July 2007 Archives

what's a parent to do?

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Me: I talked to Lane today. He managed to solve the malware problem on his computer by himself.

Gerald: How?

Me: He did a lookup on the IP addresses associated with the ads, figured out what company they were from, and then searched for common .dll files associated with that company. He found four of them in his system32 directory and deleted them, then checked his registry to be sure there was nothing else from the company. Now everything works.

Gerald: What are we going to do about him?

Me: Well, we can talk to him about better safety and security practices and keeping his virus and malware scanners up to date.

Gerald: No, I mean what are we going to about having a kid who's such a [freak]ing genius with computers? It's scary.

This was a busy travel week for the Lawley family; Alex arrived solo from Rochester (via United) on Monday afternoon, 45 minutes before I got on a flight to Chicago. Then Lane left solo for Rochester (via Delta) on Tuesday morning, 15 hours before I flew back to Seattle.

This was the first time the boys had traveled by themselves, and I wasn't too terribly worried about it. All the airlines now charge a hefty "unaccompanied minor" fee for kids alone ($99 for United, $75 for Delta), and in return they promise to keep track of your kids and their tickets, get them to their connecting flights, etc. Since they're both seasoned travelers, I figured there'd be no problem.

With Alex, there wasn't. My mom put him on the first flight in Rochester, he connected without incident at Dulles, and Gerald and I met him in Seattle. United handled everything perfectly, and he was in good spirits when he arrived. (Although a little cross about the garish red and white striped button they'd made him wear, which he felt looked quite awful with his camo-print t-shirt.)

With Lane, however, Delta screwed up royally, and the more I think about it the angrier I get.

He made it home safely, and my mom picked him up at the airport as scheduled. But he nearly ended up in Albany rather than Rochester. Why? Because some idiot Delta employee in Atlanta PUT HIM ON THE WRONG PLANE. WTF? How the hell does that happen? How do you put someone on the wrong plane? Thank goodness someone on the flight realized it before they took off, and they relocated him to the correct plane for Rochester--moments before it was supposed to leave.

Yes, all's well that ends well. But it was a pretty upsetting experience for all of us, including Lane. And it has seriously shaken my trust in Delta airlines. There are few responsibilities as important as taking care of a child's well being, and they dropped the ball on this in a very big way. So today I'm dealing with Delta's "customer care"--at a minimum, I want the unaccompanied minor feel waived. But I would expect that they'd do more than that if they want our business in the future, including giving us an explanation of how they intend to improve their procedures so that this doesn't continue to happen.


Update, 7/26: After I provided them with the receipt number by phone today, customer care did refund the $75 (or so they say; I'll believe it when I see the reversed charges on our Amex bill). But when I asked them to please provide me with information on how this was followed up, and what changes (if any) were instituted to prevent it from happening again, they said I'd have to go onto the website and write a complaint, because they weren't empowered to follow-up with me directly. Ridiculous. I've updated the title of this entry so that it can leverage my Google page rank to bring the post up when someone searches for Delta and "unaccompanied minor." Here are some other key phrases that should help: "children traveling alone" "kids traveling alone" "children flying alone" "kids flying alone" "unaccompanied child" "child flying alone" "child flying solo" . Any others that should be added? Put 'em in the comments. I'm already the #2 site for "delta unaccompanied." :)

the nightmare of air travel today

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I got to the airport 8 hours before my scheduled flight, and put myself on the standby list for a 5:10 flight instead of my originally scheduled 9:30pm flight. When I showed up at the gate at 4:40, I found that the flight had been delayed until 7:10--still better than 9:30, so I went back to the Delta club lounge to relax and wait.

At 6:45pm I got cleared from the standby list, and at 6:58pm we pulled away from the gate. But...twenty minutes later, after touring the runways of O'Hare, the captain announced that we had an electrical problem and that maintenance had been called. So it's now 7:35 and we're back at the gate, trapped on the airplane, with no informaiton on how long this might take. Welcome to the wonderful world of today's air travel, eh?

