Almost there...

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

And the fun keeps on coming!

I really don't know what I did to piss off the karma fairy, but she's apparently decided to beat me up this week. Or something.

It's been a long time since I've felt so incompetant and out of my depth as I did in a phone conversation today. Jean managed to pummel me with enough techno-babble that after that 30 minute conversation, I had no further idea what she wanted from me, couldn't access the file she wanted me to look at, had managed to mess up my computer so that it now keeps forcing me to sign into PC-Leland repeatedly throughout the day, and utterly made me feel like there was no hope of my ever getting sufficiently up to speed and being effective at the task which has been handed to me. I went to talk to Harish about it, but he was in a meeting. Then I went to walk over and talk to Eileen about it and realized I was starting to cry. So I went and hid in the bathroom. Up til now, I've thought I had a fairly decent understanding of the needs for Authority Manager, and could probably add anything else I needed to know about it fairly quickly. Now I feel out of my depth and overwhelmed. How did I, an English major with fairly decent writing skills, but no prior interest or experience with computers, end up spending my career on computer systems? It took me ten minutes to realize that it's not all my issue though. During the conversation, Jean used 3 different terms for the SUNet ID. She really could've just said "SUNet ID", or even "primary SUNet ID," but that wasn't how this conversation was going. She may as well have been telling me all this in Spanish for as much common vocabulary we had.

Anyway,I pulled myself together and went on to my next meeting. It was about 15 minutes into that meeting when I realized I'd stood up my 9am meeting. Frak.

Meanhwhile, Kevin had asked yesterday if I'd like to go see Spiderman 2 with the Googlers at 7pm. I gave an enthusiastic "Heck yeah!" But, due to some sort of snafu, there aren't enough tickets, so now my evening plans are shot for a second night in a row. I feel bad even complaining about that though. I mean, compared to Kevin, things just aren't so bad. His grandmother is expected to die within the next 48 hours. He saw her on Monday and she was doing fine. Then they told her she had terminal cancer, and whammo. Suddenly she's non-responsive to anything but extreme pain. The doctor gave her about 2 days to live. Oh, and this is the second year in a row Kevin is having a major family member die within a week of his birthday. I really hope he enjoys Spiderman tonight. He needs it.

Oh, and someone bought the townhouse on Benton. Someone not me. When the sign went up, I said, "This one is mine." Apparently it's not. I don't think we'll ever manage to buy a house here. I can't earn income and save savings fast enough to keep up with the market. It always stays one step ahead of me. Three years we've been trying to buy a house. It's never going to happen.

Ceili Chaos

So, to add to my already utterly befuddling day, I arrived first at St. Stephen's last night to find a large party upstairs. By 7pm when Paul and Rachel arrived, it had spilled out downstairs as well. We had a little pow-wow, then called everyone who was there for lessons outside. We called off lessons for the night, and then started calling everyone who might be coming from farther than local to warn them not to show up. We actually reached both Will and Alex before they got there from the east bay. Unfortunately, Chris Stehlik wasn't so lucky. We gave the first timers a card that I wrote on the back saying "Please Come Back! You're entitled to a free lesson." Meanwhile, Paul was calling Matt, and Matt decided to come on out anyway for an impromptu band performance. Apparently there was a little dancing. By the time we left at 8pm, the downstairs had cleared out, so honestly, we could've held a short lesson, but we'd officially called it off 45 minutes earlier.

I would be really ticked about the manager not notifying us, but really, I just feel sorry for Mike, the bartender. He didn't know it was happening either until he got to work at 5. That sucks.

I've got a call in to Des, the general manager. Hopefully I'll hear back from him today. Really, it would've been no big deal if I'd had 24 hours notice and could've sent a very different email to the mailing list than the one I did. We would've started the lessons later, had no intermediate class, and just had open dancing at 9. But that's not how things went. Instead, we went to dinner with Fred and Malaya. We went to peek into Rosie McCann's pub to see if it was a possible replacement spot, then upon finding it entirely too small and highly restaurant oriented, headed over for dinner at Pasta Pomodoro, but since they had a 20 minute wait, and since I've been burned by their 20 minute waits before, after a little more looking around Santana Row for food, we headed over to Chevy's for dinner instead. No waiting, no absurd prices, and a virgin strawberry margarita with my name on it. Well, okay, not my name, but a lovely dolop of whipped cream. Well fed on their "Best of the Best" with steak fajitas and a chicken taco, I was more than ready to write off Tuesday as "The day I most needed a Mulligan for, ever."

