• Sat
    Jul 10


    So, I have been building up a long list of blog topics for months now, but I just have not found the time to compose the posts.

    I have taken more pictures in the last week alone than most months of the year.

    I am creating notes for an upcoming post (I have for some time), but just need to sit down for half a day or so and write it out (yeah, it normally takes several hours to put these together right).

    As usual, I suggest following both the Flickr and Moblog links above as well for more constant real-time posts.

    Also, I am ALREADY looking forward to the slideshow this year. I think it’s going to be great!


  • Sun
    Apr 10

    Hiking, Biking, and other Pictures

    Recently, I have been getting back into biking / walking. I would like to do the Haul Ash coming up. It’s a 41 mile ride from Red Hook in Woodinville to Fremont and back. That would be the longest ride for me so far to date. But, I think that I can do it.

    Biking 042Just last weekend, I completed a 36 mi ride from Woodinville to Gas Works park in Seattle and back. It was a great day for it. By the end, I was at my limits. That is about as far as I could comfortably go. But I did get some great pictures out of it. You can see my favorite for instance on the left. This is taken at the top of the hill in Gas Works park facing south with the skyline in the background. The link above will take you to some other cool pictures of the city as well as Gas Works.

    I have been keeping the rest of my pictures from bike rides online here as well. I plan to add more there as I take them.

    Some other fun rides I have done recently as well are a trip from downtown Issaquah along I90 up to the highlands plateau (challenging, but worth it) and back as well as a trip from Mercer Island across the I90 Floating bridge and into Seattle and back. A couple of select images from both of these trips are just below as well.

    Highlands Biking - Lake Sammamish

    Though, one somewhat exciting moment was that at the VERY beginning of my first ride this season (the highlands ride, pic to the right), I had a tire blow out while heading down the hill. Originally, I had parked at the top of the hill and was going to ride down and then back up. I only had made it about .75 mi (if that) when my front tire burst. However, at first, I didn’t know that is what happened. I just knew it was an explosive flat.

    Biking I90 - West Overlook

    Thankfully, I kept control (again, I was heading down a steep hill). I just slowly applied the breaks and stopped. I always carry spare tubes with me, so I moved off on to the grass and started to take the tire off so I could replace the tube. What I SHOULD have done is immediately matched where the hole in the tube was with the tire. Instead, I just scanned the inside of the tire for nails / glass / etc to see what I hit. I was confused since, I didn’t find anything, so I continued to replace the tube. Thankfully once more after getting the tube in and the tire back on, I again checked the tire to see if everything looked ok. It was then when I spotted what the problem was. There was a hole in the sidewall of the tire. I am not sure why, but when I had started to head down the hill, the pressure from me leaning forward must have caused it to give way. Darn. That meant I wasn’t riding any further than that. So I turned around and walked my bike back to the car (I was darn glad I wasn’t far away at that point). From there, I went to REI and found a new tire which was the exact make and model of what I already had (which is lucky considering it’s age). Then, I just reversed the ride and started from down off of Gilman where I was (because of REI) and biked UP to the plateau instead. It turned out to be a great ride. The shot of the lake (above-middle) is more amazing in person.

    Finally, one of the other interesting rides I have taken recently is a trip from Mercer Island to Seattle and back on the I90 bike path. (Some time I want to try this from Issaquah as well.) When I90 heads underground on the Seattle side, the bike path heads through a tunnel. It’s sort of neat to ride in the tunnel actually. It feels like you are going faster since the walls are closer.

    On the topic of outdoor pictures, I have also done some walks / hikes around recently as well. For instance I have also walked the same floating bridge path that I mention above. I didn’t go into Seattle, but did at least walk through the tunnel and back. I snapped the below picture of the skyline while it was still somewhat light out.

