People Who Blog About Their Dogs

I am so jealous of you people!

I have been plotting for my dog ownership for over a year now, reading about different breeds. I have come back around full circle and I am certain that I want a Chinese Shar Pei. Yes, they are those "cute" wrinkly faced dogs. I know a lot of people think these adorable guys are ugly, and I have no idea why. They look like little lions. I love them. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that my family had one when I was growing up and she was really attached to me.

Something like this:

Update: I found a great breeder in Sequim, WA and she sent me tons of pictures of her dogs. He next litter isn't for over a year, but I will be able to get on the list.

Cooking Accomplishments: Creme Brulee

Last night we had my parents over for dinner and I wanted to make something good for dessert, and I also wanted to use my little mini blowtorch and ramekins, so I decided to brave creme brulee. I'd heard all sorts of stories about it not working out, so I was prepared to screw it up.

Making any kind of custard is very challenging, because you have to have the temperature of the heavy cream at just right when you combine it with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, or it will begin to cook the yolks - and all is lost. You also have to make sure to strain out any skins from the simmering cream, or you can get a lumpy consistency. Once the mixture is complete and poured into the ramekins, you set them into a baking pan of scalding hot water and then place the whole thing into the oven. The water regulates the temperature of the ramekins so that the top and bottom won't cook faster than the center.

It is very important to take them out of the oven before they are entirely "done", meaning while the centers still jiggle like gelatin, because the ramekin will hold sufficient heat to continue the baking process after they have been removed from the heat. Once you have the consistency you want (you should be able to slide a knife down the side and pull it out clean) you set the ramekins in a bed of ice water to stop the cooking process. After they have cooled to room temperature, they go into the refrigerator. The recipe calls for 8 hours to 2 days to set, and I am sure it would be very yummy and firm like that - but we didn't have that kind of time. 3 hours later they came out of the oven, a thin coating of granulated sugar went on top, and we torched them to caramel perfection.

A note on the torch: you always want to keep that bad boy moving, or you get little parts that are burned instead of tasty.


General Gadget Excitement

Today I've been catching up with various "toys":

RescueTime - added their data collector to another machine, so now I won't have big gaps on the days where I work from home.

Time Machiner - sent various emails to myself in the future, and also to my husband for his birthday coming up. Haven't sent one 5 years in the future yet, but I probably will soon.

Mint - finally sat down to take a long hard look at this product, to decide if it might be how I want to manage our household finances going forward. The idea that it is always in sync (unlike Microsoft Money) is very compelling. So far, because we are Bank of American customers in Washington State (where they merged with Seafirst but never really merged their systems) this has sucked for me so far. This isn't Mint's fault, of course, but highlights how hard it is to create a quick set up experience.


Such a fun day at work! - Whrrl Release & WSJ Coverage

Today was a really great day at work - celebration of our latest release of Whrrl this morning.

First off, every single meal was brought to the office. There were Top Pot Donuts for breakfast to celebrate the release, pizza from a company we work with for lunch, the yummy weekly French picnic in the app shack (red wine) and cupcakes that Emily made (and even let me frost a few!) and then a happy hour (more red wine) to catch up with the folks who have been traveling this week. There is a cute picture on the Pelago blog of the picnic.

Second, it SNOWED today!! It was so pretty watching the flakes float down past the window for a few hours. It has been very strange weather this week.

Finally, but certainly not least - Whrrl was mentioned on Page A1 of the Wall Street Journal!!


Detail Orientation: Broken Windows, Broken Business

When I worked for Expeditors, a book circulating through management called Broken Windows Broken Business was very popular. It talks about how making sure to fix mistakes and problems at the detail level will lead to greater overall success, using the clean up of New York city as an example. Broken Windows is more than just a metaphor, in New York it was quite literal - areas with real broken windows invited break-ins, graffiti, and a rise in other sorts of crimes.

I am thinking about this today as I diligently work on fixing all sorts of little tiny data bugs. These are things that our beloved users might not even notice 95% of the time, but nevertheless I think it is just so important not to let these details slip. I look at local search service Citysearch, and see such a clear example of broken windows: listings for restaurants with data that has never been cleaned, or places that have closed years ago, and duplicate places. Another broken window is obnoxiously poor search relevance featuring paid ad placement. The site feels like a 1990s ghost town to me.

