Saturday, December 10, 2011

Live Map

During the drive home, I'm trying something new with geo-tracking: a live map. As I'll be on the road most of the time, I won't be able to do much trouble-shooting while the map is actually updating, but the testing has all worked out, so I have high hopes this will automatically update during my trip.

UPDATE: That seems to have worked out rather well. Here's a static map of the journey:

View Road Trip - Midland to Everett in a larger map

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Moving Home

After three years of wandering in the desert(s), I'm coming home to the Pacific Northwest! I'll be leaving Midland in just three weeks, on December 10th. 

On January 3rd, 2012, I'll begin work on a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington.

Over the past several weeks, I've been using Craigslist, Good Will and Best Buy's Electronics Recycling Center (which is a really great program - try it!) to pare down my possessions to the point that everything I own in Texas can fit in my Honda Civic for the drive North-west. It's been surprisingly challenging, given I moved down here with a suitcase and a backpack, but I'm almost there.

The actual route I take will depend on the weather forecast and my personal whims of the moment, so the trip could take anywhere from 2-4 days, depending. I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends and family in the Northwest!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Brian is a Nerd

I'm starting a sub-blog for topics I think are more nerd related that the usual fare on this site. It's a single column design, allowing for larger photos and maps. I'm calling it "Brian is a Nerd" and it can be found at There is a permanent link on the left sidebar. The first post is about tracking gas mileage using an iPhone, spreadsheets, and Google Fusion Tables. Check it out!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Palms

I live at an apartment complex called "The Palms". As part of their shtick, they imported and planted about twenty palm trees throughout the property.

They all died during the drought this summer. 

Undaunted, management brought in NEW trees, just in time for winter. These people have a firm grasp on the reality of climate, and how much the weather cares about their desires, you see. 

Last night we had a pretty impressive thunderstorm: lightning, hail, high winds, rain, the works. Impossible to sleep through. This morning, this is what I saw as I drove to work:

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Winter has finally arrived. It was 32 degrees this morning when I left the apartment, and at 10:45am it's only 37 degrees outside.

The cold front arrived yesterday, and brought a ton of dust with it. Someone snapped this picture while flying into Midland Airport, and put it on Facebook.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Big Bend: Third Time's the Charm

The weather finally cooled off a bit, so I took the opportunity to drive down to Big Bend National Park for my third visit. Packed up the night before, then left straight from work on Friday. Got to the Chisos Basin campground with enough time to set up, eat dinner and relax a little. Last time I was at Chisos Basin, everyone had hammocks. This time I brought my own.

That night I slept for eleven hours.

Saturday I drove around the park and did a bunch of short hikes. The stand-out feature was Santa Elena Canyon:

I spent the afternoon reading in the hammock, surrounded by mountains. Very relaxing.

Sunday I did the Window Trail hike. It's a nice hike down a dry stream bed that cut a "window" into a cliff.

As usual, more pictures here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Road Trip to Arches

After working a 10-day shift, I took off for a four-day weekend to meet my parents at Arches National Park. They were on the southernmost point of a two week trip, but it still took fourteen hours of driving to get to the rendezvous point. I had never been to Arches before, but I've wanted to go for awhile. The rock formations were worth the drive.

We also saw a big-horned sheep, which apparently is a pretty rare treat:

All told, I drove 1660 miles, getting 38 miles per gallon in my little Honda Civic.

View Arches Road Trip in a larger map

More pictures in my Picasa gallery:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New Kindles!

Amazon has just presented new Kindles!

Most people will be focused on the Kindle Fire - a 7-inch, color touch screen device with an 8-hour battery primarily used for Amazon eBooks, music, movies, TV shows and apps, all for $200. Amazon will sell a lot of these, and it looks great. However, I'm not expecting to buy one, for the same reason I didn't buy an iPad 2: my original iPad still gets the job done just fine. However, if you're looking to by a tablet, this looks like a worthy contender.

