Skip to main content

2005 (old posts, page 1)

Napster v2

I was one of the fortunate college-goers who had an unmetered in-room ethernet connection before anyone had really figured out.that music 'sharing' on a huge scale wasn't doing the recording industry any favors. Of all the tools available at the time, Napster won hands down in terms of UI polish and quality of track/title/artist information. All good things come to an end and�it became pretty clear that providing a questionable service in a centralized fashion was not going to win any awards for business acumen. A couple of years and many gigabytes of music later, the last Napster server went dark.

These days, Napster is back as a subscription service. It's a simple plan; $10 per month for access to a really wide library of music. As a penniless student I'd have run a mile from this kind of�deal but things are different these days. Several months I�ago I cancelled my�Netflix subscription (which is another great service�if you have the time to watch) and�replaced it with a shiny new music-only one from Napster. Once you get your head around not owning music but instead renting it, it's an obvious choice for the musical dilettante. No need to buy any more CDs, listen to music�based on�whim alone�and�one's music collection travels between home and office seamlessly. Rather good.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

Holiday vs vacation

Apparently there's a big difference between holiday and vacation.

Yesterday, you see, was holiday; a day shared by all, a day to drink beer, watch fireworks and generally revel in the consequences of the actions of several brave chaps some 229 years ago. Hot sunshine, barbecued food and a prime spot on the sundeck made for a good afternoon. Despite early wins of $9 in quarter-chip poker, I barely came out even but survive to play another day. With everyone nearly done by nine thirty, it's sad that we almost traded the fireworks for watching a celebrity�Who Wants to be a Millionaire rerun, but�did manage to rally somehow.�Big up to the guy with the lines during the fireworks--'you're #1', 'we know how to rock', 'yeah!'--which made for just the kind of American experience the fourth deserves.

Today, however, is different. I'm taking some vacation for what seems like the first time since Christmas. And I have nothing planned. At all. And it's a good feeling.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

Camping at Deer Park, again.

This time last year, I'd just bought my truck and was itching to take it out on some logging roads somewhere out of town to see some 4x4 action. Suitable cover story in place ('let's go camping'), Katie, Anne & I made our way out past Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and headed for an out-of-the-way campground called Deer Park, 18 miles of gravel track off Highway 101. The drive is well worth it; the campground lies just below the summit of Blue Mountain at a modest 5400ft and its title is well deserved. Within minutes of arriving, the inquisitive and fear-free residents that give the site its name form a welcoming committee and tend to mill around for the duration of the stay. Above the clouds, the views are fantastic and the background noise is filled with silence.

Well, this fourth of July weekend we decided to do it again. Additional recruits Sean and Jenna honored us with their presence and by 1125 on Saturday morning, we were all riding a ferry together. A quick stop of the liquor store and supermarket on Bainbridge and we were ready to go with a straight shot drive all the way through. The party in the green vehicle was somehow detained at a local winery for a brief period, but the rendezvous at site #12 atop the mountain turned out well. Adhering to long established priorities, we ate, drank, set up camp and then headed out for a stroll through the mist. Sean's tracking skills, while impressive, were no match for the agile quarry that was the rest of us. Back at camp, we had to cut short a game of hacky sack realizing that holding out for a hack would probably leave us without firewood and nutrition for the night. We ate like royalty and quickly found out how cold it could get when the sun went down. No-one seemed to take objection to an early night.

According to the ranger it dropped to 33 degrees (F) overnight which is rather impressive in July. Fortunately, we woke up the following morning to discover�bright clear skies and perfect weather for a wander to the summit. Once again, Deer Park scores a 10/10 in the beauty, tranquility and escape categories. Well done us.

Pictures here.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

Visitors in town

It's always good having family to visit when you live a long way from that�nebulous place called home.�My cousin Steve and his fiance Natalie just spent a week of vacation in Seattle and we had a great time. Mostly good weather, barbecues on the sun deck, a Mariners game, an alarming number of trips to Starbucks (even for a Seattle resident), a trip to Snoqualmie Falls and some general time to catch up made for a well-spent week. As I write this they'll be in NYC and are no doubt having fun in the big city, a point about which I am quite jealous.

