Almost there...

Friday, May 28, 2004

Ah Seattle...

We arrived in Seattle yesterday and visited a couple of kitsch icons - Ye Olde Curiosity Shop and the Fremont Troll. We also got our first chance to play Zigity, from the makers of Cranium. Rick trounced me in the first hand, but I got dealt a really good hand the second time around and slammed him before he was out of the gate. We arrived at Dirk and Tracey's place and settled into a lot of Seattle homey goodness. Today we're off to visit the gang at Utilikilts, and then either head out for a hike or maybe Super Size Me, depending on the weather. We'll see. I've got some of the prettiest little cupcakes I've ever see staring at me. They're decorated with little icing flowers - a zinia, a rose, and a camelia. After dinner, candles and singing will commence. I almost made it through the entire birthday without cake or candles. Almost. But heck, I'll enjoy singing the birthday song with Camryn. I'm ten times as old as she is!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Blame Canada

Sitting in the Horseshoe Cafe in Bellingham, Washington. Plans went a bit awry last night when we got to the campground we'd planned to stay at and found that there was no method for late check-in. We took a look at some maps and figured out that maybe we'd be better off going to Bellingham to catch the passenger ferry to Victoria anyway. That didn't quite work out either. So, we're back in the states a bit prematurely, but figure that gives us more time in Seattle, which is fine by me. I like Seattle a lot.

We left Portland after visiting the World's Smallest Municipal Park, and heading back to the van via light rail. Spent the night in an RV park in Olympia, Washington, then headed out in the morning towards Vancouver. Got through the border checkpoint with no fuss, and toddled around downtown Vancouver for a couple of hours before Quidam - long enough for some gelato and some quick take-out Indian food. It's a nice enough city, but didn't instantly befriend me the way Seattle did years ago.

Quidam was fantastic. The guy they had playing John was fine, but he was no John Gilkey. That man is the master of physical acting. All in all, the rest of the show was as brilliant as I remembered. It's like a complicated poem where you're never quite certain what is being symbolized and have to make your own meaning. Throughout, red balloons represent hopes and disappointments. Figures in white clean room outfits anonymously pass through the character's lives. The father is too engrossed in his paper to notice anything around him, while his wife notices at first, then lets herself fade back into apathy, only to reawaken later. Meanwhile, their daughter is experiencing a much more fantastic world than either of them ever see.

The woman doing contortion in the red sashes was as good as before. She seems to represent the mother's naked self, struggling to move beyond the confines of her proscribed role. The little Chinese yo-yo girls were amazing. All 10-11 years old, they're probably seeing a world much broader than China. When their own country doesn't really value them, these girls are receiving applause around the world. The jump rope act was a perfect expression on synchrony. The acrobats catching and throwing, all in sort of surrealist workman's clothes, with four odd white clad figures moving through, the two women in white being thrown around like ragdolls without expression, were poetry in motion. Dissecting the symbolism of that act alone could be worth a thesis. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if someone hadn't already done one. Anyway, it was well worth the journey.

So, now we're off to Seattle. I figured barring seeing Craigderoch castle, seeing more of Seattle would be fun. So far we've handed out about 5 Random Pixel cameras, though clearly Kevin has some 'splaining to do on that front. Off we go!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Posting from Portland in Powells

So here I sit in the largest independent bookstore, sipping coffee from a comfortably shaped coffee cup, with Portland strolling by outside the window, and a stack of books I'll be purchasing next to me on the counter. It's like a little heaven for Ammys.

Sunday was spent hurtling toward Oregon. We stopped in Ashland around 1pm, walked up and down the main drag, and had a lovely lunch at the Greenleaf. Turkey burgers and Italian Fries (which are much like french fries, but have herbs and parmesan sprinkled over them). We looked into what was playing once again, but found much to our continued disappointment that there was no Shakespeare playing on Sunday. I was really hoping there'd been some mistake, because it seems very wrong somehow to come through Ashland and not see a show. The only shows playing were both modern, and not ones I'd heard of, and so, we passed on our way without partaking of the best Shakespeare festival on the West Coast. Go figure. Instead we treated ourselves to a lovely hike up Ashland Creek. Two hours walking by the water was just the right answer after all those Italian fries. We also handed out a pair of Random Pixel cameras, and moseyed on our merry way.

