As I mentioned over in my Techie Blog things have been quiet here. Part of it is just finding the bandwidth, especially when you’re raising an almost eight-month year old. I also started the light rework of my website back in the middle of winter by activating the Linux subsite so that I could host my own WordPress blog engine while at the same time moving the Windows hosting from Server 2003 to Server 2008.
That second part came at a high cost – no more FrontPage extensions, which really wedged up much editing for a while. Eventually I learned to get Expression Web FTP syncing to go, but again it was one of those on/off things to get working.
Anyway, I’ve put off the resume update for some three years now so it’s good to get it refreshed and talk about the time I’ve been working over in Windows Live on the Photo Gallery product.
I downloaded the MP4 video of this today after I saw so many political discussions. Whether you agree with Obama or not, it was good to see the President engaging directly with this opposing party and trying to forge a productive path forward:
Today the President did something unusual in American politics – initiated an open dialogue with members of the opposite party. Visiting the House Republican retreat, he took questions on anything they wanted to talk about. He heard them out, acknowledged where they were right, and gave a genuine explanation where he felt they were wrong.
I’m in the slow process of moving two blogs off of Google’s Blogger and over to WordPress hosted on my little website.
So far, so good. This blog I had my hosting site (myhosting.com) auto-create for me. Unfortunately, it only auto-creates on for you, so I had to create my second blog (well, start the creation of it) by hand. We’ll see later how that goes.
Next up: redirection of the old blog over to here.
Two good things about this time of year come to mind:
- Daylight starts early and it stays light really, really late giving you all day to keep doing stuff.
- Lots of TV shows are hitting their finales, freeing me up from watchin’ ma stories.
I’m going to out myself. I watch too much TV. Way too much TV. Even worse, I’ve got a long queue of “to start watching.” How much TV is too much? Let’s stack rank the shows this past year…
Battlestar Galactica: dystopian to a degree that even Rick Deckard hugs his Voight-Kampff machine for comfort. All over now and I’m still meditating on it. Like a big tale from The Bible.
Lost: wow, it really turned it around this year. Well, really with the season finale last year. I totally grooved with the time-travel story and how lots of threads started coming together. And the Jacob episode was great. With every answer there seems to be two more questions. Coming back one more season.
Fringe: I didn’t expect to like this after the first few episodes. I was accumulating shows to watch one day when – with what should have been the end of the Snow of 2008 – I went out to continue shoveling a path for Bella when it started snowing hard and accumulating fast. I swore with great elegance and sat down in a huff and decided to start watching Fringe one after the other and really warmed up to the show. No time travel, but it does have alternative universes colliding. Gotta love that. It’s coming back, too.
Terminator: some of these episodes are really poetic, and a complex back story with the renegade T-1000 was bringing something complex together with the future war colliding back in time (more time travel!). Somewhere, it got more relationship-bleak and strained. The bond the characters had in the first season fragmented. Seems as though Fox had to choose between The Dollhouse and Terminator and chose The Dollhouse. See you in the movies.
Dr. Who: I don’t know about this new Dr. coming soon. Meanwhile, what a fun show. It always manages a complex back story. Back in small doses over the coming year.
24: redemption, truly, this year to make up for last year’s stinker year. Wait, not last year, it was canned last year ’cause of the writer’s strike. The year’s before last stinker year. A whole bunch of twists as only 24 can do it, though Jack is sort of becoming a caricature of himself (e.g., his dialogue could be spat out by a Bauer-bot). Back next year, if the lead actor stays out of jail.
Torchwood: aka, the naughty Dr. Who. I like Jack. A lot. I think it’s coming back as a sort of mini-series.
The Middleman: just a damn fun show. Smart and full of pop-references that zing by me faster than I can catch. Spy-fi funtastic. And cancelled. Boo.
Eureka: another fun show descended from Northern Exposure. But as the outsider becomes integrated, well, not as fun.
Reaper: I think I only watch this for Ray Wise. Plus the fact that I’m a Christian mythology geek. Probably not returning so I’m enjoying the last few episodes as much as I can.
