Morning orientation


Started today off at my brother's house. Well, I should say my sister-in-law's house, as she picked us up last night from the train station where the shuttle dropped us off. None of us particularly wanted to arrive at the hotel orientation point at 8:00 am and wait for four hours, so we ended up in a taxi (whose driver couldn't find the house and arrived 45 minutes late - good thing we weren't in a hurry). We still arrived early, so we decided to dump our packs (oh, could I have been any more nervous about that?) and head to the local convenience store for more sunscreen and possibly a second pair of glasses for Andy, who had broken the frames of his current glasses bending over to grab my backpack.

On our way back, we looked for a place for coffee, any coffee, for Kris. I was hoping that this might be a trip where Kris addresses his coffee addiction head on, the way I'm hoping to deal with my sugar cravings by taking a week off from them. My hopes were misplaced (clearly), as Kris definitely needed his caffeine this morning.

For the record, Kris says Wicked AZ has great coffee, if you're in the Flagstaff area. They also allow walk-ups in the drive-through, much to the amusements of the vehicle drivers behind us.

Orientation went smoothly. I was quite entertained by how much I began to recall of my previous trip during the orientation. I recalled the post-river ice cream stop, as well as the rough drive out off the Canyon off the river. I also recalled the nights in the cabins and the showers in the halls instead of the rooms from last time. I also recall staying at Indian Springs, and being thrilled about being able to stop there on the way down to the river.

We all introduced ourselves to the rest of our group. I was about to just start talking and talking and talking, but realized I needed to keep it short. I'm pretty sure I annoyed Kris and Andy when, after their introductions were each about 5 words long, I piped up, "Andy is a World Champion. Kris is a National Champion. I'll let you figure out in what."

Eh, it's not like it's not true.

Kris doesn't think anyone will figure out the "in what" part.

I have faith.

We're on our way up to the Rim now. I left my computer and my internet-enabled cell phone at my brother's house. I am both officially on vacation, and away from the Intarweb™ With that statement, I'd like to point out that Andy is still ON, and unable to give it up.

So, if anyone on Mischief thinks I'm obsessive about my internet connections, you should know that Andy's worse.

On our way!


Okay, we're on our way!

This is the first vacation in a LONG time that's neither ultimate nor family required. I think our honeymoon was the last one of these kinds of trips we've taken, and we know how THAT one turned out (think "missed flights" and "birds pooping on me" and "bladder infections" and you'll be on your way to the joy of that trip).

We're off to raft down the Colorado River from the Bright Angel Trail to some place close to Lake Mead. I had done this trip ten years ago, with Mom and Eric and Guy and Guy's family. It was fun. I'm not 100% sure what possessed me to suggest it again, but a 10 year gap is long enough to have forgotten much of the adventure, and I wasn't writing at that point, so this'll be somewhat new to me. It'll be completely new to Kris and Andy.

In the car to the airport, I wondered out loud if I had enough memory for the camera, as well as enough batteries to make it through the whole trip. I have enough memory for 4700 pictures, and 4.5 batteries, all juiced up (the 0.5 comes from the crappy Lennar camera battery, which seems to last half as long as the Canon camera batteries do). When Andy's dad heard my lamentation, he commented I better start taking pictures.

Andy let him know I already had.

For real?


"For real? For reeeaaaal?"


"For real?"


"You're sitting on the toilet playing guitar?"

"I'm sitting."


"What? You read on the toilet."

7 habits of highly effective driving


After practice, Warren hosted a pool party. I dashed home after practice to shower before heading over, and asked Kris if he wanted to go, too. He did, and off we went. On the way over, we passed a half dozen gas stations, and sat at a left turn signal as it cycled twice because the people in front of us didn't actually go when the light turned green. As the light cycled the second time, Kris asked me, "With the price of gas, have people changed their driving habits?"

I thought about his question for a moment.

I can now measure my car trips in dollars painfully spent, in contrast to when I had my CRX That car went 45 miles to the gallon when I bought the car, more than 35 miles per gallon when I sold it 150,000 miles later. I recall when gas rose to $1.49 and I was driving that car: I freaked and decided I really didn't need gas yet, and didn't buy gas at that time. So, with great gas mileage and cheap gas, each mile was less than 3¢ a piece. Not really worth worrying about at the time.

Now, with the not fuel efficient car I drive, I struggle to get 25 miles per gallon. If I drive my normal style, I manage about 20 miles per gallon, but even that's hard sometimes: the car is just too much fun to drive and FAR too easy to accelerate rapidly. As Andy told me, "your car makes me forget I want a fuel efficient car." Makes me forget, too.

