Friday, December 16, 2005

To write without a computer

I've thought for years about buying a nice pen and pencil for all the scribbling I do. Lately I've been drawing a lot of graphs during meetings, so I decided it was time to procure a multicolor writing instrument, i.e. a clicky-pen. So I went out today and bought a Lamy 2000 4-color pen and the matching mechanical pencil.

I'm really impressed by the design that went into these things. The pen's color selection is gravity-based: hold the pen horizontally, and whatever color indicator is showing at the top is the one that pops out when you depress the advancement button. It's light given the four ballpoints, and it feels well-balanced. Not to mention the clip is sprung so it doesn't get all bent out of shape. The pencil is similarly well-designed, though it's obviously not as complex.

Now I'm writing Greek in style. :)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sometimes you're just stupid

I was in my guitar lesson today, explaining to my instructor that I was still struggling with a passage from a piece I started working on quite some time ago. Well, it took him all of five minutes to figure out what I was doing wrong, and it took me less than a minute to correct the error in technique. Simultaneously gratifying and exasperating.

The passage is from Llobet's transcription of Danza Espanola No. 5 - I've mentioned the work earlier in my blog. The bars in question comprise a slow section with three voices, but the trick is that the highest voice is articulated with harmonics. Well, I was trying to use my m and a fingers to sound the harmonics and my p and i fingers to sound the base and middle voices, which is brutally difficult and completely unnecessary. Switching to i/a and p/m made all the difference in the world.

Shows I still have a thing or two to learn. :)


I've been delinquent about keeping y'all up to date, so here's a blurb on my birthday last month (11/11).

In short it was easily the best birthday ever, even beating out last year. Ten of us saw Late Night Catechism at the ACT Theatre, and then we had a party of eleven for dinner at El Gaucho's Pampas Room. The play, food, and music were all spectacular, but what really made the evening was my group of friends.

I often reflect on how fortunate I am to have the friends I have. Amber and her husband David, Max, Matt and his girlfriend Brittney, Mikhail and his girl Maiken, Ed and Karen, and Lekha were all there, as was my new friend Isaac. The woman I've been seeing and I rounded out the party. Unfortunately she had a morning appointment, so we didn't get much time alone together, but I was glad and a little flattered that she made it out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Work and Life

I decided a little while back that my goal for the next two years should be to develop a mastery of Amazon's supply chain practices. It looks like I'll start following through on that objective by transitioning to one of our core optimization teams. As dry as that may sound, I'm excited: the scientists in the group are extremely sharp, there's a huge opportunity to learn and to contribute, and it would play into my long-term career plans well.

As for life, the big news is that I recently started seeing someone, and I really care for her. Raise a glass with me, will you?

Music update

Guitar: I'm still working on Spanish Dance #5 by Granados/trans. Llobet, and I started playing through some of Brouwer's Estudios Sencillos.

Concerts: I'm seeing Sarah Chang perform with the Seattle Symphony this week. Later in the season I'll check out Andre Watts, the symphony's performance of Beethoven's Ninth, and Manuel Barrueco performing the Concierto de Aranjuez with the symphony. I may see two or three solo guitar performances as well.

Stay on the right side of the trail

Several times while I've been riding I've nearly hit someone who was in the middle of the trail or was altogether on the wrong side. Well, last week was my turn to be at fault: I strayed into the middle of the bike path where there was a blind corner and at exactly the wrong time. We were both uninjured. He needed to get his chain back on, while I knocked my front rim completely out of true. It could have been worse, of course.

So next time you ride, please pay attention, and stay to the right.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Springfield and the NW Family

On Friday the 9th, my friend David - my best friend Amber's husband - and I drove down to Springfield, Oregon for Amber's kid brother Chris's wedding.

It's a four-and-a-half hour drive from my place in Seattle to Springfield, but it passed remarkably quickly. The tunes definitely helped - Jamiroquai, BT, EBTG, Michael Jackson, Oakenfold, and some Bach performed by Perlman for good measure. It was the first time I'd listened to Walking Wounded - what a fantastic album. We drove the entire way with the top down, including the last thirty miles in a light rain. We must have looked ridiculous going 80 mph with the top down and the wipers on high.

