Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Clarkson Does The Business On The Tesla

Oops.

Nice review - the car even wins over Clarkson (“the volt-head has overtaken the petrol head… yes, it is snowing in hell”).

Shame about the car's reliability problems during the review.

Well, That Didn't Last Long

My stint as a juror lasted just a day.

I arrived way too early (7am for an 8am start), as I'm completely paranoid about Seattle traffic and then headed into the Juror Room. I was the first there and got a prime spot at a desk right next to the WiFi hotspot.

At around 9am, the court clerk gave a quite humourous presentation about what we were in for during the day - apparently involving a lot of waiting around. He said that every now and again they'd call about thirty to forty people to a court room for the selection process for a trial. Most trials there are apparently quite short, he said. Two to three days max.

Anyhow, my waiting around didn't last long.

At 9:15, I was called as number 15 out of 55 people to Judge Heller's court.

So off we went - I got to sit in the Jury box! Cool.

After we all settled down, the Judge explained what was going to happen and the whole voir dire process. He them informed us that the trial (a civil trial) was likely to take about three weeks!

Erk.

He then proceeded to ask the Jurors if this would involve any hardship, where hardship is defined as “you better be having heart surgery next week” - well, he didn't quite say that, but I believe that's what he meant…

Needless to say, I didn't qualify for that exemption, but after the whole Jury selection process finished, it appeared that the defense council didn't like me too much and I was excused.

Maybe I was just a little too loud and opinionated…

It's a pity really, I would actually have liked to have served…

Jury Duty Tomorrow

Bright and early in the morning, I'll be off to Seattle for Jury Service at the King County Superior Court.

I've never served on a Jury before - never in the UK and even though I've received requests before in the US, I've never been eligible as I wasn't a US citizen.

But now, of course, as freshly minted US citizen I get to serve!

Candles? Check!

Looks like we're in the middle of an extensive power outage - most of Kirkland appears to be off the grid.

Candles? Check!

Cold beer? Check (for now)!

Two fully charged MacBook Pro batteries? Check!

EVDO Check!

Time to code…

Opening That Annoying Plastic Packaging

It looks like Brad hasn't had much fun with packaging recently

I spent some time on Wikipedia trying to figure out the type of evil plastic that is used for this stuff and got bogged down in common plastics and their usages. I now know more about polycarbonates, polystyrene, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene than I thought I'd ever want to know.

Why, oh why, do consumer products companies insist on using this shit? There has got to be a better way. I'm sure I would have done better at Wii Table Tennis if I hadn't damaged my hands.

That type of annoying plastic packaging is the bane of a geeks life. Handily I received one of these OpenX package openers a couple of Christmas' ago and life has been much better since.

Recommended.

Useful Spam

A little while ago I received the first genuinely useful piece of spam at a catch all address for one of my sites. I reproduce it here for posterity:

To: xxx@xxx.com
Subject: Per your request.
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2007 15:15:27 -0500

Recipe for great BBQ Sauce: 

INGREDIENTS
1 quart apple cider vinegar 
1 (20 ounce) bottle ketchup 
1/4 cup paprika 
1 pound dark brown sugar 
1/4 cup salt 
1 tablespoon black pepper 
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes 
1 tablespoon garlic powder 
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 
1/2 cup lemon juice 

DIRECTIONS
In a large container, mix together the apple cider vinegar, ketchup, 
paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, 
Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Pour into an empty vinegar bottle, 
ketchup bottle or other container and store in the refrigerator for up to 
1 month.

Wonderful. I can't wait to try it out!

I'm sure the spam was just an attempt to find a valid email address by using an innocuous payload. It also looks like I'm not the only one to get this

Turning Off Comments For A Bit

My server is getting hit by the comment spammers pretty hard. Although those comments aren't making it through, the pure load is bringing my server to its knees. So I'm having to turn off comments for a while.

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Extreme Makeover: Kirkland Edition

The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition folks are in town, just a short distance from home, so this evening Julian and I headed over to take a look.

The actual house is on a pretty narrow road in the Highlands Neighbourhood - there are vehicles and makeshift offices and work areas all over the driveways and lawns of the neighbours…

Mind you, it all appears very organized. There are shuttle buses for spectators running every 15 minutes from a park very close to our house.

