Friday, September 21, 2012

reach for the stars

In September 1988, I saw STS-26 launch.  That launch of Space Shuttle Discovery was the first launch after the Challenger disaster.  I saw the launch when I was at Space Camp.

Today I saw the Space Shuttle Endeavour on its decommissioning flight.  It was as amazing to see as the launch I witnessed 24 years ago.

Friday, September 14, 2012

dale earnhardt's letter to himself

Overall, you need to just be more sure of yourself. You're going to do great things man. You're going to have an awesome life. ... So don't be so timid and worrisome about the future so much so that you can't enjoy the present.

-- Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s letter to his 16 year old self, reprinted from USA Today.

To a 16 yr old Dale Jr,
Now writing this letter to you is going to force me to think pretty deeply about my life and you know thinking deeply was never one of your favorite activities. You always did and always will shoot for the C on your report card, anything more than that is always going to be a surprise to you right?
You just got your driver's license ... your heart belongs to no one ... and you're going to spend a lot of nights in the bed of your S10 pickup truck out in the field staring up at the stars worrying about your future. Your father's accomplishments on the race track already cast a pretty heavy shadow over your existence. He's going to accomplish more in the years to come and your fear of living anonymously and forgotten -- that's going to grow.
You don't have much of a connection to your mother, your efforts in that regard are disappointing. In the future she is going to become a consistent and prominent figure in your life ... but you shouldn't waste the years in between. Because her love is the truly unconditional kind. You shouldn't take it for granted.
Living under your father's roof doesn't bridge the incredible gap between you guys. In due time, you will enjoy the most incredible relationship with him.
One afternoon after an accident, you're going to go home thinking your career is over. And then bustin' in through the door comes your dad and he's wondering what you're doing sitting on your butt feeling sorry for yourself. And you are going to go out on the back porch and sit down and have a two hour conversation that is the most influential conversation you'll ever have with him. He is going to finally assure you of what lies ahead. It's not the end of your career like you thought, it's just the beginning of a very, very long incredible journey.
You'll share laughs and triumphs at his side. It'll be in your best interest that when these times come, you get everything out of them that you possibly can. I mean when it's you and him, in that moment, you live it to the fullest.
Now you want to be a race car driver, so let's talk about the racing. As I look back on it as a whole, starting out from Go Karts all the way to Cup today, it's going to feel clunky, and impromptu, and is going to be lacking in successes. But fortunately for you ... every weekend there will be another race.
Now with that said, you're going to be so deathly frightened of potential failure that you're not going to realize just how much fun you're having. You're going to win a lot of races, and as painfully shy as you are you'll overcome and accomplish in arenas not just limited to driving cars.You're going to meet Presidents. You're going to guest on late night shows, I mean it's incredible -- but it's true.
That's not too bad for an oil mechanic. Yes you are going to change oil change for a few years -- and it's not as bad as it sounds.
And I knew you'd want to know about your Redskins. Now your Redskins are goin' to win another Super Bowl in '91. But after that it's a pretty rough road. But your support for them Redskins doesn't waiver one bit.
Overall, you need to just be more sure of yourself. You're going to do great things man. You're going to have an awesome life. You have a great heart and it's going to stay with you throughout. So don't be so timid and worrisome about the future so much so that you can't enjoy the present. You're there, worried about me here. You just need to have some fun man. Jump in that S10, go down to Concord and cruise the strip. Because you're going to be here ... soon enough.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I woke up when the phone rang. It must have been sometime between 6 and 6:30 am. I picked it up... it was my mom. 'Turn on the television, quick.' Clearly, something bad happened. We turned on the television. There were the WTC buildings, one on fire. A minute later, an object went into the other building, and now both were on fire. No one on TV knew what was happening. As we prepared for work, I watched on the television as the two buildings disappeared into a thick plume of smoke and dust. No one knew what happened initially, but then the realization struck the broadcasters (and us) that something had happened structurally to the buildings. Maybe they had partially collapsed. I remember thinking that tens of thousands of people could be dead, and what difficulty it would be to repair that much structural damage so far up in the air. But there was nothing I could do, so I went to work.

At work, everyone was huddled around a few computers reading or watching the initial streaming video of the airplanes. Then, sometime around 10:30, the fire alarm went off. My building was directly in the flight path to San Jose airport, so we took it seriously. Maybe someone saw a plane headed for our building, and pulled the alarm? We raced down 17 flights of stairs, even though we realized it was unlikely an airplane would target the PwC San Jose office. Out on the street, most of us decided to go home. A coworker drove me. I sat at home for a few hours and watched television.