In the last few months, I've started driving less. I was already trying to walk or train as much as I can. It might be time to pull the bike from its hanger, put on different tires, replace the seat and start biking, too.

When I do drive, I've been trying to drive more slowly, too. Despite my too frequent (at least recently, anyway) needs to accelerate hard, I've managed to drop my average speed by 5-8 miles per hour (which is HUGE for me). I'm been mostly inspired by Megan's 50 miles per tank increase by driving the speed limit and accelerating rationally, rather than Kris' 59 miles per gallon in his hybrid (good lord, is that intimidating, good thing I drive so much less than he does).

So, I answered, "Yes. I drive less. I know that my mom drives less, too. Since my trips can be measured in dollars, like driving to the City costs me more than taking the train does, I've been driving less. Other people have been, too."

"No, that's not what I meant," Kris answered, then continued. "I don't mean driving less, I mean driving more efficiently."

"Oh, you mean, not accelerating hard, then braking hard to stop?"


"Then, no, they haven't changed their driving habits."

Which is sad, really, as small changes in driving styles can have a HUGE impact on fuel efficiency. I've adopted some of Kris' driving habits, though I really can't, and probably never will like, drive less than 55 miles per hour on the freeway (except for that instant I accelerate THROUGH 55 miles per hour on my way to 65). The habits I HAVE adopted include:

  1. Slower acceleration

    My MPH drops to less than 5 MPG when I accelerate hard in my car. Right. Five. That's a dollar per mile. By accelerating more slowly than the normal driver, I manage to keep the fuel efficiency up around 17 miles per gallon when I accelerate. Not great, but not as bad as it could be.

  2. More space between cars

    I wasn't really sure which order to put this, but this habit is related to the slower deceleration habit. I've started leaving more space between the car in front of me and my car. By leaving more space, I'm able to just lift my foot off the gas pedal and let the car coast to slow down, using both the road friction and engine/car friction to slow down the car. If I have enough space, I can also take the car out of gear to coast farther.

    Leaving more space between my car and the car in front of me also helps minimize the caterpillar effect that you see on freeways where everyone slows down for no reason that anyone can see at the time, because someone minutes or hours before braked hard, causing the driver behind him to brake hard, causing a cascading effect that ruins fuel efficiency for EVERYONE on the road. If everyone tried minimize this problem, we'd ALL benefit.

  3. Slower deceleration

    A hard deceleration means I was driving faster than I needed to when I approached where I'm stopping. Sometimes, I can't help but decelerate quickly (say, a light turns yellow and I won't make it through the intersection, or a car in front of me brakes suddenly and quickly, or something else in front of me requires a hard acceleration in the negative direction), but I try to minimize those events by leaving more space between my car and the car in front of me.

    Often, by decelerating more slowly (say, by coasting), the event causing me to stop (say, a red light) rectifies itself and I don't need to waste gas by accelerating back up to speed. Bonus!

  4. Drive more slowly

    Deciding to drive more slowly has helped not only my fuel economy, but it has also helped reduce my stress levels. Really, it's OKAY if someone pulls in front of me on the road (as long as they FREAKIN' accelerate so that I don't have to slow down - I can't STAND when people put out in front of me and slow down - WTF are those people thinking?), I'm driving from point A to point B. Arriving there safely is FAR more important than arriving there quickly.

    Sometimes I'm late, and I need to drive quickly. I've tried to leave earlier than I think I need to, in order to minimize those driving needs. Not easy, given my usual late self, but being aware of the problem is the first step.

  5. Drive at the car's sweet spot

    Cars have spots where they are most efficient, usually at a particular RPM. The sweet spot can be hard to find in many cars, but finding it is way worth the effort in terms of fuel efficiency.

    I found the sweet spot in my car and Kris' car by accelerating (slowly!), then letting up on the gas pedal slightly. The car's sweet spot is usually where the engine "idles" in gear: you don't have to put much pressure on the gas pedal, but the car continues at the same speed. I'm not describing it well, but I know that Kris' car's sweet spot is at 57 MPH in 5th gear.

  6. Take the car out of gear when possible

    A car's engine running at 1000 RPM is going to be more efficient that a car's engine running at 3000 RPM, or, hey, even 2000 RPM. If I'm going down hill and can safely take the car out of gear (IN A MANUAL transmission vehicle, mind you), I will. I sometimes do the same when driving on flat ground, but that's usually when I'm trying to figure out how far I can go from my current speed.

