Saturday, September 30, 2006

Borat tastes wine

I stumbled on this YouTube video - it's really funny.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

On statisics and Google's RSS feed reader

My hosting company doesn't provide any visitor tracking/web stats solution, so I've been blissfully unaware of how many people read this blog, or where they come from.
A few days ago, {A} was asking how she could add some sort of tracking to her Blogger blog, which made me think there had to be free hit counters she could use. A uick web search found , which is actually quite impressive in terms of features.
The free version has a limit of tracking only the last 100 visitors, but that's fine for me.
In the coming weeks I'll post some interesting info, like Wendy has done in the past.

Looking at the info Statcounter had for my blog, I noticed someone had come to me via Google's RSS reader. I must be living under a rock, because this is new to me. I tried it out and in 3 minutes had set up all the feeds I currently track in Newsgator. If you're not using a RSS feed tracker/aggregator already, check out the Google reader. I think it rocks!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Patch time

Normally I wouldn't post about this sort of this, but MS released an out-of-band patch today for an issue that is being actively exploited. So, I recommend grabbing the fix and installing it ASAP:

Note: If you're using IE7 on XP, or using Vista, you're OK. (It doesn't hurt to check Microsoft Update though)

[Updated 9/27/2006 2:07pm - IE7 and Vista info]

Palace Kitchen mid-week

So, as I mentioned in a previous post, I found myself in Seattle last Wednesday night feeling rather hungry and only one block from Palace Kitchen. I'd been once before for late-night drinks and snacks (if you're looking for a place to get food, they serve their full menu until 1am, and have great appetizers or full meals).

I went in and sat at the bar since I was on my own. I was immediately struck by how busy the place was - for a Wednesday night, that's pretty unusual. The place was buzzing, with a mixture of businessmen and couples at the bar, tables of young hipsters, and a lively crew of staff keeping everything running smoothly.

One of the great things about this place is that the kitchen is really part of the show - especially at the bar. The kitchen is completely open, with not even much of a counter seperating it from the main eating area. The bar makes an island in the middle of the restaurant and serves to hide some of the kitchen bustle if you sit on the far side of it, but seated at the bar itself, you can watch the chefs cook, the barmen mixing drinks, runners filling pitchers, waiter punch in orders... I had a great time watching all of this - it reminded me a little of Hell's Kitchen but without the 4-letter words! :)

I had a great glass of white wine from France. (Sorry, I don't remember exactly what it was)
I started out with the goat-cheese fondue. This is a yummy appetizer to share, but was a little off the mark this time. The grilled bread was a little charred in places, and I thought the sliced apple really didn't work too well with the goat cheese. 3/5 for this dish.

I then tried a dish best described as an ode to late summer: Sweet corn custard and white corn cake, chanterelle mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The corn cake was sweet and crispy, topped with some fresh corn kernels. The corn custard was amazing - soft, smooth and silky and deeply infused with the flavour of corn. Overall this dish rated 4.5/5 in my book.

An added bonus: The barman (who served me) realized I had waited a long time (not that I mineded - I was having such a good time watching the show all around me). He decided to give me my appetizer for free, so the evening was really good value.

I hope to back again in the not-too-distant future!

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Pandora fun

Drool: over this
Hooking up one of these to my stereo* would allow listening to Pandora, podcasts (like NPR), and music on my computer upstairs. Mmmm....

Listen: to this
My most successful Pandora station to date. The secret? Just add one band. Can you guess which one?

* And, as luck would have it, my old mini-stereo ( a 7-year-old JVC box) now is unable to play CDs, so the universe is prodding me in the direction of a new A/V receiver and CD/DVD player thingy... (Maybe all-in-one, like this one, although that seems a tad expensive?)

Wine: Covey Run 2003 Lemberger

Just a quick note on this wine. Covey Run's website has a nice tasting guide.
I found it at the WA state liquor store in Bellevue (got the last one there), and bought it since I had never heard of Lemberger before, and it was around $5. (Plus Covey Run is usually decent). See my tasting note here for my (amateur) thoughts.

