Friday, December 30, 2005


I finally got around to bottling my IPA. I expected a final gravity around 1.022 and it turns out that I got 1.018! Which means my TCP/IPA is going to have an ABV of 8.1% Whoa. It tastes excellent too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Coexist Campaign

I just heard about Coexist... As Doug Pagitt says in his post Bono My Man it seems to be nothing more than a marketing campaign. It's interesting though. I know it's gonna ruffle lots of evangelical feathers....

Monday, December 19, 2005


Erik Benson wrote a very insightful post about trying.

I was reminded of it when I visited a nativity that the local church puts on every Christmas. It's quite a production. You walk along a path outside stopping at several scenes along the way and the narrator tells the story of Christmas. When you're finished you end up in a marketplace with people tossing pottery, carving wood spoons, weaving, serving up period food, etc. It's very well done.

But I wanted to note the beginning. It draws enough visitors such that you have to wait once you enter. You sit in the sanctuary of the church until your guide/narrator calls your number to take the tour. While we were waiting we listened to 5-6 middle-age black men, a young boy (under 13) and a black woman sing Christmas carols and traditional hymns. If you saw them purely through a talent lense they were pretty mediocre. But it you saw them a people who were TRYING, people who cared, and wanted to serve; they were WONDERFUL, and you wanted to hear them more. Definitely a highlight of the evening. You've missed it this year, but I recommend you stop by the Mount Pleasant Church of the Brethern.

One more thing... The singers were from Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Elkton. I really appreciated the inter-denominational cooperation/unity.


I took a den of Cub Scouts to visit the national D-Day Memorial. It’s located in Bedford VA because per-capita Beford lost more men at D-Day than any other city in America.

The monument itself is beautiful and is located on the top of a hill in the Shenandoah Valley. It’s shaped in such a way that you walk the path of the battle, from the planning in England, to the landing on the beaches, to climbing the cliffs, to victory. There’s lot of plaques telling the story of D-Day or commemorating the men who lost their lives. If you take the guided tour, at one spot they play an audio clip of Eisenhower giving the battle orders to the men. It’s a pretty humbling speech. Probably the most interesting part was the section where they’re storming the beach. Several bronze soliders are coming out of the Higgins boats, several have paid the ultimate price on the beach and several are pushing onwards in some cases carrying wounded. All around the beach there are air guns that blast up through the pools of water. It looks like bullets hitting the water and sounds as you might imagine it too (apparently veterans testify to the accuracy of the sound… though not NEARLY as loud)

I’ve seen all of the other monuments in D.C. (Vietnam, Korean, WWII, Lincoln, etc.) and this one is hands down better.

If you visit, consider stopping at Peaks of Otter too. It’s only 20 minutes away and would be a great place to stop for a picnic or spend the night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New IPA in the works

I just finished another round of IPA. Randy thinks it should be named TCP/IPA. You gotta admit it's a stinkin' good name.


14 lbs. grain, the only ones I remember that are likely to be there are 8lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt, 1lbs Rye Malt, 1lbs Caramalt (Raph at Cellar Homebrew does my recipes).

Hopping schedule:
60min. 2oz. Fuggles, and 1oz. Amarillo
30min. 1oz. Amarillo
10min 1oz. Chinook, 1oz. Amarillo

1oz. Amarillo
1oz. Chinook

and I might get some Columbus too...

Wyeast London Ale Yeast 1028

My original gravity came in at 1.080 which means that if I get the expected attenuation of 73-77% (attenuation is calculated as [(OG-FG)/(OG-1)] x 100) then my final gravity should come in around 1.022 and my beer will have an alcohol by volume of 7.6%, (1.080 - 1.022) * 131. A VERY respectible IPA.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Male friendship

DISCLAIMER: Just to be clear, this post addresses the difficult subject of homosexuality, and the article specifically focuses on the result for men who are not homosexual. The article is from a Christian point of view, but doesn't grandstand about the moral nature of the issue. My intent is not to get into a moral debate about homosexuality. I hate that it's such a divisive issue, and I strongly feel that homosexuals should be treated with the same love, charity, and fairness with which we are to treat any other human. It is simply an interesting and challenging article. I hope we can agree on that.

I just read an article called A Requiem For Friendship. It makes some challenging observations about how the mainstream acceptance of homosexuality has basically eradicated intimate male relationships. The consequence of our new social reality; men no longer are able to express love for another man, which was common in the past (the article lists examples from Lincoln, to David, to Gilgamesh, to Tolkien), without it being sexualized.

Monday, November 7, 2005


I ate lunch today at Padow's which is quickly becoming my lunch joint of choice (mmm Turkey Pastrami). They had on Fox News and I watched for a while as I ate. One thing stuck out was an advertisement from a political interest group advocating a "fair up or down vote on Alito." I don't know anything about Alito except that conservatives are much happier about him than Miers. However that commercial worries me... I never saw commercials like that for Roberts, or Miers. Clearly some group is worried that Mr. Alito won't get a fair hearing (or won't get a hearing at all) and now I wonder if there's a reason.

Perhaps more generally, is vehement advocacy for polarizing candidates always a red-flag? This isn't just a conservative/liberal issue. The same thing would happen in reverse if it were the other way around (in fact if I had a better memory I'd recall if it happened with Ginsberg). Maybe it's good to have a bench of idealogues on both sides?

Saturday, November 5, 2005


For the longest time the Task Manager on my PC (which I'm trying to wean the family of ;) has been virtually useless. It didn't have any of the tabs to check on performance, kill apps, etc. It turns out that it was running in "Light Footprint Mode" and all I had to do was double-click in the border. How obvious!

Friday, November 4, 2005

DVI, VGA, oh my!

I figured I'd ask all three of my friends that read my blog...

I bought a new Apple Cinema display (the 20") and I'm hooking it up to my old powerbook and basically replacing my PC. However, my kids aren't ready to ditch the PC entirely. So I'd like to hook up the monitor to a KVM and be able to toggle between my Mac and the PC.

There are DVI/USB KVM devices out there sold by Belkin, etc. But they're WICKED expensive ($250-350). So I was hoping that I could get a basic VGA KVM and buy an adapter from the DVI out on the display to VGA on the KVM/PC. I tried this DVI Male to VGA female adapter and it doesn't work even plugged directly into my PC. Is this possible?

Also, do you all know if it's possible to share a bluetooth mouse/keyboard through a KVM? It doesn't look like it, but I've got the D-link DBT-120 that I'm trying... I plugged it directly into the PC and paired the bluetooth device with it. Then I plug it into the USB KVM and it still works. I don't know if I'll be able to get it to work on the Mac through the KVM yet since it was paired on the PC. We'll see... That is, as soon as I can "see" through the KVM with the display adapter problem.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

New music

Fall is the time for new music for me. I buy stuff pretty much year-round, but for the past few years I've splurged on new albums at once. Yesterday further confirmed the pattern (it's sooo easy with iTMS).

To find new stuff, I consult my musically similar friends, browse All Consuming, and read Pitchfork Media's Best reviews. I've found the later to be quite excellent. This year it was:
  • Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better...
  • Sufjan Stephens: Illinois
  • Clap Your Hand and Say Yeah: Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah
  • Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better...
  • Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
  • Wolf Parade: Apologies to Queen Mary
  • Third Day: Wherever You Are
  • Liz Janes: Liz Janes & Create(!) - EP
The later two not from Pitchfork... I'm a sucker for Third Day, and Liz Janes leads worship at this new church in Indy The New Deal, a project started by my good friend Jason Dorsey (head pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian).

Among the above, the Sufjan Stephens album is really sticking out for me. It makes you feel happy and alive. The music is diverse and multi-faceted. It's a musical cornucopia. Seeing Sufjan live in concert must be amazing because he practically needs an entire orchestra. Highly recommeded!

Basement salon

I'm a Hair Cuttery guy. I like that I can run over to the shop and if there's no line, be in and out in 15 minutes for $15. They don't do a GREAT job, and you get a different person all the time, but it's good enough for me.

