Friday, December 29, 2006

chili

Today over lunch at d.b.a. we discussed different chili recipes. My favorite is still black bean chili with masa harina, this is a recipe I've sort of made up a while ago from various recipies I've tried in the past.

2 Tbs. ancho chili powder
2 Tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. coriander
1 can black beans (goya works fine)
1 28 oz can of whole tomatos (or you could use crushed or whatever)
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbs. masa harina

  1. chop up the onion and garlic cloves, put it in a pot with some olive oil & cook for a few minutes
  2. add chili powder, cumin, coriander
  3. add black beans (drain off some of the extra water first if there's a lot in the can)
  4. stir
  5. add tomatos
  6. stir, bring to a boil over medium high heat
  7. let it boil for about 5 minutes then lower heat to low
  8. cook at least 30 minutes, but you can leave it on low heat for much longer if you need to
  9. 5 minutes before serving, mix in masa harina to thicken, stir until it thickens

Saturday, December 23, 2006

ice skating

Kate went ice skating for the first time yesterday, in the cutest teensy hockey skates. I had to hold her upright the whole time, but by the end her feet were only sliding out from under her every 3 seconds instead of every .0000001 seconds. Progress!!

Afterwards, we went over to Fosterfields to say Merry Christmas to the animals. Calvin and Hobbes (the Belgian draft horses) came over to say hello when we got there, and Hobbes decided that my scarf was dinner and tried to eat it. So I got horse slobber all over my shoulder. blech. But he's a cute guy so we forgave him. Their coats are really thick for winter already! Then it was time for all the animals to get dinner- the two farmers walked Calvin and Hobbes into their stable, rounded up the 3 cows (Calico was more interested in saying hi to us than going inside), and collected the turkeys. Kate said hello to the cat (named B.C. for barn cat) and all the chickens and roosters. We didn't stay around while the sheep were fed, but they were all clustered at the gate waiting their turn when we left.

When we got home, we made Red Velvet cupcakes for Ana's first birthday. Yum!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

so that's how you do it

From a Wall Street Journal book review of Citizen Marketers:

"The key was the more recent development known as Web 2.0. Powered by XMA, a computer language that makes it easy to merge data from any number of sources, Web 2.0 has transformed the Net from what was largely a platform for micropublishers to a free-floating community forum that encourages multimedia participation by anyone with a broadband connection."

Aha. So nice to learn that I haven't been writing multi-tiered database backed websites with AJAX web frontends and RSS/Atom feeds, I've just been doing XMA. ;-)

ps the article is over here if you have a wsj.com login

Friday, December 15, 2006

Javascript and XSRF

XSRF (or CSRF) stands for "Cross Site Request Forgery" and is a class of website application vulnerabilities. It's a fancy term for a fairly simple "exploit" -- really, I think exploit is far too fancy for this. Let's say that I'm logged into Blogger, writing this blog post, and I have a few other Safari tabs opened at the same time. My browser has blogger cookies that are "active" - when I send a HTTP request from my browser to blogger.com, the cookies that go along with it will match up with my current blogger session.

So now let's image that blogger has a form on its site for removing your blog. If you submit the form, you might post to "blogger.com/deleteblog?delete=true" or something along those lines, and your blog would be gone. If my friend decided that I'd been posting far too many annoying blog posts about Declan and wanted to nuke my blog, he might set up a page on his web site that has this HTML code on it:

<img src="http://blogger.com/deleteblog?delete=true">

He would then send me a link to the page, or post a comment on my blog- anything to get me to load the page that contains that image tag. When my browser loads that page, it would try to fetch that image by sending a GET request to blogger.com. And if I was still logged into my blogger account in another tab, it would send along my blogger cookies. So blogger would see a request to delete a blog, with my blogger cookies, and it would... delete my blog.

The generally recommended way to get around this is to also generate a "one time code" to use as a confirmation. Blogger would create a hard-to-guess token, and insert this code into its "Delete Your Blog" form:

<input type="hidden" name="secret" value="1234567890SECRET0987654321">

The value, of course, should really be something harder to guess than that code, and a new value should be generated every time that the page was served up. So now blogger will only delete my blog if I post to the "deleteblog" form with the current secret value. If it doesn't match, or is missing, my blog is not deleted.

If javascript did not have the cross-domain restrictions that it has, my friend could insert some javascript into that page he wants me to visit that:
1. create a hidden iframe
2. set the source of that iframe to the blogger "do you want to delete your blog?" page which holds the form (remember, my browser issues that request, so it gets issued to blogger.com with my current cookies)
3. grab the innerHTML of the iframe, regex out the "secret" value
4. set the image to send along my current secret:

<img src="http://blogger.com/deleteblog?delete=true&secret=1234567890SECRET0987654321">

Thankfully, javascript does have cross domain restrictions. My friend can set a hidden iframe on his site to be the blogger "do you want to delete your blog?" page, but he can't access the innerHTML that's returned, so I can continue to post crazy posts about my dog.

However...there's been an explosion in the last 2 years of dynamically generated sites that use javascript, and specifically JSON, to render their sites. What if blogger also generated their site using a ton of javascript, and slipped up and included my secret value inside a javascript file that they would send to my browser to assemble the form? There is no cross domain restriction on scripts included via <script src="http://someothersite.com">

So, in step #2 above, my evil friend would not set an iframe to be the blogger blog deletion page, but would instead set up tag like <script src="http://blogger.com/scripts/secret.js"> and then pull out the secret code. He would then create that image HTML, write it out to the page, and my blog would be gone.

JSON is a great technology, but there are a lot of web developers out there who don't realize how it ties in with vulnerabilities like this one. Think very carefully when building a site about what information to put into a javascript file on your site, and what information you include in a JSON feed from your site.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a flickr xmas gift

Santa Hat!!

the bestest easter egg I've ever seen! Draw a note with the tag "ho ho ho hat" and you get a spiffy xmas hat. wonderful.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas in NYC

Walking down the streets in NYC recently has smelled like walking through a pine forest with all the little Christmas Tree vendors on the sidewalk every few feet. I keep forgetting to bring a camera to take a few pictures of them before they all disappear.

