Campbell, CA

Blog Archive

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese
Originally uploaded by hikingviking.

We met the President of Ireland tonight. No, I'm not making this up. At fifteen months (and a bit) my child got to shake hands with a head of state. How cool is that?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ajaxian, Mozilla, Zazzle, Uize

We're getting a little bit of pick-up in the tech community, thanks to some of my team mates:

Mozilla, Zazzle, and UIZE on Ajaxian

For those not in-the-know, Zazzle's Ajax framework is built atop a toolkit called Uize, the core of which is free to the public. Obviously there's a whole lot of Zazzle-proprietary stuff on the site that's not available to the world through Uize. But we've been solving many of the same problems the other toolkit providers have been solving at roughly the same time. The framework is reasonably mature and pretty powerful, and built around the idea of building a coherent rich application in your page (rather than around an idea of plopping independent widgets there).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008



Monday, October 20, 2008

What about Bob the Builder?

The LA Times reports:
McCain portrays Joe Wurzelbacher as a symbol for all Americans struggling to get by. Among them, to hear McCain tell it, are Phil the Bricklayer, Wendy the Waitress and Rose the Teacher. On Monday, he added Ed the Dairyman.
My question is, why leave out Handy Manny and Bob the Builder?

Mr. McCain, your target demographic isn't old enough to vote yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kyler and The Rescues on Grey's Anatomy

Exciting news from our friends down in LA ...

The Rescues are going to have a song featured in the 2-hour season premier of Grey's Anatomy this Thursday

Kyler teamed up with fellow Indie folk Adrianne and Gabriel last year to form this "Indie Supergroup", and now they're on Grey's Anatomy. Freakin' awesome.

Check out their website. Friend them on MySpace. Buy their album. It's fantastic.

The Rescues

The Rescues on MySpace

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Foreclosures, financial crisis, and buying a house in California NOW

First of all, as I sat in a meeting last week with a loan officer as we're beginning this experiment to see if we should/really want to buy property in California, I have never felt more like a Republican. Our loan officer is a fantastic guy (ask us if you're looking for one, we'll send his info along), and I have no idea what his politics are (nor do I care), but the number of times he said "conservative" in our meeting struck me a little off guard. I suppose we do make good salaries. I suppose we are fairly "conservative" in how we handle our money and choose to spend it. I like to think of it more like "fiscally responsible" myself, as both of us have been through periods of debt and now that we're clear with good credit, we don't want to become "house poor" in our mid 30's as parents. So I suppose we ~could~ spend a lot more than we want to and push up that debt-to-income ratio. But let me illustrate why we are entertaining the idea of buying property in California NOW.

We've learned a lot about foreclosure in the last few weeks.

On the technical side, we've learned how people default on their mortgage payments and then get served a "Notice of Default". The smart ones at this point try to sell "short", which means the lenders expect to receive money "short" of what they are owed. "Short" does not imply "quick". Often there are two lenders from two mortgages, and the two lenders fight over who gets what amount. So a "short" sale (this is also called "pre-forclosure") can often take months. An offer can sit there, and the lenders don't have anyone assigned to the case yet, so the potential buyers are stuck in the water until something gives.

Often what happens next is that the owners in default get evicted and the property goes to Auction, where it eventually ends up getting bought by the primary lender on the mortgage. Then property is called "REO" (Real Estate Owned) or "Bank Owned". Vacant, and with a single owner, the process can move a LOT faster. I've seen a few of these properties pop up around here. They hit the market, hold an open house, get a flood of offers, and sell immediately. Unless they're in really bad shape, then they sit for a loooooong time.


Notice of Default -> Pre-Foreclosure (short sales) -> Eviction -> Auction -> REO

On the personal side of foreclosure, well, that's a varied and sometimes heart breaking thing. The good news here is that if owners succeed in selling "short", their credit is kept a whole lot more in tact than it would if it goes to foreclosure. The bad news is that if they don't ... people end up evicted, with awful credit, and no hope of getting another home loan.