I foolishly chose not to eat before I got on the plane, since I'd had a snack and some drinks in the lounge, and I figured I could buy a snack box on the plane. Bad move on my part...I'm starting to get hungry now, and there's no telling when food or beverages will be accessible.

It doesn't help that I'm seated in a middle seat, next to a woman who's extremely cross about the delay. Yelling into her phone won't help much. :)

airport club lounge observations

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Nobody, but nobody, in these clubs has a mac. There are laptops everywhere, but they're all running windows.

Many people seem incapable of reading or heeding signs that say "quiet zone: no cell phones in this room." Even when there are plenty of seats in the other rooms where they could talk.

Readily available wifi, wine, and cheese and crackers make this lengthy wait at O'Hare much more bearable. Still, I'm hoping I get onto the 5:10pm flight that I'm on standby for, rather than waiting until 9:10pm (arriving in Seattle at 11:40pm pacific time :P ).

ala gaming and libraries: thom gillespie

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Thom's talk is on "why we shouldn't take serious games seriously." He starts with some great stories about his experiences with how giving people the ability to create media changes everything. The stories don't translate well from his conversational style to the blog, so I'm not going to try to include them here, other than to say that they're pretty compelling anecdotes about the power of participatory media. I'm reminded of how critically important stories are.

Talks about moving from the library school to the telecom dept at Indiana because the library school simply didn't get fun and entertainment.

Studying games is not reading some critical analysis of a game--it's playing the game. Play first, talk/analyze afterwards. You can't critically analyze a film without watching the film. He brings students to his house to eat and play games--he provides food, they provide the games. Board games, card games, things that allow real socializing during play.

Shows a picture of people playing DS games, where they don't even talk--compared to the board games where they're interacting constantly. ("Like a room full of Trappist monks bent over their texts...")

Nothing inhibits the design of any game more thana room full of computers. The most important thing is a big table, with paper and scissors and markers and tape.

Lots of great examples of how he teaches game design--mostly at his house. :)

Must go prepare for my talk. (And yes, I'll post the slides when I'm done.)

microsoft lifechat lx-3000 headset on mac os x


The short version: it works, perfectly. Yay!

The long version: I've been wanting a USB headset (headphones + microphone) for a while, primarily to use with Teamspeak (a voice chat program that my WoW guild uses when we do group activities online), but also for VOIP tools like Skype. I'd looked over the options in local stores, and on Amazon, and couldn't find a low-priced but reasonably well rated model that claimed to work with my Mac.

At the Microsoft company store last week, I decided to pick up the Microsoft Lifechat LX-3000--it was only $20, and I figured I could use it on my Vaio even if it didn't work on my Mac. The packaging claimed it was for Windows only (unlike MSFT mice, which usually advertise their cross-platform compatibility quite prominently), so my expectations were low.

I was very pleasantly surprised, however, when I plugged the headset into my MacBook Pro's USB port. Under my sound options I immediately saw "Lifechat LX-3000" as a choice for both input and output. It worked like a charm in the Mac version of Teamspeak.

The headset is comfortable, and the quality of sound seems quite good. On the downside, it's hard to imagine looking any geekier than I do with it on. :)

Came in a little late, and Eric Horvitz is giving examples of how data mining your own activity (driving patterns, for example) can provide useful predictive services. ("Going to the airport? There's a backup on I-5 South.")

Users should control their ow data mines. There should be a shroud of privacy between your local private data and other systems. Context and additional content can come from outside, but personal data and resulting predictive models should be inside.

Notes that what's offensive and intrusive changes over time. In the 1800s, "rapid photography" was intrusive, and in the 1920's a ringing phone intruded into the private sanctity of the home. Shows some research they've done on people's preferences about sharing what with whom. What kinds of information are treated similarly? Currently working on privacy preferences and tradeoffs with web services. What's the biggest "bang" you can get for the personal data "buck"?

