Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

This year it snowed on Christmas (just over an inch I believe), which made for the perfect holiday atmosphere. The Star and Tribune ran a little infographic about the probability of a white Christmas in Minnesota. Note that certain areas of Northern Minnesota are guaranteed a white Christmas.

ProbabilityOfAWhiteChristmas

Annual chance of a white Christmas in Minnesota, based on historic records from 1899 through 2005. Sources: University of Minnesota, Minnesota DNR, NOAA. Graphic by Billy Steve Clayton.

Sledding

The snowy weather inspired a group of us to go outside and sled in the backyard.

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Bro-in-law and niece.

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The outlier: knee-first sledding!

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My sister tearing up the snow.

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My father.

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My aunt.

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Don't fall off the sled as deep snow awaits.

Christmas Morning (Stockings and Presents)

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My niece received a little gorilla in her stocking;
she's attempting to imitate it here.

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My niece gave me a storybook of my life (2005-2007) made with Shutterfly.

IMG_4929I gave my niece a princess crown.

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The next gift my niece opened was a princess dress.
She is actually airborne here jumping for joy.

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The full princess costume.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007 Photobooth

Photobooth makes for pure awesome fun.
My two cousins and I.

My two cousins and my bro-in-law.

Niece and sister looking crazy! Thanks Photobooth.

My cousin making sure to represent his braces.

The Mirror.

The Day Before Christmas 2007

IMG_4769 In the morning, my family and I went to the Macy's annual holiday auditorium display, now in its 45th year. A team of 40 local theatrical artists created 16 vignettes depicting the story of the Nutcracker through mechanical puppets, sculptures, and hand crafted scenery. Although I have seen the ballet in the past (in the Kodak Theatre in LA no less), I had forgotten how whimsical and violent this story can be. For example, the Nutcracker must battle a legion of killer rats with only the help of some toy soldiers and children (see below).

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Afterwards, we took our first professionally captured family picture with Santa (given that my parent's house has no scanner, I'm afraid this is a picture of a picture).

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Uncle's House for the Eve

Per family tradition, we spent Christmas Eve at my uncle's house in Minneapolis. Here are some pictorial highlights.

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Scrabble on Christmas

Christmas Eve ended like it usually does, with a game. We typically play party-games like Cranium, Trivial Pursuit, etc. This year, however, we played Team Scrabble. Fortunately, I was paired up with my wordsmith cousin and we had no trouble disposing of the competition.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Whiteout Conditions in Twin Cities

The Twin Cities received about six inches of snow today on top of
the two inches it snowed yesterday. Both Minneapolis and
St. Paul declared snow emergencies. (Photo credit: Jeremy Portje, AP)

My parent's backyard as viewed from their kitchen window.

Looking back at my parent's house from their backyard.

My dad and I on a short hike through the forest on my parent's property.

The northwest side of my parent's house.

The high winds brought about whiteout conditions. There is about fourteen inches of snow accumulation in the Twin Cities.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Sweetest Kiss Ever

Note the early pucker approach... I may incorporate that into my own skill set.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cornell is Gorges

I was in Cornell giving a talk on The Mobile Phone as a (Massive) Data Collection Platform (slide deck here, 63.1 MB PowerPoint file).

Traveling to Ithaca, NY from Seattle, WA took me approximately 36 hours, though it was worth the wait (Ithaca is gorges, of course). I had a two-layover flight: from Seattle to Cincinnati, from Cincinnati to Detroit, and then finally Detroit to Ithaca. It's the second layover that ruined me. NWA indiscriminately bumped eight passengers off the flight from Detroit based purely on their ticket price (fine, understandable, it's the economy of seats). As a bargain shopper, I proudly had the cheapest ticket (thanks Expedia!). However, being bumped meant a night in a shoddy Detroit hotel (are there any others?) where I was promised but did not receive deodorant, toothbrush, and all other bathroom necessities. However, they did get me toothpaste... oh and a free round trip ticket on NWA (which would only be indicative of times to come).

On my way back from Ithaca, I had a slightly more streamlined flightplan: Ithaca to Detroit and from Detroit to Seattle. My departing flight out of Ithaca was supposed to leave around 6:30AM. I arrived with a fellow graduate student, who just happened to be taking the same flight out and had thus driven us both to the airport. While checking in, I observed the person to our direct left arguing with the ticket agent--it appeared she had just been bumped from our flight. I immediately thought, "uh, oh, not again." Sure enough, my colleague and I were both bumped off this flight as well (yep, another free round trip ticket on NWA). This time, however, I was a seasoned bumpee and thus I negotiated for a first class ticket to Seattle and a free breakfast (on top of the round trip voucher). The only downside was that the departing flight took out of Syracuse instead of Ithaca. We took a one hour cab ride on NWA's dime to Syracuse where I was met with an accusatory stare and some deriding comments from an NWA ticket agent who asked me why I wasn't checking in 45 minutes before my departure. I was too sick and tired to argue.