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Boy am I off today.

This morning I left the house with lunch for me, lunch for Rick, and my dance bag. After putting my cell phone into my work bag, I left that bag sitting on the bench in the kitchen. I got to work, looked behind my seat in the car, and was very confused. It wasn't in the trunk. It wasn't in the car. It must be at home. Okay.

This is after realizing I left the house without my glasses somewhere along the drive to work.

Then I went to a class on Using Humor in Presentations where unfortunately the instructor thought she was teaching a class on Humor in Communication. It ended up being sort of a waste for me. I've got to learn to stop taking little half day classes like that because they never get into anything beyond the basic situation. I am humorous and lighthearted in the easy situations. It's the tricky ones that are hard. Workshopping the tricky scenarios might be useful. Going over the basics again isn't. Anyway, I arrived at 8:30. The class was underway. It seemed to be going pretty fast. We wrapped up around 11:15, and I headed back, thinking I had time for a quick bite of lunch (yummy turkey meatballs, garlic broccoli, cherries and sugar peas. Yum.), and then I'd run to my dance class. On the way back, I bumped into Rick and he was about to run home to get my bag for me. Sweet guy. I went back to my desk, checked my voicemail, warmed up my lunch, and sat down to the Mac in the office. It said that it was 12:35. That seemed odd, so I adjusted the clock.

Then Jo-Ann said something and I realized it really was 12:56, not 11:56 like I thought and I'd just missed my dance class. For some reason, my wristwatch is off by 1 hour. I adjusted it to say 12:58. Now I'm thoroughly befuddled. I think it's 1:12. I'm just not sure anymore. It's amazing how much my perception of time affected the class I was in. It didn't seem tedious at the time. Looking back, if that's all we covered in four hours, that was a major waste of time.

Anyway, I'm now wondering what time I talked to Rick and when he's planning to be back. I've got a meeting at 2pm with Valerie Fratus, so I guess that's pretty soon. I'm utterly at loose ends. I have no computer, no wallet, no glasses, and apparently a totally warped sense of time. If I had a car here, I'd probably call off my day and go home, but Rick has the car since he's fetching my bag and my glasses. I'm so far off my game that it actually feels more like a dream than real life. These are the kinds of things that happen in my dreams. It's all very surreal.

Well, I guess I'd best get back to work. Or something. Yeah.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Chinese and Firefly

There's a great little Chinese place near home that delivers. So, after hot tubbing for an hour at 6, we ordered Chinese (and went and picked it up because I was sooner than 45 minutes hungry), ate Chinese while inflicting Firefly on Forest, and never got to the strawberries I'd picked up from Whole Foods, but watching Kaylee eat a strawberry was good enough.

These are the some of the sweetest things in life. Good tubbing. Good food. Good company. Good story.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Offer Rejected

Not unexpectedly, our offer was rejected. I think I'm okay with that though. There's more coming on the market, and I see things softening in the near future. The two places I've been looking at are both on the market still, and I'm willing to wait for a better place in Willowbrooke to come up. I think those places may be better suited to my lifestyle, even if we do dearly love Pomeroy West. We'll see...

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

At least GWB isn't lying about anything really important like having sex. Sheesh.

And in a twist that clearly takes the parental "You're not the boss of me" teen angst bullshit too far, in his memoirs, "A World Transformed," written five years ago, George Bush Sr. wrote the following to explain why he didn't go after Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War.

"Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that! we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

Note to teenagers around the world: rebelling against your parents is all fun and games until you get hundreds of other people killed. I guess at least GWB can now say, "See, we were able to capture Saddam. I told you so." Great.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Made an offer...

I made an offer on the Benton street place. I've come to a terrible conclusion - buying a home is the worst form of shopping.

