So I went out dancing, and in my haste locked my keys in my car necessitating a call to Carolyn that led to a trip back to my apartment to fetch the spare key. The next day I continued to produce the video, and I finished it up Sunday evening. I had a few people over for a movie night, so I showed it to them for feedback before I submitted it to casting.

Here’s the video in all its glory:

Remember, it was done in only a single weekend, and I didn’t have sophisticated microphones or even anyone else to help with this. I’m particularly proud of what I did at the end with the special effect. You can see words appear above my head while I’m talking. This was not added in afterwards; this is actually projected above me as I’m talking. It took a while to set it up, and there were some technical bits that took some tweaking before I was satisfied. Here’s a shot of my living room so you can see how it was set up:

From left to right, there’s a light that I mounted high up using a chair and cardboard. This was to get direct lighting without shadows. Next you can see the camera stand where the camera sat to capture video. Taped to it is a sheet of paper with talking points. To the right of that is the laptop sitting on a chair and a bunch of books so I could see the screen without looking away from the camera. The laptop was running a powerpoint presentation, which is what was projected. You can see in the video some strange skewing on some of the pictures. Because the projector was off to one side, there was some significant keystoning. In powerpoint I was able to correct that in the text by skewing the text the other way, but I wasn’t able to do that with the pictures. On the far right is the projector. I was having audio issues with the projector fan being so loud, so I mostly covered it and put up the cushion barrier. As I talked, I saw what was being projected above me and talked about that and to the talking points on my paper. I had the mouse hidden next to my left hand and hit that to advance slides. Ultimately I think it turned out pretty well.

I submitted everything to them on Sunday night, and you can see it here: http://www.wyzgyz.org/batg/. That page has lots of good pictures and the video.

Over the next couple days we traded a few emails while they got the pictures and higher-def version of the video. Then nothing for a while. Then late in November I got a call again. They asked if I had 5 friends to choose from who could also be on the show, and they said they would probably be moving production back to January. I had a hard enough time taking a month off of work to go do this, and now they were asking for me to find a friend who also wanted to be on the show and could take a month off. I submitted a list of a few names that probably wouldn’t work, and never heard anything again. Nothing. November passed, December passed, and January is half over, and I still haven’t heard from them. Oh well. I’m not really surprised considering what happened last year with it, but it would be nice to hear from them, and it would be nice if they didn’t string me along with “we’re really excited about you and we really want you to be on the show” if they weren’t and didn’t. We’ll see what happens if they make a Season 6 or not, and if I ever hear from them again.

Mt. St. Helens – again

Back in 2007, a group of us tackled Mt. St. Helens. This was a great adventure, and enough other people were interested in trying it that we decided to go again. I was in pretty good shape, and we had been doing lots of hiking at Badger Mountain and elsewhere, so I was looking forward to tackling the mountain in a fraction of the time we spent the first year. Partly because I intended to go at my own pace and not wait so much, and partly because I was overall in better shape.

Well, better shape except for my knees. They were still hurting, and frankly I was even considering bagging it the morning of the hike. We got to the place and even had the same camping spot. Carolyn made spaghetti for dinner, and we went for a little walk around sunset to see the view and play with cameras. We went to bed fairly early and woke up fairly early, too.

We packed up our tents and gear and got ready for the hike. We were on the trail right on time, and raring to go. I was a lot more prepared for the trip. I had brought my trademark wasabi tuna salad sandwich, but I had tried something new to keep it from getting soggy. I put wax paper between the tuna and the bread in the hopes that it would keep the tuna from sogging the bread. Unfortunately, what happened was the tuna just slid down to the bottom of the bag and I had a very soggy and useless mess of a bag. So I won’t be trying that again. Maybe separate bags entirely next time.

Anyway, we kept up a good pace, and I was doing fine. I could feel my knees the whole time, but they weren’t complaining too much. As the sun came up and we got out of the trees and warmed up we changed our clothing accordingly. Then came the boulder fields, and I was having a lot of fun the whole way. In some parts it was ashy and gravelly, and that wasn’t as much fun, but the parts with the big boulders that we had to climb around were awesome.

We got a firsthand view of weather, too. We could see a layer of haze right under a layer of clear off in the distance by Mt. Adams. We were above the cloud level early in the morning and looking out on the valleys you could see an ocean of white cloud with mountains for beaches. We even witnessed cloud formation right in front of us as the wind blew up the mountain and moisture from the haze level came up and turned into wispy but growing clouds. It was a really cool sight.