We called Rick's Aunt Carol, and stopped at her home in Eugene for the night. This was finally a chance to meet Aunt Carol, and she's every bit as nice and down to earth as advertised. She and her husband Phil own a highway contruction company, and they live out on the equipment storage lot in a very nice home surrounded by enormous dump trucks and other equipment. They've recently acquired a golden lab named Joey from Carol's daughter Theresa. Joey thought Rick and I were the best thing he'd seen all day, so he promptly snuggled up to us for all the cuddling he could score. The next morning, Joey and I played tug of war with a rope of his until we were both tired. He's a good puppy, and he'll be a great mellow dog within the next year. He's just on the cusp of mellowing out now.

After a breakfast of zucchini bread, we headed out towards Salem, Oregon, pausing momentarily in Corvalis for a roadside lunch of Skippers Fish and Chips. This was the perfect birthday treat in my mind. The next stop was the Enchanted Forest, a sort of poor man's Disneyland. We rode the log ride, climbed through the witch's mouth, rode some kooky bumber cars that had two levers to steer and accelerate with instead of a steering wheel and gas pedal, slid down the Old Woman and the Shoe slide a bunch of times, spent 20 minutes or so watching a great Rube Goldberg device, and generally really enjoyed ourselves in the least pretentious theme park ever.

Back on the road, we headed towards Portland and tried to find a good place to park for the night. This proved challenging, but finally we decided to go see Shrek 2, and have a quick dinner at Chevy's. Rick asked the waitress about where to park for the night, and the bartender turned out to be a fount of information. After laughing ourselves senseless at the movies, we headed for one of his recommendations, ended up at the other one, and crashed out in the van for the first time. Turns out, the van is pretty darned comfortable. After an oil change this morning, we headed to Washington Park to see the International Rose Test Gardens, and ended up taking the light rail into town from there. We've been at Powell's for a few hours now, and I've limited myself to six books, mostly because I get to carry them back. Next we're headed north again to get closer to Vancouver. Tomorrow is Cirque, and then it's off to Seattle for visiting the Sconyers and the Northwest Folk Life Festival.

Oh, and I'm officially 30 now. Still don't feel different. Definitely had a great time at my party though. Many thanks to my wonderful friends (and my mom!) who came and made it such a great affair. See you all soon!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Road Trip... delay

Well, today we got up at a reasonable hour, but had to pull the house back together and finish packing for the trip. We left the house about 2 hours later than planned, then turned back after going to the gas station because I forgot my warm coat. Then we left again and got as far as the 237 turnoff, and Rick realized he'd forgotten my passport which I'd entrusted him with a month ago. So we turned back again, grabbed the passport, watched a hummingbird sip nectar from the jasmine in our back yard, gave Nym one final scratch on the head, and headed out.

When we got to Sacramento, my grandfather was doing a final runthrough on the van, and had discovered one small problem. When the van was plugged in, nothing worked. Everything worked fine running from the battery, and the battery charges when the van is running, but pulling in and hooking up to power for the night is kind of counter-productive. They spent a couple of hours trying to figure it out to no avail. After dinner, and loading the van, it was 10:30, and we decided to stay the night with my grandparents and get started first thing in the morning when they get up to go to church.

So, we're a day off schedule, but as long as we're in Vancouver by 8pm on Wednesday, it's all good. In the meantime, I get a little more time with my grandparents... and the wonderfully ripe cherries they've picked off their tree. Yum!

Birthday Party

Had a birthday party tonight and a lot of people showed up. At 8:30 the house was completely packed, and I realized that none of these were just acquaintences. All of them were really friends who all showed up to celebrate with me. I've got a really great circle of friends.

Plus, I got really cool presents, including the Monkees Season 1 on DVD, Meet Me In St. Louis on DVD, a Hear Music gift certificate, a Victoria's Secret gift certificate, a interesting new artist on CD, a salt scrub bar from Origins, a lovely green glass vase, Zigity, Emotional Design by Don Norman, Ginger Snaps from my grandma, a zucchini bread recipe and 3 loaves from my mom, some great pictures of me framed from Rachel, a Tibos Crepe Maker, and a whole bunch more, plus a lot of great cards. I'm always surprised when people bring presents, but it's really nice. I feel overwhelmingly loved tonight.

