Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Pirate looks at 28

The Captain stepped out of her quarters into the fresh morning air, on a ship somewhere off the coast. She took just a minute to take in the view. It was a beautiful day, the type of day that reminds a pirate why she sails the open seas, searching for bounty. What a life!

"What a life, indeed!" she thought, as she made her way down to the galley. She had hit her knee on her captain's table a few nights ago, and had developed a limp. She found that it helped her feel more like a pirate, and had begun toying with the idea to continue limping when her knee healed.

Down in the galley, she could hear lots of work being done, which always made her cheerful.


She swiveled around to find to find a rather odd looking pirate in a business shirt and "colorful but appropriate" tie, sporting a parrot on his right shoulder. It was Bonney, her galley crew manager, and his parrot Peetie.

"Captain ! The galley has finished module 8 and is now working on module 9! Harr!"

"Harr! Harr!" squawked Peetie.

"Ahead of schedule again, eh? Excellent, extra Chinese take-out for all tonight!" she shouted in her best Pirate Captain voice. A raucous cheer erupted from the programmer's cubicles. It was, of course, Thursday, which was take-out night in the mess hall.

Bonney smiled broadly. The man always had so much enthusiasm, this is why he makes such a good galley manager now. The programmers seemed to respond to his use of pirate imagery. Of course, his name wasn't always Bonney, but he picked the nickname before they set sail using an internet quiz. She had taken the same quiz, but her name, "Dirty Mary Cash", did not sound appropriate for a Pirate Captain.

They all had normal names once, when they were all mild-mannered, landlocked IT professionals. At the time, the company was having trouble competing with companies that outsource their IT jobs offshore. In fact, the newest fad was to fill up cruise ships with programmers who could stay in international waters but travel between gigs, giving both the benefit of outsourcing and also the ability to "grab the programmer by the throat" if needed. The only way to compete, they reasoned, was to be smarter, and they commenced an optimization project to find the answer. Of course, most people thought it was just another benign improvement project that would not go anywhere, and did not take it seriously.

She was the one that brought up the pirate ship idea in the first place. As the project manager, she had meant to show by example what type of "out-of-the-box" thinking was expected at the planning sessions. It was a joke, meant to at least earn a few chuckles. One thing was for sure, she could never have imagined the super-positive reaction that it received from management.

That was how "Project Ahab" was born. And in six months (ahead of schedule and below budget mind you) the Jolly Raider was launched off the San Fransisco coast, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company.

Long ago, she had been tested as most likely to be either a ship captain or in IT. Who would have thought that she could be both? She laughed to herself, adjusted her pirate hat, and limped towards the Ops Bridge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mayday for May Days and other stories

-- Anchorage is being invaded by the European Bird Cherry (aka May Day). Apparently, this tree is taking Anchorage by storm, out-competing other native plants. In Alaska, invasive plants are a big deal, since we have so many special species of plants here. Now, if only we could find something that would kill those dandilions....:)

Update: While driving to Exceed yesterday, I took special notice of European Bird Cherry trees. They are indeed everywhere you look, and are cramping out the other trees! There is one incredibly beautiful corner by the university that is not "invaded" yet, though. In the wind, you could see the trees (all types -- birches, alders, other trees I guess) shimmer. I wish I had gotten it on video because it is just an incredible sight. Although the May Day trees are beautiful, I will be sad if the native trees are truly overtaken like this.

--Save the Squid! Sitka anglers are finding California squid off of the harbor. Since no commerical license is required to hunt squid, many people are looking to cash in on the high price for these guys.

--Althouse is closely watching the government of Eugene, OR determine whether to ban "gender identity" discrimination. The most likely result if this is approved? Transgendered folks could use whatever bathroom they want. It sounds like a strange thing to be legislating, but it brings up a lot of different emotions in people. My opinion? Well, if you are transgendered and presenting as a woman, I'm cool with it. But a creepy guy saying he "identifies" with women and sitting in the women's bathroom? I don't like that idea as much. I'm hoping that attached to this bill is also one that extends the number of women's bathrooms required by code to over-accomodate the new influx.

