Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

Weathering Seattle Part 3 of 2: Thought it was over but the snow was just beginning

Friday, January 26th, 2007

That is what happens when it snows in Seattle. Well, at least its *some* of what happens.

Oh you thought we were through with the freak winter in the Pacific Northwest this year? Not a chance. A couple of weeks ago on a nice (relative) Monday in Bellevue, the weathermen — nay, meteorologists — of the area predicted three inches of snow for Monday evening. Everyone quivered and shook in their Birkenstocks and Uggz and took off early from work to get home before the blizzard and the traffic. Turns out they were wrong as usual and we got maybe 0.1 inches of snow Monday night.

So Tuesday comes around and they once again predict doom and gloom for the Seattle area and multiple inches of snow. Fool me twice? Pshaw, I say. So I’m at work typing away around 4:30 as I hear the half-conversations of the people on the phone around me. “No kidding… the roads are all blocked up in Kirkland?… That much snow on the ground?…” Of course I glance outside from where I’m sitting and I see nothing but cloudy skies and oncoming sunset. A piddling fifteen minutes pass, the sun sets of course and we have nighttime darkness at 4:45, and I take a second glance outside to see… snow! Snow coming down probably as hard as I have ever seen snow come down. Well I try to pack up and get out of there as soon as I can but by the time I got to my car in the garage and got out, there was already a good half an inch to an inch of fresh powder covering the ground. I did okay driving around the outside portions of the parking lot but as soon as I took the left onto the slightly uphill street, my car didn’t make it more than 25 feet before going into spin city. Granted, I drive a rear-wheel drive sports car with ultra-low-profile summer performance tires on it, so this was not a big surprise to me (or those watching for that matter). I probably would have done better if I had waited for some of the snow to compact, harden, or melt off in an hour or two as cars drove over and past it. Anyway, I reversed over to the side of the road leaving my car for the night, and walked back up to the office, very much defeated by the weather gods.

Luckily for me my boss lives very close to my place and he offered to give me a lift home. He did not however spare any opportunities to make fun of the many more 3 Series or other similar vehicles also stranded on the side of the road as we took our 10-minute-turned-1.5-hour drive home. Thanks Mike. All I have to say to that is, “Yay, Armen!”

The events of that Tuesday weren’t all though; we got more snow again on Saturday and again a couple of days after that. Suffice to say that some side and back roads were well and frozen for over a week. This all gave me the opportunity to score what I think are some pretty photos.

Note, the roads seem snow-free because I didn’t snap this shot until Thursday morning, and this is a very high traffic road. Click through to my Flickr photostream to see a few more shots of the snow around my place. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of my poor car stranded on the side of the road for you to make fun of.

The last few days we have seen some conciliatory gestures by the weather around here; mostly clear days with some very light sprinkling tossed in. A few years ago I might have complained; this year I consider that a blessing. And please, if you live in an area where it snows, ever, learn how to drive (or when to pull over) in those conditions; unlike the idiot in the video up there.

Weathering Seattle Part 2 of 2: Wind decides to throw a tantrum at the Pacific Northwest

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

In case you haven’t heard, a little storm hit the Pacific Northwest and Seattle last Thursday night. It brought rain, hurricane-force winds of over 70mph, and hundreds of fallen trees and downed power lines. Enough to leave over a million people without power on Friday.

On Thursday night the power flickered off/on several times until it finally died around 10pm. I knocked out early and woke up in the morning to find the power wasn’t back yet. I had no idea the extent of the damage around the area, and since the power at my place has gone out during almost every remotely hard storm we’ve seen, I had no reason to assume that it would be as bad as it was.

I headed to work on Friday morning. No, strike that, I tried to go to work. I spent about 45 minutes dodging a bunch of nut-jobs darting across intersections with dead traffic lights. These imbeciles will gladly flash a piece of plastic at you as proof that they know how to drive. When it comes down to it though, they prove their mental capacity mimics that of a banana slug. Do you really think that trying to just force your way into the middle of the intersection with your giant SUV is speeding up anyone’s, including your, commute? If people would take turns sending one car from each lane in each direction in a counter-clockwise or clockwise fashion, things would move quickly and smoothly. Instead what happened was a cluster that backed cars up for as far as the eye could see. Getting back home was no easy task either; trying to dodge backed up lines of cars as well as the numerous blocked roads and downed trees allowed me to find a new roundabout route from work to home.