I'm far more interested in the new e-Ink Kindles. The new base Kindle (non-touch) is available for just $79, and is available today. At that price, this is going to be a huge seller at Christmas. However, I'd probably get the reduced-price $99 Kindle Keyboard if I was going that route.

The Kindle Touch is the product I'm interested in. Amazon has ditched the old hardware keyboard and is using a system of infrared sensors to enable a touch-screen interface. This is the same system the Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch uses, and worked even better than I expected when I test-drove a Nook at the local B&N last night. I'm on the fence as to whether I want the 3G version or not. It's an extra $50, and with a little forethought probably wouldn't be that necessary. But when I'm traveling, having that free, world-wide 3G connection sure is appealing, especially with the experimental web browser built into the Kindle.

A few caveats: the Kindles don't come with covers or chargers, just a USB cable. Not having a cover included is a downer, but who really needs another USB wall wart? Also, the pricing: the advertised prices for the e-Ink Kindles are all for the ad-subsidized versions. If you don't want ads on your sleep screen, it'll cost an extra forty bucks. On the other hand, all the ads to-date have looked pretty attractive. I might be willing to put up with them.

The Kindle Touch (4th gen) and Kindle Keyboard (3rd gen).
All in all, it's a pretty decent upgrade. The screens appear to be the same component used in the previous generation, with the new IR touch sensors embedded in the bezel. I still think the Kindle Keyboard is more attractive, both in color and form. But it may be about time to retire my venerable first-generation Kindle.

The 1st generation Kindle.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


The Unofficial Apple Weblog posted a rumor yesterday speculating on a new voice interface (called "Assistant" in the post) that may be coming with the next iPhone.
We're told that you can speak to the Assistant in your normal tone and speed of voice; it's that accurate. Assistant is also integrated with Wolfram Alpha, so you could also ask your iPhone questions like "Convert 10.2 acres to hectares" or "What's the cube root of 924?" and get an immediate answer.
I have no idea if this is actually coming with the next Apple product, but I'm convinced that something like this is coming in the near future. And it sounds really, really cool. After all, what could be better than asking a question to the air and having your phone spit out the correct answer?

But as cool as this is, it's also worrying. When you don't have to put any effort into learning something, it doesn't stick with you. At the most basic level, this is the same problem as needing a calculator to figure out that 3 x 4 = 12. As human beings, we shouldn't need a technological crutch to navigate through basic aspects of life.

Having said that, you can still bet I'll be all over this feature, if and when it ships.

* * *

One other interesting bit from the article:
One more fascinating feature that is likely to be packed with privacy settings is "Find my Friends." With this feature, you could ask your phone "Where's Erica Sadun?" and (provided she's made her location information available to me) the iPhone would display her location.
Again, there's no way to know if this is real or not, but after the brouhaha about iPhone tracking earlier this year, Apple had better be very careful about how they present a feature like this. I think it would be fantastic to have a service that would let me know when friends are nearby ("enhanced serendipity", if you will) but it would be pretty easy to forget you had this enabled, or to forget who had access to your location. I've been publishing my general location for over a year now, but only a few people have had access to my pinpoint, real-time location. It's not something you would trust to just anyone.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ISS Time-Lapse Video

A very cool time-lapse video from the International Space Station. Seeing lightning storms from space is fascinating. From the YouTube description:
A time-lapse taken from the front of the International Space Station as it orbits our planet at night. This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, El Salvador, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Lake Titicaca, and the Amazon. Also visible is the earth’s ionosphere (thin yellow line), a satellite (55sec) and the stars of our galaxy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wildfire Aftermath

Two months after a wildfire swept through...

And people don't believe me when I say I'm not concerned about wildfires anymore, because there's nothing left to burn :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Photo Map

So this is how I spend my Friday nights. After playing with Google Fusion Tables for a bit, I got pretty excited about mapping my photos. Fusion Tables is definitely a beta product, but it's fantastic at turning a table or a Google Earth file into a nice map.

If you click on a pinpoint, the corresponding photo will pop up.