They really appear to be progressing well - the house looks like a pretty cool design, but I'm not sure that the work environment was all that safe. There must have been around twenty or so people up on the roof wielding nail guns and all sorts of projectile firing tools.

I took a few pictures (I'll update this post with them later), meanwhile here's a crowded shot from the Seattle PI, taking at approximately the same time later Julian and I were there:

This evening, the boy and I watched the season opener and he really seemed to like it.

A welcome change from the usual evening faire of Mr. SpongeBob and his square pants.

Meals To Die For

Last night I found myself back at the hotel (I'm in Mountain View at the moment), and called home to chat to the family units. Julian has taken to answering the phone this trip, which was really cool. I would obviously rather be at home, but to hear his voice saying “Daddy, I gotta tell you something, I love you”, really warms you deep down…

Anyhow, Nabila came on the phone and informed me that dinner was 'sausages and chips'.

That 'sausages and really good fries' to you Americans.

I got a real craving. I was in California. There's gotta be a British pub around here somewhere.

Then I remembered that back in 1996 I visited some transplanted brits that were living in Cupertino and that we went to a British pub.

That pub can't be far from here.

Out came the iPhone and Google maps, whereupon I found The Duke Of Edinburgh. That's it! And it's under a mile from the hotel.

So I tootle along and it's exactly as I remembered. Felt wallpaper, east-end feel and everything!

After a perusal of the menu I settle on a starter of two warm scotch eggs with mustard followed by two bangers with heaps of fried onions in a sesame seed bun.

Divine!

The scotch eggs were perfect. I don't think I've had one for about ten years and these were incredible. The sausage inna bun? Well, it looked like heartburn waiting to happen, but at the same time looked gorgeous.

I ate it.

I was in heaven.

I like this place. Squint and you'd believe you were in the east end of London. The accents of those around me made me feel cosy.

Highly recommended.

Fast forward to 5am. Heartburn city…

Oh, and did I mention that as I walked into the place, what must have been an aircraft carrier sized bird dropped the hugest load on me?

I guess being shat on by a bird really is good luck.

Amazon Fresh

Last night we had our first experience with Amazon Fresh - and it was a good one.

We signed up and as a test just ordered some hard too find milk and some strange bread that the kids like. We set up a delivery address (they deliver to our house, yey!), and a pick up location which is just a few minutes from my office in downtown Kirkland.

At 7pm I stopped by the pickup location and was greeted by a very friendly representative. When she got our bag, she noted that the bread was frozen.

“We didn't realize the bread from this supplier would be coming frozen and as it didn't state that on the website, we're going to give you a refund.”

Sweet! Free bread :-)

Within a few minutes, a refund notice from Amazon appeared in my inbox.

Anyhow, we've yet to have an actual delivery experience, but I think we'll be using them quite extensively from now on…

BMW M3 - 2004 and 2008

My most popular photo doesn't live on flickr. It also doesn't happen to be a particularly good picture. It wasn't taken with a decent camera.

It's one of the pictures of my car that I took the day after it was delivered to share with some other BMW enthusiasts at Microsoft.

It's had over 55,000 views. The stats on the other pictures are pretty good too.

I guess my point is that a random hidden gallery of photos on the web can be discovered and become as popular as any high profile photo site on the net. It's all about the extremely cool content :-)

Anyhow, here is the 2008 M3. It's got a V8. It's sexy. I want one.

How can I not resist? :-)

Note to wife: I'm just joking about the “not resist” thing. Kinda.

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Upcoming: Seattle Ignite - Ever Been In Prison?

Colleague and guy that sits next to me at work, Bruce Leban, is giving a talk on Thursday at Seattle Ignite.

Yes, I spent time in not one but two Massachusetts prisons and it was an educational experience in many ways. Find out why I went to prison and if I would do it again. Learn about the differences between “minimum” and “medium” security and how this applies to computer security. Learn what “good time,” “man trap” and “code 100” mean, why khaki pants were the required dress code, and other equally practical information. Don’t ask about the dogs.

Should be a good one. So Bruce, why exactly were you in prison? :-)

Dessert Nirvana

My two favourite desserts are key lime pie and cheesecake.

What was for dessert at lunch today? Key lime and white chocolate cheesecake - key lime pie on the bottom, cheesecake on top.

Nirvana.