Needless to say, at this point the magnitude of the disaster was becoming clear to me. There was no power at work which meant there was no work. I spent most of the day Friday doing a bunch of stuff around the house that needed to be done anyway and didn’t require electricity. I tried to run some errands, but the power was out everywhere, even in Redmond. Trying to leave Bellevue headed south, to where there was power, was an exercise in patience I was not up for.

Later that night Matt and I did make it out to Renton to find the area jam-packed with more people than have probably ever been in the area. Every fast food place, gas station, and grocery store had lines spilling out of it. After recharging ourselves and my car we headed home to find that Matt had power but I did not. I braved the cold in my apartment for one more night but when I woke up Saturday morning freezing in my own bed, I knew I had to get out of there. I grabbed my things and headed over to Matt’s place Saturday morning; and I’m still there as I write this post.

Its certainly been an interesting weekend. You may be wondering why I labeled this post part 2 of 2. Well, there is another crazy Seattle disaster story I’ve been meaning to retell here which I haven’t gotten around to yet. I will try to do that soon though. It involved me, a plane, and a lot of white stuff.

Stranger than Dry Weather

Monday, December 11th, 2006
forecast

It’s always so encouraging to look at the weather forecast and see a week of rain coming your way. That’s just a little taste of the typical Seattle winter week. There are still plenty of things to do to keep busy though. Last Friday I attended the Leopard Tech Talk by Apple on the latest developer tools and features of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5 a.k.a. Leopard. I’m particularly looking forward to being able to use Dashcode to help with some Dashboard development I might be doing in the near future. Also, while sitting in one of the sessions, I had an idea for a widget that is such a no-brainer that I have no idea how I didn’t think of it until now. I’ll tell you all about it if I actually get around to finishing it.

This weekend I saw the movie Stranger than Fiction which I thought had looked interesting since the first time I saw the trailer. Although I wouldn’t call the film revolutionary, it is at the very least a little different than most of the drivel in theaters today. It is a fun little story about a non-descript IRS agent Harold Crick, played by Will Ferrel, who is a character in a book being written by a famous author. One day he starts hearing the author’s voice in his head as she narrates the story of his life “accurately, and with a better vocabulary”. Turns out that Harold is not just a character in the unfinished book, but a real person. I won’t spoil the rest of the plot for you but suffice to say that while it was enjoyable, I think the original book ending would have suited the movie better as well.

Oh and speaking of Hollywood drivel, a blog called Drivl has a post about ten things that software code does in movies that it never does in real life. I love this list because it points out how the computer interaction in most movies is so very silly. My favorite of course is #9: “People who write code use mice”. For years, running on decades now, computer users in films and television have been banging away frantically at keyboards while performing all manner of tasks that would be impossible or extremely difficult to accomplish without the aid of a mouse or other pointing device. CSI agents touching up photos using their keyboard? Not likely. I guess clicking a mouse is not as dramatic as banging away on a keyboard.

Snowshoeing in Snoqualmie

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Hey there! I’ve been out of town and doing lots of stuff so I expect to post a barrage of content over the next week or two about all that. For now, working in reverse-chronological order, let’s explore the ancient art of snowshoeing.

Last week some of the guys at work suggested we go snowshoeing and since it was an outdoor activity I had yet to try, I could hardly turn them down. I went to REI for the first time to gear up and rent the snowshoes. REI is an interesting place; I had no idea it was a consumer co-op. I’m a member now, yay.

Then we got up on Saturday at a weekday-like 8am to head out to the Snoqualmie area in search of the Gold Creek Trail. Lucky for us, the road to get to the trail was snowed in so we ended up snow-shoeing up to the trailhead rather than starting there.