I've been working on my digital photos for quite a while now, categorizing, getting rid of duplicates and bad shots, and geo-tagging my old photos, and making sure to keep up on that kind of thing with all my new photos. Last night I uploaded a bunch of photos from my college and high school years. You can check out the galleries here. I'm still missing my big European summer of 2006. Cleaning up those photos is an on-going project. I started with close to 2000 photos (almost 200 of which were of the Eiffel Tower) taken by six different people. Getting rid of junk photos (I have sooo many blurry photos of stained-glass windows), sorting them chronologically (nobody had the date/time on their cameras set accurately in 2006) and accurately geo-tagging everything has been quite the chore.

My sister has been working on digitally scanning the negatives of my mom's old photos, so hopefully I'll eventually be able to add photos of the vacation to Hawaii and the two-month RV trip around the contiguous United States.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, here's the Photo Map and the Google Latitude Map overlaid on each other:

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Last Twelve Months

I've been tracking myself (or more accurately: my phone) with Google Latitude for a little over a year now. During that time I've been in (or at least passed through) six countries on four continents, traveling some 76,000 miles. Not bad. Here are the actual data points for August 2010 through August 2011 mapped out:

Now I wish I had figured out this geo-tracking thing earlier. When I have spare time, I'll try to import previous years based on geo-tagged photos.

One Country, Many Nations?

I read a post by Tobias Buckell this morning that got me thinking. It seems that when ever I get into a conversation with someone who is not from the USA, I run into the perception that the United States is a single homogeneous entity (and unfortunately, that perception is largely shaped by "Friends" and "The Simpsons"). It's difficult to fully convey how diverse my country really is: that the West Coast is not like the East Coast, that opinions can vary greatly between urban and rural areas, and that sometimes people who grew up in the same country speaking the same language can barely understand each other (I had a fun time listening to a guy from Boston try to talk with a guy from Louisiana a few years ago).

"Pop", "Soda", and "Coke" by county.
In a lot of ways, the US can be thought of as an empire made up of many different countries, unified by a common currency, over-arching federal laws, and television. Common currency allows easy trade between regions, federal laws work to promote equality throughout the country, and television enables cross-cultural pollination and keeps American English from fracturing into a dozen dialects. I'm sure this concept has been around for a long time. It was first clearly stated to me in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. And after living in Washington State, Michigan, and Texas, the "one country, many nations" idea rings true. Climate, architecture, accent, industry and fashion all showed significant differences between those three locations. I found this image of emerging "mega-regions" from the America 2050 site particularly interesting:

I really like the term "Cascadia" for the Pacific Northwest.
Tobias Buckell has a few more charts on his blog that are worth a look.

So this has all been interesting to think about, but are there any conclusions that can be drawn from this line of thought? Off the top of my head:
  • Television is important to the health of our identity as a single country.
  • High-Speed Rail proposals have a pretty close correlation to these mega-regions
  • In-country tourism should be strongly encouraged so Americans can really understand all that it means to be an "American".

Any other thoughts or ideas? Sound off in the comments!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Standing Desk Part II

Cornell University has weighed in on the standing vs. sitting at work debate. Their conclusion is that while standing is arguably better than sitting in terms of calories burned, standing alone isn't sufficient - actually moving about is required.

In my experience over several months of working at a standing desk, all their points ring true. Fine motor control (typing) definitely took a hit for awhile, and standing was definitely more tiring at first. But my typing while standing is nearly as fast now as it is when I'm sitting, and after the first week my feet stopped bothering me. One thing I think the Cornell study missed is that I am much more likely to move around - both in terms of shifting my feet and weight, and in walking down the hall to the printer or co-worker's office - than I was when I sat while I worked.

On a personal level, I've noticed a huge improvement in my posture since I started standing. I actually get uncomfortable when I slouch on the couch now.

