Almost there...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

F&@%ing AT&T

I've been on the phone for over an hour with AT&T trying to get access to see my bill. I don't get a paper bill any more because I signed up for paperless billing. So I try to log on to the website. I got my user id from them two weeks ago, so I should know it, but it says it's wrong. Hmm, well try another thing. That didn't work either. Try another thing, fail again. This time it tells me I've been locked out for my security. So I call.

And I talk to a billing agent who can't confirm my user id. She can tell me what plan I'm on, so that's one tiny piece of info. She transfers me to a broken voice prompt system that sounds like screeching and slurred speech with intermittent blasts of static. Eventually I'm transferred somewhere else.

And I talk to the cancellation department. I should've taken this as a sign. He can't tell me my user id. He transfers me to tech support.

I talk to tech support and he can't tell me my user id. If I guess it, he can tell me if I guessed right. Swell. So I try several options, eventually hitting the right one. Yes, it was the first one I'd thought it was back an hour and a half ago before all of this got so bizarre. Oh how secure I feel now. Unfortunately, typing that information in, it says that it's invalid.

So that's when I ask to talk to the supervisor. The supervisor and I walk through the whole process. It fails. He puts me on hold for a while. When he comes back, he says I need to talk to the billing department to get my account unlocked. Seriously? He says they may be closed by now. Really? So I've been at this for nearly two hours and I'm no closer to finding the basic information I started to look up.

Now I've been transferred to a customer service person and dropped by the tech support manager. The customer service person can't help. He's trying to find a number to call to hook me up. He transferred me. Now I'm literally listening to the first voice prompt system I started with 2 hours ago. I say, "Hello? Are you still there?" No answer. Asshole.

There are other options. And I can't wait for the day when Google or some other little upstart with a little bit of attention to the customer's needs walks away with all of their business. This? This sucks. It's time to research my other options.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tree Fall

The huge oak tree outside of Turing Auditorium just lost a major branch. Through grace alone it did it after hours and did not hit any of the surrounding buildings. The branch probably weighs several hundred pounds. I'm very grateful it did not do this during last week's family picnic on that lawn.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Worst Case Scenario

Rolling down 23rd. It's a thing I do every day. I know to pay attention to the kitties around Lisa's house. She's the local cat lady who takes care of all the strays. Out jets a black cat. I tried to stop. I prayed the cat would run between the tires. But then there was the unmistakable bump.

I've never hit an animal before. She died.

Lisa, her owner, was there. The neighbors said it ran out of her car. I cried so hard I couldn't stand. She cried and cried. And the cat just died. Horribly. All my fault.

I came back home. Snuggling Leeloo. She's all for it. I'm going to need some time to pull it together. I'm definitely going to be late to Fezziwig's rehearsal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bonding With My Sofa

Yeah, I'm supposed to be in Alameda right now, but after the power outage and the ensuing issues and scrambling, I came on home to futz with a household puzzle. Puzzle solved, sitting on my sofa, getting snuggle assaulted by the kitten, and y'know, that seems just about right. So I'm going to sit right here and enjoy my sofa and go to bed early for a change. I've got an 8am meeting, so this seems both wise and a lovely excuse to be lazy.

"Oh, that's not good."

How do you get Stanford to take a lunch break? You kill the power to the entire campus at 11:30 a.m.

PG&E says there was a "foreign object" in contact with the transmission lines. It killed power to Menlo Park, Atherton, and Stanford. The hospital and the mall are unaffected because they're on a different grid.

I'm working in the touchdown space in Forsythe. Forsythe is powered by huge diesel generators. Wheeeeeeeee!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sunflowers Rock

Interesting

Anybody heard anything about the new Crusoe series on NBC? First impression: oooh pretty costumes in prime time. I'm in!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Stanford Certified Project Manager

I'm officially a Stanford Certified Project Manager and I have a shiny new piece of paper to prove it. Yay!

Grr. Stupid Parking Permit

Stanford just announced their parking permit prices for the new fiscal year. It's gone up by just shy of $150 for the good permit. Arg. This seems just a tad unfair as this is one area where their costs haven't increased and where their employees are already being squeezed on so many financial fronts. Everyone who can realistically take public transit has already switched because of gas prices.

Guess I get to downgrade to the cheap permit and start getting my butt out of bed earlier. I'm gonna miss my A permit. It gave me the freedom to run to lunch off campus, to quickly and painlessly transport materials to meetings across campus, and to always have a parking spot. Now I'm going back to a hunting license. Better be to work before 8 every day. Boo!

I will endeavor to have lunch off campus this month a few times while I still can. I hear Darbar and China Delight calling me now!

When Good Projects Go Bad

One of my coworkers just pointed out this video. I'm pretty sure I've worked on that project (or at least one or two that are terribly similar).

As for me, we're migrating to the new Zimbra-based calendar this weekend. I have *way* too much to do to be ready so I suspect I'll be at work a little too late tonight.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

She Grew

Pixel and Leeloo spent the weekend with Auntie Alex. She took very good care of them. Leeloo arrived on Thursday and we all joked about how her tail was so much longer than her body. When I got back on Monday, her body was longer than her tail. Over the weekend there was a major growth spurt. Sure enough, when I got her home, the scale said she was now more than four pounds and the collar that was far too big to wear on Wednesday now fit fine. If I'd been gone for a week, she wouldn't even be a kitten anymore!

Air Purifying Concrete

In preparation for the Vegas trip, I watched a bunch of old episodes of Star Trek. One thing that struck me was how hopeful it was about the future. With time and technology, we could wipe out all human ills - poverty, disease, hunger, pollution, and so on. I think that idea rubbed off on me when I was younger and gave me a lot of hope that propelled me through my education rather than letting me sink into a morass of cynicism.

