Almost there...

Monday, April 29, 2002 has included a nifty new feature. Now you can burn Audible downloads to CD. For $1.95, I now have Conventions on CD. I can hand it to anyone who ever asks about This American Life and make them understand now. Bwahahahaha!

The Great Breakfast Mission continued this weekend with a trip to Mil's Diner in Milpitas. This place came highly recommended from Rachel, so after missing an opportunity on Saturday (we were in Milpitas, but fussing with Sherman's computer took until later than expected, and they were closed when we stopped by), we headed back out to Milpitas on Sunday.

The menu is your standard American breakfast at the diner kind of menu. This was clearly not going to be the substitute for Crepevine, but it was good American breakfast. My Country Fried Steak more closely resembled a schnitzel than what I think of as Country Fried Steak. Everything was good, but nothing spectacular. I couldn't help thinking that it didn't really have much to distiguish itself from the Denny's across the street other than lacking the Moons Over My Hammie which I sadly must admit I rather enjoy on occasion. It was a clean place, with a friendly wait staff. We arrived about 2 though, and by 2:40 they were clearly hurrying us out the door. I got my second cup of coffee at 2:30 and they poured out the rest at 2:40 and handed us our check. I guess, like Au Coquelait in Berkeley, closing time means time for the customers to leave rather than time to stop letting more customers in, a difference in perspective that I rather sincerely enjoy at Hobees.

So the mission continues...

Friday, April 26, 2002

So I was reading my friend Justin's weblog. He had a link to an online mini-golf game. I've been playing it a lot for the past two days. I just keep hoping no one important catches me playing it. How could I even begin to explain that away as a reasonable use of work time. But it's just fun! And, heck, I've got to at least try to beat Justin's score! Stupid addictive web toys... mergle...

Oh well, at least it's good distraction for when my work gets too crazy to live. After 2 weeks, I'm really starting to comprehend the depth of the insanity going on on this project. They're so far behind, and they don't even have a clue of how bad it is. And what's worse, my SME thinks that his job is my job to do. I'm gonna smack him soon. Actually, what it truly boils down to is that I'm going to have to make him look really bad in front of his boss. I hate that. But it's the only way to get him to stop pushing his stuff onto me, and make the work get done. Icky icky icky.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Kitty foo!

So when I was up at Quintette last month, I started flipping through some old Reader's Digests because we needed to use one for the fire. As a kid, I always gravitated to the jokes, and to the "It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power" section. Reading through those this time, I was surprised. Either they've lowered their standards (which I think quite likely) or I didn't know anything as a kid (also possible, but I don't think my vocabulary has expanded ~that much~ since high school). I used to routinely know about 40% of those words, have heard another 20-30%, and the remainder were mysteries to me. Now, as I flipped through half a year of Reader's Digests, I realized I knew all the words. Actually, there was one word in the batch I didn't know, but even that one I'd heard before.

So is Reader's Digest dumbing down? And if so, what does that say about the magazine and their readership and American society. I don't know, but it clearly has stuck in my head for a while.

There are some really great perks to working at Stanford. Last night I went to see Ira Glass and Terry Gross speak at the Memorial Auditorium. They are two people who I'd really like to just spend hours in a coffee shop with, though if I had to pick one or the other, I'd pick Ira. He's my brand of geek, and This American Life is the best program available. I just wish I could get Tivo to record it from the radio that way it records television.

Fred, Brooks, and Brooks new girlfriend Elaine were all there too. Fred gets season tickets to the Lively Arts series, so they even had far better seats than us. Nevertheless, I would've never heard about the show before it sold out if it weren't for working here. And how can you beat 35% off the ticket price?

We went to dinner before the show at Joanie's Cafe, which is such a small little unassuming cafe that you wouldn't notice how neat it is unless someone introduced you to it properly. A simple menu, with creative daily specials, Joanie's doesn't do anything terribly unique per se, but what it does do, it does very very well.

As for Ira and Terry, you just had to be there. In the meantime, you should catch up on some TAL via the web. They discussed the show they did from an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Arabian Sea last night. But my favorite is still the one on Conventions. It's perfect TAL. And the episode on Monogamy is also really intelligently done. Check out the staff favorites page for a starting point. Oh, and make sure you have at least an hour to listen before you start. It'll suck you in. Yesterday before the show I decided to catch up on a recent episode or two. Two hours later, I realized I hadn't done any real work at all. Oh well. Today is another day, and boy have I got work to do.