There's a running joke that I'm Amber's weekend husband, and sure enough, on arriving at her parents' place there was a note on the door: "Welcome husbands!" We all passed out, and headed off to the wedding site the next morning.

Chris and Kim got married at the Belknap hot springs resort, which feels like a miniature national park. It was a terrific location, and the drizzle let up just in time for the ceremony. Chris has a quiet dignity that reminds me of his father, and you should've seen him looking at Kim. To quote from Top Gun: "unless you are a fool, that boy is off the market."

Amber and David took off early Sunday to catch a flight to Hawaii. I slept in a bit longer and had brunch with Amber's folks at Finn's Drive-In. They're in some ways my NW family, and I really enjoyed spending time with them.

One thing that struck me while I was in Oregon was that I seem to be drawn to people who are extraordinarily sincere. I suspect I didn't appreciate that as much when I was younger, but with each passing year I become more aware of how rare that quality is in people.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Sing to me Muse,
And infuse my prose
With sweet words
That soar o'er land thru air
And bear fair news
To where I stand
From the heartland!

OK, so a poet I am NOT. But I DID spend Labor Day weekend in Indiana: Huntington, Indiana, to be specific.

What is in Huntington, IN? Well, I saw a sign for the "Dan Quayle Museum," but somehow I find it difficult to see ANYONE making a pilgrimage to that, um, mecca of political genius.

Rather, I was there for my favorite cousin's wedding reception. Tani married Vidya in India this July, but work kept me from attending. The bride's family was good enough to organize a US reception this weekend near their hometown of Fort Wayne, giving us delinquents a second chance.

Speaking of Fort Wayne, it has an airport. An INTERNATIONAL airport, no less. Vidya: "The airport is international because there's a cargo flight to Canada." FWA has one terminal, with two floors, and four gates per floor. Yeah.

In any case, Tani's a venture capitalist who did his PhD and MBA in the US, and Vidya's an attorney who for the most part grew up in the US. Quite the power couple. It was hilarious watching the video footage of the traditional wedding in India - you could tell they were counting on everyone around them to keep them from screwing up. And Tani _looked like a medieval warrior_ in his outfit.

Anyhow, it was great to finally meet Vidya and it was good to spend some time with my parents - I don't get to see them nearly often enough. And Indiana will be with me, in the deepest repressed recesses of my soul, for decades to come.

The groom's side of the family. My father and Tani are on either side of me. My mother is in front of Dad, my aunt (Tani's mother) is in front of me, and Vidya is in front of Tani.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Tuning the bike fit

This morning I met with a physical therapist/bike fit specialist who was recommended by a couple of LBSs. So far so good, and we've got a follow-up appointment for next week. The main modifications:

1. Saddle height increased, and saddle tipped up just a tad.

2. Shims under the right cleat to accomodate my right tibia's severe bow. Switching from a 3 cm pedal spacer to a 2 cm one for the corresponding pedal, keeping the left spacer at 2 cm.

3. I'm switching to Look pedals and road shoes from my SPD setup. The Keos I brought to the fit don't play nice with my pedal spacers (Kneesavers): the pedals require an Allen wrench installation and the spacers don't have an opening. So I'm going with a pair of A5.1s.

4. OTC orthotics - Superfeet Performance Skate (Grey) - for both feet.

Will let you know how it works out as time progresses.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Elective surgery

Last week I saw an orthopedist for the first time in several years. My tibiae exhibit bowing and torsion, and if I'm not careful I put abnormal stress on my knees. Given my newfound interest in cycling, I thought it was better to see someone sooner rather than later, especially since my right knee hurt at the end of the STP.

My plan was to follow up that appointment by seeing a local physical therapist who's also a bike fit specialist, so that I could have an expert tune my pedal system setup and advise me on exercises to help keep my legs' musculature balanced.

The doctor approved of my cycling and seconded my thoughts regarding physical therapy. He didn't see any reason to get x-rays or routine orthopedic check-ups, but he did warn me to be very conscious of any pain and he was adamant about moderation in my activities. I'm not a hardcore cyclist - I average around 14 mph, 18 on the flats, and usually ride once a week for 60 miles - but apparently that was still enough to worry him a little.

