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January 31, 2006

Choosing To Be Happy

Today I went to a talk about keeping employees productive at work. One of the videos they showed was called FISH!, by ChartHouse Productions. It's about the people who work at the Pike Place Fish Market, that booth at the Pike Place market where after you order a fish, they throw it over the counter to have it wrapped. Years ago the store was evidently about to go bankrupt when someone had the brilliant idea of becoming world famous by throwing the fish around, and the rest is history.

(There was evidently some training and consultant work involved also, but the movie skips that part. The video has been wildly popular as a corporate training tool, and beyond showing how the Pike Place Fish Market itself was revitalized when they started tossing the salmon, it has revitalized ChartHouse itself, which has built a big business around FISH! -- 17 language translations, etc -- and this in turn has inspired the Pike Place Fish Market to start offering its own training seminars.)

One of their four philosophies is "choose your attitude" and on the video one of the employees explains how even though he had only 2 hours sleep and had to wake up at 5:45, he had simply chosen to have a positive attitude, and so he did.

I do believe this; you can make yourself happier just by choosing to be happier. Not ecstatic all the time, but somewhat happier. Anyway they show the video and of course it's a metaphor, you're not supposed to start actually tossing fish around at work, but the idea is that you can make your job enjoyable if you work at it. So of course during Q&A someone pops up and says that it's nice to be happy when you're having fun throwing fish, but what if you're unhappy because some executive made a dumb decision that is making your job harder? I mean really, who can be happy in a situation like that.

This kind of stuff annoys me because the person who asked that question COMPLETELY MISSED THE POINT. Look, the people who work at Pike Place Fish Market spend all 14 hours a day on their feet, dealing with heavy, cold fish, in a loud environment, talking and yelling, outside, for not much pay, and possibly on two hours sleep. Plus they deal directly with customers all day so they have to be constantly focused and present in the moment. Now consider the soothing, cosseted environment in which Microsoft employees work. If you consider happiness on the job as the finish line of a race...we are starting SO FAR AHEAD of those people at the Fish Market that it's not even funny. Their job has all the requirements needed to suck, and basically it did suck and was headed for bankruptcy (which would really suck), until with a good idea (and some training and consulting) they decided to make it not suck. And now, looking at it, of course it looks like a ton o' fun...but that's the point of the video.

The other complaint that was brought up was how Microsoft used to be "fun" and people had Nerf fights in the halls and played "Swing Around the Wing" golf and boohoo it's not fun now. As if there is some corporate policy promulgated by the non-existent bureaucracy that prevents you from doing that stuff today. Dude, if you want to have fun, then go have fun! But don't wait for someone to tell you have fun and how to have fun -- because that probably won't be much fun. And if a Microsoft executive making a dumb decision is enough to ruin your life at work and make you think that it can't ever be a happy place, then you're just not getting it.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:24 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 29, 2006

Blog Stages

In the 1960s a guy named Bruce Tuckman wrote a study of how teams come together in which he talked about the Forming - Storming - Norming - Performing model. Basically teams starts up, figure out who's doing what, start to work together, and finally become productive.

So I was thinking that blogs go through the same phase. Let's stuff that particular square peg into this round hole and see if we can make lemonade (as with teams, many blogs don't make it to through all the stages):

  • Forming: Someone starts writing a blog, but nobody reads it.
  • Storming: People begin to read the blog, but initially it attracts those who agree with what it is saying. Comments left on the blog generally agree with what the author writes.
  • Norming: The blog becomes popular enough that people with opposing views start to read it. Initially they may be put off by the one-sidedness of the comments, but they eventually react by posting comments that oppose the author.
  • Performing: The blog turns into a working discussion group in which opposing views are debated in public.

Consider as an example the Mini-Microsoft blog. Initially Wd'P was just yelling in the woods with nobody listening and few comments ("forming"). Then after some people linked to him, he attracted an audience of like-minded disgruntled commenters ("storming"). Eventually he found some topics that hit home with his audience, and generated enough water-cooler buzz that people who disagreed with him began to read and comment ("norming"). And today, most of his posts generate good discussions both pro and con ("performing").

