Season opener 2006

The local AYSO soccer season officially started this weekend. I’m coaching a girls Under-10 team again this year.

A major difference between AYSO and other youth leagues is that the emphasis here is on participation, teamwork, and developing each player’s skills, rather than on the win/loss record per se. This means that anyone who wants to can sign up, regardless of experience or talent, and all teams are assigned a roughly balanced mix of players.

It’s interesting to watch the progression over the season from mass flocking around the ball to a passing- and position-based game. I especially enjoy games later in the season in which girls who were initially considered to be weaker players are able to compete successfully through practice and teamwork. (It also helps that they’ve spent hours of moderate aerobic activity time by the end of the season and can often outlast other players.)

At higher levels of competition, you’d generally want to choose the best available players for your team rather than pot luck. But for learning life skills and developing productive habits, I think it’s great for the teams to develop organically. I really want to leave the girls with the confidence that they can succeed in trying new things and achieve more by working together than by having one “super” player to pull them through. They’ll have enough opportunities for someone to tell them they’re “not good enough” later, whether or not it’s actually true. At this stage of their development, the largest obstacles are often self-imposed, and I truly enjoy seeing them discover what they are able to do when they “have permission” from a coach, their teammates, and themselves to do more.

Blueberry Coffeecake

Blueberry coffeecake
I love blueberry season — Safeway has 2.5 pound boxes for 5.99 and even Whole Foods is carrying 2 pound boxes for 9.99. This morning we dug out the recipe for blueberry buckle and mixed up a batch before it got too hot again (yesterday it hit 101 degrees in Palo Alto).

The softball season that hasn’t quite started


I’m signed up to coach girls softball for my daughter’s team this spring. The season started three weeks ago, but we have been having record rainfall this month so nearly every practice has been rained out, along with all of the games.

Last Friday it mostly stopped raining for a while, but started up again and provided a spectacular double rainbow for most of our (damp) practice.

Most Popular Posts of 2005

As 2005 comes to a close, a look back at some of the top posts this year based on page views, which seems to have been a mix of technology, business, travel, and random.

Dilbert VC comics

Dilbert meets Vijay, the world’s most desperate venture capitalist.

See also: VC Comic Strips, GooglePark

It’s the holiday season

Spent most of yesterday afternoon on the roof stringing lights. Fortunately, it was 60F, clear, and sunny here in California, unlike back east where they’re having huge weather.

I’m having a hard time getting my head into “holiday season” mode, though. Perhaps I’ve gotten too disconnected from mass media? I don’t see TV ads, I don’t go shopping at the mall, I don’t see most web ads, and the bushels of seasonal catalogs and junk mail go straight into the recycling bin. They don’t have Christmas plays at school either, although this year we did manage to catch the remastered “Charlie Brown Christmas” special on broadcast TV. I need to get my copy of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack album off vinyl and onto the server.

We were also up in San Francisco last week, the lights in Union Square were nice.
Christmas tree at Union Square

Thanksgiving cooking plan

mr. bean's turkey
Unlike Mr. Bean , turkey preparation is going smoothly at our house this morning. I’ve been making Thanksgiving meals nearly every year since coming out to California as a grad student. A Thanksgiving feast can be fairly simple to put together, primarily requiring planning and organization skills, as opposed to creative seasoning skills. Once the bird’s in the oven, there isn’t much to do for a few hours, leaving time to hang out, get in a good run, or catch up on feed reading while looking at the parade on television.

The hardest trick is getting everything to come out at the same time, since the bird has a somewhat variable 4-5 hour lead time on it, and there’s a limited supply of stove burners and pans for cooking the vegetables and side dishes during the last hour. We normally have salad, along with corn, peas, yams, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and the traditional Thanksgiving kimchee (highly recommended, even if you aren’t Korean). Plus pumpkin and French apple pies for dessert.

The main procedural refinement over the past several years has been in reducing the size of the turkey so we don’t end up with perpetual leftovers. (I actually enjoy the leftovers more than the initial meal, but only for a couple of days). This year’s turkey is around 11 pounds, just a little more than the one this woman ate by herself yesterday.

