Tuesday, June 27, 2006

More New Homeowner Fun

As I've mentioned before, I just bought a house last October, so I've been learning all the fun of having my own plot of land. In fact just today, I learned the joys of weeding the yard.

The yard has been weedy pretty much since I moved in. I'm not really a yard fanatic - my main measure is seeing how green it is. Other than that I don't pay too much attention. But it's been getting more and more weedy all summer, and Wendy started bugging me about it, so today I finally went and weeded the yard.

Now, I've got a tiny yard. It's maybe 250 sq. feet, tops, which is about right for me. So I figured it would take maybe an hour, tops. Boy was I wrong. It turned out that large sections of the yard that I thought were grass were actually shot through with weeds. A couple entire areas turned out to be nothing but weeds, so I basically clearcut parts of the lawn. I ended up not even doing the entire thing because it got dark. All told I spent almost two hours and hauled out six buckets of weeds which made a pile about two feet tall. Think about that. A pile two feet tall, from a yard that's smaller than most people's living room. That's an unhealthy lawn.

But as usual the best part of the whole thing was the passersby. As I've previously commented, I've got some crazy neighbors. But apparently they only come out in the morning, at night the polite ones stop by. One older man stop to tell me I was doing good work, and he hadn't seen anyone weed that yard in years. Frankly, that was a relief to me. I thought I was the only crappy gardener out there, but evidently not!

But later a younger, black man stopped by for a moment. After looking over my handiwork for a moment, the conversation proceeded thusly:

Him: You sure got your work cut out for you.
Me: Yep, there's more weeds than grass in this yard.
Him: I been walking by here for 20 years and this is the best this yard has looked.
Me: Hey, thanks!
Him: Yep, if anyone walks on this yard now, you oughta be like "Hey nigger, get yo' ass off my yard!"
Me: Um... right. I'll do that.

Ah good times. Why do people want to live in the suburbs again?

NewsGator Yahoo Plugin Released

The NewsGator plugin for the new version of Yahoo! Messenger has been released. It's a nifty panel that shows handpicked news, video and audio from around the web. You need to get the latest beta of Yahoo Messenger 8 from here, then you can download the plugin. Don't forget to rate it up!

It really is cool stuff, but honestly it's not the functionality that I'm psyched about. I'm mostly excited because it's running on some of my code, specifically the Buzzlets framework. This is probably the single most high-profile application I've ever been involved in, so it's really a landmark for me. But hopefully in the future I'll have some even more visible code.

Of course I'm just one of an entire team of people that put it together. Noel put together the UI, Brian Baker did the mockups, Demi & Darrin did the admin tools to create the custom feeds, Leland and AJ populate the feeds, and the entire Platform team handles the way-behind-the-scenes magic that makes everything possible. Still, it's nice to think there's a part of it that's all mine.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Tonight's Favorite Feature: SmugMug Keywords

As I've been writing lately, I've acquired a SmugMug account and posted a bunch of pictures there. Of course I'm realistic - I know most of the pictures I posted aren't that great. Mostly they're there because Mom might want to see them (Hi Mom!) But for people that don't care about all the crappy pictures I took, I wanted to create a separate gallery of just the Good Stuff (or at least as good as my photos get).

After much rooting around I found the solution in the wonderful SmugMug forums: keywords. It seems SmugMug allows you to create virtual galleries (my phrase) based off of photo keywords. So I went through and tagged all my favorites with the same word, allowing anyone with too much time on their hands to see which of my photos I like with one relatively simple URL that won't change: http://bkr.smugmug.com/keyword/goodstuff.

Way to go SmugMug!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Trip Part 4 - Sequioa

Sequioa was our last stop before heading home. It's a beatiful park, set way up in the mountains. We had a great day for it, sunny and warm. I thoroughly enjoyed myself driving up the twisty mountain roads to get there. I've got a reasonably decent handling car that's really made for that sort of thing, which I rarely get to drive like it should be driven. This was one of those rare chances, and I took advantage.

The park is full of awesomely huge and old Sequioa trees, including the largest living thing on on Earth, the General Sherman Tree. It's impressively large, but it's really difficult to grasp just how big it is. Except when it drops an enormous branch the size of a full grown tree that destroys the fence around the tree and shatters the concrete of the walkway. I wish I could've been there to see it, but the pictures will have to suffice.

We also went to Moro Rock. Despite it just being another granite dome, and the majesty of the trees, the climb up Moro Rock was my favorite part of the day. It's supposed to have commanding views of the surrounding terrain. But we had been playing tag with a low-flying cloudbank all day, and this time the cloudbank preceded our arrival. So the only view was a closeup of the inside of a cloud.

Foggy stone steps
The way to the top is several hundred yards of narrow stairs carved into the rockface itself, with an old rusting bannister on the outside. The cloud blocked out all views and damped out almost all sounds. Most of the tourists didn't seem willing to climb into the fog, so I had the rock almost entirely to myself.

The climb was surreal, like climbing into a world devoid of sight, sound or people, almost like climbing into a sensory deprivation tank. After several minutes of climbing, I reached the top. The end of the trail is long, narrow walkway to the edge of rock. There was a solitary foreign tourist standing at the end, but he turned and left as soon as he noticed me.

Top of Moro Rock
The few minutes I had alone there were the most peaceful of the entire trip. Up until that point I had been focused on sensory overload - winetasting, sightseeing, listening to music in the car. But on top of the rock with no sights, sounds or other people around gave me a precious moment to just stop. I'll remember that moment for a long time.

Before I left I read the signs at the end of the walkway. Ironically, they described all the landmarks in the area that were completely obscured by the fog. But no matter, I liked the fog better anyway.