My point is that a performing blog is unquestionably a good thing because it gives a reader a balanced enough view that it moots the "But people won't come to work here because they are scared off by reading Mini-Microsoft" argument (which is the only argument against Mini that I think ever had any traction, although I disagreed with it). However, timewise the Business Week interview last fall was probably the key that pushed Mini from storming to norming, after which it was only a matter of time to get to performing (given the personality of the typical Microsoft employee). And I think Mini-Microsoft right now is a performing blog, which means it gives you a balanced view of whatever, and is thus unquestionably a good thing. But, it took a little while for the change to happen. So the people who hopped on over last October to read the blog still got a view of the storming phase, and if they then gave up because it was still pretty anti-Microsoft, they missed the last three months when it achieved performing status. So they have an outdated view of what Mini-Microsoft is right now.

OK, I think I'm supposed to be blogging, not meta-blogging. I'll stop now.

Posted by AdamBa at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 27, 2006

Upgrade to the New Microsoft Service Awards

Microsoft gives out service awards on various anniversaries of your start date. It used to be a clock for 5 years, then for 10 and 15 you got an acrylic-over-metal plaque that looked like a miniature share of stock (with the number of shares equal to the number of years). I think you get the same thing for 20 years. Larry Osterman hit 20 years a little while ago; in the picture with this article you can see his service awards on the bookshelf (in front of the fire engine or whatever that is). The thing on the left (just to the right of the edge of the monitor) is one of the plaques; the black thing next to it might be an older style of 10-year award; the gold thing is a 5-year clock (the clock design has changed over the years). To the right of the clock is a wood pen holder which used to be given out as a 3-year award; I'm not sure when precisely that was stopped but I know people who started in the summer of 1988 got one, and people who started on March 5, 1990 didn't get one.

As of January 1st, Microsoft announced new service awards, designed by something or someone called Hybrid3, and produced by glass artist Steven Weinberg. They are "optical crystal" with a color band across the middle (different color for different awards). They get bigger as you get older, so the blue one is for 5 years, and the yellow one is for 20:

For a sense of scale, the blue one is 7 inches tall and the yellow one is 14 inches tall (if you are a Microsoft employee and want to see them in person, go to building 100, they have them on display at Benefits downstairs). There's also evidently a 25-year one, not shown, where the color band has all four colors in it (I don't believe there are any current 25-year employees besides Bill and Steve).

If you are a Microsoft employee who previously qualified for a service award (and are still working there), you can order a new-style service award. The awards actually have two parts, an Award (what's shown in the picture) and a Base. You can order them separately or together. These things aren't cheap; the 5-year Award is over $100 and the 20-year one is getting up towards 4 digits.

I'm impressed that Microsoft was able to take something pretty standard like a service award and go to the trouble of designing something that looked nice and was unique. Not to mention footing the bill for them as employees hit future service milestones (I recall being a bit miffed when I saw my 5-year clock advertised in a catalog for $50 or so). I'm actually considering upgrading myself. The order form just asks for a credit card; no doubt some people (not me!) will try to expense these, although I don't see any official policy one way or the other.

Posted by AdamBa at 02:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 23, 2006

Canadian Election Results Blocked Online Until Polls Close Everywhere

Canada is having a federal election tonight (Canada is a large country just north of the U.S., where people live in igloos and put vinegar on their fries). In the U.S. local news organizations will stay off the air while the polls are open, but national news and websites will start reporting as soon as they can. So the polls may close on the East Coast 3 or 4 hours before the West Coast (and Alaska and Hawaii are even further behind) and in some cases the national media will call the election before the polls close out West.

But in Canada, as this page explains, due to a recent court ruling in British Columbia, no results will be available on the CBC website until 10 pm Eastern time, when the last polls close out West. This also means that all live streaming of CBC Radio (which I guess is on East coast time) will be disabled during the window between polls closing in Newfoundland and closing in B.C. and the Yukon.

