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2008 (old posts, page 4)

Reflections on the Olympics

I really enjoyed the recent Olympics. I have little recollection of the Athens and Sydney games but did manage to catch quite a bit more this time.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • NBC (and the media in general) have a definite propensity for only covering sports that are likely to be dominated by the US, quite a different approach from what I recall growing up. But I do rather enjoy the rivalry of the superpowers.
  • Great Britain almost finished with the bronze on the medal table. A clear win if measured by population or land area.
  • Watching on-demand video was pretty cool and made it fun to see the really close races again.
  • The Opening ceremony was incredible. Very clever usage of technology as a complement to the performance skill of many, many participants, rather than a replacement for them. I'm sure things went wrong during it the level of preparation made it impossible to notice.
  • Usain Bolt combined two of my favorite things in one man: raw talent and a fine example of  nominative determinism.
  • I was once again reminded of the attitude at that level. As Al Oerter once said "These are the Olympics. You die before you quit."

On the down side, the 'it's cool to bash China' sentiment in the media was very disappointing. Perpetuating already off-the-mark misconceptions without any balanced discussion of the issues seemed borderline irresponsible. Such behavior has the effect of setting public opinion irrationally against something and leads to attitudes and attacks grounded in ignorance. Although in a different context, I must say that story was strikingly familiar.

Anyone who doesn't believe there's a huge transformation happening in China is going to be mightily surprised. The level of optimism, enthusiasm and sense of endless possibility is unmatched elsewhere at this point.

Oh, and we were doing our bit too:


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Argosy cruise around Lake Washington and Lake Union

Despite having lived in Seattle for almost seven years, there were two things that, until today, I had not done: taken an Argosy cruise and seen Bill Gates' house from the water. Fueled with Ezelle's Chicken for lunch, our team spent the afternoon on the water.

Despite having 18 bathrooms (think of the parties), the compound itself it actually quite subtle and a far stretch from what I suspect most people think of when they think richest man in the world.

For that image, I think this guy in Hong Kong has the win: 'The toilet stays. I don't care if gold hits $10,000 an ounce, I'm not melting it down.' The man knows what he wants.


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GBR makes it into the top-3 medal table

I'm really enjoying the Olympics this year. Seeing Great Britain in the medal count top three was a pleasant surprise today. Although there's been almost zero TV coverage of any sports in which the USA might not dominate, the online offerings have been quite inclusive and are making it easy to follow the other sports like rowing.

medal count

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Sunday night block party

One of the great benefits of living in a house on a street (well specifically this house on this street) is the annual block party. Pot-luck food, barbecue, egg and spoon races and a balloon toss was a great way to wrap up the weekend.

Block party 2008

Block party 2008

Block party 2008

Block party 2008

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Port Ludlow weekend

As Seattle sweltered in the 90 degree plus heat, an escape from the city was just the ticket this weekend.

With Amy having just returned home from Vegas on Friday afternoon, we packed our bags and headed north to Edmonds for the ferry. The sun set during the 30 minute crossing to Kingston and we were in Port Ludlow by 9:30. A late dinner and a seventh gold for Michael Phelps eased into the weekend.

A lazy morning on Saturday gave way to a drive further west, hitting Deer Park and Hurricane Ridge for some fabulous cloud-free views of the Strait, Vancouver Island and Mt Olympus.

Deer Park

Hurricane Ridge

For dinner on Saturday, we were to be found at the Ajax Cafe in Port Hadlock, which describes itself as "a little out of the way... but way out of the ordinary." In the same spot since 1977, you're immediately aware that the place is slightly different as, on approach, one can spot diners sporting pirate hats, sombreros, Viking headgear, skull caps and motorcycle helmets; a part of the decor, hats are changed at will throughout the meal. We feasted on an excellent spread - salad, crab cakes, scallops, halibut, a birthday-candle studded creme brule and fig and balsamic vinegar ice cream - while enjoying the live music duo on the tiny stage.

Sunday morning breakfast of left-over brie and bread accompanied by Phelps' eight gold and we set off for the Marina where reliable sources had informed up we'd be able to find some ripe blackberries. A half-gallon container later and I am rather excited about the prospects for blackberry cobbler this week.