He told me that if I decide to get more serious about the sport, I should consider a tibial osteotomy, though he wouldn't recommend unless I insisted on pushing the envelope.

A tibial osteotomy is essentially a procedure in which your lower leg is deliberately broken and realigned so that your biomechanics are more normal than they were before.

I read up a bunch on the procedure, and I'm going to revisit the issue next summer. Right now I'm not serious enough about my athletics to opt in for surgery when there's no clear risk associated with avoiding it. But if I'm still into cycling next year and can't see myself taking it easy, I'll consider it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


As I prepare to leave the office at 12:40 AM, I suddenly feel guilty about the fact that I haven't really learned a new guitar piece in three months or so, although I have read casually through a couple.

So I'm vowing to memorize Llobet's transcription of Granados' Spanish Dance #5 before my next lesson on Sunday.

Friday, August 12, 2005


I was just telling a friend that I'm considering an attempt at climbing Queen Anne Hill from the South (1st Ave). Referring to the grade above Roy St., he said "I guess that's where the hill gets all nonlinear on your ass." :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

RSVP 2005: Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC and Party

With RSVP, I've now done three club rides, the others being Flying Wheels and STP. That would also make three fumbled attempts at eating well the morning of an event and three utterly failed attempts at getting to bed early the week before. At least there were three finishes. :)

True to form, I couldn't shake my schedule of going to bed at 2 AM, and awoke in a daze at six. I showered, got dressed, finished packing, downed a small bowl of Kashi and took off on my bike for the start line. I live on Capitol Hill, so it was an easy few miles (8?) to Sand Point, even if I did look ridiculous with my North Face day pack with a sleeping bag tethered on. I arrived at 7:35, just after the official close, and it was pretty desolate. So I threw my bag onto the truck and got going.

I'm not a big fan of the Burke-Gilman, but as we neared Snohomish fond memories of Flying Wheels set in and I found myself enjoying the rural roads. I'd told myself I'd eat something more than Clif bars this ride, and I happily pursued this objective at the Snohomish Pie Company. Umm, pecan. While tooling around Snohomish I ran into this really cute girl I'd passed on a hill earlier. She's finishing college at Western, and was doing RSVP with her family. We took off from Snohomish together, and I rode with her for an hour or so, discussing everything from English lit to corporate America, with, of course, a little cycling talk thrown in for good measure.

Emily and her folks stopped at Lake Stevens to regroup, and after exchanging contact info we parted. I upped my speed and rode to Arlington, where after pacing up and down a couple of blocks I settled on lunch at Little Italy. There's something about cycling that makes un panino mozzarella e pomodoro taste out of this world. By the time I got my sandwich a lot of the riders had already left, so I downed it and followed suit.

There was a pretty stretch around Lake McMurray, and I remember catching a few glimpses of the mountains, including Mt. Baker. At some point I ended up riding with a couple from St. Paul. James, a racer, and Heather, his triathlete wife, easily gave me the best workout of the weekend. James and I rode at a moderate pace and chatted, while Heather pulled off into the distance. When James decided to catch up, for some reason I decided to do the same. I ended up about a block behind after a little bit, and then sprinted to catch up. James looked back as I rode up to his rear wheel, cracked a grin, and said "nice work." Of course, I was getting my butt kicked, and they were cruising along.

A while later James, Heather and I hit a long stretch of rough pavement, and they peeled away as I did everything I could to spare my body the vibrations my thick-tubed aluminum bike happily transmitted. Oh God I want a steel frame. In any event, I mostly rode solo the rest of the day. The obvious highlight was Chuckanut Drive. The dropoff and water on the left was beautiful; the hills were a serious tease. 1. Climb. 2. Descend! 3. Uh, climb. 4. Descend! 5. Uh, another climb?... :)

At the end of one hill, I don't entirely recall where, we encountered Micaiah (sp?), the "Lemonade Girl", and her mother. The signs leading up to it were great. "Thirsty?" "Tired? Hungry? THIRSTY?" "GO GO GO!" Then, of course, you get to the top of this hill and they've got lemonade. She's in eighth grade and already doing things to save money for college. Way to go.

