Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

Have a flippin' sweet Halloween. May all of your wildest dreams come true.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Fall Classic

As my friend MDS pointed out to me today, the past two times that I have visited him and gone to see a baseball game, the home team has gone on to win the World Series. It is perhaps even more amazing that over the past six seasons, I have attended a total of seven major league baseball games, and in four out of those seven games, one of the teams playing has gone on to win the World Series. Here's my record, World Series champs in bold.

New York Yankees at Detroit

Arizona at Kansas City

Baltimore at Anaheim
Texas at Boston

Seattle at Kansas City

Seattle at Detroit

Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ancient Creature of the Deep

Tonight's episode of Nova dealt with the coelacanth, that mysterious creature of the deep thought to be extinct until one was discovered in South Africa in the 1930s. I have been a fan of the coelacanth ever since I first learned about it in elementary school. Nova dealt briefly with the social implications of the coelacanth, which I found very intriguing. The internal organs of the first coelacanth were discarded before the fish was positively identified by Dr. J.L.B. Smith. Smith made it his life's work to find another coelacanth and spread leaflets up the East African coast promising a reward for any fisherman who can haul in a coelcanth so he could begin dissecting the animal and seeing if it really was the so-called missing link. When he received word of a coelacanth found in the remote Comoros Islands in 1952, he knew that the only way to get the fish back to South Africa for successful dissection was to charter an airplane. His request eventually reached Prime Minister D.F. Malan, who approved a military charter to retrieve the fish. Malan was an ordained minister and a professed creationist who had any number of reasons to deny Smith's request, but in the end, he calculated that national pride was at stake at allowed Smith to risk an international incident and go to the then French-controlled Comoros Islands to retrieve the fish. Since then, many more coelacanths have been captured and dissected and scientists have learned a great deal about evolution from this so-called living fossil, but Smith's pioneering work led the way and captured the imagination of the world. Malan was an ultra-nationalist and one of the architects of South Africa's apartheid program. If he was able to see that advancing the cause of science was good for his country, despite the fact that it conflicted with some of his personal beliefs, perhaps there is still hope for our political leaders.

Market Economy

On our last day in Seattle, we headed downtown. We started at Pioneer Square, which wasn't too crowded when we arrived around 11 in the morning. We stopped off at the Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush historical center. The Alaska Gold Rush seems like it was an incredibly futile adventure, even in comparison to other gold rushes. It cost the men about $3000 a head (in 1890's money) to make the long and dangerous trek up to Alaska. By the time they arrived, most of the gold had already been claimed. The gold rush was instrumental in the development of the city of Seattle, however. By outfitting the prospectors and cashing out the lucky few who stuck it rich, Seattle began its transformation to the commercial capitol of the Pacific Northwest during the great Alaska gold rush.

After Pioneer Square, we headed over to Pike's Market. We grabbed some lunch and some coffee at the world's first Starbucks. While I was waiting for my coffee, I wondered if anyone in Seattle has ever boycotted Starbucks under the guise of supporting local coffee shops. I also contemplated the concept of the urban market. Pike's Market probably the second most famous tourist attraction in Seattle. Almost every city in the world has some kind of outdoor food market, but only certain ones have become tourist attractions. Why are some outdoor markets famous the world over and others unknown even to most of the inhabitants of the city in which they are located? The world may never know. When you think about it, a food market is a pretty weird tourist attraction. Who buys fresh produce, fish, and meat when they are on vacation? All of these markets sell enough souveniers, packaged foods, and meals that tourists can find plenty of things to spend their money on. I love visiting markets when I travel, and I even get a kick out of visiting grocery stores when I'm away from home, especially in foreign countries. The strange thing is I never go to the market when I'm at home. I've never lived in a town with a market as famous as the one in Seattle, but I've rarely visited the markets in any of the places where I've lived. Case in point, the Syracuse downtown farmer's market is only a couple of blocks from my office, yet I have never paid it a visit.