Last week I also went ice skating in Bryant Park, and hopefully I'll make it up there a few more times before the rink closes at the end of December. I've been madly trying to fit in lots of Christmas-in-NYC things this season; I know that I'll have other Christmases here but it's still tempting to try to get to everything right away! Here are some things that I probably won't be doing, though:
  1. Radio City Christmas show - too expensive, and I'd rather wait for Kate to be a little older so she could enjoy it
  2. Going to a performance of Messiah - might be semi interesting, but I don't know if I'd sit still that long
  3. Skating at Rockefeller Center - the Bryant Park rink is much nicer

Monday, November 27, 2006

thanksgiving hacks

Having just cooked a two Thanksgiving dinners, I thought I would blog a few Useful Thanksgiving Hacks.
Turkey: Turkeys are actually easy to cook.
1. remove turkey from whatever packaging it came in.
2. Remove neck and other icky pieces from inside it and toss them
3. use a nice turkey roasting dish
4. rub the entire turkey with butter, shake some salt & pepper over it
5. toss about 6 bay leaves into the turkey cavity
6. put it in the oven at about 350
7. set a timer for 45 minutes
8. when the timer goes off, pull out the turkey. use tongs to flip it (easier than using those crazy turkey forks) and re-butter the entire bird
9. put it back in, re-set the time
10. when the breast & wings start getting very crispy, cover them in aluminum foil
11. cook, flipping & re-buttering every 45 minutes, until it's at 165F in the breast
Gravy: create a roux by putting 2 tablespoons of butter into a pan, and adding some flour. stir it around & mash it up. add some chicken stock and turkey juice. if you need to thicken it, make more roux in a new pan, then move the gravy to that new pan & stir well.
Timeline: the hard part of making a thanksgiving dinner is time management. Here's mine:
1. start the turkey
2. cook some veggies that can be microwaved at the end (sweet potatos, green beans)
3. prepare some biscuit dough that can sit in a fridge
4. make some mashed potatos, leave them sitting over a double boiler on low with a lid on them
5. when the turkey is done, pop the biscuits in the oven
6. make gravy, have someone warm veggies in microwave
7. when gravy and biscuits are done, serve

Friday, November 17, 2006

working from a browser

Web Worker Daily asks how you know when you're a web worker today. My answer is easy, it came the other day in a discussion about replacing my work powerbook possibly with a macbook. I expressed my needs for a work computer as (1) runs a web browser and can ssh (2) can do EVDO (3) light as possible. That pretty much sums up all I need to do my job. I guess coffee helps too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

when I learned what XSS is

Here's another old Amazon history post. February, 2000- I'd had Declan for barely over a month, and I remember being outside with him, walking around our parking lot, on a rather sunny day. (It's never sunny in Seattle in February, that's why I particularly remember this.) I was the oncall frontend QA- basically, if we had to do an emergency content push to the onlines, I would be the one checkpoint. Small responsibility for a 22 year old. My pager went off, I went in, and logged into my computer, and read the problem. It linked to CERT Advisory On Malicious HTML Tags on slashdot. That was the birth of XSS.

I spent the next several hours testing pushes for every single page on the site that echoed back user input. On a site like amazon, you can imagine what that was like- I seem to recall that a lot of my time was frantically deleting pages from my pager because it kept running out of space for stored messages. Thankfully I worked with some great people, I remember farming out a lot of the testing to Jason, who was still really a newbie at that time. This is one of my starkest memories: we had the slashdot article on this open, and would reload over and over again reading the comments as more vulnerable sites were found, more exploits related to this came to light. The comments are still an interesting read today.

It took a few days for me to wrap my head around what this bug was, at the time I was just trying to test with the sample input we had, without totally following the complete theory of what we were doing. To be fair, I doubt anyone that understood that. I can talk a lot now about filtering vs escaping, why I love <plaintext>, and so on, but that day was more about survival mode. Lots of fun, though, and another insane amazon experience that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

30 degrees & RFID interference

This is a "I need to investigate something" note to myself. I've read lots of interesting stuff on RFID theft (schneier on security covers skimming today), it's something that's fascinating- I wonder if the person who invented the "tin foil hats" meme years ago could possibly have predicted tin foil wrapped passports. However, I have 3 proxcards on a chain that I carry around every day. When I need to scan one, I have to take the particular card that I want to read and either flip it out almost perpendicular to the other cards, or fan it out (as if I was holding some playing cards in my hand) so that there's about a 30 degree angle between the card I want and the others. Holding the cards stacked up on top of each other- as they usually are on the chain- means that none of them will scan. I think this must be some kind of radio wave interference, and I wish I knew the physics behind it. One more thing to look up some weekend. I really wonder why 30ish degrees is the magic angle.

a found morning

My ancient ipod finally died this weekend (almost 4 years old, it lasted longer than many laptops), so I decided to make a small trip to the 5th Ave apple store on Monday to trade in the old one- that store is open 24 hours, so I could stop off before work. When I tried getting into the 123 line from Penn, it was a mad zoo, and jampacked with people. No one was moving, I could hardly make it through the turnstiles (no idea why I went through them, I should have turned around, but I wasn't fully caffinated yet). In any event, once I squeezed though and saw that two trains were sitting on the local and express tracks, going no where, the station attendent made a very crackily announcement, of which I made out something on the lines of "trains stuck at 42nd st" - I think. It was really unclear, but I got the idea no trains in this station were going to help me out any time soon. I decided to give up on my $2 fare and hike to Herald Square for a NRW. Once outside, it was warm, and almost sunny. And gorgeous. A complete "I love this city" morning, so I walked over to 5th and hiked up 5th to the Apple Store. I hadn't walked up 5th in ages, so it was a nice break- I noticed Saks and Lord & Taylor were all set up for Christmas (already!). Sadly, I found out later that the reason why I took that walk was that someone was killed by the 1 train, which gave sort of a sad twist to my found morning of NYC bliss. I still can't get over how lucky I've been, getting to be in NYC every day. What a gorgeous, incredible city.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Boo!


