Almost there...

Friday, March 30, 2001

Ack. Daylight savings time is this weekend. I hate that. I hate losing an hour of my life. I don't care that I get it back in the fall. Then it just gets lost to sleep, but losing the hour really is frustrating. I almost entirely missed the change this time. If I hadn't logged into the mainframe (yes the old mainframe from the 80's that my project is working on replacing) today at work then I wouldn't have known.

I just wish we could reset the world to always be on one or the other. That would be nice. Nice for me anyway. Some people have put a lot of thought into why daylight savings is a good thing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2001

So the utility companies got their rate hike. I'm really glad I'm living in Santa Clara where there's a municiple utility district. One thing that was interesting about the news yesterday was that each paper had a different percentage of rate increase. The San Jose Mercury suggested 36%. The SF Chronicle picked 40%. The Palo Alto Daily News said 46%. I'm trying to figure out if everyone is just really bad at math, or if it really did vary from city to city. My guess is the former.

I heard a really interesting commentary on NPR about the whole thing yesterday. It suggested that we may manage to turn ourselves into a third world economy by messing the deregulation up so badly. I don't think it's as bad as all that, but it is sure going to shoot big holes in our economy. Let's see, big companies will be paying a lot more for power, but they're still going to suffer periodic rolling blackouts. They could move elsewhere and pay a lot less for space and have reliable power. Heck, most of their employees can't afford to buy a place to live here anyway. And they're still having problems recruiting new employees. And that's not a real problem because they really need to lay off 20% of their workforce anyway. If we moved to Ohio, then we'd lose at least 20% no matter what. I don't know what's going to happen with all of this, but I'm sure there are a lot of big companies looking at the effect a 35-50% electricity rate hike will have on their bottom line. I guess the good news is that maybe the housing market will become more reasonable. It'd be really nice to be able to by more than a one bedroom apartment for $300k.

I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm definitely nervous. I really hope that we manage to hold it together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Just when I was thinking I might just have to gamble on buying a copy of Aquarius even though I don't know anyone who owns it or has played it, I stumble across JavAquarius. It actually seems like it would be a fun game, but would take a lot of table space. I'm definitely going to get a copy now. Click on the JavAquarius card to give it a whirl.

Thursday, March 22, 2001

I have to recommend Chocolat to everyone. It's the most perfect little fairy tale I've seen in a long time. And it was the perfect movie for a perfectly romantic and wonderful evening.

Chocolat is also the perfect little pagan parable. The moral of the story is basically to enjoy life while you're living it and to make the world a better place with your actions. This is played out by pitting the very pious town mayor in a very Catholic town against a young, unwed mother who opens a chocolate shop across the street from the church during Lent. This movie is great all on it's own, but it's made even better by the wonderful cast. There's Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Carrie Anne Moss, Lena Olin, Leslie Caron, and a bunch of other lesser known, but highly skilled actors and actresses. The little girl playing Anouk is particularly impressive. If I had my choice, this movie would definitely win the Oscar next week (and I say this having seen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), but I'm sure something dumb like Gladiator will get it instead.

And as for my wonderful romantic fabulous evening, it was wonderful. We played Chez Geek at dinner with the new expansion. Rick arrived on time/early to dinner. After the movie, I commented how nice it was that he made it on time and how surprised I was that nothing came up at work. He said, "Oh, well it did, but I told them they'd have to wait until tomorrow." Now, to some that may seem like the wrong answer, but as someone who has stood alone waiting outside of a movie theater on more than one occasion for a Rick who was delayed by one of his users, only to have him arrive too late and complain about the stupid users, I was really thrilled to finally rate higher than the stupid user. I don't have to rate higher every time, but it felt really great just this once. When he told me that, it made me cry all the way home. We played one more Chez Geek card when we got home!

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Well I see now that my previous post didn't actually fail. It was just... uh... delayed? I dunno. It's kind of interesting as a study of how someone writes the same information in a slightly different way when given two chances to write it. This reminds me of the thing I heard on Fresh Air the other day when they were interviewing Aerosmith and Steven Tyler accidentally left the lyrics to Walk This Way in the taxi on the way to the studio. Since it was being recorded that day, he recreated them all in an hour or so before recording it while in the stairwell on the fourth floor of the studio. This also always reminds me of the way epic poetry was remembered. It was not remembered and retold verbatim each time. It was recreated by the story teller each time. The idea of being able to repeat something word-for-word is a totally modern idea. This was even true for actors in Shakespeare's time. They memorized the major events of the story, some of the choicer phrases, but not the whole play word for word. It just wasn't even thought of as the way to do things until the 19th century. Funny that. Now we can be quoted on anything we say and held to it word for word for all eternity. Interesting. Glad I'm not George W. Bush. That guy can seem to get through a sentence coherantly.

Friday, March 16, 2001

Ack! My post just got eaten! I hate that!!!