Oh, so I was going to ask a question, but they ran out of time before they got to me, but if I had gotten a chance, here's what I would've asked. All night Ira and Terry kept talking about the difference between radio and television and making comparisons. Ira kept saying "Radio is the most visual medium" (which was really funny considering the first time he said it, he said that there was something about radio that you could say things that weren't quite true, but that people would think they were true). What I wondered was how does radio compare to writing, or more specifically, weblogging. In the five years since TAL's inception, the one thing I take away is that the mundane ebb and flow of our lives can be interesting. Weblogs assume the same thing. I want to know what Ira thinks about that phenomenon, and what he thinks about print vs. radio. I think he could've been fascinating discussing that subject. Oh well. Maybe some other time. God knows, given the chance, I'd go see them speak anywhere anytime again.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Just had a momentary reality check. I was browsing the list of news stories on My Yahoo and ran across the biggest load of hooey I've seen in a while. An entertainment article on Brittany Spears arrival in Australia (after being snubbed in London, which was the part that intrigued me) listed her movie Crossroads as "critically acclaimed". Staring at this phrase in disbelief, I headed to imdb, which gave it a 2.5 out of 10 rating, the most dismal I've ever seen. And then to Yahoo Movies, where I looked up the movie reviews for Crossroads, and not one gave any "critical acclaim". In fact, phrases like "...less a movie than a mind-numbingly dull road trip..." and " pathetically lame that hopefully even [Spears's] most ardent young fans will give this stinker a big thumbs down." Who the hell wrote this article? Journalistic credibility? What's that? Never heard of it...

Oh well. If even the Commander in Chief gets history rewritten for him, I shouldn't be surprised to find it happening for pop icons.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Okay, remember the Netscape Navigator/site license issue I mentioned yesterday? For those who don't recall, when I first arrived at Stanford, I was told that Netscape Navigator was the browser of choice. Several issues with that came up where it became clear that this was a decision made long ago, and by god they were sticking to it. I asked someone at one point why Stanford was so married to Netscape.

Nameless IT person: Well, because we have a site license.
Me: But web browsers are free.
Nameless IT person: But we have a site license.
Me: But both browsers, Netscape and IE, are free.
Nameless IT person: But we have a site license for Netscape.
Me: Oh.

So now the funny part is that Oracle 11i, which is what we're implementing on my new project, only works on Internet Explorer. So everyone in the university who uses Oracle will need to switch to IE. Ha ha ha ha ha!

It was all really amusing to me until I was at a meeting today at the School of Engineering, and someone there who I'd previously assumed was fairly with it said, "But don't worry about going out and buying the latest version of Internet Explorer right now..."


Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Well, I started my new job on Delphi yesterday. So far, I'm not feeling too confident about the positive nature of the change. My workspace is painfully small. There are three people crammed into one cubicle, and yet the filing cabinet and storage closet also in the cube seem to belong to the receptionist. She has already gotten huffy with me about it for questioning what was in the filing cabinet. Pay no mind that there's a whole storage room. sigh. Apparently, it's more important for her to store old notepads and dead phones in there than it is for me to have any storage space. Whatever. Oh, and the coat hanger in my cube also seems to be for the receptionist, or at least she thinks so. Also sharing the cube with the 3 of us is an old scanning station that takes up about 5 square feet of desktop space. The scanner looks to be about six years old. It's hyooooge! Apparently, everyone knows that this scanner is old and no one uses it. So, it's still here because....? Well, because it's the scanning station. Having learned from the Netscape Navigator/site license argument that I was not going to get logic out of anyone on this, I'm just going to use the scanner as a place for plants and see if anyone asks me to move them over the course of the next year. The other odd thing about my new space is that I have to walk through another person's cube to get to my cube. I always feel a bit like Lazlo.

Add to this a lack of confidence in the grasp my new supervisor on the needs of the Stanford community, and I'm a bit nervous. There's a ton of work to be done, and I needed to get started on it 2 months ago if it was going to be done on time, but I just arrived yesterday, so I just hope everyone else has some grasp on reality about how much of it isn't going to get done.

The final indignity is that they've already taken away my access to PeopleSoft, so when Jo-Ann has questions for me, I have to ask her to look here and there and everywhere and have her tell me what she sees because I can no longer see it. It all makes me sad.