Halloween
Originally uploaded by wck.

Yesterday I went trick or treating with Ana and Kate -it was really warm! It was the first time I'd gone trick or treating with them, I mostly held Ana while she played with the glow-stick attached to her jacket.

With the recent warm spell, my cosmos FINALLY bloomed. Or... one bud did. Took long enough. I took a picture of a cosmos in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, I'll post that shortly.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Boston Picks

Swan boatI've needed to write this post for ages, my favorite places to go in Boston, to give to people who are going up there for the first time. These are just places that I love to go, and not at all "What tourists should see in Boston" definitive kind of list. Heavily slanted towards food, because I love eating.
  1. Mike's Pastry for cannollis and other Italian desserts

  2. Toscanini's (One in Central Square, and one in Harvard Square) for great ice cream flavors

  3. Newbury and Boylston Street shopping

  4. Trident Bookstore and Cafe on Newbury St

  5. A walk down Charles St (great little shops, and there's an excellent pizza store along it called Upper Crust), then walking up to Louisburg Square

  6. Boston Public Garden

  7. Walk along the Esplanade, which is a waterfront park. It runs from the Longfellow Bridge to Harvard Bridge. Actually, you can keep going down to the BU bridge, switch to the Cambridge side, and complete the loop on Storrow Drive to Longfellow bridge, but that's LOOONG. Along the Esplanade, you can see the Hatch Shell and watch all the sailboats in the Charles River Basin.

  8. walk down the Infinite Corridor at MIT: go to 77 Mass Ave. walk up the stairs. walk straight ahead, and all the way down the hallway. If you don't know the MIT campus well, you might then want to turn around and go back the way you came, or risk getting kind of lost

  9. Walk down Commonwealth Avenue in the evening on a sunny day

  10. Walk Central Square to Harvard Square

  11. In Harvard Square, walk around the Harvard campus a bit

  12. Also in Harvard Square, go to the Fogg Art Museum (free on Saturday mornings until noon)

  13. Go to Peet's coffeehouse in Harvard Square

  14. Go to the great little gourmet store across the street from the Curious George store in Harvard Square. I think it might be called Cardulo's

  15. In Back Bay, go to the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. My favorite art museum in the world.

Friday, September 22, 2006

cameron!

Cameron finally decided to let me take some pictures of him two weeks ago, and I'm finally getting around to posting a picture. He's such a serious little guy, unlike Declan he probably could really take care of some sheep. (Declan would be useless, unless the sheep were red dots.)

Cameron

Also up on flickr is one of him with Declan, sitting on the front steps. They like to wait at the top of the stairs with their little paws hanging over the top step, to welcome everyone home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Savannah

A while ago, I posted about asking my grandpa about which boat he was on in WWII. He was on the Savannah where he operated the radar used by the ships guns. Now I have to write down all the great stories he's told me about the boat, or at least bring over a tape recorder and ask him to re-tell them to me.

Green

I've been reading the new web worker daily blog recently with a lot of interest, as they have some nice posts about working from anywhere. It's my favorite thing about the dotcom world in general- I'm sitting on a train with a laptop and an EVDO card and getting more work done than I often do in my office. Even there, though, I'm often not at my official desk. So my office is my messenger bag- has my cellphone, powerbook, headphones, water bottle, sweatshirt, and laptop charger. That would be a full office kit for me. I love the freedom to work anywhere that the laptop and EVDO give me. I've gotten very spoiled very quickly.

Last week I bought a new timbuk2 messenger bag in olive/lime green/white. The "olive" shade is actually exactly the same green as my green pebl. Since I love this shade so much, I'm thinking of getting one of the new green ipods, which is also this nice shade of green. Hmmm. (The other choices I'd go for are pink or black.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years later

penn station Today was the 5th anniversary of 9/11. I vividly remember waking up at 6 AM in Seattle five years ago, and logging into a Seattle news website to see a photo of the first plan hitting the tower. I spent most of that morning sitting on the sofa, watching what happened. I'd been to the twin towers a few times, but not since I was in high school. But I'd been in NYC just 3 months before, visiting the Met with my cousins. Somehow, I knew that day that I really was going to move to NYC one day. So five years later, having just come back, I'm so glad that I did. I love New York.

No one mentioned the anniversary today, other than discussing the short evacuation in Penn Station this morning, which happened right when I arrived. I snapped this picture right before I got on a train to go home.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Omakase Crime Stoppers!

Bandon's dad, one of the Omakase developers, sent me this link this morning. Who knew that an adserver could help uncover something like this!

Exposure or Exploitation? Mark Cuban's HDNet releases performance DVDs without telling local and national artists -- Is it the price of promotion or an abuse of creative rights?

From the article, here's how this all was uncovered:
In fact, we only found out about the existence of the DVD’s by sheer chance. Mike was testing a new contextual ad unit from Amazon on TexasGigs, and it pulled up ads for the video of the Cunniff benefit. And then, in the course of searching around for more information, we found episodes of True Music available as paid downloads on Google Video.

Based on the heavy use of local bands, we then sought to get some info on the series from HDNet and the bands involved for what we thought was a simple story about cool DVDs of local bands hitting the market.

The problem was that when we contacted bands for information, we got one of two answers:

“What?

or

“What the hell?”

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Where is NJ?

A handy Penn Station hack that I learned today from a NJ Transit conductor. If you want to find the front of a NJ Transit train when you're boarding from the platform, turn to put your right shoulder closest to an even numbered track. You're then facing the front (for NJT - the LIRR, I believe, uses the other side as the "front"). This is super handy because I often run down a random staircase in Penn Station, end up disoriented, and take a moment to find a "New Jersey ^" sign to orient myself.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

mom & her family


mom & her family
Originally uploaded by wck.

