Category Archives: Personal

These posts are about personal aspects of my life. They might include something fun I’ve been doing, some life-hacking I’ve engaged in, or something totally random.

2017 – The Year of Motivation

In 1993, I wrote out my first business plan for a college class. I called my idea “TeleCom Television”. I drew out plans for things that didn’t exist yet: Netflix-style movies and television on demand, Amazon-style shopping, and Encyclopedia-style information at your fingertips — all accessed by Echo-style voice control to your television. I didn’t follow through on that idea at all because I thought people smarter and better than me had to build them. Back then, not only did these services not exist, we didn’t even have the infrastructure close to what was needed to support these ideas. Today, we have all of the infrastructure and these we have all of these ideas implemented — built by other people. I get to work on building a browser and influencing the internet standards that make all of this possible, but I by no means was a chief player in implementing any of my ideas.

In 2005, I had an idea for a real-time data service for traveling smarter: avoiding cops, road closures, traffic accidents, and other dangers by allowing users to provide the data real-time. In 2006 I let someone talk me out of it. In 2013, a service just as I described called Waze sold to Google for a cool $1.3 billion. I use it everyday knowing it’s pretty much exactly what I envisioned but I don’t collect a dime.

In 2006, my friends Erik Porter, Ernie Booth, and I penned a large paper together on the future of Neal Stephenson-style Virtual/Augmented reality. I thought this required a Microsoft-sized company to build a vision this large. Through Microsoft, we filed a bunch of patents together and set things in motion at Microsoft that have apparently turned out pretty well with Microsoft Kinect, XBOX LIVE Avatar Gear, Project Spark, Microsoft HoloLens and more. Microsoft is benefiting (Kinect opened as the fastest selling electronic device in history) but Erik, Ernie, and I don’t own that vision and our compensation for our ideas was mediocre at best. Worst of all, some other guy gets to own and drive that vision.

I could go on, but I won’t.

I’ve had big ideas in my life. Many of you have similar stories and I’m sure lots of regret from not following up. I’ve had enough with not following my ideas or dreams. I’ve had enough with watching others own the vision for an idea I know I could drive better. I’m tired of watching others get rich on these ideas when I could have a large piece of the pie. So in 2017, I am driving myself to higher motivation. That doesn’t mean I won’t implement and invent new ideas for my company. I’m just going to make sure that I’m in the driver seat of my own vision for where I want to be at this time next year. I’m not going to sit back and be quiet while others implement what I’ve been dreaming of for years.

My goals for the year:

  1. Automate as much of my daily life as I possibly can. I want my life on auto-pilot so that I can stay in a routine. That may sound rigid, but the truth is, the more automated your life is, the more flexibility you have. This counter-intuitive principle happens because you now have more free-time to spend on what you want and less stress worrying about the things that shouldn’t cause anyone stress.
  2. Make my job about creating. Creation for me is self-delighting so I want to do more of this. Many people say “I’m going to spend my spare time doing the things I like.” and call that “Work/Life balance.” I’m going to stop trying to “balance” work and life to allow me to work on those passions “in my spare time”. I’m going to make my job more creative and accomplishment-focused. That means I’m going to work on my passions at my job in a way that means when I’m going home, I still get to work on my passions, and that still accumulates to my job. I used to have this and I will have this again.
  3. Learn from everything/everyone. Learning isn’t just about reading. It’s about putting things into practice. In order to do this you have to stop talking and start listening to others carefully (1-on-1, books, articles, videos, etc) You have to also be able to teach others that topic and you can’t really do that until you’ve done it a good bit yourself. If you catch me being very quiet in a room, it’s not because I’m not interested. It’s because I want to learn what you know and I want to be able to do something practical with that knowledge.
  4. Iterate constantly and take value early. People that know me know that I tend to focus on putting the full picture together before I unveil. This comes from my “art” days when I didn’t want anyone to look at what I was drawing, painting, etc until I was done. You’ll see me cleaning things up to “ship” frequently and iterating more. The reason? I want to take the value early and use that value to build the next thing or second half of a project more quickly.

