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Monday, July 30, 2007

Guns

Joel invited folks to a "Fun Shoot" where you're encouraged to bring new folks and everyone lets you try out their guns. It was hosted by the local NRA chapter. I figured that since I'd never even handled a gun, I should probably learn to do so just in case of zombie attack (or something else equally unlikely).

Sunday we headed up to the San Leandro range and after a brief safety lesson, I headed out to the outdoor range to try out a .22 rifle. Rick thought that would be a good starting point.

I tried:
- a .22 caliber rifle
- a .22 caliber target pistol
- a .22 caliber pistol from France
- a .45 caliber rifle with a scope (too loud!!!)
- a .45 caliber pistol (too loud!!! Eeek!!!)
- a revolver loaded with .38 special
- the same revolver with one 357 magnum (egad! Too loud! Holy crap scary!)
- Tox's 9mm pistol
- Tox's .45 caliber pistol (still too loud!)

Guns are scary objects. I still don't really get the thrill of shooting. The consequences of things messing up are just too high. And holy crap they are just too freaking loud, even with ear protection. But, it turns out that once I learned how, I can aim pretty accurately. I now know how to load several types of guns. I know how to unload several types of guns. And were a situation to arise where I had to wield one, I'd feel a lot more comfortable now than I would've before yesterday. I just don't ever expect that situation to arise, and for my life to continue as it does, I have to continue to believe that.

The range was almost entirely populated with older, white, potbellied men and sometimes their wives. Near the end of the afternoon, a couple of young, urban looking black guys came in and were shooting something along the lines of a .45 (judging by the sound). I suspect that they live in a very different world from me, one where knowing how to handle a gun is much more of a necessity. It's always fascinating to me how we all live in the bay area, but worlds apart.

Dozing...

At lunch I drifted off, snoozing at the table in the shade. I didn't even lose my place in the book. I think I dropped off for about ten minutes, but it's amazing how much better I feel.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Crap!!!

I've been wondering for a while now what happened to Stanford and Iris Ovshinsky's company. They were working on some amazing solar panels that were flexible rather than fragile. He'd talked about building them into roof tiles that could be easily nailed on like normal roofing material and wired up. He invented the nickel metal hydride battery. He is also working on a hydrogen fuel cell that was fascinating. So I keep waiting to hear of new products being introduced to market, but things from Ovshinsky have been awfully quiet for the past few years. And I just figured out why.

GM bought a controlling share in his company 60%. GM censured Stan for announcing his advances in batteries to the world. GM sold their share off to Chevron/Texaco.

This breaks my heart. Stan (and his late wife Iris who died last year) Ovshinsky is a national treasure. If there's anyone on this whole damned planet who better deserves to be given an unlimited budget and turned loose to help us make a better world, they're it. Having them controlled by big oil breaks my heart.

I want my thin film solar roofing material. Now, dammit. Three years ago, I was really hoping that it'd be ready on the market by the time I needed to reroof my little house. The prospect is looking dimmer and dimmer.

Why can't the oil companies understand that they can make money from other fuels in addition to oil?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Over/Under

Well thanks to 55 readers (I have 55 readers? Who knew!), I can now conclusively say that the great toilet paper orientation debate categorically does not split on gender lines. For both men and women, the preference was about 71% over the top, about 14% under the bottom, and about 14% with no preference.

The most commonly cited reason for under the bottom was cats who love to spin the roll and unwind a mighty pile of TP onto the floor. Best cat toy evar!

The oddest essay response was
When I was young (10 or younger) I heard that, statistically, affluent people are more likely to roll the toilet paper over the top and poor people are more likely to roll it over the bottom. I've always been poor, but I always roll the paper over the top.


Over the top responders were far more likely to take an arrogant stand that "it is the ONLY right way". Both sides suggested that it was easier to tear off their way. I tend to agree with the under the rollers on the tearing as pulling against the weight of the roll means it's less likely to unreel in the effort to tear. But I guess that just makes me weird like 14% of the population. Sounds about right.