Standing at work is not a silver bullet, and I've taken a LOT of crap from my co-workers for my crazy computer set-up, but it's accomplishing what I wanted it to: improving my posture and keeping me more alert at work.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Took an unexpected trip up to Seattle over Labor Day weekend. Got to walk along a river, check out the state fair, attend a church potluck and hike a mountain. And spend some quality time with my family.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

NPR posted their top 100 science fiction and fantasy books and series today. It's a pretty good list, and it turns out I've only read 45 47 out of the hundred. Looks like I need to read some Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King.

Hit the jump for the complete list, with the ones I've read in bold: 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Hobbit Production Video #3

Must see. I particularly liked the brief shot of the "big" dwarves right next to the "small" dwarves. Kinda like seeing double, but not.

Via The Hobbit Movie Blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dwarves of "The Hobbit"

Definitely not how I imagined, but pretty cool nonetheless.

from The One Ring, via Hobbit Movie Blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Standing Desk

I'm trying out this "Standing Desk" concept. For a thorough explanation of the concept, check out this article by Gina Trapani. My job has been pretty sedentary over the past several months (not that I mind being indoors and air conditioned during the 100+ degree weather we've been having here in west Texas) and my waistline has been responding as you'd expect. In addition, my sitting posture is terrible and this may help me avoid back problems down the road.

I picked up two 12" tall shelves from Lowes yesterday evening and assembled them during lunch. One is supporting the monitors and other has the keyboard and mouse. My coworkers think I'm nuts, but that's been true for a while now.

So, I'm expecting to have sore feet for the next several days, but by next week things will hopefully be feeling normal. We'll see how it goes.

Update: Standing Desk Part II

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cutting the Cable

Over the weekend, I hooked up my HTPC with a USB cable tuner and antenna. Without a CableCARD (and who wants to deal with that hassle?) the cable tuner was only able to access the analog cable channels. Since US broadcast television went digital in 2009, over-the-air signals are actually better quality (for me, anyway). I get ABC and Fox in HDTV, and about 15 other channels in standard def.

Now running Windows Media Center (which is pretty awesome, btw) on a Windows 7 box hooked up to the TV via HDMI, I can play movies, tv shows and music from my pre-existing libraries, throw up a picture slideshow, play and record live TV via terrestrial broadcast, use Apple's Airplay from my iPhone or iPad, and access Netflix and Hulu for internet TV content. All controlled by a single remote control.

As I'm not actually paying for cable myself (corporate perks!) I'll still use cable to get my Mythbuster's fix. But the next time I move, I suspect I'll forgo cable TV entirely.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Penultimate Space Shuttle Flight

The Endeavour lifted off for the last time yesterday, and the Atlantis mission in July will bring the Space Shuttle era to a close. Regardless of one's thoughts about the space program and its future, pictures like this are pretty awesome:

This photo was taken by Stefanie Gordon as her plane came in for landing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Introducing Washington to Brianna (and Vice Versa)

I made it back home during the first week of May, and I took Brianna with me. We did quite a bit, including a family dinner at the revolving restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, touring Boeing, and driving around Washington State.

Honestly, I've missed seeing clouds in the sky.

The first Saturday, Brianna and I toured around Everett, including a visit to the opening of the Shack Art Center. Sunday we attended the church I grew up in, and all the relatives and family friends wanted to meet Brianna. Later, Dad took Brianna up for a flight in his airplane, so she got to see the mountains, ocean and islands from the air. During the week we visited Boeing and went on the tour. I really enjoyed seeing the "assembly lines" for the massive planes. We also drove up north to Whidbey Island via the Deception Pass bridge on a beautiful day.

On Thursday, we took the train down to Seattle and visited Pike Place Market and the International District. We even got to see some fish being thrown at the fish market!

Friday we went on a drive to Leavenworth, crossing Steven's Pass to Eastern Washington and stopping twice for walks along the river, both of which were new to me.

Saturday was one of my favorites: We met up with my good friends Max and Jess and went to a Star Wars exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. We were all nerds enough to really enjoy it, and I particularly geeked out. In the evening we had a family dinner with Grandma, followed by a dessert where several of my aunts and uncles came over to visit.