Needless to say, this was the worst air travel I have ever experienced. Thanks NWA! I should note, though, that the two round trip ticket vouchers paired with the first class ticket back to Seattle definitely mitigated my troubles (as it was meant to) though I can say I would have much preferred to achieve my original flight plan in both directions.

Touring Campus
Given my flight debacle, I didn't have as much time to tour Cornell and the surrounding area. Jofish was kind enough to quickly walk me around on the night of my arrival. The next three pictures were taken from the sixth floor of the Johnson Museum building. The fourth one is a photograph I snapped while walking around campus before my talk.

Information Science Building
Hanging Out After TalkFirst Class Return Flight
First class food. Salad with fresh vegetables, a warm roll,
fresh fruit, white wine and a Dove chocolate ice cream bar.

yum!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Friday, October 19, 2007

Denny's in Tempe, AZ

I was in Tempe, AZ this past week for the ASSETS2007 conference. Across from our hotel was Denny's Restaurant, which offers fine dining experiences across the USA. This was the first Denny's that I'd ever been to, however, that sold hard liquor. I, of course, ordered a $3 whiskey, which the waitress told me was, ahem, Crown Royal. Although now I am somewhat disappointed that I did not order Denny's Champagne.

Radiohead, Exceeding Genius

Radiohead released their latest album In Rainbows last week to much internet fanfare. The album can be purchased online for any amount that the purchaser feels suitable (including $0.00). More info at Wikipedia, which includes some statements from the band on the atypical release:

Explaining the reasons behind the album's unusual delivery, the band's lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood said "partly just to get it out quickly, so everyone would hear it at the same time, and partly because it was an experiment that felt worth trying, really." As for letting people name the price they pay for the album, he said "it's fun to make people stop for a few seconds and think about what music is worth, and that's just an interesting question to ask people."

I tried to pay roughly $20 for my copy but my credit card wouldn't go through (in fact my credit card company put my card on hold after visiting the In Rainbows web purchase site). I noticed on Last.FM this week that Radiohead is the top played band and all 10 of the top played songs are Radiohead. My favorite tracks off the album include Reckoner, All I Need, House of Cards, and Videotape. Like most Radiohead records, this album must be played multiple times before you can fully judge its musical quality.

On Last.FM, Radiohead is the most played artist and has the top 10 most played tracks.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Dave Climbs Mountain, Summits

One of my best friends from high school came to visit me in Seattle. I had long planned to take him on a hike of Mount Pilchuck, a favorite of mine since moving here in 2004. Our other option was Mount Rainier, however a quick check of their website noted snow conditions on the roads and trails so we went with the safer bet. Plus, Pilchuck, in my opinion, offers some of the best views of the North Cascades and the Puget Sound of any hike--and it's fairly low effort. I'd never hiked Pilchuck in the fall, only the summer, so we ran into a few (slightly) unexpected weather-related issues.

The Mount Pilchuck trail is 6 miles round trip with a 2166 ft elevation gain.

The trail starts out below the alpine line with small stream crossings and lush vegetation.

After much debate, we decided to ford the river
(ferries were not within site).

We were probably 0.5 miles into the trail when we began hiking through
low clouds (fog). It created great ambience but I knew at a cost of
seeing the great views Pilchuck had to offer.

The first signs of snow... little did we know...

Dave is holding up pretty well at the 1.0 mile mark.

Snow accumulation continues to increase as we climb.

Some breaks in the clouds allow us to see a partial view of the valley.

The Pilchuck trail can be somewhat strenuous because
of its constant elevation gain.


Another break in the clouds allows us to see what we're up against.

Starting to tire, probably about 3/4ths of the way there (though
admittedly I had been telling Dave that for the past 40 minutes of
the hike to motivate him).


Dave's a trooper hiking through 1.5 feet of slightly packed snow
with only tennis shoes. At this elevation, it was snowing.

After about 2.5 hours of hiking, we made it to the top.

As you can see, the clouds were dense obscuring the 360 degree
panoramic view that typically includes Mount Rainier,
the Puget Sound, and the North Cascades.

I had Dave take this picture because those rocks behind me are the
same ones I am standing on in the picture below
(which I hiked with Danyel in August of 2006).


This picture was taken during my first Mount Pilchuck hike in
August of 2006. More pictures from that hike
here.

We summited Mount Pilchuck.

A manly handshake at the trailhead sign after the hike.