Snowshoeing is definitely a cool way to go hiking in the winter and reach areas you normally couldn’t on foot. On the other hand, dragging around metal extensions attached to already heavy hiking boots is not on my ankles’ favorite list of things to do at this point. So while I had a great time exploring the area with the guys, I won’t be snowshoeing every weekend hereafter.

Photos of our Snoqualmie snowshoeing trip are posted in my fancy new self-hosted gallery.

I guess this is as good a time as any to mention that between all the activity, the site changed hosts from 1&1 (those chumps gave me three free years of hosting!) to Dreamhost.

Introducing ThankYou Travel Rewards by Expedia

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Expedia + ThankYou Network

This is it, it is finally here… today is the big day. Expedia.com introduces their travel rewards program in conjunction with Citi’s ThankYou Network. This program was over a year in the making and a result of the hard work of many people in both groups (myself included).

Here is what you want to know about this program and the ThankYou Network in general:

  • Starting today, you can earn ThankYou Points for booking hotels, vacation packages, cruises, and activities on Expedia.com. Depending on what you book you get 1-2 points per dollar spent. You earn these points no matter how you pay for the travel!
  • You still earn the loyalty points you normally would from the airline, hotel, or car suppliers.
  • If you make the booking using an eligible Citi credit card, you earn another 1 point per dollar spent plus a point for every mile you fly.

So for example you book a flight+hotel trip for two from New York to Las Vegas that costs you $1400 on a Citi PremierPass credit card. You could earn upwards of 6,500 ThankYou Points for just that one booking!

Then you can redeem your ThankYou Points for all kinds of things including gift cards, gifts, and most importantly, more travel. There are no blackout dates for the travel redemptions and no tricky rules. The Travel Rewards portion of the ThankYou Network site is powered by Expedia and is what I have spent most of my first 15 months at Expedia working on.

You need to be a ThankYou member to sign in to the site and see what I’ve built but it is free and easy to join so, what are you waiting for? Go sign up for your free ThankYou Network account now!

I’ll include the press release after the jump and also post my personal thoughts about working on the program later…

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Vancouver Fireworks Show “Celebration of Lights”

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Back at the beginning of August, Anurag, Rodney, and I drove up to Vancouver to meet up with some more folks and check out the final night of Vancouver’s “Celebration of Lights” fireworks competition. The team representing Mexico was performing that night, plus the grand finale to close out the show.

The show takes place by English Bay, but they really should have called it Crazy-Rude-People’s Bay. Everyone who wants to see the show goes to sit at the beach on the bay. Now we’re not talking just a few hundred people here; there was probably tens of thousands of people there to check out the event. There were no open areas; the place was just crammed full of people sitting on towels and tarps on the sandy beach. Part of our group had arrived early and saved a spot for us very close to the water. All we had to do was get to them and we would have a place to sit and enjoy the show.

This was easier said than done since apparently the crazy Canucks at the event thought they were sitting in a VIP box at a stadium instead of an ultra-crowded beach filled with thousands of people trying to enjoy a free show. Groups of people would refuse to move the slightest bit to let us pass and get to our friends. Two girls got real cheeky when I tried to get by them and started screaming and cursing; one of them even threw her sandal at me.

Despite the barrage of footwear, and narrowly avoiding a fight after being mistaken for some guy who trampled a little girl, we did in fact finally get to our group and took our seats. The show put on by the group from Mexico was arguably the most impressive fireworks display I have ever seen. Lucky for me I don’t have to stumble over words to describe the show to you; you can just watch some of it below. I took a few two-minute clips of it on my digital camera and strung them together to make the video you see here.

I was also lucky since I happened to go to the show the night that the winning team performed (there were four nights/teams).

