April 05, 2006

Music to snipe by

I finally got my Xbox 360 recently, and this weekend, managed to connect it to my PC with all of our music on it. One of the new features the 360 has is the ability to replace the in-game music with your own music, streamed from the PC.

So last night, I played Perfect Dark Zero, running around sniping people in the head with a silenced rifle, while listening to Norah Jones.

It sure weirded Meredith out.

Posted by Mike at 08:40 AM

Idiots Out There

In the NY Times, John Markoff writes, in a column titled "Software Out There":

Mr. Ozzie, who used the Firefox browser (an open-source rival to Internet Explorer) during his demonstration, said, "I'm pretty pumped up with the potential for R.S.S. to be the DNA for wiring the Web."

He was referring to Really Simple Syndication, an increasingly popular, free standard used for Internet publishing. Mr. Ozzie's statement was remarkable for a chief technical officer whose company has just spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars investing in a proprietary alternative referred to as .Net.

.NET is an alternative to RSS? Yes, like Ben & Jerry's ice cream is an alternative to a pair of comfortable shoes.


Posted by Mike at 09:15 PM | Comments (2)

Nathan's adoption

Two stories:

  • A couple of weeks ago, with Nathan in the cart at Home Depot, the checker asked me, “is he a different race or is he just really tan?” I suppose ‘really tan’ in mid-March in Seattle seemed improbable.
  • A couple of days ago, a woman who was at our house installing baby gates asked, “do you know you son looks like you?” I assumed Meredith had mentioned at some point during the day that Nathan was adopted, but she hadn’t. I actually get that a lot.

People who know or find out that Nathan is adopted occasionally ask when / if we’ll tell him. We’ve always told him. He has a photo album in his room with pictures of different family members, with one of him (when he was less than a week old), his brother and sister, and birthmother. We tell him “that’s Mama D.” He takes it out and looks at the picture. I wonder what he thinks.

Nathan’s is an open adoption, meaning that we keep in contact with his birth mother. Or, rather, we try. She’s moved at least five different times in the 15 months since Nathan was born, with different phone numbers every time. When she moves, we have to wait for her to get back in touch with us.

The last time we heard from her was shortly after Nathan’s birthday. We tried to call her recently to tell her that we had moved, but at the last phone number we had, Meredith got someone who’d never heard of her. Dead end again. So, in the meantime, I’m keeping my cell phone number the same until she calls so we can give her the new phone number.

Not knowing where she is is hard. I hope she’s doing OK. I hope that when Nathan starts asking questions about her, that he can talk to her.

In the last few months, I’ve read a number of blogs about adoption. There are a growing number of birthmother blogs. They’re all interesting to read, but some of them are really hard to read. Some of those women feel very used by the adoption process. One birthmother, whose blog completely disappeared recently, wrote of the adoptive mother taking out a restraining order to prevent contact after promising an open adoption. While the restraining order part is slightly atypical, the forced end of contact, sadly, is much less so.

There’s a lot that should change with adoption. There is a ton of money involved in domestic infant adoption – so much so that it’s easy to wonder just how ethical the whole thing can be with so much money involved. There are adoption facilitators, lawyers, social workers & state agencies, and they all get their piece. One adoption agency asked on the form "How much money have you budgeted to spend on your adoption?", which seems not unlike the used car salesman who asks “how much do you have to spend on this car?”

In our first match, the young couple, feeling the stress of dealing with a pregnancy and possible adoption, asked to see a counselor. We agreed to pay for it, and they went to a counselor recommended by the adoption facilitator we were using. Soon after, the facilitator mailed us a copy of the notes from the counseling session that the therapist had sent to her. We were appalled, and told the couple what had happened. They didn’t go back, and we spent the next few months watching the stress continue to mount and eat at them.

It’s hard to know how to fix it. Some have suggested that the fix is to simply end all adoption, which is obviously hard for me to imagine. But something should change.

Posted by Mike at 10:50 PM | Comments (1)

April 11, 2006

More ways to spend money

Last Thursday, Meredith’s car started flashing ‘STOP! Brake Failure!’ at her. The dealer suggested that it might be low on brake fluid. I tried to pour more in, only to discover that I had misread its fullness and it was now over-full. Which also meant that the brake failure meant something less easily solved.

Friday morning, she had it towed to the VW dealer in Bellevue. They finally got around to it today, and discovered the good news that her brakes are fine. The bad news: the instrument panel is whacked and needs to be replaced. They’re ordering the part (the entire panel?), and it might be fixed by the end of this week, or maybe early next week depending on when it comes in. All of this is projected to cost a little over $800.

Yay. Because, you know, we weren’t spending enough on the new house, or on getting the old house ready to sell. 

Posted by Mike at 10:42 PM

April 13, 2006

Those are some complicated keys

Yesterday Meredith called me in the middle of the day to say that the car dealer had called to say they needed all copies of the keys to her car, including the one I had on me, because they needed to reprogram them to work with the new instrument panel.

“Couldn’t I just take it in when we go to pick up the car?”

Evidently not, as the mechanic had explained to Meredith that it took an hour and a half to reprogram the keys.

Umm … OK.

I can reinstall an OS and quite a few applications on a PC in less time than that.