But every now and then, I think, "You know, maybe they're right. Maybe we can fix it, given enough time and a big enough research budget." Today's science article made today one of those days. By just changing the composition of concrete, we may be able to clean pollutants out of the air. It's brilliant! Science rocks!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Speaking of Penn & Teller

Teller (the smaller, quiet one) is coauthor on a neuroscience article about the neurological basis for magic. It's pretty cool reading.

AIDS Vaccine News

Scientists are testing a vaccine designed to give HIV patients a prolonged break from their regular medication without side effects. -- BBC News

Stop Buying So Much Worthless Crap!

After a weekend in Vegas, this strip was even funnier:

Vegas!

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Only other people say, "What happens in Vegas ends up on the internet." I'm going for option B.

Fred's Bachelor Party rocked. Yes, I was there. I'm a groomsmaid. I get to do the groomspeople things. So there.

Fred, Sean, and I headed out with what seemed like plenty of time on Friday morning. That was before we went on the grand circle tour of the San Jose Long Term Parking Lot. Never again! Evil bus driver made me throw out my coffee and then drove us around for a half and hour before taking us to a long walk to the terminal. Grr.

Then there was a crazy line to check bags. Some last minute reshuffling and Sean and Fred were ready for carry-on. We headed through security and then said, "Wait... where's Sean?" Something had happened and Sean's boarding pass had disappeared between the car and the security gate.

Fred and I hit the plane and saved a seat for Sean, but it was too late. One passenger came up the aisle and said, "Is this seat taken?" We said, "We're trying to save it for our buddy, but he's having trouble with the long security line." She said, "Is his name Sean?" We said yes. She told us they'd given her his seat. Dangit.

Luckily, Sean made it onto the 12:50 flight on standby. Fred and I figured we'd just go check in. Trouble was, everything was in Sean's name and though Sean had called Hotels.com to work it out, the Hilton didn't have a clue. Ugh. So we wandered, took the monorail, and finally ended up at Quark's to wait for Sean to arrive. Mice arrived a few minutes before Sean, and soon we were checked in and having lunch at Quark's. Lunch was yummy and included the famed Warp Core Breach - a fishbowl full of bubbling pink alcohol and dry ice. It was perfect.

More folks arrived and eventually I snuck off to see Ka. It was a good show, but it seemed rushed, and I was a bit disappointed when it was over in just 1 hour. If they wanted to tell a story arc like that, they really ought to have given it an extra half hour and done some more with it. Oh well.

After that, I walked under the sleeping lions at MGM and met up with the gang heading into New York, New York. Seeing Zumanity again, now five years later, was a fabulous experience. It's a really great show, having grown up from being a "fragile little baby." I really thought it was a better, more complete Cirque show than Ka. I'd recommend it to anyone who could handle adult themes and a variety of forms of love and sexuality. Hot!

We rose the next morning to meet at Star Trek: The Experience. While wandering around the day before, I'd asked about discounts, and the cashier had told me that if I had a Hilton Honors card, tickets could be had for 2 for $42.95. Considering the normal ticket price was $49.95 and the coupon we had was for $10 off, this was a seriously hot tip. We picked up Hilton Honors cards at the front desk and used them for everyone in the group. So first we did the Klingon Encounter, which is still as magical as the day it opened, and then we did the Borg Invasion 4-D, which is pretty decent, and then we retired for lunch at Quark's again. It really is the perfect place for a geek gathering.

We went our separate ways for a bit, some to gamble, some to nap, and some to go on the ride again, and some to arrange our trip to the strip club later that night. I asked about getting to the Rio hotel for Penn & Teller, and the guy (who kept being incredibly helpful) told us to take the monorail to Harrah's and take the free shuttle to the Rio. Woohoo! More monorail!

Penn & Teller were unbelievably great. I love their show Bullshit, and their live act is really well done. I'd cheerfully see them again. They did a number with burning a flag in the Bill of Rights. Then they did it again, only with a Chinese Bill of Rights (a clear plastic sheet) and explained how they did the trick and why it was so important and so wonderful that they could. That to me is the essence of Penn & Teller - they do the magic flawlessly, then they show you what they just did, and you're still amazed, and they also gracefully tipped meaning into the mix as well.

So the limo to the strip club picked us up and we headed to the Spearmint Rhino. Funny thing: you show up in a taxi, you pay for the taxi and the $30 cover charge; show up in their free limo service, you don't pay the cover either. This makes no sense to me, but whatever works, and it was enough of a selling point to get our business. We all made sure Fred had a really good time and it was honestly more enjoyable than I'd expected.

Sunday dawned a bit late and those that had later flights took the monorail to Paris for the Sunday brunch. While the boys waited in line, I trekked down to the half-price ticket booth to find our evening entertainment. Some enterprising young men with ice chests stood on the strip and sold water for a buck. After 3 days of no drinking fountains anywhere and hotels charging $3 for a pint of water, this was a deal. We decided on Bite for the evening since it was one of the maybes on our list and was only $30.

So the thing about vampires is that everyone has their own interpretation based on when and how they first encountered the concept. The producer of this show clearly first encountered them about the same time as his first KISS show, because these vampires were a huge fan of the Gene Simmons style tongue action. Anyway, it was a cheesy Vegas show, but with pale girls instead of overly tanned girls. I'm okay with that part. And the Queen of the Vampires was a lovely dancer.

We headed home Monday with a slight delay. Southwest's no-assigned-seats policy kind of bit them because it was a full flight and somehow there was one more person on the plane than seats on the plane, and that didn't match the stack of boarding passes. They came through and matched boarding passes to people and eventually found the mystery person and we were on our way.

All in all, it was a truly fabulous weekend with a bunch of my dearest friends. I feel like we gave Quark's the proper send-off and gave Frederik the bachelor party he's earned.