We've gone to view several properties that are "short" sales ... pre-foreclosures ... these are not people who are trying to make their property appealing to buyers. Some are down on their luck and terribly embarrassed to have people show up to view their property. Some have a real tendency to spend way beyond their means, and it shows in the size of the flat-screen TVs in the living rooms. Some are probably running an organized crime business, and again, it shows in the size of their flat-screen TVs and in the wires hanging off the powerlines in the back. We've also seen a handful of vacant REO properties. The ones that turn quickly are the ones that have been well taken care of; usually well-meaning people who got in the market in 2003-2005 at the height and couldn't keep up. The ones that linger are the ones where people have left all sorts of garbage and fire pits full of glass bottles for God-knows what kind of illegal activities. Many smell really bad.

Anyway, all this to say that the financial crisis of 2008 and the burst of the housing bubble has hit California pretty hard. It sucks for a lot of people. And for that reason alone I'm voting Obama over the failed economic policies of the libertarian "let the market work without any oversight" right wing. But that's another story.

Here is a map of the properties going to Auction in our rough area of Campbell and south San Jose (Cambrian Park). Courtesy Realty Trac.

And here is a map of the bank owned "REO" properties in the same area.

What I haven't taken a screen shot of is "Pre-foreclosures", because there are more than 300 in this level of zoom.

Rediculous, eh? I hope this helps illustrate how bad the current crisis is on PEOPLE even more than on the BANKS.

But for those of us fresh off the 2001 dot-com bust who couldn't believe the real estate bubble of 2003-2005 was grounded in reality ... well, this whole thing means we can find houses for fairly reasonable prices.

The bubble is bursting. Housing prices are down literally $200K around here.

If you're fortunate to have nothing to sell, now is a GREAT time to buy around here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

hacked? hardly

So, its bad enough that Palin and her minions like to use personal emails for state business in an attempt to keep information secret, as an assistant claimed that e-mail messages sent to a private address on a "personal device" like a BlackBerry "would be confidential and not subject to subpoena."

Now it turns out that it took a 20yo college student about 15 minutes to hack into said personal email through Yahoo!'s "I forgot my password" set of security questions.

I'm not defending said college student ... the poor guy broke the law and will probably go to jail for this. But it didn't exactly take a James Bond or a cyber war with Alaska's next-door neighbor Russia to crack her email.

I mean this is a candidate for Vice President we're talking about. If her email isn't safe from a curious college student, she is NOT ready to lead the free world.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Open Mics and Smith Barney

I have to blog this before it becomes too buried by the news cycle covering Palin's speech tonight. I see it has already popped off the bottom of the CNN political ticker.

Listen to GOP strategists trash talk their VP pick:

Noonan, on her website, has tried to backpedal and suggest that her cry of "It's over" wasn't actually referring to the campaign. Decide for yourself.

And on the other side, here's the speech that I loved the most last week, which was quickly overshadowed by Obama's. Where did the Dems find a guy named Barney Smith? I swear, I have never seen the Dems so on-message and together as they are this year. That says a lot about the man leading the campaign.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fionn is One

Can you believe it? I have no idea where the last nine months have gone. Maybe I do, but they went by so fast. The first three I remember savoring every second ... every diaper change ... every chance I got to nap. Then we started traveling ... off to Ireland, off to Florida, out to Costanoa, out to Murphys. Then we were sucked back into work. And it was easier to host people at our house than to go anywhere. Then we went back to Florida and celebrated my parents' 55th. Then he started crawling. Then we took a train ride down to Santa Barbara. Then we got sucked back into work again. Now he's one. Wow. He's one. Where does the time go? But he's awesome. And he's one.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What a fantastic weekend for soccer...

Okay, yeah, the Phelps phever is great.

But this weekend was about SOCCER. There's so much good soccer going on right now, with the European leagues starting back up, and my local San Jose Earthquakes on a bit of a winning streak, and my TiVo recording six full matches for me. Let's recap my favorite teams:

San Jose Earthquakes: I was there Saturday night!!! We beat Boston 4-0. Boston, the leagues best team. And San Jose, the leagues worst.

Newcastle United: Kevin Keagan's team tied Manchester United 1:1 at Old Trafford! (I root for Newcastle because ... well ... I like the beer, and Sinead lived there briefly.)