That’s all I got for today. I think that’s a lot considering I also haven’t blogged publicly in over a year and 4 months. 🙂

Actualization and Collaboration

When I came to Microsoft over 5 years ago, I was lucky enough to find a side project to work on with some really smart people who, to this day, I consider to be my closest confidants at the company — Erik Porter and Ernie Booth. I can’t get into details entirely about the project except to say that many of our innovations and ideas can now be seen across the company in various forms such as the Kinect,  customizable 3D avatars in Xbox consoles, and some stuff in Bing maps that was added and later removed.  The project started off with Ernie and Erik discussing a project they had in mind. When I spoke with Erik about an idea I had, he felt there were similarities that could benefit and he introduced me to Ernie. We worked very well together as a trio. Ernie served as the optimist of the group, I the pessimist and Erik the neutral party. We worked late into the evenings talking about our ideas day in and day out. Shortly before submissions were due, we decided to put a Think Week paper together on our work. For those of you unfamiliar with Think Week., here is what Bill Gates says about the process:

Right now, I’m getting ready for Think Week. In May, I’ll go off for a week and read 100 or more papers from Microsoft employees that examine issues related to the company and the future of technology. I’ve been doing this for over 12 years. It used to be an all-paper process in which I was the only one doing the reading and commenting. Today the whole process is digital and open to the entire company.

We hastily put our research into an organized format, captured some screen shots, itterated a few times and prepared to submit our paper. As it happened, the submission deadline for the Think Week paper fell the day after there were massive wind storms and widespread power outages across the PacNW (including Microsoft campus) that made travel nearly impossible. We managed to find the one building with network access, huddled in the hallway and submitted our paper together. We hoped that we would at least get some comment of validation for our work and we walked away knowing that Mr. Gates would not be reading our papers for at least a few weeks.

Imagine my surprise when I got a voicemail from Erik one afternoon proclaiming that Mr. Gates had commented and I needed to read it and call him.

We were suprised that Mr. Gates read our paper and responded quite early — several weeks before his actual “Think Week”. He only did this on a few papers. His feedback was not only positive, it was glowingly positive and filled us with hope and confidence.

Ernie, Erik and I continued to collaborate and we used the positive feedback we had received from our hero to gain us meetings with several executives in the company. We were on a roll.  I was sent as a representative of Microsoft to a few standards meetings, conferences, etc. We continued pitching our ideas to several parts of the company. Xbox, Windows,  Silverlight/Expression,  Bing/Virtual Earth, Microsoft Games, Office and even our own HR department. We continued refining and adding to our pitch. We took internal courses that helped us learn how to better present our ideas. We learned how to use third parties who could act as our “insider” to help us refine and then pitch to our target audience. We gathered support from any place we could get it and even got some significant  funding for hardware, software and the like. Somewhere in the bowels of the data center lie three servers that were purchased for us.  We filed over a dozen patents in and around our ideas. We worked with Microsoft research and anyone who had even a remote relationship with what we had planned.

I can’t speak for Erik and Ernie but I was, as psychologists Goldstein and Maslow might say, self-actualized — firing on all cylinders, energized, pumped and primed for rapid advancement.

Flash forward to today. I am working at MSDN. I love the people here. I get along well with everyone. However, we all have our own goals and none of them are tied together in a meaningful , day-to-day way. We have no means to energize each other. Each of us have our own tasks. I have no one to bounce ideas off of and to receive their input which in turn will further accelerate another’s thinking.  This is what I’m missing. People who I can work with on a day-to-day basis and work on ideas, then capture them in a document.

I’ve been thinking about how to manufacture that feeling again. I want to collaborate with the community on how to work on my next generation of MSDN News. But I’m afraid even that may be difficult as I’m sure no one or two individuals could meet on a regular basis each day. I’d appreciate any thoughts from the community about how I can collaborate in a meaningful way.