    I started this habit, actually, back at Tech, when I learned that you could, if you tried, exit the 280 in Eagle Rock and, if you're going fast enough, and time the lights well, you can coast from the 280 all the way to the parking lot of Tommy's Chili Burgers. Sounds easier than it is, I'd like to say.

  7. Turn off the car

    Kris' car does this automatically when the car is stopped and out of gear. My car doesn't do this. However, if I know the timing of the reason why I needed to stop (I just missed the light and I'll be sitting through a long red light, the truck in front of me is doing an Austin Powers U-turn and will take 20 minutes to finish), I will turn off the car, and restart it when it needs to be on.

    One item I didn't list in my reasons for stopping was "waiting in line at In-N-Out." I didn't add that because I find waiting in drive-through lines INCREDIBLY wasteful. There's no reason to be that lazy, and that wasteful. Turn off the car and walk into the store, people.

    I also didn't add "wait for my kid to leave school so that I can pick her up." I find that habit of parents to be the MOST HYPOCRITICAL action EVER. You're spewing car exhaust and pollutants into the air RIGHT NEXT TO YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL. You know that children who go to schools next to large roads have lower test scores on standardized tests, right? Don't harm your child with this moronic habit. WALK your kid to school, or turn off the car.

  8. Time the lights

    The less you have to decelerate then accelerate when driving, the less gas you waste. An internal combustion engine is most efficient at a steady state (which is why highway driving fuel efficiency is typically better than "city driving" fuel efficiency: you have less acceleration and decelerations which wastes gas. Of course, if you're driving in stop-and-go traffic, then highway driving is really bad "city driving" and you should think about when you're out driving.

    One way to minimize the acceleration/deceleration on city streets is to time the lights if you can. That usually means giving more space between cars, and slower deceleration if you can.

    Starting from a complete stop will use more gas than starting from a rolling start (look up static vs dynamic friction for why), so timing the lights and not actually stopping will reduce fuel usage and increase efficiency.

  9. Walk or bike

    Of course, not driving means not using gas, and hence having the BEST gas mileage. Walking and biking aren't always possible. When they are, however, they are the most gas efficient mode of transportation. Less polluting, too.

Okay, really, that was nine. But, hey, my list doesn't sound as good if it doesn't match the book title.

And there you go. Those are the driving habits Kris has, and the ones I'm trying (more or less successfully) to adopt.

Velocity, sans Kris, with Paul


I went to this morning's workout without Kris. For reasons I don't understand, hard workouts make me sore starting less than 12 hours after the workout ends, but Kris doesn't start feeling soreness until 24 hours after the end. Of course, this means that he's still sore two days after the workout, and I'm on the way back to full recovery.

So, he was tired and sore, and I really wanted to go. Paul goes Wednesdays and Fridays, so I was motivated to go. Honestly, I'm sore, too, but consistency is key, so go go go!

This morning's workout was four sets of reducing reps of

Overhead barbell squats
Side to side hurdle jumps
Swissball rollouts
Handstand pushups
Run 4 lengths (50m each)

Reps were 21 18 15 and 12.

The overhead squats were done with a barbell held overhead, so that the arms were straight and the bar was directly over the head. I originally thought the bar plus ten pounds would be fine for me. After three squats, I was sure I was wrong. I dropped the weights and just used the bar. I had problems keeping the bar directly over my head. I kept holding the bar slightly back, which allowed me to lean slightly forward, the bane of my squatting existence. I struggle to work the right set of squatting muscles every time, and compensensate by leaning forward. Such muscle weakness shows in my marking, too, unfortunately, so these lifts are important for me to perform right.

The side to side hurdle jumps were at two heights: 12" and 6". I did the first three sets at the lower height, once again because my knees have been achy, but also because my legs were (are) still exhausted from Monday's workout.

Today's swissball rollouts were different than Monday's rollups.. The rollout was started in a plank position with the ball under the arms, which were bent (e.g. with arms resting on the ball). The ball was then rolled backward to the point where only the hands were on the ball. The butt needs to go up into the air. That's one.

None of the four of us at class were able (well, willing in the case of Breanne) to do the full handstand pushups against the wall. I remember doing them with Gino, but I had a spotter when we did them. Instead, we put our feet on a jump block, and angled ourselves so that we were as close to the block as we could be, essentially doing a handstand pushup, but with greater range of motion since we had less weight on our shoulders.