Smallville: my dirty indulgence. I have no idea why I’ve stuck with this series for so long. It had some early episodes that reached the elegant production values of a high-end stage production (the one where Lex Luthor remembers his infant sibling’s death was magic). And it has had it’s share of stinker cheese. This year it turned it around somehow and turned interesting. And, if you follow the mythology, I think Clark is about to go on his world-wide walk-about to grow into a man. A Superman. Well, maybe not with Zod appearing at the end.
Heroes: last and on the edge of getting bumped. How badly can you screw up a series? Somehow, all the characters got beat by the Dumb Stick and turned into fumbling idiots. How can you have a show called Heroes where you don’t respect any of the heroic characters? Well, Pushing Daisies’ cancellation brought back a key Heroes producer, so it might have hope… but it’s on the edge of becoming one of my “kitchen” shows to play while doing dishes.
…so, some of those have hit the road. That’s a couple hours back in my week. Except for the fact that I still have a lot in the queue to watch… The Dollhouse, True Blood, and Supernatural. Sorry books.
Saying goodbye to such a loving, sweet being as Bella is hard beyond words. We all go through painful times like this and it’s a testament to how much we’re willing to love and be loved so unconditionally. (And yes, that classic sappy Rainbow Bridge poem is a comfort, no matter how much it makes me choked up.)
I became a guardian for Bella twelve years ago. She’s been part of my life for over a quarter of my lifetime. Her absence now is very much a big hole in who I am. Let’s start filling that hole with a few good memories.
Bella’s registered name is Glynnfarm La Belle Finie. She was born on March 28th, 1995, in Wisconsin. Her name represents the end of the line for her breeder. Her sire was Glynnfarm Archangel Raphael and her dam was Glynnfarm Freckles O’Neil. She ended up in Olympia, WA, at Linda Weisser’s kennel. Linda is who we got Beau from. I remember visiting Linda’s and Bella was standing up on the fencing of her kennel, barking for attention. Demanding attention. I also think she wanted out and to be in a loving home. Soon afterwards, Bella came to our home in Aloha, OR, and Susan started showing Bella.
Bella loved Susan, but wasn’t too sure about me. If I stopped to look at Bella and smile at her, she panicked and immediately wanted to be elsewhere. Over the months, she grew to trust me.
Of course, drying her off with the air blower didn’t help with the whole trust thing. She was a wild bucking bronco when time came to dry her long fur with a loud blower. I couldn’t hold my ground while Susan did her best to dance around both of us, attempting to shoot her arm in momentarily to dry a little fur. Eventually, with the help of a doorknob to hold her leash firmly, she gave in and got dry.
One of our first expeditions with Bella was to Long Beach, WA. A logistical error on my part at Leadbetter Point State Park resulted in us taking the long, hot, exhausting way to get to the beach. Bella came across a patch of cool, wet, shady mud and immediately plopped down. “Feels good!” she seemed to say looking at our shocked faces, “come on, there’s plenty for you, too!”
Beau and Bella played a lot. Unfortunately for Beau, he learned to play from me, which was a razz-ma-jazz float-like-a-butterfly scooting around style of chase play. Bella was much more a direct point-A to point-B kind of player, where point-B was Beau knocked down on the ground. Overtime in Graham Bella loosened up and started to scoot around, too.
In 1997, as we were moving from Oregon to Washington, Bella had her first and only litter of twelve puppies. Twelve! Susan visited Bella and Linda’s quite often. I eventually managed a trip, too, to find Bella constantly being followed by hungry puppies that would wait for her to pause so that they could stand under her and find a nipple.
Two of her puppies, Bianca and Bijou, joined us for a while in Graham. They eventually found very loving homes that were especially big hearted when it came to helping the daughters make it through the initial onset bone cancer they both contracted. Eventually, Sarah – Bella’s grand-pup – joined us for a while, too, and learned from Beau and Bella to wait in the corner of the field for neighbor Lawrence to visit with cookies.
Some where along the way, Bella broke one of her toes on her left rear paw. We got a cast for her and she got by just fine for a while as peg-legged Bella. She didn’t let the peg leg slow her down at all.