    Seattle skyline & the I-90 Floating Bridge

    In addition to the city, one day I managed to by chance find a cool natural area near my house which has a lot of different style of hikes to chose from. Originally, I was more just curious about checking out the first substation which the Snoqualmie Falls connect to. If you have some time (about an hour) I really enjoyed watching this video on the history of Snoqualmie falls and especially the history of the power plant there. Most people probably know of my interest in hydro electric power. I have been slowly making my way across the state visiting hydro-electric dams and taking pictures / understanding the history. Well, via satellite maps, I could see that the first Snoqualmie substation was near my house and I was curious to find it. Its somewhat eerie actually since it’s in the middle of nowhere. What is also strange is to find a manhole cover and fiber optic internet in the middle of the woods as well. As interesting as this is though, while the PSE substation which connects to Snoqualmie is so close to me, my power actually comes just about directly off of the BPA lines which run a few blocks from my house. I think my neighborhood is the only one around it seems which gets power from BPA lines rather than PSE.

    Lake Tradition 061_stitchOther than the power part of it though, as you can see (to the right), there were some great hiking trails through the woods here as well. There was a LOT which I missed as well that I should catch some other time (since its so close).

    In other photo related news, recently, I got to participate in the launch of the new Photosynth.net. Many of you already know I like to take panoramic pictures. I have been using a microsoft research tool for the last 5 years or so to create these. They now released a new version to go with the new photosynth site which can also upload 3d panos directly to their site. This is awesome since I would go through a ton of hassle in the past to post mine (I won’t even bother linking since there are too many to link and they will  look like crap compared to the new ones).

    I think that my favorite so far on the new site was one of the series of pictures which I took on top of Taipei 101 in Taiwan. (Which I continue to point out was the tallest building in the world at the time when I was there, which means I have been on top of 4 buildings now which have at one point been known as the tallest, and two of them (taipei / world trade center) at the time they held the title. I have also posted pictures from Boundary Dam as well as Chicago (Sears tower) on there as well.

    Finally, I have been playing around a little with displaying live / dynamic data on this site. In the beginning, this started with just showing the latest twitter post from the twitter account I manage for this site. You have probably noticed its been a long time since it’s changed. Sorry, I am working on that. Since then though, to the right, I now have my current list of Pandora (music) stations, as well as the list of most played artists on Last.Fm. (Note that I have a last.fm scrobbler for Pandora, so there is a good chance that the top artists are going to seem to fall into the Pandora stations I have listed.) I also have added a list of top Scientific / Technology news bits to the right as well. I follow WAY too many feeds to collate into one feed, but this seemed like a decent set of feeds I follow to show the top bits of news I am following. That list will always be up to date with the news.

    For all of these, I am using the power of Yahoo Pipes. I have a very long list of feeds I have created there which I follow. Everything from what all my friends post on facebook and twitter to deals on hard drives. I was then following these on My.live.com (the follow-up to start.com), but on April 20th 2010, the last my.live.com site was taken down and I no longer have a decent online RSS reader to use. My.msn.com is horrible. I am not really a fan of igoogle, or yahoo’s custom home page either. I have been testing out google reader for now, but it treats every item as email, which at thousands incoming a day, I can’t keep up.

    You will also notice I added like buttons to all the posts as well as to the home page (all the way on the bottom on the right). This is somewhat of an experiment to see how all of this integrates with facebook. Who knows if it will all stay, but so far its pretty interesting. Feedback on all of this is also welcome. You know how to get in touch.

    Ok, well that all (including the olympics post) took about 4 hours to gather & write, so I should sign off for now. Till next time.


  • Sun
    Apr 10

    Vancouver Olympics 2010

    Ok, I admit, it has been a while since I have last posted. Probably not the longest gap in posts, but I just never felt like sitting down and writing something lately. Even now I don’t necessarily, however, I have so many different events built up to post about that if I don’t post something now, I may never get to it.

    Vancouver Ticket Pick-up 144  A few days before my last post I headed up to Vancouver, BC to pick up my ticket to see curling in the Olympics. It was a really nice day and there was no line at all when I picked up my ticket. I had gone early in the day with the expectation that I would have to stand in line the whole day, but no one was there. So I used that time to walk around the city and take pictures and enjoy it while no one else was there yet. This turned out to be a good idea since I didn’t end up walking around too much during the day when I went up for the actual event, so I was able to get some good shots of the city while I was there the first time. These pictures are added to my collection of Olympic pictures on Flickr.