Metro Bus, I think I love you. But I wanna know for sure.

Most of my life, I have disliked riding the bus. “Dislike” doesn’t really capture the feeling. It’s more like, a deep loathing. Growing up in my small rural town west of Pittsburgh, riding the bus to my elementary or middle school usually entailed waiting for what seemed like forever at the bus stopwhile engaging in mischief with others and getting into the fairly-regular fight with one of the neighborhood kids — sometimes the bullies and sometimes your own friends. Sure, there was the occasional game of “touch” football that you got to partake in, if by “touch” you mean full-contact, sorry-about-the-stitches, boy-that-parking-lot-managed-to-give-you-a-lot-of-road-rash and the like. Due to these goings on, I tended to walk to school a good bit. It was 0.5 miles to walk to my elementary school with a bus stop about the same distance away. It seemed to make sense that I could avoid the wait at the bus stop and use that time to walk. By the time I switched to my middle school a mile away, I didn’t think twice — I just walked. And thus began my dislike for buses.

Flash forward to my adult life. When I flew into a city, I always rented a car. Taking public transportation was out of the question for me. It was a bus, a train, or anything of the sort really made me feel ill. I hated flying but considering I couldn’t simply skip the “stop” and walk to my destination, I had to grin and bear it. In April of 2009, I decided for the first time in my life that I was flying to a city where I didn’t want to have to drive. I flew into Philadelphia for the Philly.NET code camp to give a presentation on Domain-specific languages and to spend some time with my cousins working/teaching at UPenn. I got off the flight, grabbed my bag and headed for the train into town. Expecting the dreaded feeling, I instead felt this immediate sense of freedom. I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to park my car, how safe it would be, how I would negotiate the nights festivities spent out while  leaving my car and having to find my way back to it later. I was free to go wherever the transit could take me. For the first time in my life, I picked up a few train and bus schedules and I was in perfect bliss. Of course, my cousin Donna Ann found this very amusing as she’s been using transportation of this sort for some time.

In that same year, I had moved back to my home town temporarily to help my parents while they recovered from consecutive knee replacement surgeries. It was a good time for me to spend with family after some messy personal business. When I decided to move back to the Seattle area, I gave my parents my truck. In part it was because it was getting old and wasn’t worth shipping across the country again. In other sense I felt I could use the exercise a bike and the occasional walk would provide. But I also remembered that sense of freedom from a vehicle that I was looking forward to achieving again. I arrived in Redmond and didn’t have a car. I immediately purchased a bike and some basics and started walking and riding everywhere. I told myself that I might buy a car but only after I lost 20 pounds. I lost 22 pounds in about three weeks. I also rode the bus everywhere my bike or legs wouldn’t reasonably carry me in the time I had available. I found it fascinating how many new places I found to eat that I didn’t even know existed. The pace of life slowed considerably and I was ecstatic about that. I was in no rush to get anywhere. There was no stress of burning gas while being stuck in traffic. I could sit on the bus and read or surf the web on my phone while the bus driver did all the work.

Then I bought a car. I didn’t it mostly convincing myself I’d just use it for those random trips to places where a bus, my bike or my legs weren’t practical. Of course, none of this turned out to be true. About a month after getting my car, I started dating the most amazing woman I have ever met in my life. That’s no exageration. To this day, two years later, my heart mealts just to hear her voice on the phone. I’d do anything for her. Of course, that means I drive everywhere with her. We go to Seattle to watch the opera or catch a comedy show at the Paramount or just to stroll along Alki “beach”. My days of more primitive transportation were pretty much done.

A few weeks ago, I got a bug in my ass to start saving as much money as I could. I also wanted to use more common sense means of getting around. Using my car to transport me the measly 4 miles each way to work burned more gas than was really worth it. Parking my car in my parking garage at home is a pain too. Once you lose one of the good (read: wide) spots in my garage, you’re stuck trying to force your way into spots that were made only to satisfy Redmond requirements for parking spots per capita and not really to fit a real car into. Since I got home at strange times of the day, I could never guarantee that I would get a good spot and that just made me want to stay home once I got in each day from work.