Fixing the little things can be tedious and time consuming, but I find myself so satisfied in knowing that I am helping (in my own small way) to create a user experience that doesn't have those broken windows so common of content-driven websites. Since I work on the data and content side of the product, and not in software development, I love any part of my job that can actually touch the end user experience (since so much of what we do is important, but behind the scenes). I think Wikipedia is extremely admirable, in that they are a site depending solely on user generated content, and still manage to resolve debates between authors and present clear, grammatically correct and factually accurate entries. I trust Wikipedia implicitly, because I know they have a strong process in place to avoid broken windows in their product. I believe tht by working hard to eliminate tiny data bugs, I am working towards creating this same implicit trust in our content, for users of Whrrl.

At Expeditors, "attention to detail" was one of the cultural attributes , and I think this goes hand in hand with integrity (another cultural attribute). There were people who I had the good fortunate to work with who were so incredible, so reliable, so diligent in so many levels of the organization. Whether it was manual labor in the warehouse, data entry in the branch offices, or management at the regional and corporate levels, they were people who had this "broken windows" mentality ingrained into their very souls. This is something I want to take with me to Pelago and continue to cultivate in myself; I think it is highly admirable attribute to possess. I think you can be highly productive and intelligent and not possess this attribute, because it truly is a skill. There are plenty of messy geniuses and I couldn't live without them, but I know that at least for me knowing the details are correct on a regular basis leads me to trust in myself and my judgment more completely and reduces my stress level significantly.

Buy this book at Amazon.com: Broken Windows, Broken Business: How the Smallest Remedies Reap the Biggest Rewards by Michael Levine


the Ongoing Organization of My Life

This has been an interesting weekend with a very strange rhythm. For example, last night I just didn't go to bed at all - I crawled into bed at 9am this morning when Kevin's alarm was going off to tell him we needed to go meet a friend for brunch. This isn't because of caffeine, or even because of insanely interesting content in GoogleReader - I was reading a few books I'm working through, and then researching more about potential dog breeds that might work for us, but I wasn't building the stuff I said I might this weekend (and still haven't touched that). Today I was thinking I would just check RescueTime to see exactly where all that time went, but then I realized I haven't set it up for this machine yet (doh!). Oh well, it was fun - I felt like I was pulling one of those high school "all nighters" but without the sense of urgency.

Kev and I have combined our offices into the bonus room so that we can get some exercise equipment and put it in the extra room off the master (where I used to work), which is nice since that way whether we're staying at the house or the condo we'll always have access to workout equipment. I love moving my desk and everything, it forces me to process and purge all the ad hoc ideas, sketches, notes, and random items that pile up on paper. Paper is the devil, and yet I can't ever seem to get enough notebooks with just the right texture of paper or pens with just the right width of the line. I'm trying out OneNote, where I can condense a lot of the career development, reading recommendations, tons of business ideas at various levels of development, reflections on the past, and more into one place. We'll see how that goes, I am still not convinced this will be the best tool for me. If I can hook it up with Jott then it might be better.

I'm also making a second pass through Getting Things Done by David Allen to see what else I can do to better streamline the workflow of the work and non-work information inflow that feels more like a deluge at times. I think aggregation of my email would be nice, in a different format than just mutliple inboxes in Outlook. I'm using Xobni, but so far I haven't found that it solves this problem for me. In fact, I don't feel like I'm getting the same experience as all those people who hyped it - I've minimized it. I already know I email my boss the most at work and my husband the most on my personal account, and that I need to email my long distance friends, colleagues, and casual acquaintances more regularly - but it doesn't actually get me to the point where there is no barrier to just taking action.

The search for great tools for personal organization and time management continue.


RescueTime I Love You - You Make My Life Better

I just was getting caught up with my other beloved new toy, Google Reader, and found out that RescueTime was part of Y Combinator day this week is funded by Y Combinator. For some reason, I had the impression RescueTime was much further along as a company - considering their product ROCKS MY WORLD and looks so polished. These guys are doing something for personal productivity and time management that is going to make a lot of us more aware of how much time we "waste" and how much value we are getting out of it. Frankly, I was actually proud to see how much work I was doing once I looked at this, it was like getting a pat on the back. I was also surprised to see that my Google Reader noshing isn't eating up nearly as much as I had feared.

