Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Beer with old friends is awesome

After work today, I had the good fortune to meet-up with an old friend from college in a nice little brewery just a block or so from Google's offices in Kirkland. (I really liked their porter. The red was decent.)


It had been 12 years since I saw him (and even then, it was at Andrea's and my wedding day), so catching up on how life has treated us was really spectacular: to chat with an old friend and to hear that your lives haven't played out so differently, that you are so alike and have such similar interests and philosophies is really pretty awesome.

After some rolls, nigiri and another beer at Sushi Joa, I hit the road for a beautiful late night ride home, thinking about how incredibly fortunate we are. Among all that we discussed, I think the subject that sticks out the most is regret.

Five years ago, I was offered a position at Amazon. Andrea and I decided that moving across the country wasn't the right decision for us at the time, so I turned it down. Over the following weeks and months, and indeed for the next year, I came to deeply regret the missed opportunity. After joining Amazon a year later, I hated the better part of my experience there, but at least I had the experience, and for that, I am very grateful. My life - and, I believe, that of our family - is so much richer for having gone through that change.

There's an article I like to cite from NPR entitled Does age quash our spirit of adventure?, and the core message I take from this is that we should strive to take (calculated) risks, to seek out new experiences. Enjoy what you have (without being reckless) while you still can.

Apparently the guy on the right is a well-known singer
Today is the 21st anniversary of my brother's death. I guess the death of someone close to you affects everyone differently. As for me, I suppose I have developed a mindset that keeping up with the Joneses is a bullshit way to live your life and, by extension, conforming to the others' expectations is similarly fruitless.


Sometimes its hard but not to think about what you could have done or said differently; to wonder what you'd do if you had more time.

I have no heartwarming way to wrap up this blog post, so I'll simply state, for the very small number of people that read this, that I hope you make the most out of the time you have left, be it 45 years or 80 or one. Don't just think about what's a priority in your life. Reflect on it - really reflect on it - and act on it. Because some day, someone you love will be mourning your death and reflecting on your absence years after you're gone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Expensive popcorn must be sold

As part of our fundraising for our cub scout pack, we're doing three trips to downtown right before Seahawks games. This last Sunday was the first. We all met at the SODO Home Depot. It happened that Seattle Fire was there for a medical, and as we were getting ready to go out on a walk, the crew came up to us in dire need of some sweet and salty treats. Reed was able to make the first sale of the day:


After selling a few bags, they let the boys all check out the rigs for a while. I don't think I can stress enough how awesome SFD was in supporting the scouts and being incredibly friendly to the whole pack.

With a good start before we even left the parking lot, we got psyched for what would be a long morning of carnival-style barking at tailgaters.

Just a block from Home Depot, we walked past Starbucks HQ. The seemed to be closed - maybe because it was Sunday, but I choose to believe it's due to the beginning of Phase 2.

Once we were in the thick of the tailgating, we made a stop by some hardcore partygoers where we were lead to believe that we'd get a shout-out and some good donation/sales opportunities, though it didn't materialize. Nonetheless, Jake shows his support for 12 before we move on.

We kept walking up toward the stadiums. By this time, most people going to the Hawks game were funneling into CenturyLink, and most of our sales for the day were already made. (The astute observers will notice Andrea now sporting a green shirt. Some dude offered her a 12th Woman shirt for the heck of it.)

At this point, we continued north to Pioneer Square to hit up some parking lots. Unfortunately, we missed most of the tailgaters there and only made a couple more sales. Being a few hours into our site sale, most boys were physically and emotionally worn out. We wandered back south and hit up a Krispy Kreme for much needed carbs and sugar, which raised everyone's spirits. Finally, it was back to the cars to pack up the remaining inventory, then the caravan back to Renton.

After sales, a few of us gathered at one of the houses to watch the latter ~third of the Dolphins at Seahawks game. Strangely, power went out with only about four minutes of game time left. But luckily, John was able to bring up the game on his big screen phone until power returned to normal.


We cheered as the Seahawks beat the Dolphins, then we dispersed and relaxed at home for the dwindling hours of the day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Making a thing: Phaedrus would likely not approve

A few months ago, I had the routine 12,000 mile maintenance done on my Ducati, part of which was replacing the sprockets and chain. I held onto them for some projects, and since I lack the proper tools, I hauled the sprocket out to Minnesota for our summer trip to complete one -- a set of bookends -- with Dad.


The first step was to quarter out the sprocket using Dad's chop saw.


I eyeballed the cuts, so the pieces weren't quite equal. After a little bit of grinding, they were about the right size. So I cleaned them up with some gas and soapy water. Many thousands of miles built up a bit of grime on this thing, but a couple minutes of elbow grease made quick work of it.


Dad always has a bit of scrap metal laying around, so I snagged a piece of 0.25" plate. Above, you can see the rust that's shown up. Below, it's halfway ground down.


The grinding, having been completed here, leaves the piece ready to section off.


I cut the steel plate into 5.25" sections and smoothed off the edges to be ready for welding.


Having done very little welding myself and being probably six or seven years out of practice, I enlisted Dad to refresh my memory. He tacked a couple of the pieces together and gave me some advice, at which point I took it from there, joining two pieces of steel then adding two sprocket quarters.


Here, the plate is tacked together, so I put the sprockets in-place. After the four pieces are solid, I completed the welds, scraped and ground away the slag, cleaned all the rough sections off, and let the result cool off.