One of my old housemates who lives in the building next door to mine asked me if I wanted to hop a bus to Kirkland and go for a walk down by Marina Park one day. I thought it would be fun and I wanted to catch up with my old friend so we did. It suddenly dawned on me that the “bus thing” was still an option. I decided to start taking it. I started taking it this past week everywhere that it made sense to. I’ve taken the bus to the gym, from the gym to work, to work from home, and from work to home. Most of this, of course, is without cost to me since Microsoft provides us with an Orca card for our travel many of those trips are covered with the card. I think I love this “bus thing” all over again.

Of course, I live on the “east side” of Lake Washington where the bus is pretty tame. I can’t say that a bus trip in West Seattle would be nearly as calming or enjoyable. I even got a small taste of that the other day in Bellevue. As I was getting ready to board the bus, a woman coming down the stairs yelled “This is FUCKING STUPID!” As she stood about 6 inches from my face. Being a contrarian her sentiments were shared by me — if only I had understood the target of her angst, I might have agreed with her! The woman was clearly not right in the head as her eyes darted around a bit and she wandered off muttering to herself. I boarded the bus only to see everyone looking at me inquisitively as if I was going to be able to explain what happened. Not wanting to let them down, I said “Wait, am I getting on in Bellevue, or on the west side?” This was met with laughter — the approval I was looking for before I could sit. Then I realized, of course, that this person who just exited the bus may have left a “present” in the seat as often happens in public transport. I opted to stand instead. Hmm. The downsides to the bus came screaming back.

Metro Bus, I think I love you, but I wanna know for sure! Tell me about your crazy public transportation stories.

Life hack: Getting better gas mileage

On my way to a metric-based lifestyle, I started taking a closer look at my gas mileage. This was a metric that I have been collecting for a while and thought I should be able to improve rather easily – lending itself to improved daily discretionary spending.

I recently purchased a 2010 Ford Fusion Sport. According to Ford’s specs I should be getting 18mpg in the city and 27mpg on the highway. I’ve put 11,000 miles on my car in 6 months – most of them highway driving so I should be getting near that top MPG range in this car. However, I rarely broke 300 miles on a single 17.5 gallon fuel tank (I usually filled up with 14-15 gallons). In fact, most of my fuel-ups netted me 270 miles. For the longest time, I couldn’t get above 18.x miles per gallon according to the sensor on my car. This left lots of room for improvement in a car that says it can do a lot better.

I keep a journal of my gas fuel-ups. Here are the metrics before my changes:

Avg Miles/Tank Avg Gallons/Fuel-up Avg Miles/Gallon Est. Gallons/Year* Est. Fuel Cost/Year**
272 14.53 18.71989 1282.059 $3,653.87

* Based on 24,000 miles a year (my current pace)
** Based on $2.85/gallon average price tag

I just had to do better. I used to get a thrill out of getting 300 miles out of a tank of gas. I wanted to know what it was like to get 350 miles — maybe more. Without any research on the web, I just tried a few things – things that might be common sense for others, but were just not a big deal for me. Here is what I decided to do.

No More Distracted Driving

I have a ton of gadgets that can vie for my attention while I’m driving. In the past, those gadgets would get my attention – particularly if I was in stop and go traffic. I decided to make a habit of ignoring everything but driving. After driving through three tanks of gas, I noticed that I was consistently getting around 300 miles per tank. Distracted driving seems to have cost me about 10% of my fuel efficiency!