Anyway, here are the rest of the photos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Who cares how Zarqawi died?

I've noticed something interesting about media coverage about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They've been obsessed with how he was treated after the US troops arrived. First they said he was dead, then alive but treated well, and now some unnamed Iraqi made an unsubstantiated claim that he was just fine until he was beaten to death. There have been stories all over the news stations for the last few days, mostly around this one point.

Frankly, I don't get why they're so interested in the details. We were trying to kill the guy, we finally got him, now he's dead. Does it matter if he was alive and well when US forces there? Even if he was killed by ground troops, they were still US troops, so one way or another the US killed him. Who cares if they did it with a 500 pound bomb from 10000 feet or a pistol from 10 feet? Either way it's a job well done.

I think John Carmichael says it best:
Personally I don't give a rat's ass if the SOB was alive and doing jumping jacks before US forces got there! I care even less if he was then beaten to death by so much as a chorus line of showgirls... I know ethically I should care, it is the moralistic and ethical proper course...
Actually, I tend to disagree with John on that last point. This guy was a prime example of a Bad Guy. He was proud of the number of innocent people he killed through bombings and beheadings, many of them his "fellow Muslims". He sent his own followers on suicide missions. So I don't think there's any moral or ethical reason to be concerned with how he was treated. They could've executed him by throwing him into a sack full of rusty razorblades and rabid badgers, I'd still feel fine about it. Of course the justice would've been more poetic if they had taken a page from his book and, say, decapitated him with a sword and sent the videotape to Al-Jazeera, or maybe strapped a few pounds of explosives on his belly and sent him into an Al-Qaeda hideout.

But despite what I just said, it would still be a shame if he was killed by US forces. It's always regrettable when such a potentially valuable intelligence asset is killed before anyone got a chance to interrogate him and discover some more of his charming terrorist buddies.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

So lazy... look at these links instead

It's been 90+ degrees lately, and partially as a result of that I haven't been sleeping well. So I'm just not in the mood to write a blog post. But I did find a couple of decent links elsewhere. All highly intellectual and interesting.

A new, powerful method of reaching legal decisions has been found. This brand new RPS method is truly groundbreaking.

If your brain is as tired as mine, laugh at the funny animation. If only all programming was like this. (It really is funny, despite the opening screen).

Lastly, and continuing to move up the intellectual scale, bugs duking it out for your amusement!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Truly Uncontrolled Intersection

Raymond Chen’s blog pointed me to this video of driving in India. This takes “uncontrolled intersection” to a whole different level than I had considered possible. I didn’t watch the entire thing, but my favorite part was around second 36. If you look in the lower right, you can see a car and a motorcycle bracket a pedestrian, who seems totally unsurprised. Personally, I think I might be a little freaked out by that.

Now picture a typical American driver rolling in with a Lincoln Navigator, talking on a cellphone, drinking a latte running over pedicabs, threatening lawsuits... despite that, I think I still like our style of driving better.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Trip Part 3 - Yosemite

We divided our trip into two general parts. The first half, wine country and Monterey, were Wendy's half. They were her responsibility to plan, but more than that it was really what she wanted to do. I certainly enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn't have done it on my own.

The second half was my part. So naturally I dragged Wendy off to walk up some mountains and see some terrain. The first day we went to one of the most famous parks in the world, Yosemite.

(As an aside, I feel like kind of an idiot writing about the Yosemite Valley. It's been written and photographed by the best for decades. What can I really add to that? But I guess not that many people saw it that day, so here goes.)

A number of rainstorms had gone through just before we got there, leaving plenty of water behind, so my biggest impression is of waterfalls. Lots and lots of waterfalls. Big ones, little ones, long ones, even places that are more water trickling down rocks that real waterfalls. It was really a change of pace coming from Colorado, where I think I've seen maybe one waterfall.

My main goal that day was to hike up to Nevada falls, but we stopped on the way to take a few pictures. We took a quick detour to see Bridalveil Falls. There's an up close viewing area at the base of the falls which is completely drenched in the spray and backsplash. It's a lot like walking into a rainstorm. It reminded me a lot of Iguacu, only smaller. No less wet though - I ended up completely soaked!

The hike up to Nevada begins on the aptly named Mist Trail. The trail starts out dry, but the second half is a stairway up the cliffside next to Vernal Falls. The entire trip up the cliff was awash with the spray and mist from the falls. In fact the stairs had a small stream running down it in most places. I have to say I was amazed by some of the people I saw climbing this steep, long stairway up a cliffside in the rain. Lots of older people, overweight people, ill-prepared people (ie, wearing flip-flops). But I guess if you want it badly enough you can do it.

The rest of the climb to Nevada falls was fairly steep, but nothing particularly remarkable. And I'm getting tired of writing this long narrative. So I'll just point you at the rest of the pictures. Have at it!

Trip Part 2 - Monterey And Coastline

Now for the second part of my trip, which I promised in the previous posting. It's still "tomorrow", for very large values of one day. Yeah.

Anyway, Monterey was kind of unremarkable from a narrative perspective. We did a lot of driving along the coast, and took some fairly neat pictures. Saw some seals and/or sea lions sunning themselves, drove along 17 Mile Drive, flew a kite on Carmel beach. All in all quite pleasant, but in an unremarkable way. So instead of belaboring that point, here's a few pictures.

These flowers were all over the coastline in Monterey. This photo doesn't really do them justice - at night they were this incredibly saturdated, luminous purple. Sadly I didn't get a picture.

The trusty steed that carried us over 3350 miles in one week.

Just a pretty picture.

Me being attacked by the ocean.

See all the photos on my SmugMug gallery.