But, the upside is that my new space is now cheerfully decorated with the going away presents from the Persona team, and I look out onto the Amy Blue Courtyard, complete with a pond. It's lovely. Hopefully I can settle in enough to be comfortable. But in the first few moments, it's a bit of a comedown after the lovely space in Bakewell and the team that I was so close to. Here's hoping for the future though.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

The new Time Machine movie finally made it to the cheap theaters, so I finally was willing to pay the asking price to see what I had been told was utter crap. And yes, it was pretty much utter crap, but I must admit that my expectations were so low, that I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I expected worse. And it gave me exactly what I watch the various Time Machine movies for. I don't go to these movies to see a moving story told in an exciting way. Heck no. I go to see what the current thinking is on what our downfall will be. Every time, the film makers feel compelled to look 20-40 years into our future, and decide where it all went wrong and why. This is what truly fascinates me about these films.

In the 1960 version, it was in the heart of the cold war, and we were convinced that modern civilization will be wiped out by nuclear anhilation. There is also 1978 made for TV version that I can't remember clearly enough to say what the reason why was.
In this most recent version, civilization is wiped out by rapid technological advancement that goes unchecked and eventually causes the explosion of the moon.

I really think I'd like to write an essay on this subject at some point. It's such an interesting window on the world to have a snap shot of several moments in the last hundred years that shows us what we feared most, and what we thought would be man's ultimate downfall. The bad part of that is that I'd have to watch several utterly excruciating films, probably more than once. People complain about how bad this most recent version is, but it's got nothing on the 1978 version. Peeeee-yew!

Anyway, thanks to all my friends who warned me about this movie. My expectations were lowered to the point that I actually enjoyed it a bit, if only from the sociological perspective. Well, okay, and Mara's net shirt was pretty hot too.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I just had my last team meeting for the Persona project. Luckily, I've finished the hiring decision tool I wanted to create before I left, so I've got a little bit of closure. There's still so much I want to do, but there's just no time. There's just time to sort through my files, pack up, and head over to Serra. For all its frustrations from time to time, I really did enjoy this job. Hopefully Delphi will be good. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Oh my god. Kevin pointed me to this. I sent it on to the barbarians mailing list. The overwhelming reaction was much like mine (ew ew ew ew ew!), but just as I predicted when I told Kevin that I was sending it to them, Jeff thought it was the coolest thing ever. Of course, Jeff seriously considered trepanation at one point, so there you go.

Addendum: Turns out this is a April Fool's joke. Whew. Although, it never ceases to amaze me what my friends will perceive as cool.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

For the past few weekends, I've woken with a craving for a stuffed crepe, like the crepes at Crepevine on Irving in San Francisco, or Crepe de Vine in Berkeley. And although the South Bay has it's own breakfast favorites (Hobee's and The Original Pancake House are standouts), neither of these two favorites seemed just right. I really wanted a stuffed crepe. And coffee, really good coffee.

Rick and I cozied up to the computer in the office and started searching. Citysearch produced several recommendations, and I have a faint memory of a stuffed crepe place in Los Gatos somewhere. All of this added up to our new mission for the next few months. We will find a new great breakfast place in the South Bay, or eat a lot of mediocre food trying.

Our first stop was the Flames coffee shop. Dubious based on decor alone, we settled in for breakfast. The menu didn't have any crepes, let alone stuffed crepes served with roasted rosemary red potatoes and green salad. Instead, it was pretty standard fair. Rick settled for a country breakfast with biscuits and gravy. I had Huevos Mexicanos, roughly akin to a Mexican scramble. It was topped with American cheese. Sadly, our first attempt was inauspicious, save for our lovely waitress. She was just the kind of waitress I always hope for. She was personable and fun and never let my coffee cup run dry. She was fast and nimble and yet never made you feel rushed. She was great. And she had an Etch-a-Sketch pen. She got a good tip, but we won't be back to the Flames any time soon.

But our resolve is not daunted! On to more breakfast places! We will conquer! Or we'll get fat trying!

Friday, April 05, 2002

The Oriental Trading Company is so cram packed full of random little tchotchkes. We can't seem to grow anything in our backyard, so I'm thinking maybe I should just order a couple dozen of these for the yard this year.