Normally, you walk into a store. If you like the price, you buy it.

Or online, you shop around between a bunch of different websites and pick which one has the best price and shipping deals and you buy it (or add it to a wishlist, or whatever).

On eBay, my least favorite form of shopping, you bid on something, and you know what the other people are bidding, and you can choose to bid it higher or bail out based on what they're bidding.

Buying a home, you have no idea what other people are bidding. You have to take a guess, offer something, hope that no one else offers more, and hope that you don't overpay. Even if you do have the highest offer, the seller can disregard it and continue to wait for a better offer. This process sucks.

Add to that I decided to taunt myself by looking at places in Seattle. Yeah, I could live there, in a cuter place, for a whole lot less.

60th Anniversary

Well, the party was a big success. I ate lots of yummy fried calamari (which I've been craving for weeks now. Go figure.) and got to hang out with some of my favorite folks from my childhood - Johnny Bollman and Ross Davidson for example. Johnny has been a favorite for years. He used to own a gas station in Carmichael. Truly, he's one of the warmest, nicest people I've ever met. He retired when I was a kid, and he doesn't look much different now 20 years later. Ross is a character. He's the honorary mayor of Carmichael and he's always organizing big vacations that my grandparents go on. He and his brother Harry were old favorites at Quintette. It's nice being all grown up and around folks who thought I was a cool kid and who think I've turned out just fine.

The slideshow presentation went just fine (thank you Kevin!), and everyone told me they liked it. Grandma announced mid-way through that some of the pictures weren't here. She said later that maybe they were after all, but she thought one of them at least was her best friend. Ooops! Oh well. Everyone laughed about the Home-grown Tomatoes song.

All in all, it was a nice evening. We retired to my grandparent's house for hanging out and relaxing after the (115!) guests left. Grandpa told some of his old war stories, most of which I've heard before, so I was only half listening, but it seems like every time, he throws in some little tidbit I've never heard before. I still think it would be fun to write a book about his experiences, with little chapters about what grandma was doing at the same time back in the states. She makes it out like she wasn't doing much of anything - just working and playing softball - but just that much is fascinating. I'm sure she's got lots of stories, and it'd make an interesting balance point for the story.

Grandma wore the suit she was married in. Yes, sixty years and three children later she can still wear the same outfit. Please tell me I got at least 1/4 of her good genes. She amazes me. I reckon I'll have both her and grandpa around for a number of more years to come, and I'm really thankful for that. Both of them are amazing role models. They're busy and active and contributing to the community all the time. And tonight I'm having more of grandpa's corn for dinner. Yummy!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ofoto

So, though Ofoto came highly recommended to me for quality printing, I can't recommend them to others. The printing is fine (though one photo came out with an odd greenish cast), but the system UI and their customer service receive failing marks.

I submitted my order originally on June 7th to get 15 pictures printed for my grandparent's anniversary party. They emailed me the next day having cancelled the order. I panicked momentarily and called them up at the number on their website, only to be directed from there to another 800 number. I called that and talked to a guy who went through the issues with me. Turns out, they believed that some of the photos might be copyrighted. He emailed me a consent form, and I filled it out and faxed it back to him. Meanwhile, I noticed that zoom and crop was set on all of my pictures. I said that I hadn't wanted that, and he said it was set by default and I said "Set where?" I went back to look at the order form. Turns out that it's in the lower left of the screen, away from all of the other data I was filling out, and I didn't have any idea I should be looking for it to keep it from cropping off the top of my grandma's head. That last part is the pretty important one from a UI standpoint for me. I had no idea that I should be worrying about that by default, so why would I go looking for a checkbox I had no clue was there, let alone checked? I discussed with him my other basic UI issue - by default, every photo would come printed as a 4x6. I wanted 8x10s, not 4x6, so first I went through and deleted 4x6 from each item and then added a 1 to each of the 8x10s. When one of the photos wasn't recommended for 8x10 printing, I had to go out and choose another, and when I came back, 4x6 was automatically filled in again on every photo. He said I should've unchecked the default 4x6. I said, "Checked where?" He pointed me to the Express Order box in the upper left corner. I hadn't even perceived that as relating to quantity because it wasn't in line with the quantity column. Well anyway, it turns out to get zoom and crop removed from my order, I'd have to resubmit it and get a new order number which should be written on the consent form which he was emailing which I would then need to fax back to them. Whew! All that done, form faxed twice (and we won't even get into how much I hate faxes because there's no confirmation that it worked and the recipient really got what you sent).