Value has a diminishing returns (submodular) curve, while the cost is an accelerating curve (supermodular). Can combine those to find the "sweet spot"--where should you stop asking about information because it will make people uncomfortable and not give you much of an increase in value?

Shows the survey they used about how much people are willing to share--I actually took this survey about 3 weeks ago. I wonder about the generalizability of this data, though, since the target survey population was very tech-savvy folks, many of whom are well aware of how much information is already stored about them. Notes that there is a rise in "preference and intention machines" that balance risk and benefit.

Next up, Tadayoshi Kohno from Univ of Washington. Talks about what privacy "actually means." Starts with dictionary definitions. Argh. I hate it when my students do this. It's too much of a cliched presentation opening.

One response people have is "privacy is dead, deal with it." Also "I've got nothing to hide." (I hear this a lot from my students.) And users often choose improved functionality over privacy (for example, customer loyalty cards).

On the other hand, some people say that privacy is critical. When people hear about privacy breeches, this can (temporarily) change their views. For example, the AOL search log controversy, the implementation of Facebook news feeds.

Shows a news article showing that loyalty card details have been used in some court cases (eg divorce cases). [that would be a nice example to use in my class]

Who's responsible for protecting private info? The data collector? The user?

Ends with "privacy is not dead, just complicated."

[There are more speakers, but I'm tired of transcribing...]

Oh, great line from an MSR researcher whose name I didn't catch (will fill it in later): "Privacy is a non-renewable resource."

msr faculty summit: using social relevance to enhance CS


John Nordinger talks about the fact that they've used gaming to reinvigorate CS curricula, but are concerned that some are being left behind with that. So they're starting to think about socially relevant curricula to broaden the appeal further. Many schools are still seing a precipitous decline in enrollments, and this is one possible solution.

Shows a graph of enrollment that's quite grim. It's not just the already known problem of few women, but men are declining as well. Becoming an issue of national competitiveness, as well. Asian PhDs are growing rapidly, ours are declining. Our internet use is still top, but growing at 2%/year, while China (currently #2) is growing at 20%/year.

What do they mean by "socially relevant"? What's socially relevant to girls that are sophomore, juniors, seniors in high school. (I'd argue relevant to middle school, which is closer to where we lose them.) It can be "top down," like global warming, AIDS, etc. Students are influenced by media--both online and broadcast/print. But also bottom-up relevance...what is relevant to them now, and how can we make computers/programming more compelling to them? (Programming their own Facebook apps, for example. Tools for personal finance, shopping, etc.)

How can we make CS more compelling to people not currently drawn to the field? How can we engage a new crop of students and make them feel good not only about what they make/contribute, but also about computing generally.

John hands off to Devika Subramian (Rice).

She says "Where have all the freshmen gone?" has become our new theme song in CS.

Where are the "defectors" going? To other branches of science and engineering. Why? They see CS curriculum as very narrow. CS = programming. Computing for its own sake is unappealing. They foresee a "Dilbertian" future as 'programmer cogs'. They see BioE and EE as offering more opportunity to have an impact on RL problems. CS is seen as the plumbing, rather than the idea side of the process. It's perceived as a support or overhead function, as opposed to a mainline/value-generating function.

The price of our sucess is that ubiquity of computers make them fundamentallyless interesting as an object of study. This generation of students is very entrepreneurial. But our current CS curricula doesn't prepare them for recognizing and leveraging business related opportunities related to computing. (So why doesn't MSR bring MIS and IT faculty to these events? We're the ones who do know this...)

We have, for the most part, let outsiders define who we are. We need to let people know that we are more than just programmers. So, what message can we send?

  • A place where a small group of people can still make revolutionary advances in all areas of society (Microsoft, Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, eBay, etc)
  • The primary technological enabler for solving real-world problems; creating needs and meeting them. [hmmm. creating needs??]

