Monday Dec 22, 2008

December Snow 2008

The past week and a half has seen no less than 17 inches of snow fall in our neighborhood in the suburbs north of Seattle. That has us above the yearly total already! And nearly all of it before the official start of winter. Let's hope it isn't an omen for the rest of the winter.

We haven't let a "little" snow stop us though, being out and about most every day it has dumped on us. Thankfully we haven't gotten it all at once with the major increments being 3, 4, 6, and then 4 inches. We even went out to our favorite breakfast spot yesterday morning after the 6 inches fell. We could do this in part because of the 4WD truck, but also because they've done a good job of plowing the main roads.

I have to give some serious kudos to Audi though. Our primary car for getting around is a 10 year old A4 Quattro and believe you me, Quattro works. We actually hadn't driven the truck until yesterday and had navigated the several inches of snow, packed snow, ice, and black ice roads with just the Audi with nary a problem. Where other drivers were being (overly) cautious, I felt secure at moderate speeds with the Quattro action pulling the car around corners nicely. I even tried to have a little fun at times and besides a little wiggle here and there, it was rock solid.

The sun was out for a good chunk of a couple of days leading to some very pretty pictures. And I must admit that freshly fallen snow is very pretty. I'm just not looking forward to it all melting and turning to slush.

We've been fortunately to nearly have no power outages. The power did go out Saturday night for about an our at 3am. We had visions of being without power for a long period of time and "threw another dog on the bed" for warmth, but were pleased when Snohomish County PUD did a fantastic job and had power restored before we had to get up. With all the snow on threes the risk is there there for more power lines down so I'm crossing my fingers that there are no more outages.

The dogs have surprisingly loved the snow, well Sydney loves it and McKenna dislikes it less than we thought he would. McKenna would seem to prefer snow to rain and has ventured out in it some, but does seem to tire of it after a bit. Sydney has chased his ball and plowed through 4-6 inches willingly, but after the 6 inches was added yesterday morning didn't like trying to go through 10+ inches.

It does look like we'll have a white Christmas as temperatures should be staying the low 30's with some additional flurries from time to time. Perhaps others of you are having white Christmas' too!

Wednesday Nov 14, 2007

Change

Watching people handle change is interesting, and I've had the opportunity to observe this on a couple occasions over the past week.

As you may know, Southwest Airlines has recently changed their boarding procedure. In the past, Southwest gave out boarding passes with an "A", "B", or "C" and had three separate lines for these three groups. The order of giving out the different letters was based on when one checked in and with the advent of checking in on-line, the game had become making sure you checked in 23:59:59 before your flight to make sure you got an "A". You still would benefit from arriving at the airport early as that would get your farther forward within your group.

Now, they have changed it so that not only do you get a letter, but you also get a number. And in theory, the number provides greater granularity in the boarding order. And it appears that Southwest is also using the lower numbered "A" boarding passes to be sold for an extra fee for those that want to board early.

This went into effect about a week ago and I've now been on two Southwest flights using this boarding technique. The travelers I've been with have been confused and not fully understood the new procedure, but it has been relatively painless. While the new system is more complicated when it works, it works reasonably well. Each group is actually split into two (numbers 1-30 then 31-60) and there are two areas to line up. The first to board are A 1-30 and then A 31-60. While numbers are finer grained than that and they do have areas to line up in groups of 5, they don't appear to be enforcing the finer grained order. Once A 1-30 is done they spin the sign and B 1-30 are asked to line up while A 31-60 board. This continues on throug B and then C.

In theory this means you don't have to worry about showing up early to get a spot as when you get to board is roughtly pre-determined. This appears to work ok and folks are generally getting it so we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday Jul 24, 2007

Nice customer service from Avis

I've been doing a fair amount of travel lately and typically use Avis for my car rental and have noticed some nice features they have to provide good customer service.

Something they started doing a little while ago is to e-mail a receipt immediately after the car is returned. This is nice if you happen to lose the receipt they give you when you turn the car in.