Ready to carve Vegetables

Veterans Day 2005

It’s Veterans Day in the United States. When I was a kid growing up in Maine, every little town had a parade or other observance for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and it seemed as though every family had at least one member that had served in the military.

In contrast, here in Palo Alto (and probably elsewhere) today, it’s mostly notable for the schools, post offices, and banks being closed. My daughter’s elementary school had one of the teachers’ spouses come in to talk to the 4th graders about being a submariner in the US Navy, and I suspect it may have been the first time many of the kids had actually met someone who’d been in the service. I think that there are actually more veterans around, but it’s not something that makes for great conversation in many social circles in the Bay Area.

Providing for a national defense is one of the core functions of government. Here in Silicon Valley, sometimes I feel like we’ve effectively “outsourced” it to the “professional military” tribe, who mostly don’t live around here, or at least not in my corner of the tech/business crowd. It can’t be a good thing when the institutions providing that service become so culturally and socially remote, regardless of your opinion on current foreign policy.

Suggested reading:

Lew Platt Memorial Service Today

Lew Platt Memorial Service

Lew Platt Memorial Service
Tuesday, October 18 at 3 p.m.
Stanford Memorial Chapel

Parking Instructions: It is recommended to carpool and arrive on campus at least between 2-2:30 p.m. as this is expected to be a large memorial and parking is very limited near the Stanford Memorial Chapel.

Free parking and shuttles are being provided at Galvez Field (at Eucalyptus Grove near Stanford Stadium). Directions: take El Camino past Stanford Stadium to Galvez (across from the corner of El Camino and Embarcadero and the Palo Alto Town & Country Shopping Center and Palo Alto High School).

See also: Thinking about Lew Platt

Go Red Sox!

red sox
I don’t generally follow any professional sports closely these days, including baseball. The league realignment, wild card playoffs, and cross-league games are all alien to me. I mostly stopped keeping track after one of the baseball strikes in the early 80′s. But I still reflexively take notice when the Red Sox and Yankees make the news.

From CNN/Sports Illustrated this evening:

The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros wrapped up the wild cards Sunday, clinching the final two major league playoff spots. All the matchups were set for the 2005 postseason, starting Tuesday with the NL West champion San Diego Padres playing in St. Louis at 1:09 p.m. EDT.

Having grown up in New England, I’m finding the success of the current Red Sox entertaining, but a little disorienting. In years past, I would feel certain that the team would win some, lose some, make some spectacular comebacks, but eventually suffer a catastrophic pitching meltdown or fielding lapse at the last moment. This year who knows. I’m hoping for another Red Sox-Yankees series, and some well-played games.

Go Red Sox!

Update 10-09-2005 21:12 PDT: Red Sox lose to the Chicago White Sox in 3 straight. Rats. Maybe the White Sox can knock off their own curse this year.

Katrina Relief – Macro, Micro, and Koreans

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been looking at alternatives to the Red Cross for helping Katrina victims. There have been a disconcerting number of issues and bureaucratic problems with the Red Cross and other large relief organizations during the three+ weeks since Hurricane Katrina passed through New Orleans and the surrounding area.

While this is partially a problem of the sheer scale of the disaster, compounded by the absense of working physical and administrative infrastructure, it has also highlighted a gap between the “macro” relief services provided by the large organizations, and the “micro” relief services provided by individuals, local organizations, and ad hoc groups on the ground in the affected areas.

Macro: As of last Monday, the Red Cross has provided millions of overnight stays, hot meals, short term funds, and put thousands of trained volunteers on the ground. This is an amazing, enormous undertaking. They also have an astonishing fundraising and training network. The immediate crisis phase is passing by now, though, and unfortunately, the same organizational mass that makes quick response at this scale possible also leads to some of its own shortcomings.

To this point: Jacob Appelbaum, who I met last month at Barcamp, has been in New Orleans building wireless networks, VOIP phone service, low power FM, and documenting his experiences there in photographs and his weblog. A high-impact micro relief effort on his own, here’s his observation on the local view of the Red Cross:

The American Red Cross is probably the least respected of all the groups in this area. The locals actually stay away from the Red Cross because of their experience. If you’re considering giving money to the Red Cross, try giving it to a smaller group first. The Red Cross is a bloated company and your money could be best used elsewhere. They’re full of good people and they mean well I have no doubt. However they’re certainly an example of a non profit that has gotten too large.