West Ham United: Beat Wigan! (I root for West Ham because of an old boss I had who was a huge West Ham fan.)

Aston Villa: Had an amazing game against Man City. 3 goals in seven minutes from Gabriel Agbonlahor. (I sometimes root for Aston Villa because I like their coach, Martin O'Neill.)

Born to Rock

Originally uploaded by hikingviking.

Here we are by The Picture People in Valley Fair preparing for Fionn's 1st Birthday photoshoot.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

...on the Clintons

I've been saying for months that Hillary lost the primary because Barack managed his campaign better, understood the dynamic of the race better, and generally played the game better than she did. And I've been pointing to the whole primary as the reason why he makes a dramatically better President than Hillary does. It wasn't about gender (is there such a thing as gender-baiting?), and it wasn't about race. Obama was the better candidate when it mattered.

So finally this article gets posted, showing how badly mis-managed Hillary's campaign really was.

> The Front-runner's Fall

Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.

The sad thing is that the Clintons (both of 'em) still haven't gotten over themselves. Obama, quit being nice. Unite your party by making it clear who the chief executive is, and go win this election.

Night time

This is our routine for putting Fionn to bed. He's really going to hate us.

"Night night Daddy" (I get a wave and a kiss)

"Night night door" (he waves at his house/door toy on the floor)

"Night night R2" (he waves at our R2-D2 robot on the book shelf)

"Night night spud trooper" (the Mr. Potatohead Star Wars storm trooper)

"Night night keys" (the key rack)

"Night night Buddha" (the picture of a ruin at Ankor Watt)

"Night night skeleton" (the satirical picture of The Girl With a Pearl Earring, except she's a skeleton, that we found in a party store and put up for Halloween 2006 and haven't bothered to take it down since)

"Night night unicorn" (the pen-and-ink of a unicorn hanging in the hallway)

"Night night fan" (the overhead fan in his room)

"Night night light" (the light on the overhead fan)

"Night night Fionn"

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Fionn sings and plays guitar and sticks fingers in my mouth

Fun video the wifey took last night. (Yes, I'm wearing a Vote Hiking Viking for Jedi Council shirt.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


This rocks ... its a mashup of 200(ish) Obama t-shirts from Zazzle:

>Obamosaic: T-shirts from Zazzle

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chewey at Comic-Con

Angie & Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca)
Originally uploaded by zazzleandria.

It's really cool to see Chewbacca and Zazzle together.

See the whole Star Wars Election site at Zazzle.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Amtrak rocks; RV camping is great for kids

Okay, positive blog post. Really.

Amtrak rocks. Getting a little roomette for a 10 month old to crawl around in is the *only* way to travel. It was a short trip ... five days, with two of them on a train, but I actually feel like I've had a vacation, in a way completely unlike the way any east coast good vacation karma is erased after a cross-country flight. If it didn't take 5 days to train it to Florida, we'd be doing this every New Years.

And four nights in a camper in the hills north of Santa Barbara was pretty freakin cool, too. Talk about red-state California. But having a little kitchenette was outstanding, plus a pool and spa and (for when the kid is older) horseback riding and hiking. It was great to spend the 4th with E&R and their two little ones ... we were on the beach in Monticito watching the Gap fire fill the skies over Santa Barbara.

Anyway, letting the world know that we're home, somewhat rested, and totally safe despite that big ole fire down there.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

AT&T, how to I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

O AT&T, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

In 1999 you were Pacific Bell. You had no DSL in Mountain View. You took four weeks to set up a phone line in my apartment. You claimed that because the previous renter had some other service, turned on somewhere outside the apartment, it was not your responsibility. You sent a signal to the corner of Middlefield and Shoreline, but couldn't get it all the way to me.

I moved to San Francisco in 2000. I found a great little DSL provider called Telocity. Installation was a breeze. I was hooked up when the router arrived. Service was rock solid. Far better than my friends with Comcast over in Berkeley. Home phone? Well, I didn't care. I recently changed to the *old* AT&T Wireless service, best coverage in the Bay Area. Life was golden.

