Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

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I finished Outliers this week. It was excellent; incredibly enlightening. Gladwell illustrates the keys to success - both luck (opportunity) and preparation (hard work) - so clearly that I feel as if I've been given the keys to the universe.

Should you read Outliers? Everyone should read it. (Well, not everyone. I will allow that Mr. Gladwell and those who have enough money and happiness for the rest of their lives might not get a whole lot out of it.) But the rest of you should ask yourselves these questions. Do you want to know how the system of success functions? Read Outliers. Are you a professional educator? Read Outliers. Do you want to know how to train your kids for success? Read Outliers.

Do you get my drift here? Read Outliers.

Heinlein's Dreams Come True.


Sometimes, there's a whole lotta weird in Seattle. I know you folks in Portland won't believe me without photographic proof, so here it is. It is not at all SFW: Fremont Solstice Parade: The bikers.

Also, check out this related airline safety video.



You may remember that I was distressed when Electronic Gaming Monthly stopped publishing in January. The publishers have finally sent me a new magazine to fulfill my EGM subscription: MAXIM.

MAXIM?!? The issue I received features an "article" identifying America's Sexiest Beaches. It's thinly veiled smut. Mouth-breathing morons. I sent the publishers a letter stating that I do not wish to receive MAXIM, and requesting a check for the remainder of my paid subscription. Perhaps I will spend it it on a good magazine - such as Cook's Illustrated or Mental Floss.

I've identified what infuriates me (and others) so much about receiving MAXIM as a replacement for EGM. The publisher (Dennis Publishing, owned by Hearst) used the most naively simple demographic group in choosing a new magazine for EGM subscribers: males, age 18-30. I'd been a subscriber for nearly 10 years; surely the publisher would have learned a little more about me during such a long relationship. But they invested no time in researching the market segment that subscribed to EGM. The print publishing industry clearly has a lot to learn - expressed interest is a much more effective segment identifier than the barely considered guess that the publisher made.

Consider the significant portion of children who subscribed to EGM. MAXIM may not be rated R, but it is certainly not PG. Consider the many female gamers. In fact, I would suspect that EGM had a larger-than-average female subscriber base compared to other gaming magazines. One of the reasons that I was a loyal EGM reader was that they rarely wasted space on top-heavy "hot chicks" or comic-book style fantasy gaming pictures. I was highly irritated by all of the "page babes" that littered the pages of the one other gaming magazine I read once.

Good news, though. It appears that EGM will be reborn. (Official Press Release, Article on You can bet I'll subscribe to that as soon as I can.

Hawaiian Fever, Part Seven.


These real chocolate pods were about 9 inches long. This day was our last full day in Hawaii. In the morning we toured Steelgrass Chocolate farm. The tour was mediocre. We did get to see live cacao trees with chocolate pods, as well as a vanilla orchid and some other exotic plants. But the farm was hot and humid, and the area we toured was rather small. We ended the tour with a tasting of a variety of dark chocolates. I enjoyed eating the chocolates, but I do not like tastings. It seems to me that a "tasting" is a lot of sitting around sharing adjectives. Given the cost of the tour - $60 - I wouldn't recommend it to other visitors.

In the afternoon, we went to Kapa'a and Hanalei and did a little more shopping. Kapa'a had a beautiful glass art gallery and a very unimpressive glass blowing shop; no glory hole - only a blowtorch and an oven! Finally, we capped our trip with one more round of snorkeling in the best spot on the island.

Hawaii, and Kauai in particular, were wonderful. We are scheming to go back as soon as we can. I shall have to start buying Powerball tickets.

Hawaiian Fever, Part Six.


Me and the husband at Pihea Vista We spent much of the following day in the Waimea Canyon area of Koke'e State Park. We saw some astonishing views, and bought some fresh mango and coconut from a parking lot vendor. We hiked the the Pihea trail from Pu'u o Kila lookout to Pihea vista. The view was worth it - we could see the ocean straight down Napali, clouds surrounding the base of Wai'ale'ale, and the highest swamp in the world. The trail was a deceptively tough 1.8 miles out and back. If you're ever considering a hike in Hawaii, your "difficult" is Hawaii's "moderate". There was a lot of climbing; I used tree roots and branches as rungs on a ladder in some places.