The page also explains what you can expect before 10 p.m.: "election related news, analysis, commentary, quizzes and so on." Quizzes! How Canadian. Quick, name the second through sixth Canadian Prime Ministers...hmmm, I think there was a guy named Tupper...and maybe Bowell (or am I just imagining that). Borden, anyone?? I think I actually once knew the answer to that useless factoid. Keep in mind that in a survey of Canadian youngsters, more people identified John A. MacDonald as the founder of McDonald's than as the first Canadian PM.

Posted by AdamBa at 02:50 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Chance to Contribute to the "Monad Hacks" Book

Lee Holmes is coordinating the Monad Hacks book for O'Reilly. O'Reilly has struck gold with the Hacks titles and is busy extending it into the land of Dummies and Complete Idiots. Expect to see Camping Hacks, Financial Planning Hacks, Diet Hacks, Driving Hacks...in the meantime, if you have a cool Monad script send it to Lee.

Gotta go re-purpose my Sudoku solver into a network capacity planning tool.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2006

That 4 am Thing

There was a bit of a flap a month ago when Mark Lucovsky posted a comment on Mini-Microsoft's blog talking about the energy level at Google. He wrote (talking about Microsoft):

I was there in the old days and witnessed and was part of the awesome energy that was happening at Microsoft. Sixteen years later, I remember walking through the halls rarely seeing anyone in their offices. Everyone seemed to be at lunch, at the pro club, or stuck in a meeting. When does the actual work get done?

And then, discussing a short trip he took up to Google's offices in Mountain View:

I worked until 3am and guess what. I wasn't the last one in my area of the building the leave! There was plenty of company. All these guys are proud of their work, love what they are doing, and wanted to nail their deadlines and then take a few days off for the holidays. At 330am I arrived at my apartment, slept for a few hours, and then arrived at the office at 8am, grabbed a free hot breakfast, and put in another full day leaving work at 4am. Again, i was not the last one to leave. I work in an area where a team is preparing for an upcoming launch and 90% of that team was there when I left at 4am, and they were there when I returned at 830am the next day.

Now I don't doubt what he says is true, but in the discussion/flame war that ensued, much was made of the 4 am time and how much of a team would have been at the office at that time in the "old days" of Microsoft.

Pushing for a few days to meet a deadline (which is what was going on at Google) is one thing. But I was there in the NT team during the "old days" in 1990 (I'm astonished to realize that those days were closer to the time of The Soul of a New Machine than they are to today). There really weren't people consistently working until 4 am. It's just not sustainable; you can't work until 4 am and then be back in the office at 10 am for any lengthy period of time. I remember one time I worked through the night until about 8 am, fixing up the reference counts in the Netbeui transport (an undertaking that required a lot of time to get my brain up to speed on, so I decided to just plow ahead and finish it in one sitting). This was very unusual and at 4 am that night I was the only person there.

But people did work a lot of hours, of course. What they did was work basically the maximum number of sustainable hours (sustainable from a food/clothing/shelter point of view, not from a friends and family point of view). Come in around 9 am, work until 11 pm, go home and sleep, repeat the next day, 7 days a week, for weeks or months at a time (I did know one guy at Softimage who worked a similar number of hours, but had shifted his schedule forward; he consistently worked from about 3 pm to about 5 am, so he was there at 4 am, but he wasn't back in the office the next morning). And there was a high energy level on the team, and MarkL certainly was in there working as hard as anyone else.

The endless 14-hour days, and not some rare all-nighter, was the real killer. I was just recently talking to someone who had a pager and was on-call for some particular type of incident, and he talked about dreading the 3 am call. Shoot, a 3 am call is fine with me. At 3 am all I'm doing is sleeping, which I can do another time (for example, the next morning, since after a 3 am call you could presumably come in after lunch the next day without anybody looking at you funny). What I would really dread is not the rare 3 am call, it's the common 7 pm call, when I'm playing Monopoly with the kids, or some other event that, given a specific combination of their ages, their moods, and what happened that day, will never be repeated again.