The best touch at the Paw Paw Club last weekend was a couple of old Newsweeks from 1939 that Eddie got for his birthday. Dave caught a picture of me standing next to them and it really adds to the feel.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

North Campus

So a couple of years ago, Stanford bought the old Excite@Home buildings in Redwood City right off 101. The idea was that they would have some satellite office space outside of campus, outside of the bounds of the Santa Clara county GUP (General Use Permit) that severely restricts Stanford from increasing density on campus, allowing more cars to travel through Palo Alto, and allowing a maximum number of parking spots on campus. And ever since it was purchased, staff on campus has been nervous about being the ones to get booted out to Redwood City.

But between the GUP and other considerations on campus, someone does have to move, and the first to get ousted will be administrative staff with less connection to the academic mission of the university. So, folks like Payroll, Human Resources, the Controller's Office and IT Services will get moved away.

For some folks, this makes a bit of sense. They don't interact with the university much. They do accounting or help desk support or compensation analysis. They work at a desk, fairly independent of all but their own team. But a lot of folks do interact daily, like the Payroll walk-up counter where final checks are distributed and paperwork is submitted, or like the CRC staff who fix computers in buildings campus-wide, or to a lesser degree, me, who spends some of my days training and others doing user observations, and others meeting with various constituents on campus. For me, I walk in both worlds, needing to interact with other IT staff regularly, attend project meetings and such, and yet also frequently interacting with other offices in H&S, the Med School, or the Registrar's Office.

So I decided to take a moment to go assess the situation for myself. At this point, IT Services is being targeted to move off-site by 2009. So how bad would it really be?

It'd be pretty bad. The site currently really is just awful barren industrial and office park. They have big plans to change that, but I suspect that won't come to fruition once the Controller's Office sees the budget plan. Still, that part is do-able. I'd miss the beauty and atmosphere of the campus, but life goes on. The bigger issue is the commute time to and from campus - a minimum of 25 minutes. Having to plan to lose an hour to go to and from campus to have any meeting there is a huge hit to productivity. Also, the commute to Redwood City in the morning would transform my daily commute from 30-40 minutes to always more than an hour, frequently much much more.

So this brought me to another point in my exploration. There's a neighborhood adjacent to the site. I wanted to see what the comparative cost of housing was there. It's an older neighborhood, mostly built in the fifties and mostly pretty run down. Fixer-uppers that are much smaller than my current place go for what I could likely sell my place for. Something comparable to my place goes for at least $75k more than I could get for my current place and, well, just aren't really attractive. They're ugly little fifties tract homes in a funky neighborhood with no character butting up against the noise and filth of Highway 101.

So my thought there was that either I could cut my commute on the at work end by living closer to work, or cut my commute on the at play end by living in Alameda. Living in Alameda still rises above the other option. Significantly above. I don't want to live in Redwood City, and certainly not that part of Redwood City.

And now I'm faced with what to do next. I had hoped that a visit would alleviate some of my concerns, but instead, I'm going to have to stand my ground. I would have to move somewhere else or leave Stanford were I to have to work at the North Campus. I just don't know how this will change things, but change is coming and the results don't look too good for me. The only hope is that the wheel will turn slowly and that it won't be a serious issue for two to five years.

Slap! Bang! Here we are again. Here we are again.

It's that time of year! That time when you can't believe it's possible. That time when you think, "Oh crap! I have to do something about my costume!" That time when you shuffle off to the first Fezziwigs rehearsal thinking, "Wasn't there going to be a break? Didn't we just finish fair? Ah well, here we are again!"

If you have ever considered being a Fezzi, now is a great time to start. Rehearsal is this Saturday from 2-5pm at Mr. Fezziwig's house in Alameda. Contact me for more information.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Tyranny of the Blank Page

I've spent my entire day so far trying to deal with a blank page. I've got four articles to write and they won't be published until October, so they have to have content that will remain accurate and useful for over sixty days before anyone sees them. I'm utterly stymied.