I had a good week at work, getting a lot of stuff done and done well. I managed to finish of the testing and make some tweeks to the design and get it shipped off to the jsp developer to implement. I created a gorgeous presentation for the vets, and had the whole presentation delivery go wonderfully. I arrived at work this morning to find balloons and chocolate dipped strawberries from my roommate. I had lunch with her and another coworker who bought me lunch. I did a little testing to make sure the jsps worked on a Mac, and added one element to the design, and wrapped it all up and left work feeling accomplished.

And tomorrow, it's off on vacation. Life is awfully good right now.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Series Finale - Angel vs. Friends

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS. Turn back now if you haven't watched Angel yet.

It's amazing how some shows do well with a series finale, and other shows really totally blow it. I think blowing it is far more common.

Last night, I got home from work really late, but still wanted to sit down and catch the last episode of Angel. I wasn't disappointed. Joss wrapped it all up, and made it worth every minute. The best part for me was how true to the characters he was, especially Wesley. Throughout the Angel series, whenever Wesley tries to do the right thing, tries to do something noble, it turns out that the right thing is pretty much opposite of what he did. It's been true since he joined the cast midway through the first season. He's so woefully human - alternately cocksure and self-loathing, hopeful and cynical, highly educated but unwise, and both sides of these conditions conspire to lead him astray frequently. He fails at his task in the finale, being the only one of the gang unable to complete their job, and yet was the only one who openly stated that he had no intention of dying that night. It was a perfect end to a well developed character. His intentions always seem to work against him. As a Watcher, he learns first to separate truth from fiction and live only in truth, but in the end, the fiction is what comforts him in his final moments. Perfect. And that was just one element of the finale! The rest of it rocked too. The battle between Hamilton and Angel was perfection. Going badly, witty banter, one false word, and whammo! Joss Whedon at his best.

On the other hand, the series finale of Friends was a slow sort of torture. There was this huge hullabalooo about Rachel going to Paris, which just ultimately seemed totally overblown. I mean, come on, plane tickets to visit are cheap, especially for tenured faculty, and cripes, it's not the end of the world! Heck, living without each other for a year or two is probably just the right sort of crucible for that relationship. But no, it had to be this huge get off the plane drama and it was all just so unbelievable and maudlin. It was a feeble ending to a show that was past it's sell by date.

And then there's the shows that are still on the air. Could someone please explain to me how Enterprise keeps not getting cancelled? Firefly - 13 episodes. Enterprise - 3 years. Firefly - pure sci-fi genius. Enterprise - consistently almost good, almost entertaining, yet ultimately, a wasted hour because aside from the occasional cute beagle moment, it ends up being totally awful in the long run. The theme song also is the worst on record. How is it that Joss Whedon has nothing on the air now, and Enterprise lives on? It's a crime against humanity.

Oh well. Poor little Tivo will be ever so bored next year. The only thing keeping him warm will be Gilmore Girls and ER, and I'm afraid ER is past its sell by date too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

UI Testing

Thinking Aloud Usability Testing: tried and true, and it's been a big part of my life for the last week.

I've been doing some testing on a mockup of the Graduate Financial System online approval worklist for the Workflow project. Five people came in. All five were able to do the tasks they needed to. I made a couple of tweeks based on their feedback. The users crack me up when they're cynical. One person said, "Well I'd like it to work , but I'll bet it doesn't." And then when it worked exactly as she described as being the ideal, she was like, "Oh, very nice. I'm going to like this." All in all, it's a less than ideal scenario having the designer doing the usability testing, but it's what we've got, and it's better than no testing at all.