Walking down the hallway at my mom's house on Sunday night, for some reason I paused to think about my Uncle Lee. Lee was my favorite uncle, and truly the only person in my family I felt any connection to as a kid. He was smart, witty, and had a wry sense of humor. He loved the finer things in life, and had a good grasp of the difference between what was really good and what was merely pretention. He encouraged me to do my lower division coursework at a community college and then transfer to a UC, and he was so right. He was a lover of art, music, film, and opera. He fed me my first Japanese food and my first chocolate mousse cake. I miss him terribly. Christmas is far more boring without he and John there. I was looking at a photo of him in the hallway. For some reason, it occurred to me just then that he was the only one in the family to have dark eyes. I paused for a moment, and reflected on my grandparents faces from this weekend. Yes, both of them have blue eyes. Thinking back to my high school biology class, it occurred to me just then that there's no way that Lee could be my grandfather's son. I crawled into bed and ruminated on it a bit more, thinking perhaps I had it backwards and blue eyes were dominant. Didn't seem likely though. I talked about it all with my mom the next morning. She said she wasn't sure herself, but that grandma's sister had said something years ago that had given her the same impression. I looked it up this morning, and sure enough, I remembered correctly. It's simply not possible for my grandfather to be Lee's father.

Suddenly I'm so curious, but I know I'll never get to ask, or if I did ask, I'd never learn the truth. My family are masters of not talking about those things which aren't to be talked about. We spent the whole weekend with my grandparents, and even though I've emailed them multiple times about their investment scheme (how it's a fraud and probably tax evasion as well), they have successfully ignored me about it, and it was not discussed at all this weekend, even though they've gotten into screaming matches about it with my mother. The whole barrier of things that are not to be discussed is a bizarre force field. Breach the field and you enter a realm of rage and impropriety that is startling, but walk back to the other side of the veil, and it's like the subject never came up. So weird.

Anyhow, it's a nice tidbit of history. I just really wonder if my grandpa knows, or has figured it out, or knew all along. And I wonder how he felt about Lee. And I wonder how it changed their relationship. And I wonder what my grandmother thinks and feels about it. But I'm just not going to ask. In the meantime, I miss Lee. He died 12 years ago this month, an early victim of the AIDS epidemic. He died too young.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

So I ran away to the woods this weekend. Specifically, my grandparents cabin in Quintette. It's hard to envision on this map, but my grandparents place is on Twelve Mile Road between Point Lane and Twelve Mile Court. Quintette is twelve miles up the road from Georgetown. The cabin is a cabin in the sense that it's kind of rustic, definitely out in the woods, but it also has hot and cold running water, a full kitchen (inlcluding a microwave), and a tv and VCR. What it lacks is a phone. And there's no cel service or pager service up there. So the world could go to hell, and we wouldn't know until we drove down. Very pleasant indeed. We spent the first evening lounging in front of the fire, watching Chocolat on DVD. Woke up the next morning and made French Toast for breakfast. My grandparents arrived around 11:30 while I was making breakfast. My mom arrived a couple of hours later. Around 3:00, we drove up to Stumpy Meadows and hiked around part of the lake on a somewhat overgrown trail. There was some left over snow lurking back there, so a snowball fight ensued. Snowball fights are even more fun when it's 70 degrees outside and you're hot from hiking. Saturday evening was spent eating canneloni and eggplant parmesan, playing cards, and watching Pride and Prejudice on DVD. Sunday morning we woke up slowly, lounged around playing with the computer a bit, and hiked down to the little lake. We followed my mom down the mountain on Sunday evening because she's been having a bit of car trouble. We closed our relaxing weekend in the woods with a trip to the Tower Theater to see "Kissing Jessica Stein", which was quite funny, but lacked a strong conclusion. Sacramento was warm, probably 75 degrees at night, so we walked over to Tower video after the movie and browsed a bit before midnight. Monday we ran a few Sacto errands and had lunch with Liz Hanelt. It was great to catch up with her a bit. Finally, we headed home to pick Tiggs up from the kennel. She was happy to be out of there. I didn't realize until this weekend how stressful it's been taking care of her lately. At night, I've always got one ear perked listening for her. It was nice to let someone else worry about her for the weekend. After settling back in at home a bit, I headed up to the Plough for dancing and had a really great time.

Back to the office today, I'm feeling much better. More relaxed, more able to deal with the vagaries of what will and won't get done before I leave. And somehow just having tromped through the woods makes me feel a lot better about the whole world. I've got to plan time to take a few friends up there in the near future.