Alright. Just gonna go put something down. Must write, right now.

Handy Dandy

Being the keeper of the Things Box for Fezziwigs came in handy today. I have an odd injury to my calf muscle that gave a hint to its existence a week ago, got worse at Friday Night Waltz after I got mightily kicked and landed funny, and made it's presence known loud and clear last night while I was doing the reel-a-thon. So, Mike said he'd had a similar issue and recommended a tight ace bandage wrapping and a few weeks without jumping about. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage the not jumping about, but I reckon I'll be staying away from too much Irish and all polkas for a couple weeks. As for the ace bandage, I dug through a drawer this morning and couldn't find anything. Then I remembered the Things Box stashed in my office. Sure enough, there was a really cool ace bandage with a velcro strip to get started and a double velcro strip at the other end. The leg is now bound up and the support feels nice.

Monday, July 23, 2007

History of Cervical Cancer

I found myself oddly fascinated by this article, mostly because it was only in 1980s that the link between HPV and cervical cancer was made. How little we knew for so very long, and then once the evidence is solid, 15 years later a vaccine is available for everyone. That's cool.

Housing in San Jose

For the record, I'm not moving to Alameda right away. I own a house in San Jose. For me to move will be a long process. I need to decide whether or not to keep/rent out my current house or sell it. I've got a great interest rate on it and it's a good investment, so there are things to consider.

Add to that, now is NOT the right time to sell my house. There are four other properties on my street, and dozens in the neighborhood, and nothing is selling.

However, in the fashion of a time where housing prices are falling, there can be some comedy gained from watching the folly and misfortune of others.

There is one very reasonably priced house for sale one block from our house. It's a great property on the best block of my street. The add on bedroom and bathroom were done very well. The yard is gorgeous. The house is well cared for. So, as a starting point, imagine that this lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is offered at $649k.

This stands as a counterpoint to the other houses for sale on the block. Take the duplex across the street from our house which earns a total of $1650 a month in rent for the two 2/1 units. Asking $640k for this just doesn't make sense. You can't make the math work on that. It has sat without interest for several months.

Or three doors down from that duplex is the little 2/1 house for $599k. The front yard is totally cemented in and there's a studio in the back that was built without permits. I don't know what condition the house is in, but this may actually be the second best option on the street, but still not nearly attractive enough to interest buyers in a falling market. Oh, and by the way, it has no garage. Yeah, not going to happen.

But the one that makes me laugh out loud, the house that made us raise a brow when it went on the market the first time, the house that left us shocked and staring when it sold, and then was slightly fixed up and put right back on the market a few months later, is the crookedest little house on the street. This house needed to be torn down when it went on the market earlier this year. What you can't see in this picture is that the front porch and living room exist at rather a drooping angle. The house stank of urine and the walls were stained. It looks like the original purchaser went through with a bunch of paint, some new flooring, and generally cosmetically upgraded the place a bunch. But they didn't fix the foundation, and that is visible from the street. Oh, and they're asking twenty thousand dollars more than the gorgeous Victorian down the street (that does have a solid foundation).

So this is what happens when the market shifts and people aren't really dealing in the realities of it all: a mismatch between asking price and actual value. And what's more, Carolyn (who owns the Victorian) isn't having much luck selling her place either, so the other three don't have a chance.

Meanwhile, I'm still dreaming of a day when I'll live in Alameda, but one thing is certain: I've got to wait for the next market shift before I do anything. On the plus side, rents are going up finally, so there is some hope that I could reasonably rent out my place in San Jose and hang on to it. We shall see. Things to think about for the next couple of years.

Of Tivo and Harry Potter

Several of my friends spent their weekend in devotion to Harry Potter. I like the series - don't get me wrong. But, well, I'm a Tivo owner, and I don't know which came first, but Tivo and I have a good relationship when it comes to static entertainment.