Hawaiian Fever, Part Five.


Me, snorkeling The next day we took our sunset snorkel dinner cruise; a delightful combination of concepts. As mentioned before, it was a ton of fun. Our only complaints are that the catamaran took us to Makole instead of Nu'alolo (the superior spot); and that the post snorkel beverages couldn't really be classified as beer. It was a great, tantalizing introduction to snorkeling. I'd rather be snorkeling than doing pretty much anything else.

Rainbow over Kauai The following day (I was finally forgetting what day it was), we drove around to some of Kauai's famed waterfalls. Alas, we weren't terribly impressed by the waterfalls. Perhaps it was the recent drought on Kauai, or perhaps we northwesterners were already spoiled by the close access to excellent waterfalls such as Silver Falls and Ohanepecosh Falls. Later in the day we took a helicopter tour of Kauai, and that was beautiful. This picture doesn't do it justice, but there is a waterfall.

Moorish Idol On July 4th, we did some early morning snorkeling at Poipu beach. It was beautiful - the husband took this photo of a Moorish Idol. For most of the afternoon, we did some hard core relaxing. In the evening, we went to a local fireworks show. The husband was very pleased - even giddy - with the fireworks photos he took - I'm sure he'll post them soon.

Happy 40th Anniversary, Apollo 11 Landing.


Today, we break from tales of Hawaii to commemorate mankind's single greatest achievement. Today is the 40 anniversary of the Apollo 11's landing on the moon. (If you do not believe that this really happened, then let's step outside.) Please enjoy the following links, and I hope that I've shared something new with you.

As a special bonus link, enjoy this detailed description of the best jury rig ever.

2 comment(s).

Hawaiian Fever, Part Four.


The beach at Kiahuna Plantation The condo we stayed at is right against an idyllic beach in Poipu. It had great amenities - a hut near the beach to rent gear from, community grills, an on-site bar and restaurant, and even an orchid and cactus garden. My only complaint is that the furniture was not very comfortable. But this is easily avoided by spending more time sitting on the giant lanai or, better yet, snorkeling.

Avocados on a tree Near Poipu is old Koloa town, where we did a bit of exploring and shopping. Actually, it would be more correct to say I did a bit of shopping, and the husband did a bit of photography. Anyway, an astonishing variety of fruit bearing trees grow all over Hawaii - such as coconut, pineapple, avocado, and papaya. Here are some avocados growing in old Koloa town square near Poipu.

Spouting Horn Just a quick drive from Poipu is a water fountain created by waves rushing through a lava tube called Spouting Horn. This shot a good 20 feet into the air. I'm told that in the sugar plantation days, there was an even more fabulous water fountain, but a plantation manager had it destroyed because the spray was damaging the crops. Boo!

Hawaiian Fever, Part Three.


The USS Arizona Memorial from the water On Monday we went to Pearl Harbor, and saw the Arizona Memorial. The Memorial was very touching, and the Museum was very interesting, but the whole facility was rather run down and a bit cramped. I'm glad to know that the whole facility is undergoing a major refurbishing as we speak.

In the afternoon, we went back to the beach. The husband tried boogie boarding, and some "water level" photography. I sat on the beach, read about America's race to the moon, and avoided a sunburn. It was very pleasant. In the evening, we took a taxi out to a Kona Pub; a pilgrimage of beer for the husband. He did manage to take some nice photos in the sweet sunset light at the dock near the brewpub. The husband tends to blog more than usual when we are on vacation, as he takes a lot of photos.

On Tuesday we flew to Kauai in the morning - 2 hours at the airports for a 30 minute flight. We picked up our rental car, and enjoyed the local delicacies - siamin and proper shave ice. We then checked into our awesome and kitchen-equipped condo unit, and did some grocery shopping for the week. There's nothing like the cost of flown-in dairy products to make a person sensitive to the local food lifestyle. In the evening, I read on the beach at our condo, and the husband took more photos.