What is socially relevant computing? It is computing for a cause, for a purpose. For example: "can we evacuate Houston in 72 hours?"; "can we predict the efficacy of a cancer drug for patiens by using their genomic and proteomic profiles?" It is computing that meets a need in some context---how can computation help me organize my music, my thoughts? It embeds the study of ocmputer science in the context of society.

Provides some examples of existing curricula that do this, but says we can do much more. Describes how Rice is offering a new CS1/CS2 course this fall in conjunction with Civil & Env Eng and Poli Sci, with support from the City of Houston, to buld computational tools for planning the city's response to major hurricanes.

Shows a really nicely done video that advertises a bioengineering course at Rice called "Bioengineering and World Health." Why don't we have this kind of compelling course and marketing material in all of our CS curricula? What would that look like? Mentions the "Threads" curriculum at Georgia Tech, and the Chicago Math Spiral Approach. (I'll add links later.)

Now on to Mike Buckley from Univ of Buffalo. They're overhauling their CS1 and CS2 and capstone classes, as well as their labs. Why do students overwhelmingly go into social science in greater numbers than CS?

He looked at four textbooks, and shows the inane examples that they use. Counting donuts. Counting puppies. Constructing ducks. It's embarassing. Newspapers, however, are a better source of examples. What's the #1 cause of firefighter deaths, for example? Heart attacks. So he used that example as a focal point for the CS1 curriculum that year (would like more information on this; he's very vague, constrained on time--but he's close enough to set up a visit when I get back to rochester).

How can we attract non-traditional CS students--including students at academic risk, and those with behavioral problems?

They build a research lab where students could investigate problems outside of their coursework. They use non-traditional ancillary materials, and draw on expertise outside of the classroom.

For the first month, they teach dsign and modeling. How programmers view the world. Problem spaces vs solution spaces. "The Dream Curve". Their labs and example problems have a societal emphasis. They talk about "The Tao of Engineering": ritualists, pessimists, travelers.

Makes his freshmen read The Tao of Pooh, the Design of Everyday Things, Buddhism Plain and Simple, Neutral (about a 14yo with CP). [oooo...so cool!] No puppies and ducks, but modeling distribution of pollution in the great lakes. random numbers, they use the Princeton Egg simulation for predicting the future.

They study the Therac-5, the Hubble deformity, the Denver Airport baggage system, and other engineering errors.

His capstone students work with the severely disabled, building systems that help real people. Shows wonderful, inspirational examples. (All static photos, though. He totally needs videos about this!!)

Bill Griswold's presentation is actually entitled "Community on the Go: The Quest for Mobile 2.0". I'm trying to ignore the "2.0" buzzword usage.

He claims web 2.0 is "democracy on the internet," or "democracy made possible on the internet," which I find a bit of a stretch. The audience here, I have to remember is very traditional CS faculty--not, for the most part, people who live in today's web services world. So he's giving a pretty basic overview of "look! my mom can comment on my photos" and "this is what we call a 'mashup'." What are dangers, he asks..."noise, misinformation, you can't escape your past." Those are no different from physical space he says (I'd disagree, particularly on the last item).

I suspect I'm not going to learn much here, but this might be a good presentation to point some of my less web-savvy colleagues towards.

Mobile 2.0 is Web 2.0 everywhere, all the time. However, it's in a "divided attention" context. What kind of democracy do you get in a divided attention context, he asks. (Well, our students are already dividing their attention, even at a larger screen. It's a reality, not a possiblity.)

The web experience is incomplete, he says. (Andy Phelps is typing on his iPhone next to me right now, and raises his eyebrows, flashing me the quite-complete Safari browser he's looking at.)

He talks about hardware shortcomings, but most of what he's talking about is a short-term problem (processor speed, graphics capability, short battery life).

Says Twitter is "Mobile 1.5". Makes some claims that I wonder about..."most Twitters come from the web", for example. That's exactly the kind of research I'd like to do. Most people generalize about Twitter based on their and their social network's use of the tool.