I'm pleasantly surprised and will keep an eye out for other Lemberger's in the future.

WSA Dinner outing

On Wednesday this week, I headed out to Seattle for a dinner and panel discussion organised by the WSA (formerly the Washington Software Alliance - now I guess WSA just stands for WSA, kind of like the AARP).
The topic for the evening was "Information Security: Is It Time to Fight Back?". For those that are impatient, the short answer (at least in the USA) is "No".

Here's my quick summary and ratign of the panelists:

  • Karen Worstell (Moderator): She did an OK job of running the discussion. I would have liked to have more time for questions from the audience, and found some of her comments sloppy and alarmist. ("100% of organizations have been compromised" - really? 100%? That doesn't leave much wiggle-room). She also tended to let the discussion drift into general security topics (patch management, current exploit environment, what motivates attackers, etc.) which was sometimes a little boring. (But might have been good for people in the audience that had no security background).
  • Kirk Bailey & David Dittrich (both from UW): Both were smart and had good anectdotes from the UW's experiences. David's is a name I'm somewhat familiar with (probably from his prior work on DDoS attacks). David mentioned a cool tool named Nepenthes that is used to collect malware for analysis. David's also got a more aggressive attitude in terms of going on the offensive, mainly to collect data that can be used to prosecute folks. (Too many people "pull the plug" after a compromise and just want to get their system back into operation, often losing data needed to investigate and identify the perpetrators).
  • Albert Gidari Jr. : The lawyer on the panel - a great speaker and amusing too - which is something for a lawyer! :) His best quote (paraphrased from memory) when asked about attacking back:

    Some people call them vigilantes, I prefer the term "felon"...

    Essentially, under current law, doing anything that enters/affects someone else's PC without their consent would make you a criminal - even if acting in "self defence" or solely to gather information to aid prosecution. The FBI/state can do these activities, so reporting incidents to the local authorities is currently the only legal way to respond. The problem raised is that for large-scale, egregious, or very easy to investigate and prosecute incidents, this works fine, but for smaller or harder incidents, there aren't enough resources. The FBI et al have the resources and expertise to track down the perpetrator and make arrests (witness ZOTOB and the NW Hospital cases), but for small businesses or individuals, the approach of contacting local police/law enforcement usually won't end up going anywhere.
  • Kristin Johnson (Microsoft): Sadly arrived late (due to traffic on the 520 which also delayed me...), but made a good impression during the time she was there.

Now, some rants about the venue (Westin Hotel in Seattle)...

  • I got there about 75 mins late, which meant that I missed dinner. That's a bummer considering I paid $55 (I should be able to get re-imbursed, but still...) There was salad waiting at each un-occupied seat, and some dessert, but no other food.
  • I guess the moral of the story is get there on time. However, for people coming over from the East Side, the start time of 5pm is ridiculously early. WSA: How about a cheaper price that excludes dinner for folks that know they'll be late?
  • I got some wine on the way, initially thinking at least one drink would be included in said $55 fee. Wrong! $8.50 for a glass of incredibly ordinary merlot. :(

On the positive side, once the event was over, I found myself hungry and within one block of the Palace Kitchen. So, I treated myself to dinner there, which was amazing! More on that later...

So you think you're a geek? #1

This will probably be the first of a series, given how many fun ways there are to test yoru geekiness...
Today, a double dose:

  1. How many geek references can you identify in Weird Al's new video for "White & Nerdy" ?
  2. Programming language inventor or serial killer? What's your score ?

Don't cheat, m'kay ?

When you're done, you may find this interesting for #1 above.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Guy's Guide to Wine

I had to laugh when I saw the Guy's Guide to Wine insert in a past issue of Stuff magazine*. This is wine marketing for the typical college goofball that likes beer, football and scantily-clad women. Wine marketing for Stuff readers.