Micro: A number of websites such as, Hurricane Katrina Direct Relief, Katrina Data Project, Katrina Help Wiki provide mechanisms for matching small organizations and individuals looking to help or be helped. When these systems work, donation of time, money, or goods goes directly from donor to recipient where it’s needed / wanted, with effectively zero overhead. This is the disintermediation of large charity organizations. There are limitations to what can be done this way over the internet. First response isn’t one of them, so Red Cross, and organizations like it still get my support. But targeted follow-on help is an outstanding fit.

One of the problems with peer-to-peer charity and donation systems is that neither party knows each other, and there aren’t good mechanisms for establishing reputation. One approach is to work with someone you know or have heard of, which is why charity branding and marketing is important. Everyone has heard of the Red Cross, but probably haven’t heard of two guys running around setting up communications services for evacuees.

Koreans: This weekend at our church, we heard a report about some of the churches in Louisiana that are assisting and housing Hurricane Katrina victims. One of our church members, Alex Hull, travelled to the area last week and worked with a UMCOR team delivering supplies to churches in the region. This trip was primarily to assess the situation there to see how the local Korean community might best help. As a result, a group including local Korean churches, The Korean IT Network, Korean Dry Cleaners Association, The Korean Grocers Association, International Association of Youth, Korean American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley, IPARK, Silicon Valley Athletic Association, and other non-profit organizations will be supporting relief efforts together. If you’re in the Bay Area, they’re accepting goods and donations at

    Korean Americans in Silicon Valley for Katrina Relief Fund
    10050 Bubb Road, Cupertino, CA 95014.

    Checks can be made to “SVKCC – Katrina Fund”

The contacts at the specific churches that will be assisted are

    c/o Pastor Choi Jung In
    Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief For Korean at Baton rouge (KHDRK)
    264 Burgin Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70808.
    c/o Ms. Mary John Johnson
    Christ United Methodist Church
    5301 Old Canton Road, Jackson, Miss 39211

In general, now that the immediate crisis has passed, I’m going to be steering some personal donations toward specific, smaller groups, such as the Korean churches or Inveneo (VOIP) or CU-Wireless (internet access services).

I would also love to see the Red Cross delegate management of some of the incoming Katrina donations to other organizations that are less effective at fundraising but more effective or relevant to the needs of the community than what the Red Cross itself provides.

New York Times 9/20/2005:

The organization has garnered almost three-quarters of the $1 billion that Americans have donated to help the hurricane victims, with endorsements from President Bush, corporate America and many nonprofit organizations. Its duty, mandated by Congress, is to provide immediate assistance, a need that is rapidly diminishing as victims leave shelters.

Hopefully there won’t be such a large response needed whereever Hurricane Rita lands in a few days.

See also: Katrina Relief – Send Bits, Not Atoms, Katrina Flooding Would Cover Boston to Sudbury

Site Update Progress – New Feeds

If you’re subscribing to the site RSS feed here, you may want to switch to the new index-only feed.

The existing site feed will continue to have all the articles posted here, including articles that do not appear on the main page, and articles that appear in other “mini-site” sections.

The combined site-wide feed is at

The beginning of a couple of sections are here:

Running (feed)
Travel (feed)

I’m still figuring out how I want this to work, so let me know if you have suggestions or if I’ve broken your feedreader.

Don’t cross those wires – Los Angeles power outage

The electric power went off in Los Angeles during lunch time today, which is why this site (among many others) has been offline. I’ll put together some notes here and post when the server comes back up.

The electricity was knocked out shortly before 1 p.m. after two power surges, and outages were reported from downtown to the coast and north into the San Fernando Valley, an area encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents and thousands of businesses.

Heavy power usage can lead to blackouts. But the weather in Los Angeles was not unsually hot Monday.

The emergency status page at Dreamhost shows:

Serious electricity problems in the Los Angeles area have taken our entire network off-line.
We have no information about when power will be restored or what the status of our servers or network will be when power is restored.
Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 13:39:23 PDT

An update from NBC4 news in Los Angeles at 2:17pm PDT: (they obviously have working backup power)

The Office of Emergency Management said power officials told the agency that the outage was linked to the accidental cutting of a cable.
A major portion of the San Fernando Valley reported outages, but power was being restored in some areas at just before 2 p.m.