Where we could really be in mobile 2.0 is "augmenting the real-world commons." Adds the idea of "microtasking," "proactivity" (where your phone lets you know that you should be paying attention to something), "context awareness," "in situ computing," and "public displays."

Added dangers--trying to sip from a fire hose, the stalking aspect of context awareness. (Leaves out corporate "stalking" and data gathering; do we really want Google, or AT&T, to be able to track our every move?)

In the microtasking discussion, he makes some claims about Flickr (compared to the Dropshots) he shows that I think are incorrect--for example that Dropshots organizes photos by date, but Flickr only gives you a linear flow. In fact, Flickr has many ways to view photos, many pivot points (including day, date, month, year, tag, etc).

Talks about "in situ computing" in the context of his active classroom work. Allowed students to ask questions anonymously in a backchannel (his work on active classroom is great...one of the best quotes I've heard about backchannels was his line that it "prioritizes the question, not the questioner.") Love, love, love what he's doing with the use of mobiles and SMS in this context. Great stuff. They've got an "ActiveCampus Explorer" for the mobile that looks very cool. Campus map, local chat/messaging, etc.

Discusses some context aware apps they've been working on--for example, location-based reminders. (e.g. When I get home, remind me to call my Mom.) What if you could leave annotations related to a place ("this restaurant has great hot cocoa") for a specific person, or a group of people connected to you--and they'd see it only if/when they went to that place, or searched for notes related to that place. This is the kind of mobile app I'm really fascinated by. They studied this, and found that people used location as a proxy for other concepts (busy/not busy). Found that it calmed people--"it was a relief knowing I would be reminded." Interesting, and relates to the whole David Allen "open loop" concept.

Proactivity---augmenting peripheral perception. They used something called "PeopleTones", which played a friend's unique sound when s/he is nearby. First problem is detecting proximity reliably using celltower triangulation. The second is conveying the alert unobtrusively; they use da short personal sound clip and vibration. Two novel vibration encoding algorithms were used ("think microMorse code"). Nature sounds were not effective for identifying who it was, but music was very effective (whether music was chosen by self or target). Even though they expected music to be more disruptive, they found that users found it more helpful than annoying. Even if they didn't act on the knowledge, they "liked to know" that someone was nearby. (This is important. Ambient presence. He notes, and I agree, that this is also the appeal of Twitter.)

"When I was going to Bob's birthday, I know who was there when I pulled up because of the ringtones."

"I could tell if Melissa was home when I passed by Claremont." (Hmmm...that definitely brings up the stalking question!)

Mashup idea that came out of this: Mashup PeopleTones with Place-Its ("pounce" on someone you need to talk to about something).

(Note to self...talk to Kevin Li about this later this week; he's an intern at MSR this summer.)

Moves on to the topic of "community-based context awareness"--what if everyone carried a carbon dioxide sensor that coud report atmospheric conditions and report them to a central server so that aggregate information was available. (Hmmm...this seems like it would be awfully easy to game if you were an unethical industry person. Coudln't you spam inaccurate information intentionally?)

Also discusses "RealityFlythrough"--multiple cameras viewing the same scene, stitched together into a single immersive coherent view (basically video Photosynth, it sounds like). Really interesting idea/demo.

no, i still don't want an iphone

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We saw quite a few iPhone-toting folks at GLS, and also visited an AT&T store where we got to play with them for a while.

Yes, the UI is amazing. It's beautiful. It's seductive. And no, I still don't want one.

Biggest reason why not? I have semi-long fingernails (not outrageous, but feminine). And they make it nearly impossible for me to hit the keys on the iPhone's screen-based keyboard. It was incredibly frustrating trying to type in URLs or addresses. I don't have that problem with the keyboard on my Blackjack, nor is it an issue on a stylus-based interface. But the iPhone is really tough for me to enter information onto. That's bad.

My hope is that future models will include a styus option, or something that makes it easier for me to do text entry. 3G data would be nice, too. And the ability to send photos directly to Flickr. So, I can wait.

returning home from gls


Lane and I are on our way back from Madison, where we just attended the Games, Learning & Society conference. Lane spoke on two panels, I spoke on one, and we both had a great time.