I made it to the top of the mountain in under 4 hours. 3:45 to be exact. It was a good time, and I beat everyone else by a lot, not that it was a competition. I was just trying to get to the top. I hung out at the top for a while, then Nick arrived and we followed the rim around to the true summit a few feet higher than where we had been. Since I had been stopped for a while and hadn’t gone downhill at all to this point, going to the true summit was a sharp reminder how much my knees were unhappy with me. Going downhill hurt a lot more than going uphill, and I had at least 4 hours of downhill ahead. We all made it to the top and took group pictures and had a good time and healed a little bit.

Last year I brought duct tape in lieu of gators, and wrapped my shoes up to my jeans in duct tape, making a solid barrier against the ash and small rocks that get inside the shoes. This time, I tried the same thing. Except I didn’t count on splitting my tape with another person, and I ran out. Sadly, the tape was ineffective, and I had to drain my shoes a few times. I was prepared for this trip, though. Last time it was cold and very windy, so I brought more layers and ski goggles to protect against the flying dust and ash. This time, it was nice with no breeze. For food I fortunately had a backup sandwich to eat at the top, and I had trail mix and energy bars that went mostly uneaten or shared. For fluids I estimated fairly well, except for the liter of gatorade that I gave to someone else.

The trip down was bad, but not as bad as the year before. Even though my knees hurt with every step, my brain was fine and the rest of my body was fine and I wasn’t really tired at all. The end sort of jumped out of nowhere and then we were done. We were all happy that we had done it, and proud of our individual accomplishments, but pretty sure that we wouldn’t be going back again. It’s a mountain we’ve conquered twice already, and we want to move on to other mountains.

We finished the day with dinner in Hood River and an easy drive back home.

Portland Trip

For a while we had been planning a trip to see Phantom of the Opera in Portland. It wasn’t there for long, so we had to take advantage of the opportunity. At the end of August, we took a few cars over to Portland. My car stopped at Multnomah Falls because the others hadn’t been there yet, so we got lots of pictures (they did, not me). I was having some serious problems with right behind my knees. I think it was from the softball tournament and Kendall Katwalk and all the other activity I had been doing over the summer, and it was starting to add up and take its toll on me.

We continued on to Portland and arrived at REI to meet everyone else right on time. Well, we were on time anyway. After hanging out there far longer than I needed or wanted to, and with my knees getting worse, fortunately we continued on to check in to the hotel. We would be staying at the Jupiter Hotel, and this was my first time there. It was like a young rocker hipster place, with condoms and earplugs on the ikea nightstands and big furry pillows and murals on the walls and chalkboard paint on the doors where everybody wrote and drew. It was very interesting and a neat atmosphere.

From there we changed and headed out to dinner at The Melting Pot. It was a fantastic dinner, and we moved the fondues around so we all got to try all of them. Somehow it seemed I had a bottomless stomach and I ate everything. The cheese fondue, the salad, the entree fondue, the chocolate dessert fondue, and a couple glasses of wine. I was cleaning other people’s plates, too. It was bizarre.

After dinner we got in our cars or walked over to the theater where the opera was. We had arrived too early, so we had to wait before they opened the doors, but we had no problem finding our seats. The show was pretty cool. I found myself singing along quietly and marveling at how they accomplished some of the special effects. After the intermission, though, things got worse, and I started to get bored and nod off. It had never occurred to me how all of the songs tie in melodies from all the other songs, so while it was a neat idea, by the second half of the opera I was getting tired of hearing the same melodies over and over, and the effects weren’t as intriguing and the story wasn’t as exciting, and dinner was putting me to sleep. I only dozed a couple times, and not for very long, but otherwise I would say that the show was great and I had a really good time.

Leaving after the show was a challenge. Downtown Portland is full of one way streets going the wrong way. We had to go way out of our way to be able to get onto Burnside, but once we did it was easy to get back to the hotel, and amazingly we beat the others back.

I had become more alert and was ready to continue the night, but I had a hard time motivating some of the others. There was salsa dancing across the street, so Emily, Tara, Carolyn and I went to check it out, but they weren’t willing to pay the cover, so we went back to the hotel bar, which was pretty cool itself, and had a drink there. Then they went to bed, so I went back to the salsa place.

It was on the third floor, and the surface was a great hardwood smooth dance floor. It couldn’t have been better. Well, it could have if it wasn’t completely full of people. I was amazed at how many people were there dancing, and how good so many of them were. There were also a lot of guys on the edges, too, looking for women to dance. The ratio was off, and I found myself intercepted countless times on the way to ask someone to dance by someone who was a few inches closer to her. I did manage to get a few dances, but I was clearly middle of the pack as far as skill level. Maybe 60%. It was strange. Oddly, when I was dancing my legs didn’t hurt, but towards the end of a song, or as soon as I stopped, they did. That, combined with the inability to find partners or dance space, convinced me to head home at about 1am. I snuck in to the room and the others hardly noticed.

