Saturday, December 29, 2007

OSU - Emerald Bowl Champions

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the OSU Beavers take on the Maryland Terrapins at AT&T Park in San Francisco (where the SF Giants play baseball). It was a ton of fun to go to a bowl game and see all the fan fair. I can't even imagine how amazing a Superbowl game must be. I didn't go to OSU, but now I work in that town, so I've been following them. It also just so happened I was going to be in the area with my family during the game, so I got tickets.

Both teams had some good players and spectacular moments. Maryland went up first with a quick score. OSU was able to respond, but then Maryland quickly put up another touchdown. It seriously looked like it was going to become a shootout. However, both defenses settled down and the scoring stopped. Less than a minute left in the first half, OSU put together a good drive to tie the score 14-14. The second half was another defensive game with both teams struggling to make it into the end zone. With 6 minutes left in the game, OSU put together another good looking drive to make it 21-14. Maryland came close scoring again a couple of times, but just couldn't finish. The game finished with OSU crowned as Emerald Bowl Champions.

It was a good close game and I'm glad I got to go with my family.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you had a great time and were able to relax a little bit. Jessi and I were able to spend Christmas in the Bay Area, CA with my (soon to be our) family. It had all the usual fun of family traditions and presents, but something caught my eye. Suddenly I stopped and looked around when I realized that we were eating dinner on Christmas Eve... outside - in short sleeves! That's right, the weather has been simply amazing. You know, I realize there are some who say it's better cold, or that you must experience the changing of the seasons, but I've got to be honest: beautiful weather all year round is really nice. I know, you're jealous. :)

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

She Said "Yes"

So, there's kind of big news in my life. Not only am I getting a promotion at work, but Jessi is now my fiancee! I proposed to her last night during a romantic candle lit dinner. She had no clue it was coming, which is awesome. Actually, at first she thought I was joking she was so surprised. Below are a few of pictures of the event.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dynamic Graphs

In my line of work, we show a lot of data. Furthermore, all of that data is displayed within PowerPoint. Over time, we have become experts in the "display of quantitative information". We've learned how to make slides visually compelling and boil complex numbers and comparisons into easily understandable graphs and charts.

However, over time our information (and data) has become increasingly complex - and this has added a level of difficulty to our work. Our solution, we think, it to use something dynamic. This will allow the user to zoom in and out as they desire and not require us to physically create each level of detail within a new slide.

For example, let's say you have a picture of a car (slide 1). Then some body asks to just see the engine (slide 2). Then they ask to see the cylinders (slide 3). Then the pistons (slide 4). Lots of zooming involved. But then someone wanted to see the transmission (slide 4) and all the individual parts of the transmission (slides 5-20). Yet, there was one other person who wanted to see the interior (slide 21). Then the dash (slide 22). Then the fuel gauge (slide 23). Then the fuel gauge needle (slide 24). Oh wait! That's just one car! There are still 50 other cars to do this for, and each view has it's own PowerPoint slide! Not to mention the comparison views on one car to another (of say a 2006 model to a 2007).

Is there a tool out there that will allow people to choose their own view? Something that will let people peel their own onion on one slide with the data in the background? There are a couple options out there, but we're not sure what would be the best.

Ah yes, these are the types of concerns that keep us up at night.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Snow Joke

I like corny jokes. I think it's funny how stupid, yet creative they can be. I once got into a discussion about how measure the "funniness" of something and there are actually articles out there to further "explain" what makes something funny. It all has that "Dead Poets Society" feel to it really, but that's not why I'm writing. Let's get to the joke.

Q: What do you get if you make a vampire snowman?

A: Frostbite!

Ha ha. I love those kind. OK, now for a totally different kind of humor, but probably even better. Remember those Calvin and Hobbes snowman cartoons? Well, I found a site that has them all printed out. Just like the last time I read through Bill Waterson's book,s they're amazing.

Here's the page, and here's a sample:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Having Goals

On February 23, 2003 I put together a goals list as encouraged by a book I read. From what I read, having goals gives you direction in life - a compass if you will. More over, writing down goals makes them more concrete and "official". Then, you need to put them in a place where you'll see them all the time. For me, the best place is posted in the bathroom right above the toilet. It's a time I'm not doing much, but standing there, and I can get in a quick review at least a couple times a day. When you review your goals, say all of them in the present tense - as if you've already accomplished them. Furthermore, your top 1-3 goals should be written down and placed in your wallet so you have them with you at all times. The last step, and this is the hardest really, is to tell people. Not only does it make it more real, but now you're holding yourself accountable to other people. Believe me, I still get calls and emails from people wondering about my goals.

What's the point of all this? Well, our minds are amazing. You see, over time your brain starts to truly believe what you're telling it each day and to others. Yes, it is a form of brainwashing (but you have to admit it's better than the normal brainwashing that occurs), and over time your brain starts to think of ways to make your goals come true. Want to vacation in Egypt? Your brain will think of ways to save money, borrow money, find discounts, fund raise and all sorts of other creative solutions. You will start to notice (and read) articles relating to Egypt - educating yourself. This concept, of setting your mind on something and then letting your brain figure it out, is exactly what the book "Rich Dad Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki is all about.

How many goals is enough? There really isn't any magic number to the number of goals you have, though I do believe you should only have 1-3 top priority goals. You know, these are the big ones that you feel compelled to accomplish. You should even create sub goals that help enforce your main goal. For me, I write down anything and everything I think would be fun to accomplish. Really, this is so I can get it out of my head, but in a secure place, and refocus on my top goals. This practice of writing everything down comes naturally to me, but if you want to learn more, "Getting Things Done" by David Allen is a great read (or audio listen).

