Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell


Posted from Culver City, California at 1:10 pm, June 30th, 2007

If I ever get married it will definitely be to a woman – I’m just not into guys that way. Not that there’s anything wrong with being into guys, of course. BUT, if for some reason I HAD TO marry a guy – for example if someone was going to blow up the earth or bring back disco unless I got hitched to a dude – I would marry Dancing Matt. In addition to being an obvious travel partner, our dancing skills are about equal so I wouldn’t have to worry about being the only one who looked like an idiot on the dance floor.

And as long as I’m admitting to potential gay marriage partners, Bob Seger has to be on the list, too. Bob rules. And the obligatory quick macho male-chauvinist bit to salvage manhood: Claudia Schiffer, Kate from “Lost”, and Natalie Portman are all super-hot…

Car Phone Warehouse

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:25 pm, June 12th, 2007

In the five years I’ve kept this journal, this is (unsurprisingly) only the second entry that has anything to do with opera. The clip below is from a British show that’s similar to American Idol, and the guy singing is a car-phone salesman. Watching it made me happy.


Posted from Culver City, California at 10:20 pm, May 30th, 2007

When we were kids Aaron and I frequently made bets, and against all odds he always seemed to win. The most ridiculous win was probably during the 1993 playoff game between the Bills and the Oilers; at halftime, with the Oilers leading by thirty-two points, I gave him twenty-to-one odds that the Bills wouldn’t win. Today that game is known as the greatest comeback in NFL history.

While the football bet was the most improbable of Aaron’s wins, it wasn’t the most lucrative. At some point we actually made a bet for a cool million: TV Guide or some other source had reported that Alyssa Milano would be taking Shannon Doherty’s role on Beverly Hills, 90210, and Aaron didn’t believe it. So sure was I of TV Guide’s accuracy that I shook his hand, and a year later when the Who’s the Boss alum still wasn’t on 90210 realized that I owed my brother a million bucks.

Since I obviously don’t have a million bucks to hand over I’ve been working off the bet over time; emphasis on working, since Aaron doesn’t spend his cash loosely. This past weekend the opportunity to earn back $50,000 came up while we were playing catch. I’m not sure when, but at some point either intentionally or not Aaron took a throw to the chest, and from his reaction it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Not wanting to be outdone I tried the same, and before long the game had (as usual) completely degenerated. During this bout of masochism the thought struck me that it would really suck to take a throw to the head, and my $50,000 plan was launched. In a moment worthy of Jackass we discovered that the sound of a baseball hitting someone’s noggin is pretty much exactly the same as the sound effect they use in cartoons. No permanent damage was done, and today my debt stands at a mere $370,000.

Sweet Home Alabama

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:20 pm, May 20th, 2007

More than likely at some point everyone struggles with the realization that they like where they are, but they miss where they’ve been. If given the chance to go back to any point in my past I don’t think I would want to take advantage, but at the same time I miss the college days of daily runs with the team and all-nighters with my friends in the dorm, or the high school days when we all leaned on each other so heavily for support that calling someone at 2 AM or dropping everything when someone needed a person to talk to was a weekly event. Or when I was a kid in New Hampshire and the block on Summer Street was the entire world, and my mom and dad were superheroes. There were also the times just after college when the work world was a brand new adventure, and the friends that started with me all had dreams of greatness that seem to have been mostly laid aside over time.

I miss all of those times – people and places have changed since then, and it’s sometimes painful reconnecting with someone from years ago only to realize that one or both of us is different. But at the same time, while working fifty hours a week in an office may not be life-changing, these days aren’t without their charm, and the road ahead seems like a good one. Ten years ago I would have never guessed at all of the amazing things I’ve gotten to do, and the incredible people I’d meet, and one can only wonder what the next ten might bring.

Skip and Ryan, Glacier Bay

My dad and I in Glacier Bay, Alaska, September 1999.

Of Mice and Men

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:40 pm, May 4th, 2007

Aaron and I have been hanging out together a lot lately – two weeks ago we ate an insane amount of meat at one of those Brazilian places before facing off in four games of bowling (advantage: Ryan), while tonight we went for sushi (note for next time: bring colored markers) and followed that with mini-golf and skeeball championships (advantage: Aaron).

