Indonesia needs our help

I was away from news feeds and TV all weekend long so didn't hear this news, but I see the Global Voices blog and Ed Bott talking about the deep need in Indonesia due to a major earthquake that happened there.

As we prepare to go to my mom's funeral today, this is yet another way you can help improve the world. We'll donate some in my mom's name to the Red Cross.

Tonight, after the funeral in Bozeman, Montana, we'll be driving home. My mom lives just down the street from Seattle, but it's a long street! (Highway 90 goes from Bellevue, WA through Livingston, Montana — we'll spend about 12 hours on that highway driving home).

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Dodging flying mud and bison (oh, and FU-Camp)

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You knew I couldn't stay away a week, right? Well, I had to send pictures. We took two days off (funeral and cremation is tomorrow) to go to Jackson Hole with my mom's sister, Wilhelmina.

When I saw this sign, I thought of the blogosphere. Funny that! 🙂 The sign was guarding the Artists' Paintpots in Yellowstone National Park. What is it? It's a mudpit. A clay pit, actually. Through the clay would pop up bubbles of gas. That caused the mud to get thrown up to five feet away. It's nature's way of blogging. The latest news bubbles up. Phhlllurbt. Phhlllurbt. Phhlllurbt.

Heh, nature owns a new word. Phhlllurbt. That's the sound that the bubbles make as they pass through the mud and escape. (Google and Live.com don't have any results if you search for that word). Here's a photo of what the mud looks like as the bubbles come up:

Mud pots in Yellowstone National Park

Anyway, I just uploaded our best pictures. Page One. Page Two.

Oh, I just saw Dave Winer saying that security will be extra tight at FU-Camp this summer. Dave's such a joker! Hey, Dave, I think we'll have FU-Camp at my mom's house this summer sometime. Maybe in August after all the conferences are finished.

You'll just have to watch for the flying mud.

Anyway, I'm still taking off until this weekend. I didn't even sign on my laptop the past few days. Maryam couldn't believe that I didn't take it with us to Jackson Hole.

Oh, speaking of Jackson, WY, I had the best food I've had this year in Burke's Chop House in Jackson. What made it best? The small things. The way they cut the apples and strawberries that adorned my salad. The wine they picked. The setting. The staff.

But, they don't have a Web site.

That's just weird to me. I guess I wouldn't mind so much, but the restaurant was only half full. Interesting that the management does everything else right but isn't spending any time on marketing to people who'll visit Jackson. Remember that almost all of the potential customers will come from outside Jackson. So, having a presence on the Web makes a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, see ya this weekend. We have two days of driving ahead of us after the funeral. Maryam made us keep the BMW at home, too, which really bummed me out. We rented a Jeep. What a cruddy car. It only has 11,000 miles on it and it sounds worse than her Toyota did after 65,000.

A few other things before I sign off again. It's nice to see my recent blogging has had a positive impact on people. Jeff, my boss, decided to start blogging personal stuff again.

Oh, and when we went to Chico Hot Springs the other night there were two beautiful women (Bridget and Jen) who were waving at me and giggling, but I'll let Maryam write that story. Let's just say I can't escape from bloggers, even in small-town Montana. And I didn't mind that at all! 🙂

Endless Walkway at Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone

Update: sometimes a photo is worth freezing your behind off for. This is one of those photos. It took a 20 minute walk in freezing wind/snow/rain (sometimes all three together). And the image just happened for a few seconds as steam from the Grand Prismatic Spring floated over the walkway making it look like the walkway was endless. In reality there are some kids on the other side of the steam. Another 15 seconds and they'd reappear. Damn it was cold, though. Too bad the photo can't communicate that!

One last thing. A few people have asked where my mom's house is. That caused me to plug "Emigrant, Montana" into Google Maps and Virtual Earth (er, Windows Local Live). I learned that my mom's street doesn't exist in Google, but does in Windows Live (she lives on Capricorn Drive). Here, take a look for yourself: Google search for Emigrant, Montana. Local Live search for Emigrant, Montana. Google isn't even close to as good a quality a map for Montana. Interesting.

The questioning of career, life, family, love follows grief (taking a week off of blogging)

Two days ago Maryam told me that she always wanted a BMW (we've been planning a car purchase for a while cause her Toyota was starting to show its age).

So, last night, what did I do? I bought her one. A BMW 325i. By far the wackiest, and scariest, and most irrational purchase I've ever made. Why? Because my alimony is coming to an end this summer (4.5 years of paying more than $1,100 per month, and that's not including child support). But, this is not usual behavior for me. What brought it on? My mom's stroke and death reminded me that life is temporary. She reminded me that it's important to have fun while you're here. Even if you are a workahaolic. Smell the roses and all that.

I might regret such an impetuous purchase (particularly after we get the bill). It is expensive. And wild. But it is such a nice car. And Maryam deserves it. She stayed with me even when I'd blog late into the night. If I'm lucky, she'll let me drive it once in a while. And I am lucky. Heheh! Actually, I was totally shocked when the bank approved the purchase.

I am totally fortunate to be in that position. Something we often forget in the midst of wild wealth that we have here on the West Coast (over the weekend a Mercedes SLR rolled by, that's a car that costs $700,000 to buy, which is $660,000 more than the one I bought Maryam). This is an unreal world. Most of the world lives on $2 a day. I forget that a lot of times. But I just said the heck with it.

Tonight, though, I find I'm questioning everything about my life. Am I doing the right things? Treating people well enough? Doing enough to improve the world?

What do I want to do career wise? I've had some wild opportunities thrown at me recently. Should I consider them? For what reason? What's the value I add to the world? Can I do more? Are there things that I'd love to do more than taking a camcorder around Microsoft and representing Microsoft to developers? In five years, where do I want to be? Who do I want to be?

What kind of father should I be? I haven't been a good one, all truth be told. My son is hurtling into his teenage years. What kind of role model should I be? How could I get more involved in his life? He's coming to stay with us next month. What should we do together? Yeah, the Xbox is all primed, but it's time to do more than just play gadgets. Maybe take him camping.

How do I want to be a better husband? What is important to me in our home life?

Oh, my mom's sister? Three of her siblings died when they were 66 (including my mom). She's 65 and is really worried. What would you do if you knew you had a year to live? I answered myself "I'd buy Maryam a BMW and we'd drive around having fun." Which led to my impulsive behavior last night. Can someone remind me to keep me away from expensive toys during times of grief?

Tonight I talked with Vic Gundotra, the guy who hired me into Microsoft. He told me how times like this in life (when you lose someone important to you, or meet tragedy) bring into hyper focus what's important. I'm not so sure. I liked life four weeks ago when I thought I had it all figured out.

Now all I have is questions.

Anyway, I'm going to take a week off to ponder these questions, and more, get some exercise, and take care of my mom's affairs (she designated me as the one she wanted to take care of her estate).

I thought about continuing to blog, but really, there's times that one just needs to go sit quietly in the middle of Yellowstone or another park and pick the lint out of your bellybutton and ponder life's questions. This is one of those times.

Hey, got some answers? Give 'em up! Heheh. See ya back here on about June 4.