On Sunday, we visited a new church my parents have been attending recently before having Mother's Day brunch and leaving for the airport. The entire visit was a lot of fun, and Brianna had a really good introduction to Washington State. I'm looking forward to my next visit!

There are a lot more photos with comments on my Picasa page. And, for a better idea of all the touring we did, you can check out the photos laid out on a map.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

iPhone Tracking

This story blew up on the internet last week. In brief, any iPhone running iOS 4.0 or later is maintaining a record of the cell towers it connects with, and storing that record locally on the iPhone. There's been a lot of out-cry about invasion of privacy, to the point that Senator Al Franken sent a letter to Apple for answers.

This entire issue aligns very closely with what I'm doing with this website and Google Latitude. For instance, here's a visualization a reporter put together from the data stored in his iPhone:

And here's my Google Latitude map of a recent trip to California:

View Larger Map

The important difference here is that I knew I was being tracked. And I'm in a very small minority when it comes to acknowledging that fact.

Criticizing Apple is practically an internet sport, but it's important to keep in mind that all this data is stored locally on the phone. It cannot be accessed without physical possession of the device or the computer with the iPhone backup file. And Apple devices are not alone in this: Android devices also keep track of your location, though it appears they cull location data after a duration.

This news story should really serve as a wakeup call to consumers. If you are carrying a phone or a device with a cellular connection, you are being tracked. Even if the device itself does not maintain a record, the phone companies know every cell tower to which your device has connected. Wired connections are not any better today, as geolocation based on IP addresses is becoming extremely accurate. And that's just talking about your physical location. Think you know what web services like Google and Facebook know about you? Think again. If you have a Google account, check out your Google history sometime.

The danger here is not from data collection itself, but from people being unaware of it. If you want privacy, ditch your phone and computer and visit a library. Otherwise, recognize that some computer out there is aware of what you're doing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Google Map Maker

Today Google opened up their Map Maker service to the US. This tool allows users to make changes and additions to Google's already incredible map database, and these edits will be made available through both the Google Maps and Google Earth interfaces after they've been vetted.

I'm currently in the process of adding my project's lease roads to the system. Once they've been approved, a map of our field (currently a mess of unlabeled roads) will actually be navigable with a simple printout: a fantastic improvement for new employees, visitors and contractors.

A small section of the project I work at:

View Larger Map

One part of this new tool I particularly like is being able to see edits made in real time, all over the world.

The only drawback I can see is that all information uploaded to Map Maker becomes proprietary Google information, not open sourced. But hey, I've been using the free maps for years now, so if I can contribute back a little bit and improve my personal experience at the same time, I'm all for it.

If you're interested in improving Google Maps around your area, head over to

Via Google Lat-Long Blog.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lego Rube Goldberg Machine

I'm totally jealous that someone out there has A) this many Legos and B) this much spare time:

Via GeekDad.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Filming begins on "The Hobbit"

Glad to hear they've gotten under way!
Jackson's First "The Hobbit" Behind the Scenes Video: "As promised, Sir Peter Jackson has posted the first video blog from The Hobbit production on his Facebook page. The behind the scenes video is introduced by Peter Jackson on the Bag End set. From there the 10 minute video shows snippets of lot of events having around the production with weapons, costumes, stunt prep, Elrond's chamber and a whole lot more. Best part is seeing the entire core cast (not in makeup), including Sir Ian McKellen around Bilbo's table as they block a scene. The end is especially a moment for The Lord of the Rings fans to geek out on.

Via The Hobbit Movie Blog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wildfires in Texas

West Texas hasn't had actual rain in the last six months or so. Contrast that to my home state of Washington, which hasn't had an actual dry day in the last six months or so. Recently, Texas Parks and Wildlife posted this picture on their facebook page:

Shot of the fires on the night of April 9th from the catwalk of the 82" Otto Struve Telescope dome looking east. 107" Harlan J. Smith Telescope at left. (Credit: Frank Cianiolo/McDonald Observatory)
Wild fires have been a real problem during the last couple weeks. It hasn't been as bad in Midland as it has in other places, but one wildfire actual swept into the city proper before they got it under control.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Wedding in California

I flew out to California to go camping and attend a wedding at the same time.