I wasn't able to run the runs full out, so I had to settle for a fast, first five steps.

I am way sore. While I rather like the sore feeling, I don't like my achilles hurting as much as it has over the last few days. It's really starting to bother me a lot.

Skittle bets


"Can I throw out this receipt?"

"What is it for?"

"Uh..." (looking) "... Pirate Booty and Skittles."


"Did you really spend sixteen dollars on Skittles?"

"Skittles? Yeah, I lost a bet."

"A bet?"

"Yeah. I really need to stop making bets."

"If you're losing sixteen dollars in Skittles at a time, yeah, you do."

Kris in the park

Daily Photo

I miss Kris


I miss Kris.

Is it really possible to miss someone you live with, are married to, this much?

I mean, I wake up next to him in the morning. I kiss him good morning in the morning. I kiss him good bye as he leaves for work. I kiss him hello when he returns from work. And! I kiss him good night before the first of us goes to bed in the morning.

Yet, that seems to be the limit of our interaction as of late.

He doesn't do his half (1/3?) of the chores any longer. He doesn't walk the dogs any longer. He doesn't put away the dishes or fold the laundry, or even put away his clothes that I've folded.

He plays World of Warcraft. And that's it.

Oh, no, wait, he goes to work (where I don't see him). He goes to Velocity with me (when I go).

God, I cannot explain how much I miss him. It's like his body is here, somewhere, but I'm alone.

I haven't been this alone in over ten years.

I hate that game.

Ninja'd feature


"Have you ever ninja'd a feature into a product you were working on?"

I looked at Kris blankly after he asked me this question at dinner tonight.

"Have you ever put in a feature into your code that wasn't in the spec[ification], but that you wanted in?" he reasked.


I smiled, and immediately began thinking of the various features I had, indeed, put in various programs I've worked on, features that weren't in the specification, but, darn it, they should have been. After looking at him with a huge grin on my face for a show while, with his wondering exactly which feature I was going to reveal first, I finally said, "Sure! A D B create."

He laughed.

When I was working for PDI, now PDI/Dreamworks, I wrote a program called adb_create. The adb part stands for "Animation DataBase," and was PDI's proprietary format for specifying animation data. I worked as a Lighting Technical Director, which meant I was responsible for dealing with the technical issues of the lighting department. Well, I and the other TDs who worked with me.

As the Lead TD, I also worked with the surfacing department, who created texture (and other types of surfacing) maps for the models for various computer generated films (in particular: Antz and Shrek).

One of the incredibly (more so that it should be) difficult tasks in the surfacing department was generating correctly sized base image files that would be wrapped onto the models. The programs that were in place were old, unmaintained, difficult to use, and quite error prone. Since the task was so difficult, I set out to write a program that WOULD actually run correctly, generating accurate files for surfacing artists to start with for surfacing models.

Now, at this moment, I need to mention that PDI had an R & D department. This department had "real" programmers: the women and men who worked with vertices and deep files and ray tracers and motion interfaces and oh, the whole bunch of complicated software, written in C because of a particularly bad rewrite years before in C++ that made everyone in the department decide object-oriented programming was evil, when in reality, just the implementation was evil.

Beside the point. The point was that R & D had their CVS repository and their install directory that no one outside R & D was allowed to commit to or deploy in.

The rest of the programmers in the company were "light" programmers, using whatever tools we had handy, existing or written on the fly, to get the job done. We weren't interested in necessarily the best solution, but rather the one that worked now with least amount of effort, because the scene, shot, feature, effect was due, and we needed to get it done. Now. No, yesterday.

Well, adb_create actually fit into the R & D tools. It was named as those tools were (prefixed with adb_). It was written in C as those tools were. It used the libraries that those tools used (you know, the ones R & D wrote and supported).

So, I deployed adb_create into the R & D directory, before integrating it into the surfacing workflow.

And received all kinds of uproar in return.

The worst of it was from my roommate, Dan Wexler. Dan was the lead developer for the company's renderer. He was The Man in the department. If he fell off a cliff, well, they had key-man insurance on Dan.

Dan had heard about how crappy the various surfacing tools were. Actually, he had listened to complaints from the surfacers for years, on how bad the tools were for them. Modelling had its own R & D developer. Lighting had several R & D developers. Heck, so did the animation department. But not the surfacing department, and, boy were their tools sucky.

