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Jul. 4th, 2011

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Summer of Ice Cream

Xbox has Summer of Arcade (I’m looking forward to Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet).

Ice cream flavors from my coworkersAnd I’m going to have a Summer of Ice Cream. Five years ago, I went for nearly two years making a different dessert every week. Those were good times. Anyways, what better way to celebrate having a new kitchen than to do another epic run at cooking.

It all started by reading Nathan Mhyrvold’s latest cookbook, Modernist Cuisine. Having only a fraction of the equipment limits my options, though I really enjoyed the parts about cryogenic cooking. My favorite so far… carbonated oranges. Next I found a blog from the The French Culinary Institute, which is just awesome. The primer on using liquid nitrogen in the kitchen is worth reading. And now I’ve researched dozens of ways to make ice cream. LN2 has a lot going for it.

Next up, I had to get some liquid nitrogen. I ended up calling the local Praxair store in Kirkland and they helped me buy a Dewar to store it. Now was the time to have fun. A few colleagues practiced with me freezing fruit, electronics, and things that just happened to be in my kitchen. That was put on display to the entire CLR team at an all-hands meeting last Monday.

With the fun just starting, it was onto ice cream. Over the past month, I’ve collected the list of favorite flavors from co-workers. The goal is to make each flavor. To kick things off, I used ingredients that were readily available in my kitchen – chocolate! First I made a La Nuit Noire (made by Guittard) ice cream. And then I made it again with fudge swirls made from Lever Du Soleil (another Guittard chocolate). I’m really happy with the results, and I’ll see what everyone thinks later today.

Making LN2 ice cream in my new kitchen

Jun. 28th, 2009

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Let Leonard In… The Real Story

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Yesterday, among the few non-work things I’ve done in recent memory, I took several out-of-town guests to the Seattle Aquarium. While they were off exploring the exhibits, I was determined to campaign for Leonard’s immigration status.

I asked many staff members where I could find Leonard. Several of them didn’t even know what I was talking about. Those that did, said he wasn’t there. I then asked why they were keeping him out of the aquarium… you know, to get to to issues! Apparently, they’re concerned he’ll be eaten by an otter or a seal or an octopus.

Of course there are several ways to get into the aquarium—the food route or the exhibit route. For anyone else campaigning for Leonard, make sure you’re specific. Good luck Leonard!

Jun. 22nd, 2009

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Bird House TV

Picture of birds getting ready to leave the nest. I’ve been working a lot lately—about 150% of time I usually spend, so it’s a lot. When I come home in the middle of the night, there’s usually not any quality television. Until now…

My neighbor built an awesome bird house that has a few cameras. Even cooler, he hooked up my television to see the family of birds. They’re getting ready to leave the nest. It’s been more fun than I expected to watch. I think I might miss them when they finally leave.

May. 4th, 2009

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Konna’s 14th Birthday

Last Monday was Konna’s 14th birthday, so really she’s almost a hundred people years. She is still the cutest puppy ever. My parents finally complied with my request to give her a cupcake.

Patiently waiting to eat the cupcake.Finally, she ate the cupcake in one bite.

Once I saw all the pictures, it was worth it. Happy Birthday Konna!

Oh yeah, I had a birthday too, but Konna’s was much better.

Jun. 26th, 2008

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Leaving China

So, my time in China is nearly up. My computer desktop is counting down by the second. I'll fight with the Great Firewall of China one last time to capture what the last few months have been like. So here goes:

The view of trees and waterway from the Microsoft office in Zizhu. Trees!
When I came back, I could see trees. Elizabeth Montgomery's character, Sayward Luckett Wheeler, in The Awakening Land got it right when she said, "This place needs trees."

Overall, May was a beautiful month in China. It made up for the lack of color during winter.
Tingting and Brandon. Tingting is a Chinese language teacher. Ni De Kuzi Zhao Huo Le
I finished language lessons in May, which added yet another language I can warn people about conflagrations.

Most importantly, I am now capable of making completely nonsensical phrases. For instance, not knowing how to say "air conditioning," I asked a driver to "Please make on the iced electric wind." Surprisingly, it worked.
The evil Cheetos. Beware! Don't eat the Cheetos
When I was in search of life sustaining junk food, I thought I could depend on Cheetos. Wrong!

They replaced cheesy goodness with meat flavors. It's vile.

The Doritos are okay (Stephen Colbert will be happy).
The longest oversea bridge. Longest Oversea Bridge
In May, our team went on a morale trip and went over the newly opened bridge connecting Shanghai with Hangzhou--the longest oversea bridge in the world. It was so long that I fell asleep while crossing it.
DevDiv China on a team outting to Wuxie. Visiting Wuxie and Xiaoshing
Our team trip over a weekend in May took us to Wuxie National Park and Xiaoshing, childhood home of Luqun.