So the next day I checked in to find my order processing normally. I breathed a sigh of relief and called my mom to tell her it should arrive Monday.

It didn't arrive Monday.

I went back to Ofoto to follow up and found that my order had been cancelled AGAIN, this time without any email notice. I called up and talked to a guy who apologized, noted that yes, they had the consent form on file, created a new order number, and when I said, "You need to overnight this now," he said "Oh I think it should make it in time since we're in Emeryville and it's only going to Sacramento." I explained that I couldn't really take that risk since it needed to be there no later than Thursday. So he said he'd see if he could make that happen. I asked him to call me back as soon as he was sure. That was 8:30 in the morning. At 3:30, I called back to find out whether he'd handled it or not. The woman I talked to said that it was being processed and would be mailed out today. I said that I'd talked to Bing in the morning, and he'd been arranging to have it overnighted. She said that it was going postal. I explained why that was no longer acceptable, and she hemmed a bit, and put me on hold, and finally came back and said she could do that, but that she'd have to create a new order number. Somehow, I knew that was coming.

So, four order numbers and 3 phone calls later, the photos were finally overnighted to my mom. Everything worked out fine in the end, but really, Ofoto does not have it together. A customer shouldn't have to be that aggressive or vigilant to get a normal order processed in a normal way.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Doin' the Crazy

See, I don't do the whole spending money thing very well. Few things wrack me with more angst and uncertainty.

Then Rob says:
""Never test the depth of the water with both feet," the old saying goes, and usually I endorse such an approach. But not now. For the next two weeks, Gemini, you're exempt from that and just about every other cautionary rule. As far as I can tell, your future is so wide open that the only guiding principles you need are those that give you permission. Here's an example you might like, formulated by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey: "The only unnatural sex act is one you cannot perform.""

And yes, future wide open, take the plunge, but darn it if the whole thought of spending nearly half a million dollars on a townhouse doesn't leave me reeling. And then there's the whole issue of whether or not this is the perfect place for us. We love the place. The only thing it needs is a bit of paint and a new kitchen counter and we'd be ready to move in. The space feels great. We love the floor plan. The backyard is great. It's in Santa Clara, thus promising us wonderful utility rates. We love the community. The only question is whether or not we'd love a place in Willowbrooke more. It's right near Campbell, backs up to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, is walking distance to the Pruneyard, is completely adorable, and the only problem is that we don't want the one that's currently for sale. We want a different one to come up for sale, but they seem to do that with some regularlity there.

So do I take the bird in the hand, or continue to wait, not knowing how expensive it will be the next time a bird flies out of that bush? And darn it, $400,000 was supposed to be my spending limit, and up until the last month or so, both of these could be had at or much nearer that limit. The last time we bid on a Pomeroy West place, I offered $390k. The last time we bid on a Willowbrooke place (less than 2 months ago), it was a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath that I offered full price for at $399k. Okay, so that one went for $20k over asking price, but still, that's not the same as $445k by a long shot. What crazy thing has the market gone and done now? What's a girl to do?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Campus Brawl: Oracle Vs. PeopleSoft at Stanford

This article pretty well sums up the projects I've been working on at Stanford for the past three years. Thankfully, I'm only peripherally involved in the PeopleSoft HR and Graduate Financial System these days, and spending most of my time working on the new eProtocols system. This whole thing has been a total nightmare for the university. The one thing I don't grok is who thought it would be a good idea to use two different ERP packages? Trying to get Oracle and PeopleSoft to play nice is like putting a pair of rabid dogs in a cage together and seeing who rips out whose throat first. Pick one, and move forward. Anything else is suicide. And none of the above is a real option. But if you choose none of the above, don't code your own system in a special language you created. That's what got us to the point of having to retire the mainframe in the first place. It's written in "Spires" which was a language created at Stanford for Stanford mainframes. The mainframe had to be retired because all the people who created it wanted to retire, or were dying.