I recently discovered a nifty feature of my scanner. I can scan tiny photos from my grandparents' photo album and get pretty decent largish scans from them. This was a roughly 3" x 4" photo originally but the scan came out really nicely. So that's my mom and my uncle and two of my aunts, as kids.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

summer in NJ

Things that I have not done this week because it's been too hot: go sailing, fertilize my vegetable garden, walk to B&H (right behind Penn Station, geesh I'm lazy) for more film, take the shuttle to Grand Central for the food court.
Things that I'm doing in the coming days: getting my car's bumper repaired, getting a haircut, going to a conference, and hopefully all of the above.

My commute has been lots of fun this week, as I've been download Mythbusters episodes from the iTunes store. Of course then I have to try not to laugh on the crowded train on the way in, I failed at that three times this morning (I watched the cell phone gas station episode). This evening, I'm going out to dinner with Kate and Ana, the second time in a week! The weather is nice today for an outside meal.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

babysitting the baby geek

I'm babysitting Kate tonight, and she was quite the teeny geek girl this evening. First, when I walked in the door after getting home from work, she said "oooh, I like your black google shirt!" I asked her how she knew it was a google shirt (so far as I know, she doesn't read yet, although she can do her ABCs). She said "I have a google shirt too, it's white." Which is true, I gave her a tiny toddler size t-shirt, but I'm suprised she picked out the logo on both.

Then we sat down and watched the new homestar runner. She likes Strong Bad. But only after I take the privacy filter off my laptop. When she sits down on the sofa in front of my powerbook, if it's on, she points to the screen and tells me to take it off. After that, we went to maisy to read an online book and play games. After that, Kate wanted some Miffy. "I don't know, Kate..." I started to say. She looked at me & said "You have Miffy in your computer, you have everything." Heh. Three years old, and she understands the internet. Pretty good.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Umbrellas

It's been rainy in NYC for 2 days, another opportunity to ponder all the umbrellas in this city. When I was walking to Penn Station this evening, it was raining - not misting, but not very heavy. In Seattle, there would be maybe one or two umbrellas out, but here everyone had umbrellas. I had to be careful not to get poked in the eye walking down the sidewalk. I didn't think the rain really justified that many umbrellas, but it was kind of neat to see a long sea of umbrellas running down the sidewalks, touching each other, all moving towards Penn Station. Then I got there and discovered that it was a zoo-- all the trains on Standby, hundreds of people packed around the monitors-- so I got a smoothie & a WSJ & retreated back to my sofa. Getting squished into a 2 hour late standing room only wet train with hungry and tired commuters for 70 minutes is not my idea of fun.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Grand Central Terminal

I had a very short post-work amble today (my leg, which was mostly recovered in early May, didn't deal well with all the exploring I've been trying to do). I walked through Bryant Park, then headed over to Grand Central Market even though I was stuffed from dinner. I love walking through the Market, and this time I stopped at the chocolate stop. I was thinking of buying some salad as well, but I was afraid it would go bad before I'd eaten it. Instead, I just admired all the veggies and cheeses and fish. Yummy just to look at.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mats

I took two pictures today that I wanted to post to flickr, but I sadly left the cable that connects my camera to my ibook back in NJ. Ack. If only my camera had bluetooth or wifi! One was of the Empire State Building on my walk to work this morning. I was standing out on the edge of 5th Avenue waiting for a break in the cars so that I could jaywalk across, and I looked up, and noticed it was really nicely lit by morning sunlight. On my tiny preview screen it looks like a nice photo, but it's stuck on the camera until I get ahold of my cable again. And I'm really seriously thinking about getting EVDO. I need to do a little more research on it, and try to figure out if it works out in northern NJ. My GSM cellphone doesn't work too well out there, so coverage might be pretty spotty.

I found a blogpost on how to cut mats for your artwork today. It's a great, clear guide. It also gave me flashbacks to Jewett at 4 AM the night before a project was due, attempting to cut my own mats. I don't know how I graduated with all my fingers attached, because exhausted college students and mat cutters are a bad mix. I usually prefer to buy pre-cut mats from Target these days.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Quotable Geeks

I collected a few goofy emails and quotes over my years at amazon, and here are some of my sharable favorites. There are a few which I love more, but I can't really post here. If you know me, you know which ones they are anyway. So...

"I don't think my ego has ever been more bruised. Imagine, being mocked by developers. Shouldn't I be taking your lunch money?" --A non-technical good friend, circa 2001ish

"Correct. The first set of numbers is an order id. Walk softly over the rice paper Grasshopper." --Alan

"The Fantastic Four is such a rip off of The Incredibles!" --Jonathan

Jon: "So this is SOL?" James: "Give or take."

John: "Let's reinvent the wheel." Jon: "Our wheels have to be upside down."

"Good morning Japan!" --David, 3:24 PM JST

"Let's replace the working software with Folgers Crystals!" --Scott

(after my friend's dog, Bandon, ran away...) "Thanks for all who helped look for Bandon. FWIW, he was where we suspected: smoking a cigarette, playing poker in the basement of the parking garage." --Greg

books

One of the things that I want to do when I get back to NJ is to ask my grandpa the name of the ship that he was on during WWII. Kicked off by finally reading a few more of my books on Bletchley Park (I've been mildly obsessed with it since college), I've been tearing through a bunch of WWII history books. In the last few days I've finished An Army at Dawn, The Liberation of Paris, Enigma: Battle for the Code, Codebreakers: The Inside Story of Bletchley Park, Codebreaker's Victory and Finest Hour. The Liberation of Paris I turned up in a used bookstore up on Capitol Hill, and read a few pages of it standing in the stacks. It's a very quick read- I think it took me all of 4 hours, with breaks, to go through it.