No More Aggressive Driving

I’ve lived in a lot of big cities where it was eat-or-be-eaten when it comes to driving. Again, in stop and go traffic, I would tend to stay very close to the bumper of the next car so others wouldn’t cut me off. I made a conscious decision once again to start driving far less aggressively. I use my cruise control when I can. I stay far behind the cars in front of me. A defensive driving instructor would be proud! Oddly enough, I feel a lot less stressed when I just acknowledge that people are going to keep cutting me off and that’s ok. The result? My last two fill-ups gave me over 350 miles per tank and my current tank is on target to give me about 365 if it keeps on pace! This is amazing.


I’ve nearly squeezed an extra 100 miles out of every tank just by changing driving behavior! Let’s put this in perspective. Here are the metrics after my changes (assuming I get the 365 miles out of this tank):

Avg Miles/Tank Avg Gallons/Fuel-up Avg Miles/Gallon Est. Gallons/Year* Est. Fuel Cost/Year**
357.5 14.53 24.60427 975.4406 $2,780.01

If you compare that against my previous cost, I’m on track to save $873.86 this year – and that’s if I don’t change anything else. Being that this is an iterative process, I’m going to try more behavior tweaking to try and get my MPG up.

Life Hack: A metrics-based lifestyle this decade

I’ve never considered myself to be a “life hacker” by any means. I have been concentrated on my career and comfort in the past decade and that came at some great costs. So, I decided to start formulating a plan to make changes to my life based on metrics. I will become a life hacker — for better or worse.

Metrics imply measurability and that’s what I intend to concentrate on at first — things that I can measure, change behavior, then measure again. While there is non-empirical consequence to many decisions that I make on a daily basis, I decided to start here. For instance, my first metric-based decision of the decade was to avoid stopping at Starbucks this morning. I estimate that a stop at Starbucks averages 15 minutes of my time, $5 of my wealth, and a negative drag on my health (250 calories, 47 carbs, and 180mg of sodium taken from my daily allowances of those items).  A case could be made that this has decreased my momentary happiness. I’m not measuring that. In fact, I’m trying to do away with decisions based on immediacy. While my short-term aggrivation is great, I am speculating that over time this will turn into a net-positive for my happiness.

There are a lot of things that I want to change in my life this decade. But I’m going to concentrate on a few major areas, and break them down further as it makes sense to do so. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to come up with an automated process to view my progress and give myself “triggers” to remind me when I’m slipping. Eventually, I’d like every decision I make to tigger a flurry of facts in my head before moving forward. That should also make its way into my structured planning for the day, week, month, quarter and year.

So here are the areas where I’m going to concentrate:

  • Health – I’d like to improve my health through better nutrician, exercise, and sleeping habits. I will be measuring:
    • Daily intake of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, sodium, and water.
    • Daily exercise in the form of pedometer-tracked steps, cardio minutes, weight lifted and reps per exercise, and stretching minutes.
    • Weekly weight
    • Hour slept and number of times I woke up
  • Wealth – I need to start planning and budgeting better. While I’m not exactly a spend-aholic, I can do better in my planning and spending decisions. I will track:
    • Monthly savings contribution as a $ amount and a percentage of income
    • Weekly investment changes
    • Daily discretionary spending
    • Quarterly credit score
  • Time – This is where I hurt the most. I don’t have enough time in the day to do everything I want. I’m hoping making metric-based decisions will free up some time and help me better plan. I will track:
    • Time spent blogging
    • Time spent learning
    • Time spent on household chores
    • Time spent commuting
  • Others – I will add additional metrics as I think of them or as I see a need to improve this process.

Obviously each of these are going to need base-lined for a month or so. I will be using whatever tools I can to accomplish this base-line. I’m planning on using an Omron HJ-720ITC Pocket Pedometer with Health Management Software to track my steps. I’m using the iPhone LiveStrong app as well as CalorieKing to track my daily nutrition and exercise metrics. I’m considering the Zeo Sleep Coach after Scott Hanselman recommended it, but for now I’ll just use some plain old pen/paper tracking, so to speak. I may also pick up on the Nike+iPhone app at some point, but not just yet.

If you are interested in tracking my progress and keeping me honest, I will be posting what I can under the “life hack” category on this site.