Firefly geek moment

Okay, so I don't usually go to conventions. The Battlestar Galactica 20 Yahron Reunion was around the corner from my place in LA, and I chickened out. I haven't ever made it to BayCon here in town. There's a dual fear that comes with conventions - 1. that I'm not a big enough geek to fit in and have fun, and 2. that everyone else there will be such total uber-geeks that I'll think they're pathetic. It's a really odd thing to feel both not cool enough for something, and yet have the suspicion that everyone else there might be socially maladjusted dorks. How does that work? Anyway...

I've never been as big a fan of something as I am of Firefly. Best tv ever, and killed in its prime.

So there's a Brown Coat Ball convention in Chicago in September. I already know what I'd wear to the ball on Saturday night. I think it'd be a hoot, and since Serenity is due in theaters on April 22nd, 2005, it would probably be a pretty exciting time for fans.

The convention costs $100, which seems pretty cheap considering that includes several meals, a costume ball, and a private train ride. Plane tickets look like they'll run about $250. A hotel room is simple, if I can get some compatriots to go with me. So do I really want to do this? Do I want to brave this convention? And if so, who can I talk into going with me?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

A Bad Day for the Regents Blvd House and its Residents

We arrived at Fred's place at 5 to host the party, since both he and Malaya were due to be out. With Malaya's car out front, we figured she'd made it home early. She was upstairs in Fred's room, trying to make sense of the very large mess she encountered there.

Turns out, Fred and Brooks' place had been burgled either last night or this morning. Very little was missing, but much was in a mess. Fred had come home earlier and straightened out the downstairs for the party after calling the police and filing a report. Malaya called him and found out the rest of the scoop. It seemed the only thing stolen was Brooks' laptop.

Then Brooks got home from his camping weekend. He was unloading the car, and went to open the garage door, and from inside the house we heard a sort of whomp. It took us all a minute or so to figure it out. I went to peek out the garage, and the garage door was sitting at a bit of an unnatural angle. We rushed around the front to discover that dry rot had caused the hinges of the door to pull out of the frame. 'Cause, y'know, getting your house broken into isn't a big enough bummer on its own. You really need the house to fall apart too to make the day really special.

Further investigation led to some other odd items being missing: a new digital audio recorder being the worst; a jar of pennies being the weirdest. The other thing was that they thieves had opened every remote control battery compartment. The only guess is that it was in a search for drugs. Our best guess at a profile is of a local kid looking to steal only what could be easily carried and explained away to the parents, primarly drug or cash seeking.

Poor Brooks felt pretty bad. For some reason, his stuff was apparently more attractive than Fred's stuff. I can't explain it. Suffice to say, it sucks to be him right now.

Other than that, we had a lovely Spaghetti/BBQ Sunday, with a great turnout and lots of good food and good company. Shawna and Sherman were visiting from Arizona and it was really nice to see them. Still, there was a sort of oddness to the whole evening.

Technology bites sometimes

So I sat down Saturday to finish my grandparent's presentation. I'd planned to do it with Powerpoint. I've done a million presentations with Powerpoint, so how hard could it be, right?

Well, I intermittently forget how much Powerpoint sucks ass. This was one of those moments. For all those presentations I do, I've learned how to pommel Powerpoint into doing what I want, but that doesn't make it an elegant or graceful tool. Earlier in the week, I had trouble with it because it wouldn't play mp3 sound files. It recognized it as a sound file, let me insert it as a sound file, but when you actually go to play it, no joy. Plan B was to convert it to a .wav file and try again. That part worked out after some techno-wrangling, but then it turns out that a limitation of Powerpoint is that if you insert a sound, it only plays the sound as long as you're on THAT slide. Go to the next slide, and it cuts off. Of course it never occurred to anyone working on development of Powerpoint that a user might want to set all or part of a series of slides to music. I started trying to figure ways around this, and it looked more and more like the best bet would be to bring a boombox and press play on the CD when starting the slide show. This is not the elegant solution I had in mind.