Posted by AdamBa at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 17, 2006

Looking for "Naked Conversations"

I was in the Borders at Crossroads Mall today, just up the street from Microsoft, and I asked about Robert Scoble and Shel Israel's new blogging book, Naked Conversations. They didn't have it in stock, but the guy said they had ordered it. Only 4 copies through...don't they know they are in Microsoft's backyard? I asked where they were going to shelve it and he said it was marked "promo" which means on the tables right where you walk in. I think the book may have a bit of a shelving problem, meaning it's not clear where exactly it should go. Is it a web book, a management book, a technology industry book, etc. Although I noticed there are now enough podcasting books that they get their own section, so the blogging books should get theirs also.

I see that the book's sales rank on Amazon is hovering around 1000. I recall that when Find the Bug came out the sales rank was more like 600. I assume Naked Conversations is selling a lot more than mine, so I bet this means that Amazon has once again shuffled how they create the rankings. It seems that books now move slower but will probably then linger at a higher ranking for longer.

Not that it's much of an issue for me since both my books now have 6-digit rankings. Not much ego boosting there.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 16, 2006

An Entire Blog of Comment Spam?

While Technorati-gazing, I found a wierd inbound link to my blog. I won't post the URL since that might encourage them, but basically take the word "who" and then append "buyultram" and then append ".blogspot.com" and you'll have the URL. It seems to be an entire blog composed of those randomly generated "Japanese t-shirt" phrases that comment spammers use to disguise their evil nature, along with some links to various cheap meds, plus links to blogs. The whole thing designed to look enough like a real blog that it will fool indexers into thinking that the links are valid.

This is one of those genius ideas where you have to admire someone for thinking of it, even if you wish they would be putting their brain cycles to work inventing a cure for cancer instead of new ways to game search engines.

Posted by AdamBa at 08:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It Didn't Rain Yesterday...

After 27 straight days of rain, it didn't rain yesterday. We got Keltnered by a day of alternating cloud and sun breaks.

The general consensus around these parts was that after all that rain, we might as well have had one more week to break the record. Not to worry, though, it rained all day today, so our new streak stands at one.

Posted by AdamBa at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 14, 2006

Simple Sudoku Solver

I previously mentioned sudoku on this blog, and my wife bought me a 2006 "Sudoku a Day" desk calendar. So I've been noodling around solving them and it occured to me that I should write a Monad script to work on it.

The scripts takes as input a file containing 9 lines of 9 characters each, with the dots representing unfilled spaces. For example this is the contents of one input file:


The full Sudoku solver in Monad script is posted here; I'll comment on some of the specifics of the code below. The only problem with the script is that it isn't very good. It solves them the way I solve them: I look at a given group of nine squares (row, column, or 3x3 box), then consider a number such as 2, and ask myself "Is there no 2 in this group yet, and if so, when I knock out all the spaces where the 2 can't be (because they are occupied, or because there is a 2 somewhere in a row/column/box that conflicts with this square), do I only have one space left?" If so, put a 2 there.

So it chews through simple sudokus but gets stuck on some more complicated ones. After consulting this sudoku site, I see that my current approach is way too simple. For example I miss the case where a number has to go in a given cell because all 8 of the other numbers have a conflict with it (imagine a sudoku which had only the numbers 1 through 7 in the first 7 spaces of the first row, and then an 8 somewhere else in column 8; my solution would miss the fact that row 1, column 9 had to have a 9 in it). This is called "SiSo" on Vegard Hanssen's page. And then there are other reducing methods, which like SiSO all involve keeping track of a "solution table", which is every possible number that can go in a particular cell, and then knocking possibilities off until you only have one left. This would also be easy to do in Monad, but I haven't done it yet. I'll present my current code to demonstrate my narcissism some Monad stuff.

To wit:

write-host -nonewline $board[$y][$x]

The -nonewline option on write-host does what you might expect. write-host defaults to adding the new line.