And then today at 1, I went over to Tivo and sat down for a usability test, and was on the other side of the same scenario. No more the facilitator; now I'm the tester. The facilitator kept saying the same things to me I'd been saying to my users for the past week - "Say what you're doing out loud as you do it... Say what you expect to happen..." etc. I can't tell you any more about it, but I love Tivo. Love it love it love it. The gang who work there have big brains and they make stuff I want. This makes them very cool. I hope the market rewards them for their efforts and their changes to the way multimedia is consumed.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Censored

Ridiculous, but not wholly unexpected. That a teacher could be fired for supporting their student's creativity is repulsive. That a parent would be instructed to destroy her child's artwork is repugnant. That this is happening in America, land of the free and home of the brave, is so wildly disappointing. It saddens me, but oddly, it's also not unexepected. Our current climate of rabid flag waving where any criticism is seen as "being unAmerican" encourages this sort of treatment of dissidence. Somehow, I picture Joe McCarthy applauding in his grave, and all of Joe's victims crying out "Not again!" Isn't this free speech thing supposed to be what makes us better than anywhere else on Earth? Why are we so darned willing to give it up everytime we're just a little scared that someone else might try to take it from us?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Photos, Photos, and Cameras

It's been a weekend of photos.

Saturday was spent scanning photos of my grandparents for their 60th wedding anniversary. Some are my grandparents as I remember them. Many more were my grandparents back in their youth. All were really fun to look at. Scanning photos is really tedious though.

Today was spent in a photo shoot for the St. Steven's Green Ceili with Rachel. She took photos of us dancing outside in daylight so that she could capture motion without having to use a flash. It's just a bit too dark at the Green on Tuesdays for good shots. Eventually she'll take the time to put together a Tuesday Ceili website.

This evening was spent assembling another 50 Random Pixel cameras. Unbox cameras, remove plastic wrapper, print labels, cut labels, name the cameras, unpeel labels and stick. Yet to do is take the first photo (a shot of a white board saying "Please send the negatives to Kevin Fox... This camera is named....") and affix stamps. It's amazing how time consuming this little project is. A little worrisome is that none of our recent releases have come home. We're going to drop a dummy camera in the mail tomorrow to see if it makes it home. We're growing concerned that post-911 hysteria is affecting what the post office does with our little art project in a box. Hopefully they're not destroying or discarding these mystery boxes just before they make it home.

Today was a bad day for a diet. Bob brought cookies to the dancing, and then we stopped at Rick's for ice cream after dancing, and followed that with Chinese food during Random Pixie work. Back to responsible eating in the morning. For now, sleepytime.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Grandma was beautiful...

I've spent most of my day scanning photos of my grandparents for their 60th wedding anniversary. They were a handsome couple when they married in 1944. My grandmother was beautiful.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Shipped!

My phone finally shipped! Yay! Maybe it will be here by Friday if I'm very very lucky. We shall see. Here's hoping.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Foghead!

Okay, so one of the cool things about the bay area is KFOG. There are clones of Alice all over the country. There are NPR stations as good as KQED in most major cities. But there really isn't anything quite like KFOG. It's one of the little things I missed when I lived in L.A.

So in my mail the other day was a package from KFOG. It had a CD, a Foghead window cling, and a form letter. Not just any form letter, oh no. This was a letter that mentioned that I was coming up on a big milestone birthday, and KFOG, specifically Big Rick, wanted to wish me a happy birthday, and here was a sampler CD and a window cling as a present.

Yes, it was just a form letter, but someone actually programmed the database to look for all the Fogheads with milestone birthdays (presumably things like 21, 30, 40, 50, etc.) and send them a special letter. It wasn't the letter that everyone gets every year on their birthday; this was the special one. Someone at KFOG had to think that would be a good idea. Someone else had to okay it and pay the extra programming hours to do that. Someone had to okay sending out presents. And someone had to get paid to make sure that task gets done at least once a month. That's cool.

So my car has a new Foghead window cling next to my Tivo window cling. And my cd player is really liking some of the cuts on the sampler CD. I'm especially fond of track 3 by Jem called "I'm sorry". It's complicated and sexy and harmonious. I like it. Track 16 is by Johnny A., who I've much taken a liking to but haven't yet broken down to buy the album.

KFOG rocks. That's all.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Feeble Excuse

Lynndie England is pathetic. That she really thinks her behavior is excused by saying she was just following orders is an expression of the worst elements of the military. Since when do you abdicate all personal judgement of right and wrong and let yourself do something so painfully humiliating to another person in the name of your country?