Bella consistently demonstrated that she was the sweetest, most loving, gentle being I have ever known. But she did demonstrate one case of being not-so-sweet with Beau: destroying Beau’s Spider toy. Beau had this multi-color dog toy that was a spider. When he held it in his mouth, the spider legs poking out looked like colorful sausages hanging out of his muzzle. One day, walking the acreage before mowing, I discovered Spider’s squeaker. Not a good sign. Then I discovered leg after ripped up leg. I knew Bella would steal Spider on occasion and get rough with it. Spider: Rest in Pieces.
When Susan was in UWMC’s rehab unit, Bella visited once and was convinced to jump up into the hospital bed with Susan to give Susan some one-on-one Pyrenees therapy. Seeing Bella with Susan in that bed is a pretty precious memory.
Bella demonstrated to my family an inspired strategic skill to get Beau’s food. I’d feed them both at the same time, side by side. Bella would wolf her food down and suddenly startle as if she heard something. She’d take off, huffing that something was up. Beau – a slow eater – would ponderously raise his head. Bella would run into the adjacent field and begin barking as if attackers were flowing over the five-foot-no-climb fence. Beau would spring into action to back her up and run over to her full-throttle. She’d circle back around while he was charging out into the field and head straight for his food. Score!
During the time I was alone in Graham I found a lot of comfort in having Beau and Bella to come home to. On the weekend evenings I’d be downstairs in the basement, either watching a DVD or playing Halo or Buffy on the Xbox, after a long day playing farming catch-up on five acres. If I turned on the Xbox, Bella would make a bee-line for the couch and jump up. I’d be wedged in all the way over to the right and Bella settled down to claim the rest for herself and fall dead asleep. And there we’d be, late into the night, my hand reaching over occasionally to rub her and she letting out a contented groan.
During that time, I broke one of the golden rules of Pyr / dog ownership: I let Bella up on the bed with me. She was thrilled beyond words to have such a wonderful privilege (“Neener-neener, Beauregard!”). This habit had to be broken eventually via a couple of laundry baskets that stole all of her space.
Bella loved snow. She’d come in from the snow with little snow balls dangling from her legs. When she went out in it, she’d find a nice clear patch of snow and plop down into it, rolling back and forth. We laughed about her creating Bella-angels.
Elisa came to Graham at the end of 2002 and came to love Bella as much as I did. While I was away for a conference in New Orleans, Elisa, Beau, and Bella went for a big walk in the abandoned Christmas Tree farm across our property. And shortly discovered a patch of bees living in the ground. Thank goodness for thick fur.
With bone cancer taking over, Beau had to leave us in April 2004 and Bella became our sole Pyrenees. Right at that time, too, she suffered from pyrametria and had to go into surgery. She recovered fine and became healthy and strong (thanks to a lot of cheese and ice cream). Only, because of the changes in her body, her coat changed from a wonderful rough, working coat to which no dirt could cling to a fluffy, matt-happy coat. D’oh.
Our little Graham farm was fine for Bella and she got in a lot of running around. It was flat and wide open. Our Redmond Tree House is the exact opposite of Graham: on a hill, surrounded by tall firs and maples.
You can see the Sammamish River Trial from our house, making out the occasional flash of color as a bicyclist goes by. One day Elisa and I were walking on the trail, trying to look back in the mess of trees on the hill and figure out where our house might be when we heard a deep strong, distant, “Woof!” I looked at Elisa. We then heard, “Woof woof woof woof!” We laughed. It was Bella, filling the Sammamish Valley with her bark. She was The Pyrenees of the Valley.
She also brought with her a high pitched, small howl she’d let loose anytime the emergency vehicles ran their sirens along the highway. She looked so cute, with her head back, howling away.
Elisa and I would take Bella out on the river trail, usually parking at the junior baseball field and heading north. There’s a small bridge that we call The Bella Bridge because that was the wise point at which to turn back with Bella so that she wouldn’t be totally exhausted by the time we got back to the van.
One time on the trail we ran into another Pyrenees owner, right near the Tolt Pipeline trail. She had recently rescued her Pyrenees and we chatted for a while about Bella, and we mentioned how she used to have a companion named Beau. The lady stopped and asked, “She’s that Bella? Of Beau and Bella?” Yep! Long ago in the adolescent days of the web I had put up a Beau and Bella website on Teleport to share some of the photos of Beau and Bella. Well, first it was just Beau (he was featured in a book “Dogs on the Web”) then Bella joined him. I haven’t updated it much so it looks about the same as it has for twelve years: http://www.ericri.com/pyrs/ .