We went down to the waterfront after lunch and took a cruise around Elliot Bay. The cruise didn't offer any spectatular views of the bay, but it was very informitive. We cruised over by the port and got to watch a freighter getting processed. The tour guide gave us a quick overview of intermodal shipping, which isn't the kind of thing you usually hear about when you're on vacation, but I found it very interesting, seeing as I'm something of a transportation and shipping geek. As a geek, I was already aware that Seattle is closer to east Asia than any other port city in the continental US, but the tour guide was kind enough to mention it for the rest of the passengers.

After the cruise, we headed back to the market to pick up some salmon. We didn't get to see them throw any fish while we were there, but it was pretty neat to watch them fillet the fish that we bought in about 30 seconds. We took the fish back home and made some delicious sushi and sashimi out of it, which we enjoyed for dinner that night.

On Monday morning, our hosts were kind enough to drop us off at the airport before heading to work. We finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Rainer on the way to the airport. Even with at least half of the peak obscured by clouds, it still looked breathtaking. When we checked in for our flight, the gate agent asked if we would be willing to take a later flight home via Atlanta in exchange for two $400 vouchers since our flight was potentially oversold. This would've meant getting home after midnight instead of 9pm, but for $800, how could we refuse? Having never been in a position to accept denied boarding compensation, I was fairly excited, but in the end, the oversell didn't materialize and we went out on our originally scheduled flight.

Monday, October 24, 2005

What's the Matter with South Carolina?

One of the things that we kept hearing after last year's presidential election was how the fastest growing states (both in terms of economy and population) voted overwhelmingly for Republicans, while most of the stagnant states went to the Democrats. Some pundits see this as a sign that the Republican party will only keep growing in strength, but I have a slightly different take on it, a take that seems to have been validated in South Carolina. If the so-called red states continue to outpace their blue counterparts in economic development, they will continue to draw population from them, which will most likely dilute their Republican majorities. I'm not predicting the South Carolina is going to vote for Hillary in '08, but the influx of blue staters will probably change the kinds of campaigns that candidates of both parties run in South Carolina.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Intelligent Dog Design

Mike Peters, editorial cartoonist and the author of Mother Goose and Grimm, weighed in on the intelligent design debate yesterday.

It's basically a re-hash of the "if intelligent design is true, how do you explain ______ (insert name of stupid person)?" joke/argument. I agree with the Peters' view, but I don't find his latest salvo in the ongoing war between cats and dogs to be all that humorous or insightful.

It did make me think about intelligent design and dogs, however. I'm kind of surprised we haven't heard ID proponents using dogs to explain their "theory". With the exception of humans, domestic dogs are probably the most widely dispersed mammal on the face on the earth. They can be trained to do all kinds of chores that are useful to humans. Dogs, being man's best friend and all, probably understand human emotions better than any other animal. It would be easy to look at all of this and declare that because dogs are such a useful companion for so many people, they must have been designed by an intelligent being.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

B.C. Two-Hander

The Seattle Trip, Part 3

On Saturday, we headed up to Vancouver, B.C. to pay a visit to Michelle's aunt, grandmother, and cousin. We arrived around noontime and met everyone in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver. Suburb might not be the correct term, because Richmond is actually something of a suburban Chinatown. I've been to a few other suburban Chinatowns before, and they are pretty interesting. They take the look and feel of an urban ethnic neighborhood and apply it to the suburban strip mall. One of Toronto's Chinese suburbs, Markham, even has its own multi-story full-enclosed Asian shopping mall.

We all met up for Dim Sum at Kirin Seafood Restuarant. The Dim Sum experience at Kirin is fairly upscale. They don't have waiters pushing around carts and calling out dishes as they pass each table like a peanut vendor at a baseball game. The decor was definitely several notches above your average Chinese restaurant, with nice tablecloths, carpets, and wood paneled walls. The food was very good, though the selection was somewhat limited, at first. We were told that three of the dishes we ordered: turnip cake, rice porridge, and egg custard, three dishes that I thought were pretty much standard Dim Sum fare, weren't available. In the end, they managed to bring us the egg custard and the rice porridge. The egg custard was delicious and easily the freshest I have ever eaten. It was still warm and soft when it arrived at the table.