I also have Combined Fleet Decoded here, it's next on my list (and From Fish to Colussus on my amazon wishlist, which I might end up buying myself). Out of all of these, An Army at Dawn and The Liberation of Paris have been my favorites. An Army at Dawn has its own website and is supposed to be the first of three books on WWII campaigns. Hopefully the next two will be as engaging. The website just says they "will be published in the coming years".

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pop Conference

emplive.org - Visit - Education - Pop Conference: "The 2006 Experience Music Project Pop Conference-Seattle - April 27 - 30, 2006" It's the annual Pop Music conference at EMP this weekend. I'm going to try to make it over on Saturday, as a bunch of the panels sound interesting.
I'm trying to find some new songs to download from the iTunes store tonight, but nothing really looks interesting. I wish they had better recommendations, although honestly, my amazon recs are never terribly great for discovering "just been released by a new artist" stuff either. I have lots of thoughts on music recommendations and the new (to me) artist problem that might best be summed up by "I wish there was a way to make a taste template and then match new songs against that." Lots of work has been done in lots of places to define what a "taste template" might be, but I've never seen one that really works. For instance, I love hip hop, but how do I describe the songs that I love and the songs that make me switch the radio station? What attributes do I rank Ride on against Slowdive against Curve, and what of those attributes make me not like a lot of newly released shoegazing?

On a less geeky note, remember the feeling you'd get in grade school the night before the last day of school? Ahhh bliss. Summer vacation never really quite lived to what you might have hoped it would be like, and you knew it, but right before it started was always the greatest time. I liked it even better than Christmas or my birthday. So, I haven't felt this way since I was about 10, and I'm loving it.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Drambuie Cocktails

Traditional Scottish Recipes - Drambuie Cocktails: Warm Woolly Sheep
1 measure Scotch whisky
1 1/2 measure Drambuie
Fill with warm Milk
Mix Scotch and Drambuie, top with warm milk.

I always drink my Drambuie either straight up, or by putting a few drops of it on top of a small glass of scotch. I'm half tempted to try this one, though; I can't even imagine what warm milk and scotch would taste like.

Today I decided that I'm moving back to the east coast. I'll be just shy of 7 years at amazon- 7 years which felt like 6 months. I feel like I just launched the Kitchen store last month, web services last week, and blinked and then here I am. So here is my favorite amazon memory... in summer 2002, Russell got me to sign up for his broomball team. It was Jeff Bezos's team, made up of a bunch of people from various parts of the company. I'd played on Jeff's team before (I got a compilment from him on my creative goal tending skills one year when I sat down on the ball to stop it from being pushed over the goal line), and always one of the big problems was coordinating everyone out on the field. So we decided to hold a practice game out on the south lawn after work. It was an amazing August evening- sunny, warm, just beautiful. I went out and helped tape up some broomball sticks. Then we assembled on the grass and split the team in two. Jeff was out there with us- I seem to recall he was playing barefoot in his work clothes. I was marginally more sensibly dressed in some running gear. We all faced off, and played an hour of great broomball. At the picnic, we made it to the semi-finals, but didn't win. It was still a ton of fun.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Ugly shoes

My cast is off (yay!) but my foot and leg are still recovering, and pretty sore. I used to walk a lot, and it's hard to keep myself from overdoing it. So I went to a store in Seattle today and asked for a pair of sneakers with tons of padding in the heel. I ended up with a pair of Teva vegan (!!!) sneakers. Here's a link to a pair on zappos:
Teva Romero MT - Technical Terrain Women's Terrain (Heron). Note that this description is dead wrong: "for those that want to look fast even when standing still." However, they do have this: "Encapsulated Shoc Pad™ unit in the heel cup that evenly transfers energy of impact throughout the footbed and away from the heel." They at least work better than my pumas, which have almost no padding at all. I still can't believe I'm wearing shoes this ugly, though.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The NY Times had a reminder today that CS isn't the only field with few women at the top. Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?
We tend to focus a lot on the lack of women in CS, Physics, and other sciences, where women are usually scarce from intro classes all the way through college, grad school, and jobs. Law apparently has a lot of women who enter the field in law school, but only a teensy percentage make it to partner many years later. It's a really interesting look at a familiar problem in an entirely different field. For instance, they call out this:
One of the main bugaboos in this debate — and one that analysts says is increasingly cropping up as an issue for male lawyers as well — is the billable hours regime. Billing by the hour requires lawyers to work on a stopwatch so their productivity can be tracked minute by minute — and so clients can be charged accordingly. Over the last two decades, as law firms have devoted themselves more keenly to the bottom line, depression and dissatisfaction rates among both female and male lawyers has grown, analysts say; many lawyers of both genders have found their schedules and the nature of their work to be dispiriting.
What a different way of working from the dotcom world. We care more about what you produce at the end of day than how much time it took. And keeping track of 7 minute increments would destroy my concentration. Most days I don't even notice the time when I'm writing something until my dog starts poking my knee with his nose to let me know that he really needs a walk.
I have no great ideas on how to increase the number of women in either CS or law, but I did enjoy reading about how another industry grapples with the same problem.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

nerf chaos!

nerf nerf nerf
My office window this morning. (I didn't shoot all those darts at the window, but I did wield the digital camera.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

fuzzy dog

There hasn't been a fuzzy doggy photo in a few days. So here's a fix for that.

Declan

Hamentashen

It's Purim today (or tomorrow? I'm not sure), so I should be making some hamentashen this evening. Esther & I made them for 4 Purims at Wellesley because it was, after all, her holiday. I also remember making them in Redmond with her once, but I somehow think that was in September, not March.