Tivo faithfully records the shows I want to see so that I can watch them at a time that's convenient for me, be that the night it airs, a week later, or when I get around to it a month or more later. If there's something more important - something that happens at a specified time and has people associated - then I go do that. The same is true for books, even Harry Potter books.

So this weekend, I spent Friday at Friday Night Waltz. I spent Saturday night at the Paw Paw Club. I spent Sunday at Rick's company picnic. After all of that, I picked up a copy of Harry Potter during my shopping rounds. I set it aside and I'll start reading it after I finish Northern Lights. Someone may tell me an important plot point, but I don't care because the joy of reading a book isn't in the plot highlights but in how the story is told.

And that story will be ready and waiting for me at home when I have time to read it. I'm very glad to have spent my weekend in the company of good friends, dancing, talking, and paddling a paddle boat across a lake.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'll Take "Things That Make You Feel Old" for a Thousand, Alex

Flipping through waivers, updating the list (nearly 90 people!) for next week, I flip past and notice that someone born in '89 has a signed waiver and after a moment of reading, assessing, and resigning myself, I admit that this person isn't a minor. That's right folks, people born in 1989 can be 18 right now. I now feel hopelessly old.

I suspect this will be much worse three years from now when people are 18 were born the year I graduated from high school.

Crocs

Flonk and Jan sent me the cutest Crocs ever a few months ago and they've become my favorite house shoes. They're squishy and bouncy and so incredibly unflattering, but they go cheerfully from the yard to the house to cleaning the tub to exercising with no fuss, and if they get muddy, I can just hose them off without worrying about ruining them. And they're just so comfy!

Thanks guys! Come home soon!

Chickens

On Wednesday, our neighbor's newly acquired chickens got out of their cage. The rooster spent a couple of hours on my roof. Initially, I interrupted my dinner to go out and help shoo the chicken. After 20 minutes it was pretty clear the chicken had no intention of going back to a cage. I went back to my dinner.

How do you know you live in the ghetto? When you're chasing your neighbor's chicken while the scavengers dig through the recycling bins on the street.

This morning, the rooster apparently grew up and realized that he could crow. So he did. A lot.

Turns out you're not allowed to have a rooster older than 4 months in the city because IT'S A CITY NOT A FARM!!! The local beat cop is going to stop by and explain this to the neighbors today. If this happens again tomorrow morning, I may get to learn to wring a chicken's neck. First I will try earplugs though.

Can I move to Alameda yet? It's where all the cool kids are. And no chickens.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Conditional Logic

One of the weird tasks I have on my to-do list is to play with the conditional logic in Survey Monkey and see what it can do and how it reports results. This is research for future reference.

It's been on my to-do list for a while. I haven't been able to think of anything to test it with. Then Sherman and I had this off-hand conversation a week ago at the ceili. Finally, I had my query.

So please, take my survey. It's very simple and consists of two or three questions, depending on what you answer. I'll report on the results in a week or so.

Roommate Irony

I have a new roommate at work. She is named Joanne, just like my former roommate in Godzilla, but spelled slightly differently.

Saddle Shoes!

Lurking on my wishlist for some time has been a pair of saddle shoes. My mom got them for me for my birthday, but the first pair was a tad too narrow, so we traded those in for a wider pair. They arrived today and they fit perfectly! Luckily several of my building-mates have decided they like my style and fashion sense so I had someone to run to to say, "My mommy got me saddle shoes! Squeeee!"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Movie Go Crash-Boom-Explodey!

Thursday we went to see the new Harry Potter flick. I still find the HP movies pretty unsatisfying. It's like a Cliffs Notes version of the book, and it doesn't really add to the experience. I'm usually the kind of person who loves seeing favorite literature come to life (like Pride and Prejudice for example), so I don't know why the HP movies leave me so underwhelmed. Meh, such is life.