After Dim Sum, we all headed to the Capilano Fish Hatchery, located just north of downtown Vancouver in North Vancouver. Vancouver is an amazing city, and I will hopefully get to spend a lot more time wandering around it sometime. Unfortunately, it lacks a north/south freeway, so driving through it takes forever. Still, if you don't have enough time to stop and enjoy Vancouver, at least you can get an idea of what the city has to offer. The southern part of the city has kilometer after kilometer of interesting shops and restaurants along Granville St. As you get closer to downtown, the view of English Bay, high-rise apartment towers, and the mountains to the north overwhelm your view. The compact and lively downtown abruptly turns into Stanley Park, a beautiful and heavily wooded urban park that covers the entire peninsula that sticks out into the bay on the northern edge of Vancouver.

The fish hatchery was interesting. Prior to my visit, I thought a fish hatchery was a place where fish were farmed for human consumption, but that's not really what goes on. Fish hatcheries actually capture fish that are on the verge of spawning (in this case, salmon) and take over for the fish, removing the eggs from the females and fertilizing them with the sperm from the males. They take care of the baby fish until they are ready to go out on their own, then they release them into the river and they swim out and live their lives in the ocean, then come back to the river when its time to spawn. The whole idea behind this is to increase the survival rate of the offspring, thereby increasing the number of adult salmon swimming around in the ocean and eventually, into the stomachs of grizzly bears or sushi connoisseurs.

The highlight of the hatchery visit for me was my new t-shirt. I have developed a strong appreciation of the art of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest and I've been looking for a t-shirt that depicts some of their artwork for a while.

After the hatchery, we visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. This place is basically a tourist trap, but the suspension bridge is pretty neat, though not really worth the price of admission. The bridge is a footbridge that spans the width of the Capilano Canyon. It's no place for those who are afraid of heights, and the bridge sways enough that you almost think that you are taking your life into your own hands as you walk across it, even though it's perfectly safe. The other main attraction was a set of walkways that allow you to walk around the forest 20-30 feet above the ground.

We then headed back to Seattle. Fortunately, the traffic was much lighter going though Vancouver on the way back. On the way into Vancouver, we saw some Toyota Prius taxicabs, which I took as more evidence that Vancouver is a pretty hip and innovative kind of city. On the way back, we saw a Toyoya Prius taxi with rims and a drop-down LCD screen for the passengers. Next time you need to arrive in style in the Vancouver area, look no further than Coquitlam Taxi.

We got back to Seattle around 8pm, had some dinner, and headed back to Fremont for some drinks at a bar called Norm's. Norm's is cool because it's a dog-themed bar, it's smoke-free, and it has some good beers. Of course, almost every bar in the Pacific Northwest has good beers. I enjoyed a Deschutes Brewing Co. Black Butte Porter. One of the unfortunate parts of this trip was it allowed me to taste the beers that I haven't tasted in several years, since it's hard to find a lot of craft beers outside of the area in which they are brewed. Beers like Black Butte and Full Sail Amber Ale had been elevated to ambrosia-like status in my mind, since I remember enjoying them in Oregon six years ago and I haven't tasted them since then. In actuality, they are very good beers, but they didn't overwhelm my taste buds as much as I had hoped. In their defense, I didn't manage to have either one drawn from a tap while I was in Seattle. I've always found that draught beers taste better than bottled beers, providing that the draught is being drawn from a fresh keg.