Last Friday we made an outing to Santa Monica for a crappy Italian dinner and (surprisingly) no competitions. Anyone who has visited Santa Monica has probably been to the Third Street Promenade, which is a pedestrian-only street with tons of shops and a bunch of street performers who range in talent from singers to dancers to a disturbingly hairy bagpipe player. While I ended up giving a buck to two guys tap-dancing to hip-hop music, Aaron’s attention was drawn by a large group of folks watching a guy break-dancing. It took a while to work our way through the crowd to where we could see, but once there I recognized the guy from a night in Hollywood a while back.

“Forget about this guy” was my advice. “He’s just gonna talk about this amazing move, get everyone to clear a path, and then run backwards.”

And on cue the guy started motioning everyone to clear a path, and in a voice that carried across the Promenade the announcement came that we were a privileged crowd that was about to witness an original move, something completely amazing, and something that we would never forget: the Spaceship.

“DUDE, we’ve got to see the Spaceship.” This from Aaron.

And so it unfolded. People waited anxiously. We were told that this was a move that was straight from the streets, that it was something no one had seen before, and most importantly that we should donate generously to the talent that was about to perform the Spaceship. As a hat was passed the crowd grew, with more people gathering to see what was going on. After a couple of minutes the crowd was three or four deep, stretching for about fity yards.

And then it happened – it was time for the Spaceship. He yelled out “Are you ready?!?!”, and apparently unimpressed with the level of enthusiasm repeated his challenge. The crowd was ready, and he was ready to perform. He waved his arms. He jumped up and down. He trotted out to one end of the massive crowd, and told people to stay clear, for their own safety.

And then he ran backwards.

Someone who knows something about dancing might have seen something special; Aaron said it was cool, and I honestly can’t tell if he was kidding or not. But to me, a guy who had done some pretty cool moves earlier finished his routine by covering fifty yards of pavement backwards. And it was called the Spaceship, and he loved the Spaceship, and he loved the fact that he could perform the Spaceship. So even though I didn’t get what was going on, I was glad I saw it. It gave me something to write about in the journal, and some day when we’re much older Aaron or I may re-read this, and we’ll remember the night that we saw the Spaceship performed, and it will be a good memory.

Calling All Friends

Posted from 25,000 feet over the coast of California at 10:20 am, April 7th, 2007

A few things I’ve learned while traveling home to San Francisco today:

  • Oral hygiene is apparently of utmost importance to the terrorists, and anyone traveling with a full-sized tube of toothpaste is therefore suspect. When the security guy pulls a tube of Crest out of your bag, eyes you suspiciously, and says “What are you doing with this” the guilt and shame is tremendous. One can only wonder why I was still allowed to travel.
  • According to NPR, the most requested musician on the radio on Kenya isn’t Kanye West, P-Diddy, or even Beyonce. Who is it? Kenny Rogers. They love him. Dolly Parton tops the list of female artists. In Iraq the word is that Lionel Richie could play to packed stadiums if he wanted to.

In other news, Aaron took the victory in last night’s mini-golfing by double-digits (the rematch awaits), I’m back to requiring extreme-levels of caffeination to function, and there’s a high probability that I’ll be heading to Iceland with my dad in tow in the summer of 2008. Also, the Browns’ 2007 draft possibilities include numerous guys who are basically beasts capable of smashing people, and that’s always nice.

White Sands Yucca

Yucca in White Sands, New Mexico. Taken in 1999, and still one of my all-time favorite photos.

A High Maintenance Girl Don't Need No Maintenance Man

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:15 pm, March 26th, 2007

The DirecTV office building is next to the Los Angeles Airport, and my window looks out on the runway. As a result, when the new Super-Jumbo Airbus A380 came into town on part of its world tour last week I got to watch its takeoff. Since the plane is a double-decker it doesn’t look that huge until you can see the full wingspan, which is enormous. Unfortunately for Airbus, two years of delays have cost them orders, money, and credibility, and as a result the new Boeing 787 has put Boeing back in the lead in the commercial aviation world.

At exactly the same time as the A380 was taking off, SpaceX was shooting its new rocket into orbit for a fraction of the price that anyone had previously launched a rocket for. Their rocket made it about 200 miles into space before encountering a problem, but the company’s founder (and JB’s boss) noted that for a test launch they had proven 95% of what they needed to prove, and their next launch would be for a paying customer in the Fall. The video of the launch is worth watching.

In less geeky news, Aaron ran his first triathalon two weeks ago, and despite getting beat by an eleven year old girl (quote when she passed him: “Grandpa, this race is fun!”) managed to hold his head high as one of only two participants to do the swim portion of the race in a speedo. The following week I suggested that we go for a nice, easy run, and Aaron of course chose one of the steepest canyons in LA. After spending nearly an hour in the car demonstrating how three lanes of traffic can stay almost perfectly still we arrived at the canyon, and after traveling basically straight up hill finally called it quits and walked when our “running” had degraded to a sort of weird wobble-type thing.