Anyhow, I continued and rolled into Bellingham HS around 5 PM. High school showers have never felt that good before. I stowed my bike, and was a little amused by the folks asking about the security of the bike storage. After all, these are the same folks who left their Pinarellos and Cervelos unattended while having hour-long meals in Arlington. It always amazes me to see some of the expensive racing bikes on these rides - if I had that much cash, I'd buy a second bike specifically for touring, but that's just me. I downed some okay pasta, had a couple of cookies, threw my sleeping back onto the field, and passed out. At some point during the night I woke up to the sound of some kids walking by and talking - they were debating whether or not we had any actual reason to be camping out, vs. our simply being weird or insane. As I stirred one of them asked me, and I responded, which I think confirmed both of their hypotheses.

The next morning I awoke at a quarter to six, got ready and set off. Taking Jim Carson's advice I just grabbed a croissant at the high school, and had brunch at Dutch Mother's in Lynden. The apple-cinnamon Dutch baby pancake was spectacular, though I only ate two-thirds of it before realizing I needed to stop or risk sitting on my butt for the remainder of the day. In Lynden I also I ran into Tom, a gentleman from Seattle I know from my local coffee shop, Victrola. We chatted for a few minutes while I was waiting for a perch at the restaurant. I also ran into James and Heather again.

Not much of interest to the border, and the crossing was quick. Somewhere there was a steep hill for a couple of blocks. It felt like the highest grade of the ride, but it was short enough to be climbed fairly quickly. Later I learned that this hill is affectionately referred to as "The Wall." But that's definitely hyperbole.

Somewhere here I also ran across a fake orange lizard on the road that was being inched along, presumably by a kid with a string hidden off the side of the road. The rider in front of me totally thought it was real. Cracked me up for a few minutes.

When I got to the foot stop in Ft. Langley, I wasn't particularly hungry, but knew enough to eat something, so I had half a bagel with peanut butter and a cup of blueberries. The blueberries were AMAZING.

Continuing, the Albion Ferry was interesting. Waves of riders embarked on one ferry after another. I had a conversation with the couple in front of me, and it turned out that the lady had broken her derailleur during the climb to Woodinville and someone had circled back around to help out. I already knew about this, because that someone had told me about it the previous day - James!

Some time later, I think in Port Coquitlam, I rode through a little park, and some folks were selling lemonade at the end. It was about 25 miles to the end, and I was tempted to gun it, but I stopped and took a break. A couple of girls from Seattle stopped a few minutes later, we got to talking, and the three of us headed off for the finish. We rode together almost to Vancouver city limits, at which point Angela and Wina took a break and I continued. I think the only really tiring part of the ride was here, the highway into the city, with a modest grade but a steady, beating sun overhead.

Once in Vancouver, things slowed down a bit. Adanac Street was a lot of fun, possibly the most fun stretch of the entire ride. It's a roller coaster - I'd pound up a hill, descend a block at 20+ mph, coast halfway up the next one, climb, and repeat. The entry into downtown was spectacular. The city springs up quickly, with the water and mountains in full view, much more rewarding than, say, rolling into Portland. But the finish line was disappointing - it was, well, like riding up to a hotel.

After the ride I checked into my room at the Coast Plaza, and meet up with Angela, her boyfriend Gerhardt, Wina, and some other friends of theirs who'd driven and taken the train up. We went out for food, and I managed to down two small tavern-style pizzas in one sitting. Then we caught some of the fireworks from a distance, and one of the friends' recent acquaintances (from her train) joined us - she was from Italy, and I enjoyed getting to use some of my Italian again. By the time midnight rolled around, we'd all parted ways and headed to our hotels to crash for the night.

The next day, on the bus back, I sat next to a gentleman in his seventies who just completed his third RSVP. Our bus driver was, well, a total ham, cracked jokes the whole time, and put on a cassette of Irish stand-up. The border guard was entertaining too. All in all, it was a pleasant trip home.