So in a related note, I saw a poster of Matisyahu on the wall in a coworker's office, but I wasn't able to ask him if the album was any good because he's OOTO. (For non dotcommers, that's out of the office, aka being on vacation or just telecommuting from a coffeeshop or something.) I mostly noticed it because I'd listened to a sample of King without a Crown on iTunes this morning. I still have the music store "page" up for the album in iTunes, actually. And I tried highlighting his name to paste into an amazon search box, but iTunes doesn't make the name in the top part of the store window highlightable. I can click it, but not copy/paste. I'm more suprised it took me until now to notice that.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Toppled Crane in Myrtle Edwards park

Wow, not every day something like this happens around the corner from my home.
A 100-ton crane toppled onto railroad tracks near Myrtle Edwards Park this afternoon, delaying freight and passenger routes through the Seattle waterfront area.

--seattle pi article
I left work late, but apparently Belltown was super jammed up because of the closed roads, which rarely ever happens. Traffic in this area is usually 3 cars waiting at a light.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

toddler voicemail

A transcript of a voicemail I got today:
Kate: "Hi Aunt Wendy! Hi Aunt Wendy!"
Heather: "say who it is"
Kate: "Hi Wendy!"
Heather: "tell her who's calling"
Kate: "Hi Wendy!"
Heather: "say it's Kate"
Kate: "where she'd go?"
Heather: "That's her answering machine"
Kate: "What?"
Heather: "We're leaving a message!"
Kate, sounds like she's running away from the phone: "Hi Wendy!"

I listened to it three times, and I kept laughing at it. I love the image of Kate trying to sort out what this "answering machine" thing that ate her aunt is!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

yummy

We went to lunch yesterday at Seven Stars Pepper (43 Places). There were eight of us, and I think I might be able to remember the eight dishes we ended up ordering:
  1. chong gin chicken
  2. house special chicken
  3. hot pepper fish
  4. sizzling rice shrimp special
  5. hand shaven noodles beef chow mein
  6. hand shaven noodles shrimp chow mein
  7. baby bok
    choy and mushrooms
  8. mongolian beef
After a lunch like that, which is like a greatest hits list of my favorite restaurant, every meal for the next week is just ruined right off the bat. We go there often enough that the waitress usually comes over to our table and reels off four dishes that we order a lot and we agree and add one or two more and then maybe get a recommendation for one last dish from her. Thankfully this time we drove down, because walking back up the hill after all that food would have been painful.

I'm at home tonight, listening to music & icing my leg. The airplanes landing at SEA are landing from the north this evening. My apartment has a whole wall of windows facing west, and where I'm sitting, I can see the planes go by, flying the whole length of my windows. One every three or four minutes. They're actually really pretty to watch, flying right over the tops of all the condo towers. (I hesistate to call them "skyscrapers" because those, to me, have to be more than 20 stories tall.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Yesterday's suggested tune from the 365 tunes calendar (authored by matos) was Brighton Rock by Elastica. Just downloaded it from itunes, and it's pretty good. I've also been playing I'm a Cuckoo (Belle & Sebastian) a lot this past week- it's such a sweet little song. So over the last week, I've been collecting things that are unexpectedly tricky to do in a cast, and so here are the first two: change the sheets on my bed (it's against a wall, and it's a big pain to either pull it away from the wall or climb over it to deal with the sheets on that side), and walk down ramps or slanted sidewalks.

Spring has already started to arrive in Seattle. When I took a walk down 1st Ave yesterday, the cherry trees were beginning to bloom. There were buds on the tulips, and a few crocuses out! This weekend has been sunny and mostly warm, one of the weekends when I fall in love with our weather. The Olympics are crisp & sharp & gorgeous, and Mt Rainier even made an appearance.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Elephant Sheltie

mmmm, look what I found in trashcan!

My dog, the yogurt fan. I've been meaning to post this for a while.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

more old, old photos

heather & dave

heather & dave

heather & dave

heather & dave

heather & dave

heather & dave

The last few days, I've been thinking a little about the quote below about the editing that photographers do when they frame an image. As it turns out, I've had a lot of time to look at pictures today with that in mind. I'm in a walking cast, and I've figured out that "walking cast" really means "hop around slowly cast." So in search of interesting things to do from my sofa while I'm icing my leg, I pulled out my negative scanner and went to work on my stacks of negatives from college.

I love this set. All the pictures above were taken on my little sister's first day of college outside my senior year dorm, with her boyfriend- now husband. They look so young! She asked me to take a few pictures of them that day so that she could have some photos to hang up in her dorm room. Looking at this set now though 8 years of experiences, I still see the same faces, but they're couched in different terms now. I keep seeing Kate's face in her dad's smile. Or looking at those trees, I keep remembering the pain I had a few days later in the darkroom, trying to burn in the sky behind the leaves while not overexposing the faces. And while I can't remember now why I clicked the shutter when I did, I do like the end result as a mini portrait of them as a couple. Her face in the last one always makes me smile- I saw that look everytime I annoyed her growing up.

the whole photoset

Sunday, January 29, 2006

old zip disk fun

stapler
I found my old zip disk drive yesterday when I was cleaning up for my party (tons of fun- it was a great time), so this morning, after cleaning up all the glasses in my living room, I plugged it in & pulled out some zip disks that I still have. I found a few scans of images that I took in college, including this one, of me doing some 3-D design homework. Notice that I'm using a stapler and string to do my homework. Very artsy fartsy of me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mennen Ice Skating Hours

For me:
General Admission:
Mornings: 10 am to noon
Tuesday through Friday Afternoons: 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm
Wednesday and Friday evenings: 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Fee Schedule:
Weekdays: $4.00 all ages
Wednesday Daytime Special: $2.00
Evenings and Weekends: $6.00 all ages

Mennen Ice Skating

Monday, January 23, 2006

Geeking with Greg: Early Amazon: Door desks

This is great- Greg is doing a series of posts about old-skool Amazon. Here's his post on door desks:

Geeking with Greg: Early Amazon: Door desks: "In addition to being inexpensive, door desks offered a lot of surface area. Put your computer monitor on top and in barely makes a dent. If Amazon wasn't so bloody cheap, you could have put three more monitors up there. Plenty of space for all of your crap.Ergonomically, door desks leave a lot to be desired. Keyboards were usually too high. Typing for hours could be uncomfortable. And those angle brackets have sharp edges; accidentally scrapping exposed flesh against those was a mistake that wouldn't be repeated.But door desks came to symbolize the Amazon frugal culture. They took on a live of their own. Years later, in 2001, there was a 6.8 magnitude earthquake here in Seattle. We were in a different building by then -- the attractive PacMed building up on Beacon Hill above downtown Seattle -- but we still had our door desks. And I can't tell you how happy we were to have that door desk over our heads as the building shuttered and swayed around us."