The wedding was pretty unique - it took place at the Selby Campground on Carrizo Plain about an hour west of Bakersfield.

We camped out the day before and the day of the wedding, and both the ceremony and the reception were held outside. And if that weren't unusual enough, here's a shot of what they served for dinner:

Yep, they slaughtered, cleaned and cooked their own main course. Crazy. But pretty cool at the same time.

Before leaving California, we stopped at an ice cream parlour as a large group and had some fun:

The bride and groom were getting married, changing jobs and moving all at the same time. As a result, their cars and possessions needed to be moved from California to Colorado while they were on their honeymoon. I wound up helping to drive one of the vehicles over the 18-hour journey. One of the options for Google Latitude is the "history" function. This map shows where I was during the course of this trip:

View Larger Map

By the time we got in to Colorado, we all pretty much crashed. And the next day, I flew back to Midland. Next trip - Washington State!

As usual, more pictures are on my Picasa page.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Road trip back to Midland

Once my course in Houston finished, it was time to drive back to Midland. Brianna flew down to Houston and joined me for the trip, on the first weekend of March.

On the last day of my course, Friday, the "Check Engine" light in my car lit up. So instead of heading out Saturday morning, the car spent a large part of Saturday in the garage to get the timing belt and water pump replaced, while Brianna and I visited the Galleria Mall and watched "The Adjustment Bureau." In the late afternoon, the car was ready, and we drove to San Antonio, about halfway to Midland.

Sunday we visited the Alamo and the San Antonio River Walk. There was a Re-enactment going on that weekend, so there were a lot of people walking around in period costume, which was pretty interesting.

After touring San Antonio a little bit, we continued on to Midland, and Brianna got to meet my roommate and check out my apartment. (She thought the decorations were very "corporate apartment").

On Monday we went to Carlsbad Caverns, which I think is the most impressive feature within 500 miles of Midland. This was my third visit to the Caverns, and it was a lot of fun to see Brianna experiencing and reacting to the incredible rock formations.

And Tuesday morning I brought Brianna to the Midland airport, where we had to say good-bye, until the next visit!

As usual, there are a few more pictures here.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I didn't have classes this weekend (thankfully) so I was able to fly up to Colorado for a 31-hour visit to celebrate Valentine's day early with Brianna. We had a "fancy date" - dressed to the nines, dinner at a nice restaurant followed by the symphony.

(I had a really great time)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Production Technology and Solutions

I am in Houston for the next four weeks for my third technical course with Schlumberger: "Production Technology and Solutions." Per the course description: 
The Production Technology School is designed to give petroleum engineers a very strong introduction to the Schlumberger Production Optimization workflows and software applications required to successfully identify enhancement opportunities and determine the optimal solution, from a client point of view, to enhance under-performing wells, taking risk and economics into account. The course does not detail all aspects of production technology but rather provides very practical bases in the key areas of candidate recognition and single well performance analysis and optimization. It is the intention, that for detailed design of solutions (detailed frac design and pumping sequences for instance), the production engineer will work with the appropriate segments’ engineers, or will attend further detailed advanced training or Cross-training.
The drive over from Midland was pretty smooth. Eight hours of actual driving time. Gotta love the 80 mph speed limit in most of West Texas. I'm staying at the Doubletree, about a mile away from the Schlumberger office. It's definitely a nice hotel suite, with a kitchen, sitting area and bedroom, but I suspect I'll be tired of it after four weeks.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Unrest in Egypt

Absolutely crazy. I was there a few months ago.