Happy new year everyone!

Life Hack: Working around ADHD-like Symptoms

For years, it has become more and more difficult for me to concentrate when I am trying to study. I try repeatedly to block everything out and just concentrate on reading a book/article/webcast, follow along with the examples, and get through the material. Each attempt fails miserably with my frustration that I got absolutely nothing done. I’ve attempted to integrate methodologies like Getting Things Done to my routine. However, all of this means nothing if I can’t even concentrate on the task GTD lays before me. I didn’t always have this problem. I stayed very focused and on task as a child. While I could easily get distracted from a task, I also had the ability to block everything out and focus like a laser on anything I wanted to. Things have changed. I’ve gotten older. My career has taken a different path. I’m in a different place. My personal life has changed drastically. I’m constantly worried about and distracted by politics. I need to make a change.

I’ve tried everything to correct my problem. People have given me recommendations41SSqGcuXbL._SL160_[1]. However there are so many issues at hand. When I’m studying, I need internet access to look up an occasional tidbit. However, internet is a huge distraction. If I open a browser, you can bet 30 minutes from the time I open it I’ll have about 10 browser sessions open with multiple tabs reading about topics I have no business reading about during my study time. I need my phone as I’m in constant contact with people I rely upon and who rely upon me. Silence is killer and the mere idea of realizing I’ve been in the same spot for an hour sends me into severe displeasure and I feel like I’m wasting the day. However, if I’m amongst people I know, I tend to want to talk to them. It’s all a disaster. I realized I needed to solve these problems so I attacked them one by one.

Desired Outcome

  1. I need internet access, but I don’t want the distraction of browsing.
  2. I need to stay in touch with people without having constant non-critical conversations interrupt me.
  3. I need to be around activity to prevent me from being stir crazy but I can’t sit around chatting with people I know all day.

Solution Proposed

  1. Go somewhere without free internet access. Use my phone to access the internet. The slower connection and smaller screen keep my browsing targeted at solutions when I need them.
  2. Turns out the iPhone is perfect for this. Since the iPhone is single-application-centric, it prevents me from getting interrupted by email and twitter. So I keep my phone with me, but I just keep my non-critical communication tools closed. Better still, I have moved all of my task-oriented applications like “Remember the Milk”, “Shopper”, “Evernote” and “Bing” on my main page of my cell phone. When I look at the phone, all the red “todo” circles showing up on the page remind me every time I open the phone that I’m on task.
  3. I go to Starbucks to study. Sounds crazy, I know, but it works for me. I have the non-specific white noise of people I don’t know chatting in the background without the temptation to join in a conversation. I’m not going stir crazy as I’m out of the house. Working on my laptop rather than my multi-screen monitor helps me stay focused on the software studying task at hand. Starbucks/AT&T charge for internet access through my laptop so I’m not distracted easily.


So far all of my proposals have worked. I find it very natural to stay focused. If I have to “think” about staying focused, that thought in and of itself will distract me. This method currently keeps me on task without having to think about what task it is I’m performing. Too much monitor real-estate leads me to distractions and a quickly responding system leaves me to run down multiple rabbit trails. I tend to think the large number of us who claim “ADD” or “ADHD” are not inflicted with anything other than reinforcing poor habits and living years of distracted lifestyles. That said, I think it should be possible to relearn to properly focus through some hard work.

Let me know what your life hack is. How do you stay on task?

What technology actually improves your life?

Nearly a year ago, I blogged about the fact that I had no “cool” technologies in my house.  I didn’t own a single gadget that anyone would consider to be “up to date” by any standard. I didn’t own a PDA, a laptop, or even a modern cell-phone.  I didn’t have flat-panel monitors or anything other than a standard 27″ television — with a broken power button at that.  I had several computers in the house, but all of them were at least a year and a half old. 

I decided after posting that complaint that things were going to change.  I released my death grip on my cash that I had been hording and sprung for a new, improved, gadget-savvy image.