A big daily highlight was letting Bella come inside. I would brush out the fir needles in her coat (what I could find) and then she’d bound inside, flop down on her side, and start rubbing and growling and groaning in extreme pleasure to be inside. She’d kick her feet up in the air and be puppy-silly. It filled my heart with love. Here’s a short video of one such celebration:
Old age catches up with all of us, even Bellar-Smellars. Jumping into the dog crate in the van was the first to go. Then stairs in the house and on the deck. She went from sleeping with us upstairs on the third floor to being by herself in the basement at night. Her rear became weaker and weaker from the nerve under pressure at the base of her tail. Eventually, she couldn’t walk down the hill anymore as part of our morning paper ritual. Then just walking out to our pole barn became a chore for her. We got some advice to modify and blend her food so that she wouldn’t suffer from choke, but she became less and less interested in food. During all of this time, Elisa coordinated a regimen of massage, acupuncture, and chiropracticy to give Bella every opportunity to remain healthy and strong.
While we changed up her food (best food that she loves: Dynamite Ultimate Diet – thank you, Renee; 2nd to that: Redmond Paw’s Cafe beef stew [ground up]). She’d eat a little. The RedWood Animal Hospital (always so comforting to us) discovered signs of probable cancer in Bella’s body. At that point, we transitioned to caring for her in a way to help her enjoy every moment left.
Of course, one big memory she leaves is Santa-Bella. For the last few Christmas she’s had to endure many many photos of a Santa cap on her head. Best Christmas present ever. Well, for us. Bella was a good sport.
Bella Richards – Glynnfarm La Belle Finie – 3/28/1995 to 4/30/2009
aka Belle Bear, Bellar-Smellar, Bellar-G-Smellar
My flickr Pyrenees set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ericri/sets/72157602473235568/
P.S. For friends and family, if you have digital photos of Bella, it would be a big gift to have the original sized image. Feel free to email directly to me, or Elisa, or put up on a file sharing place like Windows Live SkyDrive for me to retrieve later. Thank you.
From Advertising Age:
TOP MOST-LIKED SPOT
Yeah, we know — something about kids and puppies make commercials. In Microsoft’s latest iteration of its “I’m a PC” campaign, 4-and-a-half-year-old Kylie shows the rest of us how easy it is to upload, retouch (!) and send photos using Microsoft’s software. Kids these days…
A new ad from Microsoft that features Windows Live Photo Gallery: Windows Live Photo Gallery Photo Sharing – Kylie – The Rookies. Rumor is that it’s supposed to show up during this weekend’s Grammys show.
Very nice – of course I wish they could show more of the product, but it’s nice that they showed an entire acquire / fix / share flow using the product.
Man, I’ve been using some of the competition products this past week and I am *delighted* with the design we have in Photo Gallery. We can of course always improve and I’m no doubt biased by using WLPG so much day in and day out, but still: nice. Understandable. Simple.
Get it done. Even for the four & a half year-old Kylies of the world.
From the outset, McGoohan constructed The Prisoner as an escape vehicle designed to tease brains and incite response. Its main character, Number Six, was, like John Drake, an intelligence agent, but one tired of the grind and looking to retire, much like McGoohan when he dreamed up the character after expressing a desire to leave Danger Man. He conceived the series nearly on his own, and wrote and directed several episodes, including some of the finest: “Many Happy Returns” and the last two episodes “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out.” When he first thought up the influential series, McGoohan wrote a 50-page Prisoner bible that explained everything actors, producers and other principals needed to know.
You’ve got to visit this page to see some wonderful photo shots of Mt. Rainier and my favorite cloud phenomena:
Mt. Rainier puts on a show!
I guess we’ve reached the stage where zombies – even a city of full zombies – just aren’t scary enough to carry a whole movie anymore. Ah well, it was a good blow-em’up as long as you were happy with video-game like plot-points – e.g., motorcycles flying through church stained glass windows. Which I was.
What it does have is a collection of 40 songs, all of which are master tracks with lyrics included. Those from the MTV era onward also include a music video, which you can set as the background while you belt your heart out. The $70 Lips bundle also comes with two beautifully designed wireless microphones that possess the uncanny ability to elicit gasps of delight from both 13-year-old girls and 30-year-old men alike.