Back in Berzerkeley

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

As promised in my last post, I took my first trip back to the Bay Area and Berkeley last week. I almost didn’t make it but some last-minute heroic driving on the part of myself and the airport parking shuttle driver saved the day. The football team apparently heard about my visit because they gave me a great “homecoming” gift: a 49-21 clobbering of Arizona State that was way more lop-sided that the score even shows. Ara and Geoff helped sneak me into the student section (shhh… don’t tell, plus the Chancellor snuck in too!) and we were cheering, yelling, helping people crowd-surf, avoiding falling, doing card stunts, and generally having a blast while our team put on a football clinic on offense, defense, AND special teams. We *may* also have had a part in the never-ending “Wave” that kept going around Memorial Stadium for about 5 minutes. Thank you Cal Bears. The memory of that painful game in Knoxville is almost erased. Beat Oregon next week and we shall never speak of it again.

Picture of me thinking I could beat the 2-second auto-timer on the camera
Picture of Ara and me with the 10-second timer

Besides the game I got a chance to see some (but not all unfortunately) of my friends that are still in the area. After a fun impromptu get-together at my brother’s pad we grabbed some Top Dog while Ara rested on the futon. I had my childhood favorite of course, a Bratwurst. Other eateries I had the pleasure of visiting were
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Busy Times Call for a Break

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

I haven’t spoken much (at all?) about my work here for a number of reasons. I will have something big to share about a project I have been working on since my third week at Expedia soon.

That said, I have been very busy the last few weeks trying to push a project out the door that was under tight deadlines and important to stake-holders. My work on it is pretty much coming to an end however and it is perfect timing in that regard. That’s because tomorrow night I will be heading back to Berkeley for the first time since I graduated over a year ago.

Next week I will be at the EECS Career Fair doing some recruiting for Expedia on campus, followed by a day of interviews. I’ll be in town before that though in order to catch the home football game vs Arizona State and catch up with friends that are still in the area. Oh, and to eat at all my favorite food places like Top Dog, Fat Slice, HOPR, and In N Out of course!

So this is a heads up to any Berkeley CS-type people who are interested in internships or jobs. Come see us at the Expedia booth for jobs and, of course, the real reason anyone goes to career fairs: the cool swag.

Now, about that Arizona State game…

What you might do in Canada

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Imagine this post is a picture-book of British Columbia, except somehow the words and pictures got separated. Try to follow along.

British Columbia Trip Photos

A couple of months back my mom, grandma, and brother came to visit me up here. I took a couple of days off and decided to make my first venture north of the border. We woke up before the crack of dawn to drive up to Anacortes to catch a ferry that left at 7:45am for Vancouver Island, by way of the San Juans. Our destination was the city of Victoria. As you might guess, there is a slight relation between a city called Victoria and the various “Victorian” things out there like architecture. Although we were in Canada, it felt like we were in a quaint British town near the coast. Or at the very least what I think that should feel like, since I have never been to Great Britain.

The most interesting that happened on Vancouver Island was probably our visit to the Butchart Gardens. There are plenty of photos that Ara and I took at the gardens in the photo gallery. We spent no more than a day and a half on the island. The funniest thing I saw while on the island was this kid with shoes that made a rubber ducky sound with every step she took. Allow me to show you a short clip of what we stood next to for several minutes while checking out a castle.

We left the high tea people in Victoria and took a ferry over to Vancouver.
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March Wrap-Up Part 2

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Photos still apply.

When I last left you Two months ago before an insane period at work, I had spent a weekend with my dad and brother in Seattle. The next Thursday I flew down to LA…

It had been my mom’s birthday a few days earlier and my aunt had told my mom she was planning a trip to Palm Springs that weekend for her birthday. What my mom didn’t know was that my aunt and I were planning the whole thing together for weeks, and that I was coming down to join them on the trip. Thursday night Ara picked me up from LAX and we headed home. He walked in and said hi and all that and they closed the door while I stayed around the corner where my mom could not see me. After a minute or two I went ahead and knocked on the door and my mom opened it. The look on her face was priceless. She was so shocked that I had made it that she was speechless; could not utter a complete sentence. I of course had a huge smile on my face and I gave her a big hug.

I had a giant cut of filet mignon at LG’s Prime Steakhouse which was excellent. I also got to see how Ceasar dressing was made. Who knew there was a raw egg in there? Most people freak when I tell them I eat raw egg in goglie. Man, I haven’t had that in a long time, I miss it.

Okay that’s enough wrap it up here.