Verizon Idiots

Yesterday I got a final bill from Verizon for SwitchGear's office DSL line in the order of $26.44 with a billing date of 11/10/2006.

Today I get a letter from a collection agency saying the amount is past due, accompanied by all the usual rhetoric.

Given the time to inform the collection guys, plus the time taken for postage, etc… they must have sent the bill for collection at the same time as issuing it.

Verizon. Assholes.

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Power, Power

This morning every outlet in our office apart from the one next to my desk was out (and still is). No servers, net, etc…

Apparently some transformer in the city just blew a few phases. Handily Mike, the office parks “I fix everything” guy had a few long extension cables, which I strung to strategic locations from behind my desk and now I can code and the email is starting to trickle in to the server.

We may not have lights, but I can code…

My Market Timing Is Always Off

Ignoring the meltdown that was 2001, in 2003 I decided to dip my toe in some stock purchases. Notably Apple Computer (AAPL) and ATI Technologies (ATYT).

I picked up Apple at $33 and ATI at $18, and while Apple did well, ATI tanked into the $15 range and stayed there.

Now, Apple did indeed do very well for me, bumping up into the $60 range before dropping to the low $50s. At that point (last week) I decided to get out of both of them and take a tidy 30% profit.

Of course, two days later Apple releases stellar earnings again putting it at $60.81 (as of right now) and AMD announces the acquisition of ATI today, putting ATI's stock higher than my buy in price for the first time at $19.50.

If I'd waited a week to sell, I would have made 56% profit.

Even though I made a tidy profit for over the two years, I'm still pissed off that it wasn't more.

Isn't that always the case?

Seattle TechCrunch Party

This evening's entertainment was the TechCrunch Party in downtown Seattle. Nice venue, if a tad hot, and it was cool to see all the local entrepreneurial talent out in force.

I got to catch up with a few people I'd met at various NWEN events and chat to way too many Microsoft people. Is it just me, or did every other person seem to be from Microsoft? :-)

I also, finally, got to meet John Cook in person and thank him for the Stealth Startup of the Week post where he wrote about us.

But the star of the evening was probably the pizza.

I have never seen as much pizza before in my entire life. There must have been at least ten stacks of six boxes of pizza - 20" pizza - and it was constantly being refreshed…

Overall, very cool. The local startup community needs more events like this.

Liquid water on one of Saturn's moons?

NASA announced today that they have found potential liquid water on Enceladus.

This raises the possibility of life there:

“We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold,” said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. “However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms.”

Wow.

Read the article for yourself over on NASA's website.

Slurping on the free and public wifi

I needed to get out of the house today to get some work done and was pondering on my choices on location.

  • Starbucks? Has wifi, but it'll cost me. Nice coffee. Loud. May not get a power source.
  • Library? Quiet, probably no power or wifi.

I opted for the local library as I'd heard good things about it. I was (or rather am - I'm still there) pleasantly surprised to find free wifi, ample power and nice desks with a cool view of downtown.

I think I'll be coming here again. Well, I will until we get the office situation sorted. Talking of which, we've got an LOI out on some space…

Gnomedex issues press release

I've been meaning to post about this all week, but somehow never got around to it.

Anyhow Chris posted the best press release I've seen in a very long time:

Tech Conference Refuses to Issue Press Release

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) February 1, 2006 -- For the first time in recorded history, a leading technology conference decides to forego the issuing of a press release to drum up support and interest. Gnomedex is heading into its sixth year of bringing together technologists, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, venture capitalists, and other random buzzwords.

Read the full release on PRWeb.

New site design

It should be pretty obvious (well, for those of you not reading via RSS) that the new site design is live.

Please let me know if you encounter any issues or have any comments.

I've tested it in IE6, IE7 beta 2, Firefox (PC and Mac) and in Safari on the Mac, so hopefully I've got all the bases covered…

Website update underway…

It's been a year since the last redesign of this site, so it's time for another one! Please excuse any weirdness whilst this is underway…

I'll be at CES next week

Just a note that I'll be at CES next week in Las Vegas from Tuesday though Friday. I'm leaving Friday afternoon.

Let me know if you're going to be around - it sounds like there'll be some form of meet up on Thursday evening.

Also, this will, believe it or not, be my first trip to Vegas - I'm looking forward to a $44 buy-in NL Holdem Tourney at my hotel at least one evening of my time there…

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.