Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Five

Alpharetta, GA this week. It's a suburb north of Atlanta. Managed to find a Famous Dave's, which is always good.

I did manage to find 5 Seasons Brewing, which is a local brewpub that gets its food from local farms. The place was so good I went twice this week. The second time they had a special - lamb burger with arugula and goat cheese on focaccia bread. For those who don't know, I love both lamb and goat cheese. The burger was easily one of the top 10 things I've ever put in my mouth.

In the past I had a hard time remembering what town I was in. Now I'm finding the most difficult thing is remembering which rental car I have in a given week. It's one thing to walk out into a parking lot not remembering where you parked. It's something completely different not remembering what you parked.

So after doing so many Friday Five's you start to run out of ideas. If you have an idea you'd like to see me (and/or Karin) do on a given week, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

In the mean time, Sarah has suggested 5 ways to unwind/decompress. So here we go...

  1. Three words: Chair. Beer. Remote. Easily my favorite combination. Get home, grab a beer, plop down on my chair, and watch TiVo - usually Simpsons or Pardon The Interruption.
  2. Relaxing with Karin. It's something we don't do nearly enough because of my travels, but curling up on the couch and watching something (House, a movie, etc.) is always very nice.
  3. Video games: Either on the Xbox or computer, it's a nice way to disconnect from the real world.
  4. Going out and blowing off steam: I'm an extrovert most of the time, and getting together with friends for dinner or over drinks is a nice way to forget about life for a while.
  5. Reading a computer book. As geeky as it sounds, I really like this stuff.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Five

Thank goodness it's Friday.

I was in Denver this week (Englewood, specifically), which was my first time out of the airport in Denver outside of driving through from Minneapolis to San Diego after 9/11. It took a good 3-4 days for me to get used to the air (or lack there of) in the area. Now that I'm used to it, I'm leaving.

Denver was nice because I did get to see an old friend of mine who I haven't seen/heard from in about 5+ years. Did dinner, and I got to meet his wife and son. Cute kid, but not quite cute enough to make me want one. (Sorry mom)

My flight here was a tad interesting. I wound up getting on an earlier flight (bonus) and landed the aisle in the emergency exit row (double bonus). The flight took off about 20 minutes late, meaning some people with tight connections already were going to really have to boogie. Apparently there was someone in the back who had a very tight connection. I know this because right after we landed and turned off the runway he came bolting down the aisle towards the front. I don't know where he thought he was going (were we going to pull over, let him out, and then continue on to the gate?) but I do know that one of the worst things you can do on a plane is charge the cabin.

Anyway, he crouches down at row 1, and the flight attendant (rightfully) tries to send him back to his seat. He wants to argue. About 5 minutes later he walks back muttering. About 2 minutes after that the co-pilot comes on the intercom saying there's been a problem with a passenger and security will be meeting the plane at the gate. Sure enough, when I got off the guy was having a lovely conversation with the authorities.

Karin guesses he missed his flight.

I usually let life tell me what the 5 should be, and this week had a bunch of travel peeves, so here we go:

  1. I hate being put in large rental cars. I drive a Miata. I was in an SUV this week, which is about 10x the size of my car. You may as well be asking me to drive a 747 down the road.
  2. People watching inappropriate movies on a plane. The couple next to me was watching Old School, which has its fair share of gratuitous nudity. I have nothing against nudity, but there's a time and place for everything - call me old fashioned, but on a plane isn't it.*
  3. Terrible cable lineups in a hotel. This one had to be the most interesting: Headline News (with the deplorable Nancy Grace) but no CNN (which meant I missed most of the debate). National Geographic but no Discovery. OLN but no ESPN2. Did they just randomly choose channels?
  4. No hotel bar. One gets a little lonely traveling, and it's nice to go down to a public place, have a beer, and get some work done. Granted it's not an overly social experience, but it's nice to have people around you.
  5. People arguing with <insert air travel security authority here>. Do you honestly think you're going to win this argument?

*Note - I reserve the right to use this point as a topic for a full blown post/rant later.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's what I do

Karin recently went over to my work blog ( to have a peek at what I had going on over there. Right now it's got a couple of formatting issues, but there are a couple of technical articles. She mentioned that she could never understand what it is I do for a living.

It's kind of funny how we observe life from our own circles. I firmly believe that perception is reality, that how you perceive things is your reality.

What I do for a living to me doesn't seem that difficult. Certainly, there are challenges, which is what I relish in, but I can normally put my brain around whatever technical topic it is that I'm trying to do and teach it well. Not to brag, but I do know that I'm good at what I do. I frequently receive high amounts of praise, but to me it's simply what I do.

I have a very good friend who sells steel for a living. He's very good at what he does, and has had the knack for selling since I've known him. Heck - he was even successful doing telemarketing - he's just that gifted. I have no idea how he does it, because that's not my gift; not my thing.