The copy was, of course, utter piffle, but worth a laugh.
Sadly, the online version is still not available. I've checked for the past few weeks and still get the "Coming very soon" page. Come on Dancing Bull, we _needs_ it! :)

Maybe like Raymond I should do a "Days without Guy's Guide to Wine" page? (He did a "Days without a pony" page...)

* Disclaimer:
Lest you worry about my poor taste in periodicals, rest assured I have never payed for a copy of Stuff. They started sending it to me for free a few years ago in my condo - I guess I matched their demographic in terms of age? It also probably helps boost their ABC-audited circulation numbers. And the thing is 80% advertising, so it doesn't cost them anything to print free copies.
If you are paying for Stuff magazine, perhaps you should give them a call?

Foraged food and Puget Sound seafood

There was a nice hour-long segment of KUOW's Weekday today devoted to foraged food. ("The Omnivore's Dilemma" piqued my interest in this topic recently).

One of the guests, Jeremy Faber, is a Seattleite and co-owner of Found Edibles which sell at various farmer's markets. (I need to check them out). "Wildman" Steve Brill was the other guest (he's from New York) and both were really interesting.
Near the end of the show they talk about mushroom foraging - something I hope to do this fall. It sounds like there are tons of varieties that can easily be found around Seattle, most notably chanterelles. Now I just need to find time to go to a basic mushroom-identification class at PSMS.

On a semi-related note (Weekday is involved again), an email discussion at work centered on where to take a visiting friend for good seafood near the U-District. Various suggestions followed: Ivar's Salmon House, Agua Verde, and Ray's Boathouse (which won). One sentence in the email exchange caught someone's eye:

"I’m thinking nice and simple where he can appreciate what happens when the fish doesn’t need to fly 2000 miles"
This came in response:

I hate to break it to you, but go here, and fast-forward to 1:59 into the
program. Specifically pay attention at 3:18 when they talk about Ray’s

We think of Seattle as being a great place for fresh seafood; it's eye-opening to hear how little of the seafood we eat comes from local waters.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

South African winners at the IWSC

I stumbled upon the 2006 International Wine and Spirits Competition product trophy award winners for this year, and was pleased to see so many South African winners:

On a slightly-related note, my favourite Scotch won the best 15+ year-old Single Malt category: Talisker 18 Year Old

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What do you get...

... when you cast a movie with David Beckham, Gérard Depardieu, Alain Delon, Michael Schumacher, Jean-Claude van Damme, and Zinédine Zidane?

You get this! :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Yum Files

Over the Labour Day weekend, A and I decided to try our hands at pizzas made on the charcoal barbecue. We'd seen an episode of America's Test Kichen where they show you how to make them, and have the cookbook from the series out from the library, so we felt adequately prepared.

If you're interested in trying this, check out the recipe online. (Log in with if you don't want to sign up)

Our dough came out a little wet and soft, but the pizzas still worked well and tasted amazing. We also experimented with fresh roma tomatoes versus canned plum tomatoes. The fresh tomatoes are definitely the way to go!

The grill gives the bases a nice smoky flavour, and they came out incredibly crispy and light... I'm tempted to make all our home-made pizzas this way from now on! :)

The king is dead, long live the king.

Today's a sad day in Windows-land.
BrianV took over the Windows project shortly before I joined the company, and has been an energetic, charismatic and often goofy figurehead for Windows since then. He can motivate a team without coming across as a raving lunatic (ahem), and comes across as a regular person.
He shares part of the responsibility for Vista's delayed release, no doubt, but I'll miss him.

Bye-bye Brian.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Oscar Peterson at the Jazz Alley

A and I had the amazing opportunity to see Oscar Peterson last night at Jazz Alley (the last night of his Seattle engagement).

He was truly amazing! He performed as part of a quartet, and each member was an incredibly accomplished player. Together, they were perfectly in-step with each other, effortlessly picking up the tune after an extensive round of improvisaion. Speaking of improvisation, this show was unusual in that most of the songs were 70-80% improvised. The group are obviously very comfortable with each other and visibly had fun challenging each other with call-and-answer type improv. The guitarist and Oscar, especially, excelled at this.