Finally, willing to admit defeat at the hands of Microsoft, I called Kevin, and recounted some of my travails so far, including the part where multiple people have suggested how easy this would be using iPhoto or iMovie or some such. Luckily, all of my taunting of the past week over his RandomPixel tardiness did not deter him from offering to rush in and save the day. He came over with one laptop, returned home to get another, and after a whole series of crazy moments involving a network router, and iTunes, and the household wireless, and ultimately iPhoto and iDVD and Amadeus II, we finally got a DVD of two songs and 120 photographs burned. This is better than plan A because now I can also give a copy of the disk to my grandparents, mom, uncle, and cousins as a party gift.

I've never been a Windows loyalist. Macs are better at some things, and Windows is better at some things, but I gotta say, the Mac blew my shiny new Windows laptop out of the tub on this task. Now I want a Mac of my own to play with. The end result is just gorgeous. On the other hand, I hope I'm not dumb enough to volunteer for a task like this again anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Pssst!

Guess what Rick did today.

He started a shiny new job as a CRC Technical Consultant at Stanford. Yay!!!

It's a 30 day contract. After 1 day, he's pretty sure that at the end of it, he'll have a longer job if he so chooses. It's just that whole "so chooses" question that's the issue. Apparently, day one was a bit jaw dropping. Now he truly understands the fiefdoms that are Stanford, and he's afraid. Very afraid. I think he's got a good team though and they're planning to spend most of tomorrow teaching each other Mac support since it's what all three of them are weak on.

But for now, he's employed, and tomorrow morning we're carpooling to work together. Life is good.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

AT&T Continued

Well, they managed to survive this round. They credited my account for the activation fee (which I shouldn't be charged) and $24.99 for the premature activation. That works. Funny thing is, I was really dreading giving up my new phone. I likes it, I do. Gotta find a cover for it though.

CEILI!!!

Pixies!

My favorite band in high school was the Pixies. They rocked beyond belief. Then they broke up, not long after I saw them play at the Crest. I still listen to the CDs pretty regularly though, especially in the summer for some reason. The B-52s and The Pixies are both perfect for the summer.

A couple of seasons ago on Gilmore Girls, I laughed a lot harder than Rick when Lane explained how hopeless something was by comparing it to a potential reunion for the Pixies.

Lane would be wetting herself right now. I just bought two tickets to the Pixies concert at 3pm on September 26th. Woot!

ugh

Having a depressing day at work. We had our first testers in for GFS w/Workflow. They said exactly what I said six months ago - the clicking around is really oppressive. It's hard to use. Yep. I know that, but the business analyst kept saying things like, "Well, sometimes the needs of the system outweigh the needs of the user." Sure they do. Ugh.

Then I went to go do testing on E-Protocols for Non-Medical Human Subjects. Anastasia met with Chandra and marked up a bunch of screen shots back on May 21st. None of her changes (extensive as they were) are done or correct. The system was supposed to be ready in dev on June 2nd, then rescheduled to yesterday afternoon. It's still not in dev. We were working on the Key remote server. We were very disappointed.

These are the days that make you wonder what the heck you're doing with your life, because clearly, making any progress towards a better user experience at Stanford just isn't happening. Sigh.

Having a depressing day at work. We had our first testers in for GFS w/Workflow. They said exactly what I said six months ago - the clicking around is really oppressive. It's hard to use. Yep. I know that, but the business analyst kept saying things like, "Well, sometimes the needs of the system outweigh the needs of the user." Sure they do. Ugh.

Then I went to go do testing on E-Protocols for Non-Medical Human Subjects. Anastasia met with Chandra and marked up a bunch of screen shots back on May 21st. None of her changes (extensive as they were) are done or correct. The system was supposed to be ready in dev on June 2nd, then rescheduled to yesterday afternoon. It's still not in dev. We were working on the Key remote server. We were very disappointed.

These are the days that make you wonder what the heck you're doing with your life, because clearly, making any progress towards a better user experience at Stanford just isn't happening. Sigh.

Monday, June 07, 2004

So unhappy with AT&T Wireless right now.