Door desks are great. I love mine, it's more than 5 feet long, and insanely deep. Add a keyboard tray, and it's perfect. I have three computers on it, all my O'Reilly books, a coffeemaker, and there's still room to pile up papers and notebooks.

I really enjoyed reading his old amazon memories, so here's one of mine... I was hired in Dec 1998, but I still had a semester of college to finish up. So come May 1999, I began to think about my waiting job in Seattle. I sent my manager-to-be an email, telling him I was going to go out to Seattle for a week in May, to apartment hunt, and asking if I could stop by and say hello. He invited me to come by and meet everyone while I was there.

So I flew to Seattle, carrying a small thermos with water which held my fish, Puck. My friend- who worked at Microsoft- was going to watch Puck for me for my last few weeks before I moved out. I stayed with her up in Greenlake while I searched Belltown for a cheap apartment. (There were more of those then than there are now.) One day, I walked down to the Columbia Building and met my new teammates. I saw the Bat Cave, where most of the web devs sat. Everyone was using Emacs. I think Bosco showed me how to goof around with the desktops of people who had done "xhost +" by opening crazy windows on their screens. Then I went up and saw Pacmed, where we would soon be moving. And finally, I was invited out to a big lunch with lots of web dev folks, at what is now Dragonfish. That was a great lunch- I tried frantically to remember everyone's name and ingest all the moving-to-Seattle advice I got.

Two days later, I flew back to Boston and graduated. Then I flew back to Seattle, and settled into the apartment I'd found. My plan was to take 3 weeks to unpack and hang out before starting work. But quickly, I was bored doing nothing- I'd unpacked my boxes, I'd seen Star Wars Episode One at the Cinerama twice, and I didn't know what to do with myself. I asked my manager if I could start a little early. That Monday, I took a bus up to Pacmed to my first day as an official web geek. That was June 21, 1999.

We used to have paper badges, so my first day I got a little blue laminated piece of paper with my login on it. I set up my computer, and settled my fish onto my desk. The next day- my first real day of work- an email went out to all the developers. We were about to launch the toy store, and the photographers (who shot images of all the toys that would be on the site) had an emergency! Turns out, all the legos we had to photograph were in boxes. Photographs of boxes of legos are BORING, and so a plea was sent to the geeks of the company. Come assemble legos, and we'll feed you pizza! So my manager and I showed up, ate pizza, and assembled legos. We got our asses kicked by the 6 year old son of one of the PMs, who could assemble lego kits with lightening speed.

The part that killed me was that the toy store was a big secret, so I couldn't tell any of my friends that I had the greatest job ever, programming and putting together legos! After the store launched a few weeks later, I was able to pull up some toys detail pages & show off my creations.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Family Snapshots

I just stumbled over this, Wellesley Art Professor Asks, What Do Your Snapshots Say About Your Family? an interview with my college photography professor, Judy Black. I thought it was fitting, since I'm spending my evening working on the photos of Ana and Kate that I just took last week.

"Photographs look so honest and truthful," she said. "But it all depends: All photos have the problem of interpretation. It's the person taking the picture who's doing the editing, not the camera. If you were writing in a journal or painting a portrait, you would be much more aware of the editing."

Ana and her mom

ConversationMy new niece, Ana, with her mom. Ana is amazingly tiny- and I thought that Kate was small when she was born!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Amazon.com: All Products / vacuum cleaner

Amazon.com: All Products / vacuum cleaner search results

Home & Garden (1239)
Tools & Hardware (1083)
Kitchen & Housewares (1071)
Office Products (809)
Health & Personal Care (796)


My (6.5 year old) vacuum cleaner died tonight. I spilled coffee grinds all over my kitchen and my entryway this evening, and the vacuum cleaner, despite going over and over and over and over them simply isn't picking them up. So, fire up web browser, run an all products search for vacuum cleaner and... see above.

What I really want is a way to find a vacuum cleaner that uses a HEPA filter, isn't too expensive, and has good customer ratings. Good luck finding it from the links above- I don't even know what store to search in. (And yes, those are real vacuum cleaners in the Health & Personal Care store. No idea why they were dropped in there instead of into a slightly more relevant product category.)

I wish that amazon would remember more often that a store is only as good as its product data.

Monday, January 16, 2006

From Time to Time

Last night, I fell in love with Ride's From Time To Time. How do you put a song like this into words?

I didn't pay much attention to it for the first 1:20 when it started playing on my ipod. It starts off nicely, but nothing to blow you away. Then the vocals started, so melodious that it made me look up from the book that I was reading and hit the back button to start the song over again. Then sitting for another 1:20, listening closer. "On a perfect day....I know that angels come from time to time...." An endless loop of swirly guitar. Sublime. Allmusic.com calls it a Vapour Trail, part II, but right now, I love the sweet hooks in this song a million times more. Vapour Trail, for me, never breaks out of its pretty shell, stays too distant. From Time to Time feels more intimate, closer and open. Falling into the opening chords now, looping over and over, it's so gorgeous.