Port Ludlow marina


A very relaxing weekend indeed. Port Ludlow trip on Flickr.

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Once upon a time there was Fidonet

(This post will make no sense to most people but I had to write it down somewhere)

A random link just sent me over to some BBS-era graphics on Flickr which in turn spurred a trip down memory lane. After quite a bit of searching, I finally tracked down my quarry: my Fidonet node address when I used to run the Enigma BBS was 2:250/555.

Fidonet nodelist from December 29, 1995 


There are some familiar names in that list too: Frosties BBS (2:250/510, David Frost, Alsager), Hacker's Paradise (2:250/556, Simon Roberson, Alsager), Labrot BBS (2:250/563, Bob Wilson, Nantwich) and Quantum Shuffle (2:2502/18, Andrew Reid, Selby). I seem to recall having a 'point' off Quantum Shuffle for a while before setting up my own system.

I do wish I'd kept more details of the software, customizations and ANSI art that I seem to recall spending quite some time working on, perhaps they're still around on an old floppy somewhere. It ran on OS/2 for a while (painfully slowly on my machine at the time) but I think later transitioned over to a dedicated box. The memories of hearing 'Sweet Child O' Mine' playing as a sysop page tone through a tinny PC speaker will remain with me for many years to come.

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Yard sale: Clearing clutter and getting paid for it

Check off one more experience from the list: a multi-family yard sale.

It's fascinating to see the pros in action. We said it started at 9am, the early birds were poking around shortly after 8am. You put a rock bottom price on something, bargaining starts at half of that. One gentleman mysteriously put forth a closed fist containing his offer for a $2 cake pan, slowly opened it to reveal a single nickel. And the biggest bartering is always for the last quarter.

Despite the overnight rain, it stayed dry and we had a constant stream of people until about 2pm. When all was done, the haul was over $300 and the remainder needed just one full truck trip to the Goodwill store.


U-District summer multi-family yard sale

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Seattle Seafair, the Blue Angels and plastic bags

Seafair can mean only one thing: the Blue Angels are back in town and they have been roaring over the city all week during practice.

The contrast is delicious: as a city we're proud to have recently-passed plastic bag ban (which is a good move) and yet today we'll all gather and watch a fleet of F/A-18s each burn some 1300 gallons of jet fuel for the show along.

(I know that plastic bags are largely made from ethylene, derived from natural gas, and the petroleum by-product used in the process, naphtha, would probably just be flared off otherwise, but still, the ban is more about changing habits to cut down on wanton excess and wasteful habits.)

Bonus fact: Over the course of a year, the Blue Angels use 3.1 million gallons of fuel for transportation, training, shows, etc. Wow.

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Seafair 2008 debrief: Jets, boats, and some snappy dressers

Kate put it so well:

It's SeaFair again, when Seattle turns into a loud, warmongering, beer drinking, low-brow pit of red-neckery.....and you love it, because it is just one day a year.
Please join me at the marina for the air show, hydroplanes, hot dogs and cruising in the boat with skipper Bill.  In order to balance the general redneck aesthetic, our guests at the marina are encouraged to dress in theme; either 1960s prep-nautical-fabulous, or duran duran rio dancer video, do whatcha like. We are going to drink pimm's cups, wear blazers and cruise the lake in style.

And so it was. Dressed to the nines we planned to show these sea-faring folk quite how it should be done. Some bystanders watched with bewilderment, especially in the pre-outing trip to Fred Meyer, but most were clearly jealous of the style and class that had serendipitously touched their lives on this otherwise uninteresting day in August.

My favorite (overheard) comment of the day: "I think they might be British".

Complete Seafair set on Flickr



Seafair 2008

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New Seattle restaurant: Olivar

We had a great dinner last night at the newly opened Olivar restaurant on Capitol Hill.

The food was excellent. A range of small and large plates of French/Spanish descent, with attention to detail in presentation and an assortment of Spanish wines. I particularly enjoyed the arugula, beet and goat cheese salad, the stuffed pork chop and the hanger steak.

Interior decor was a pretty cool, the place was very busy for only its second week and a visit by a visibly-but-not-overtly-proud Chef Thomelin was a nice touch.

(Footnote: I was mistakenly looking for 'Olivars' which seems to mean almost nothing on the web)