If you want how-to's and inspiration beyond what I've written (if that's possible), then one last wonderful book is "One Minute Millionaire" by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen. It's actually written in two parts: One side is the how-to on everything I've been writing (by Allen, author of numerous books). The other is a made up inspirational story of how a young women implements each of these (by Hansen, author of Chicken Soup For the [add topic here] - this link takes you to some of the top searches, it's a hoot).

So that's it. Define your goal, write it down, review it, share it, and make it happen. Yep, it's that simple, but not necessarily easy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I Need More Steps

OK, I sit at my computer A LOT - probably more than I should. No, I know it's more than I should. A person, on average, walks 5,000 steps a day. A healthy person walks 10,000 steps a day. I've been wearing a pedometer for a few weeks now just to see how much I walk. Today, which is about average for me, I walked 2,534 steps. Yeah, I sit still WAY too much. Given these findings, I think I'm past the diagnostic phase and am ready to move onto the increase-my number-of-steps phase. How should I do this? Any ideas?

So far, I've come up with one crazy one, which if I could figure it out, would actually be pretty cool. What if I put a treadmill under my table? So, instead of looking at the control console, my desk is there instead. This way I can work (OK, it's actually play) on my computer while walking at the same time. People do this with their TV all the time. Could it work with a table? Obviously I wouldn't be speed walking, but could moving at a leisurely pace while writing an email be so bad? I don't know, I think it has merit since it promotes being healthier but doesn't require me to give up computer time. :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gmail Colored Labels

When Gmail first came out, I jumped on that bandwagon pretty fast. Though, when I did there were a couple features missing that I really wanted. However, I was tired of deleting emails just to have enough space to get new ones. When I first started playing with Gmail the one feature missing, the one feature I had become addicted to was message highlighting. Oh my, oh my how I missed that feature. For about a week I submitted that request daily to the Gmail team. As a matter of fact, when I interviewed with Google, they asked how I thought they could improve one of their products and message highlighting was one of the things I mentioned. Yes, that feature is just that important to me.

Well, I (and probably countless others) have finally been heard. Gmail now has label highlighting and it is beautiful. Thanks Goog.

Monday, December 03, 2007

How much do you keep?

It's not about how much you make, but how much you keep. Who would you rather be: A professional athlete who makes $500K a year and spends $501K a year or a teacher who makes $20K a year but only spends $15K? Personally, I would rather be the teacher. Yes, the athlete probably has a nicer house and car than me... today. However, that extra $5K can be invested and used to create even more wealth. Imagine this: you invest that $5K and earn a nominal return in a retirement fund. At the age of 65, you'll have enough money saved you'll NEVER have to think about money again. As a matter of fact, you'll have well over $1 million (if you start at 30 years old) in your account. That athlete, who never saved, will only be up to his/her ear in debt. Chances are that nice car and house will disappear.

Now if you're like me, 65 years old sounds like a long time to wait. What if you could earn better returns that 10% annually? What can you do that adds value to people's lives? There is no right answer, but think about this for a minute. The majority of millionaires in the US are small business owners (we're talking 97%). The other 3% percent are athletes, actors and inheritance benefactors. Also, the majority of millionaires are ... surprise surprise ... teachers. Teachers know how to live within a budget and enjoy a nice chunk of time during the summer to operate their business.

So, as nice as it might be to be a superstar athlete, it's not about how much you make. It's all about how much money you save, and how you figure out ways to have that money work for you.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Figuring Out Facebook

Call me a slow learner, but I learned of a new (to me) feature in Facebook. For a while I've been resisting adding the plethora of new applications people send me because I've found it really clutters up my profile page. To be honest though, I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to be doing while on Facebook. All I do is scan the news feed, read notifications and messages, maybe post a comment on someone's wall and then look at my profile and think, "Yep, that's my profile." I do think the funniest feature is the email/message box. I love how when someone sends me a message in Facebook I get an email telling me to check my mail on Facebook. What a hoot!

Anyways, I just added an application called "Wii Want To Play", but I couldn't find the box listing the games I own and the ones I desire. During my search I discovered the "edit layout" feature. I learned that I could take all of those applications cluttering my profile and put them on my sidebar. Now I've got all my "important" items clearly visible in the main part of the body. It's a pretty cool trick.

Just as a geeky side, I did look at the source code of my profile and figure out how they did it. It's actually a fairly easy JavaScript trick. I found a easy tutorial if you want to learn more about it.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What about my Contribution?

I had an interesting (or was it scary?) thought today. It occurred right after I finished checking my email, Google Reader (which includes Gizmodo, Engadget, MacDailyNew, Life Hacker, Penny Arcade, xkcd, and a bunch of blogs ), Digg, Google News, Facebook and my recent addition Pownce. The thought went like this: "Wow - I just spent a ridiculous amount of time consuming content and I haven't created any of my own today. How lame is this?" The worst part was that I wasn't satisfied yet either. I kept thinking: "Where else can I go to find something interesting?" Am I addicted to Internet news, and Internet content in general?

Why is it that during school I didn't care if I missed an article on Apple's latest patent, but now I race to it as if my life depends on this knowledge? Now, it's not as bad as TV where I could easily waste 6 hours and not actually gain any more knowledge (other than knowing that Pam and Jim make a cute couple but Chuck and Sarah will forever do the relationship dance), but I bet I spend at least 2 hours total each day reading about what cool things other people are doing.

What am I to do about this? I'm not sure. Maybe I could do what fellow blogger Maya does and post short snippets about what I'm working on - though mine, admittedly, probably aren't as cool, but at least I'm contributing. Or, I could ditch all my news feeds like Brad has done with TV. I don't know. I'll have to think about it.