    The Cauldron

      If you have not taken Amtrak anywhere, I highly recommend that you give them a shot. This was my second major trip relying on the rails. The first was a trip to Portland that I took recently. (Wow, I just realized I haven’t uploaded any specific Portland pics to flickr. Well, you can check out the ones that made it in last year’s slideshow taken on Nov 5th, 6th, and 7th. These are just the ones which made it into the slideshow. Maybe I should post more some time.) But, I have had good luck so far with the train trips. They have power outlets at each seat. If you get their on time, then you have a chance a getting a row to yourself as well if the train isn’t full. Also, I was getting good 3G coverage on the trip to Vancouver. The 3G coverage on the way to Portland is really poor. At times not even getting Edge coverage.

    Well, I arrived in Vancouver just before midnight, the day before my curling match. I had shifted my ticket to be the night before because a friend of mine had a pull out couch available where they were staying (I had found it next to impossible to find anywhere to stay). Once I got there, we proceeded to make a night out of it. We first went to Saskatchewan House in the Olympic Village. We followed that by a late night dinner / 4th meal at Yaletown brewery. While at Yaletown, we realized we were going to miss the last train back to where we were staying (last train left downtown at 2am). So in an attempt to then just make the most of the night, we head over to Granville area seeing some sites along the way. (Note the time in that picture. Crazy.) After that, we head over to the olympic store (which was open 24 hours at that point). EVERYONE it seems was looking for maple leaf mits for some reason. They had lots of kids mits, but none for adults. All sold out. After that (I think around 4:30), we then were trying to decide whether we pay the huge fee for a taxi, or just wait the extra hour for the first train. My vote (since I wasn’t about to pass out, and wanted to see more) was to wait and then head over to the cauldron. This is what we did. You can see the picture above. Well after that, a short nap at a local hotel lobby, and an early breakfast at Tim Hortons (as well as picking up lunch for the next day), we finally head to the train station to catch the first train. I would say we were definitely first. The train ride out was about 45 mins. It seemed like an eternity. By the time we were there, I was ready to crash.

    Curling Venue (Wide Angle)

    Well, the “next day” (really meaning about 5 hours of rest later) we awoke to find we completely slept through “check out time” and the cleaning woman had come in shocked to fine people asleep (whoops). We all quickly got ready, had a fast lunch, and head out. It turned out I underestimated the time it would take me to get to the curling venue. What was a 45 min train ride at night became more like an hour during the day (and these trains were PACKED). Then after getting downtown, I had to switch trains and catch a train on the other line to the venue (where I then also had to walk a mile from the station as well). I got to the venue about 10 mins late, only to find a line outside. Whoops. The line moved neither fast, nor slow, it was another 15 mins before I got inside. I quickly made my way to my “seat” (this term NEEDS quotes because I would call it more of a bleacher with a plastic flat portion sticking out a few inches to delineate where the assigned places were. But I was there, and I got to be AT an olympic event to watch the US team lose badly. I just wished that they looked like they were more involved. At one point most of the coaches and team were not even watching their own match. Sigh, oh well. At least watching Canada was exciting. I failed to realize when I bought the tickets that Canada would be playing. I would say 80% of the people there were only exclusively watching the Canada match (if you didn’t figure out by now, they play 8 teams / 4 matches at once). But that’s ok, I did at least have a view of all the action (see above). Though had a terrible view of the US match (though I suppose with them losing, that didn’t matter).

    After all of this though I still haven’t gotten to the part I would call the most moving / iconic part of the trip. After the curling match, I head back to the city only to find that just about EVERY single place to eat was completely packed because of the USA vs Canada hockey match. Canadians take their hockey SERIOUSLY. While I would easily call Vancouver the nicest city I have every visited (I didn’t post it here, but there were just a  number of incidents where the people of Vancouver were overly polite and nice when they didn’t have to be to the hoards of foreigners coming for the games). They get VERY serious over hockey and around the US/CAN match was one time where I wasn’t going to offer up my nationality. So, every bar and restaurant (even coffee shops) was completely packed. Most with signs up saying they were closed until after the match was over since they were too full. So I found probably the only place in existence at that time without a tv or radio. By the name / style, you would think this is more of a food stand, however, they actually had places to sit inside and was kept up very well. It seemed somewhat new and was very clean (again they were also friendly there as well). So I had a Coney Island Dog, Mac ‘n Cheese, and of course a Stewart’s Root Beer. It was nice to sit and have dinner without the crowds or shouting, etc. Soon dinner was over and it was time to start heading to the train. (Actually I was late.)