Yesterday, I again rented from Avis and for some reason they didn't have my car waiting through Avis Preferred. I had to go into the preferred office and they set me up right away (and gave me a car several classes above what I reserved), but what was a very nice touch was that an immediate e-mail was sent to me apologizing for the delay in service. Nice touch!

Monday Jan 01, 2007

Harder Sudoku and Solver

Over the holidays I cam across an even more difficult sudoku in the LA Times. Here it is:

     
  3  
4    
     
5 1 8
  3  
7    
     
  8 1
6 7 9
     
     
    5
3   6
1    
     
     
9 4 6
1 8  
     
    2
  6  
2 4 1
     
    5
  9  
     


And as I mentioned in my last sudoku blog, I have a solver and it is now available here. It is a pretty simple app but does provide for solving a puzzle or just doing an iteration to get a few solved cells. And if you press the solve button from the start it will tell you how difficult the puzzle is. The one above is 32.2.

Have fun!

Friday Dec 22, 2006

I've been tagged

Rich Sharples tagged me last night so it is now my duty to tag others. But first, 5 things most folks don't know about me:
  1. I was born and grew up in the northwest for the most part, and still think of myself as a Washingtonian at times despite the fact that I've lived nearly half my life in California now.
  2. I'm a big sports fan, I'll watch most anything, but particularly enjoy track and field, hockey, volleyball, football, and baseball (ok, so that didn't narrow it down all that much :)).
  3. Besides watching sports, I also like to participate in them playing a lot of volleyball, tennis, and basketball growing up, but now primarily running and the occasional round of golf.
  4. I had lived in 10 different places by the time I graduated from high school.
  5. I was the bible boy in my sisters wedding. Not terribly exciting but not something everyone gets to do (I'm the "baby" in the family).
I will now proceed to tag David, Frank, Gopalan, Chris, and Mark.

Sunday Dec 17, 2006

Difficult Sudoku

I blogged about Foxtrot and Sudoku a while ago and it garnered a lot of interest. Given that, I thought folks may be interested in some difficult traditional sudoku puzzles I have come across.

The way I actually determine difficulty is from a program I wrote that solves the puzzles. The program implements a number of techniques to solve the puzzles and determines how hard it is based on the techniques that must be used and how quickly it can be solved. I hope to have the solver hosted where you can get to it soon, so stay tuned.

In any case, here is the hardest puzzle I have come across.

    7
9 1  
  8  
    1
7    
     
     
  4 8
  2  
6 7  
     
     
    5
9   7
3    
     
     
  7 6
  2  
8 6  
     
     
    9
5    
  6  
  1 2
9    


And another difficult one.


4   5
     
2 1  
     
  2  
     
2   9
     
  7 3
    7
3    
    4
1   9
     
5   2
5    
    1
3    
7 8  
     
9   1
     
  7  
     
  6 5
     
7   4

Give them a try!

Sunday Oct 15, 2006

FoxTrot and Sudoku

I'm a big fan of the comic strip FoxTrot and today's strip is classic.

In it, Jason (the geeky youngest child) creates his own Sudoku game where instead of having numeric clues to start, the clues are various different math problems. There are square roots, cube roots, numbers in base 2 and hexadecimal, summations, integrals, and more. His sister aptly calls it "Sudorku".

Well, being a huge Sudoku fan and a bit of a geek myself, I had to try to solve it. First, I got to do all the math and dust off a little of gray matter that hadn't seen the light of day in a while (product management doesn't require integrals very often :)). Then it was a pretty straight forward Sudoku solution of medium to hard difficulty.

I've also recently started doing Killer Sudoku which adds a new twist to things. There are actually a few different variations, one that starts with no starting numbers as clues, but instead adjacent cells are grouped and a sum of those cells is indicated. In another there are no numbers at all and instead cells within a 3x3 box have a > or < between them indicating whether the values is greater or less than each other. And then they have a combination of the two.

Try them and have fun!
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