I was going on about the rental car I've been driving all week. It's a car that was clearly designed so that no one would want to buy it. It's a Chevy Metro, and it's a very odd little car. As a person of small stature, I should be able to drive a small car like that with ease. The radio is placed in a way that it is hard to reach without leaning forward in my seat or having much longer arms, but this seems really wrong to me because someone with longer arms would have longer legs and would have the seat adjusted further back. Then there's all the weird places that Chevy chose to cut corners. For instance, the car has air conditioning, but it doesn't have a light in the trunk, which has proved to be fairly problematic a few times this week. Anyway, let me just say that I'll be very happy to have my baby Saturn back. Eostre's a good little car, and I just love her third door!

I finally get my car back in the morning!!! It went into the shop for body repairs on Monday, and I've been driving a little Chevy Metro all week. Yikes what a car! I don't know who they designed it for. As a person of small stature (5'1 3/4"), I should be able to use a small little car like that with ease, but oddly enough, the radio is very difficult to reach without sitting forward in my seat. There's plenty of headroom above me, but there's not lots of extra leg room really. The other thing that's odd about it is where they chose to cut corners. For instance, the car has air conditioning, but it doesn't have a light in the trunk which has turned out to be fairly problematic. Very odd. I'll be so happy to have my baby Saturn back. Eostre is a good little car. And I just love her third door.

Thursday, March 15, 2001

One concept that always makes my brain spin a little bit is that of science fiction authors and novels and how their creations come to life in the real world. One of the most trying moments in my teaching career was when I was reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time because I had to teach it later that year. As if on cue, students would whine, "Why do we have to read this? Can't we just watch the movie?" They would talk about going to Magic Mountain and hanging out with their friends there, and they would complain that the coasters just weren't that fast. They weren't scary enough. They would listen to their walkman in my class, missing everything I was saying. They were taking drugs that made them insensible to the world around them. They were far more interested in destruction than creation. All of these things are discussed or alluded to in F451. The seashell radio Mildred listens to every night are just the same as a walkman. Our roadways are speedier every day, with pedestrian deaths mounting each year. I was doing okay with it all until I saw a story on 48 Hours on CBS about a new building material that wouldn't burn. They did a demonstration with two shacks: one of wood and stucco, the other made of the new material. They put some kindling in the bottom of the shacks, doused it with lighter fluid, and whoosh! The wood and stucco shack was burned to the ground in under 10 minutes. The other shack had some stains on the wall from the smoke. Mr. Bradbury had definitely hit a little to close to home there.

Anyway, this has happened with other books of course, but unfortunately not usually the more utopian novels. Mergle.

So today I was reading through my weekly "How Stuff Works" newsletter. There was an article on ViOS. Instantly it reminded me of Snowcrash, but it wasn't until I got to the section on avatars that it made me feel squirmy. Is this the future of the internet? I don't know, but if it is, then Neal Stephenson sure called it. The one thing I wonder now is whether this guy created it himself, or read Snowcrash first.

Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Too much to do and not enough days to do it in and still get enough sleep. I'm not complaining mind you. I've never had it so good. I've got a great job that makes reasonable demands on my time and I'm free to do all the other things I've ever wanted to do. I'm finally learning Morris Dance. I'm dancing Mondays at the Plough. This weekend I learned an early version of the Can-Can. It was a Regency quadrille where clearly a French guy went to Ireland, said to himself, "This dancing is cool!" and came home and taught his interpretation of what he saw. Also this weekend Rick and I went to Watercourse Way for a good soak followed by an English Chorale performance at the Memorial Church. After the performance, we stopped by Gelato Classico for a treat. By the end of the evening, my day felt so utterly decadent. It was great. We had intended to finally make a pilgrimage to Rick's Rather Rich, but in seeking out their address, I stumbled across a review of the Gelato Classico. It's been a couple of years since I've had good gelato, and this was the closest I've had to anything like gelato in Florence.

So pretty much I've been wandering around for the past couple of days thinking to myself, "This is it. This is the life." Maybe I should change the title of this weblog from "Almost There" to "Whew!"

So of course, many of my friend's lives are falling apart. The upside here is that currently I'm equipped to help them deal with it. There is that one magic quantity I still seem to be lacking enough of though: time.

One thing weird I heard on the radio last night (NPR) was about how communities in the south bay are struggling to keep a sense of community and so forth because people just don't have time for anything but work. I still think that some folks have some reprioritizing to do if that's the case. The one thing I could take out of that report was that I don't really do anything within my home area community, but I consider the entire bay area as my community and I consider my home as the safe place where I keep all of my stuff and where I rest. This weekend I'm dancing at a Brewfest in San Rafael, then driving down to Campbell to dance at the King's Head pub. On Sunday I'm heading up to the city to make bells for Morris dancing. See, I think the definition of community has changed. My community (or communities, really) are those that are dance related. It's not geographic beyond the level of, "No I can't do that because it's too far to drive." The centerpiece of place location does nothing for me because I don't own my own home and I move fairly often. For me and many others in my generation, community has to be more flexible than a me and myneighbors sort of focus. It doesn't mean at all that I don't have a community. Heck, there's talk right now of finding investors for a warehouse to be converted to dance space somewhere in the East Bay. When I say East Bay, I mean anywhere from Hayward to Milpitas. The place matters much less than the people it gathers.

