Vanishing Point pictures

Pictures from the Vanishing Point event have been posted in the gallery [here]( Go solve puzzles! Lots of pictures from the fireworks, but video would have been far better. Luckily, [Brandon LeBlanc]( posted video on his [ blog](

Good luck!

Vanishing Point Game: Event 4 – Seattle, WA

So the 4th event of the [Vanishing Point Game]( was held in Seattle tonight. If you haven’t been following, the game is a viral marketing/buzz building event sponsored by [Microsoft]( and [AMD]( for the Windows Vista launch (this Tuesday).

[Jenn]( (who happens to work on a part of the Windows Vista marketing team) called me to let me know the 4th event would be at Gasworks Park in Seattle tonight, so we hopped in the car and made the trip over to Seattle. It was, in a word, amazing.

There was a 10-15 minute long fireworks show, and then an entourage of buses toting people to an after event party. Apparently there were supposedly clues in the fireworks. I assume quite a few of the people there work for Microsoft, since we are in Microsoft’s backyard, but some of the people I talked to there actually flew into Seattle just for this — they’re playing the game that much.

The party was also awesome (and apparently chock-full of clues). There was a car wreck on one side of the party with an actress playing the role of the lady with amnesia in the movie [Mulholland Drive]( On the other side was a plane wreck with an actress playing the role of [Amelia Earhart]( What’s a party without [Elvis]( He was there too. I saw a table on the side where they were giving away Vanishing Point shirts, so I went to pick one up. The guy behind the table introduced himself as [Bobby Fischer]( There’s a theme: these are all people that “vanished” in one way or another.

Very cool event — I took a ton of pictures that I’ll be posting online shortly (maybe it’ll help the folks at the [Vanishing Point Wiki](

(Disclaimer: I must confess, I work at Microsoft. That doesn’t take away from the coolness of this event, though, and I don’t know anything about the puzzle)

European project named MARIUS?

Hmm, Gizmodo reports that the European Commission is launching a program to deliver test messages to cell phones by helicopter. It’s named [Project MARIUS](, which apparently stands for “Mobile Autonomous Reactive Information System for Urgency Situations”. Try saying that all in one breath.


So, as I mentioned yesterday, my 10-year high school reunion is coming up. What I didn’t mention is that I’ve been roped into the planning efforts. Scary.

Someone else on the “planning committee” (aka people we found first) posted a pretty interesting blog entry on her [hesitation in coming to the reunion]( (Good gracious, I just linked to a MySpace blog for the first time ever. I feel… dirty)

Basically, it comes down to the fact that during high school Amber was pretty shy and didn’t feel “in.” (Oddly, I never thought of Amber as shy, as I talked to her plenty) She had some feelings of bitterness as a result, but she’s going to give it a second chance and it sounds as though she’s decided to go to the reunion.

I had some similar thoughts as her originally (well, except the bits about religion, but whatever) and I’m going to go. One of the funniest things to me is that several people on the planning committee are so focused on decorations, locale, etc. I’m going there to see the people! I want to see what people have done with their lives! I want to see if people that I guess are doing the same old thing have done something different! I want to see if the “cool kids” are still going to be “cool”. I want to hang out with the other people that weren’t “in” that I hung out with back then.

I’ll be there. See all you [Conroe Class of 1997]( folks in a few months. 🙂

High School Reunions – 10 years!

In scary news, my 10-year high school reunion is coming up. Since 1997, I’ve hosted the [Conroe High School Class of 1997 e-mail list](, and I’ve been receiving more and more updates as of late.

The page has pretty much been static since 1997, with the exception of a few changes and additions of user data. It’s all manual entry in HTML, and, admittedly, from a spam-harvesting/privacy perspective, it’s horrendous.

I’ve been thinking about it, and have searched [SourceForge]( and a few other project sites to find a better way to do it.

I can’t find any software that does what I want to do in (what I think) is the ideal sense.

### My Alumni/Reunion Software Wishlist ###

#### Pre-population ####
I’d like to pre-populate the data with every name in my high school yearbook, and this should be publicly visible. Honestly, people are going to stumble onto the site by dropping their own name into their [search]( [engine]( [of]( [choice]( Most people aren’t going to search for things like “Conroe Class of 1997” until it’s reunion time.

#### Pictures ####
One thing I’ve learned through all this is that I don’t remember who most of these people are. It’s been 10 years, and I’ve met a lot of people since then. (And, let’s be honest, I’ve slept a few days since then) I’d love to store (in the database) a blob item with photos from the high school yearbook. I know it would be a fair amount of up-front work, but I’m willing to do it.

#### Contact Info ####
Yeah, everyone stores e-mail addresses, URLs, addresses, and phone numbers. I do some of it now — but, like I said, it’s not friendly from a spam-harvesting perspective. Let unauthorized users drill down per-person and see details, but front it with a [captcha]( to keep the spam-bots out as much as possible.

#### Registration ####
This is the big one. Updating e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc., is hard on the admin. Empower users to update themselves. Let them create a login to self-service their own account. This is an _enabler_ of other features, such as subscriptions and account take-overs.