Then on Friday night we went to see the Transformers. Big robots. Big explosions. Hot girl. Yep. But I think I've reached my quota on summer blockbusters. Still, I reckon we just have to see The Simpsons and since Rush Hour 3 comes out on Rick's birthday and looks like it has a great Who's On First type routine, we'll probably do that for Rick's birthday gathering.

I got passed a link to Feast of Love today and that looks just right.

Avenue Q

So since I'll be in Hawaii watching one of my favorite people get married to his actual fiancee (versus getting dumped by his pretend fiancee) when everyone else is going to Avenue Q, I picked another date: September 1st at 2pm. So far, Fred, Malaya, Rick, Erik, and I are going. Grab seats now if you want to come along.

Snopes Feed

So the talk of the parties this weekend was iPods and lightening strikes. It smacked of something I should look up before passing on. Interestingly enough, about a week ago I was wandering through some stuff on Live Journal and added a feed from Snopes to my friends list. This morning I was greeted with a link to a shiny new Snopes article on lightning and iPods.

So, for the record, your iPod won't make you more likely to get hit; it will make you much more injured when you do get hit. Interesting, but not something I'm really going to worry about in the Bay Area where many folks from other places complain about our lack of thunderstorms. For all those fool enough to live someplace other than here, take heed. If you hear see a thunderstorm coming, at least take out your headphones and pay attention. (Oh who am I kidding!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Brains....

No really, they're different. We're just built differently. Different, both equally valid, just different.

It also means we have different friendships, and that for us, taking time to be with our friends really is good for our health.

Work To Do!

Do you ever have that moment where you've got several things you want to do and you only have time to tackle just one right now. The rest have to wait til Monday, but I actually *want* to do all three and I have to stay focused and do just one.

Have I mentioned lately that I still love my job? I still adore my manager too. We were talking about the DR tabletop exercise the other day and he was asking if it was as successful as advertised, and I explained my take, and mentioned about how I read all the documents before the meeting and he stopped me and said, "You read them? All?" I said, "Well yeah, I had to be prepared. And it turned out to be really useful because I was able to point out specific line items that should be updated for disaster recovery purposes and..." And he stopped me again and said, "Wow. You really did read them. I didn't think anyone would read beyond the first two pages. I'm gonna have to update your IPP again." Later he said, "You're a freak, and I mean that in the best possible way." Ah, someone who finally gets me!

Tiny Art

Little people in a really big world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rain!

So there I was Tuesday night, walking out of Swing Central in Redwood City after taking Damon's Blues class, when the smell of rain greeted me. Rain? In California in July? Weird. But nice. Really nice. It smelled fabulous. I drove to the freeway with my windows down enjoying the smell while watching the drops plip onto my windshield. It was hardly enough rain to count, but it dampened my car and freshened the air and generally felt really satisfying.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Snippets

Went to FNW on Saturday. Someone asked why I wasn't doing Contra with Bob during the polka. I'd been aiming for Irish, but Bob had Contra forming in the middle, and I wanted something more... stompy. So I flew around the room utterly tiring out poor Jesse. Stompy goodness.

Drove past the Kwik-E-Mart on the way home. Wow.

Saturday we went for lunch at the Sonoma Chicken Coop with the Browncoats. Mikey gave me a lovely bag of apricots to go with my plums. Yum! The Banana Phylo Sundae is currently my favorite dessert on Earth. It is the stuff of fantasies.

Still in getting stuff done mode, I got my mending done on Saturday. Three items mended and now three dresses I get to wear again. All this while watching the box set of Lost that Michelle and Kerry loaned too long ago. I hope to finish it up soon so that I have an excuse to call up and say, "Hey, we simply must see you! Must return video!"