Thursday night, my guild had a RL meetup and WoW-playing session in a lab on the UW campus. We crammed about 20 not entirely sober people into the room, and much hilarity ensued. Lane was with us, and when Gerald called to see what we were doing Lane hesitated and said "Well, it's not exactly a conference activity." Indeed. :)

Lane did amazingly well on both of his panels...he's a natural, and enjoyed it enough that he wants to go back next year and speak again. (So, if you're looking for an articulate and technically-savvy teen to speak at your conference, let me know..) I didn't get photos of him, alas (poor planning on my part, but the folks from Global Kids got at least one.

I had a good time on our "Families Who Game Together" panel, and an even better time taking part in a mock trial (of World of Warcraft, for being "bad" to a teenager) that Ted Castronova ran during his fireside chat session on Friday.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was the strong sense that there is not yet a reliable and authoritative source of good information on video games and gaming for parents--especially parents who aren't gamers themselves. That's something I want to try to address this fall. The Lab was already planning to start running educational seminars on social networking software (like Facebook and MySpace) for the Rochester community this year; we can easily add gaming to those plans, and also work on creating an online resource (along with the other faculty in our game design & development program). Seems like a promising direction for looking for funding, as well. :)

For now, Lane and I are resting comfortably in the Northwest WorldClubs lounge at MSP. Well worth the $85 for a two-month membership. Free wifi for both our computers saves us $20 right away. Free wine and snacks saves us another $20. And having a comfortable place to sit where it's quiet and there are ample power outlets during our three hour layover? Well, that's priceless.

a perfect weekend

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Lighthouse Through Trees - Lime Kiln Point State Park On Saturday morning, Gerald and I dropped Lane off at Lili's house, and headed north to Anacortes, where we caught the 11am ferry to Friday Harbor. On our past trips, we've always parked and walked on to the ferry, but this time we decided to take our car--and I'm so glad we did.

After we checked in to our very nice room at Elements (an old motel that's been renovated into quite chic rooms, with lovely lighting, bedding, and shower fixtures) and took a nap, we got back in the car and did a full circuit of the island. We drove through Roche Harbor (which looked like your typical touristy town), and then stopped at English Camp National Historical Site, San Juan County Park (omg, so beautiful, I'm actually thinking that I might be willing to camp there, and I'm not really a camping out kind of a girl), Lime Kiln Point State Park, and then American Camp National Historical Site.

We ended the day with a lovely dinner at a restaurant by the marina, and a good night's sleep. In the morning, we had a leisurely breakfast at a local eatery, parked our car in the line for the 1pm ferry, and then went to my favorite bookstore in the whole world, Serendipity Books, where I got three novels I've been wanting to read, Gerald got a great bok on birding in the San Juan islands, and we found a gorgeous book of photos of Alaska, to whet our appetite for the cruise we're taking in August.

I took photos all along the way, including up-close-and-personal shots of a fox and some young bucks who allowed us to pull up next to them on the road. I pined for a telephoto lens, though, for shots of the further-off wildlife. That will definitely be my next big-ticket purchase.

All in all, it was perfect weekend...capped off by my WoW guild finally downing all of the bosses in Shadow Labyrinth, something we've been trying to do for month.

Tonight I'll go to bed tired and happy.

why i'm not lusting after an iphone (yet)


I've been an Apple early adopter since before most of my students were born. I had a 128K Mac hot off the assembly line in 1984--my father paid for half of its $2400 cost as my college graduation present.

I've owned a Mac SE, a Quadra, a Powerbook 170, a Newton (yes, a Newton!), a PowerBook 540c, an iMac, a PowerBook G3, a 17" PowerBook G4, and I currently have a 17" MacBook Pro. I owned a first generation iPod, too.