I am billed as though I started service on 5/13/04, which is wholly inaccurate. I received my phone on 5/21/04 and called to activate service that day. Please correct my bill promptly.

I never heard back from my last email inquiry, have waited 4 times on the phone in the last five days, and finally sought out a AT&T Wireless store for lack of any other means of support, where their systems were down. So far, I'm far from impressed with your customer service. I once waited on hold for 47 minutes, only to be disconnected from the system. Another time, I waited and finally got through, only to have the customer service agent hang up on me, apparently because there was some mix up in my billing information and I couldn't guess what zip code you had on file since it wasn't my actual billing address zip code. The other two times I called, I was warned of an over 20 minute wait, waited for 30 minutes, and didn't have time to keep waiting. When I mentioned all of this on Sunday to the clerk at the store, she said, "Well, if it's ever over 20 minutes, just hang up and call back later. EVERY time I've called, the wait has been more than 20 minutes. What do I do then? She said that the reason the system hung up on me after the 47 minute wait was that it was supposed to do that after 45 minutes. I can't begin to tell you how angry that made me. My patience is rewarded with programmed rejection? Absurd. I'm out of patience now.

Please fix my bill promptly, otherwise I will discontinue service immediately. So far, the only thing that has impressed me about AT&T is the service coverage, and that's just not enough.

Edit: Apparently, I'm not alone. Oh that's so very comforting. Not.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Obesity and the Microwave

So I have an odd cultural theory. There's been a lot in the news lately about the epidemic of obesity in America (and many other developed nations, but boy are we ever leading the pack), and I got to thinking about what has changed in the last 20 or so years. I've heard a previous correlation between the advent of the "Have You Seen This Child" milk carton campaign and childhood obesity, apparently the result of more cautious parents driving their children to school. But why so many adults as well? Not all of us are children of the 70s and 80s who that would affect.

The microwave began gaining general acceptance in the mid-seventies, and by the mid-eighties was in most homes. Suddenly, food could be cooked much faster, and reheating leftovers was a snap, taking one or two minutes instead of twenty.

This was followed by the production of tons of microwave oriented foods - frozen soft pretzels, frozen bagels, frozen dinners in microwave trays, Hot Pockets, microwaveable hot syrups for ice cream, microwave popcorn, and so on. This allowed the pace of life to increase as well, and eating on the run became far more common. Today, it's much faster and easier to get a meal, or at least plenty of calories, in under five minutes, where a meal would've taken much longer in the past. Even boiling a pot of water takes more than five minutes.

Now some would argue that the microwaved food is inherently dangerous, but I don't think that's it at all. I think it's just much more convenient, and it's trained us to expect food within a relatively short period of time. Going from hungry to food now is much faster than it used to be.

Were I a grad student instead of a staff member at Stanford, I'd consider doing research on the sociological/biological impact of microwaved food and rates of obesity related to use of microwave in cooking to see if my hunch is right or if I'm just spinning a yarn, but I'm not a student. Someone else can take this one on instead. Maybe I'll suggest it to the Stanford Preventative Medicine Research group on campus.

New Laptop

Started getting set up on my new laptop today. There's one issue - Dell shipped the wrong optical drive. Now I've got a basic CD-ROM drive instead of the DVD/CD-R/CD-RW jobby I was supposed to have. Kelvin's got a call in to them to fix that. Bummer. But other than that, it's here and new and shiny. I kinda like it. I'm looking forward to having lots of memory. Now I just have to configure everything to my style. I hate that part. Right now, IE is a mess of useless popups, and Dreamweaver is stupid because I need to redefine all my sites since it stores the site definitions in the registry. Sigh. Oh well. Assuming we get through this phase successfully, it should be a happy shiny fun new toy by the middle of next week. Now it's just a little five pound lump of potential.

