category archive

Category: Personal

My Debbie Reynolds Story

When I was very young, my family went to a theater to see the MGM epic, How the West Was Won. It’s a long film (2 hours, 44 minutes), so it included an intermission.

As we were leaving the theater, my parents asked my grandmother how she had enjoyed the film.

“Isn’t it a coincidence,” Grandma replied, “Debbie Reynolds was in both movies.”

My Virtual Coffee Table

Kathy Sierra asks, “What's on your (virtual) coffee table?Here, in roughly reverse chronological order, is my recent reading list.

As I entered my books into LibraryThing, I was surprised that I had read so many books last year. Most of my reading is technical in nature, so I tend to prefer electrons to atoms. Two factors contributed to my reading more than usual in 2005:

  • Our trip to China. There’s plenty of time to read on a 12–hour flight (especially when the movies are in Chinese!) I polished off four books on that trip, including the only fiction title on the list, which I purchased at Shanghai airport for the flight home.
  • Starting a new job. Two of the books on my list are related to my new position as a trainer, and Kathy is responsible, directly or indirectly, for both of them.
  • The first, Head-First Java, bears her byline. I purchased it after she revealed in an e-mail that “the exercises in our head-first books come right from our classes.” Variations of the book’s exercises have indeed proved effective in my C# classes.
  • In that same e-mail, Kathy recommended the other book, Designing World-Class E-Learning, whose primary message is that students learn by doing (and failing); to teach effectively, we must let students experience what we want them to learn. No more Death by PowerPoint!

The only disappointment on my list is Gerald Weinberg’s Weinberg on Writing. I bought it on Johanna Rothman’s recommendation; she seemed to promise that the book would help me become a prolific writer. Weinberg is an engaging storyteller, but his book is really about accumulating ideas for writing: he advocates carrying a notebook at all times and recording “stones” (ideas) with which you can construct “walls” (finished works).

Ideas are not my problem: I have a long list of topics about which I’d like to write. My problem is lack of motivation. After 40+ hours of work and 10 hours of volunteer work each week, all I want to do is sleep or watch TV. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a book to solve that problem.


There’s nothing like traveling with a bunch of skinny Asians to make one feel fat (take a look at this photo while singing, “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others)”). Looking at our photos from China, I decided it’s time to do something about my expanding girth.

Diet Diary

I’m rather a picky eater, so the thought of changing my diet to lose weight does not appeal to me at all. In an ideal world, I would eat whatever I feel like and simply exercise enough to burn all the calories, but that’s not going to happen, either. I needed to figure out how many calories I actually use, then consume slightly less than that in order to lose this excess baggage.

Enter Diet Diary from Tell it your age, sex, height, weight and activity level, and it will tell you roughly how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight, or in my case, to lose one to two pounds a week. Then use its extensive foods database to record what you eat and track your progress.

I’ve been using the software since December 5 (nearly four weeks) and so far I’ve lost about 4½ pounds, so it seems to be working. Now I just need to exercise more than once a week, and my waist will be smaller than my chest in no time. Watch out, skinny Asians!

Year in Review

Only seven posts this year, how sad is that? Here’s what I’ve been doing while I’ve been not blogging:

That’s my year in a nutshell (an appropriate container). How was yours?

Call me "Cosmo"

Mr. Leland: I'm sorry, there's just no way that we can keep you on.
Kramer: I don't even really work here!
Mr. Leland: That's what makes this so difficult.

Proof that my life is actually a Seinfeld episode: I've been fired from a volunteer job.

Since 1995, I've been designated a Microsoft Visual Basic MVP, based on technical assistance I've offered in various online communities. Most recently, I've been active in the DevX Technical Forums.

The arbiters of the MVP designation, however, grade on a curve. Though my online activities have remained relatively constant over the past few years, they apparently no longer qualify as "outstanding." When I pointed out that I have posted over 1,000 messages to the DevX Forums over the past 10 months, my MVP "Buddy" replied that some other MVPs have posted over 4,000 messages during that same period. (To which I say, "Go outside!" Who are these people? ;-)

I'm not bitter; I'll just work a little harder and earn back my title. You can help: Post your VB/C#/ASP.NET questions to the DevX Forums or as comments to this blog.

P.S. -- Adding insult to injury, at the conclusion of our last conversation, my MVP "Buddy" added, "...and Betsy asked me to tell you to quit stalking her!" :-)

Lunch with Betsy and Duncan

Poor Betsy Aoki: I think my Betsy Fan Club initiative creeped her out. All I meant was that I thoroughly enjoy her online persona -- it's a breath of fresh air among the mostly humorless blogs to which I subscribe -- and I wanted her to know that her efforts are appreciated. (I could have proposed a Rory fan club for the same reason, but he has more than enough fans already, and I find him far less attractive.) Unfortunately, I may have been excessively effusive (in retrospect, I concede that my marriage proposal was over the line ;-) and come off as a bit of a wacko.