Flash forward to today — 11 months after that post.  As I got ready to head into work, I closed up my 17″ widescreen HP media center ready laptop and turned off my HP printer/copier/fax.  I packed up my Gateway Tablet PC and shoved it into my Microsoft backpack along with my 60GB video iPod, assorted USB flashdrives, bluetooth adapters, folding headphones, and the like.  I strapped my 8.1 MegaPixel Nikon digital camera and Audiovox Smart Phone to my belt.  I put my Motorola bluetooth hands-free headset on my ear.  I walked into the living room and turned off my 50″ Plasma TV and shoved the wireless controllers for my Xbox 360 under the TV stand.  I walked out to my car and looked at the windshield cluttered with an XM SkyFi2 satelite radio, a Sirius satelite radio, and a Microsoft Streets and Trips GPS device.  Now, I say all of this to point out that I’ve gone from one extreme to another and at no small expense.  I sometimes wonder if I should have just hung onto my cash, but in other instances, I really enjoy my products.

I asked myself as I traveled to work this morning “Have I gotten my money’s worth out of these devices? Have they made my life better — or just more expensive?”  It seems that many of today’s top technological gadgets are great at overcoming technological problems, but do they really enrich our lives?  My Smartphone is one device that I just couldn’t live without.  I keep track of my appointments, birthdays, phone numbers and so much more on that little thing.  I also keep a copy of Microsoft Pocket Streets and Trips on there — which is a great little tool for getting around.  There is no question that this device makes my life easier in today’s society that requires that I know how to contact any number of people, keep track of appointments and schedules that change every hour, or keep me up to date with birthdays of family members all the way on the other side of the country.  My camera is great. Photos are so hard for me to keep track of.  I keep a few but they are usually buried in boxes that I have to dig for if I want to view them again.  I can snap pictures of the mountains out here in the Pacific Northwest and immediately send them to my parents.  The camera is a great addition to my “technical family.” That said — there are other devices that just seem to be excessive (Who needs XM and Sirius and an iPod?  Could I do without them? Most likely.)

I could go on and on talking about my devices.  Instead, I’d like to hear from you.  What technologies have made your life better?  These could be services, pieces of hardware, or even websites in general.  I want to know what technologies make a difference in your everyday life and what technologies have you invested your hard-earned money into that haven’t been worth it.

XBOX 360

On my way home from work Friday, I stopped by a local game store had a few 360 consoles in stock.  This just a short time after it was announced that shipments would be stepping up for the console. So, I bought myself a premium console and headed over to the Microsoft store and bought Kameo.  I then headed home with a giddy little grin on my face.  On the way home, I stopped at yet another game store and bought Ghost Recon and Fight Night. 

When I got home, I started feverishly hooking the console up.  I realized quickly that I didn’t have enough power outlets at my entertainment center to plug in the 360 so I started running around the house looking for a power strip to plug all of my other devices into (the 360 should not be plugged into a surge protector).  Since we  JUST moved to the Northwest  all of our stuff is still mostly packed in boxes. I had paper and cardboard flying everywhere while looking for this strip! At last: I found one!  “I’ll clean up the mess later,” I thought as I rushed back into the living room to finish the setup.
I turned the console on and changed the television to channel 3 and then 4 — an obvious habit I had from the last console I owned so many years ago (Nintendo — nope, not 64, not DS — just plain old Nintendo).  I finally got everything set up right and then I saw it — the Xbox 360 console — right there on my TV.  I could curl up to this thing at night for warmth — I’m sure of it.