Then Telocity was bought by DirectTV. The service change was seamless. Life was ... okay ... I missed the friendly people at Telocity.

Then DirectTV DSL was bought by SBC, the name you went by for those few years. I went two weeks without DSL during that merger, and you set me up with a Yahoo! dial-in account during the interim. What you didn't tell me was that legally, the Yahoo! dial-in service couldn't be provided by the same company (despite the marketing proclaiming SBC/Yahoo! service), so you screwed up my accounts and charged me several months of both dial-up and DSL coverage. It took me weeks and multiple phone calls to three different companies to sort out that mess. Oh, yeah, and when my equipment arrived nothing worked, and there were no instructions. When I called you *again* for that, you said I had to register once the box arrived and then it would take a day or two to receive service. Two days later I had DSL. A day after that I got my welcome letter explaining how to register my new account when my equipment arrived. Everything you did during that service change was ass backwards.

Meanwhile, the old AT&T Wireless was bought by Cingular. Fantastic coverage. I now had rollover minutes! Life was still good with my cell phone.

In 2004 I moved to Campbell. I transferred my DSL service. The transfer was okay -- you certainly had learned a few things about providing DSL -- but a year later every Monday at about 8am for the better part of two months I had no network at home. Most nights around 2am all my connections were severed. Every time I called support you tried to blame my home router or my modem, both of which were fine. Once I went out to Frys and bought a new DSL modem, and by the time I got back six other people had called in and you finally had critical mass to claim that there was a DSL outage in my area. On at least four occasions you botched handling outages in my neighborhood. With two adults frequently working from home, this service was unacceptable. DSL had never been so sketchy, and your tech support had never been so shady.

I now have Comcast and have not had a single internet outage in the two years. Yay, eliminate this inept company named SBC from my life.

Once I thought I was clear, you changed your name from SBC to AT&T and you bought my nice wireless carrier, Cingular. And you started sending me marketing SMS messages. And you went from one-year to two-year service contracts. And you really stretched out the length of time I had to have a phone before I qualified for an upgrade. And somehow you managed to become the only carrier of the iPhone. Which I have to have, because I'm a nerd like that.

And today, as my last (nice!) phone sits dead on my dresser, victim of a fall into a beer mug (don't ask), and I'm chugging along with my wife's old beater Motorolla phone which has already screwed up my Mac Address Book thanks to a terribly buggy sync handler on the phone, and I get excited about changing my plan to a shiny new iPhone 3G when it hits the street next week ...

... and you double the price of the iPhone on those of us who bought something other than an iPhone last year and aren't eligible for an upgrade yet.

O AT&T I so despise thee. You really suck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

McViking Wedding Set iMix

Okay, this is two years late, but we've kinda had our hands full the last two years.

To all our friends who enjoy the Dekanamixes series, you'll remember that we skipped Christmas 2005 as we were busy planning the wedding. That mix pretty much really became the mix of the music we chose for the wedding, plus a few nice bits leading up to the party and leading away from the party. It turns out that I've had this mix sitting in my iTunes since summer of 2006. We never got around to distributing it, because oh my god, where do we draw the line for who gets it?

All that said, I'm quite fond of the music, and I'm a bit sad that a few of them never made it to folks (the Men of Worth -> Frou Frou -> Lamb beginning rocks, and the Madness -> Black Eyed Peas -> Paul Oakenfold ending is what the party really was inside our heads, regardless of what was actually played by the deejay).

Well, I finally made an iMix on iTunes for it.

Check it out: McViking Wedding Set iMix

Here's the track list:


The St Kilda Wedding / Connemara Girl (Men of Worth)
Must Be Dreaming (Frou Frou)
Sun (Lamb)


Ave Maria (Celtic Woman)
Gabriel's Oboe (Chloe Agnew)
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Sinéad O'Connor)
On My Way To You (Sue Matthews)
Eric's Song (Vienna Teng)
Throne Room and Finale (From "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope") (John Williams)

Introducing the new couple:

Theme from the Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not) (Mike Post Feat. Larry Carlton)

New couple's first dance:

Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper featuring Sarah McLachlan)

Bride's dance with her father:

Three Times a Lady (Single Version) (The Commodores)

Groom's dance with his mother:

This One's for You (Barry Manilow)

The Party:

It Must Be Love (Madness)
Don't Phunk With My Heart (Black Eyed Peas)
Starry Eyed Surprise (Oakenfold)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Fionn Crawls Forward

So Fionn's been crawling backward for a couple of weeks, but tonight he finally figured out how to go forwards!