My car was stuck downtown, so around 1pm, I took a bus to the light rail station, and took light rail downtown. On the light rail, the woman next to me had a home-made necklace made out of a postcard of the twin towers on a string around her neck. There was complete silence on the train. I retrieved my car and computer, and came back home, and camped out in front of the TV to watch the news. Some people avoided it. I couldn't.

The next day, I learned that five people from my company died in the airplanes, including one man who was a partner at PwC who I knew, along with his domestic partner and their child. That was my closest connection to a 9/11 casualty.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Today is my three year anniversary at Google.  Thank you, Google.  The opportunity I was given three years ago changed my life forever.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

gone google, part 2: converting to chromebook

My Other Computer is a Data Center

In August 2012, I uninstalled Microsoft Office from my work-issued MacBook Pro. I was already mostly working in Google Docs. And the few times I need to use Microsoft Word or Excel, I have access through Citrix. I was nervous to pull the plug on Excel, but doing so didn't cause any immediate problems.

After that success, I decided I might as well as get rid of my work-issued MacBook Pro entirely. In September 2012, I exchanged my Mac for a Samsung Chromebook Series 5 550.
Here's how I transitioned:

Step 1:  Move to the Cloud
  • I already had no files saved locally. I was 100% in the cloud. This includes music (Google Music), spreadsheets, docs, etc. (Google Drive). 
  • Tip: Change the default download directory in chrome://settings to a "_Downloads" folder on Google Drive.  That way when you save email attachments, they are imported directly into the top folder in Google Drive.
Step 2:  Configure Displays
  • I had been using a three-screen display: My Mac, and two 24-inch external displays. Since the Chromebook presently only supports one display at a time (mirroring the device's screen), I spent a week using my Mac with the laptop closed, and only one external 24-inch display. It was a bit of a switch, but I'm pretty used to working only on one large screen now.
    Update: As of January 2013, the Beta Channel now supports extended multi-monitor display.
  • The Chromebook has easy support for dual-pane browsers (two browser instances side by side).  They're a bit narrow on a 24-inch external display, but it's sufficient for tasks where I need dual display capability.
  • The Samsung 550 has a DisplayPort video output. My external display had a DVI input, and the DisplayPort -> DVI transition isn't perfect.  So I swapped my external display for a 24-inch monitor with DisplayPort input.  The resolution on the external monitor is great.
  • I bought this adapter to connect my Chromebook to my 46" TV at home.  Works great, and even pipes the audio through to the TV.
Step 3:  Install Some Apps.  I installed a few Chrome apps to make life easier with the Chromebook:
The Results

  • It's fast.  Really fast.  As fast if not faster than my Mac.
  • Setup took just a few minutes.
  • Long battery life.
  • Great speakers.  Really great.
  • Security. My computer has no information on it.
  • Clutter-free. Most computers slow down over time as they become cluttered. I can wipe the Chromebook and start fresh as often as I want.
  • Compact and light.  Travelling with the Chromebook and the power adapter is significantly lighter than with the MacBook Pro.
  • No problem using external (USB) keyboard and trackball.
  • Verizon 3G connectivity for emergency access to the cloud when WiFi isn't available (100mb/month free - I won't be surfing the web, but if I need to get a critical email sent, I can). I can also tether via my Galaxy Nexus phone.
  • Google Drive integration is great.  It's treated as a drive on the computer, and it syncs in the background.
  • I'm on the Beta channel, and it rarely crashes.  I do a full reboot about twice a week (this takes about 10 seconds).
  • Device updates.  About once every two weeks or so, my beta-channel software updates.  It takes ten seconds.  Literally... ten seconds to restart to update to the new version.
  • One external display (see above) - hopefully this will be fixed with support for multiple displays. As of January 2013, the Beta Channel now supports extended multi-monitor display.
  • Lack of profiles in Chrome.  Using multiple Google accounts (as most of us do at Google - a work account and a personal account) requires more effort than just using the Chrome browser on a computer.  The work-around is to use Google's multiple account sign-in, but it's not a perfect solution.
  • There is not presently a way to upload music from the Chromebook to Google Music.
  • The power adapter for Chromebooks is not standard - it is manufacturer specific, and even model specific.  The plug for the Samsung Series 5 550 is an incredibly small plug, and within 48 hours of use I managed to snap the plug off from the computer.  Fortunately the plug didn't get stuck in the computer.  But this does require some extra care.  The "L" shaped plugs seem less prone to breakage than the straight plugs.
  • There is not a way (except in the Dev channel) to prevent the Chromebook from falling asleep after about ten minutes.  I bought a Mouse Jiggler to keep the Chromebook awake.  Update: As of January 2013, the Chromebook Beta channel is somehow defeating the Mouse Jiggler. I now use this YouTube video to keep the Chromebook awake.
Traveling with the Chromebook
  • I really value that the Chromebook and power brick are light.  Lighter than my MacBook Pro. This makes stuffing them in my shoulder bag and taking them with me almost unnoticeable.   
  • Using Gmail Offline on the plane to respond to emails and clear my inbox was quick and painless, and synced when I landed and got back on the internet.  I was able to do this for multiple accounts, and experienced no loss of data.  If I traveled more, I would definitely set up a "Travel" label, and put unimportant emails in that label for reading and processing offline when I had down-time (on a plane).
  • I hadn't setup Google Drive quite properly, and had no files flagged to be stored "offline."  I should have ticked the "offline" box next to the files I wanted stored locally for offline access.
  • Using the ScratchPad app to jot some notes (such as this one) during the flight was easy, and I knew the notes would be saved safely offline, and syned to Google Drive once I landed.
  • Perhaps I'll install a game, like Angry Birds, for my next flight to give me something to play on the plane.
  • For connectivity in airports and other places that may not have free WiFi, my company gives me an IPASS account which can be used with most WiFi providers (Boingo, etc.), including international service.  If you travel a lot, you may want to look into one of these roaming accounts to get on line in difficult places.
  • I need to remember to carry a DisplayPort video adapter to connect to an overhead projector. 
Disclaimer: I work for Google. I am not affiliated with the Chromebook team. This post contains purely my views, not those of my employer. I have not been compensated or otherwise encouraged to write this post. Google has not reviewed or played any role in this post.