I’ve already been playing so much longer than I ever expected.  I’ve already got a list of friends hooked up in my console and have already played a few rounds (and lost many) of Fight Night.  I love this game and I can already tell that I need to apply some time management skills to keep me productive.  If you haven’t played Fight Night yet, let me explain.  This game lets you build your own fighter. You can control his stats, his clothes, his skills and even his look.  That’s right, when you build your fighter, you can control every aspect of his looks — cheek shape / size, skull shape/size, jaw shape/size, eye color/socket size, eye brows, facial hair, and more.  You can then add tattoos to the boxer’s back, arms, and chest.  The amount of customization is unreal.  You can then start fighting and training your boxer up the ranks, all the while fighting great boxers like Ali, Frazier, Leonard, and more.  As you are fighting, the level of control is amazing and the detail in the graphics is fantastic.  I can lean back, block with one arm, two or even duck and cover. The conrol is 100% up to me — no preset motions that limit your ability to create your own fighting style. Jab left then Haymaker right.  Jab high right, jab low and left, jab low left, uppercut right, parry, counter haymaker!  It’s indescribable!  I’m addicted already:  not good yet, but addicted!

I then picked up Ghost Recon and tried playing that.  It’s really amazing how cool this game is, but honestly — it’s a lot harder for me to play this than anything else.  To explain, I’ve been a PC gamer for a while. I’ve played PC-based FPSes (First Person Shooters) since .. well Wolfenstein 3D.  I then moved on to games like Doom (1 and 3), Enemy Territory, Quake (1, 2, 3 4), Call of Duty, and Half Life. I’ve played them as single player. I’ve played them as multiplayer. I played in clans. I created trick jump videos and even got bored and started doing trick jump videos backwards.  Yes — I’m no stranger to FPS gaming. But playing on a console is so much more… contrived.. harder.  In my opinion, the keyboard and mouse are the best controllers for an FPS. None-the-less, the game play itself is awesome.  I also like that being shot actually hurts the character — and being shot in the right spot — even with one shot is fatal.  This is contrary to a lot of older games that I played that just took your ‘health’ down with gun shots to the chest and head.  In any case, once I’ve mastered Fight Night, I’m definitely going to give this game another shot with a controller.  Note to XBOX 360 team — allow mouse and keyboard controller input for games! 

Kameo was … different. I’m not used to playing games like this, and I honestly didn’t put much time into it. The game is very cool looking. Kameo can change shape into a rolling spikey looking creature that can spin at high velocity toward monsters. She can also transform into a plant-like creature that is great at sneaking up on things. She can take the shape of a blue ape-like creature that can bash monsters and stick them to his back and use those monsters as weapons. More shapes are available later. It’s very… umm… interesting. Kameo herself can fly short little hops over obstacles.  This game appeals to my some but for me, I think I’ll stick to the other two for now.

The games themselves aren’t the only thing that are cool.  I can connect my XBOX to my PC’s in the house and use MP3’s I have stored there as well as pictures and movies.  The only thing I wish is that I could continue playing those MP3s while I played Fight Night. I prefer my music to EA sports selection!
This post was much longer than expected. But I couldn’t help but share my enthusiasm about this machine.  For those that have stuck around a bit, I have some thoughts: If you buy one of these systems, consider buying the core system. You’ll save $100 that you can spend on a 20GB  hard drive and a pair of headphones that feel good for you.  The ones included in the premium system aren’t that great and are cheaply made, IMHO.  Once again, I could just be spoiled from my previous online gaming headphones I use. Also, consider buying the wireless ethernet adapter, and some recharge kits for your controler(s).  All of this will cost a bit more, but will make your gaming experience better, IMO.  That’s all for now. Happy gaming!

New Blog

I’ve started a second blog at in light of my employment at MS. The second blog will be targetted toward IIS and my work at Microsoft. I will continue to post technical content about personal projects here if the scope falls outside of work context. If this starts to get too confusing, I may make additional changes down the road.

i-Pod – Microsoft Style

As an outsider to Microsoft, I’ve often said that one of the downfalls of the company was their ability to complicate the simplest idea. I was, apparently, not the only one to think so. This video at provides a little insite into someone elses feelings of Microsoft. As I fly out to Seattle next week, I’m hoping that I can prevent myself from getting entangled in over-engineering and complexity.

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