-- Garden/House update: The garden area looks spectacular! We only have one more planter to go, and we will be completed. How about that for techies doing something practical? I'll send out some pictures once we get a sunnier day.

Also, while Frank was about to mow the lawn today, a moose and calf decided to walk down our street towards Lake Otis. Mom was all about safety, keeping the calf at bay. I half expected her to look both ways before crossing the street, but she instead decided to take the sidewalk (good move). Thank goodness the moose was not spooked by Frank, who quickly stopped trying to start the mower until they were gone.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Poor Woody

Woody, a stellar sea lion male, gains weight at .5 lbs an hour for the mating season, which allows him to impress the ladies by pushing around males. However, since he's at the Alaska SeaLife Center, he not only has no males to push around, he also has no ladies available to impress. Poor Woody!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ten things Friday fun

A daily Meme on Professor Bainbridge includes "Ten things I have never done". Here's my list:

I have never...
10. Partaken of any illegal drug.
9. Jumped out of an Airplane, Bungee Jumped, or ridden on a Motorcycle. (anyone who knows me would guess this)
8. Been to South America, Asia, or Africa.
7. Seen Schindler's List (I do not like movies that will make me upset)
6. Run faster than a 7:00 mile
5. Eaten anything that still had a "face". Yuck.
4. Watched one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond.
3. Nevermind hunting, I've never even held a real gun.
2. Read Crime and Punishment past the first 20 pages.
1. Had a massage or a pedicure.

So there you go, kind of a measly list, but I guess I have done a lot of things :).

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Gold Nugget Report

Well, I successfully completed the Gold Nugget Triathlon here in Anchorage. It's an all women's event, and consists of a 500m swim in the Bartlett HS pool, a 10 mile bike through Ft. Richardson, and a 4.1 mile run.

My goal, since I had only decided to run the race on Wednesday, was to survive. On the day of the race, I'd had the total of 2 prepatory swims and one bike ride to lean on. Needless to say, my race preparation was not making me feel really comfortable.

The bike drop-off happened on Saturday. After bobbling my bike on the bike rack of doom (our bike rack is on top of the tracker, which is hard for us short folk to get to), I had to fix the chain, which had come unsettled during the debacle. In AK, apparently you have to provide your own bike stand, so I brought my cyclops trainer to hold the bike. Also in preparation for potential rain, I did bring a few plastic bags for the seat and bars (nothing like a soggy seat and aerobars to bring you down). I tried to look like a proper triathlete, and my coordinated - but not so coordinated outfit I believe hat that effect. I asked pointed questions to the bike drop off folks, which also made me feel more in my element. In all, it was a successful T -1.

Of course, the work started much earlier. In order to pull of a successful triathlon, a participant must think ahead as to what one might need in different times of the race -- in this race, the planning was crucial since the Swim-Bike transition (T1) and bike-run transition (T2) were not going to be in the same place. Any slight slip-up and an athlete could find themselves without something very important, like running shoes. So, by Friday afternoon, I had already placed all my gear into three piles -- T0 (pre-race), T1, and T2. T2 had to be ready for the bike drop-off where it was placed at the bike-run transition in the army base.

Because of this preparation, race morning was not hectic. I had a powerbar and meandered to Bartlett High School around 10am. Racers were to be called up to enter the pool for their swim by number, and so when I heard that they were only up to 200 by 10am, I was suprised (my number was 975). With an average of 100 racers being able to swim at one time, it was going to be a long day!

When checking on my bike, I thought I was lucky that I had gotten there early, because the nice fellow guarding the bikes allowed us into the bike area to set up our other gear. So I put my bike gear out as I am used to, including shoes, socks, and, from top to bottom, gloves, glasses, race number, helmet. Luckily I took my towel and clothing with me for something to change into in the locker room, because maybe a half hour after I set out my gear, it started to rain!