The pictures of the bar games�from Friday night don't really do the week justice, but it's always fun seeing little lady conclusively beat a big man�at Indian leg wrestling. And who knew, you can get Pimms & Lemonade at the bar just down the street.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −
• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −
• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

Busy busy busy

It's probably a sign that�you've spent too long in the office when you hit 6am Monday morning commuter traffic on the drive home. Still, it was a worthwhile trip and�a couple of hours of sleep made a world of difference.

Interesting side note: Malcolm Gladwell is in the northwest at the moment promoting his new book. I keep hearing him -- from a spot on NPR, a talk at Microsoft and a televised Town Hall show put on by UofW shown at 6.30am this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed his work on The Tipping Point and from what I've heard his new book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is going to be equally fascinating. I need to get a copy onto my bookshelf.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

The white stuff

Today happens to be Sean's birthday. Happy birthday, Sean. On this day last year, Seattle got a good few inches of snow and everything ground to a halt and it was great. Despite the conditions, we still managed�to find a taxi (driven by an Ethiopian who had never seen snow) to take us up to O'Sheas for the occasion.

I've no idea how tonight will unfold. Please let it snow.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

2004: Year of the...

It's always entertaining to see the wide variety of '2004: Year of' round-ups that do the rounds about this time of year. Some are reasonable, some surprising and some just reflect really poor journalism. Make up your own mind.

• −    − •    − • •    − • − −     − − −    • −    • − •    • − • •    •    − • − −

Holiday summary

The break at home was much appreciated. Christmas and Boxing Day spent with family and an evening of fine wines and smelly cheeses with Ed felt long overdue. It even snowed (properly) on Christmas morning and left a few�inches on the ground throughout the day and�a late night snowball fight with brother and parents was made all the more fun by the challenge of seeing incoming projectiles.

The journey back was interesting to say the least. Despite a long check-in line at Manchester it proved to be an easy flight through to Chicago O'Hare. Touching down an hour late was always going to make for a challenging transfer as I was about to discover. Passing through immigration took the usual forty five minutes (we aliens get a special longer queue and have the privilege of being photographed and fingerprinted on arrival). Customs was a breeze and I made haste from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 for a connection to Seattle. It's worth mentioning that the design of ORD puts international arrivals and gate C27 at opposite ends of the site but undeterred, I sprinted through the airport to see them shut the gate 50ft in front of me.�No problem, I'll get on standby for the next flight in a couple of hours. Hah. As the next flight rolled around, they were asking ticketed, confirmed passengers to surrender their seats due to overbooking. Those kind souls were offered a 'convenient' connection through Denver the following day. Suffice it to say, being on standby wasn't the place to be as I found out talking to others standing around - some had spent several days in the airport waiting to leave. Respect goes out to the guy who figured a sneaky connection through Juneau, Alaska when all other flights across the country were fully booked.

Living in the airport for a couple of days wasn't going to work but thankfully a plan was taking shape. I changed my flight to one of the few that wasn't fully booked in the following week - two days later on Friday evening, New Years Eve. I would rent a car and drive the 200 miles to Grand Rapids, MI to meet up with Katie who was similarly on vacation there. A $20 per day 'under 25 surcharge' later, I was behind the wheel of�a Jeep Wrangler soft top in the middle of winter. Quite how Jeep has managed to coax the masses into buying this vehicle is beyond me - the road noise is deafening, the suspension stiff (especially fun on icy bridges) and it's so light that it sways all over the road in the wind - but it did the job. Passing through yet another time zone (in the wrong direction), I got in just before eleven to stay with with Katie at her�friend Matthew's place who kindly put me up for the night. It was an unexpected surprise to be able to see Katie before she returned to Seattle and we did a whole lot of nothing for a couple of days before returning to Chicago on Friday for a trip to the Shedds Aquarium (recommended) before flying out.

The flight back was easy in first class and though an evening of celebration possibly wasn't top of my 'things I must now do' list, it seemed inevitable. Sean and I met up with Tina and Jeremy and headed to a party in Queen Anne (nice house) to see in the New Year. Standing outside around a wood fire pit added a certain rustic flavor to one's personal scent but gave plenty of opportunity for drinking. We walked home through the rain, somehow ended up eating many slices of Mario's in Pioneer Square and capped off the night with a hefty glass of Grappa. Marvellous.

Happy New Year! Bring on 2005.