My Job

So my job is really great in a lot of ways. Sure, I have a title that is utterly incomprehensible, but that comes from wearing so many hats. I'm a trainer, curriculum designer, e-learning specialist, who also does UI design/consulting, and who is charged with doing all initial user communications about my project, building consensus about how the project will be implemented, and continuing the communications until the project rolls out and beyond. Also, I do front line help desk support for the first 1-3 months after roll out to assist the standard help desk in becoming familiar with the new system and the most common problems can be clearly documented. Also, I work as a setup consultant for the local schools and departments to arrange their security access, approval authority, and other local setup issues related to the system so that the roll out is as painless as possible for them. It's great. I'm never truly bored. It's always changing. I'm not stuck doing the same thing day after day.

But here's the necessary downside of that - jack of all trades, master of none. On average, I get to do major html work about once or twice a year. In between, I frequently don't do anything web based, or possibly just edit text inside an existing e-learning course. What that means is that I get a whole bunch of knowledge, and then let it get stale for 6-9 months, and then try to pick up where I left off. Frequently this leads to my thinking, "I know I've done this before. How the heck did I do it?" My entire afternoon felt like that yesterday. It's very frustrating trying to relearn how to do stuff over and over again, knowing that next year about this time, I'll be doing the same darned thing.

Oh well. This is the price I pay for diversity on the menu at my job.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Yummy Dinner!

Emily sent out the recipes from the Indian food night yesterday, so I went to the Milk Pail and picked up some cabbage and fresh green beans for Cabbage Porial and Spiced Green beans. While at the market, I finally noticed their spices section. It rocks, and the spices are really reasonably priced. I noticed some Sumac and sumac blends that I picked up and used in some ground turkey. So Cabbage Porial, Spiced Green Beans, and Ground Turkey Kebabs for supper, and man oh man was it good. And low calorie. And good. Really really good. I finished off the green beans for lunch. It was the yummiest dinner experiment I've made in a while.

Recipes are as follows for anyone else feeling adventuresome in the veggie or meat department:

Spiced Green Beans

2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 dried red chili, crushed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1.5 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut into 3/4 inch lengths
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Heat the oil in a non-stick wok or skillet. Add the cumin seeds and stir for 5 seconds. Add the red chili and cook until light brown. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic turns light brown. Add the green beans, salt, and sugar and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Reduce the heat to med-low. Add 1/2 cup of water. Cook the beans, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes until they are tender and have absorbed all the liquid in the pan. Add lemon juice and serve.

Cabbage Porial

2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp seeded, chopped, fresh green chilies
12 fresh curry leaves (optional)
2 tsp split urad dal
2 tsp split chana dal
1 small cabbage, about 1 lb, cored, trimmed, and finely shredded
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste.

Heat the oil in a non-stick wok or skillet over moderate heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until they crackle. Add the chilies, curry leaves (if using) and urad dal. Stir for 1 minute. Add the chana dal and stir until both dals are golden brown. Add the cabbage. Mix well and reduce the heat. Add 2 tbsp of water. Cover and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Ground Turkey Kebabs

1 1/4 lb. package of ground turkey
2-3 tablespoons of Sumac or Sumac Marinade blend
1 egg

Mix together and shape into 8-10 3 inch kebabs. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees.

Comments

The comments thing is cracking me up. So far I've had more than one person complain about having to register and create a blog just to write comments. That's really funny to me considering I had the EXACT same complaint about both G-Blog and Live Journal so long ago. I hereby officially say "Quit yer whining! Y'all wanted comments, and there's consequences for that, so there." Me, I'm still not convinced that the whole comments thing is cool yet.

I'm fine.

Okay, so the brain is fully back on line again. I was fine starting Monday morning. No more headache. No more rearranging letters. Just back to normal old Ammy. Well, as normal as that is anyway. All in all, looks like a classic migraine.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Okay, here's a test.