> ##### Subscriptions #####
> RSS feeds, e-mail notifications, whatever. Give the users the choice of how they’d like to be informed of changes, additions, and deletions of the data.

> ##### Take-Over of Accounts #####
> So, someone registers an account, but we’ve pre-populated the data! Avoid duplicates, let them take over the pre-populated account and take over the management of it. Perhaps this needs an administrative approval or something similar by the people running the site. Simple enough, right: a moderated subscription process that ties the user account to a particular entry in the database.

Maybe if I get some free time, I’ll solicit these ideas to some of the folks that are hosting various SourceForge entries.

Cingular SIM Unlock: We’re almost there

So, the last few days I’ve been posting about my lack of success in getting my phone SIM unlocked so I can use it while traveling internationally. Well, as of yesterday, I’ve made a fair amount of progress. Let me back up for a moment.

When I started all of this, I had an Audiovox SMT5600. After I made [the original call]( to Cingular to request an unlock code for it, I started shopping for a new phone. The phone I was interested in (Cingular 8525) was back-ordered for quite some time, or so I was told, so I wasn’t worried about it. Well, the Cingular store got one in just a few days after my original request, and I went and picked one up. I expected, since the SIM request process was already underway, that the SIM unlock would be for my old phone — this is what I wanted anyway. Who wants to lug a brand-new expensive phone while traveling when you can tote around the old beater that works?

So, fast-forward a few days to where I had to [re-request the SIM unlock code]( By this point, I had my new phone, Cingular’s records had my new IMEI number, and I was curious what would happen. I assumed (and we all know what happens when you do that) that the Customer Service Rep would basically re-submit my old request, which I assumed (there’s that word again) had my old phones IMEI number.

You can probably see where this is going.

I got an email from Cingular’s system today with the unlock code. For my new phone. So, I’m now the proud owner of a week-old and unlocked Cingular 8525. I want the 5600 unlocked, so I’m going to go down to the local Cingular store, explain my situation, and see if the guys there can help.

Oh well. This is progress!

Snow Days

So, the past two days have brought us more snow and ice in the Seattle area. I present to you my nominations of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”:

The Good: Can’t get out of the neighborhood, so we work from home.
The Bad: Can’t get out of the neighborhood, so we get cabin fever.
The Ugly: Can’t get into the neighborhood, so the garbage company can’t pick up our trash.

A new record: 2 hour commute

So that was less than stellar. Another snow-storm hit the Seattle area this afternoon, and the drive home took just shy of 2 hours. Quite amazing, considering I live around 8 miles away from my office.

I wish I had taken some photos with my cameraphone — but I was too busy not getting rammed by some random guy in a BMW 5-series that kept sliding sideways. The mail isn’t getting through either – saw two USPS semi-trucks parked on the highway (one on the shoulder of the road, one in the middle of the road). Mass transit wasn’t doing well either — saw several buses parked on the side of the road, and at least one nearly perpendicular to the flow of traffic resting against the jersey barrier. Very odd, as on the drive in this morning, I saw several buses with snow chains on already… None of the parked buses had snow chains on.

The drive home was truly amazing — WSDOT (Washington State Dept. of Transportation) shuts off the “metered” on-ramps to prevent cars from sliding down, so that starts hurting the commute. Combine that with the aforementioned sideways buses, parked semis, and guys-in-sliding-5-series, and traffic quality dwindles. Quickly.

Tomorrow, as the snow sitting on the ground turns into ice, should prove fun and interesting as well.

Cingular SIM Unlock: the story continues

So, I got a text message about 9:45am this morning from Cingular, asking me to call them as my unlock code I had [previously requested]( was ready. Woohoo!

So I call them.

> M: Hi, I got a text message asking me to call you to get my device unlock code.
> C: [puts me on hold; comes back 4 mins later] The code should have been in the text message.
> M: It wasn’t. It said to call you.
> C: [puts me on hold; comes back 3 mins later] The person should’ve taken your e-mail address, cause that’s how the codes come out.
> M: [wha? Didn’t you just say they come out by Text Message?!] So, tell me what the code is.
> C: [Gives me a code]
> M: Where do I type it in?
> C: Just type in the number and hit send.
> M: It tried to make a phone call.
> C: Hold on, let me call my technical support.
> … 5 minutes later
> C: Here’s another code. Just type it in and hit send.
> M: It tried to make a phone call again, back at the home screen.
> C: I’ll fill out the form again and put the request back in. It’ll take up to 5 business days for them to get back to you. I’ll need to get manager approval since you’ve requested another unlock code within the past 90 days.

*sigh* I had a feeling this wouldn’t be easy. She asked me to remove the battery and the SIM card. I figured she wanted the IMEI code off the phone. Then she asked me to wait 15 seconds, re-insert them, and boot up the phone to see if that made a difference. … As you can guess, it didn’t.

I loved the last bit of manager approval. As if it was my fault that they don’t have their ducks in a row.