Posted by Mike at 08:45 PM

Nathan's sick

Last night, Nathan slept through the night for the first time in I don’t even know how long. Months and months. (Ironically, Meredith didn’t sleep well, because she kept waiting for him to wake up.)

Then today he came down with a fever. He’s napped four hours today, and went to bed again at 7:30.

Hopefully he didn’t just sleep through the night because he was getting sick.

Poor kid.

Posted by Mike at 09:02 PM

April 15, 2006


While a fine number for a US FM radio station, 106.5 is not a number you wish to see on a thermometer after taking your child’s temperature. But that’s what we saw Thursday night around midnight after Nathan woke up.

Fortunately, as quickly as little kids heat up, they can cool back down pretty fast, too, so with Tylenol and being stripped to only a diaper, sleeping between us on top of the covers, he cooled quickly. He spent the rest of the night trying to get comfortable, mostly trying to sleep on top of me, waking with a cry if I so much as twitched.

It was a very long night, and I spent much of yesterday ingesting mass quantities of caffeine.

His fever had broken by the morning, and he seemed basically fine last night until he awoke at 10:45 screaming inconsolably. He was clearly in pain, but from what, we could never tell. We tried taking his shoes off, but that wasn’t it. And, despite usually wanting Meredith at bed time, he seemed pissed off at her, screaming slightly less when I held him. Finally he calmed down some with a bottle of milk, then he and I went back to his room, and I rocked him back to sleep with the bottle. I finally made it back to our bed at 1:30 AM. I got up with him once again at 5 for half an hour to get him to go back to sleep.

Mercifully, Meredith got up with him at 7, letting me sleep until 10, so I feel a little bit human again. Coffee helps.

Right now, it’s 3 PM, and he’s been asleep since noon.

Posted by Mike at 03:03 PM

April 17, 2006

Verbing weirds language

Raymond comments on new signs in the Microsoft cafeteria that read “Merchandise your food with pride.” (I haven’t actually seen these signs; perhaps they aren’t in the cafeterias that I frequent, or perhaps I haven’t been paying enough attention. But they totally fit.)

The trend of turning nouns into verbs still seems very strange to me. Of course, the reverse also happens – it’s pretty common at Microsoft to hear someone refer to “the asks”, as in, “What are our asks here?” I guess you save valuable time eliminating that extra syllable that the word “request” has.

One phrase I’m happy to have not heard in years is “Let’s double-click on that.” In fact, I haven’t heard that since Apple. I have no idea if anyone there still says it or not. The first time I heard it in a meeting (from the QuickTime evangelist at the time), I had no idea at all what he was talking about. I eventually figured out it meant, “Let’s get into the details of this”, and was promptly so disgusted by just how nerdy that phrase was that I wanted to throw up. One day while in a particularly bad mood, my boss said that in a meeting, and I just went off on him – which then prompted all of the other managers in the room to start listing the other annoying phrases our boss used that they never wanted to hear again. He was gracious enough to take it with good humor. And I never heard him say that again ;)

Posted by Mike at 10:12 PM | Comments (3)

April 23, 2006

Now walking. Really this time.

Nathan’s took his first step almost three months ago, then a few weeks ago, appeared to be ready to really start, but then slowed back down. He’d walk a few steps each day on his own, and would walk all over as long as he was holding a parent’s hand, but otherwise showed very little interest in trying to do it by himself.

Even yesterday, talking to my grandparents and to my brother, I told them that Nathan wasn’t really walking yet.

Then, about 5 yesterday afternoon, Nathan decided that it was time. He spent the rest of the day walking everywhere. He did laps around our deck. This morning, the same thing.

Also, within 30 minutes of him deciding that it was time to really start walking all the time, he was already walking while eating some food. That sure doesn’t take long.

Posted by Mike at 01:23 PM | Comments (2)

April 25, 2006

Happy Nathan


I need to post a bunch more pictures, but here’s a recent one of Nathan showing how happy he is to be outside in the nice weather.

He loves it here.

Posted by Mike at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)

April 26, 2006

Two more pics



Posted by Mike at 11:43 AM | Comments (2)

"Help" Desk

I started an online chat with the IT helpdesk at work this morning to report my problem.

Me: “My email server is down. I can’t connect to it from any of my machines, but the IT status page says it’s fine.”

Helpdesk: “It’s a known issue. We’ll send you an email to let you know when the problem is resolved.”

Right on.

Posted by Mike at 09:33 PM

April 27, 2006

Andy Warhol's bugs

Raymond writes about getting stuck with a bug because he had once re-assigned the bug to another developer (the tar-baby approach to bug assignment). He suggests that perhaps the solution is an alter ego that he can use for such cases, but then asks, “What should I do if somebody asks the alter ego to investigate the bug?”

Back at Apple, when I used to help run the bug reviews for QuickTime, we used a fake account for just that reason. The name on the fake account? Andy Warhol, so named because QuickTime 1.0 was codenamed Warhol.

All this meant was that every few months, one of us would get an angry phone call or email from soneone at Apple demanding to be put in touch with Andy, who they couldn’t find anywhere in the Apple address book.

Posted by Mike at 09:31 PM