Karin does work for a property management company. There's a million different regulations and otherwise that she has to know about, and that knowledge has been very valuable for our experiences in the townhouse. She also has an amazing level of patience to deal with homeowner complaints on a regular basis. What she does is something that I don't fully understand because it's not my world.

Nothing overly deep here. Just something that came up today that I thought was interesting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Let the computer do it

As we approach November and the prospects of another very tight election, the balloting process is once again going to take center stage. In particular, electronic or computer voting will be called into question.

We as a society have a long history of not trusting new technology for a long time. People didn't trust ATM's to either withdraw, or in particular deposit, money for years. Now, they're part of the fabric of life. Same thing with buying things online - people didn't trust punching their credit card into a computer and sending it to some mythical company on the other end. Now many (most?) can't survive without, eBay or others.

Computer balloting is now going through the exact same cycle. We simply don't trust it. We want a "paper trail" in case we need to do a recount (read: in case we don't trust what the computer says). Certain systems do offer a paper trail, but there are some who don't trust those either. From personal experience, the one time we were able to use a computer to vote in California (before people went off the deep-end, suing to prevent computers from being used), the paper trail was a receipt-style tape in the machine that was near impossible to read. (Not exactly sure how useful that paper trail actually was.)

I have a solution that solves all of these problems: Let the computer fill out the paper ballot.

Here's the very simple plan:

Step 1 - Voter shows up at polling place. Validates they are a legal voter and they are handed a smart card (which is normal for computer voting).

Step 2 - They walk over to the machine, insert the smart card, and follow the prompts to vote.

Step 3 - Upon completion, the computer prints out a normal paper ballot that is filled out. The voter is then able to inspect this ballot and ensure that everything is good.

Step 4 - Voter takes the ballot and slides it into a collecting machine (standard practice for paper balloting.) The ballot has a barcode which the computer also has read. The vote doesn't count unless it's been inserted into the collecting machine.

Problem solved by using the best of both worlds. What's also nice is the ballots that are used are normal paper ballots. Should the machines fail (or a xenophobe shows up and doesn't want to use the computer), you simply hand out the paper ballots the machine would have used.

Counting becomes simpler, and we get away from trying to determine "the intent of the voter" (a phrase which scares me - I don't want anyone projecting their thoughts onto my ballot. If I didn't follow the directions, disqualify my ballot).

Give the computer the paper ballot and let the computer fill it out.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Five

Busy week this week. Quite a bit business wise going on, but in the end all is good. I'm happy to be heading home, even if it is for a short period of time.

As for the 5, the mobile version of the McPaper had an article with tips for first-time visitors to New York City. Here's my five things I think everyone should do in New York:

  1. Do the touristy things. Go visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Go to the top of the Empire State Building. Go to the main concourse in Grand Central Station. They're popular for a reason - they're actually quite cool.
  2. Take in a show. If you didn't get tickets in advance, stop by TKTS in the middle of Times Square, which offers discount (often half price) tickets to shows playing that day. Cash only.
  3. Go to Lombardi's. Take the 6 train down to Spring Street. It's about 3 blocks away from the stop on 32 Spring Street. It's the original pizzeria. Order a simple cheese with basil. Best pizza you will ever have. And while we're on food, go have "2" beers at McSorley's. McSorley's is the oldest Irish tavern in New York, and one of the last to allow women. They only have two ales (light and dark), and they're at a "2-for-1" price of $4.50, with each glass being about a half pint.
  4. Visit Yankee Stadium. You'll have to do this soon as it's going to be torn down in the next couple of years (this is scheduled to be the last season the Yankees play there). Get there early and do Monument Park in the outfield.
  5. People watch. New York City is full of some of the most interesting characters in the world. Every story people tell you about some odd character is true and not exaggerated. You will see plenty of sites just by looking around you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Friday Five

Feels good having life slow down. Also feels good to be back in San Diego. Was driving with the top down yesterday and today. Also did breakfast on the patio of at one of my favorite restaurants with my brother this morning. There are certain advantages to being in San Diego in February.

As I mentioned before, I was in Seattle speaking at an MCT event this week. We got a speaker gift - a binary watch. The red one. It's very cool. And geeky.

Anyway, I don't know why I thought of doing this, but my list this week is 5 of my favorite things to drink:

  1. India Pale Ales - Or in particular, West Coast style or San Diego style Pale Ales. Beers with a lot of hops. If you're not familiar with beer, hops are what give beer it's bitterness and character. IPA's (and West Coast/San Diego style in particular) have high levels of hops.
  2. Bourbon - Bourbon is a (the?) quintessential American drink. Scots and Irish came over to the new land, wanted whiskey and had plenty of corn available. So they made it out of corn. The rest is history.
  3. Coffee - There are few things better in life than a good cup of coffee with dessert after a nice dinner.
  4. Mountain Dew - I don't drink much soda, but an ice-cold Mountain Dew out of the can is one of the best things on a hot summer day.
  5. SoBe - Yeah, they're high in sugar. But they're tasty.

What's in a Name?