I had originally planned on making two sets of bookends, but in designing this (and in no small part due to Dad's suggestion), I decided to make a single, larger pair. These things are solid and quite heavy, leaving me with no doubt that they'll stay in-place when we get them back home. It's just a question of whether I want to huck these into our checked bag on the return flight.


There's a lot of slag leftover that I can't remove easily. And by no means are these particularly good welds or a great overall design. However, I'm happy with the results.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Your ignorance of astronomy is dumbfounding

During last night's Tiger Scout meeting, I taught/went through the section on astronomy, talking about how damn cool the universe is, noting that just about every man to land on and walk on the moon was a scout, discussing what constellations are and what kinds of bodies you might find when you look up into the sky, and more. It was really fun.

What's more fun than talking about astronomy? Having really engaged kids that are as interested in it. I learned a few things, too. Did you know, for example, that there's a black hole at the center of our galaxy? And that our sun is actually a star and when it explodes, it'll create a million -- no, sorry, one million -- baby stars? Also, it's a white dwarf?

Further, when I politely correct an enthusiastic six-year-old that our star isn't actually a white dwarf, that, "well, your opinion is wrong."

Oh well. At least I did my best.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

In which I complain about being a mid-30s professional transplant

I've got a pretty damn awesome life. If I had been born in the paleolithic era, on average, I'd be dead by now. (Average life expectancy: 33 years. Also, 100% of people from the paleolithic are now dead.) Or in recent time, only 150 years ago, if I were British, I'd probably be a lovable chimney sweep. Or if I was born in, say, the DRC, I might have ended up a child soldier. Who knows?

Instead, I grew up in rural America, have a life expectancy of ~73 years (if I don't screw it up), took a bunch of math and science classes, and got myself a shiny bachelor's degree in computer science, which must put me right up there with four of the top ten wealthiest people in the world, right?

Actually, despite the grief my housemates in college gave me when I switched from Computer Engineering to Computer Science (personal hygiene and social ineptitude jokes abound), that was an awesome choice. Not only do I think I'm much happier swimming in code than I would have been in Fourier transforms (I still don't know what the hell they are), it turns out software engineering is a pretty damn lucrative industry.

This is how computer science and biology majors roll

The US Census Bureau's stats bode very well for me. And for that, I'm very thankful. Andrea and I are incredibly, ridiculously fortunate to have the financial security we do. (Despite taking a huge loss on the sale of our 2004-purchased home, we're very comfortable.)

On top of that, the Pacific Northwest is killer. We've had a hell of a ride in the last almost four years that we've lived here. As terrifying as it was to make the move here, it was one of the best decisions I think we've ever made. Who knew you and your dog could hike up a mountain post-Thanksgiving and have such a gorgeous view? (Also, we have an awesome dog.)

Woof.
And I get to do all sorts of cool stuff like summit Mount Rainier.

Colors!
And then a year later, Mount Shuksan.

Not as high as Rainier, but still pretty awesome.
But there's also a downside to all of it - and here's where I start bitching: it sucks trying to make friends again when you're older.

I'm inclined to think Malcolm Gladwell's infamous 10 000 hour rule applies to friendships, and all those people I used to be so close to are (or were) my friends due in no small part to how much time we spent together in elementary and high school, college classes, and in the dorms.

As it happens, when you're spending 9-10 hours every day at work (plus commute time), you don't have much time to hang out with people for fun. And those folks you used to hang out with all the time are now spread around the country, making it hard to keep up the inertia of existing relationships. The extremely unsatisfying and unsettling heat death of friendships fucking sucks. Pardon mon fran├žais tout le monde.

This is the point at which, as a stereotypical male engineer, I want to dissect the problem and control for various factors, but this post isn't problem-solving but rather complain-into-the-ether -- a problem I, admittedly, am very privileged to have.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The unfortunate design of not saving preferences

I recently reformatted my phone (a statement I wouldn't have expected to make back when I was regularly reformatting my Windows 98 computer), and when I added my second email account to the phone, Picasa Web Albums asked if I wanted to grant access to Gallery. Since I already connected to my personal Gmail account, I have no need to connect my secondary, I denied this request:


However, very shortly after this request, I was asked again the same question:


I got the same request over and over again until I finally allowed it. (In fact, even after I allowed it, I was asked two more times.)

I by no means consider myself a "designer," but having at least done some reading on the subject, I feel like I see terrible design everywhere now. If you're an engineer, you'd do yourself a favor to read Don't Make Me Think, and if you've got plenty of time, The Design of Everyday Things.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tiny living for a weekend

This last weekend, as my birthday gift from Andrea, she, the boys, and I went to Olympia to stay in the Bayside Bungalow, a tiny house on Airbnb.

We got to the Bungalow late-ish Friday night and settled in.

The tiny house in the daylight

Jake and Reed were giddy at the prospect of sleeping in the loft
 Saturday included a trip to Olympia for breakfast, some grocery shopping, and a trip to a park for some underdogs and checking out the jellyfish in the Sound.



After that, it was back to the house for some R&R. There's a path down to the Sound, so the four of us walked down there to hang out for a while.



It was a somewhat chilly, quite rainy Saturday, but that didn't stop the boys from trenching a more optimal path for the rainwater to get to the Sound.


Later in the day, we returned to Olympia, played laser tag for the first time (the boys loved it, wanted to do it again, asked for us to buy them laser tag gear so they can play at home), hid up the arcade, then returned to the Bungalow.