I'm done ranting on that topic now. Have I mentioned lately how much I love the weather in this area? Too many more gorgeous days like this and I'll start thinking that $800k isn't really all that much for a two bedroom house. Not!

Thursday, March 08, 2001

Frozen food. When I was growing up, there were Swanson's TV Dinners. They had that sort of 50's kitsch value to them with their five little compartments of food, but it was never great food. Then there was Lean Cuisine. Better presentation. Still mediocre food at best. Today for lunch I'm eating a Taj Ethnic Gourmet meal from Whole Foods Market. This particular entree is Chicken Tikka Masala. Now granted, this isn't quite as good as the Chicken Tikka Masala from good Indian restaurants like Janta, but it's such a far cry from the Salisbury Steak of my youth that it just astounds me. I dumped the brown rice (with a hint of spices and tumeric) into the chicken and sauce and it's instant hot yummy real food straight from the microwave. I'm looking forward to tasting the other dishes that Ethnic Gourmet makes. I've also become rather hooked on the vegetarian/vegan meals that Amy's Kitchen makes. They make a really nice Broccoli pot pie and a yummy Shepherds pie that make great lunches. There's also another company called Celetano's. They specialize in frozen Italian dishes, but this isn't your average Stouffer's lasagna. Their stuffed shells is better than I've had in many restaurants. And they print pictures of all the ingredients on the box just to illustrate what isn't in there. And that's true for each of these frozen meal makers. None of them put in weird preservatives and flavorings. It's made pretty much the way you'd make it at home, then frozen. Plus Celentano's does most of their entrees in both vegetarian and non-dairy vegan varieties. I can't go as far as vegan myself, but this is great for others. All of these options sure make eating better tasting more healthy foods cheaper and easier.

Tuesday, March 06, 2001

If I'm ever going to get my figure from college back, it will be because of weeks like this one. On Saturday I was dancing with Reel Rabble for an hour or two. On Monday I took a forty minute hike around campus to drop off some paperwork and go to a meeting. Then I went to the Plough and danced for 2 hours. Tonight I'm relaxing and sleeping, but on Wednesday I have an extra Morris dance practice to go with the two hours of Morris dance on Thursday. With an average 1 1/2 to 2 hours of exercise every second day, I'll either get my figure back, or get stronger from throwing around all this extra body mass. I'm hoping for the former option. Of course, this isn't too likely. The difference between now and college is that now I can afford food. Last night I had this fabulous Tortellini Gorgonzola from Gypsies and a salad. It was so yummy, but I ate way too much. And at $6.47 for dinner, that was way outside of my college meal budget. So we shall see how much of my current weight distribution is eating habits and how much is activity level. I'm guessing that it's mostly eating habits since I still eat like someone who has not had enough to eat from time to time.

Monday, March 05, 2001

So Kevin is right. The F Street house is fabulous, but it would take just too much work to make it happen. It's too pricey. It's not in keen enough condition (although it's in pretty good condition all in all) for our intentions. And the current owners, though wonderful folks, are planning to build a place on the lot next door and clearly love the place far too much to let it go properly. And we didn't win the Lotto draw on Saturday, so the thought of making that place a life project and not having to work in the office-based sense aren't really an option at this point.

But my god it was inspiring! Walking around the first floor alone was enough to nearly have me in tears. Luckily I had sobered up by the time we got up to the third floor, but it was everything you imagine a palatial estate to be. Rich warm wood adorned everything. The fireplace glowed and beckoned you to come sit by it and sip brandy or some other equally upper-crust beverage. The dining room was fit for the best formal gatherings. The billiard room looked out onto a small garden that just screamed of exquisite decrepitude. Lush green plants wove in and out of loosened brick pathways surrounding the bird bath full of more green growth. All of the rooms on the second floor could be accessed by the main hallway, or by going from room to room through connecting doorways. The third floor was unremarkable, much like an attic converted to rooms as an afterthought. The basement was both a joy and a disappointment. It was musty and crowded with junk and the acoustic tile ceiling utterly spoiled any charm it once had. The dance floor had been covered up in beige carpet save for one small 6x8 rectangle betraying the magic that was beneath. A few jig steps on that spot told me how much I wanted to rip this carpet out and restore the room and castigate the stupid humans who had no idea what they had. It was utterly heartbreaking. Had that one section of the house held any of the majesty of the floor above, turning away back to our normal lives would've been much harder. What would it be like to have Gaskells' Ball at your home? I will never know.