$board | foreach-object { $count += ($_ -like "[1-9]").Length }

This line (which follows one initializing $count to 0) counts how many digits are on the board. $board is a two-dimensional array, which is really an array where each element is an array. So sending $board down a pipeline will cause each record in the pipeline to itself be an array, representing one row in the board. Using the -like operator on $_ when $_ is an array will return an array containing all the matching elements; in this case -like "[1-9]" means everything that is a digit between 1 and 9. Then you take the Length property of the resulting array and the result is the total number of cells in $board that are a number 1 through 9.

get-content -TotalCount 9 $args[0]

This reads the first 9 lines from the file represented by $args[0]. So the usage of this script is
sudoku foo.txt
where foo.txt contains one of the sudokus in the format shown above.

$arr = [char[]]$_

This converts a string (which is one of the input lines of the file in this case) to an array of chars.

$board += ,$arr

This appens the array $arr to $board as a single new element which is itself an array. If you just += without the , operator, then it concatenates the two arrays.

$conflicts = new-object int[] 9
$conflicts = (0..8) | foreach { $false }

This initializes $conflicts to be an array of nine integers, and then initializes it to an array of 9 $false values. Looking at it now the second line makes the first useless (the array created by new-object just gets tossed by the second line) but I'll keep it here since it shows how to create an array using new-object.

continue nloop

This allows continue (and break, if you use it with that) to target a specific loop. Pay attention: it DOES NOT jump to the label; what it does is find the loop that is labeled with that name, and continues IT. The label precedes the loop. So the :nloop loop is the foreach ($n in (0..8)) one. The continue nloop statement moves to the next value of $n and runs the loop again.

if (($conflicts -eq $false).Length -eq 1)

This line checks if $conflicts has exactly one element that is equal to $false. First it uses -eq to filter out the elements equal to $false, then it counts them and compares that to 1. NOTE that on older drops of Monad, you would have use -contains instead of -eq to get this effect. -contains and -eq swapped semantics and now -contains just returns true or false in this situation.

At some point I'll hack up a sudoku solver that does it "right" and then we can discuss that one.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 12, 2006

Girl Scout Cookies, Anyone?

So it's that time of year when thoughts turn to Thin Mints and Samoas. Yes, that's right, the Girl Scouts are out selling cookies again (actually I think it's earlier than last year).

This page has details on the cookies; the Cafe Cookies are new this year; they don't have the Double Dutch from last year. The cookies are delicious, they freeze well, and selling them supports over 15,000 girls and 2,000 volunteers in the local council.

Now, I don't think you are supposed to sell them over the Internet. So, I am only making this offer to people who work at Microsoft main campus (including Red-West and the other buildings on 148th), where I could hand-deliver the cookies. It's $4/box, and payment is due on delivery in early March. I'll bring you the cookies and you can pay me then, or I/O mail the payment to me if you don't have cash or you're not there when I come by. Leave a comment here, or send me email, and I'll hook you up. Thanks!

Posted by AdamBa at 02:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

More Seattle Weather

Back in December I wrote an article about the Seattle weather forecast (which Robert Scoble was kind enough to link to). My comment was that it was hard to find unique ways to say "45 degrees and rainy."

So in the following days I looked at a few more forecasts and noticed something else. Compare the forecasts for December 20 and December 21. This is December 20:

And this is December 21:

Since they are one day apart, the named days do match up--Thursday == Thursday etc.--if you want to see how the forecast changed in one day. But my real point is that the first one is your typical one that reminds you of the maze in the game "Adventure", where it permutes the words "maze", "twisty", "little" and "passages" to come up with a unique moniker for each location (except in this case the person writing the descriptions committed the faux pas of making Saturday and Monday identical).

But then the next day is more of the jokey description, like the one for the 18th. The forecasts officially all come from KOMO weather person Steve Pool, but it would seem that the descriptions are written by different people on different days, or at least by one person who changes moods as often as the (ba-bump) weather.