I liked Wuxie--it was a great park. It's also where socks are made. The ones you're wearing now were probably made here.
The dinner party at Jade on 36. One of the Best Restaurants Ever
I've been to a lot of nice restaurants, but Jade on 36 is easily one of the best. The staff was friendly and not pretentious. Most of all the food was fun.

I've already gone twice, and I'm sure to go again whenever I visit in the future.
The crowd preparing to see the Olympic Torch Relay in Shanghai. The Olympic Torch Relay
Shortly after the Sichuan Earthquake, the torch relay passed through Shanghai. Bruce, Pung, and I got up early to join the crowds, which were chanting Zhong Guo Jia You ("Go China!").

Sadly, the excitement didn't bear fruit. We watched the torch go by in a van in a motorcade.
Brandon at the top of a pagoda in Suzhou. Visiting Suzhou
I was told that Suzhou is the "Venice of China." It is not.

Still, this was a beautiful place and well worth the day trip. With this, I've now visited five provinces in China... more than most Chinese people.
The canal in Beijing with bars along it. Back to Beijing
In early June, I went back to Beijing for work. This time the air quality was much better.

I also got to see the less touristy aspects of the city. We did go to a cool canal that was lined with bars... though each bar specialized in a single brand of beer which surprisingly isn't as cool as it sounds.
The Arfican animal display in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. I Love this Museum
If I didn't have a great career in software, I would want to be a curator for a museum like the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. I want to live there.
Plastic bags were banned in China as of June 1, 2008. Plastic Bags Are Still Here
Leading up to the plastic bag ban in China, I was wondering how it would happen. Putting things in plastic bags was practically a reflex for shop keepers.

It happened though. Plastic bags are still here, but they have to be bought. Apparently, this put 20,000 people out a job.
A Texas restaurant in China. Just a Few Miles West of Texas
I've now been to a number of Texan restaurants in China, and of course the quality ranges. But overall, it's actually better than Seattle.

I still think seeing a waitress in China dressed in the Texas flag is highly amusing.
I have no pictures of this event... for a good reason. The Taxi Ride from Hell
While in Beijing, I observed road rage. Fortunately, I was surrounded by others and people were there to keep things from escalating.

I wasn't so lucky last weekend. Between the rain and the normal anti-social driving practices my taxi nearly missed a collision (aka would not let another cut in). When the cars came to a stop the other driver came over and pulled my taxi driver out of the car and started kicking him. If this were in the U.S., it would be felony assault. Being alone and not being able to do anything made the situation horrific.
Kung Fu Panda is a great movie. You should see it. Panda Bears!
One thing I really wanted to do while here was to go see the panda bears near Chengdu. That became impossible after the earthquake. So... I will come back some day.

I finally went to a movie theater to see Kung Fu Panda. Movie theaters assign seats. It was great seeing this movie here in China. The animators got so much of the scenery and architecture right. I love this movie!
Brandon and his PM team before leaving China to return to the United States. Saying Good Bye
This last week has been filled with good bye dinners. Here's a picture of my PM team.

Apr. 27th, 2008

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Happy Birthday Konna!

Konna wondering why she is not being offered a treat.Today is a wonderful day. It is Cornell University's 143rd birthday. Shockingly, that's not the most important birthday... it's Konna's birthday.

I credit her good health to Zesto's ice cream. There's on in Seattle on the corner of NW 15th and 65th NW in Ballard in case you want to discover this miracle food. Apparently, she was also allowed to sit on a couch for her birthday.

In her old age, she no longer smiles at cameras because they are not food. Still, she is the the cutest thing ever. After last year's scare, I'm ever so thankful to still have Konna around.

I'm still trying to convince my sister to assign Konna to the seat next to me at her wedding reception.

Skiing, Steven's Pass

The 17,000 Mile Trip

Kate and Gilbert (with Brandon) at their wedding reception. I'm here in the United States for another visit. The challenge of this trip is definitely to see as many friends as possibly can within two weeks.

The first reason for the trip was a wedding at Cornell. Congratulations Kate and Gilbert. It was fantastically fun getting to see all of my friends from college. I'm also impressed with how Kate and Gilbert made the wedding there own--I'm not sure I'll hear video game music at anyone else's music.

Mallory and Brandon on top of Mt. Philo. After the reunion wedding, I drove east to see my college roommate then pressed on to Vermont to see Mallory. Vermont is awesome... everyone should visit! The days in Vermont were incredibly relaxing. For Mallory's birthday, we "hiked" up Mt. Philo and emailed Justin and Maggie from the top. It was great celebrating together.

Then for my birthday, I bid farewell to Mallory (for a few days) and flew back to Redmond. So I had a 27-hour birthday. Justin and Maggie threw an ice cream party for me, with some homemade ice cream.

And Thursday was really cool. As I started my search for a new job, I discovered I'm actually good at networking. The day kept getting better. I'm setup for another great week before the next wedding, when I'll be able to say Congratulations Josh and Dana. Then I go back to China for the last stretch of my fellowship assignment.