The players:

Using the ReplayTV remote with a Vizio L37 HDTV

So, this is perhaps a sad topic for a blog post, but I thought I'd share some potentially-useful info with folks.

I just got a new LCD TV, the Vizio L37HDTV, and wanted to re-program my ReplayTV 5xxx remote to work with it. I couldn't find the device code on ReplayTV's support site or elsewhere, but after trying a few codes, I found one that works: 0030
Incase you've not programmed your remote for a while, here's the info from ReplayTV's support site:
  • Press and hold the Mute + TV buttons for 2 seconds.
  • The remote LED will flash twice
  • Enter 0030
  • That's it! You should be able to use the Power and Volume buttons to control the L37HDTV...

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Ballad of El Conquistador

Update: 3/15/07: Here's the radio spoof that inspired this exchange.

A colleague at work had a fun run-in with a Google headhunter. He decided to play the 419-scam baiting game with them...

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent)

From: Guido
Sent: Friday, August 25, 2006 6:17 PM
To: Joe
Subject: XXXX Conference Follow Up

Hello Joe,
I am contacting you because you attended the XXXX conference. I hope you enjoyed the conference and you were able to get your desired results from the event. Google is always looking for smart and talented individuals. I would like to help any of your friends or family that may be interested in Google opportunities. Please feel free to pass on my contact information to them if they are interested in having an internal ambassador for their job search with Google.
Please let me know a good time and phone number to reach you.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,


I would like to thank you for taking the time to send me this follow-up e-mail.
I did indeed enjoy the conference and I would like to thank Google for sponsoring the event - it was a very selfless and thoughtful act which I believe demonstrates Google's commitment to security and privacy.
I am very interested in chatting with you about opportunities and my job requirements but before we get started, I have one very important request.
It is very important that in all future correspondence with me, that you refer to me as 'El Conquistador'. I understand that you could not have possibly known this in advance and I understand, no apology is necessary this time. I am very much looking forward to hearing back from you Guido, and please do not forget to address me as 'El Conquistador' in your reply as a sign of respect for my families distinguished lineage.

- El Conquistador


Hello Joe
Sorry about the delay in my response. I was actually out of the office yesterday.
We actually have a variety of positions that you may find of interest (from the East coast to the West coast).
You can view our Google opportunities (including all of our locations) at the following link:
Please let me know if you find a position of interest.
I look forward to speaking with you.


I'm sorry - whom are you addressing in your response below?
My given name is "Joe" but I am to be addressed as "El Conquistador". I sincerely apologize for not making that clear in my initial reply to your email (I was tired, it was late).
I am very interested in exploring career opportunities at Google!
I know that you only seek out and hire the very best and brightest individuals and I believe that my title speaks volumes about my accomplishments and capabilities so it was no surprise to me when you reached out to me.
I hope that it will not be a problem to be addressed by my future colleagues at Google as "El Conquistador". I'm sure Google has an open and respectful environment and that such talented individuals will understand and accept my title (which I realize does seem a bit strange at first). I'm presume is available? Here at SomeCompany I login to our domain as somecom\elconquistador, I presume I would be offered the same privilege at Google?


Hello El Conquistador,

I was actually responding to the first of your two email responses (where you did not ask to be called "El Conquistador").

If you would like to speak, you can call me at your convenience.

You can call me El Tigre;)

Why everyone wants to hire South African mercenaries

That's the advert I spied last night while reading Slate... It certainly caught my eye!
Slate has this article that starts with another eye-catching quote:
"You know you've been in Baghdad too long when hearing Afrikaans at the pool is normal."
The article goes on to discuss the large numbers of South African mercenaries working in Iraq, and how the SA government is pressing ahead with legislation to tighten oversight of SA citizens working in war zones.
Remember the story a year or so ago about South Africans being involved in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea? Mark Thatcher (Maggie's son) was also implicated, and fled South Africa. The book "The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination To Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa" covers this and sounds like it might be a good read...