Played Bocce Ball for the first time at Kevin & Rachel's engagement party. Both of their families had flown in from far points of the country. It was a lovely evening. Fred managed to score the winning point with the most amazing roll ever with the ball stopping just an inch from the backstop. It was unbelievable. If I hadn't been standing right there to see it, no one would've believed it wasn't out. Fred graduates in 5 weeks. Yay! Can't wait to have him back to one job, one girlfriend, and a social life of his choosing.

Sunday went to see the Imaginary Invalid at ACT. Made a slow arcing journey up to the city, stopping in at the Kwik-E-Mart so that Rick could see, and having Rick find me the perfect little brown heels for the Paw Paw Club on the 21st. Also popped into H&M and found a cute bra, very reasonably priced. They tempted me with the little blue and white striped sailor bra and boy shorts, but didn't have it in my size. Too bad.

The Imaginary Invalid was our last ACT season pass show. After several years of frustrations with several less than stellar shows, long drives, parking frustrations, and other nonsense, we're looking at season tickets at San Jose Rep instead.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Synchronized Scottish Swimming

How silly was the 4th of July?

Yeah, it was that silly. Thanks Josh for leading us in our own little swimmerdance and to Dave for being fool enough to be out of the water taking pictures instead of enjoying the cool with the rest of us.

Plums and Peaches

It was hot last night. Cooking dinner sounded unpleasant. Eating dinner didn't sound much better. We were headed out to OSH to bask in the air conditioning and get a replacement wheel for our gate when I noticed the fruit tree. It really needed picking. So I grabbed a washtub and we filled it full of the remaining peaches and plums. There were lots. It took a while to pick the tree and we realized that OSH was closing. So instead we headed back inside and I trimmed up the rest of the peaches and a dozen small plums and we had fresh fruit for dinner, all the while being powerfully reminded that this is what fruit should taste like. This is why people eat fruit. This is not the fruit you find in the store, not even in the little produce stands. This was good. Yum. We've got 5-7 pounds of plums left. We'll be giving a nice sack to our neighbor Radella and probably bringing a bunch to work.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Recap

Sunday night we went to the Marin County Fair to dance Anne's Wedding Reel. We didn't win, but that was okay. It was still fun. We did get rock star parking for free as performers and at the Marin Fair, all of the rides were free, so I got to ride my two favorite carnival rides: Tilt-o-Whirl and Scrambler. Yay! The fireworks were good too, with the first half of the fireworks set to Star Wars tunes because it's Marin. Hello Lucas Ranch!

I did a wise thing this week. I took Monday and Tuesday off work. Monday I had big plans for housekeeping and getting stuff done. Didn't happen. Slept late, got up, puttered a bit, made breakfast, did laundry, snuggled the cat... and fell back asleep. But the second time I woke up - oh boy did I feel better!

Tuesday I woke up at a reasonable hour and headed over to Toyota to get my car serviced. It's hard to believe my "new" car has over 36,000 miles, but it's true. It's still the best car I've ever owned. I came home and mopped the floors and trimmed the trees and generally took care of chores. The only bummer is that I still have a fairly long list of things to-do including mending and picking the rest of the plums and planting the geraniums and weeding the back yard and cleaning out the garage. I could spend a whole week doing nothing but household chores and still have a list, but getting a few checked off was heartening.

We headed up to Erik's party for the 4th and it was lovely. I made a shoebox full of rice crispie treats that went over well. The party kept getting bigger and bigger. I went with the first expedition to the pool and swam until pruney. Came back, grilled up some unbelievably tasty pork medallions from the Nugget and had a lovely lunch followed by a nap on the lawn. More swimming became the order of the day, and someone called a game of Marco Polo. Several comments were made to the effect of, "I don't remember this being so much effort when I was 10." But a dozen folks in a pool thrashing about and playing was a very good time. Anselm has keen skill for slipping by under water.

Back to work today, and I can't shake the sense that it's Monday. I have to keep telling myself "no ceili tonight". Today should be a good test of our new attic insulation. Here's hoping the house stays relatively cool tonight.