Nerd Alert: The Obligatory Gas Mileage Chart

TB makes fun of me for religiously tracking the gas mileage of my 1997 Mazda 626. I have been doing it fairly consistently, using Microsoft Excel, since mid-2004. She thinks only nerds track such meaningless information so, in her honor, I post my car’s mileage calculations.

Keith's gas mileage
Mileage Definitions
  • The row highlighted yellow indicates a roadtrip with extended driving over a relatively short period of time which skews the price per day average of that entry.
  • The rows highlighted green were periods when we were on vacation which also skews the price per day averages, just in the opposite direction.
  • The double-lines indicate points when I changed from 89 to 87 octane fuel (and back). I explain this later.
  • The heavy, dotted-line signifies the move from our previous home which reduced my one-way commute from 17 to 5 miles.
  • I subtracted the days I was out of the country from Aug-Sep from the 7/26/2006 entry.
  • The 9/13/2006 entry is missing values because I am unable to supply the “Miles” and “Days” data until my next fill-up.

I have excluded the “yellow” and “green” anomalies from the analysis which follows.

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Coming Zune

If you haven’t heard by now, Microsoft is getting into the portable, digital media player (DMP) business in a big way with its combination hardware, software and services offering under the name Zune.

Microsoft Zune LogoMany people who have followed the DMP phenomenon since 1998 when the first portable MP3 players hit the market probably know Microsoft has been merely a role-player over the years with its Windows Media codecs, Windows Media Player, and “PlaysForSure” program.  One thing Microsoft has not done, until now, is attempt to unify the entire user experience as Apple has done with its iPods (hardware) and iTunes Music Store (software & services).

 Kudos to Microsoft for being dissatisfied watching from the sidelines as Apple runs away with the market after myriad failed attempts at competing with the iPod juggernaut by several noteworthy hardware, software and services companies.  Those also-ran offerings came from prominent consumer electronics and software brands including Creative, iRiver, Sony, Philips, Dell, Toshiba, Sandisk, Napster, Real/Rhapsody, Rio/DNNA, etc., etc., etc.  Note, for the record, Apple’s iPods were not the first MP3 players of any type.

My iPod ownership has been well-documented, but my 3rd-generation device has been a pain in the arse for several months now due to a battery that simply won’t hold a charge and frequent lock-ups.  During my recent trip around Oceania the device would only play about 15 minutes before shutting off.  I probably could address most my woes by having the battery replaced, but I’m tired of continuing to pour money into a device that has proved it is not as robust as I expected considering how much it cost.

I am now a staunch Zune advocate and supporter despite having never owned or seen a device.  Considering my Microsoft Zune Player in Blackemployer, one may be tempted to dismiss this baseless loyalty as economic self-preservation.  But, remember, I have owned an iPod since they first debuted and have recommended them to several family members over the years.  So, why, after all this time, am I pro-Zune?

Actually, I consider myself more anti-iPod and have come close to pulling the trigger on a Toshiba Gigabeat several times this year.  Once I learned of Zune, my Gigabeat plans were put on hold.  When I learned the first Zune device would be manufactured by Toshiba and have the soul of the Gigabeat I figured it would be worth the wait.  My anti-iPod trappings stem from direct, first-hand experience with several models over several years.  The iPods were all good enough and worked OK but I have always wanted more.

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Month Nine on the Job: Naming

I am a product manager on the Web Platform & Tools team at Microsoft.  I am responsible for several technologies for designing, building and deploying web sites which are used by many big sites you probably visit each day (e.g., www.myspace.com, www.hotmail.com, www.msnbc.com, www.msn.com).

One of the biggest product developments we have been focusing on the past year is a set of technologies for simplifying AJAX-style web development.  The code-name of our AJAX-related technologies is “Atlas” and, as part of the product roadmap we announced this past Monday, we needed a “real” name.

Naming things in the software world is really tough especially if that software runs on the web.  That is because there are millions of potential name conflicts (also known as lawsuits) and Microsoft is a huge target.  Furthermore, most new web-related technologies strive for cool names to make differentiation easier in a saturated market.  However, “cool” and “unique” are typically at odds with “established” and “trustworthy” particularly in the all-too-important enterprise environments (i.e., the big $$$).

It was an eye-opening experience working with the key stakeholders across the company which included upper management, PR, legal and the branding departments.  There was also a fair amount of litmus testing with a few key externals.

I’d be lying if I said the experience was all fun and that I look forward to doing it again soon.  I categorize it as one of those job requirements that carries way more weight than it should because no name will satisfy everyone.  How something gets named is really about picking which battles are worth fighting and which are not and then getting prepared with the data (if there is any) that will at least move the most vocal detractors to a neutral position.

We accomplished that and, honestly, it went about as well as it could have gone considering the tons of press and blog activity the new names generated.

The Animal Kingdom

A new “Quote of the Day” entry:

You don’t see Roy’s [Horn] a$$ back up there with those white tigers after Montecore showed him his tiger paw kung fu style.

This quote is an excerpt from an IM exchange on whether Steve Irwin’s death from a stingray barb to the heart should be categorized as freak accident of nature or valuable learning lesson.

We’ve had tigers (Roy Horn), bears (Timothy Treadwell), horses (Christopher Reeve) and now stingrays (Steve Irwin).  The animals are trying to tell us something.  What’s next?  Dolphins?

‘Crocodile Hunter’ Killed by Stingray on the Great Barrier Reef

My flight literally just landed in Singapore and I have a 3-hour layover before heading on to Kuala Lumpur.  I found one of the few remaining seats in the Singapore Airlines lounge and, as customary, fired up my laptop in search of complimentary wireless Internet access.  As expected, I wasn’t disappointed considering Singapore is way ahead of the curve in national wireless connectivity.

Anyway, my default homepage is www.msn.com so when my browser loaded I saw a link to the story on ‘Crocodile Hunter,’ Steve Irwin, dying.  Since I have watched his shows in the past and just came from his homeland I decided to give it a quick read to see how he died considering he was not an old guy.

Batt Reef We were just in Cairns under a week ago and we flew over Batt Reef — I included a couple pictures I took (during our flight to Lizard Island) of that section of the reef!

I should mention, while at Lizard Island, TB kept trying to get me to take diving lessons and I had to keep telling her stop playin’.  (I barely like snorkeling or being on a boat as I’ve never been comfortable in the water.)

Hearing how Irwin met his fate by a stingray barb to the heart while Great Barrier Reefdiving on the Great Barrier Reef is stunning considering we were just there.  Thankfully, I didn’t see any stingrays and if there were any in the area they didn’t come into the ankle-deep water I called myself snorkeling in.

This whole story is odd and disquieting since no one ever thinks about this kind of stuff while wading in beautiful water surrounding their beautiful vacation destination.  OK, maybe people like me do but our objections are quickly dismissed in the name of having a good time.  If a professional like Irwin can lose his life swimming with the fishes despite having the best training, staff and equipment, I may have to avoid the aquatic activities altogether in our next outing.  Sand and sun are good enough for me.