Blogger did a major upgrade yesterday. Now they have comments. Are comments a good thing? Let's find out. I still have my doubts. I have much enjoyed having Almost There... be mine rather than communal. On the other hand, maybe that's terribly selfish of me since I enjoy commenting on other people's Live Journals and Fury and such. But I'm still not sure I'm ready to change the culture of my blog. Each post in Blogger allows me to select whether or not it will have comments. I think that by default, most of my posts will not allow comments, at least for now.

Also, you'll notice the new template. I may tweek it further. This is an out of the box offering from the Blogger gang. My last template was an out of the box offering too. I went to the Art Deco exhibit at the Legion of Honor this weekend, and over all, it wasn't as impressive as I wanted it to be. After some of the deco furnishings in the Musee d'Orsay, it really paled. Still, it gave me a nice idea for a sort of deco version of Almost There... with two shades of green, yellow, and lavendar accents. We'll see if I get it together to ever do something like that. In the meantime, this isn't bad.

And for the team at Blogger, thanks! This is the best birthday present I've gotten so far!

Here I was gonna post a trivial little musing on my super nasty migraine of Friday/Saturday. I flick over to Blogger, and having completely forgotten about the system upgrade this weekend, and much surprised as I'm greeted with an entirely new look and feel, yet one I instantly comprehend how to use. It's almost as if they care about usability or something over at Google. Go figure.

Anyway, had one honker of a headache starting Friday night. On my walk in to FNW, I figured I must've glanced up at a streetlamp or something because I had sort of an afterimage in my right eye. Then I realized that wasn't it at all. I figured, well, heck I just paid $7 to dance, so let's see how bad this gets before calling it a night. Got bad. Probably shouldn't have driven home. Did it anyway. Good news - I can dance while having a migraine. Bad news - I'm not so good at other things like walking straight, driving in traffic, and showering.

The classic migraine that I so rarely get is such a weird experience. My impression of the world was deeply affected. Little sensations seemed so much bigger than normal. And the flashy lights. Those suck. The weird thing is that those are like an early warning system for me. Flashy lights, then an hour or so later, the pain. And the pain didn't go away for 20 hours. I was wobbly and nauseous and irritable and sensistive to light and sound all day Saturday. Rick was a total dear. He not only tolerated me, but made it seem like no big deal, even when I whined at him in my sleep and told him to stop being so restless when he really wasn't being any more restless than normal.

I wonder what a migraine really is exactly. I've been having weird trouble with language for the past two days. I keep rearranging letters as I speak. I know what I want to say, but sometimes I just can't spit it out. It's spooky. It's as if a little part of my brain broke, and the repair crews have some temporary wiring installed but are still working on the permanent installations. I hope to be mostly back to normal at work tomorrow. I'm meeting with the CIO at 8am for a breakfast meeting. I really don't want to be a stuttering idiot in that meeting.

Anyhow, off to bed now. At least I'm yawning at 12:15 this Sunday...

Saturday, May 08, 2004

As I scan through my junk mail, occasionally I'm tricked into looking a mortgage spam or Viagra spam or something like it by checking an email that has a Subject and Sender combo that looks like it might actually be real mail. I look at it, and then immediately delete it. What I have to wonder is, who would ever buy something based on one of these openly deceptive emails? How can this possibly be a viable business model? I just don't get it.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Lots of mini-notes

Was so busy at work this week that I faded a bit on the diet. I avoided the Mexican pastries in the morning for Cinco de Mayo, but the chips and salsa got me in the afternoon. Back to it next week with a vengence. Luckily, this weekend is apparently much less busy than normal, so I have time to cook. Yay! Gonna make up several fridge goodies for next week so that I eat well. On the plus side, I'm down to 150 (from 156 two weeks ago) and feeling much better. I now get full on a small meal. When my Lean Cuisine for lunch today made me feel stuffed, I knew I'd turned the corner. The body is getting back to reality, and I really like it.

Two people from the office told me today that they saw my name in the paper on Wednesday. (The link above requires registration, but you can skip that using BugMeNot.com if you like.) They were impressed that I was mentioned in the Business section. I guess they perceive that section as more important. Go figure. This led to an impromptu break in the Lab Animals review meeting today where we went and looked at RandomPixel for 2 minutes.