At around 1pm, us late-numbers got into the pool for our swim. The swim was 10 laps, three women per lane. Although the swim is the quickest part of a triathlon, it always seems to take forever to me. This time was no different, but I did successfully swim 10 laps without drowning. I was very happy!

In the locker room, I quickly switched from my tyr sleeveless tri jersey to a more proper bike jersey and jacket combo. The bike jersey is our old one from Team Dayton cycling, which still looks very impressive. Running through T1, I put on my soggy gear, took off the garbage bag on my seat, and was off!

My bike ride was awful. It was exacerbated by the fact that I kept confusing my gears, making me ride the entire first 3 miles in my big gear. Once I got that down though, I started to say to myself "Hey, why am I working so hard, and not going so fast?". That's right, because I had ridden my bike once this year :). The good news is, I looked really fast, and actually passed a few people. The bike consisted of bike trails, then a long slight uphill, followed by three more hills through Ft. Richardson. Although the ride was very bumpy, I did have a lot of fun going downhill and was totally exhausted by the end of the bike leg -- I think I rolled in at around 14 mph!

T2 was great. They took care of me, although I hardly could take care of myself. Someone whisked away my bike, and pointed me in the direction of the folks that already had my gear bag. The gear bag people were so nice, and set my shoes down on the ground so that I did not have to deal with the strain of getting things out of the bag myself! When I had shoes on, they then turned me around and led me to the start of the run.

The run, as I said before, was on tank trails in Ft. Richardson. Noone ever feels great getting off the bike, but the rockiness of the trail made it that much worse. It took me about a mile to recover something of my running legs, and I started to pass people. In fact, noone passed me except this one lady who was just FLYING. I was so jealous. The final parts of the 4 mile run were on the bike trail again, and I started to feel pretty good. I passed two people and was coming up on my third at the finish line. I was hoping to sneak around her, but I guess it was my wheezing that tipped her off and she started sprinting! I couldn't keep up and finished about a step behind.

All in all, it was a good race. As for my goals, I did survive the race itself, and actually came very close to my predicted time. I was looking for a 15 min swim, a 40 min bike, and a 40 min run, and came under my predicted time by three-four minutes, mostly due to an awesome swim (10 mins!) and a decent run. It's gotten me interested in doing more, and I might just sign up for the Eagle River Tri in June :).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Gardening roundup

As promised, here are some pictures of our gardening results. As you can see, the gardening is "almost" complete! We now have our border rails on, and the start of our herb garden!

Next up, the vegetable garden needs to be purchased, and we need to put in the angle braces on all boards to keep them from slipping. Other than that, we are well on our way to a beautiful backyard!

Here's our "to be" vegetable bed. Currently, puppy uses it as his personal futon outside, but that will need to change soon. At the left you can see we kept the berry bushes.

Picture of our herb bed before we put the border on. From front to back in the front row: lemongrass, thyme, hyssop, lavender, basil, cilantro. Back row: Fennel, rosemary, sage, asian basil, chives, oregano.

One of our transplanted sod circles...looks like it is going well so far

Here's the flowers that just popped up in our lawn

The grass is (somewhat) growing!

Here's the whole herb/lilac bed in perspective

Left to right: Cinnamon basil, curry plant (ornamental), Lilac, Silver-leaf thyme, gold leaf thyme, lilac, parsley

Picture of our beautiful lilacs and herb garden

Detail of raised bed

The Tulips are coming up!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

News from today

I know you all have been worried, but the Dog elections are official on Eggagog's site: "CONGRATULATIONS, DOG!! YOU ARE THE TOP DOG!! NOW YOU CAN DO THE AGENDA-ITEMS!!!". However a public relations disaster has occurred as dog mayor requires the firefighter dogs to wear roller skates, causing them to roll off the roof.

In Anchorage:
-- A pregnant moose and calf were attacked by a put bull and rottweiler on Saturday, pretty close to our house. It ended up badly for the moose, but even worse for the dogs, who were shot.