By coincidence, December 18, the day I posted the initial weather report, marked the first day in what has become a 24-day streak of rainy days that is pretty soggy, even for Seattle. It's approaching the record of 33 days set back in 1953. Here's another report from the 27th (which isn't wildly relevant, except I scanned it so I might as well post it). This one is a bit of a mix between the "jokey" and "corporate" styles:

Posted by AdamBa at 01:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 10, 2006

Speaking of New Monad Releases...

Beta 3 is now out for x86 and x64. The updated documentation is also up (the only change is to the Getting Started guide). These only work with the RTM version of the .Net Framework 2.0.

The big change here is that we now support the notion of "snapins" which allow you to dynamically load new cmdlets and providers. Enjoy!

Posted by AdamBa at 01:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Putting Out a New Release of Monad

We are just about to put out a new release of Monad. So what is involved in putting a release out for download?

The first step is to actually produce the bits. This is what the whole team works on, and the end result is a .msi file (one .msi file per processor architecture, actually). We run a series of tests on our daily builds; when a build is about to be released to the public we run a full set of tests on Longhorn, XP, and Server 2003, running on x86, x64, and ia64, for both the retail and debug builds (even though we only publicly ship the retail builds). There winds up being a matrix of about 20 machines that we run a full test pass on.

Then, because we are releasing the bits publicly, we have to sign them with Microsoft's official private key. To do this we send the bits off to a team at Microsoft called Product Release Services, which submits them to the official machines that guard Microsoft's private key. Since it would be very bad if someone managed to PRS sign some rogue bits, you need a submitter and 2 approvers who all need to be Microsoft full-time employees, and they need to use their cardkey PIN to prove it is them. It takes about an hour for the signing to happen.

(We actually PRS sign the bits before running the final test pass, to ensure we are testing the real final bits. There is also an extra dipsy-doodle because the .msi file contains the binaries within it. So we actually PRS sign the individual binaries, then rebuild the .msi to contain the PRS signed binaries, then submit the .msi itself to be PRS-signed.)

Once we have the final signed bits, we run an internal program called CheckPoint Express. This is a tool that requires you to certify that you have taken a series of required steps before you release. Some of these are simple questions, such as whether you include any 3rd-party code (the questions vary slightly depending on if it is a beta or a final release). There are several scanning tools you have to run on the binaries: APIScan (ensures you are calling publicly documented APIs), PoliCheck (checks for geopolitically inappropriate terminology), binsearch (makes sure you are not shipping certain obsolete binaries), and virus checking (making sure there are no viruses in your binaries). CheckPoint Express asks you all these questions and at the end gives you the green light (literally: when you answer all the questions satisfactorily, the status indicator for your release changes from a red to a green circle).

Since Monad is released as a web download, the next step after CheckPoint Express signoff is to create the actual file that will be downloaded. In this case it's just a .zip containing the .msi plus the release notes (we also create a separate .zip for the Documentation Pack). The release notes are something we attempt to keep up-to-date throughout the milestone, but at the end we always have to go back and make sure we haven't missed anything. It's mainly a quick heads-up on major changes, known issues, etc.

Once the .zip files are ready, we then use something called the Download Management Tool to put the download up on Microsoft's Download Center. The DMT lets you specify all the information you see on the Download Center pages. It's a bit tricky at this point because you want the releases to link to each other -- the actual Monad drops should point to the Documentation Pack and vice versa, and ideally the release notes (which are bundled into the .zip files of the releases) should have the URL of the Documentation Pack page on Download Center, which you are in the process of creating. Suffice it to say that if you order it right you can get all this fixed up correctly.

Once the release is submitted to Download Center there is a final round of signoff where our test manager OKs the bits and we provide a pointer to the CheckPoint Express signoff (this is all done via web pages; there's no person on the back end who has to give a final OK, just members of the Monad team). At the end we can hit the button on Download Center to send the bits out...then we wait some imprecise time between 30 and 90 minutes...and lo and behold the releases are out there for everyone to enjoy.

Posted by AdamBa at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 09, 2006

Paying For It

This morning the history of the world changed forever...or at least Howard Stern broadcast his first show on Sirius, an event I've been anticipating ever since it was announced. Yes, that's right, I may seem normal on the outside, but inside I'm a Howard Stern fan.