I taught the beginning Irish Ceili class at St. Steven's Green since Rachel couldn't be there. If I'd known I was going to do it, I would've been all nervous, but when she wasn't there, I just leapt in and went for it. It went really well. I got them through the Galway reel with no death, plusthe body of the four hand reel. It was really fun. I am now officially less terrified of having to teach a class on occasion. Yay!

I just finished going through a financial planning worksheet that my financial planner assigned me. I'm sure everyone is surprised by their spending in one area or another. For me, my entertainment costs are surprisingly low, but my food costs are astronomical. Sure, my dining out accounts for about $200 a month, but that I expected. What I didn't expect was that I spent $400 on groceries in March. Bizarre. I know I cook a lot. I know I choose high quality ingredients. But wow. I think that month was an exception, because April was about $200, but still. Wow. Gonna keep an eye on that for a while. All in all though, I think my spending is fairly restrained (except for food. Big exception.)

Watched the last episode of Fire Within last night. It seemed to end on a whimper. I don't think the folks at Cirque have fully figured out TV as a medium yet. Also watched 3 episodes of Solstrom. The first one (Romance) was ok. The second one we watched (Gothic) was pretty bad, but it had Brian Le Petit. The third one (Twins) was actually really really good. It had a great actor/performer as the lead going through the looking glass into a sort of twins world. There was an act with bubbles that was insane. Also, there was a two woman strength act that was way sexy. The show held together for the full hour. Overall though, the shows are pretty much a stage show being filmed. The sets are cheesy. The acting is often second rate since the performers are usually highly skilled at something else as their primary reason for being there. The style of photography looks a lot like BBC from the 80's. Some things work. Others fall really flat. I disagree with Kev's assessment of "Teletubbies for Adults". That's really not it. It's circus, not quite ready for television as a medium. Anyhow, Paul's recording more episodes, and he says I've got some sort of special privilege on his Tivo since I made it land in his home. I'm all for it. It was such a pleasant evening, with snuggles from head to toe - Rick scratching my head while Paul rubbed my feet. I was in my own personal heaven.

And now, I'm off to Friday Night Waltz.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Had one of those cool "Why it's nice working at Stanford" moments yesterday. I trained a user to do protocol reviews in the new Human Subjects E-Protocol system. She works in the Stanford Center for AIDS Research doing clinical trials on AIDS drugs. She said that the new system will really make her life easier and make the review process go faster. Net result (in my mind): more time for her to work on AIDS research. That was the best thing about my day yesterday. Let's not talk about the worst, okay?

My birthday is my semi-annual opportunity to find out what I really want in the way of stuff and update my wishlist online. I'm not fishing for presents, but I like taking a pause and figuring out what I'd buy if I were gonna get myself something, or what I'd be excited about ripping the wrapping paper off of. This year, my gift to self seems to be a new phone. Not sure if I'm going to add to that or not. Also, work seems to be giving me a new computer (for a mobility enabled Ammy with less memory errors). Between those two, I'm probably going to be plenty satisfied with the quantity of new stuff. Still, it's fun to look. Looks like costume stuff is still topping the list of items I'd like to buy.

Overall though, I'm still just not a stuff person. I'd much prefer new experiences over new things. A plane ticket to London/Paris/anywhere in Europe would be far more exciting to me than something else I have to find room for in my closet.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My brain just broke. The Pixies as a polyphonic ring tone for a phone. The Pixies as what amounts to modern Muzak. Wow. I just don't know how to feel about that. On the one hand, it's just so wrong. It would be like carrying around a photocopy of the Mona Lisa, and having people say, "Wow, hey, is that the Mona Lisa? That's so cool." when they recognize it. Er, something. But something less famous than that. Like carrying around a little resin miniture copy of the Hera of Samos and if someone recognized it saying, "Wow, that's the Hera of Samos. How cool." On the one hand, it's a total bastardization of the music. On the other hand, there's a little part of me going, "Cool! They've got Pixies ring tones!" Okay, that part of me is getting smaller and smaller.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

New Toy!