Update from Dreamhost at 3:34pm PDT:

We now expect to begin turning all of our equipment back in within 45 to 90 minutes. Barring any complications, your websites and email will be fully operational again shortly afterwards.
Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 15:34:47 PDT

Another update from NBC4 at 3:54pm PDT:

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials said the outage was linked to human error at a receiving station near Burbank. Workers connected the wrong wires, causing a surge of power that led to shutdowns at three power generating stations, according to officials.

Update from Dreamhost at 4:06pm PDT:

Power to our data center has now been restored and our network is back up. Our servers and equipment are being powered on gradually to avoid potentially damaging power spikes. Barring any complications, your websites and email will be fully operational again very soon.
Last Updated: Monday, 12-Sep-2005 16:06:03 PDT

…and the site is back online at 4:37pm PDT…

Update 09-12-2005 18:15 PDT: More from the L.A. Times, CNN, BoingBoing

Site Update Underway

I’m starting a restructuring project on this site today, with the goal of accomodating more content on a wider range of topics, while also making it easier to read, for the modest number of regular readers who have turned up over the past few months.

The readers I personally know of have diverse interests and technical ability. Some readers, like myself, mostly view sites through RSS feed aggregators, and rarely view the actual site layout. Many more visitors always view the site directly. Some are mostly interested in new technology businesses, others in rural development, wireless, running, or other topics that don’t overlap much. Then there are people who find something of potential interest through a search engine, who appear to be having trouble finding what they are looking for.

I’ve found I’m reluctant to post some items because I don’t want to clutter the front page with a lot of short posts, or because posting items out of time sequence on the front page sometimes feels awkward. I’ve experimented with the daily links postings, which make it easier for me to find my own bookmark links using Google, but which result in a lot of posts titled “links for yyyy-mm-dd”. I also find I’d like to post more detailed technology notes, mostly so I can use search engines to find things later, and perhaps help someone looking for a similar solution, but again don’t want to clog up the front page with minutia.

The general plan is to create a few mini-blog sections within this site, with separate RSS feeds, to help make each section more focused.

I’m starting with the “Running” category, because there’s not much overlap with the other categories, and I’ve been wanting to post my notes on hacking the Timex Bodylink for a while. If you’re subscribed to one of the feeds you may start to see a lot of running posts while I test this out.
If this works out, I should be able to share more information, without forcing most of you to slog through posts you’re uninterested in.

I’m thinking about making sections for the Running, Rural Development, Travel, Health, and Links categories, and creating new sections for technology implementation (i.e. programming, VOIP configuration, etc), among others. I’m probably going to discontinue the daily postings, and try some other solutions. I haven’t had a chance to try the linkrolling code, and I also had a quick demo of RawSugar today, which I’ll be trying as well.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or things you’d like to see.

In the meantime, things may break or move around for a while.

New Orleans, Geography, and Rebuilding after Katrina

Stratfor has an interesting piece by George Friedman with a brief review of the geopolitical history of New Orleans and its significance as the gateway to the Mississipi River. Summary – “Terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city must exist.”

The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces. It is also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United States cannot function without a city around it. The physical and business processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right now, that is what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities, and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a city’s population and the paralysis of the largest port in the United States.

New Orleans is not optional for the United States’ commercial infrastructure. It is a terrible place for a city to be located, but exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a city will return there because the alternatives are too devastating. The harvest is coming, and that means that the port will have to be opened soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the city will return because it has to.

Katrina Relief – Send Bits, not Atoms

Here’s the Bay Area Red Cross donation page for Hurricane Katrina relief funds. You might find it’s not responding, I tried it unsuccessfully several times today, finally got all the way through the process a little while ago. Hopefully that’s a sign that many other people are trying to donate online.

New Orleans is one of those places I always wanted to visit sometime but hadn’t gotten to yet. Looks like I won’t have that chance, at least not the way it was. The images and stories from the past couple of days look like outtakes from Escape From New York meets the Poseidon Adventure. Aside from the acres of flooded and shredded buildings, I find it astonishing that basic law and order has collapsed to the extent and duration that it has.