    I started walking back thinking of taking a train there (since my ticket gave me free rides all day that day), but for some reason I decided to walk the whole way there. I am glad that I did. My route took me down by the water and right past the arena where the hockey match was. You couldn’t help but know the score, everyone on the street was talking about it, most bars had the game blaring out the windows, and while walking, I past two jumbo screens setup at local parks for people to watch on just for this game. But the best part was that while I was walking, there were 3 points scored. The first that I heard was actually a tying point for Canada. I was JUST outside the stadium at that point when I heard what sounded like a fog horn go off inside. I was very deep and darn loud. A moment later, I heard the whole stadium (again, from the outside) erupt in cheering, and about 10 seconds after that (probably because of the speed of light), I heard just about every park, open window, bar, restaurant or otherwise erupt cheering as well. It was like the whole city just started making noise at the same time. I have never been ANYWHERE in my life where that has happened like that before, it was amazing. But it gets better.

    You see, about 2-3 minutes later, I heard the same sound again. It was another fog horn, but while I waited for the cheering to follow, I heard nothing. The silence was golden. I knew this means that the US had scored, putting them in the lead again. And finally, JUST as I was about to get to the train station (another few minutes later), I heard it again. And again, the following silence was just confirmation that I was sure we were going to win. While I wasn’t going to ever pay the 30k on ebay for a ticket to the game (yes, that is what people were saying the tickets were going for), I feel my experience of it was just as good as any other US citizens who may have been walking around the arena that night as well. It was a great way to end the trip. Of course just about everyone on the train was from the US as well and the train was all shouting USA, USA, USA for a while before we left. Some guy ran outside the train holding a flag behind him as well. (They waited until they were past customs of course to behave this way.) I owe my friend a favor for agreeing to come get me after the trip back as well. You see the last train from Vancouver arrives just after the Seattle busses all stop. Leaving me with the option of parking downtown for several days (expensive) or getting a hotel (even more expensive). So in the end, it was a great time.

    Stay tuned to this channel for some upcoming posts on hiking and biking around the area.


  • Mon
    Feb 10

    The progressive are often outcasts

    If you look back through history, many of the innovative scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and others who helped progress society (be it technologically or socially) have, at the time, been considered outcasts.

    Whether you want to believe it or not, I think that today’s technology is stifled. I have my own individual opinions in several areas on why this is the case. Enumerating and explaining these would probably take too long anyways. However, there are enough similarities to discuss. Some days I wonder actually how many people are actually aware of how much technology we have available in the world which just isn’t or can’t be applied because of social, political, legal, or other reasons. I know there are good reasons for this, but just saying from a pure technology perspective, technological progress is generally at odds with capitalism as well as social normality as a whole.

    Here are some of the examples I would use today.