Okay, so I bought it. I was really discouraged this morning because I contacted the AT&T Wireless chat help through the website. First it took 6 minutes to get connected. Then I asked my question, and the rep immediately said, "Oh, well if you're buying from Buy.com, I can't help you." I said that I had questions about the service plan rather than the phone purchase itself and could he please clarify for me. Then there was an 8 minute pause. Then I asked my question about the insurance again and there was no response. And finally he responded by pointing me to the web page where I'd actually been in the first place that made me have a question. I explained that I was looking for clarification, and he pasted the text of the website into the chat form. Yah, really not helping. Things went on this way through one further question before he pointed me to another webpage and logged off without checking to see if he had answered my question. I was now really doubting choosing AT&T as a carrier, and dreading having to start the shopping process over again. So I wrote to them via their contact us form, and said how I was feeling, and said that if they wanted to save their chance at having my business that they could call me and answer my questions. At 3:00, I got a call from James, who sincerely apologized for Lamar, answered all of my questions in great detail, and generally made it clear that they did have a clue about what customer service meant. I was impressed. So, a shiny new phone is now hurtling towards me. This makes me very happy since my old phone is currently in my bag beeping loudly saying it's running out of battery even though I charged it overnight. Grr.

I'm actually thinking of creating a performance art piece and videotaping it for posterity. It involves my old phone, four cinder blocks, a table cloth in T-Mobile pink, and a big heavy mallet. This would be performed at the San Antonio shopping center outside of the T-Mobile store. It would also involve me smacking the phone with the big mallet every time it goes "bee-doop" saying the battery is dying until such time as the phone stops it either through running out of battery or is in too many pieces.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Okay, my personal life is surrounded with beauty and creativity and what humanity can achieve given a stable environment and a comfortable existance.

On the other hand, I'm completely disgusted by what humanity will do. Small wonder the rest of the world hates Americans.

Morality is so very simple - Treat others as you would wish to be treated. That's it. That's all. If everyone did just that, this bullshit would NEVER happen.

Rachel has a magical way with a camera that makes me feel all beautiful. Others make me feel like I'm kinda cute. Rachel makes me feel beautiful and sexy.

It's one of those days where I feel like I'm surrounded by utter brilliance and creativity. Kevin is riding high on GMail and Random Pixel. Rachel's photography is getting lots of attention. My ceili thing is working out. Fred is excelling with Danse Libre. And a million other little things. I feel so blessed to have my friends who set the bar of accomplishment so very high.

I am currently searching for a new phone, and right now, it's looking like it's going to be a Nokia 6820. I've never been a fan of Nokia, but this phone has some really great features. My current phone, a feeble little Motorola with T-Mobile service has been one of the poorer purchasing choices I've ever made. T-Mobile coverage has been very poor in the Bay Area. I don't have coverage at home, don't have coverage on 101 between work and home, and most of my calls are dropped before I finish talking. The phone itself has been slowly losing battery life and now can receive one phone call and then it thinks it's low on battery. When it's low on battery, it beeps every five minutes or so. This is really annoying when sitting with a client waiting for a call back from the developer. It's the "Sorry about my phone. I know it's really annoying." conversation that I get sick of having. So, new phone is in order. Required features are a removeable, replaceable battery, one touch access to the phone book, and coverage at home and in my office. The AT&T Wireless online purchase gives me 30 days to try out that range of features. Just a little more research to do, and then I'll decide.

Overall, I'm really surprised by how little innovation there's been in the past year in cell phones. There's nothing new really, and there wasn't anything particularly new or interesting last year when I was looking either. I really don't need my phone to be a camera, and that seems to be the only major source of innovation. I guess that's why I'm interested in this Nokia. For about what I'm paying now per month, I can have a phone that folds out to a full keyboard and allows me to use Yahoo Instant Messenger. This could be really useful for work since Y!IM is what we use on the team. Being in a meeting, and able to say "Hey Eileen, can you bring a copy of blah to the meeting at 10?" and have her respond "Yes" and me say "Thanks." would've been really useful a couple of weeks ago. That, and now at the really boring meetings, I can IM Kev and say, "Dude!" or whatever.

And yes, it's Sunday night, and I'm not sleepy. Sunday night super insomnia strikes again. I really wish it was a 3 day weekend. It has felt all day like it was supposed to be and something is just wrong with the universe. It can't possibly be time to go back to work already. Blarg.