Find more videos like this on McViking Family

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Zazzle Beer Garden

I opened a new gallery this weekend on Zazzle, and spent most of Sunday drawing glasses and cans. Check it out:

The Zazzle Beer Garden

And the "World Beer Drinkers" product line, the first of several variations on a theme I plan to make:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Rising Costs of Flight

Wow. I just saw this article:

American Airlines to start charging for all checked baggage

We just got back from a trip to Florida on United, which had implemented the same $25 per second-bag that American implemented. We were traveling with an 8 month old on our lap who doesn't get a baggage allowance (only a free checked stroller and car seat). It's close to impossible to travel with a baby and pack into only two checked bags. Fortunately, we didn't get charged for our third bag. I'm not sure if this was because we bought our tickets in early Feb or if it was because I wrote a scathing email to United about how family un-friendly this whole thing was. But we were grateful not to get charged, and the extra room in Economy Plus made the flights almost comfortable. Thank you, United.

It's easy to take our frustration out on the airlines. After all, this is one industry that has become steadily less consumer friendly and more uncomfortable over the last fifteen years. They've packed extra rows of seats into planes taking away legroom. I can't even open my laptop in those seats anymore, and my laptop has gotten smaller since 1998. They've made us pay extra for meals on cross-country flights. They've made it damn near impossible to get a domestic flight for 25,000 frequent flier miles. And now they're starting to charge for all checked baggage. And with major mergers reducing the number of competitive alternatives for us to choose from, it can only get worse before it gets better.

So it's easy to take our frustration out on the airlines. But their hands are tied by the rising cost of fuel, and personally, I can't help but put the blame squarely upon the failed policies of the current reckless administration.

We flew Ryan Air between Ireland and Scotland back in November. I was amazed at the brilliance of its nickel-and-dime scheme, and honestly, shocked that such a thing happened in the welfare states of Europe when it seemed like such an American big-business innovation. I mean it was more complicated than figuring out your phone bill, with all those required, shady "taxes" and "service charges" built in. Ryan Air charges extra to check bags. They charge 3 Euro to board first. They try to sell you newspapers, drinks, and scratch-card lottery games on board. They have eliminated the pocket on the seat-backs to make it more efficient to clean the planes. The safety card is permanently attached to the seat in front of you, so they never need to replace ripped or stolen copies of it. They sell advertising billboard space on the overhead luggage bins and audio commercials that air as you board and de-board. The whole Ryan Air experience is straight out of the movie Idiocracy.

Is this the direction our domestic airlines are heading? People have compared Ryan Air to Southwest, but even Southwest doesn't nickel-and-dime you while pushing advertising at you the way Ryan Air does.

The difference, of course, is that our Ryan Air tickets cost 3 euro plus airport fees, which came to less than the cost of parking our car at Dublin Airport for the day we were in Scotland. For tickets that cheap, we don't expect pampering.

But neither Southwest nor American Airlines is a Ryan Air. They both charge hundreds of dollars where Ryan Air charges 3 euro, and for this higher ticket price we expect a higher class of service.

I sure hope we can maintain this higher class of service. Let's help the airlines recover by building the economic infrastructure that makes it possible for them to succeed. Let's put together a work-able energy policy that frees us from the growing power of oil-rich nations like Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. Let's keep the demand for oil down by driving more fuel-efficient cars, by working at home more often, by living closer to work, by taking public transit, by investing in "green tech." What's good for the planet is good for America, and good for consumers. Vote Democrat this November.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Earth Day on Zazzle...

Update: The limited edition has ended ... sorry for the broken links...

For Earth Day 2008, edun LIVE is offering a limited edition t-shirt design on Zazzle, with 10% of proceeds going to the Conservation Cotton Initiative.

here's more info