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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

For the holiday, I just want to acknowledge how thankful I am for my friends. This past year has been full of insanely stressful changes at home, but throughout the whole thing, I've felt loved and supported. I have it so much better than I ever imagined possible.

I also have two of the cutest kitties in the world, who are curled up together on a pillow on the Poang chair. The chair was a loving hand-me-down from Kevin. The pillow a gift from my mom, and the kitties have both been the most wonderful blessing. I woke up this morning to one snuggling my neck and the other pressed against my legs waiting his turn for snuggles. So wonderful.

I'm also very thankful for the cute boy sitting next to me on the sofa. Walks on the beach are even better when they involve sudden attacks of waltzing.

I'm also so grateful for my job. I never thought I'd find such a perfect fit, but there it is - technology, communication, and training, all in one tidy little package just for me, and at an institution where our highest goals are not to make money, but instead to further the mission of teaching, learning, and research. It's ideal. Moreover, I was offered a chance to participate in the mentoring program this year. I get an official mentor to help me bloom and grow towards the next big thing. This is a little piece of magic I never imagined possible in this modern age where the normal way to get a better job is to job hop to the next position. Not only is Stanford willing to let me have such a cool job, but they're willing to invest in me as an employee. I win!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Hope it treats you well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two Working Headlights

The other update is that for a full week, I've had two working headlights. This makes me no end of happy, especially since this too didn't cost me anything other than one really stressful night where I realized I didn't have my car to get home.

Cavallino's really worked hard. It turns out George, the technician who was managing my case, turned things over to his boss Javier when George had to leave early that Monday because his mom had a heart attack. In the flurry and fluster, Javier didn't get that I didn't have a way home. So working with me and my schedule, we went through a couple more rounds of dropping off and picking up, and finally they turned things over to Magnussen Toyota in Palo Alto.

While all this unfurled, I once again was reminded what great friends I have. Turns out, Kirsten, who plays a Toy Soldier and works at Cuthbert's Tea Shop at Dickens, is a service technician at Toyota in Daly City in her real life. Go figure. She got me a technical report on issues folks have had with Prius headlights. On first read, it looked like they'd done everything they were supposed to do, but as it turns out, the lamps had not been replaced by Cavallino's. So, Toyota in Palo Alto replaced both the low and high beam, and lo and behold, this fixed everything. Hooray! Better yet, Cavallino covered the costs, so once again, total cost to me: $0.00. (I'm really super happy about that part since each bulb is over $300. Yikes!)

And this puts me strangely in mind of a revision to the 12 Days of Christmas: On the days before Dickens, my warranties gave to me: two working headlights and a free replacement of my iPhone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Genius

Okay, so really, the big difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Apple is such a closed system, they can offer to support everything they make or are associated with. Net result - I called the Apple store with the panic, and they said they could see me at 7:40 for a Genius appointment. I sat down at the bar around 8 after the waiting. By 8:30 we'd determined that things were really wrong. It might be the phone or might not. It might be my laptop and iTunes or it might be accumulated errors in the backup/sync. So, start simple: a new phone.

So we rebuilt from backup. Then we copied off everything important to some other way of saving. Then we restored the new phone to factory settings. Then we resync'd everything and reset settings. I had to set up my mail, calendar, and bluetooth settings again, but that's not so bad. And I get to start over with the phone. Hopefully that's all it takes. The next steps are messier.

Still, it's awfully nice feeling supported. Daniel, the Genius, helped me and four other people simultaneously. It was heroic. I've never seen a tech work so hard. The minute one system was doing something that would take a second, he'd bounce to the next. It was really amazing. I'm quite certain that he isn't paid enough. And the cost of this whole adventure for me? $0.00. Heck, technically I think the whole thing saved me money since I didn't spend money on gas to Alameda tonight.

So that's the Apple experience, what makes it truly different, and really what they should be promoting rather than taking smug backhanded potshots at Microsoft.

Brick

Sigh.

My iPhone froze up on loading the 2.2 update. Now I find myself making an emergency run to the Apple Store instead of going to ceili. Grumpy.

I didn't realize until just now that there's no Apple Stores in the east bay between Oakridge Mall in the south end of San Jose, all the way up to Emeryville. You have to cross a bridge to get to an Apple Store if you're in the east bay. That seems... wrong.

I tried restoring my iPhone on my Mac, then tried it again on the VM Ware/Windows XP side. I've been syncing to both because it's been giving me errors on the Mac side. The Windows side has (ironically) been working quite cheerfully until now. But both got the same error: Unkown error (2001). Um, yeah, thanks. What's that about Macs being friendlier? Only not so much. Same stupid unhelpful error messages.

Waiting. I hate waiting. I hate having to wait for this. I really really like my iPhone, but every day that passes, every error I encounter, every time I have to go talk to a Genius, I find myself more frustrated with how smug Apple is. Their commercials are just bitchy. As I was waiting for the software update to load fail, there was an Apple commercial about how much Microsoft was spending on advertising instead of improving Vista. Gotta say, not seeing many Microsoft ads these days but sure do see an awful lot of Mac vs. PC commercials from Apple.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pushing Daisies Cancelled

The facts are these.