    • With both cameras as well as televisions now capable of displaying 4K content, you would think that modern delivery mechanisms for delivering video content to our homes would actually be progressing in a direction allowing for clearer content at larger resolutions. This just is not the case. (Note that its actually degraded even more today in 2010 than 2 years ago.)
    • With technologies such as 40Gb & 100Gb here and almost here, you would think that our data connections to each other would also be getting faster as well. This is also not the case. While the US did improve from 35th to 18th over the course of 2009, overall, our average internet speeds were reduced by 2.4%. (This is one area where I am actually happy with the 16Mbps I am getting today, but obviously that is 4 times the average, so many others must be getting slower speeds.)
    • Given the current wide array of available technologies to capture, store, and transmit digital video in addition to the extremely wide array of available content today, level of difficulty, limited set of options, and cost involved today in just trying to tap into even a SMALL set of this information is really saddening. I admit, this day in age is the information age without a doubt. The amount of detail and information simply available at one’s finger tips is absolutely amazing (and scary). However, for whatever reason, we have also entered an age where information is controlled and protected as well. Don't get me wrong, I actually do believe in some control of information. There are some situations, where I think that it is appropriate actually. There have been times in the past where I have realized some thoughts / ideas which used incorrectly or in the wrong hands are just dangerous. I know that saying such a thing somewhat contradicts my argument here, but we are all contradictory at times so tough.
    • Heard about HTML 5 and about the video support which comes in the standard? Did you know there are some problems that this idea exposes? Yes, for whatever strange reason, computer video is one of those things which has been licensed for a long time. There were no technical reasons why XP couldn’t playback DVDs for instance without something else installed. It’s just that it costs a lot to license the ability to play back the video off of the disc. Since then, Microsoft pays for the ability to play DVDs in every copy of windows sold. If you ever wondered why software is so expensive, there are many various licenses which are included in the cost of the software so that the user has the right functionality. Anyways, the problems with MPEGLA continue today it seems and there is no clear solution for HTML5 at the moment.


    I could probably go on for a while actually, but suffice to say, we as a society are all quite mired in our own devices so much so as to tangle technological progress right up in the middle. Again, for disclosure, I make my livelihood off of software, but I feel very confident in saying that while corporations ARE a business, at work, I have the progressive capabilities of users in our best interest on a daily basis. For that matter, given my position, its part of my job actually. For that matter, MS has quite a large and respected research division as well that works on a wide range of technology areas.

    I was having a lengthy discussion with someone today around software licensing. The result of that conversation was this entry. My thoughts on the subject are “complex” and probably differ depending on a variety of situations. I don’t need to get into it other than to say that there are a variety of different software licenses out there today. This can create a nightmare for developers and software companies though. Because the nature of software can be broken down into finite parts, there is always much concern on ensuring that these parts are either original works or are properly licensed. Such isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se. However, its the complexities and implications involved with any given license which can scare just about any professional software developer. There are enough examples out there as well of when people make mistakes in this area as well. The results are never positive. So again, while I probably agree to the concept of licensing in principle, the implementations we have today sure do hold up a lot of potential progress. (Note: I hope that the irony of this statement isn’t lost on people. Yes, I pointed out that the complexity of these licenses has the net opposite effect on what many were created to ensure in the first place.)

    So why the title you may ask? Well honestly, here again we are in several socio-technical situations in which progress can only be achieved by going against social norms. There are days where I wonder as a society how long we will be stuck here. Will this last for only another 5 years, 10 years, or longer? Combine the ease of information flow with litigious society, and there is actually zero tolerance these days for any type of social deviance at all. This is BOTH good AND bad.

    Who will be our next progressive figures? Who will have both the knowledge and resources to be able to forge new paths silently and against the flow?

    You may ask whether all I am really asking is when is someone going to beat the system? Not really. The way that I see it today, a healthy dose of confrontation is already weaved into the problems that exist already. I think there may just be too many social and legal problems today for any non-deviant / socially compliant person to be able to legitimately transform the technical landscape very much and it saddens me to have to say that.


    P.S. On an entirely separate note, I finished a Google Voice SMS app for windows mobile which I wrote using the WM6 SDK this weekend and have it running on my phone. Seems to work fairly well with one exception which is that it won’t actually get notified of new SMS messages yet. :( But, step one was just to send free SMS. Let me know if you want a copy, its completely standalone if you have a GV account.

    (Oh, and if you didn’t follow any links, you should know that half the meaning in this post is in the links. Plus it took several extra hours researching and gathering all the right places to link to.)

  • Sat
    Jan 10

    Change of Scenery

    With somewhere near 130000 pictures from the last decade, deciding on which pictures to rotate through the banner here is harder than it sounds.

    So far, I have been just finding pictures which fit well in a 950x210 mask that have appeared in past slideshows.

    This time, I went a little further back for some, but generally pulled some new ones from the 2009 slideshow as well.

    Below are the new images added to the random rotation. You should see these start to mix in with the previous set.