So why don't I have (or even want) an iPhone? It's not that I can't afford it--right now is actually a time when I can afford new gadgets. And it's not because I'm tied to another cellular carrier--I'm already an AT&T/Cingular customer. It's not because I don't want my phone to be more than a phone, because I do.

There are two reasons.

The first is that after over twenty years of being an early adopter of new Apple products, I'm starting to realize that the fun of being the first on the block to own the new gadget is often outweighed by the speed with which Apple releases a new, improved, and often cheaper version of that same gadget. With the MacBook Pro, I really feel that I got burned (even literally) by that. My MBP is outrageously hot (so hot that even the keyboard becomes uncomfortable to use when a graphics intensive program is running), has a loud hard drive, gets terrible wifi reception, and is significantly slower and smaller in capacity than the versions most of my colleagues are getting this year.

The second is that there are certain things I really want from my phone, and for many of those things the iPhone is currently very weak. I use my phone as an actual phone on a regular basis, and things like voice dial and quick phone number lookup/dialing aren't available on the iPhone. (On my smartphone I can simply start typing a name on the keyboard, and it pops up a list of names that's narrowed down as I continue to type.) I frequently use my phone to take photos and upload them to Flickr, and (so far as I know) there's no way to automatically upload to flickr with a single click on the iPhone (as I can with ShoZu on my smartphone), or even to send them via MMS to someone else's phone. And because I'm one of those boring business users, I love my smartphone's ability to synchronize over the air with Exchange, making not just my email but (more importantly) all my calendar events and contacts available from my phone without ever having to connect it to my computer. (I'm not holding my breath on that last item being addressed, but if it were, the iPhone would pop to the very top of my wanted list.)

There are definitely things about the iPhone that I really really covet. The beautiful screen and multitouch interface, for example. The extremely cool and very useful visual voicemail interface. But those simply aren't enough for me to give up a platform that does exactly what I need it to do from a functionality standpoint. At least not yet.

a perfect day

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After a lazy morning of sleeping late and then surfing the web, Gerald and I headed downtown to spend some time at Pike Place Market. We parked at our favorite little lot right across the street from the market, then wandered inside. We were hungry, so walked into the first restaurant we found, a lovely little French (vraiment!) café called Maximilien in the Market.

Unbelievably great food. Brioche and croissants that taste the way french pastries should--light, buttery, delicious. Entrées like my to-die-for croque-madame (basically a ham and cheese grilled sandwich with fried eggs on top,m but that doesn't come close to describing the flavors), and Gerald's crêpe stuffed with scrambled eggs, Dungeness crab, tomato, basil, and cheese. All served on an outdoor patio with a view of the harbor (where the cruise ship we'll be traveling on in August was docked) and the Olympic mountains. Decadent, delicious, and delightful. We'll definitely be back.

Then we shopped at the market, picking up my favorite kind of honey in the whole world (fireweed), a pound each of jumbo sea scallops and wild sockeye salmon, and a bouquest of fabulously fragrant sweet peas.

On our way back to the apartment, I mentioned that we were going to need to bring the rental car back this week, since we only had it for month, and then decide what we wanted to rent for the rest of the trip. I couldn't remember exactly which day it had to go back, so I looked at the paperwork--and realized it was due back in an hour! So we dropped the fish off at the apartment and headed back out to the airport.

When I got to the Avis counter, they didn't give me a hard time at all about getting the corporate rate, which was great. But they didn't have any of the intermediate size cars that you get for that rate. At first, she said that all they had were SUVs, and that we could have one of those for the intermediate rate, which I wasn't thrilled about. But when I said that I'd wander down the aisle and talk to Enterprise about their options (a bluff, since I knew full well they didn't have any cars available today), she told me that we could get a Prius for the same rate! w00t!

So we drove home from the airport in a brand-new 2007 Prius with only 1200 miles on it. I haven't driven it yet, but Gerald was very impressed!

All in all, it was an excellent day. And it promises to only get better when Gerald cooks up the seafood for dinner...

(Oh, and I took pictures, especially of the beautiful flowers.)

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