The next morning we all rounded up in the lobby area, and caravan-ed to a small breakfast cafe a couple miles away and had really good brunches. Then we split up to head home, as some wanted to go for a hike, and I was in no position to do it. So Lyndsey and I drove back to Richland, and that was the end of the weekend.

Kendall Katwalk

There’s not really a lot to say about this hike. I really liked it. Located right around Snoqualmie Pass, it was snow free in the middle of August. It was a significant hike, about 14 miles round trip, with ~3700 feet elevation gain, so it wasn’t easy. After we got above the forest-y parts it was a lot steeper and the rock was rough and uneven. There were some crazy parts with very steep slopes off the side of the trail and drops of hundreds of feet, but nothing too scary. The Kendall Katwalk itself was a thin ridge where two mountains met with large valleys on either side. The view from one side was spectacular; the view from the other was mostly spectacular minus the highway and ski hills off in the distance.

We only saw a few people, and had some interesting conversations with them. Once we made it to a couple lakes over a mile past the Katwalk, we decided to head back. On the way back down I still had plenty of energy towards the end, so I took off ahead and ran/jogged for over a mile down the mountain. Running down mountain trails is so much fun and challenging, too: dodging rocks, handling switchbacks, deftly ricocheting off trees to keep up the momentum while changing direction. I made it to the bottom and waited for the others to finish. On the way back we stopped in Ellensburg and ate at the Yellow Church Cafe. I had cleaned up and even changed, so I was fine to go in there, but the others were a little stinkier. Still, they didn’t complain and we all cleaned our plates.

San Diego

It’s a long story how I got to go to San Diego in August, but short version is that a company that’s interested in licensing some software I wrote for emergency management is paid for me to present with them at a booth at a mapping conference. I was not about to complain about showing off my work or hanging out in San Diego, so I gladly went. Well, tried to go. I got hosed by a canceled flight and had to change plans at the last minute. I was still able to go, but arrived a day and a half later than I expected. Fortunately, my software was designed to work in some pretty unfriendly conditions, so when I did get there, it was only a matter of plugging the USB drive into the server and clicking a file called “GO” and everything was up and running. I had successfully imported their datasets, so we had some interesting stuff to show, and even though my stuff was a web application, it didn’t actually need the web to work, which was fine because there wasn’t any.

For most of the conference I was at the booth. I did wander around the show floor a little, but I stuck pretty closely to my software. In the evenings I mostly went to the hotel to work. I had a lot of other projects going on back home that I couldn’t leave alone, and I was making changes to the emergency management software, too. I always enjoy tweaking my software right before a demo because there’s an element of risk. Of course, I wouldn’t do it if I thought it could screw something up or I didn’t think I could accomplish it in time, but it’s sort of like the ticking clock in movies, where you have a hacker guy break into a system and disable the bomb or transfer the file with seconds left. Anyway, I try not to do that, but I’m not afraid of it.

Back to San Diego, though, I didn’t know anybody there, but I made a few friends anyway. I also checked out a few companies to see if I’m missing out on anything by staying at the lab. And since we have another client down in San Diego, I checked in with them and gave them a new version of the software and walked through it with them.

I did get a chance to get out and see some sights, too. I went out for a couple nice meals, took a tour of the aircraft carrier, and had a great night bar-hopping with my new best friend. We had met at the big conference party completely by chance. There were over 12000 people there, the food, while free, was awful, and the bands, while free, were also awful. I was playing with my phone and waiting for a different band to start so I could get up on my feet and either dance or walk out, and she sat down next to me. We talked for a while, then bailed on the party to find some decent music and drinks that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and tasted a lot better.

This was the view from my very nice hotel room on the 26th floor:

A New Year

My name is Bob, and I’m an internet addict. It’s been over 6 months since I’ve updated this site. I guess those two don’t really go well together. I wish I could say I was too busy to post, but that’s no real excuse. I just haven’t committed to doing it. So in the spirit of the new year, that is what I am going to do; I promise to keep it up to date. And as an act of good faith, I’m even going to go back and fill in the last six months. It’s going to take me a bit of work to do that, but it’s important to me.