However, Shiree made an appointment for me with the woman that does her hair last night. She runs her own salon out of her basement. You park in her driveway and walk around behind her house to the basement entrance. When you enter everything is tastefully decorated and smells nice. You're greeted by Michelle (name changed to protect the innocent, and I don't really remember her name anyhow), a very smiley, bubbly woman whom you easily imagine as a high school cheerleader. She escorts you to your "throne" and for 30 minutes you're pampered. She is a perfectionist concerned about every last detail. She used a straight-razor on my neck, washed my hair after cutting it to get rid of the clippings, and even trimmed my eyebrows (apparently they were too long but I didn't have any ear or nose hair that needed trimming... yet). She then proceeded to instruct me about "palm aids" and how if I wanted to blow dry my hair in the morning that they would be better than gels because they reveal the colors and cut of the hair. I told her that I'd stick with gel for now and she offered to teach me when I'm ready; as if I were here hair paduan.

Damage... $15 + tip. Cool. I'm going back.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Nice laptop!

Kids DIG my new powerbook!

I sat on our frontporch doing a little work on my new powerbook, and I heard three things in this order:

1. Trick or treat
2. Nice laptop!
3. Nice pumpkins

Call me a Mac biggot, but the evening would've been decidedly different if I had been working on my Compaq EVO from work. Maybe it's times to buy AAPL again.

Friday, October 28, 2005


... Flickr is doing prints now if you're in the US? My wife still manages our photos and has a method with Ofoto/Kodak, but I wonder how long that will last... Oooh the Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0 smackdown.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I setup a new website tonight for my son's Cub Scout Pack. Desiring, to have a quick win and not being a designer genius I chose to start with a blog. Ordinarily I start with MoveableType (which runs this site), but WordPress has gotten a lot of buzz in and was at the top of my mind so I figured I'd try it out. HOLY MOLY! (err... does MOLY have an 'e'?) it's fantastic! The installation couldn't be simpler, the administration interface (for controlling links, UI, accounts, etc.) is 10x better designed and equally more powerful. There are DOZENS of cool themes and installing them is as simple as unzipping an archive in the right place. Topping it off... It's completely FREE. None of the licensing shenanigans of MT.

New powerbook

I ordered a new 15" powerbook. I like my old 17" but the fact of the matter is, it's just NOT portable. So it was time to get a new one (after all it's been a whole 2 years since I bought the last one ;) Two stories. First I order right after the announcement of the video ipod. I waited patiently because there was speculation that they were going to announce a new model of powerbook (which they didn't). However a week later (after I ordered) they did make that announcement so I had a new powerbook in the order queue that was already obsolete... sigh... No worries, Apple is the coolest company in the world:

To Our Valued Apple Customer:

Apple is pleased to announce a new generation of the PowerBook G4!

Your PowerBook has not shipped yet, so we have upgraded your order to the new PowerBook at no additional charge.

For more information about the new PowerBook, please visit:

For the latest information on your order please visit The online order status site will keep you up to date throughout the purchase process. Once your order ships, you will be able to obtain tracking information here as well.

Thank you for choosing Apple!

Apple Store Customer Support

Wow. Second, I've been watching my package slowly wend it's way across the world. It started in Shanghai! Now it's stuck in a "clearance delay". Interesting... I guess the goverment has to check it to make sure there isn't anything nefarious on the hard drive?

Web 2.0

I thought that this quote was a great summary of the economic half of what "Web 2.0" is trying to accomplish. You can pick up context here. While you're there be sure to read the Joel Spolsky comment (he's the one that sparked off this blog post)

All he seems to be saying is that traditionally in business, you think of inputs (e.g. transistors, steel, etc.) and outputs (e.g PCs, cars, etc.). The basic problem is cast as "How do we organize and design and optimize the production of the outputs from the inputs (with the right dose(s) of capital)?" If we do that, the traditional capitalist thinks, we get money at the end from the outputs.

He claims that the distinguishing characteristic of "Web 2.0 stuff" is that it tries to monetize all these things that have no deliberate/designed place in a chain from inputs to outputs. An example would be a blog that's basically my personal diary that would generate revenue through contextual advertising. My personal journal is certainly something that's traditionally on the periphery of the economy. It has no place in any organized "production line" (unlike, say, an author writing/researching a book written under contract). This "Web 2.0 stuff" tries to extract value from the detritus of personal and social life.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Life hackers

This article has made the rounds

Greg points out some interesting work by Eric Horvitz

Andrej points out fascinating research about productivity relative to monitor size.

Joel does the same

There are some really smart people out there thinking about cool stuff.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Plot Patents Take 2

Andrew Knight posted an interesting comment over on my original post about plot patents. I started to reply in a comment but it got meaty enough to be it's own post...

Here's what Mr. Knight said:
First, it would take no "revamping" of the patent system to allow patenting of fictional storylines. Under binding case law, storylines are probably already patentable.

Second, take a look at for an explanation -- including the moral justification -- for storyline patents.
OK. So copyright doesn't protect a storyline, but rather the full expression of a storyline (i.e. a complete work pusblished or not). Fine. I also wouldn't be surprised if you could successfully defend plot patents before a court; not because I believe in the case but because it seems that the trend is toward broader applicability of patent law not narrower.

However, the nut of your defense is this statement:
"the present pursuit is guided by the realization that, fundamentally, the making of a movie (or writing of a novel or filming of a television show, etc.) involving a new, nonobvious storyline requires the performance of certain definite steps. The combination of the fewest steps necessary to produce a movie or novel or show having the new storyline is a method that should be and, consistent with existing law, probably is patentable."
Which (remember IANAL) is argued as a result of the collapse of the "Printed Matter Doctrine" and the emergence of business method and software patents. i.e. A novel, non-obvious software patent isn't ostensibly different from a plot-line because a plot-line can be expressed as a series of steps.

If that's your argument though, then what isn't patentable; so long as it passes the novelty, non-obviousness, utility, and definiteness tests? Clearly any action has "steps". I'd contend that your argument would allow room to patent "The Move" from Seinfeld. It's novel, non-obvious, useful, definite and is expressed in a serious of steps.

Leaving the "whether" question, let's enage the "why question". Why should plot patents be allowed? Your argument is basically:
  1. "a patented invention protects each and every possible embodiment of a broad invention" whereas copyright will only protect "one of uncountably many possible expressions of those new and unique (broad) concepts"
  2. Most plot "inventors" aren't talented enough to turn a plot into a "possible embodiment"
  3. Plot "inventors" are left with two choices..."to sacrificially innovate for the unearned benefit of thieves, or to not innovate"
  4. This is bad because "Hollywood is failing" and "[t]here is a substantial need for original, intellectually exciting plots in all forms of entertainment, such as novels and, particularly, motion pictures"
  5. Therefore we should protect plot-lines
First you tell us why we have patents at all:
Traditionally, patent protection has provided the economic and moral impetus for technological improvements in all fields. An inventor is motivated to absorb the substantial financial, time, and personal costs of identifying problems with current technologies and inventing solutions to those problems when he is assured the right to exploit that invention by excluding others from making, using, selling, offering to sell, and importing his invention.
So the question arises, what is the "technological improvement" of a plot? Or, what is the "financial, time, and personal cost" of coming up with a plot? It may have taken you years to come up with a certain plot, but hypothetically I could come up with the same plot in a couple of minutes. The minimum amount of time to duplicate your thinking is very short. On the contrary the minimum amount of time to duplicate the thinking for a car engine or a new pharmaceutical is vast. If for no other reason than it takes time for clinical trials and prototypes etc. so that you can demonstrate that it's possible (definiteness right?). If there is substantial "financial, time, and personal costs" to come up with a plot it's because the "inventor" is inefficient. Protecting the inventor of the car or drug is right. Protecting the "inventor" of the plot is not. IMHO.

Finally some observations...
  1. You'd be hard pressed to prove that plots are "hackneyed" because great plot "inventors" are opressed by the current lack of IP protection. Hollywood plot sucks because the average American wants nothing to do with "original, intellectually exciting plots." They want explosions, and skin.
  2. Your view of Hollywood is inconsistent. Hollywood is both "failing" and yet "a skilled, experienced Hollywood writer could ... embody the unique plot in a far superior story" I suppose you would argue that Hollywood is good at "expressing old, stale concepts in new, creative, exciting ways" but they're bad at creating "new concepts"
  3. You may make noble arguments about plot "inventors" but your Postscript speaks volumes. You're in it for the money.
I don't think this is gonna work, but I'm gonna have a fun time watching you try. ;)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Dead Bodies

Earlier this week FEMA announced that it wasn't going to take journalists along in boats that were searching for victims and bodies. Journalists were ticked off and began protesting the decision. Read about it here

As I read articles about the above, two things struck me. First, the response of the media seemed so false. They said things veiled in good intentions, but I can't see how their actions were anything other than trying to make prime time more graphic to lure eyeballs. Second this quote by Larry Siems from the PEN American Center (freedom of speech/anti-censorship organization) is both idiotic and sad.

It's impossible for me to imagine how you report a story whose subject is death without allowing the public to see images of the subject of the story.

Idiotic because who can't imagine it! It's called words Mr. Siems. Try reading a book like All Quiet on the Western Front. I didn't need pictures and yet it is one of the most moving and heart wrenching stories about war and death that I've read (not like I've read tons). Sad because we're losing the written word. I'm not a hardened English teacher or some pedantic academic (as if you can't tell from my posts ;) but it's sad that our ancestors were people of words and increasingly our intellect and emotions remain dull unless we can SEE something. Sigh... I wish that story hadn't happened.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hidden truth

Thinking about the theme of theology/truth as story, myth, mystery, I’ve been hunting for good examples of this. Within the past week I’ve discovered two great ones.

The Secret Country is a book that I’ve been reading to my 7 and 5 year-old sons at bedtime. It’s an engaging story about a young boy who meets a talking cat from Eidolon, “The Secret Country” and uncovers a scheme where creatures are being smuggled out of Eidolon into our world. All of the creatures suffer and start to die in our world because there is “no magic”. I haven’t finished the book yet, but there are countless alegories in the book that echo the Christian tradition, and it’s fun to read.

Because of Winn Dixie is a delightful movie (my wife says it’s a GREAT book too… she read it to our kids as well) about a little girl whose mother ran away and who’s father is a hurting and marginally effective preacher in a small town in Florida. Opal (the little girl) befriends a dog who she names Winn Dixie. The dog with a penchant for meeting people and smiling a lot (hard to tell if it’s just CG or they found a dog that can smile) introduces Opal to a bunch of “sad” people all isolated from each other and in the process builds genuine and beautiful community. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all live like Opal?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Eleanor Rigby

Just finished the book by Douglas Coupland. Just wanted to share a quote from his fictional character Liz:

You have to decide whether you want God to be here with you as a part of everyday life, or whether you want God to be distant from you, not returning until you've created a world perfect enough fro Him to re-enter.

Tips for longer rides

Like I said I did 20 miles on Saturday and it was HOT. Memo to myself and anyone else listen:

  1. Drink LOTS of water (1 bottle per hour minimum). It's hard to do but if you don't you'll BONK hard.

  2. Clif Shots are AWESOME. I was starting to run out of steam but I forced myself to eat one of these (they taste great, but you don't feel like eating in hot weather) and within a few minutes I was starting to feel better. Could be psychosomatic, but hey, if it works!

  3. Use sunscreen. It keeps you cooler. That's not the best article, but I couldn't find a better one. I originally read about it in this book or this one. I forgot to wear it on Saturday and I imagine it would've helped (despite the fact that I didn't burn)

  4. Pace yourself. Know what you can average pushing yourself as hard as you can across a short distance (less than 10 miles) and don't expect to get anywhere near that across a longer one. At least not until you're in much better shape.

Brutal hill

I went riding on Saturday. Temperatures were in the mid-nineties and I was returning from a 20 mile ride so perhaps my recollection isn't terribly objective. However, the hill up Grassy Creek Rd. from Osceola Springs Road is a big one. It's about .75 miles and gains about 200 feet in vertical. The average gradient is easily 7% (though my cyclocomputer doesn't do averages... I think) but the part that makes it brutal is a 100m section towards the top where it averages 10% and regularlly bumps up to 11% or 12%. Then to add insult to injury there are 2-3 other little hills on the way back out towards Port Republic that just remind you that you're out of shape.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Plot patents?

Some folks are considering patents on plotlines? What on earth would be the purpose of copyright then? And why is the fact that Amazon patented 1-click justification for this idea. They seem like very different beasts to me.

Monday, August 8, 2005

I love "This is Broken"

Everyday I get a little chuckle from This is Broken. Today's Gentlemanly Ladies Room or 10,000 Step Manual for a pedometer put a smile on my face.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I'll do it again

After spending last week following the Tour through southeast France (we watched stages 10,11,13, and 14) I’m convinced that following a bicycle race is a GREAT way to experience a new country. You have a schedule, route, you get to see places off the “beaten” path, you can camp or stay at hotels, and you get to meet lots of other people.

I’ve posted some pictures from my trip on a Flickr and will probably put more on my blog

So, let me pass along a few lessons that I’ll use on my next visit to the Tour (Giro, or Vuelta for that matter).
  1. Rent a camper. The Tour route follows lots of backroads and you’re more than likely going to need to camp if you want good positions. Using a tent is quaint, but it’d be a heck of a lot nicer if you just pulled off the side of the road and setup shop. It was hard not to be jealous of the Frenchmen that had their tables spread with wine, cheese and board games.
  2. Barring a camper, make sure you schedule accomodations ahead of time. We scrambled everyday to find a place. Hotels and campsites fill up for over 100km around every city. The day after the race ended in Briancon we ended up in the resort town of Ceuse at midnight (over 100km away) and there were still folks from the “caravan” (Cochonou for the record)
  3. See every other stage. Obviously sometimes there are GREAT stages back to back, but if you see every other stage, you get a nice respite from the stress of travel and waiting, and you’re also more likely to get good positioning.
  4. Arrive EARLY. Even if you’re hours before the caravan, that’s often not good enough. On the climb of the Col du Galibier we arrived the night before around 5PM and were prevented from driving up the climb. See the previous point about seeing every other stage. I ran into some Texans inside 1km from the top (the guy was the director of the Texas Bicycle Coalition) who had arrived at their spot two nights before the day of the race.
  5. Know the language as best as possible. I get the impression that the Gendarmarie (police) treated native speakers more favorably than us. If you can’t know the language be sure to have a dictionary and try your best to speak it. It helped us out (lots of folks didn’t speak English) and it made the trip all the more interesting.
  6. Take a bike. If you go the camper route this is all the more easier. I found myself wanting a bike really badly. Further more, if you get shutdown by the Gendarmerie they let bikes through until JUST before the racers arrive so you can ride your bike up to a good spectating spot, and ride back to your transportation when you’re done.
  7. Take lots of maps. You can also buy them in the supermarches. I also found Vialys to be very good. I like maps, they fun, but they’ll also save you lots of wasted time trying to get from A to B.
  8. Take a radio, or phone with internet access. Being able to have real-time updates on the Tour status made things very exciting.
  9. This tip is specific to Americans… Generally London is the cheapest European city for Americans to fly to. Fly to London and then get a transfer to airports like London Luton, Standsted, or Gatwick (I used National Express for 21GBP roundtrip) and then fly the cheap airlines like Ryan Air or Easy Jet. I hadn’t even heard of these airlines, but my friends suggested them. The flights were $50-80 for oneway flights to and from France

Following the Tour was clearly a cultural phenomenon, and was an awesome experience among my all-time favorite sporting events. Viva le Tour!

Winding to the top

Fans line the whole way to the top of the Col du Galiber. The atmosphere around the Tour is really cool. People in their campers just drinking French wine and playing cards await the riders. Some folks hawk their wares. Others sit around making music. We saw a particularly neat group of Frenchmen playing and singing what seemed to be French folk songs on violin, harmonica, and mandolin. It's definitely worth experiencing.


Tour de France

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

After the rain stopped the night we camped on the Galibier there was a beautiful sunset.

Camping on the Col du Galibier

We camped out on the Col du Galibier. Even in the heat of summer it stays pretty chilly there. It must've gotten into the 40s overnight. Then again the summit is over 8500 ft.

Sprint Finish

This is 100m from the finish in Montpellier. It was pretty exciting to see the blur of rides blast past at over 40mph. I've got a bunch of video footage that I'll try to post at a later date.


On every stage of the Tour there is a stream of cars and vehicles plastered with cheesy marketing that precedes the riders by a few hours and lasts for at least an hour. This "caravan" is like a really long moving carnival. They go along throwing out swag (hats, scarfs, phone cards, cheese, sausage, candy, water bottles, magnets, etc.) dancing, and waving. It's quite a spectacle and makes the hours of waiting for a few minutes of watching the riding pass a little faster.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Beer in France

France isn't exactly known as a beer place but I managed to find a few interesting beers while I was there:
  • Kriska (you can see that it isn't thought of too highly, but it tastes like lemondrops and is very refreshing to drink... not exactly beer though)
  • Dorelei (decent amber ale)
  • Affligem (I can't find the beer that matches this... It was very Lambic-like... sour, horse-blanket and while Affligem makes Belgian, I can't find a Lambic. Not sure if we got a skunk or whether the barkeep poured the wrong beer, or my taster's busted)
  • Monaco (this one was confusing... a lot like a Shirley Temple, and it turns out my taster was right. It's actually a mixed drink Refreshing)
  • Brugs (a very light Hefe-like beer... served with a lemon. Pretty nice, but not my favorite by any stretch)
  • Leffe (a common Abbey ale... Very nice. It'd be very easy to seriously get into Leffe)

Friday, July 8, 2005

Saint Maraget's Chapel

We didn't go inside this one. Next time! It looked really cool. It was constructed in 1090!!

Wallace Monument

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Originally uploaded by aharbick.

We climbed to the top of the Wallace Monument. Saw the wallace sword along the way.

The Royal Mile

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Originally uploaded by aharbick.

We stopped and had dinner at a pretty tasty burger place on the "Royal Mile" in Edinburgh. GREAT atmosphere. Lots of people out and walking and beautiful building everywhere. The royal mile leads up to Edinburgh Castle.

Wallace's Cave

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Originally uploaded by aharbick.

Definitely one of the coolest parts of our trip in Scotland was the short little hike down to a "cave" (really just an arch) near our friends house. Supposedly William Wallace hid out from the English there. I don't know if it really happened or not, but Braveheart is one of my all-time favorite movies and being there among Stirling, Falkirk, and Bannockburn and standing in a place where the real William Wallace was said to have hidden was a neat experience.

Family shot

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Originally uploaded by aharbick.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

Great Britain June 2005 086

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

While in London we visited St. Paul's cathedral. We decided that we needed to visit at least one cathedral while there and also that Westminster Abbey was probably the more touristy of the two. St. Paul's is beautiful (and ancient... current building only several hundred years, but there has been a church at the site since 600ish). However, I must rant... When you enter the church there are signs saying "don't take pictures or video in this place of worship..." It doesn't restrict the activity to just "flash photography" but all forms (and I saw them enforce it) out of respect for this "place of worship" I'm all for respect like that. We need more, HOWEVER they promptly charged me £19 and they have a cafeteria in the crypt of all places! So I stole a photo in an act of civic rebellion. Jesus probably would turned over tables and stirred things up in that "house of prayer"

Loch Lomond


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

Riley being the old man of the sea on the "bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond"

Wallace monument


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

This is a shot from Stirling castle in Scotland looking back at the the Wallace Monument. We climbed 250+ stairs to stand at the top of it (and saw the Wallace Sword along the way). Very cool, though it was grey and drizzly at the top; an awful lot like Snoqualmie falls near Seattle.


Great Britain June 2005 088

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

This photo just makes me happy! Such a beautiful wife and son (err handsome).

Oldest fountain in Britain


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

...and the oldest fountain in Britain. We had a bit of a panic attack when our kids started running around the fountain playing tag. Kids somehow don't have a sense of antiquity ;) Then again I suppose it is 500 years old and probably isn't going anywhere soon. The docent at the castle took us around and showed us the dungeon etc. He said that they sweep a full bucket of sand out of the castle daily (sand from the sandstone used to make the castle)

Largest Chimney in Great Britain


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

Here's looking up the aforementioned largest chimney in Great Britain. I know, I know. Fascinating isn't it ;)

Linlithgow Palace


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

Definitely one of our favorite activities in Scotland was visiting the castles. There was something exciting yet peaceful about being in building erected 1000 years ago. Even our children had a great time, and there's nothing like being able to swashbuckle in a real castle when you're a little boy. This shot is out a window at Linlithgow Palace. Notewothy things, a. it was built in 1504 b. Mary Queen of Scots was born there, c. it has the largest fireplace in Great Britain d. it has the oldest fountain (not working) in Britain. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Driving Aphorisms

As previosly noted, we just got back from two weeks in Great Britain. The first week was in Scotland between Ediburgh and Glasgow with our friends (thanks for such a great trip!). Like I said, I'll post more when I get a chance, but I thought that I'd share a little now...

We had a rental car, so I did a fair bit of driving. On the M8 and M9 (the major motorways around/between Edinburgh and Glasgow) they have these electronic signs that are presumably for traffic information but it seems most of the time they have sage advice:
  • Tiredness can kill
  • Please follow the speed limit (so polite!)
  • Frustration causes accidents
  • Drive with consideration
I feel like a better driver already.

Monday, June 13, 2005

When have you satisfied this goal?

Since Dec. I’ve brewed:

3 IPA’s
An Oatmeal Stout
A Holiday Ale
A Saison

That’s pretty stinking close… That said, I’ve got two of those in secondary and one in primary. Maybe I should set the goal of “Bottle my beer once a month” ;)

Moments away...

We’re waiting to leave on our first international trip as a family. In about 7 hours we board the plane heading first to London and then to Edinburgh. We’ll spend a week with friends there, and then a week back in London in an apartment we’re renting near Canary Wharf. We’re pretty excited. I’ll post some pictures when we get back. In the meantime, if you have any tips, drop a line. We should have internet access.

Another lesson down...

I finished another lesson with my brother-in-law. Basically I just drove him around the town. He was busy working on a real estate transaction so I was basically solo. I only stalled and interrupted him once when I started out too quickly at a red light, came a little close to the guy in front of me, and paniced when I had to stop and start over…. Tip… Never lose your composure. ;)

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Yur people need English lessons

As I commented on my previous posts, I did get the passports for my family. Woo! You go Shirley.

But today I got this e-mail message:
Re: Status inquiry

Please provide yur full name.

If you have further questions, please email us at
Please include all prior messages or correspondence in your reply so
that we may know what has taken place previously. If you prefer, you
can call us at (877)487-2778. Our contact center is open Monday through
Friday 8:00AM-8:00PM EST.

Thank you. 053
National Passport Information Center
Tell me that doesn't look like a SPAM?!?!? Nevermind the fact that I got it 3 days after it was sent, and a day after I actually received the passports.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Maggie, you have a very bad attitude

I called the passport information center to check on passports for our family. Applications were submitted on Apr 11th and I know the goverment cashed our checks on Apr. 25th, however we have not received them which is why I called. Actually, I was kinda shocked that they even have a human that you can speak to.

Maggie answered my call and said "what's your last name and birthday?" in a curt manner. So I replied. When I realized she was going to use them to look up the application I quickly stopped her and said, "err, but you probably want the information for my wife and children, because I wish to check on the status of the application". And I told her my wife's birthday. It took her abour 4 tries to get it right because she kept mixing my birthday with my wifes. Finally she got it right and said "it's in New Orleans"... So I started asking more questions like "will I get it in time?", "can I call New Orleans?", "what's the number?"... She got really rude with me and basically said she couldn't tell me because of privacy laws. I was ticked and not thinking clearly so I just hung up when I realized that my one year old wasn't going to be able to call back. She should've at least let me get more information about my kids.

I called back immediately and got a VERY HELPFUL and nice Shirely. She put urgent messages on all of the applications and told me to call back Tues. to check on the status. Thank you Shirley!

Hat tipped in deference for my title

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Everything Bad is Good For You

My son got Zelda The Minish Cap for his gameboy for his birthday, and I've been playing with him. We each have our own "file" and while he's really good at the game, I'm still better ;) Anyhow one of the thoughts that I've had watching him play is that how incredibly spatial the game is, and how quickly he grasps it. He'll say things like "remember that castle over on the right" and I'll say "huh?" and he'll say "go left, go up, go up, go right, go right, go right" and we'll be at the castle that he was talking about. So I've been wondering whether you can learn spatial relations, or perhaps more generally, can video games make you smarter. Traditionally, parents treat video games like addictions that suck your brain out, and certainly they do simulate addiction. We learned this year that you NEVER give a gameboy game for a birthday BEFORE you're done requiring your child's attention. Our son was immediately absorbed in Zelda (and Super Mario Bros. 3) and we had to pry him away when we needed him for cake (can you believe it?!?!) or pictures, or saying goodbye to guests. That said, there's an interesting new book out called Everthing Bad Is Good For You. I heard an interview with the author on NPR and he argued (somewhat convincingly) that television programs are more sophisticated today than they were in the 70's and 80's and require more refined intellectual skills to follow and enjoy. I haven't read the book, but you're welcome to buy it for me ;)

Friday, May 20, 2005

New book by Brian McLaren

If you’ve read other books by Brian McLaren, particularly New Kind of Christian or The Story We Find Ourselves In, you probably already know… But he’s got a new book called The Last Word and the Word After That So far it’s every bit as captivating.

Going to see Lance

I’ve bought tickets, and have a preliminary itinerary.

I’m flying into Heathrow on July 11th. Then I’m jumping over to London Luton for a flight to Grenoble France with several friends from Seattle who work in Edinburgh. We stay the night in Grenoble and begin following the Tour on stage 10 from Grenoble to Courchevel. We’ll camp in Briancon for a couple of nights, and then camp on the Mediterranean near Montpellier for a few nights. We then fly out from Nimes back to Luton and I return from Heathrow.

Lots of things to be excited about, but I’m hoping to see the finish in Courchevel (though coordination might make that hard) and the summit of the Col du Galibier (stage 11) where I’m hoping to take a rental bike from Briancon in reverse up to the top of the climb (about 40k and 1500m vertical).

We don’t have almost anything planned out beyond that (e.g. what to do when not watching the race, eating, etc.) but that’s part of what makes it exciting. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Thanks Shiree for letting me do this! I’m very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I’m only a through the introduction for “A Generous Orthodoxy” but I found this interesting quote:
A warning: as in most of my other books, there are places here where I have gone out of my way to be provocative, mischievous, and unclear, reflecting my belief that clarity is sometimes overrated, and that shock, obscurity, playfulness, and intrigue (carefully articulated) often stimulate more thought than clarity.

I’ve seen several reviews that revile the idea and call it a rejection of Truth. That kind of thinking treats theology and the pursuit of God more like studying physics. Why are we certain that we know God that well? Certainly there are some things that we must say with certainty or else we have no place at all on which to stand “mischievously” and “playfully.” I think that McLaren would certainly agree with that.

Personally, I find the idea refreshing, and am looking forward to the rest of the book.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Very interesting article about something that I've had an intuition about, but never been able to articulate. Somewhat related to my point about love.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

One lesson down...

Now that wasn’t so hard.

About three weeks ago, I went out with my brother-in-law. He threw me into the lions den and I survived. I stalled a couple of times but only in places that didn’t matter. I also did a lot of practicing on hills and got good enough (at least in that session) that my brother-in-law could stand a foot or two behind the car and I wouldn’t squash him. My main point of weakness was letting out the clutch too slow and pushing the gas too fast and hence peeling out.

Time for another session.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Brewing: Saison

A little over a week ago I brewed a "Saison"... I don't have the grain bill (my friend in Seattle put it together for me) except that it has 1lb. of flaked rye in it.

For the boil I did this:
  • 60 minutes 1oz Nothern Brewer
  • 30 minutes 1os Saaz
  • 5 minutes 2oz Saaz
  • 5 minutes 1 tsp ground corriander
  • 5 minutes 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Then I intended to add orange zest to the boil, but instead was going to substitute orange marmalade (since I didn't have fresh oranges), but I forgot so I just added about 1/4 cup of orange marmalade to the primary.

OG: 1.076

I think I made dry hop with Saaz, but we'll see what the hoppiness is like when I rack it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bailing out...

I’ve decided that running a half marathon was a bit of an aggressive goal to start with. Pretty much I wanted to be like Daniel. I have however replaced this goal with a much more attainable run an 8 minute mile. And I even started today. I’m on a business trip staying in a hotel and I used the fitness room; hoisted myself out of bed early and got on the treadmill. I started off easy for the first lap of a mile. Then I ran the remaining 3/4 mile, and I did it in about 10 minutes without stopping and kept a very maintainable heart rate. So long, and best of luck to you all. Perhaps I’ll be back to join you in the future.


Hi aharbick!

You may have heard on the grapevine that we planned to
reward our dear Flickr members who bought a Pro Account in
the early days. Well, it's true! And since you're one of
those lovely people, here's a little something to say YOU

1. Double what you paid for!
Your original 1 year pro account has been doubled to
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2. More capacity!
Now you can upload 2 GB per month.

3. 2 free Pro Accounts to give away to your friends!
This won't be activated for a day or two, but when it
is, you'll see a note on your home page telling you
what to do.

Thank you so much for putting your money where your mouth
is and supporting us, even while we're in beta. Your
generosity and cold, hard cash helped us get where we are

Kind regards,
The Flickreenies.

That's a nice surprise! Anyone want a pro account? Drop me a note.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Lance to retire

Sigh Now I'm REALLY going to have to go

Thought bloging

I need something that reads my mind and blogs for me. I have lots of blog worthy thoughts throughout the day, but most of the time I forget about them by the time I get to a computer to type.

I now "get" podcasting

Until today I never really understood why Podcasting would be so popular. Sites like Odeo and iPodder have gained a lot of popularity, and perusing you can find a ton of podcasting information. But today, I GET it.

I'm in Seattle on a business trip an I decided to walk to the office from the hotel. It's probably about a mile walk and took 20 minutes. I had my iPod and I spun a little Pedro the Lion, Postal Service, and Third Day. However, as I walked I had the desire for some news of some sort. Sure I could've had a radio, but then I need two devices. It would've been nice to spin some MP3 news tracks. Hence podcasting. My bet is that podcast consumers are disproportinately urban, walking commuters.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why the hubbub?

There's too much interest in real estate solutions that apply clever mapping techniques like craigslist + google (which is an interesting derivative/synthetic application) or redfin. Don't get me wrong, I think these applications are clever and interesting, but IMO they don't do much to advance the state of the art for buying or selling real estate. They basically just automate a formerly manual process with some wizzy technology. I can buy a paper map and plot real estate listings on it. Having either solution does little to inform me as a customer (or even agent) of real estate services. I hope that next generation real estate solutions will focus on leveraging data in better ways to better inform the customer instead of rehashing mapping/GIS applications.

Friday, April 8, 2005

In the works...

I’m cooking up a scheme to fly over to France for a week to see bits of the Tour this year. I figured it may be one of the last times that I could see Lance compete in the Tour. Anyhow, I’m considering three options. In all of them I fly to Paris and then travel from Paris to other parts of the race, watch/travel for a week, return to Paris and go home. Here are the options:

  1. Fly from Paris to Nantes and rent a car…. Catch the opening 5 stages while driving back toward Paris and leave from Paris.

  2. Take the train from Paris to St. Etienne. Rent a car in St. Etienne. Catch Issoire->Le Puy, and the TT in St. Etienne. Then take the train back to Paris and watch the last stage and leave the next day.

  3. Fly from Paris to Marseilles. Rent a car, and drive to Grenoble, and catch Grenoble->Courchevel, Courchevel->Briancon, Briancon->Digne Les Bain, and Miramas->Montepelier. Fly back to Paris from Marseilles and leave.

Which would you do? Something entirely different?

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Social software in e-tail just recently launched a social networking experiment in online shopping. I don't quite "get it", but it does seem novel. Parts of it remind me of's "Share the Love" feature, but as far as I can tell that never really took off.

Real hackers use Macs?

David Heinemeier Hannson asserts that he would have a hard time hiring a programmer working on a Windows platform for 37 Signals. He bases the claim on deep conviction that Macs are great machines, and also because Paul Graham was stirring the pot about Mac adoption among hackers. I don't dispute that Macs are GREAT machines (I'm happily writing this from my 17" Powerbook), or even that Apple started a bit of a revolution among talented software engineers (I've watched close to a dozen of my most talented engineer friends buy powerbooks), but puleeze.... A talented engineer doing web-development (as is 37 signals/DHH) doesn't need a Mac. Sure, they can use fancy and cool little apps like CocoaMySQL, but in my book any REAL hacker only needs a shell and Emacs (or I suppose some lesser editor).

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Mediocre coffee rules America!

My family just returned from a road-trip to and from Indianapolis. It was a GREAT trip, and I've got a few thoughts that I want to blog about it when I get a chance, but I figured I started with a quick one.

We drove I81 S to I64 W, to I65 N to get there. It was a pretty and very straightforward route. Driving through Lexington KY was particularly beautiful; ACRES of genteel horse farms line the road for at least 30 miles. That and Kentucky must have a law against those big tacky billboards because I don't recall noticing them (perhaps at all) in KY, but they are LITTERED throughout I64 in West Virginia, and on I65 in Indiana.

Anyhow, one thing I noticed is that it is DARN hard to get good coffee when you're travelling. Gas stations, hotels (even fairly expensive ones like Embassy Suites) restaurants... All serve something hot and black, and more or less enjoyable to drink, but it isn't really fair to call it coffee if you're going to compare it; even to something pretty standard like Starbucks (which along our route was non-existent) The only good coffee that I had was with our friends (who came from Seattle) in Indy. I think it was a special blend Starbucks coffee, but it may have been Zoka's.

Wake up America, your coffee isn't good, and it's certainly not worth the prices you charge for it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What's in a name?

Dare Obasanjo is right the hype over AJAX is too much. But his assessment is only true from the standpoint of a programmer. From the standpoint of an entrepreneur/innovator, it's the small things that matter. Apple didn't invent the MP3 player, but they repackaged it, gave it a cool name, made it beautiful and captured a huge chunk of the market. Jeff Veen is right as well. Adaptive Path, Google, and others have commercialized AJAX. They've made it human, and guess what; it's going to be used a lot more.

Tiger rebate at Amazon

Not released yet, but looks like there is going to be a rebate at Amazon

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Microsoft stinks!

I don't ordinarily like to badmouth Microsoft. I'm not one of the religious zealots waiting for every stumble that the company makes and eagerly pointing out every spurious patent application that they file. I realize that MANY people use their products and get work done on a daily basis more efficiently because of the products. I also realize that Microsoft is constantly applying the best talent they can to innovate.

However, I've had three experiences recently that just bug me to no end and further entrench me in the OSX/Un*x faithful.

  1. My company uses Oracle financials for accounts payable. I went to use the web-based expense report submission yesterday and it took me well over half an hour to enter in 13 receipts and submit the stinkin' thing. The reason was because I started using Firefox, and it turns out that the UI only works for IE, and even then it does some weird stuff. The fact that their browser is antiquated and out-of-date with regard to standards and yet still the defacto standard encourages companies to build UIs that only work with IE further entrenching the mediocre product (no tabs, live bookmarks, search integration, etc.). IE 7 better be an awesome product because 6 sucks.

  2. Still using the expense reporting application I needed to print something but didn't have a printer I could use. So I went to save the page and e-mail it to myself. Unfortunately it was in a proprietary format and my only save option was "Microsoft Document Image" format. I saved it as that and mailed it to myself. I loaded the document on another XP machine that I have access to and guess what. It was incompatible! Microsoft's products aren't even compatible with themself. This is reprehensible. So I saved it from the MDI viewer into a TIF, mailed it again, and then printed it.

  3. Last, my computer has taken to opening "Microsoft Narrator" every time I login and I get an annoying 1980's computer voice reading me the UI. There is nothing in my start menu (global or user-specific) or Run section in my registry. There also appears to be no way to turn it off from the Speech, or Accessibility options in the Control Panel. So every morning I have to shut the thing off manually. Annoying.

The only problem I ever seem to have with my Mac is an interaction with CodeTek Virtual Desktop and Firefox but at least the CEO is writing me personal updates

Saturday, March 5, 2005

One more brief thought

At breakfast one morning Christi, the really nice server, said "my English isn't that good but I'm practicing". I've heard that before from other non-native speakers. The funny thing is that his self-evaluation was FAR from accurate. His English was GREAT and I was glad that he could speak to me in English, and that he could help me say a few Romanian words.

I learned Spanish in high-school and have occasion to use it once in a while because our church has a Spanish congregation that shares the building. I know that I've said the same thing "my Spanish isn't that good." Perhaps they're thinking the same thing I was? "ummm... I think it's pretty good and I'm glad to be able to talk a little bit in Spanish." Nah probably not. My Spanish is REALLY rusty ;)

Cultural biases

Neither me, nor anyone I know would SAY that Americans are nicer, more trustworth, care more about life, work harder, etc. than any other people of the world. However, I've had these odd experiences where I realized that I (and I suspect other people I know too) kinda believed that at some deep level. The most concrete example is that at times I had this fleeting and irrational suspicion of airline pilots, or cab drivers, etc.; people that didn't speak my language and didn't affirm me in some other way (say with a smile). On the last leg of the flight to Iasi I started thinking about how ridiculous that was. I've travelled lots of places in America and never felt that way (except with cab drivers... who once again don't speak my language). The only difference was lingual and cultural; I had a mistrust strictly because of these things. Throughout the week though after meeting dozens of Romanians (servers at the restaurant, cabs, hotel helpers, employees of this company we're interviewing) I was reminded that, trite as it soudns, Romanians not all that different from us. They laugh (contrary to what the smiling thing might indicate), eat, drink, and have similar desires for life and work that I do (two guys in particular that I interviewed sounded eerily like me when it comes to work). I wonder what other things I believe deep down and don't realize...

Romania culture observations

As I've been here, I've collected a few observations about Romanian culture (caveat... This is based on Iasi). I don't have much to say about these observations except that I had them:

  • Dance/electronica music is very popular. I've heard it almost everywhere I've been.

  • There's this pungent, but pleasant smell I've experienced in lots of places (hotels, bathrooms, soap, cabs)... I can't place it but it's like a potpurri that isn't fruity or flowery but more spicey (nutmeg, clove, not cinnamon).
  • Watching Romanian cartoons is funny. The voices sound very adult; not the more silly kid sounding voices that many American cartoons have for children.

  • Romanians don't care much for their roads, but there are lots of taxis. Potholes are UBIQUITOS and huge. Bogdan, the host that has been driving us around has a nice/small Alfa Romeo and he is constantly dodging potholes like someone in a golf-ball sized hailstorm.

  • Romanians smoke EVERYWHERE... Except McDonald's (this isn't about smoking, but remind me to show you my "food pyramid guide" with McDonald's food on it.... VERY funny)

  • Romanians really like sour crean (smantana). Many dishes have it as part of the sauce (sos)

Food part two

Last night we ate at Little Texas. It was odd to experience a thoroughly American place in a foreign country (even the McDonald's isn't this American). Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, and Waylon Jennings played in the background while we ate pretty good Tex Mex. Though I have to say that my enchillada was one of the weirdest enchilladas I've had. The insides reminded me of a some sort of creamy salad. I did however drink another Romanian beer; Ursus black. It was a bit like a porter. It was good but I can't really recommend given other alternatives. One amusing note; Corona is the most expensive beer you'll find on almost any menu.

Friday, March 4, 2005


At least when you're just out in public it's unusual to smile at people. I was walking around Iasi and I was asking myself "I wonder if I look American"... Mostly I would just walk looking at people, and when they made I contact, I'd flash a smile. I began to notice that no one returned a smile, and for that matter, I didn't really see people smiling at all in public so I began to think that perhaps smiling is American. At dinner the other night, Lucian (one of our hosts) confirmed that smiling (or not) is actually a distinguishing feature between Americans and Romanians. It's REALLY helpful to know that. I was wondering if people didn't like me ;)

Manual labor

Another interesting thing that I've noticed in Iasi is a lot of work is done very manually. For example there are a lot of people working on the roads as you drive around, and most of the people working are using pick-axes, and brooms (and not big nice industrial brooms, but ones that look homemade from branches). There are very few machines. I'm not even sure that I saw a steamroller. I suppose that explains why the roads are in bad shape.

Thursday, March 3, 2005


So far the food in Romania has been very good. Then again it seems pretty western. One thing that I've noticed is that they use a lot of Gorgonzola (yeah!) and sour cream (smantana). The night before last we ate at Casa Lavric (the guy that runs it has a website, but not the restaurant). I had a fried chicken dish (piept du pui) and a crepe (clatitte) with an orange sauce (sos) for dessert. It was indeed in a converted house and was cozy. Old-style American jazz music (Louis Armstrong) played in the background and there were lots of instruments hanging on the walls (clarinets, oboes, trumpets, etc.) Last night we ate at Casa Bilius. Personally I liked that a lot better. The atmosphere was much classier, more quiet, and less smoky. Plus the owners of the company we're with here took us out so they could help us navigate the waiter etc. For dinner, I had a beef filet (muschi) sauteed in butter, and drenched in gorgonzola (heart attack on the plate). I tried a few European beers too... Tuborg from Copenhagen; pretty typical lager, nothing that grand about it, and Silva from Romania. It was a very nice dark beer that had hints of a barley wine though only 7% (not "thick" like a stout). For dessert I had papanasi (said papanash) which believe it or not is "fried cheese"... Nothing like you'd expect; not mozzarella sticks but more like a fritter. It was served with dates or cherries on top and cream. Quite yummy!

P.S. One of the women helping at the restaurant looked at me funny when I said "bodaproste"... She explained that it IS "multumesc" and that "bodaproste" is actually something that you would say at a funeral (perhaps thanking the hosts???) Now I'm confused. I'm going to have to grill Christi tomorrow ;)

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Never expect anything

I'm in Romania now after 22 hours of travel (including about 7 of layovers). It's a a very cool experience. Being my first time out of North America (aside, I guess, from the Caribbean) this is the first time that I've been in a place where English was NOT the predominant language. Most of the people that are important to communicate with (customs police, taxi drivers, hotel reception, etc.) speak good enough English that you can get by, but most of the common people don't speak any English. It's a very odd feeling. You pretty much feel most comfortable saying nothing. I've learned a couple words "varog" (please) and "multumesc" (thank you), but even that isn't a guarantee... Apparently "multumesc" is the way they say it in the south part of Romania, but in the more Moldova/Ukraine influenced part of the country it's "bodoposti". At least that's what Christi the guy that served me breakfast this morning said. He was a VERY nice guy. I look forward to chatting with him the rest of the week.

This trip is RIPE for blogging thoughts (I'm keeping a little list), but for now, never expect anything. Christi asked me if I wanted an omelette for breakfast and I said that that sounded good. He brought me something that more or less represented an omelette but was clearly different. It defintely had eggs, cheese and some sort of meat. But it was all scrambled up and the meat... I don't know what it was; ham maybe? Whatever it was, it had a fair amount of fat on it. My "omelette" was tasty, but definitely not what I expected. Tomorrow, I'm going to get the "fried egg" how could that be much different?

I've got a digital camera with me, but it's one of those one time use cameras so getting to see any of this will have to wait until I return.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


I just did a restore of my server from a "psabackup" dump, the tool that Plesk ships with to do backups. I'm testing to see if it got the database right. I don't trust the tool.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Must read...

I've been reading Blue Like Jazz. It's a great book but Chapter 18 "Love: How to Really Love Other People" hit me hard. You should read it!

Monday, February 7, 2005

Next year...

I'm skipping the superbowl and just watching the ads on Game was better than most, but still underwhelming, Paul McCartney needs to retire, and advertisers that spend $2.4million need to do a better job. I'll watch for the gems after the fact.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Tiny spaces...


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

A shot of me coming through the a tiny little hole through which you have to twist and contort your body. Got my leg stuck on the first attempt. It was a lot easier going down.

Undergound natural arch...


Originally uploaded by aharbick.

One of the more cool shots from the caving trip. We were in a room with probably 50 foot ceilings and a stream running through the arch. Very cool.


Yesterday, I stepped into the world of bats, mud, stalagtites, and stalagmites. Yep, me, Mark and Raph went caving at Breathing Cave. It was VERY cool. Lots of climbing, crawling, sucking in your gut and wriggling through a little trench... My entire upper body is sore today and I've got a few welts in the various places where I wacked body parts against rock, but I would definitely do this again.

More beer...

My friend was in town for a long weekend and we did two batches of beer. Herewith a tale of brewing adventure.

Our first entry was a holiday ale that was pulled (more or less) from Radical Brewing. In round one everything went quite smoothly with the exception of a slow sparge (which was only foreshadowing of adventure to come). When all was said and done we'd produced a 1.101 original gravity wort that was quite tasty. Here's what we used:

  • 8lbs Crisp English pale malt

  • 4lbs Belgian biscuit malt

  • 1 lb Crisp English wheat malt

  • 1 lb Belgian caramunich malt

  • 2 os Chocolate malt

  • 2lb 4oz Thai palm sugar

In the boil

  • .25 oz cracked whole Allspice (0 min)

  • 4 oz grated fresh ginger (0 min)

  • Zest of two oranges (0 min)

  • 1 oz Centennial hops (60 min)

  • 1 oz Mt Hood (60 min)

  • 1 oz English Fuggles/Goldings (0 min)

Yeast was Wyeast 1028 London Ale and was slightly moribund. It took almost 3 days to get going, but is going nicely now.

For our second offering we did another IPA a since I so much enjoyed my first attempt The recipe was slightly different:

  • 8 lbs English pale (Maris Otter) malt

  • 4 lbs US rye malt

  • 1 lb German Munich malt

  • 1 lb crisp caramalt 15L

  • .5 lb German light crystal malt

In the boil (more or less... the story that unfolds later will explain)

  • 1 oz Chinook (60 min)

  • 1 oz Columbus (30 min)

  • 1 oz Willamette (5 min)

  • 1 oz Amarillo (5 min)

  • ? oz Other (can't remember)

Original gravity of 1.083. The plan is to dryhop with 1 oz Crytal and 1 oz Amarillo.

The interesting part was that the whole process took probably close to 10 hours. To blame? The sparge and propane canister. The sparge was REALLY slow. Apparently the rye malt doesn't have husks so it makes it harder to setup a filter bed. Personally I'm betting that my circle of hose was actually a circle of harm and prevented wort from flowing. I'm pulling it out next time. Either way, we tried all manner of stirring and even started over but we never got run-off flowing faster than one can pee. After we had about 2 gallons and dinner time arrive, we were starting to feel a little bit like maybe the batch would be a bust (call it equipment failure). So we decided to just let the sparge sit and drain at it's piddly pace. We went to dinner and came back. Sure enough it drained entirely and was really clear too. So we added in another 2 gallons of hot water and waited another hour. We ended up with close to 7 gallons and began the boil. About 30 minutes into the boil we ran out of propane. It was 11PM. Cool thing is, it turns out that there were three places we could've gotten more propane from at that hour. We ran down to the local gas station and picked up a new canister and finished off the boil, chilled, aerated, and pitched the yeast. The ordeal was done, and I'm well on my way to having another IPA.

Does this strike you as odd?

I was reading a post by Jeffery Veen when I ran into this interesting technique by the music industry to control their intellectual property rights in P2P networks. If the recording industry broke down the doors of a shop and busted all bootlegs that they found in the shop I'm sure they would've done something illegal. The difference here is that they're not destroying anything that belongs to someone else. They're just flooding the "market" with a broken copy of something that they own. If you can't beat them subvert them? Strange world.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Virginia sunrise

Virginia sunrise

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

This isn't a very good photo (unless you consider the blurriness art ;) but it is pretty representative of the sunrises where we live in Virginia. It makes getting up early a LOT more enjoyable.


bluebirds on a fence

Originally uploaded by aharbick.

This weekend there was a minor winter storm. Wintry mix, nothing major that messed anything up. During the storm I was outside brewing beer and I saw the most delightful thing. 10 bluebirds camping out in my yard! I think I must be an ornithologist at heart because it just made me happy to see. How beautiful! (be sure to see the original)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The evolving church?

There is a branch of biology called sociobiology which seeks to explain culturual behavior using an evolutionary model. It was first coined by E.O. Wilson a famous biologist (or so I hear... I've only read Concilience ).

For whatever reason, I remembered sociobiology when thinking about the idea of Christian sanctification (or the process of becoming holy). I thought:

Sanctification is kinda like spiritual evolution so if social evolution happens (like sociobiology argues) then maybe socio-spiritual evolution happens?

In simpler terms. Does the church evolve? Are there mutations that help or harm the church?

I suppose those questions rely on the definition of the church. I think there are two definitions of "church". The first definition is the spiritual reality which is God's people or Christ's bride The second definition is the institution of the church; specific local communities with pastors, elders, deacons, etc. a "particular" church, a denomination. I'm content to say that the church by the former definition doesn't really evolve. If you believe in unconditional election this is an easy one. Those that might subscribe to "conditional election" have it a bit harder, but I don't find it too hard to believe that an omniscient being would know who will "choose" to believe. The church by the later definition does and should change.

Let me offer a couple thoughts about that. First, that the "institution" of the church "evolves" shouldn't come as a surprise; it is composed of changing individuals. Second, we know that the church has changed historically (certainly different customs, but also different theologies... remeber the Reformation, among many others), and we can deduce that it will continue that trend. You can probably come up with lots of other ways that the church changes.

So... What's my point? In the churches that I've been in, there seems to be a tendency to treat the church that should change (institution) as the one that doesn't change (spiritual). This may be one of the reasons why people don't like organized religion like Daniel points out. Certainly there are fundamental beliefs that the institutions hold that won't change (there's plenty of room for Confessions and Creeds), but personally I'd be happier if we got more comfortable with change as institutions. Try to talk about "post-modern theology" or the "emerging church" in the wrong crowd and you'll have lots of uncomfortable and defensive folks. That's probably not rocket science; change is difficult. As for me, I'm comfortable stepping out in faith and trusting God to lead us into truth and away from lies as we change.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Creed and confession

I had the following discussion with a friend:

What do you think about this McLaren dialog (from "A New Kind of Christian")?

I protested "Neo, I never said that my interpretations were infallible. I'm just saying that the Bible itself is." He responded, "Well, I'm wondering, if you have an infallible text, but all your interpretations of it are admittedly fallible, then you at least have to always be open to being corrected about your interpretations, right?" I was nodding again. Yes. Of course. Neo kept talking: "So the authoritative text is never what I say about the text or even what I understand the text to say but rather what God means the text to say, right? So the real authority does not reside in the text itself, in the ink on paper, which is always open to misinterpretation---sometimes, history tells us, horrific and dangerous misinterpretations. Instead the real authority lies in God, who is there behind the text of beyond it of above it right? In other words, the authority is not in what I say the text says but in what God says the text says.

I don't think McLaren would argue that we should then, never say anything about what scripture says, but rather we should just be careful to not think that we have all of the answers correct. Perhaps there are things in our current theology that will, in 200 years, look like the theology that allowed for slavery 200 years ago (slavery was the "horrific and dangerous misinterpretation" referred to above)?

My friend replied:

Thanks for the opportunity to continue the discussion.

What McLaren is saying has some merit. However, the question arises, "How then can I know anything with certainty, with certainty enough to live my life on"? Is there not a place for the acceptance and deeper yet, belief, in something that the Church has set out to be true, i.e. the Creeds and Confessions? Certainly we must hold our beliefs with humility, but this does not mean that our beliefs can have no authority in anyone else's life. Or am I missing the point?

My final reply:

You're right. The danger in postmodernism is towards relativism where no one has any right to believe anything with "certainty". McLaren would call such a person a "bad postmodern." McLaren agrees that there is a place for confessionalism and creeds. I might summarize McLaren by saying that we need to hold onto Confessions and Creed loosely and with faith. We need to hold on to them and cherish them as the ancient story of our "family"; as our story. We need to hold onto them as the best efforts of countless Godly men and women to understand God and his purposes in our life. We should not hold onto them as a rigid and unchangeable rule by which we can separate those who know God from those who do not. We should not hold onto them like facts that you memorized in Biology class. We should not hold onto them as a substitute for wrestling with hard questions about God. We should not hold onto them as a substitute for God Himself.

I was thinking about reading the Bible the other day, and had the thought that we should disdain the reading of scripture if it's not a place where God is met. On those days where, for whatever reason (I think it might be God training us to seek Him and only Him), we don't experience God in reading scripture we should be disappointed in the waste of time because there is no value in reading scripture if God is not there (I grant that it's not entirely wasted... God may use your invested time later)

I think a key point is that with confession and creed, it's easy to learn and recite a "theological fact" and never think about it again just like you never think about what 2 + 2 is. Doing this closes one door to experience God and never lets Him mature your thinking.

One more thought... I don't think that reason is the only way to experience certainty. Do you love your wife? Are you certain? Did you come to that conclusion by reason? I'm "certain" that I know God, and that he loves me because of how he has moved in my heart. I did not need Confession or Creed to come to that conclusion. Creed and Confession are less important and less infallible than we think.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

My new favorite thing

The combonation of and Live Bookmarks in Firefox is my new favorite thing. I've always hated the fact that my bookmarks, which I use a lot as a memory device for interesting, relevant, and important information can be so easily lost and aren't shared between the various computers I use. I agree with Jeremy Zawodny, the question in the future is going to be where you store your data. This new combonation is excellent. I post all my bookmarks to and I access them through the RSS feeds using Live Bookmarks. Any new machine I hop onto, I can get at my book marks easily with and I can make them seem local just be subscribing to the feed. Nice.

P.S. If you've got a big bookmark list in Firefox already you can use this perl script to import them. The only trick is figuring out where Firefox stores your bookmarks.htm file. Also, if I needed to do the import again, I'd have it add tags based on the "folder structure"... Right now you only get one tag ".imported" which is lame. That said, it worked great.

[Update] Brian pointed out that I just overlooked the option to the script that allows you to assign tags based on folder structure. My bad. Thanks Brian for pointing that out and for writing a cool little script!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Backing up your data

I've been researching, and thinking about how on earth to backup all of my data in a cost effective way. The problem started when I got a powerbook and a digital video camera about 2 years ago. Couple that with iMovie and suddenly I was generating MASSIVE amounts of data. I ripped 5 years worth of analog video tapes onto my LaCie firewire external drives (200GB =~ 186GB) when I ran out of space. Worse yet, I ran out of space and didn't have any of it backed up. So I spent HOURS ripping the data and I could lose it with the death of a disk.

I considered buying additional firewire drives, but that's pretty expensive and you start to run out of power outlets pretty quickly. Then I considered DVD backup, but they only hold 4-8 GB and I have about 400GB so you're looking at multiple days of burn time to get one copy (at least with 1x burner). I also considered tape devices, but the low-end ones are still pretty expensive and only hold 40GB of data. If you consider higher capacity autoloading drives you're looking at $3-4k minimum.

What I wanted was huge amount of storage (~1 TB) that was redundant and online. So I setout to understand RAID. The previous article does an excellent job explaining RAID-5 and is exactly what I wanted "redundant, online, data that scales to massive sizes". I started looking for software solutions for my mac (thinking I could just use my current drives plus a couple more) but there aren't any. SoftRAID and Apple have solutions for RAID-0 and RAID-1, but not RAID-5 (though SoftRAID people say they're looking at RAID-5). I relented and went with a hardware solution, which are expensive but you can use commodity disks with them.

I bought the Arena NAS4 from Mac Ally and 5 200GB Maxtor SATA drives. The beauty is that I now will have 800GB of redundant, network accessible (10BaseT, 100BaseT, or Gigabit) storage. It wasn't "cheap" (~$2000) but doing software based RAID-1 with 8 of these is roughtly the same cost and you don't get network accessibility (for free at least), it isn't as fast (no striping and software RAID is slower), and you've got to have 8 power outlets. I considered sticking with LaCie's RAID solution, but it's not available until "Spring 2005" and it didn't have the NAS feature which was an added bonus.

A few final thoughts. Remember, it's not at all clear in any of the product literature that I've seen, but the self-contained hardware RAID solutions almost never include disks so you need to factor in that cost when considering the solution. Also, yes I know that I could get commodity hardware, a RAID card, and run Linux. However, doing that, I'd have to trade the nice compactness of my new solution and the hot-swapability. I also doubt that it'd be all that much cheaper when you're talking about hosting 4+ drives. Finally, FYI... I found great prices on

[Update] Michael asks "Why not Mirra?" My answer...

  1. I didn't know about it ;)

  2. PC only?!?

  3. Maximum data size is 250GB; I wanted at least 500GB.

  4. It's not redundant so even if you only wanted 250GB of space you still have to have 250GB elsewhere

  5. Poor product specs. Can you tell if it has Gigabit ethernet ports?

  6. It seems like one of their key strengths is ubiquitous network access; toss the thing on the net and you can get at your data (and keep it synced) from wherever you want to access your data)

Michael also mentioned that he's heard of cases where RAID controllers went bonkers and corrupted data... Hmmm... Not sure what to do about that one.