Road Trip Redux

So we spent the last 3 days of the road trip with Dirk and Tracey. We went to the Northwest Folklife Festival with them on Saturday, having no idea what we were in for. NWFolklife is HUGE. 19 stages, encompassing the entire Seattle Center, and so completely flooded with people that it felt more like a super busy day at Disneyland than a folk festival. Every spare corner was full of someone starting an impromptu jam session. Every walkway was lined with vendors, food booths, and buskers. The enormous dance floors were elbow to elbow with people doing all sorts of dancing. The floor of contra dancing was fascinating to watch from above. The floor was probably 40 feet by 80 feet, and jammed full of long lines of people moving in unison. I was completely amazed. I watched the Morris dancers, then ate lunch, then did a little contra dancing, then went to see some French street music (Rouge), the went to see The Paperboys, then went off to the waltz session. We headed home just as they were starting to teach the cross step waltz. I think Richard has officially started a phenomenon.

The next day I watched a bunch of celtic bands, then went to a swing session with Hot Club Sandwich. They were a sort of Django style swing band. Very cool. We called it a day early, and met Tracey and Camryn on the bus home.

On Monday morning we started driving home. We read the first Lemony Snicket book earlier in the trip, and actually it was kind of disappointing. The author spent a lot of time explaining the meaning of various words, and the story itself was not fully satisfying. So, at Powells, I picked up a copy of "Artemis Fowl - The Arctic Incident" not realizing it was the second in a series. We galloped through that on our way home, just finishing it as we left Sacramento. That was a good, Harry Potter level romp, but with fairies instead of witches and wizards.

The van had several issues during the trip, but it still was awfully nice to be able to pull over and sleep with limited fuss. As we came into Sacramento, the van started making a bad grindy noise. Ten miles from home, and it wanted to get grumpy. This was after the issues with the electrical (never resolved), and that was followed by the battery draining enough to turn off the refrigerator in Portland, followed by the windshield leaking in the rainstorms the next day. We didn't have complete faith that it would get home. We stopped at Suzi and Sandy's place to have mechanic Sandy check it out to see if driving it the last five miles would do permanent damage. She think a bearing broke in the A/C. The A/C had only been working intermittently for most of the day, so this wasn't a big shock. So, we turned off the A/C and limped in. Grandma and Grandpa fed us soup, and sent us home with more fresh cherries picked from the tree, and we headed home.

Oh, and Camryn and Ella are cute as ever. Camryn has entered the "Why?" stage, and she's smart. If you answer a "Why?" with something less than honest, it will come back to haunt you. She remembers everything you say. She's also a really picky eater, which led to a bit of comedy the night of the cupcakes. She was told she had to eat all her stuffing and green beans in order to have a cupcake. This led to an hour long process of her saying, "But I want a cupcake." and not wanting to finish her food, and not quite accepting the cause and effect relationship involved there. Finally, after the last bite was swallowed, I said, "Now that wasn't so awful was it?" and she said, "Yeah it was. Cupcake! Cupcake!" Meanwhile, Ella is just getting into her first solid foods, and she loves Cherios. She does the Happy Cherio Dance every time you feed her one. It's the cutest thing ever. I don't know how Dirk and Tracey keep up with the two of them on their own though. They seem to be holding up fine though, and Tracey has lost a ton of weight since we were last there. She's a normal person in normal clothes these days, and I think she's really enjoying it.

And one other thing - Fred Meyer is cool. It's like a grocery store that decided it also wanted to be a department store and shoe store and an electronics store and a garden center. First and foremost, it's a really big grocery store. But I found the cutest pair of Mary Janes in the shoe section. They only had my size in Ruby, not black, so I settled for Ruby, and stoppped at another Fred Meyer down the road. Never found them in black 8 1/2s in 3 stores, but did get some other cool things, like a new bag to store my dance shoes and cd player in for the ceili on Tuesdays. And there's no sales tax in Oregon, so the price marked is the price you pay. It was nicer than I expected really. Too bad there's no Fred Meyers (or Skippers) in California.

All in all, I still think Seattle is the best. It has what I like most about the bay area, but actually seems to do it better than we do these days. If an opportunity arose, I wouldn't have to be talked into moving there.

And Weeeeee!

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Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Made it!

Just barely. It's late and I've got work in the morning, so this is just to say I'm back, and alive, and so very ready to shower in my own shower and sleep in my own bed. Oh, and Nym is ever so happy to see us. Apparently there was drama while we were gone. Details will follow.