I’m also going to resolve a few things and put them out on the interwebs so that there’s some accountability. Of course, I won’t be putting all of them on here. That would be silly. Anyway, here we go:

  • Keep this blog, facebook, and myspace up to date. Posts at least once a week.
  • Participate more in the online community. That means contributing to more open source projects and giving more small apps away. I think I’ll be getting into more social networking+mobility stuff, and I plan to write about that and make it public.
  • Take significant steps to reduce my carbon footprint and contribute back to the environment
  • Work out at least once a week. Not just sports or the occasional bike ride. I think adding weightlifting to my already active lifestyle is going to get me bigger, stronger, faster, and more capable of doing some of the breakdancing moves I seem to have misplaced.
  • Automate more stuff. One of the barriers to my productivity is having to do so many things manually, and frankly, there’s no reason for that. I could automate so many things, create reminders, reduce the amount of time I spend on menial tasks. So I’ll be taking some more steps to automate more of the less exciting parts of my life. I’m thinking of starting with a strap-on catheter.
  • Get more involved with people’s lives. Frankly, I’ve been working way too much at work and I’m losing perspective. If I stepped back to see the forest I think I’d be happier and even more productive. I want to pay more attention to facebook and go out with people more and do stuff.
  • Be an event coordinator. In college I was a master of it. I was in hall council, I was organizing and running events every week, and I was having a great time. I want to get back into that.
  • Cook more. A year ago I was baking a lot more and bringing it to work. For the past few months I haven’t really been cooking, instead relying on people to bring food to the kitchen at work. There were lots of days where the only meal I had was dinner, and plenty of days where lunch was a spare cookie or a slice of party cake. No more. I’m going to cook more and get even better at it, and I’m going to contribute back to the lunch room.

I think that’s enough for now. I’ll probably have more that I work on, and I’m thinking it might be a good idea to do a review of 2008 to see what I liked and didn’t like and how I can improve.

A Genuine Bobism

I have been accused of some of the worst puns in history. These are characterized by a a conversation that is randomly interrupted minutes later by an outburst of laughter from me, followed by the joke, followed by an awkward silence from everybody except me. Sometimes I’m faster and the joke comes out almost immediately. Sometimes people laugh. It varies. But it’s always a really corny pun.

Once I was in a meeting at work and we were discussing changes to a database. After a few minutes of discussion with no progress, I said “I think we should table this” after which I burst into laughter. Of course, only people who are familiar with databases and Robert’s rules of order would get the joke, so it was pretty specific. Nonetheless, I couldn’t contain myself and for the rest of the meeting bit my tongue and refrained from looking at anyone. THAT is a Bobism; a joke or pun that requires some very specific knowledge of two completely separate fields. In this case, it was database structure (databases are made of tables of data) and Robert’s rules (a set of rules that specify how meetings proceed. An issue that is tabled means discussion ceases and the issue is resumed later). It is a good double entendre in the right crowd.

On vacation in Chicago I had another Bobism. Adam and I were talking about places to eat when Adam said we should eat at Jim’s because it was an institution among Chicago natives. I replied that I really like to do the local things and experience the native culture and not the touristy stuff. Then I said, “I guess you could say I’m committed to institutions.” Naturally I burst out laughing and sat in disappointment as Adam groaned and told me how only a very small audience would appreciate that joke, while secretly wishing he had come up with the pun himself (I can only imagine).

Those who have been around me have no doubt experienced a Bobism, and while they pretend to be embarrassed for me, I know they wish they had thought of it first. Anyway, I plan to use my “committed to institutions”  line again in the future, and I hope by then the audience will be able to appreciate the Bobism.

Mailbox Peak Update

A while ago we hiked up mailbox peak, where there was indeed a mailbox. I took the opportunity to test the postal system by posting two items: a letter addressed to myself and a netflix envelope containing a note and a blank cd. See my [[mailbox_peak|mailbox peak post]] for more. Upon returning from Chicago, I had two pieces of mail waiting for me.

The first was the letter I had sent myself. It had been postmarked from Seattle the 17th of June, just a couple days after I had put it in the 14th. It was a little worn, but still in good condition and unopened. I’m assuming someone took it and placed it in their own mailbox. To the person that did it, thanks!


The second one was far more interesting, though. Netflix has a strange process for returning cds that have been sent on accident. I had included my email address on the note inside the return envelope, which they used to access my account and get my address. They then printed a new sleeve with that address on it. They put the blank cd into that sleeve, and added a cut-out note. Oddly, this note has a grammar error in it, suggesting it hadn’t been thoroughly vetted by Netflix staff and isn’t used frequently. This then went into a slightly oversized envelope, and was stamped with a normal stamp. Further adding to the mystery, this envelope doesn’t have a postmark. How did it get through USPS without getting postmarked? Where did the envelope come from? The return address is Netflix’s main address, but not necessarily the address from which it was sent. It’s all very interesting, and it’s cool that Netflix went through all that effort to return the cd. It was blank, so I didn’t really need it back, and if Netflix is reading this, I’m sorry for costing you a few dollars for my experiment; you performed way beyond my expectations.