I'm a pretty picky user, I send feedback and all that, and I have had such a great experience from beginning to end using RescueTime that I have been telling everyone I can about it. From a time management perspective it is amazing, I can tag the applications I use and sites I visit with things like "work", "email", "news", "social" and then I can also tell it how productive (or non-productive) each tag is.

I love graphs and charts and am a data head, so this has been love love LOVE (!!) at first sight. I can't say enough about it, and I am sure it will only get more amazing as they continue to develop it. Even if it didn't change a bit I think I would use it for a long time, I've never had a tool like this before!

They are in Seattle, just 3 owner/operators.

RescueTime Website: http://www.rescuetime.com/
RescueTime Blog: http://blog.rescuetime.com/


A Weekend of Food & Books

no more whrrk posts for awhile

Friday we had a really fun impromptu (as in - we started inviting people over less than 24 hours before) dinner party where I tried to recreate the excellent pork dish Emily and I made at her friend's house in San Francisco a few weeks ago for about 10 people. What makes this dish unique is the honey glace with dried apricots and cranberries that have been soaking in sherry cooking wine. It is simmered and reduced for about an hour and served atop of the pork loin steaks. Unfortunately, I entrusted the preparation of the meat to my Dad - and it ended up very overcooked - I think because pork isn't something he is used to making. Pork is hard to keep moist.

Regardless, we had enough risotto, asparagus, buttery rolls, and the glace (which is delish all on its own) to satisfy. Top that off with about 4 bottles of various red wine, carrot cake, and a few pots of French press coffee and we were set. We played boardgames until the early hours of the morning when our last guests were finally too tired to keep their eyes open.

Starting off the weekend like that certainly made it feel long. On Saturday we woke up late and enjoyed brunch at Denice's Place on 160th before shopping for some solar lights to try out in the yard and invitations for Tracy's baby shower. We went to Panera in Redmond for lunch because Kevin loves it, but it (as usually) disappointed me, this time with lukewarm soup. After some mandatory caffeine ingestion at Starbucks we went to the Macy's home store to look at couchs, and we were finally able to agree on one with a matching chair. My parent's gave us the gift of a furniture shopping budget for Christmas, so we've been meaning to use it since then. It is amazing to me (although I understand why) that it will take 10 weeks to have it delivered. Imagine how long people had to wait 200 years ago (it was probably made locally and took less time!). After that, we headed over to Whole Paycheck for dinner ingredients and I prepared some zesty fajitas using flank steak.

I was up until the wee hours again reading and Sunday morning I didn't crawl out of bed until about 11am. I took a brisk walk to the grocery store to pick up breakfast ingredients and then prepared a very traditional breakfast of eggs, hash browns, bacon and toast. Yay for cooking - and YAY for BACON! Today has been able more reading, writing, thinking, listening to music and re-charging for the week ahead.

So... that's a weekend in the life of the Morrills I guess.


Whrrl Team at Pelago Express Excitement About iPhone SDK

Pelago CEO Jeff Holden expressed the Whrrl team's excitement about the iPhone SDK, as well as the announcement that Pelago is the first portfolio company for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers $100MM iFund.

Read the full blog entry at Whrrl's "Our Whrrld" blog.


Kleiner's iFund ($100MM) Money Goes to Services like Whrrl

KPCB announces iFund, Pelago Inc. (makers of Whrrl) among first recipients:



Possible Ecoterrorism nearby in Woodinville

Wow, I just read this article from CNN regarding a house on the Street of Dreams that is burning, where markings of ELF (Earth Liberation Front) have allegedly been found. This is just unbelievable that these people do this and it makes me so angry - THIS IS LESS THAN A MILE AWAY FROM US. Having just bought our first big beautiful home together after getting married, I can't imagine what it would be like to watch it burn to the ground (especially with my beloved piano inside).

The Street of Dreams is a luxury home and garden tour that is the most attended in the U.S. and every year we go to get ideas for our own residence and outdoor area. I think people go to tour these incredible houses because it is inspiring to see them and fun to imagine living in them, and I think it is sad to see places like this destroyed.