Egyptian special forces secure the main floor inside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on Monday, Jan. 31. Would-be looters broke into the famed museum on Saturday ripping the heads off two mummies and damaging some artifacts before being caught and detained by army soldiers, Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said the prized collection is secure from thieves and under military guard. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press)#
More photos from Egypt (via the Boston Globe).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Birthday in Midland

I am 25 years old. A quarter century. Can't wait to see what the next 25 years bring!

I went out to dinner with some fellow Schlumberger engineers. Someone ratted me out to the wait staff, and I wound up sitting on a saddle mounted on a saw horse, shouting "Yee-Haw!"

Here's a shot of the group:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vail, Colorado

I took a four-day weekend and met up with some friends to go skiing in Vail, Colorado. I had a great time re-uniting with my college friends Charlie and Brianna, and getting to know Brianna's cousin Nancy. We rendezvoused at Brianna's place and drove up to Vail on Thursday afternoon, where we had rented the bottom floor of a "Bavarian Chalet" - it was a very nice place, and I'd definitely like to go there again.

Vail was absolutely gorgeous, even if the second day had low visibility. The runs were extremely long, so we only took a couple trips on the ski lifts each day. We definitely all had a good time.

I went on a short black diamond run during my last trip down the mountain. I took quite a few tumbles, but hey: I made it!

That's me in the circle.
During the drive back we had a small accident - fishtailed on some black ice, and hit the center concrete barrier at low speed. No one was hurt, and we quickly had the car back in drive-able condition. However, further down the road we smelled burning oil. We pulled off at a gas station and called a tow truck - finally got back to Brianna's place after 2 in the morning.

Even with the accident on the drive back it was a terrific trip, and it was difficult to leave and head back to Midland.

There are a few more photos on my Picasa page.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas and New Year's

The holidays were fantastic, if only because I got out of Texas for a while and left my company laptop behind (on purpose - accidentally leaving it behind would have been bad).

I spent nearly two weeks with my parents up near Seattle, Washington. Having actual scenery again was amazing.

I spent a lot of time relaxing and reconnecting with family and friends. Mostly I just took it easy, including a re-read of "Towers of Midnight", going for a long drive with Mom and Dad, and learning how to ski. Dad and I even went up to visit a Petroleum Refinery near Birch Bay, Washington. We got a very personal tour, and learned a few things. The size of the plant and the production volume were impressive. Even more impressive was how even "waste" products were turned into salable goods. 

Celebrating Christmas was as much fun as always. This year was a little unusual, as Michelle and Simeon flew out to spend Christmas with Simeon's family. Because of this, we exchanged presents earlier in the week and kept the two of them in our thoughts.

Celebrating with the extended Medema family on Christmas Eve at Grandma's is always fantastic. It's great to reconnect with cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandma. That's especially true for me and the others who live out-of-state. Definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

Update: Thanks for the picture Karla!

On Christmas Day, Dad, Mom and I had our traditional breakfast of homemade crĂªpes (Michelle and Simeon missed out) and then went for a long drive. The primary goal was to visit Snoqualmie Falls but it turned into an extended tour of the area. It was great to see so much green in such a small amount of time. In the evening we had Grandma, Uncle Jim and Aunt Nancy over for dinner. It turned out to be a really nice day.

Note Dad's newly clean-shaven face. Mom and I completely missed it.
On the 30th, Dad, Mom and I drove down to visit Mom's side of the family. Michelle and Simeon met us there on their return flight. It was another very enjoyable day of reconnecting with family with lots of good food, talk and laughter.

On the morning of the 31st, I left Washington and flew down to visit the Bultema family in Colorado. Once again they were very generous hosts and I had a great time with the whole family. While there I went skiing at Monarch Mountain with Brianna and her dad. I had taken a couple lessons at Stevens Pass in Washington, so I was able to do passably well on some blue slopes. It was bitter cold up on the mountain, though. The car thermometer read 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and a lift operator told us it was -13 at the top of the mountain.

As usual, there are more photos and additional comments on my Picasa page.

Kinda cool - Here's the photos from this trip in Google Maps:

View Christmas 2010 in a larger map