Moore News:
-- The extravaganza of gardening in our backyard is back on track, no thanks to Lowes. We've moved multiple trees, excavated sod, and cut pressure-treated wood with a dull hand saw. The results are very impressive, and I will take some pictures today.
-- In another round of "Seven habits of highly delusional people"... in order to get out of another round of intervals at the running team yesterday, I promised to do a triathlon on Sunday. Because I have been reading the Seven Habits book, I feel compelled to meet my own committments and run the race (habit 1 of course: be proactive, including taking responsibility for one's own committments). This is perhaps not the wisest thing to do, but I figure it is an ultimate test of my own optimism. I have not swum in quite a long while, but since the swim is done in a swimming pool, I am hoping someone would notice if I drowned. Cycled once, but since it's only a 10 mile route, I am hoping I can hang in there. In the case of running, well, the only question as usual is your definition of running. Wish me luck :)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Everything I know about tying shoes, I learned in Kindergarten...

Apparently, there are at least 15 different ways to tie shoes, and most improve upon the tried and true methods that we learned in kindergarten. For example, I use the Standard shoelace knot method, but some people (my brother, for example) still use the Two Loop Shoelace Knot, aka the "bunny ear" method. Ian on the site suggests two faster and more secure methods, as well as information on how to lace your shoes more effectively.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

This sounds like a bad idea...

Computer-graded essays make the News: "A second time around, Jones scattered ``chimpanzee'' throughout the essay, guessing unusual words would yield him a higher score.

He got a six. "

So, when this becomes popular, what will really happen is kids will be learning how to trick the system. I can see this as something you use to check grammar, but am I so old-fashioned to think that, if a teacher decides to use an essay form on a test, that they should actually be forced to read the essays themselves?

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Making a Mess, with Lori and Frank

Frank and I spent the day gardening and doing things around the house. We have a plan for a retaining wall garden, tree/lilac relocation, grass work, and an expansion of the garden existing in the back yard. We are calling it the great gardening extravaganza -- rightly so since we have procured 14 4x4x12 ft pressure-treated rail tiles to complete the fun!

So far we have completed "Phase 1", which includes much sod pulling and the expansion of the garden. The next phase is to extend the bed along the house to the gate (this is where the lilacs will be going). On Monday Lowes will deliver the 14 4x4s which is where the real challenge of the gardening extravaganza begins.

Anyways, below are the pictures so you can track the progress :).

Flower bed phase 1

Flower close-up

Flowers in the yard

Grass that hasn't come up yet

Colorado Spruce in its new home

Our pretty tree might need to be moved...

Garden expansion (2 ft)

Sod Replacement #2

Sod replacement #1

The fixed border

The Rhubarb that won't die

Tulips on the side of the house

Friday, May 06, 2005

The best part of Detroit is...

Well, I'm back on my way to Anchorage after a week in Livonia Michigan. I cannot say I will miss much of Michigan. The training combined with the lovely Embassy Suites experience really brought me down.

The Livonia embassy suites had all sorts of problems. I had parts falling off my suite, and the cleaning lady threw away my first 3.50 bottle of water that I was rationing because the tapwater was icky. They also gave us bad directions to the gym, which they provide a shuttle to but only if you can order your shuttle a day in advance. Agh.

So far though, I am enjoying the Airport. I've been here for two hours and have two more hours to go, but it's actually quite pleasant, and am glad I am here and not in a gloomy hotel or something. The ceiling is very high, and there's an express tram that whooshes every once in a while. They have a great marble fountain with leaping water, and pretty good wireless. It also makes me feel like I'm with a bunch of people, eventhough I'm by myself :). Hey, they even have REAL CNN, not that airport version. Soon I will have to find something to eat, and there's apparently lots of choices for that too.

Once actually on a plane, I will have a lot of travel to find my way to Anchorage by 1:40 am ADT, which is, I believe, an 11 hour trip or so if you compensate for the vortex of air travel.