Terry Ebbert said looters have been breaking into stores all over town to steal guns. The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the gun section at a new Wal-Mart was cleaned out. And the thieves are apparently using their new guns, with shots heard through the night.

There’s a wonderful human impulse to want to pitch in, to do something to make it better. There have been some posts on the web by techies offering to fly out and help. However, for most people, especially anyone reading about Katerina online, the best thing they can do for now is to send cash donations.

Not equipment, not supplies, and not themselves.

Donate online, and the bits that represent your goodwill will zip across instantly, turning into funds for supplies and help on the ground out there, right now, rather than the atoms of physical stuff somewhere else, arriving in a few days, that will need to be shipped and inventoried, creating overhead and taking precious time. If you go out there in person, and if you haven’t been called already, you’re probably going to be in the way.

In addition to the Red Cross, here some other choices:

Here’s FEMA’s list of disaster relief organizations.

“Cash donations are especially helpful to victims,” Brown said. “They allow volunteer agencies to issue cash vouchers to victims so they can meet their needs. Cash donations also allow agencies to avoid the labor-intensive need to store, sort, pack and distribute donated goods. Donated money prevents, too, the prohibitive cost of air or sea transportation that donated goods require.”

Here’s Glenn Reynold’s extensive list of organizations accepting donations.

Big tank, skinny wallet


It’s been a month or so since I filled up the tank, and we seem to be on our way toward European gas prices. A completely dry tank is a little more than 24 gallons, so the price of gasoline will have to hit $4.17 or so before cracking the $100 mark for a full tank. This week’s price at the local Arco is $2.92, so there’s still another 43% increase before that happens.

Our household is relatively insensitive to the changes in fuel prices, since we drive so little, but people who commute from places like Pleasanton, Modesto, or Los Banos into the Bay Area have got to be feeling like there’s a hole in their wallet.

On the positive side, if fuel prices stay high, it’s going to help alternative transportation and energy systems become economically viable.

See also: $62.25 to fill the tank

Blueberry Buckle

Not what I expected to see while clearing the vacation backlog in Bloglines, but I happened across this atypical post of a recipe for blueberry coffee cake on Megan McArdle’s Asymmetrical Information site this afternoon. Sounded good, and we already had a fresh bucket of blueberries, so we cranked out a batch of coffee cake in time for dessert after dinner this evening. Topped off with whipped cream and even more blueberries. Very nice.

Preheat oven to 375 fahrenheit

For cake:

Mix together until smooth and creamy:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg

Stir in 1/2 cup milk

Sift together and add:

2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (< --- note, not baking soda! --hjl)

Stir in 2 cups washed blueberries (usually about one box) that have been picked over to remove unripe berries and stems

Put into a 9x9 greased square pan


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinammon
1/3 cup flour

Mash it all together until it's a uniform consistency, and sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake 45-55 minutes.

She also has a Betty Crocker pancake recipe posted, sounds like she’s been on vacation as well.

Update 08-14-2005 20:36 – Added a note not to use baking soda. We’re on our 3rd batch now. The second was ok, but strangely off, which I later realized was due to using baking soda by mistake. Otherwise excellent.

Mysterious artifact appears in Palo Alto

IMG_2532 IMG_2533

This object turned up at the corner of Page Mill and El Camino this weekend. It’s in the empty lot which belongs to Stanford, but which is being turned into playing fields for soccer.

At first glance I thought they might be building a sundial, but it’s pointed roughly west, which wouldn’t make the most sense.

Update 2005-08-05 14:50:26 – Article in the Palo Alto Weekly – it’s a prototype of a sculpture being built by Fletcher Benton.

Benton, 74, starts with three simple design elements, such as a broken circle, a ball and a base plate. Then he plays with the small pieces like a kid playing with Legos — moving them around, adding new ones, taking ones away.

Benton is frequently trying to create a dynamic image, often placing the largest shape at a severe angle. But just as important to him is the “empty space” around the images.

“The hole in the donut,” he said, “is just as important as the donut.”

Project Klebnikov

Pointer to my post at on Project Klebnikov, which is investigating Paul Klebnikov’s unsolved murder in Russia a year ago.

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