Java Memory Allocation Myths

IBM developerWorks has a great article about modern JVM memory allocation performance. While early versions of the JVM were notoriously slow, the 1.4.2 HotSpot VM new Object() code path is faster than even the best C malloc implementations. J2SE 6 has support for escape analysis, which is an interesting technique for optimizing memory allocation by detecting objects that can be allocated on the stack or even in registers.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

She's Having a Baby

A woman in Arkansas has just given birth to her 16th child in 18 years. Four of those kids are twins, so that means that she's gone into labor 14 times in the past 18 years, or roughly once every 15 and a half months. If you figure nine months of per pregnancy, it means that she has been pregnant for about ten and a half of the past 18 years. All of the kids have first names that begin with the letter J, just like dear old Dad. The mother is only 39 years old and has gone on the record saying that she'll be willing to accept more pregnancies if the Lord decides that it's in the cards, so she'll probably keep on popping them out until she reaches menopause or her uterus explodes, whichever comes first.

The ironic twist is that Michelle has a co-worker with the same name as the father (different spelling) who absolutely loathes kids.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Wrapped Up

Part of the reason for our recent trip to Seattle was to visit the Salish Lodge and Spa. Our wedding gift from our hosts, Melissa and Brian, was a treatment at this spa, located about thirty miles east of Seattle. This was my first visit to a spa, so I didn't really know what to expect. Upon our arrival, the receptionist showed us to the locker rooms, but didn't really explain what we were supposed to do. In my locker, I found a robe and slippers so I figured that I should change, but I wasn't sure what I was supposed to wear under the robe, if anything. I asked the receptionist, and she told me to wear whatever I was comfortable with. That didn't really answer my question, so I just left my boxers on to be safe.

The treatment started with a foot washing and massage, then we got onto beds covered with a mylar sheet and had mud from the dead sea rubbed all over our bodies. A strategically placed towel kept our private areas under wraps, so the boxers were not actually needed. After getting covered in mud, we were then wrapped up in the mylar and towels and they put on some heat pads to keep us nice and warm. As we basked in our mud cocoons, they gave us a nice scalp massage and washed our hair with some sort of peppermint shampoo. This was probably my favorite part. The peppermint was really strong and I loved the way it made my scalp tingle.

I wish they would have kept us in our cocoons a little longer, because it felt really nice and relaxing. We rinsed off the mud and peppermint shampoo, then got back onto the beds and got full-body massages with hot stones. The stones were pretty neat, though they didn't retain their heat very long.

On the whole, I enjoyed the mud wrap experience, but it's not something that I'll be rushing out to do again anytime soon.

The spa is located at the top of Snoqualmie Falls. As you can see by this photo, the falls are spectacular.

There is a short but steep trail that goes from lodge down to the bottom of the falls, which we hiked after our visit to the spa. The water was rushing over the falls so quickly and forcefully that the cloud of mist that formed where the water hitting the river below made it feel like it was raining at the downwind observation deck that was located above the top of the falls.

I was always amazed by the vegetation you see in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The ground is covered in ferns and the tall trees have moss growing up their trunks and out onto their branches.

Moss growing up the sides of trees is not all that impressive, I suppose, but it always reminds of the beautiful forests of Pacific Northwest.

We made it down to the bottom of the falls, but the view from the observation deck wasn't so great. Had we climbed off of the boardwalk and down to the river, as we were advised not to do, we would've had a better view, but there was some kind of fashion shoot was going on when we got there. We couldn't really tell what it was for. There were two models, one guy and one girl, but as Michelle noted, they were smiling too much to be real fashion models.

North by Northwest

We took a long weekend and headed out to Seattle last Thursday. I was very excited, I really fell in love with the Pacific Northwest when I spent the summer of '99 in Portland. This was my first visit to the region since leaving Portland, and while I had been to Seattle before, I only spent about a day there.

We stayed with Michelle's sister and her boyfriend, who live in a house in the Wallingford neighborhood, which is a few miles north of downtown. On a clear day, their front yard affords you with views of the Seattle skyline, the Cascade Mountains, and the Olympic Mountains. There aren't too many clear days in Seattle this time of year, but we managed to catch a glimpse of all three during our visit.

