July 2008


About a week or two after I started at Microsoft, our GM (general manager, my boss’ boss’ boss) invited a bunch of employees for a day out on his boat. It was good times. I got to meet more developers and hung out with some of the people I already knew from my internship. One of these devs, Chris (he left MS a year ago), said something that would have a fundamental impact on me: he said that the reason he goes places (vacations, day-trips, etc.) is not so much to see something new, but rather to get good pictures. He was explaining this theory while using a DSLR camera (I don’t know the model). I certainly wish I brought a camera with me that day, it was beautiful weather.

Now, after owning my D80 for something like a year, I absolutely agree with Chris (or maybe I am simply following his advice?): the reason I go somewhere is, usually, to take pictures. I try to take pictures of something new, use a novel approach, approach my target from a different viewpoint, etc.

(So, because I intended to write about things other than my motivations for photography, I need to tie this in to the rest of my planned post.)

Photography is one facet of my day-trips. The others are pretty straight-forward:

  • I like driving
  • I enjoy a beer once in a while
  • I like to sight-see
  • I love to read

Put those together and what you get is a gumbo fit for a madman. Uh, I mean, you get the sense of what my day-trips resemble: drive somewhere I’ve never been before, take lots of pictures, enjoy a light dinner with a beer, all the while reading some sci-fi on my Reader. Good times.

It probably seems odd to drive a hundred miles to have a beer and read, but that’s what I like to do. Certainly I could drive around the block a few times and have a beer at home, but it’s not quite the same thing.

That’s actually what I did the past two weekends: last week I went to Anacortes and just today I went to Leveanworth.

The trip to Anacortes involved a lot more driving and more stops. In total, I was on the road for about 8 hours. I took the ferry and went along the island chain to get there, then the highway to get back. I stopped intermittently, either to shop (got some cheese and cherries) or take pictures (Deception Pass is awesome!). I stopped in Anacortes for about two hours, at the Rockfish Grill and Anacortes Brewery. The food was great, though I may have drunk to much alcohol. Additionally, a combination of booze and a story in second-person (“You open the door.”, etc.) really made my head spin. For a while, I thought I really was hacking an MMORPG (Halting State, by Charles Stross).

Today I spent more time at my actual destination (Leavenworth) than last week’s trip. There just isn’t that much to see between here and there. The drive back seemed much more scenic, but there just weren’t many times that I just had to stop the car and spend an hour snapping shots (Deception Pass, for instance). So, aside from the less exciting drive, the trip was good. I really liked Leavenworth. It’s really neat to see the whole town take on a Bavarian-village look, no damn neon signs anywhere in sight. As is required when visiting a German-style place, I got a healthy portion of boiled pork and a fermented barley beverage. Most excellent.

If you know what Seeqpod is and are a nerd, you might appreciate this. For everyone else, move along, nothing to see here.

Oh OK, here’s something to see: NG Photo of the Day – I have a sizeable collection of these at work, rotating as my background/screensaver.

Post after the jump.

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On Friday my team took half a day to hit up the Bite of Seattle and watch “The Dark Knight” at IMAX (3$ with the Prime Card!). I’m not going to say much about the movie – I still need time to grok it – but The Bite was pretty fun. I didn’t try much, just food from two places and a beer, but now I can finally say that I’ve tried alligator-on-a-stick. Tastes a bit like chicken. But the texture is reminiscent of pork, as a co-worker pointed out.

This has been a long-time coming, really: I’m going to be switching over from Blockbuster (in the mail) to Netflix some time this fall. Yesterday [I started writing this post last week] I heard that Microsoft is teaming up with Netflix to allow customers to watch Netflix movies on their Xbox 360, so that’s made me a very happy camper. Not that Blockbuster’s foray into the rent-by-mail business was bad, but the service has seriosly degraded from what it was a year or two back when I first joined.

First off, the price hike: I have a “1 DVD out at a time and unlimited store exchanges” account that costs me 11$ a month. That’s because I’ve had that for a long time. If you join now and want the same deal, it’ll be 22$. Anything less, and there’s a limit on how many times you can exchange the DVD at the store. That would have really sucked while I was watching Heroes: the routine was basically to get disc 1 in the mail, watch it, exchange it for disc 2 at the store, wait to get disc 3 in the mail, repeat.

Second, they took away the monthly Free Rental. It was this coupon that you get online, once a month, for a free rental. I usually used this to rent a video game. Really good deal, if you think about it: the rentals are normally 8$ a pop and you get to keep it for 2 weeks (1 week is standard renting, the second week is the grace period before they charge you for the game). But, they took that away after “talking to our customers”. This was at the same time of the first fee hike. Not sure how many customers actually said “take away the free stuff and charge us more, please, we’re dying over here”, but I’m sure that a company like Blockbuster wouldn’t lie.

Third, and this is just a minor point that has been nagging at me, is that Blockbuster “censors” their movies by only offering specific versions. This is not just based on the sizeable amount of hearsay online (“my cousin’s friend’s boss said…”), but also by what I’ve seen : “Lust, Caution” is offered (at the bricks-and-mortar store) in a “special”, “not seen in movie theaters” rated-R version. Hey, special editions and “not seen in movie theaters” features are great, but only when they’re additions to what was shown in movie theaters. By comparison, Blockbuster offers a number of “unrated” cuts to movies that I could care less about but which, apparently, are OK by their corporate standards (“oh, I have GOT to see the additional gratuitous nudity in the direct-to-trash American Pie 19!”). It’s not that this specifically affects me (“Lust, Caution”, the NC-17 version, is available online), but some things that Blockbuster does irk me and I’m happy to say that I won’t be staying with them for too long. On a scale of corporate wrong-doings this is probably a 3 (10 would be something akin to mass genocide), but it’s still something I’m not happy to see.

During the week I spent in Michigan – away from work, the internet, my Xbox… well, you get it – I had time to write up reviews for three books I have read. These are Subterranean by James Rollins, UBIK by Philip K Dick and Destiny’s Road, by Larry Niven.

Reviews right after the jump.

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Gas Works Park, 1

Gas Works park at night, the first set of photos I took since my surgery. These were actually taken more than a month ago, I’ve just been slow in editing and uploading them.

Since my arm was still in a sling at that point (and it was fairly late), these photos were taken with a tripod and are usually long-exposure.