This might surprise a couple of you, but my real name isn't "jersey". No really, it's not. My full name is Christopher Patrick Harrison. It's the longest 3-name combination I've come across. So long, that my last name is on the next line of my license, which causes a small issue about once every 5th time someone looks at it.

In the mean time, I don't mind being called "Chris" or "jersey". But when I'm doing work, I prefer "Christopher". Maybe it's just a separation for me between my personal and professional lives, but it's what I prefer.

One of the things I've noticed, though, is that it's very rare that people are willing to use my full name. I notice that names like "Michael" and "Matthew" are commonly left as is, but I'm always "Chris", even if I haven't said I want to be called "Chris".

I don't know if it's the 3 syllables, or the fact that most every "Christopher" goes by "Chris", but I can never have my full name be respected.

Not a big thing, just something I've noticed.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


It feels good to finally have a chance to take a deep breath. These past couple of weeks have been more stressful than normal, in particular because I was presenting at an MCT conference in Seattle this week. Presenting in front of a room full of peers is challenging enough - presenting in front of a room full of professional presenters is down-right terrifying.

But, my preparation paid off, and the event went very well. And now I have a chance to breathe. And start catching up on all the other things I've been meaning to do. I've got a few blog postings in my head that I need to craft, and some other loose ends to tie up.

For instance, I finally managed to put something up on my professional site - Check it out if you're interested.

It also gave me time to get to the dentist - which I hate. Had a clean bill of health. After the cleaning, I rewarded myself with a bottle of Jefferson's Reserve bourbon.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday Five

Another 3-day trip this week. Still takes some time to adjust to. I keep thinking today is Sunday and that I should be on a plane.

Was out in Rogers, again. I was at the same hotel, which has a Famous Dave's right across the street. Needless to say, I had dinner there two out of the three nights I was in town.

I managed to forget my coat. I fly into Tulsa, which is about an hour-30 from Rogers. I drove over with my coat in my back seat, and managed to forget it when I went running to my flight. By the time I realized it, I was on the other side of security, and there was no way I was going to be able to pick it up and still have time to catch my flight (or at least I thought there wasn't - more on that in a second). What will be really interesting is I'm in Seattle next week, where it's 40's and snowing. Fun!

As for why I might have been able to catch my flight, the plane that I was going to be flying out on had a sick passenger when it landed in Tulsa. Ambulance sick. Apparently threw up on the plane. Nobody was allowed to sit in row 9. And mind you, this was a small jet. Fortunately, they managed to air the place out very well.

On to the five. Not sure why I haven't done this sooner, but here's a list of 5 movies that I've thoroughly enjoyed that next to nobody has seen.

  1. High Fidelity - The impact this movie had on my outlook on life cannot be overstate. It explains relationships through the eyes of the male mind. While the book is better, the movie is spectacular. Every male owes it to themselves to watch this movie.
  2. Lost in Translation - Exploration of both middle age and a new marriage. The fact that Bill Murray didn't win an Oscar for his performance is an absolute crime.
  3. Beautiful Girls - Small movie with Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, and a 15-yr old Natalie Portman. Based in small town New York, it focuses on Willie, a guy in his late 20's returning home to soul search before possibly getting married. Great flick.
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - I can't even describe this movie. It's a sci-fi love story, in a nutshell. If you decide to watch it, do it on a system that has surround sound. You'll thank me later
  5. Better Luck Tomorrow - A story about a group of smart Asian-American teens in Orange County. Well done, and very disturbing.

This is your own fault, Roger

Arlen Specter, the Senior Senator from Pennsylvania, has decided to pick today, 48 hours before the Super Bowl to call out Roger Goodell for his handling of the Patriots' cheating. In particular, he wants to know why the NFL just destroyed the tapes without actually addressing them, and wants an investigation to possible cheating by the Patriots in Super Bowl LX, which was the one the Philadelphia Eagles lost to said cheaters.

Before I go anywhere, I want to say that I believe this is an NFL matter that Congress shouldn't be involved in. In fact, if Arlen wants to investigate any tapes being destroyed, he should be calling the CIA out on to the carpet for their destroying of torture tapes. This isn't where Congress should be spending its time.

With that said, the blame for this falls squarely on the shoulders of Roger Goodell. Contrary to his spin, he was not open about the investigation, was not forthcoming, and did not conduct a full investigation. Destroying the tapes was a colossal mistake. It left uncertainty and doubt in the heads of everyone who follows the NFL, except, of course, Patriots fans, who are now on par with Raiders fans. The only difference here is that someone with authority as finally called him out on this.

Sorry, Roger. You made your bed here. You didn't suspend Bill Belichick. You didn't take away both of the Patriot's first round draft picks. You dished out a rather week penalty. And, to top it all off, after touting your plan to obtain all materials from the Patriots, you simply swept it under the carpet, hoping it would all go away. This is what you asked for. Good work.

Somewhere, Pete Rozelle is rolling in his grave.