To her credit, Betsy didn't decline to meet me for lunch when I visited Redmond a few weeks ago, but she did bring along a bodyguard. I took my meds, though, and hopefully the experience was a pleasant one for all concerned. Betsy was even gracious enough to chronicle the event on her weblog, going so far as to declare me “quite normal” (my therapist was thrilled!)

So, thanks, Betsy! I'm still a fan, not at all underwhelmed. And I promise to honor the restraining order.

Great Moments in Cycling, Vol. 2

For Cycle Oregon: The Weekend, we camped at Sisters Junior High School, showering in the gym locker room. The showers, therefore, were a prison-like communal affair. By the time I finished the ride on Saturday afternoon, the locker room was full of paunchy middle-aged men (the young, fit men, I assume, having finished much earlier), trying to avoid eye contact. We'd all spent the past 6 or more hours crammed into spandex cycling shorts; on top of that, there was no hot water. As you might imagine (or try desperately not to), none of us looked our best.

I finished my cold shower in record time. As I made my way toward the lockers across the wet, soapy concrete floor, my feet suddenly slipped out from under me, and I lay spread-eagle, naked, in front of a dozen farmer-tanned new friends.

The funny thing, in retrospect (I didn't laugh at the time), was the reaction. As I hit the floor, I could hear several of them groan sympathetically -- "Owwww!" -- but as they inquired as to my well-being, they all maintained a healthy distance: "Are you OK... over there?" Yes, I'm fine, and thank you for not touching me. :-)

Great Moments in Cycling, Vol. 1

In June, a 20-mile training ride took me through North Portland, one of Portland's more ethnically-diverse neighborhoods. At one point, I experienced some groinal discomfort, so I reached down and, uh... put my affairs in order.

As I stopped at the next signal, a young African-American woman rolled down her window, stuck her head out and asked, "What was you diggin' fo'?"

I just smiled and ran the light. :-)

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Last day of Summer! For those of you who care (Hi, Mom!), here's what I've been up to:

  • Work: I was laid off on May 21, so I spent most of June looking for a new job. Received two offers during the third week of June; accepted a position as a support engineer with Corillian Corporation. (We still have an open position, by the way, so if you know C#, VB, SQL Server, ASP/ASP.NET, XML, Javascript, DCOM, systems troubleshooting and Star Trek trivia, send me a résumé.) Didn't start the new job until July 12, however, because I was scheduled to go on...
  • Vacation: Went to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to visit my wife's family and friends. It was nice to see everyone again; I hadn't been there for over 10 years!
  • Cycling: Did Cycle Oregon: The Weekend in mid-July: 120 miles over two days. Beautiful scenery and great company, but it was over 100 degrees that Saturday, which made the 75 miles we rode that day feel like a hundred. The Vine Ride, in August, was less arduous: my butt gave out before my legs did.
  • Music: I can go years without seeing a concert, then I'll see four in as many months. So far this year I've seen Don Henley, Prince and Tears for Fears; I'll see Sting on Oct. 7. I've also been playing bass more regularly: Met some fellow musicians at work and have gotten in touch with my inner Tito (Puente, not Jackson).

Cool Art

Spent the long weekend in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (my wife's hometown) with family and friends. On Tuesday, we visited the Edmonton Art Gallery, where I thoroughly enjoyed the "Thriller" exhibition. My favorite pieces were Christian Marclay's Telephones, Janet Cardiff's Muriel Lake Incident and Allyson Clay's Improper Perspectives. If you have an opportunity to view the work of these artists, I urge you to do so.

...and boy, is my butt tired!

This is what I did today. I rode the "65-mile loop" (according to my cycle computer, it was closer to 71 miles). It was a beautiful day, and I felt surprisingly good for the first 40 miles. But then we turned into a headwind for the next 20 miles, and I struggled a little. I ended up averaging about 15 mph, which isn't too bad for an old fat guy. ;-)

Live from the Oregon Coast

I've been enjoying four beautiful days and nights at a beach house in Neskowin, OR (about 15 miles north of Lincoln City). I don't have a digital camera (yes, I'm the last remaining geek without one. I'm also the last geek on earth who hasn't seen The Matrix: Reloaded), but there are some photos of the house and the view here. I was way overdue for a vacation; it's been delightful to relax, eat, drink and watch movies with a few close friends.

One feature of the house they don't mention on the Web site is the wildlife: a family of deer has been foraging nightly in our backyard, and a very precocious racoon has adopted us (our fault for giving him some food); he was peering through our patio door until I went to bed at 1:30 a.m. last night.

The only things that could make this weekend any more perfect are a broadband Internet connection and a smokin' home theater system... ;-)

Life Balance

I discovered a revolutionary piece of software last week: Life Balance, from Llamagraphics, Inc. Most To-Do List apps encourage you to prioritize items by urgency: their due date. If you're like me, your life is full of things you consider important, but which aren't really urgent. Some of mine are: Be a better husband; learn to speak Chinese; improve as a musician; get in better shape; cultivate personal relationships, etc. Life Balance is revolutionary because it helps you prioritize by what's important, not merely what's urgent. (Not only that, but it's the first widely-available Windows app I've seen that's written in .NET.) I urge you to check it out.