Excluding the airport (which is still quite nice), The best thing about this week is that I got to spend some real time with my teammates. Eventhough I believe that the technical innovations we have can bridge most physical gaps, sometimes one cannot put a price on face to face time.

Anyways, that's all for today. Now, this weekend's Mother's day, so wish my Mom a very wonderful Mother's day by visiting her site :). Mom has survived another year at Aurora as registrar, and I hear is quietly beta-testing Legacy, entertaining teens. Happy Mother's Day, Mom, I love you!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The world's highest levels of birch pollen and other news..

From Anchorage:

-- Apparently has the highest level of birch pollen in the world. So, no matter how far I run, apparently I will never fully run away from my allergies. Sigh.
--The first summer market in Anchorage is this weekend. Some highlights: fresh basil, arugula, potatoes, cabbage, beets, and apple trees.
--Ironically, hockey is still alive and well in Alaska this week. The Alaska Aces trounced the Trenton Titans in Game 1 of the national conference finals. They play again tonight.

In Detroit:
--I got to spend some time with my brother Will at Bahama Breeze in Livonia. It's the highlight of my week--what an awesome treat!
--I can't find a piece on this, but on Monday there was a gas leak or something somewhere around Detroit suburbs. They evacuated a whole subdivision.
--The Oratorio society will be performing a concert this weeken, including Rutter's Requiem at 4pm on Sunday in Plymouth.

In Louisville -- Anne completed the Flying Pig with flying colors! 4:46! And she is wearing heels three days afterwards! Way to go, Anne!

In Chicago-- Mom enjoyed the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and wants to read the book.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Eggagog has the silliest website on the planet! He just got back from his trip to Jupiter!

I am not wearing octopus pants, but did get my hair cut. Frank says that it's a "hippie haircut", which reminds me of a South Park episode. I think I look more on the edge of "Truck stop meets Friends cast member". We'll see what happens when I try to do the hairdo myself.

I flew "South to MI" this week, and am already missing Alaska. It's finally spring, and it is beautiful. Below are some images from the last few weeks to show you what I mean.

Please send good vibes to Anne, who ran the Flying Pig this weekend, for real this time :)!

Lori in her "Hippie Haircut"

This is what I think I look like with my new hair cut, though

To be fair, here's Frank and his new haircut. Mr. Hat, of course is retired for a while as finals completed last week.

I've taken a lot of pictures of sunsets lately, because they are so beautiful and convenient. These are happening around 10pm -- even later now -- as the days increase by about 6 mins/day

Sunset reflected in our windows

"Still life with Blue Boar and pepper mill"-- i.e. Lori learning how to use the manual focus on her camera. Can you read the label?

Although this is blurry, I like this picture of Galileo. How funny that everything else is in focus, but he is not.

These shots are taken on our top floor porch.

Another beautiful sunset

Another fantastic sunset from our top floor porch!

Puppy is working on a new bone from Petco. Note how he holds it with his paws.

Puppy sticks his tongue out at me, he gets tired of the camera

Frank and Galileo. Note that in the winter, these paths are used for anything from horseback riding, cross country skiing, and dog mushing/skijoring.

Frank and Puppy on the path

Pretty shot of the undergrowth that will soon be green and the creek beyond. There is still some snow, even in May!

My first bear sighting! OK, it is a fake bear...

The snow is slowly melting from the creeksides.

Just your average view on the greenbelt :). Note how the mountains are slowly losing their snow.

Picture of the dog trail overpass. During the ceremonial start of the Iditarod and many other mushing races (the Tozier Dog track is very close), the dogs shoot through this "pipe" that goes under the greenbelt trail.

A duck!

A bird "hides" in the spruce along the creekside trail

Anchorage's Trees are turning green

Budding trees are everywhere

Cambell Creek restrictions for fishing -- Apparently you can fish Coho and Rainbow Trout right here in town

Saturday Sunset

Another picture of the fabulous Saturday Sunset