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Greetings from Beijing

Mom and I in front of the Forbidden City.
Mom and I in front of the Temple of Heaven.
Mom and I at the Great Wall of China.
Mom and I at the Summer Palace.
At the beginning of April, my mom came to visit me in China. Yay!!!

Actually, it really wasn't a vacation as much as an extended shopping trip with something worth seeing sprinkled here and there. In Shanghai, we made several trips to the fabric market and to the silk store. Best of all, I finally had someone to go to great restaurants with. We went to Jean-George (amazing) and M on the Bund (no need to ever go back).

Of course, the big part of the trip was Beijing. We spent three days touring around the city with a private tour guide and driver. I love this tour company. Over the four days, we saw:
  • Tiananmen Square: Well known location next to the seat of the government.
  • The Forbidden City: Also known as the summer palace. This is where the emperor lived--it was forbidden for the common people to enter.
  • Another Silk Factory: More silk to purchase.
  • The Temple of Heaven: We got to stand on the Heavenly Center Stone.
  • A Tea House: It was a very fast tea ceremony, but only so we would have more time to buy tea.
  • Peking Opera House: We had extra time, so we looked at the ancient opera house without having to watch an opera.
  • Acrobat Show: It was the second acrobat show I saw within a week. The acrobat show in Shanghai was a bit better.
  • A Cloisonné Factory: Yes, more stuff to buy.
  • The Ming Tomb: More buildings.
  • A Jade Factory: Amazingly, my mom resisted the urge to buy something.
  • The Sacred Way: A nice leisurely jaunt with statues to look at along the way. This is where funeral processions for emperors happened.
  • The Great Wall: We went to the Ju Yong Guan section. It was a nice hike.
  • A Chinese Pharmacy: We got foot massages, and someone looked at our tongues.
  • Guo Han Hotel: We had Peking Duck, which isn't all that good in my opinion.
  • The Summer Palace: Great place! This is the place I'd recommend seeing.
  • The Drum Tower: And with a concert!
  • Rickshaw ride of the Hutong neighborhood: I finally got to ride a rickshaw (though it wasn't quite what I imagined). We also got to visit a Chinese family to learn about their life.

And now for the pollution report: the entire time I was in Beijing, I had a sore throat. I thought it was a cold, but it didn't work like a cold. By the time I left Beijing, I was planning to go to a hospital because I couldn't swallow. As soon as I left, it went away. So... good luck Olympic athletes, you'll need it. Please don't die.

Apr. 4th, 2008

Skiing, Steven's Pass

Happy Tomb Sweeping Day

Today is a holiday in China... and it couldn't have come at a better time. While the last few weeks have been more exciting than usual, it's nice to have a break. Sadly, I was unable to find either a broom or a tomb to really celebrate the holiday. I'm sure China will forgive me.

For the last two weeks, we have had a parade of general managers and other Microsofty dignitaries visit. Dinner with each visitor has been nice, though I'm definitely ready to stop eating Chinese food... the adventurous variety is too much sometimes.

And with the last visitor, I was able to join on a tour of Shanghai. Surprisingly, most of the places visited were still new to me. With the Parallel Computing Platform GM came an entourage of people. It was quite fun to be around them for a few days, and with my former manager.

I probably won't get to post again for a few days (thanks to the Great Firewall). It should be fun though--my mother is here visiting, and I finally have someone to take to a great restaurants and landmarks.

George, Brandon, Pung, and Jim out for dinner at Zen in Xintiandi.
The DevDiv China leadership team with Jason Zander and Larry Sullivan for dinner.
The PCP entourage and Brandon at the Yuyuan Garden.

Mar. 23rd, 2008

Skiing, Steven's Pass

The First Rule of Pillow Fight is...

Pillow fight action in Shanghai.
World Pillow Fight Day in Shanghai, group photo.

Saturday was World Wide Pillow Fight day. I participated in the Shanghai pillow fight by first making my first trip to IKEA in fifteen years (I needed a cheap pillow). Who knew a pillow fight could be so much fun!

In Seattle... The news has been covered by last week's Flash Mob Pillow Fight that left feathers covering a city park. Cries of vandalism by the mayor started to put a damper on the international pillow fight. Fortunately, the pillow fight club proactively worked with the city and called a truce. So pillow fighting in Seattle can happily continue.

In Beijing... The pillow fight organized for the World Wide Pillow Fight was broken up by the police. With all the unrest in China, having an organized group of (mostly) expats isn't particularly welcomed by the government.

In Shanghai... Last year's pillow fight took place in Time Square, and did ultimately draw the attention of the police. This year, the organizing group for Shanghai, Bad Cat Productions, located it on a field at the Shanghai Sculpture Space. Even with rain, nearly seventy people showed up. Luckily, there were no police.

What a great way to meet new people! Pillow fights took place in more than thirty cities worldwide. More pictures and videos are shared in the March collection of Shanghai pictures.

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