Last update: February 8, 2013

Monday, September 3, 2012

next car

It's getting to be time to think about what my next car will be.  I did some math, and I'm now leaning towards a 2013 Chevy Volt.

My analysis:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

my inguinal hernia experience

In 2009 I had an inguinal hernia repaired... this is my summary of the experience.

I arrived at the outpatient surgery center around 8:30am, checked in, and waited. The nurse came and got me, I changed clothes into a backless gown, and got onto the bed. We went over medical background stuff, and I wrote my initials on the side of my body where the injury is (this is a safety check to make sure they do the operation on the right side). The nurse started an IV drip. I was asked my name and date of birth about five times.

Mom was allowed into the pre-op room, so we visited for 40 minutes or so while we were waiting. The anesthesiologist came and I talked to him for a few minutes, and he explained the process.

Then one of the OR nurses came and got me ready for transport. He explained what the next 10 minutes would be like. He wheeled me into the OR, and scooted me from the bed to the OR table. My doctor came in and said hi, and the anesthesiologist put an injection into the IV line. That is the last thing I remember.  I'm told I was probably awake for a few minutes after that point.

Two minutes later (it seemed like), I woke up in a slightly strange place, but I pieced together that I was post-op, and recovering. It took a few minutes to get my mind working, but I called out to a nurse, and told her I was awake, and asked for my mom. The nurse asked me some basic questions, and got me sitting up on the bed, then step onto a step stool, then onto the floor and over to a recovery chair that reclined. She put blankets on me because I was cold, and I started drinking fruit juice and water. I wanted to urinate, because one of the side effects is trouble urinating, and I wanted to confirm I was ok in that department (I was).

My mind was still a bit cloudy, but I was slowly coming out of the fog. Mom came in and said the surgery went a bit long, about 90 minutes, and I had been sleeping for about 30 minutes before I woke up (it was now about 1:30 or so). I urinated a few times, and just layed in the chair for a while. Around 2:30 I decided I was suitable to go home, so I ate some crackers and took a Vicodin, waited 10 minutes to watch for side effects from the Vicodin (none), changed into my clothes, and then went home to mom's house.  I stayed at my mom's one-story house because I didn't think I'd be able to get up to the second floor bedrooms of my house, at least not for the first day or two.

The nurses were all very nice, and they told me the surgery went fine. There was a chance if the laparoscopy went poorly that they would switch to regular surgery, but they did not need to, which made me very happy.

I had one large bandage on my belly button, and two small strips on two locations on my lower left abdomen. I was bloated from the air they pump into the abdomen during the surgery process. In the days after the surgery I felt a slight dull ache, but no pain.  I took Vicodin every 4 hours for the first three days after surgery, then switched to Advil for a few more days.

My throat was scratchy (and continues to be a few hours later) from the intubation (breathing tube) used during surgery. This was inserted after I was asleep, and taken out before I woke up. I didn't feel any effectes from the catheter for urination.