It’s pretty easy to dive in and start singing and understand what you need to do with the lyrics and pitch and such. I have zero karaoke experience. Trust me. So that’s good.
My first song pick to sing: “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. I listened to that song over, and over, and over again as a kid. I did okay, but I made the mistake of letting a random video play in the background since no Johnny Cash video was available and I got pretty distracted by dinosaurs licking on some kind of huge dripping vanilla ice cream cone.
The first benefit I always love about this or a game like Rock Band is, well, learning the full correct lyrics to songs. I’m pretty embarrassed I didn’t realize that “mountain mamma” was in “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver. What did I think it was… sigh… I thought it was “Mount Mahamma” and figured it was a peak or something in West Virginia. It’s not. Oh, and “ABC” by The Jackson Five: wow, there’s a lot more to that song than I remembered… which was pretty much just the chorus.
Strangely, the song I did the best on via the game’s scoring mechanism was a-ha’s “Take on Me” which has some pretty high notes to sing. Bella remained sleeping on the floor, though she would have been totally justified in biting me good and hard during that performance, sensitive superior hearing and all.
Importing music tracks from the network is not fun. I’m sure there’s a way to quickly move through 3,500 tracks but it’s not obvious. And while I have ratings for my songs, they didn’t appear to come up. I’m not sure if it’s using the WMP server or the Zune server. Also, there was no highlight, say in the song or artist view, which album a track was coming from, and given that I have some songs that appear multiple times (original CD and best-of CD or different versions) I very much want to know which album Lips is getting the track from.
The device filter UI is totally too subtle and should be reworked. I had no idea what I was doing with the filter UI until I sorted the song list by device source. All I wanted to do is find out what songs were available for download from Live. I finally – finally – figured out there was a on/off state for each device glyph: CD, Music Player, Live, and Network. There should be some sort of bright, labeled pop-up UI to manage device filters in a circular fashion, like choosing a plasmid from BioShock, for instance.
Imported tracks come along with an icon for the genre but no album art. That makes it clear what tracks are imported when selecting a song, but makes everything look really, really boring. They should have come with album art and some sort of framed gleam or such for genre to help distinguish them. The bitmap is there, right?
The biggest weakness is the lack of lyrics when you import a track. I understand lyrics are a touchy legal thing and thank goodness Microsoft has a legion of Intellectual Property lawyers. I think there’s a big opportunity for Microsoft here to do something like give you free pitch-tagged lyrics for songs you buy from Zune. The lyrics can work in Lips and then even display when you’re playing the same media via the Xbox music player or Media Center. Or, ooo, also on your Zune. That would be a huge end-to-end music differentiation for Microsoft. And something groovy like making the lyric files well documented could allow a community effort to spring up.
Once I managed to figure out the UI, I discovered there are only a few $2 tracks available for download right now, with a few more lighting up 11/28/2008. That’s awfully unfortunate and very disappointing. The biggest weakness of Lips is it comes with just 40 songs: you figure 1/3 people know well, 1/3 people kind of know and will sing to, and 1/3 it’s doubtful people will ever play. It would have been better to have 140 songs vs. 40.
It should also be the case that if I download a song for Lips, I should then be able to download the same song for free from the Zune marketplace. That seems like something really easy to wire up now for people who have associated their LiveID with a Zune sign-in account. Not only are people into smart end-to-end experiences right now, they are also into being thrifty. There’s a lot of emotional connection to music, and the more you can surprise and delight people the more benefits Lips / LIve / Microsoft / Zune can reap.
The fact that people love the included microphones gives Lips the advantage that people will certainly buy the game to play but also to get the microphones with the hopes that Rock Band etc will support the wireless mics soon. Microsoft Games Studio should do everything possible to help make that happen. If they could have a joint announcement this next week around this then Lips has a high chance of being a popular 2008 Christmas gift.
If the content and expansion options start fast and furious, a lot of good things can happen here for Lips and Microsoft. But if the number of available songs doesn’t crack 100 before Christmas -and keep going upwards and upwards – Lips risks fading quickly. Which would be a shame, because I’m having a great time murdering these songs I love!