And as always, for no particular reason, here’s a pretty picture:

Galapagos Sea Lion

Not a bad way to live.

Just Push Play

Posted from Culver City, California at 12:15 am, February 28th, 2007

Over the weekend Jason asked his girlfriend (we’ll call her “A”) if she wanted to get married. It’s not entirely clear if she realized he meant to him, or if she thought he was just asking in general, but either way he’s now engaged and congratulations are in order.

In slightly less life-altering news, I had a work event in Hollywood two weeks ago that just happened to be across the street from a movie premier at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I walked out of the parking garage into a massive crowd, and after working my way towards the crosswalk was stopped by security who demanded to know what I thought I was doing. I pointed across the street and said “Going there”, at which point I was given the so-not-amused look and turned around one-hundred-and-eighty degrees. The next crosswalk I came to was blocked off, as was the next… eventually, twenty minutes after exiting the garage, I finally arrived at my destination. The cause of this long journey? Reno 911. I could understand if it was a good movie, but I arrived late because of a movie featuring a dude that wears Daisy Dukes. I wasn’t a fan of the show before, but I may have crossed the line into full-fledged hater.

Watching the Sunset from Sunset

Posted from Culver City, California at 4:40 pm, February 18th, 2007

In an effort to prove that we don’t have a gambling problem, Aaron, Charlie Chi and myself made yet another excursion to Vegas last week. I proved to be a lucky charm (for the casinos), and shortly after I arrived Aaron and Chi’s winnings had turned to losses. My own luck was rather terrible as well, and my losing streak at Let-It-Ride now stands at twelve straight hands. The slot machines treated us better, and we managed a slow bleed with occasional big wins, including a $75 jackpot for me that ended my gambling for the weekend.

In other ways life is trudging along as normal, so rather than bore with details of my days spent programming at DirecTV, here are a few other noteworthy events going on in the world:

  • SpaceX is planning their second launch attempt for early March. Provided it goes off without a hitch then space travel is suddenly three times less expensive.
  • MIT is working on a plan that would put huge floating wind turbines a hundred miles offshore, generating enormous amounts of power while avoiding the “not in my backyard” complaints of those with oceanside vacation homes.
  • Lost is still a ridiculously good show.
  • Boeing’s new 787 airplane looks very cool. Bigger windows, a more comfortable cabin, and lots of other goodies in addition to better fuel efficiency to make the airlines happy.
  • The combination of Open Office.org and KDE running on Linux is looking better and better. In another year or two I suspect I might be done with running Windows.

Yes, I’m a big dork, but technology is cool. And of course, here’s the obligatory pretty picture:

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, seen back when I was retired.

Baba O’Riley

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:00 pm, January 27th, 2007

Sometimes people need to go to Vegas. And then when they get there it’s FREEZING, and because those people came from LA they didn’t bring coats, and so they end up walking a mile along the Strip and turning into icicles. And then those people go to P.F. Chang’s for dinner, and the wait is an hour and a half, so they play the slot machine with the UFO on it (it’s the best one). And then they finally get seated and they do animal impersonations while eating, and it’s actually really hard to think of animals to impersonate after the first six or seven. And then the next day they go to the Bellagio buffet (it’s the best one) and they eat a lot, and then they find another slot machine that lets you play a video game when you get enough wilds. And then they go home broke and happy.


I’m still not used to not having hair.


Posted from Culver City, California at 10:10 pm, January 21st, 2007

New year, but not too much in the way of new news. Work at DirecTV is continuing, and it looks like I may be there for a while. JAMWiki development has been slowed a bit due to having a nine-to-five (misnomer!) job, but it’s still going along well. There have already been more downloads this month than in any other month, and the project has gotten contributions from people hailing from places ranging from San Francisco to Ukraine to Mongolia.

JAMWiki Downloads

JAMWiki Downloads.

Also, here’s a quick geek announcement: for anyone looking to buy Microsoft Office, have a look at Open Office.org, which is free (Microsoft Office runs at least $200). Having used it for a few days now my impressions are:

  • I’ve been able to open and save all of my old Word and Excel documents without problems.
  • The menus are the same as Office, so there’s no learning curve.
  • The biggest downside is that it’s slower than Office, especially during startup.
  • It’s not quite as polished, but it’s close.