In hindsight, I wished I had asked my doctor to check the other side of my body for a hernia as well (mine was on the right).

In the days following surgery, coughing and sneezing hurt a lot.  Laughing also hurt.  Getting up and down from a reclining or seated position used my ab muscles a lot, which were traumatized from the surgery, and that hurt.  For the first day, I had to use assistance getting up and down.  I ended up taking a week off from work to recover and catch up on daytime television (it's horrible).

A few other tips I learned:
  • Be sure and ask the doctor if the surgery will be laparoscopy or incision.  Laparoscopy is much faster to heal.
  • It's good to have someone at home the first 24 hours to help get out of bed, prepare food, etc.
  • Get prescriptions filled before surgery, not after
  • No stairs the first two days or so.
  • Stock the fridge with food for a week.
  • Have a comfortable bed waiting, with lots of pillows for support.
  • Start walking as soon as possible - around 24 hours after surgery.  Go outside and start doing laps around the block.  Go slow, work up endurance and distance.  It'll be several weeks before running and any sort of weight lifting / gym routine is possible.  So spend as much time walking as possible.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

indonesia / malaysia

My itinerary from my Indonesia / Malaysia trip.

Saturday 8/27/2011 SFO-DPS Depart SFO 1:30am N/A Park at YouTube, take taxi from YouTube to SFO

Sunday 8/28/2011 Bali (Ubud) Arrive DPS 2:20pm Royal Kamuela at Monkey Forrest Ubud From Ngurah Rai International (DPS) Airport to Royal Kamuela Hotel on Monkey Forest Road (Ubud).  Flight arrives at DPS at approximately 2:30pm.  Flight details to be provided.

Monday 8/29/2011 Bali (Ubud) N/A Royal Kamuela at Monkey Forrest Ubud (no driving needed) 1/2 day biking tour; dance performance at Pura Dalem Ubud at night; spa?

Tuesday 8/30/2011 Bali (Ubud) N/A Royal Kamuela at Monkey Forrest Ubud "Driver for approximately 10 hours:
Depart hotel (Royal Kamuela in Ubud) around 7:30 AM
Lake Bratan/Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (temple)
Lake Byuan/Lake Tamblingan - Canoeing/Hiking
Munduk - Coffee plantation, waterfall, lunch
Jatiluwih Rice Terrace
Pura Batukau (temple)
Quick stop at Mengwi
Return to hotel around 5pm" Driving tour (Idul Fitri)

Wednesday 8/31/2011 Bali (Ubud) N/A Royal Kamuela at Monkey Forrest Ubud "Driver for approximately 5 hours:
Depart hotel (Royal Kamuela in Ubud) around 7:30 AM
Gunung Kawi
Pura Tirta Empul
Gunung Batur - Pura Ulun Danu Batur, Gunung Penulisan
Return to hotel around 12:30pm" Idul Fitri; night - dance performance at Pura Dalem Ubud; shopping?

Thursday 9/1/2011 Bali (Ubud) to Yogyakarta Depart DPS 7:10pm CIT, Arrive JOG 7:25pm WIT Phoenix Hotel From hotel on Monkey Forest Road (Ubud) to Ngurah Rai International (DPS) Airport, flight departs approx 7pm, plan to leave hotel approximately 5pm.
From Yogyakarta airport to Phoenix Hotel, (flight arriving approx. 7:30pm from DPS, flight details to be provided).

Friday 9/2/2011 Yogyakarta, drive to Boroburdur N/A Manohara Resort "Driver for approximately 6-8 hours:
Depart around 7:30 AM from Phoenix Hotel
Prombanan Temple - Candi Sewu
Plaosan temples, Candi kalasan, Candi Sari, Candi sambisari
Mendut Temple
To Borobudur - Manohara Resort Hotel (hotel for the night)" Plaosan temples, Candi kalasan, Candi Sari, Candi sambisari, Prambannan, ramayana ballet at prambanan; prombanan temple and surrounding temples

Saturday 9/3/2011 Boroburdur, drive to Yogyakarta N/A Phoenix Hotel "Driver for approximately 3 hours:
Depart around 12pm from Manohara Resort
Stop at Kraton
Arrive at Phoenix Hotel in Yogyakarta
" Sunrise tour at Borobudur (next to hotel); night: Ramayana Ballet (book through hotel, take taxi if needed)

Sunday 9/4/2011 Yogyakarta to KL Depart JOG 9:00am WIT, arrive KUL 12:30pm MYT Traders Hotel Taxi: Hotel to Airport (JOG), flight departs at 9:00am

Monday 9/5/0201 KUL-SFO Depart MYT 2:40pm MYT N/A Taxi