The shock of a song that I must have heard hundreds of times reaching up and biting into my consciousness is easily the biggest reason why I love music. I was reading a moment before; not paying any real attention to what I was listening to. Maybe that inattention was what it needed to push itself up so that I would finally hear it. I know I've played it, sung along to it, before- OX_4 has for months been on high rotation on my car's CD player- but I never actually noticed this one song in the mess of great shoegazing on that album. Getting called to attention by a hook that I'd never expected, falling in love with a new bit of song, happens so rarely- I can remember almost every individual time it's happened to me, when I've scrambled to turn up a volume knob, jammed in earbuds tighter so I can hear what just slipped past in a moment.

Fuzzy brain

While I was in NJ, meeting Annika and shoveling out from Saturday night's snowstorm, Declan was at my friend's home with Bandon. At some point in the weekend, my friend came back from walking the shelties, and stepped out of the elevator into his building's hallway and unleashed both boys. He walked up to his front door, opened it, and went in after Bandon, then shut the door. Leaving Declan out in the hallway. About 10 minutes later, he heard Declan barking in response to Bandon's barking.... from the hallway. He opened the door, and Declan was standing right outside the door. Only my crazy sheltie would spend 10 minutes, standing at a closed door, waiting for the person inside to remember that he was stuck out there. I heard this story on the way back to Belltown from SEA last night- I had to give Declan a big hug for being so dumb (or so super smart?) that he didn't walk off & lose himself in the building.

Also, since this is Seattle and a fairly warm January, I just bought a really gorgeous new pair of red sandals! I've liked Chacos leather sandals for a while, and I just got a pair of Chaco Maria's that was on sale. They have super cushy soles, so they'll be great for walking to work this summer. My commute is a 1.9 mile walk- down one hill and then up another, so it's a good workout both directions. I'm always searching for pretty shoes that I can walk that distance in, since I don't so much like to wear sneakers everyday. Can't wait to break these in!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

off to meet annika

I'm packing tonight, to go home & meet my new niece (Kate's little sister), Annika. I keep a lot of clothes in NJ, so my suitcase is going to end up looking a bit weird. In it so far- presents for Kate and Annika (I made sure to pick up some Elmo stickers to bring Kate), a hoodie, two tshirts, socks, my ipod, ipod charger, Palmpilot and charger, cellphone and charger, work laptop, VPN, charger, lots of film, my SLR, a scarf, an apple and some cookies for the flight, and two books to read. I think that puts the electronics to clothes ratio at 2:1, if we count the chargers as their own items. Oh geesh, am I a geek.

My packing music tonight is 2001, which has been in my "top 10 albums of all time" since I first heard it. My favorite track on it these days is Still D.R.E., with Xxplosive right behind it. Soincrediblygood.

Monday, January 09, 2006

American Analog Set

Aha! iTunes has fixed itself, and The Green Green Grass is now downloading. (I wish all bugs were fixed by blogging about them....) Bliss.

Recurring Dream, Crowded House

If I close my eyes when I listen to this album, I'm lying flat on my back, with a pillow on either side of my head. The pillows are next to, instead of under my head, because they are holding bags of frozen peas against my cheeks. My room is kind of dark, and this album is playing through my powerbook's weak speakers, next to my bed. I don't know how many times the album loops, because I have no memory of what I heard three minutes ago. I remember, in quick flashes, my roommate driving me home from getting my wisdom teeth taken out. I think I might remember coming in the front door. I can sort of make out that besides feeling weirdly unconnected to time, I feel fine. I'm just lying there, listening to this album, which I just bought a few days ago and haven't really listened to yet.

So I know it sounds weird to associate an album with getting one's wisdom teeth removed. I just can't break the connection with the songs here. Recurring Dream... I can't really remember why I bought this album. I knew that they had written Don't Dream It's Over. No idea why years after that song was popular I decided to buy their greatest hits album, or why I put it on that evening. I love the songs on it now, though. The harmony, and just the amazing clarity, are gorgeous. I can't hear the opening chords of Weather With You and not immediately want to listen to the whole album. The beginning is the strongest part, but the fall off at the end is relative, the sweetness, and quiet assuredness, of the ending songs are still steps above most other music I've heard.

Since I spent a lot of the weekend listening to that Smithereens album, and I'm listening to this now, I fear I'm falling into a bit of a nostalgia kick. I tried downloading a few songs from American Analog set's new album from iTunes, but their music store is not in a cooperative mood tonight. (Error -5555... why do so many software errors use negative numbers?)

Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story

The Shadowland/Lightroom Development Story - Lightroom is Adobe's answer to Aperture. Very interesting article, with lots of photos inline.

Friday, January 06, 2006

circles

Swimming I need to shoot more black and white film. I think that the last photos that I took in black & white were sometime in April or so. There are two things that will, in my mind, forever look better in black and white than in color- water and skin tones. So here are two of my favorite black and white photos which I hunted out & uploaded to flickr.

Arun and I were talking today about how all of a sudden a couple of us upgraded to flickr pro. They do a great job of getting you addicted to uploading photos to it & looking at pictures there. It's completely usable for free, until you've gotten addicted enough that you want to upload more photos... sneaky sneaky. What a great business plan.

Since I gave in and upgraded, I've been uploading a ton of photos to the site. I figure that I might as well get the full use of my $25, and it's fun to see all the comments that people add. In fact, if I could find the cable to my digital camera, I'd upload some hilarious photos of Declan and Bandon. They've been driving me completely nuts, but some of the pictures of their antics are pretty goofy.

Learning to Walk I love the amazing sense of movement in this picture of Kate learning how to walk. It was so dim in her bedroom (where I took this picture) that I was afraid that I wouldn't capture anything- if I remember, I was only using 200 speed film or something horribly unsuited to taking photos of babies indoors. It worked out well, though, because the small depth of field blurred everything together and made the light- which was just from a lamp or two- come out so diffuse and nice. And all the laundry in the background is great- not only do the socks and whatever on the rug make a nice bouncy border along the right side, but it pushes the picture miles away from being overly posed portraits. Those drive me nuts. Stiffness in photography is one of the worst things to me. I worry way less about screwy contrast or flat light than I do about really finding a moment.