Hawaiian Fever, Part Two.


Waikiki Beach Sunday in Oahu was our own day, mostly because neither the PCC nor Pearl Harbor are open on Sundays. After breakfast and sunblock, we headed to the beach (right across the street). It was irresistible - the husband pulled off his sandals and jumped right in and I shortly followed. The water was clear and warm. For most of the day, We strolled up and down Waikiki beach at our own relaxed pace.

Me holding a tropical drink, complete with umbrella, pineapple, and maraschino cherry After an afternoon nap, we headed to the core of Waikiki for dinner. Eventually, we ended up at Cheeseburger in Paradise - not related to the nearby Jimmy Buffet's or his Margaritavilles. Here I am enjoying a tropical drink. You can also see the start of a "sunblock distribution fail" sunburn on my left arm; but it wasn't very bad. After dinner, we spent a few minutes on a beach pier looking at the tropical stars through a cloudless night. Hello, new stars!

Hawaiian Fever, Part One.


After a six hour flight to Oahu, we got some lunch and unpacked in our hotel the Aston Waikiki Beach. It was pretty nice - close to the beach with a reasonable free breakfast.

Mokolii Rock After lunch, we hopped on our tour bus to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Midway through the drive, our driver pulled off at this view point and asked if anyone would like to get out and take pictures. Yes indeed - a dangerous question. This is Mokolii Rock, also known as Chinaman's Hat on Oahu.

At the Polynesian Cultural Center, we did the touristy luau and dance show, including fire stick dancing. It was entertaining, and good introduction to Hawaii.

Glass Sculpture.


Glass Sculpture By demand, here is another glass piece that I made during the last of my beginner's glassblowing classes. It's a free-form sculpture roughly 9 inches high. It's got a bit of a bulbous oval at the bottom, and as I flared the top edges, they took on a tail-fin appearance. It was fun to make; an exercise in working the materials into a shape that I liked. Next time I might go for a more definite fish shape.

Books of Imaginary Facts.


I finished reading Flatland - A Romance of Many Dimensions a couple of weeks ago. Flatland is the memoirs of a square (the two dimensional geometrical figure, rather than an un-hip person), his home world, and his adventures through worlds of fewer and greater dimensions.

The square spent a good amount of time describing the culture of his two dimensional own world. These were the sections that I found most intriguing. It struck me that a formula was at play for these sections: the telling of imaginary facts. There are other books of the same format that are similarly engrossing: John Hodgeman's The Areas of My Expertise, and Max Brook's Zombie Survival Guide. For certain ideas, "a book of imaginary facts" could well be a more engrossing storytelling method than straight fictional prose.

Snorkel Fish!


Snorkel Fish Snorkeling is awesome. It's a bit terrifying at first; to psyche yourself up to put your face in the water, open your eyes, and breathe. But once you're down, it's delightful. I saw all kinds of fish underwater - lolo, maybe a regal blue tang, and many more. I followed what I'm pretty sure was a humuhumunukunukuapua'a for a good long time.

We had a great trip on Kauai Sea Tours. The crew was friendly and eager to help, and we were served a tasty hot dinner on the boat.

Many thanks to the husband for getting a waterproof camera bag for our trip, and for his advice and guidance tweaking the photo in Adobe Photoshop.

2 comment(s).

Grammar Snob Strikes Again.


Just so every one knows, there's a huge difference between "jury rigged" (an usually clever hack) and "jerry built" (a fugly kludge); and it really isn't "jerry rigged". (I find the Urban Dictionary far too accepting of new / confused english.) You can see some examples of both at There, I Fixed It.

On the same note, "pore over", not "pour over". I've been using this incorrectly for years.

There are many more useful tidbits along the same lines at Paul Brians' Common Errors in English site. Perhaps there's something wrong with me, but I find this engrossing reading.

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