The significance of this for me is that it inspired me to buy a satellite radio for my car. Now that I have the radio, and I'm paying $12.95 a month for it, I basically never listen to "terrestrial" radio (as old-fashioned radio is being called). On the list of things I can listen to in my car I have Sirius, my iPod, my CDs and tapes...and radio is at the bottom of the list. On Sirius I don't just get Howard; I get all kinds of stations (warning: Firefox-coma-inducing PDF link), including channel 43 (rap music at more than 20 bpm), channel 20 (music for white suburban kids), and channel 13 (nuthin' but Elvis). One of the channels is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's French station, which means I can listen to traffic reports from Montreal (my parents, meanwhile, have decided that the NPR station KPLU, which is based in Tacoma, has the best selection of jazz they can find streaming over the Internet, so they get traffic reports from Seattle).

One reason I find my switch to paid, commercial-free radio interesting (actually Howard is going to have a few commercials, but nothing like the amount he had when he was on free radio) is that Microsoft has now been talking about moving towards advertising-supported software -- the opposite direction from my personal radio odyssey.

It could be, of course, that I'm just blessed with too little time and too much cash, so my willingness to pay for no commercials is unusual. At the same time, I really am becoming annoyed at commercials on websites. For one thing, they always seem to be the slowest thing to load on a page. And now sites are doing those annoying ads where you see the ad and have to click again to get to the real page...dagnabbit I have blog entries to write, I can't spend my time hunting down hard-to-find "Close" buttons on popover ads. Google ads are OK because they are fairly unobtrusive and fast -- that's why Google is printing money with them (I think the most astonishing fact I have heard about Google recently is the fact they their P/E ratio is only around 100 -- in other words it's actually somewhat reasonable given their growth).

When Howard Stern announced his move to satellite, Sirius had about 600,000 subscribers and estimated they needed one million more to make his $500 million deal worth it; they are now at 3.3 million and had so many new signups yesterday that they got 9 hours behind on activations. I know we could achieve a world in which almost everything is free if you just sit through a couple of ads (here's an exciting article about how there'll soon be even more crap shown before movies); I just don't particularly want to live in such a world.

Posted by AdamBa at 09:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 04, 2006

New Specialty License Plates for Washington State

Washington already had a bunch of specialty plates you could order (scroll down to see them), where instead of the plain Mt. Rainier image you could have one honoring your state university, the Mariners, or square dancing. But most of them were just the basic plate with a logo or something added on.

Starting yesterday, they have gone hog-wild with all kinds of crazy new plates -- 19 in all, most of which look nothing like the standard one. You've got kids' handprints, a biker, pets, skiing (subtitle: "Big Mountains * Real Snow"), a bunch of wildlife ones (including one with the tagline "Wild on Washington").

Posted by AdamBa at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 03, 2006

Highlights from 2005

As the new year arrives, I was looking through my old blog posts and picking out some of my favorites from the past year (yes, it's one of those "here's some stuff you might have missed the first time" posts). Occasionally I write something reasonably good:

  • In March I took a drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley and back. I'm going back to LV for the same hockey tournament this year, although if I have a free day I'll probably play poker instead.
  • In May, I reviewed Bill Gates's "Information at Your Fingertips" keynote from Comdex 15 years ago.
  • In June I wrote about Teenage Bloggers and how open their blogs are. Last year's high school seniors are now college freshmen, and are now exchanging illicit substances and bodily fluids at a rate sure to alarm any parents who happen by.
  • In August I discussed the phrase DOS Ain't Done Until Lotus Won't Run, which got picked up by Slashdot; of course I then had to write a followup meta-article about the experience.
  • And in November I ran a marathon. One of the comments was from Micah True himself, who wrote "hermano, you are invited to come run with us on March 5, 2006, or anytime! andale y que le vaya bien."

Hope everyone has a great 2006!

Posted by AdamBa at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack