But why?

Posted January 19th, 2016 at 11:09am by Stephen

[Image of a dark room with a door filled with tentacles, and a blood stain on the ground. Text states: 'Everything happens for a reason. ...but sometimes the reason is that the universe is cruel, capricious, and filled with tentacle-adorned elder deities.'

New York City? Cruz dog whistles Trump

Posted January 17th, 2016 at 1:07pm by Stephen

On Tuesday, January 12, Ted Cruz attacked Donald Trump on a talk show with the line, “Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values.”

[two images screen captured from 1994 Pace Picante Salsa commercial showing a cowboy holding a jar of salsa but Trump's head has been added. Text is added as a caption: 'This candidate has new york values' 'New York City????'

Naturally this led to a bit of a squabble between the two candidates, with Cruz clarifying that “the rest of the country knows exactly what New York values are, and I gotta say, they’re not Iowa values and they’re not New Hampshire values,” leading to Trump bristling with New Yorker pride and invoking 9/11 as a rejoinder.

At the Republican debate on Thursday, January 14, the two came to a head about it. Cruz clarified that “everyone understands that the values of New York City are socially liberal, are pro-abortion, are pro-gay marriage.” Trump again responded with a defense of New York’s courage during the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Per this article, New York City has 3.7 million registered voters, and of those, 13% are registered Republicans. Cruz chosing to alienate close to half a million of your potential supporters (who are likely wealthier than average) seems like a suicidal gambit to begin with.

Additionally, it’s odd that Cruz would call out both gay marriage and New Hampshire, since New Hampshire leads the nation in support of gay marriage, at 75%. New York is 11th at 63%. Iowa is in the middle of the pack at 57%. (Mississippi is lowest, at 32%.) [Source: Wikipedia]

Similarly, New Hampshire residents are a bit more Pro-Choice (67%) than New Yorkers (66%), although Iowa is a lot less supportive of abortion (56%.) [Source: Survey USA]

But I actually think Cruz’s attack is much more insidious and divisive than most of the media coverage has discussed. I agree that a stereotype of New Yorkers is that they tend to be liberal, but generally one thinks of New Yorkers as:

* tough, brash, outspoken
* avant-garde
* Jewish

To me, Cruz comes off as anti-Semitic. He’s blowing a dog whistle and hoping no one calls him out on it.

However, it’s not like Trump is better. In December his racist attack on Cruz (“I do like Ted Cruz, but not a lot of Evangelicals come out of Cuba, in all fairness”) is disgusting. But it did lead to the best one-liner of Thursday’s debate, Cruz’s callback: “Not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan, I’m just saying.” (Transcript)

I’m not a New Yorker. But I’m dating one! I like New Yorkers. It’s the biggest city in the U.S. More than 8.4 million people live there (2.6% of the U.S.’s population). If the Republican candidates are at the point where they’re saying we shouldn’t elect anyone from New York, they should bring it up with Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Why fear of taking in Syrian refugees is misplaced

Posted November 23rd, 2015 at 4:59pm by Stephen

1. The existing process takes 18-24 months. Four security agencies vet each applicant. See the infographic for details. (Source)
 
2. So far no refugee has ever committed an act of terrorism. “In the 14 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees from around the world, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute, a D.C. think tank. And within that population, three people have been arrested for activities related to terrorism. None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.” (Source)
 
3. By refusing to take in Syrian refugees, we are doing EXACTLY what ISIS wants. The PURPOSE of the French attacks is explicitly to make the West fear Muslims, so that we drive them out of our countries, setting up an apocalyptic war. The fear reaction that we’re seeing is SPECIFICALLY what ISIS is trying to create. The reason it’s called “terrorism” is it aims to spread terror. When we live in terror, we have lost to terrorism. (Source)
 
4. We are limited to a total of 10,000 refugees from Syria this year. The vast majority are women and children. (Source)
 
I cannot think of a time I have ever been so ashamed to be an American as I have over the past two weeks, after seeing so many governors and mayors and presidential candidates give in to fear, paranoia, racism, xenophobia, and defeat.
 
Now is the time for us to be brave, to help, to rescue — to open our borders, not shut down in fear. If we do pass the outrageous house bill, we have lost. Lost our hearts, lost our minds, lost our courage, lost our humanity, lost to ISIS.

TiVo Study: 92% of People are ‘Binge Viewing’ Television – Fortune

Posted July 1st, 2015 at 1:15pm by Stephen

 

From the article: “A survey released on Tuesday by TiVo finds that 9 out of 10 people are engaging in “binge viewing,” which the digital video recording company defines as watching more than three episodes of a particular TV show in one day. According to TiVo, 92% of respondents to the company’s latest Binge Viewing Survey said they have engaged in the act of television gluttony at some point.”

Source: TiVo Study: 92% of People are ‘Binge Viewing’ Television – Fortune

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Fans Leave the Best Reviews for Wilton’s Edible Silver Mist [Nerdist]

Posted May 28th, 2015 at 7:19pm by Stephen


“It’s not enough for Immortan Joe’s War Boys to make a historic splash into Valhalla. Do heroics even matter if they’re not shiny and chrome? That’s a question for the ages, to be sure. The way the War Boys sprayed silver paint over their mouths and noses is one of the many eye-catching and memorable parts in Mad Max: Fury Road and something we’re bound to see replicated at conventions throughout the summer. Cosplayers don’t have to turn to toxic substances either, because food coloring spray maker Wilton has an edible spray-on silver mist, and the War Boys are already leaving reviews on Amazon. (Also, spoiler: Amazon still exists in the wasteland and the War Boys have access.) The hilarity started on the product page for Wilton’s Silver Color Mist on May 20 with this review from W. Bartels: “WITNESS ME! I WILL FEAST IN VALHALLA FOR I AM SHINY.” Because the Internet can be awesome, more reviews started pouring in.”

Source: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Fans Leave the Best Reviews for Wilton’s Edible Silver Mist | Nerdist

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is one of the most captivating movies I’ve seen in a long, long time — and I believe it’s the only movie that I’ve seen in the theater more than once for this entire millennium so far.

Despite being an action car chase movie with precious little dialogue, the world-building is deft. In particular, the practice of the war boys spraying up their grill (so to speak) in order to more proudly drive into Valhalla while shiny and chrome — that’s something immediately both understandable and bat crazy bizarre. Like the entire movie.

Thus the product being “reviewed” here on Amazon. WHAT A SPRAY.

Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius (The New Yorker)

Posted May 13th, 2015 at 10:25am by Stephen

Gene Wolfe’s science fiction is neither operatic nor scientifically accurate; his fantasy works are not full of clanging swords and wizardly knowledge.

Fascinating profile of one of my favorite writers.

Source: Sci-Fi’s Difficult Genius – The New Yorker

Marketing

Posted May 9th, 2015 at 1:18pm by Stephen

 – 

Kauai Photographs

Posted April 17th, 2015 at 5:20pm by Stephen

I’ve added a Flickr Album for our Kauai trip.

Kauai

Posted April 11th, 2015 at 12:49am by Stephen

I titled the last post “Aloha” because I’m in Kauai with Sammy and Sophie, flying back to California tomorrow. It’s been a great trip:

  • We flew in and landed late Friday night, and basically just crashed in our condo in Poipu since it was around 11pm (2am our time).
  • Saturday we had breakfast at the Grand Hyatt next door, shopped for groceries, and visited the pool and beach.
  • Sunday we used the pool, made reservations, and had a luau.
  • Monday was a raft ride up the Na Pali coast.
  • Tuesday was a kayak and zipline adventure.
  • Wednesday we hiked the Waimea Canyon.
  • Thursday was a pool and beach day, at Salt Pond Beach Park.
  • Today was a helicopter tour, followed by waterfall visits.
  • Tomorrow we’ll visit Poipu one more time, then pack and drive up to Kilauea Lighthouse before red eye home.

Wailua Falls, Kauai, April 10, 2015

Kauai is an amazing island: Laid back, verdant, friendly, and charming. I can’t wait to return here.

Aloha

Posted April 11th, 2015 at 12:16am by Stephen

Starting in 2009, most of my social media activity was in FriendFeed. I’ve written about it before; it was far better than Facebook, Twitter, and any other site in terms of features — and the community was tightknit and supportive, especially after Facebook acquired the site in 2011, and development ceased (causing the user base to slowly migrate away.

Today, FriendFeed died. Facebook pulled the plug.

There is a replacement site, Frenf.It, created by an Italian FF user known as Senape, and it offers a lot of promise. But when FF’s shutdown was announced a month ago, I resolved to return to blogging. In the past I was too much of a perfectionist and I let good post ideas languish (or just posted them to FF instead). I’ll try to just dash off quick posts here more frequently.  

Venmo: A case study on why e-mail verification is absolutely required by any web site with account creation

Posted October 10th, 2014 at 1:34pm by Stephen

I’ve had my estephen@gmail.com address since gmail was in beta, approximately 10 years now.

Now, personally, I don’t find it very difficult to remember my e-mail address. I can type it in just fine. But that’s far too challenging a task for many people, it seems. There’s an Edna, for example, who lives on the other side of the country from me. I know a lot about Edna — I know about her taste in cars and crafting supplies. The main thing I know about her is that she likes to sign up for lots of accounts and she believes her e-mail address is estephen@gmail.com. Poor Edna. And poor me, because I get a lot of her junk e-mail.

Sometimes I end up on e-mail threads having nothing to do with me. Two recent examples were a church group planning a camping trip, and a New York apartment complex trying to rally tenants to sue their landlord.

There is an Ed and an Elissa and quite a few others out there who have mistakenly used my e-mail address when signing up for accounts. Usually I can cancel their account or unsubscribe fairly simply. And sometimes I end up on a mailing list of a company that just refuses to take me off. (Car dealerships seem to be the worst at that one.)

Fortunately, many companies use e-mail verification: Before they let someone create an account, they send an e-mail off to whatever address was used to sign up, and require the recipient click on a link to confirm that the e-mail address is actually associated with the person who was trying to sign up. This is a smart process. It’s not entirely foolproof (since the e-mail recipient could confirm the address even if they’re a different person from the one who tried to sign up). But it’s far better than just relying on people to type in their own e-mail address correctly. You simply cannot trust people to be able to do that accurately.

Now a financial company, one that facilitates payments, you’d certainly expect them to use e-mail verification, right? Paypal and Square do. Both have elaborate processes to verify all aspects of your identity, up to and including your bank account (by sending a $1 charge to confirm that your debit card is real).

Today I had an experience with Venmo, a payments company similar to Square and Paypal (but with more of an apparent emphasis on Facebook integration). Venmo requires verification of your phone number, when signing up, but not your e-mail address. (They require e-mail confirmation to receive money, but not to create the account or send money.) Here is the e-mail exchange I’ve had with them earlier today that explains more.

[Screenshot of Venmo's cancellation screen]

Dear Venmo Support,

At some point in the past, someone named Exxxxxx Stepxxx created a Venmo account. She is apparently not a very attentive person, however, because she used the wrong e-mail address when creating the account — she used estephen@gmail.com.

Sad for her, but estephen@gmail.com is my e-mail address, and I have had it since when gmail was in beta.

Your company is idiotic to not require e-mail address verification. All of your competitors follow a typical process where an e-mail address cannot be used to create an account (or even changed on an account) unless a customer verifies that they actually have that e-mail address. The typical process is to send an e-mail stating that someone has created an account with this e-mail address, and then there’s a link to confirm the customer received the e-mail — thus proving the customer is in possession of that account.

For a banking company to not require address verification is absolutely moronic.

I had never heard of Venmo before today. I have never received any e-mail from your company before today.

But a friend wanted me to pay for a t-shirt using Venmo, so I tried to sign up today and found my e-mail address was already in use.

I thought perhaps I might have used your service in the past and forgotten about it, so I chose to reset my password.

Soon I received a password reset e-mail, and with one click I was logged in to Exxxxxx Stepxxx’s account.

From there, it appears I could see all kinds of financial and personal information about her account. She had a balance of $0, I didn’t check but it appeared to me that her bank accounts were also linked.

Instead of exploring her account, I chose to deactivate it immediately. She’s lucky.

But I’m flabbergasted that you are such a naive and terrible company that you let any customer type in any e-mail address they want and you just assume that they are able to type in their e-mail address correctly.

If you expect that your customers are actually able to remember their e-mail address and type it in, you are sadly mistaken. As a financial company you absolutely cannot trust people to be able to type their own e-mail address. YOU MUST IMPLEMENT E-MAIL VERIFICATION IMMEDIATELY.

I will create a new account using a different e-mail address to pay for my friend’s t-shirt, and then I will immediately cancel my account, because I suspect your company has one of the worst sets of security employees and practices in the entire financial world. You are demonstrably a completely untrustworthy company.

How can you be still in business?

FYI, I will be posting this to my blog, FriendFeed, Twitter, and Facebook. I will also be submitting this to popular security blogs. I will be recommending to all of my friends to not do business with you.

Please forward this message to your senior management, and in particular your security team.

My cell phone is 4xx-xxx-xxxx should you have any questions.

Kind regards,
Stephen Mack
The true owner of estephen@gmail.com for approximately the last 10 years

They replied about an hour later:

Hi Stephen, thanks for your very thorough review of our free service. We definitely appreciate constructive feedback from our users.

We also appreciate you looking out for the security of another user by canceling their account on their behalf.

When you created your account with your alternate email address, we sent a verification email to that address. If it’s not in your inbox, check your spam folder. The process is exactly as you’ve described. The email confirms that an account was set up with that email address, and provides a link for users to click in order to verify the account.

User bank and debit/credit card information is stored securely and entirely encrypted using bank-grade encryption technology. We only display the last four digits of a user’s bank account or card number, just as any other online retailer or financial institution does. This is so our users are clear about what funding sources they have on file at any given time.

We are continually working to improve the user experience and of course, the security of our free service and we value your comments.

I’ve noticed that you did successfully pay your friend but have not cancelled your account yet. If you are still dissatisfied with our free service, you can visit: https://venmo.com/account/settings/cancel to cancel your account.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us again.

Regards,
Tim

But this isn’t good enough, as my response details:

Tim,

Thanks for your detailed reply.

As you saw, I did in fact create my new account (and that’s good detective work on your part, since I used a completely different e-mail address). And I did receive an e-mail that offers me the OPTION of verifying my e-mail address in order to receive payments.

But that e-mail does NOT require me to verify the e-mail address to send payment. And most importantly it does not require me to verify that e-mail address BEFORE the account is created! That is completely horrifying and evil.

So, because of your company’s poor security practices, if I had used the wrong e-mail address, then the true owner of that e-mail address would have been able to see:

* My name
* My phone number
* My photo (if I uploaded one)
* My FB friends (if I had linked FB) or any other linked social media
* My transaction history
* The last 4 digits of my debit card and its expiration date
* My zip code (shown on the confirm cancellation screen)

You don’t mention if you’ve escalated this complaint to your security team and management or not. I highly recommend you do so.

It’s not so much that I’m “dissatisfied” with your “free service” as I am completely mortified at how horrifically terrible your security practices are.

I have not yet canceled my account because I’m investigating other ways in which you may be violating my privacy and security. But rest assured I will be canceling very soon.

I am currently in the process of writing my blog post about my experience. Please be advised that all e-mail communication sent to me regarding this case will be considered public and is likely to be included in my post.

Thanks for your quick response. Unfortunately your response doesn’t help with this security and privacy flaw, not by a long shot.

Best,
Stephen

Happy Seventh Birthday, Sophie

Posted September 24th, 2014 at 11:29pm by Stephen

Sophie,

Yesterday you turned seven, and each year you are sweeter and more caring. You’ve blossomed in first grade. I have to confess, I was a bit worried about your reading. Unlike your brother, you didn’t seem as interested in learning how to read on your own. I think you enjoyed having me or Sammy read to you a bit too much to drum up the enthusiasm to learn the rules on your own. Until first grade, that is. Thanks in part to your teacher, Mrs. Payne, and to your friends, you found the enthusiasm and focus to really learn. Now in second grade, reading is easy to you. Instead, I see you applying that same energy to learning math. I have no doubt that in a few months’ time, what seems hard to you now will be quite simple. It’s been the same way for swimming these last few months.

You have always been advanced for your age in the social arena. You are warm, friendly, loving, caring. You feel everything so strongly — whether it’s fear or joy. And such an easy-going girl; it’s no wonder you make friends so easily.

I also love how much you love music. Dancing with you is one of my favorite things in life. My love for you grows endlessly each year. I am overjoyed to watch you bloom in front of me. I can’t wait to see how your world grows next.

Much love,
Daddy

Sophie in 2007, being born

2007

Sophie in 2008, crawling around at her uncle Robert's house

2008

Sophie in 2009, in her old room in Mountain View

2009

Sophie in 2010, at a TiVo summer company party

2010

Sophie in 2011, at her pre-school

2011

Sophie in 2012, at the Mountain View Farmer's Market

2012

Sophie in 2013, holding a bead Shannon made

2013

Sophie in 2014, at the Mountain View Farmer's Market again

2014

Happy Ninth Birthday, Samuel

Posted September 17th, 2014 at 12:47am by Stephen

Sammy, Samuel, Sam —

I know you now wish to be called “Samuel,” and I’m trying, but it’s hard for me to get used to that particular change. I’m sorry in advance for the fact that I’m likely to call you “Sammy” basically for the rest of my life.

The last of your single-digit birthdays is today. In many ways, you’re already looking far ahead: Your reading level was assessed this week to be at the 10th grade level. The subjects you’re most interested in (biology, paleontology, astronomy, Lego construction) are advanced. But although you went through a phase where you were sure you already knew everything, you also are the same inquisitive four-year-old who asked “why” several hundred times a day. You’re not yet bored of asking your dad questions. That makes me profoundly happy. To be honest, I still catch myself staring at you sometimes when you’re talking, dumbstruck that you’re real.

You’re settling into yourself; you’re less moody and volatile. I’ve noticed this year in particular that you’ve become comfortable with what you WANT to do and what you CAN do — and you work each day to bridge the two.

My love for you grows endlessly each year. I can’t wait to see what’s next. I’m already proud of you.

Much love,
Your papa

Sammy in 2006, catching bubbles

2006

Sammy in 2007, at the Children's Discovery Museum

2007

Sammy in 2008, at a NASA display at the Mountain View Art and Wine Festival

2008

Sammy in 2009, eating a smore at the Seascape beach

2009

Sammy in 2010, at Big Basin Redwoods State Park

2010

Sammy in 2011, at a birthday party in Mountain View

2011

Sammy in 2012, at the Mountain View Farmer's Market

2012

Sammy in 2013, holding a bead Shannon made

2013

Sammy in 2014, at the Santa Clara County Fair with a snake around his neck

2014

Drought

Posted July 23rd, 2014 at 3:14pm by Stephen

I have lived in the Bay Area since 1979. I have never personally seen the Lexington Reservoir off Highway 17 near Los Gatos as low as it is currently, although historically it has been lower both due to construction and previous droughts.

The East side is currently at 18.1% of capacity.

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, East side, at low water levels, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack]

The West side is drained:

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, West side, at zero water level, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack

Someone has started an art project in the lake bed. Or finished one, I’m not sure which.

[photo of Lexington Reservoir, West side, with the words I MISS written in stones, taken Monday, July 21, 2014; photo by Stephen Mack

I’ve heard news reports that water boards across the state aren’t setting penalties for wasting water — because when water usage is reduced, they lose money.

So it’s up to us.

At my house, we’re flushing less, trying to reduce bath water use, and not watering the lawn at all. I wonder what more we can do.

PowerPoint: “I heard you liked hidden things, so I hid the hide menu afforandance”

Posted January 22nd, 2014 at 1:56pm by Stephen

I delivered a company-wide brown bag at work today. I was surprised during the presentation that a slide I’d included wasn’t displayed. I began to question myself. “Did I forget to copy and paste in this slide?” Afterwards, I found out that the slide was marked hidden. But it’s no surprise that I didn’t notice. Observe:

[Image of the right-click menu in PowerPoint, with a very subtle indicator that a slide is hidden

Bad PowerPoint, bad

I actually saw the gray coloring of the slide when I copy-and-pasted it into my presentation, and wondered if that meant it was hidden. I right-clicked on the slide, and expected it to say “Unhide Slide” if it was actually hidden. Since it said Hide Slide, and I didn’t want to hide the slide, I thought I was fine.

I now see that the subtle 1-pixel wide orange border around the icon next to the words “Hide Slide” means that it was hidden. And the slide was therefore skipped during the presentation.

So, there are two affordances used by PowerPoint to show the slide is hidden:

  1. Gray text in the body of the slide in the main display area
  2. A pale orange 1-pixel border around an icon that I never pay any attention

Trouble is, #1 I thought was because the slide’s text was SUPPOSED to be gray. And #2 was way way way way way way too subtle for me to notice.

PowerPoint, I give you an F. See me after class.

My wish for 2014

Posted January 1st, 2014 at 6:15pm by Stephen

As we throw away the calendar for 2013, a blank year stretches ahead. May those who are in pain find solace. May those who are consumed by grief find joy. May those who are paralyzed by regret find redemption. May peace, love, and friendship find us all.

I resolve to work harder to see every argument from the other person’s point of view.

I resolve to find the proper balance between work, family, friends, play, health, and obligations.

I resolve to adhere to the rule of three.

Happy new year!

Resolution update: June report card

Posted July 27th, 2013 at 11:43pm by Stephen

Halfway through the year already! Way past time for report card #6. I had a difficult time finishing this one for some reason.

In terms of exercise, May and June were together the two most active months of my life. Let’s see how I did on my goals.

  1. Strive to always pay full attention to those I’m around.

    I worked hard at trying to improve my “presence” in June. It’s still hard for me to be objective about this, but I do think I made some progress, and in particular when I was with my kids tried to really be there for them 100% of the time I was with them. I’d love feedback from friends and family on how I’m doing.

    Status: Let’s say B for June.

  2. Read two books a month (including the free book each month for having a Kindle and Amazon Prime).

    Over on FriendFeed, we started our Kindler’s List reading group, and our first book was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I enjoyed it just fine, but it didn’t blow me away.

    In addition, I finished NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (which I had been reading on and off for quite a while). I was blown away and recommend it unconditionally to parents with children of any age. Fantastic book.

    1. Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants: Three stars
    2. Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s NurtureShock: New Thinking about Children: Five stars

    Status: A- (since I’d read a lot of NurtureShock in previous months).

  3. Run three 5k races and one 10k race, spaced throughout the year.

    No update from last month; I still need to select a 10k to be run before September 30, and after that I have a 5k in November lined up with Amanda and Tamara.

    Status: Two down, two to go! Not yet complete, but on track.

  4. For the other 8 months, set and accomplish a goal each a month in RunKeeper (total distance, speed, etc.).

    For June, my goal was to run 50 miles. I managed to run 56.1 miles, per my RunKeeper profile. That’s a new record for me.

    [Stats from RunKeeper showing miles run for Stephen from January to June, 2013]

    So far in 2013 (through June 30), I’ve run a total of 243 miles. I am not sure if I can hit 500 miles total for 2013, but that seems like a great stretch goal to aim for.

    Status: A.

  5. Keep up with the Fitbit by walking at least 10k steps a day (about 5 miles) — accomplish this 28 days each month.

    [Graph of June steps]

    In June, Fitbit shows that I walked a total of 453,366 steps (down a bit from 491,069 steps in May), with an average of 15,112 steps per day (down from 15,841), a most active day of 21,003 steps, and a least active day of 10,521 steps. I did not miss my 10k step goal at all in June. There were 3 days over 20k steps (down from 8 in May).

    Status: A.

  6. Each month, have at least 9 runs, 9 calisthenics/abs workouts, and 9 weightlifting sessions.

    I had 15 runs, but just as in April, I only had 8 sessions of calisthenics and 8 sessions of weightlifting (although I did a better job of spacing them out throughout the month). Just as before, the extra runs offset the missed workouts, but I could have easily done it all.

    As I noted last month, I had originally set this goal to be 2 workouts per week of each type, and then switched to 9 a month, and I pointed out that that structure makes it too easy for me to slack off in the early part of the month. That’s been the case in June as well. I will need to do better at spacing out the workouts.

    Status: B-.

  7. After my dental surgery in December, the surgeon commanded me to floss twice daily. Then in April he told me it should be three times a day. So shall I do.

    Per Flossy, I flossed 3.0 times a day on average (between 2 and 4 times each day, with only two days where I didn’t meet my goal of three times a day). I did have a dental checkup in July, and I did well (my gums were in much better shape), so the flossing is having a positive effect. I recently finally got around to buying a waterpik.

    Status: A-.

  8. Drink more water, coffee, and tea; continue with the elimination I started last year of soda/diet soda/juice. (One soda or juice drink a week is acceptable.)

    I had three sugar drinks and one diet soda in June, about on par with May. I had one week with two forbidden drinks, so I did not keep to the allowable limits.

    Status: C-.

  9. By year’s end, eliminate non-dairy sweeteners (both sugar and artificial) from the coffee I drink.

    Still struggling with this one. I was not good at keeping to the mid-week (Tue-Thu) unsweetened coffee.

    Status: Incomplete, not yet on track, need to do better.

  10. Start tracking my spending more closely with Mint.

    Did a bit better in June on this.

  11. Start writing again: Write at least one short story this year, and post to this blog at least once a month.

    Two blog posts in June not about resolutions (both mainly images).

    Status: B-.

Star Wars versus Game of Thrones: Hosting

Posted July 26th, 2013 at 12:40pm by Stephen

[Two screen captures. One from Empire Strikes back showing Chewbacca, Leia, and Han being betrayed by Lando. Caption reads: 'My host betrayed me. You'd never believe it.' The other from season 3 of Game of Thrones shows Cat at the Red Wedding. Caption reads: 'I might.'

(See Mashable’s summary of the Star Wars versus Game of Thrones battle.)

Resolution update: May report card

Posted June 14th, 2013 at 2:33pm by Stephen

It’s mid-June, so it must be time to write my report card for May.

  1. Strive to always pay full attention to those I’m around.

    In May I tried to leave my iPhone and laptop at my desk a bit more and work on being truly present, especially for my kids. I still need to improve, however. If you catch me not paying 100% attention to you when I’m around you, please let me know.

    Status: Let’s say B- for May.

  2. Read two books a month (including the free book each month for having a Kindle and Amazon Prime).

    I didn’t finish a damn thing in May — just a few chapters here and there. However! I did something about it: Now there’s a FriendFeed reading group, where we select a free book from the Amazon Lending Library for Kindle. (We’re reading Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen to start.) So while I failed in May, I should be back on track in June.

    Status: F.

  3. Run three 5k races and one 10k race, spaced throughout the year.

    I ran a race in May! It was the Chick Chaser 5k (suggested to me by Sparky), sponsored by the Silicon Valley Tri Club. This was held in the beautiful Los Gatos Creek park, with only 35 female and 42 male runners competing (big contrast to my last two 5ks, which included thousands of runners).

    I was happy with my place in the results — 23rd place among the men and 29th overall, with a 7:25 pace. I started out at a faster pace than usual for me — 6:35 for the first mile — but that was in a vain attempt to keep up with all the triathletes who were zooming past me. My activity record in RunKeeper shows that after the first mile, I slowed down to about a 7:45 pace.

    [Stephen crossing finish line of Chick Chaser 5k; Los Gatos, CA; May 10, 2013, photo by Rama, courtesy of SVTC]

    The winners ran at a pace well under six minutes, which is intimidating to me — and it wasn’t because they’re younger. The fastest male was 47. So I can take that as inspiration that I can run faster than I do today.

    I still need to select a 10k to be run before September 30, and then I have a 5k in November lined up.

    Status: Two down, two to go! Not yet complete, but on track.

  4. For the other 8 months, set and accomplish a goal each a month in RunKeeper (total distance, speed, etc.).

    Well, since I ran a race in May, I shouldn’t also have a separate RunKeeper goal for May, but I did set one for running 45 miles. I was proud of myself for my longest running distance in a month to date, 52.1 miles — beating the 50 mile mark for the first time.

    For June, I want to repeat that accomplishment. My RunKeeper profile shows I’m on track to run 50 miles in the month.

    [Stats from RunKeeper showing miles run for Stephen from July of 2012 through June 14, 2013]

    So far in 2013 (through today), I’ve run a total of 211.1 miles. I wonder if I could hit the 500 mile mark for 2013.

    Status: A.

  5. Keep up with the Fitbit by walking at least 10k steps a day (about 5 miles) — accomplish this 28 days each month.

    [Graph of May steps]

    In May, Fitbit shows that I walked a total of 491,069 steps (up sharply from 407,972 steps in April), with an average of 15,841 steps per day (up from 13,599), a most active day of 24,112 steps, and a least active day of 10,004 steps. I did not miss my 10k step goal at all in May. I was proud to have 8 days over 20k steps (including a weekend with back-to-back 20k days), whereas in April I didn’t even have a single day above 20k steps.

    Status: A.

  6. Each month, have at least 9 runs, 9 calisthenics/abs workouts, and 9 weightlifting sessions.

    I had 15 runs, but just as in April, I only had 8 sessions of calisthenics and 8 sessions of weightlifting (although I did a better job of spacing them out throughout the month). Just as before, the extra runs offset the missed workouts, but I could have easily done it all.

    As I noted last month, I had originally set this goal to be 2 workouts per week of each type, and then switched to 9 a month, and I pointed out that that structure makes it too easy for me to slack off in the early part of the month. That’s been the case in June as well. I will need to do better at spacing out the workouts.

    Status: B-.

  7. After my dental surgery in December, the surgeon commanded me to floss twice daily. Then in April he told me it should be three times a day. So shall I do.

    Per Flossy, I flossed 3.2 times a day on average (between 2 and 5 times each day, with six days where I didn’t meet my goal of three times a day). I am proud of getting so much closer to hitting the goal. But I still need to buy a waterpik.

    Status: B+.

  8. Drink more water, coffee, and tea; continue with the elimination I started last year of soda/diet soda/juice. (One soda or juice drink a week is acceptable.)

    I had two sugar drinks and two diet sodas in May, a bit worse than April. But it was still within the allowable limits.

    Status: A.

  9. By year’s end, eliminate non-dairy sweeteners (both sugar and artificial) from the coffee I drink.

    Not doing so well on this one — a lot of syrups and flavored lattes. To give myself something concrete to accomplish, starting in July (which is halfway through the year) I will allow myself sweeteners four days a week, on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Mid-week coffee will be coffee and milk (and ice) only. I will phase that down to end the year with no sweeteners.

    Status: Incomplete, not yet on track but with a plan of attack.

  10. Start tracking my spending more closely with Mint.

    Still on track with this, but still need to spend more time classifying expenses and reining in spending.

  11. Start writing again: Write at least one short story this year, and post to this blog at least once a month.

    Zero blog posts in May not about resolutions. It should have been easy, but I didn’t do it.

    Status: F.

Congratulations, Sophie

Posted June 11th, 2013 at 10:06am by Stephen

Sophie's kindergarten diploma

Sophie graduated from Kindergarten today. She began the year able to read and write her name and maybe one or two other words. After a year of homework and effort, she’s now able to read at a first grade level, and she enjoys writing her own stories.

Well done, sweetie! We love you.

Sophie holding her diploma, Ellis School, Sunnyvale, CA, June 11, 2013

Sophie and her Kindergarten teacher