On Friday morning, we all headed up the street from breakfast at a place called Julio's. I ordered huevos rancheros, which I found somewhat uninspired, but nourishing. After breakfast, our hosts went to work and we walked down the street to the Gas Works Park.

The gas works was once used by the city to convert coal into natural gas, but is no longer operational. Instead of tearing down all of the machinery, they decided to preserve some of it and turn the land into a park. It gives the park a really cool post-apocalyptic look. The park is located on the shore of Lake Union and offers some great views of downtown Seattle.

From the gas works, we headed over to Fremont, which is supposedly Seattle's funky, ex-hippie neighborhood. It definitely had that kind of vibe going on, though not as much as I would have expected.

They have their own spaceship in Fremont

They also have a troll under a bridge, which is pretty funky

Fremont is also the self-proclaimed center of the universe, in case you weren't aware

It also features a huge statue of Lenin, which is more than the People's Republic of Cambridge can say. Still, I would have expected a town where you will see multiple VW microbusses on the road every day to have a little bit more substantial and eclectic counterculture haven. I didn't notice a single head shop or Marxist bookstore in our walk around Fremont.

Of course, what Fremont lacked in loony left weirdness, it made up for in hospitality. I made a purchase at Jive Time, a small used record store, and the clerk was without a doubt the least-jaded used record store clerk I have ever come across. He actually seemed happy that I wandered into his store and paid $8 for a used copy of a CD that I just noticed is selling for $23.99 at Amazon.

Up next: A visit to the spa.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Big Least

How bad is Big East football this year? Consider this quote from Bob Snyder's column in yesterday's Post-Standard:
Of seven I-A teams still winless this season, three - UB, Army, Florida Atlantic - have been the foils for 31 percent of the Big East's I-A victories.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

Acerbic Detroit Free Press sports columnist Drew Sharp does not always make very convincing arguments, but his constant criticism of everyone in the Detroit sports scene, especially the underachieving Lions, proves the old adage about a stopped clock; if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you'll eventually look like you know what you're talking about. He called Charles Rogers out for being indifferent, immature, and a colossal waste of time, money, and a number two draft pick in his column today, just hours before the news of Rogers' four game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy hit the wire. Charles Rogers has made it clear by his actions on and off the field that he wants to challenge Reggie Rogers for the title of the worst player the Lions have ever drafted whose last name is Rogers.

Yay, Big Guy!

I watched the Michigan-Michigan State football game on Saturday more attentively than most I watch most football games, not necessarily for the game itself, but for the commentary. A couple of weeks ago, I learned about the Brent Musburger Drinking Game, and I found it to be hillarious. Michigan-Michigan State was the first Musburger-announced game I watched since learning the rules of the game, so my ears were on high alert for any number of Musburger-isms. While I was disappointed that I never heard him utter the phrase: "Gary, my man" (though I did hear a "Garry, my friend" - not sure if this counts), I loved the way he called the fumble that MSU's defensive tackle Domata Peko returned for a touchdown. Musburger let out a "Go, big guy!" when Peko crossed the 10 yard line with one man to beat and exclaimed "Yay, big guy!" after Peko hurdled the last Michigan defender into the end zone.

I don't know why I'm mentioning this, other than I found it hillarious at the time and still find it quite amusing. Perhaps Musburger is looking for a second career as a cheerleading coach? Yaaaaaaaaaay Big Guy! I think the lesson for all sportscasters, especially the ones who work on TV, is that when you don't have anything useful to say, it's better to just be quiet and let the pictures on screen do the talking.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Growing Family

We are proud to announce our new car, a 2005 Toyota Prius. We took delivery of the 175 inch, 2890 pound bundle of joy on Friday after work. Mother and the as yet unnamed car are resting and doing fine.