So, Dan came up with this wonderful (or so I was told) plan on how to fix the surfacing tools. It involved several rewrites of various libraries, integration with a few existing tools, and a whole lot of effort in the R & D department. So much effort, it turns out, that the plan was put on hold until these other, more important, features could be completed.

On hold.

For years.

Along I came, and, tasked with fixing lighting tools from the production point of view, I fixed the problem. I wrote the tool that surfacing needed. I gave them adb_create.

By doing so, however, surfacing stopped complaining.

And by stopping the complaining, I thwarted Dan in his desire to see his new plan implemented.

And we entered into a long, downward spiral of arguments.

He wanted to implement his plan, but he needed surfacing to complain loud enough for those who set R & D's priorities to schedule time for the plan to be implemented. With adb_create, they stopped complaining, and his great grand plan would never be implemented.

I countered with the fact that I needed these tools to get the job done with the current workflow. I don't care about the great, grand plan, I needed to get those models surfaced and in the lighting shots now, not next year. Without adb_create, the surfacers had to work ten times as hard (well, ten times as long, and I'm not exaggerating on that number) to finish their work. I didn't care about next year, I needed results now.

It wasn't until Richard Chang, one of PDI's cofounders, stepped into the arguments and said, yes, it should be deployed to the R & D sacred directory, that the arguments finally ended.

I left PDI soon after that fiasco. I don't know if Dan's grand plan was ever implemented. Last I heard, he had oved to Tahoe, worked part time, gotten married to high school (college?) sweet heart Emily, and eventually left PDI.

I also don't know how long adb_create was used at PDI.

It is, however, my greatest ninja'd feature.

Sports' great equalizer


Kris had his last softball game of the season tonight. It might not have been the last of the season, but it was a playoff game. And they were playing the #1 seed in the league.

Because Kris' team was in last place.

They won last week's game, their only win of the season. Know how they won? Yeah, the OTHER team scored a number of their points.

There's a no-homerun rule in the league to prevent players from just hitting the balls over the fence. The first one is a homerun, with all the scoring that entails. The second homerun is an out AND the pitching team scores your run instead. The third homerun is an out AND the pitching team scores TWO homeruns.

You see where this is going.

The other team hit four homeruns. At what would be the final pitch of the game, the player up to bat, who was later defined as "a moron," stood with the count 3-1, two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd. He had previously hit one of the three earlier homeruns, and an earlier triple, so he was known as a power hitter. The score was tied at 20-20, many of those runs from (recall) previous homeruns for the other team.

All this guy has to do is hit a ground ball between first and second, or second and third. He can run to base and the guy on third can score. Game over.

What does he do?

Hits a homer.

Kris' team wins in exactly the only way possible to win that game. Second game to go to all seven innings, first win.

Update: Ooooooo! An eye-witness/participant account of the night!

So, Kris' team didn't really have a chance at winning tonight.

The make-up of the team has changed considerably throughout the season, though. Whereas it was originally all of Warren's coworkers and two token baseball/softball players, it was now all of Warren's ultimate or athletically inclined friends and two token coworkers. They played much better in the end of the season.

But, there still wasn't much hope.

Until we arrived at the fields.

The fields are always a little windy, because of the proximity to the Bay. Not a lot, but enough that watching the games is always a cold endeavor.

Tonight, however, we had WINDS. Winds that were blowing as near straight into the batter's face as possible. Power hitters were reduced to hitting pop-flies that landed just past second base, and not much past at that.

Wind: sports' great equalizer. Kris' team might have chance.

The first inning was played faster than you can wipe the wind blown sand out of your eyes. A fan for the opponents showed up at the bottom of the second inning, puzzled about why the scoreboard was incorrectly showing the second inning.

Three up, three down. Four up, three down. Four up, three down. Three up, three down. Neither team was scoring, both victims of the wind.

The game remained scoreless until until the fifth inning. I missed the scores in the fifth inning, as I was off tracking down a ball in the next field over. It was hit from our field into their outfield in the third inning, and, for some unfathomable reason, I felt compelled to retrieve it. Someone in the other field's outfield had thrown it in, so I had to convince the umpire that one of the balls wasn't his. I managed to distract him long enough a couple times, asking about the ball, that he didn't watch the game he was supposed to be umping, much to the mockery and ridicule of the outfield.

The final score was 5-0, with Kris' team losing. They played the full seven innings, going the distance instead of being crushed and losing with the slaughter rule. I suspect if the team at the end of the season had been the team at the beginning of the season, none of us fans would have learned what the "slaughter rule" is.