Allow me to just say, "Wannnnnhhhhhh!!!!"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Long Days are Good Days

Every now and then I think, "Geez, I'm really losing it. I'm just not as efficient as I used to be. I don't seem to get much done most days." But put a little pressure on, and sure enough, I perform like the over-achiever I am.

Today started with a bug meeting where I promptly volunteered to take on writing up all the workarounds for the 120 bugs before I left today. Then I got back to my desk, found out my teammate not only couldn't help with that, she also couldn't take over doing the Tech Express because she was filling in for Mark whose daughter ended up in the hospital overnight. Okay, no problem. So I wait for the document to arrive and sift through my email and morning stuff. And then with the arrival of the document at a few minute to 11, the starting shot was heard.

So I worked on workarounds for 30 minutes, then got ready for the Tech Express, did the Tech Express (which went swimmingly well), came back and had a sandwich and caught up on email, went to a VOIP meeting, went to mentor training, went to the Campus Partners meeting, went to the track leads meeting, and came back to my desk. On my way back I checked in with several coworkers and decided not to rush. Then I sat down to the document, finished it up at 7 and sent it off. Ta-da!

Oh, and I also kept up on my personal email and LJ somehow during the random spare minutes here and there. I am the very model of personal efficiency! And now I go home to be super-chore-girl and vacuum, clean the kitchen, take things up to the attic, and set up the Things Box for Fezziwigs.

Zoom zoom!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Science!

So there's been tons of crunchy, tasty, fun science news lately, but very little time for me to post about it. Here are some highlights.


  • Trachea transplant using recipient's stem cells means no tissue rejection.

  • Diesel fuel growing in nature. You know kid, diesel doesn't grow on trees. Oh wait... yes it does!

  • That woman in the red dress is hot, or at least the dress makes your brain think so.

  • How bleach works to kill germs - it breaks down the proteins, just like heat.

  • AIDS cure via bone marrow transplant from a genetically immune donor. This isn't a scalable model, but it's a fascinating experiment that can lead to new roads for research. And one guy - he got the magic get out of jail free card. Nearly two years later, there's no sign of HIV. Wow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kitty Photos

Okay, forgive me. I'm playing with a new app on my iPhone, and Pixel and Leeloo are such willing subjects. Or at least they don't complain. So I present, Pixel & Leeloo, in black and white.







Saturday, November 15, 2008

This Has Been a Test of the Emergency Broadcast System...

Around noon on Friday I got a call from Mom saying that Grandma was really confused and could only see part of the normal field of vision. They'd called 911 and an ambulance was on the way. This sounded like a stroke.

So, I dropped everything, sent a few emails and ran to Sacramento. In less than 3 hours, the whole family was assembled. We spent the evening in the ER at Mercy General entertaining Grandma while she waited to be admitted. By seven o'clock, she was officially starving, so Wendy and I ran out to smuggle in a contraband hamburger. We had a little ER picnic, I showed them what I was learning in Charleston class, and somehow I ended up telling the story of Shane to my mom, grandma, and cousins. But, as the food was consumed and stories progressed, Grandma's blood pressure went from 196/130 down to a much more normal 116/71. By 9pm, we were trying to talk them into letting her go home instead of keeping her overnight, but it turns out they had a few more tests to do in the morning.

Today was spent largely waiting for test results, hoping for a Get Out of Jail Free card. At 6pm, we got leave to go with instructions to follow up with her regular doctor in 3-5 days. They're not really fully certain what happened, but words like "mini-stroke" were bandied about. All I know is that next time Grandma wants to see me, she just has to ask. I will make time and she doesn't even have to call 911.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Car

Got my car back and they did an amazing job of washing it. It's shiny and sparkly. It really needed a good bath, and they did it out of courtesy to help make up to me.

Turns out George left yesterday because his mom had a heart attack. Major bummer. Sorry to get caught in the middle of it and have my stuff make things worse.

They put in the new computer module, drove the car about a bit, and every thing looked fixed. Then they slammed the hood and the light blinked out. Apparently it was the groan heard 'round the garage. Javier, the service manager taking over my case, knows a guy at the Toyota dealer and is going to get him to take a look at it on Thursday. I'll drop it off back again on Thursday and hopefully we'll get it all straightened out. Meanwhile, Shadow is so very pretty and clean.

Chapter 14, Where Miss Hill Learns It Is Best Not To Speak Too Soon

Headlamp and computer module are replaced and... the lamp still flickers off. Grr. George has arranged an appointment with the Toyota dealership for Thursday morning. Some day my headlights shall be reliable. Today is not that day.

Update

Home safe and sound. Christyn rescued me and loaned me a car with a Stanford parking sticker for today. I'm so very grateful for my friends, for she is not the only one who volunteered to rescue me, but she is the one who did it with style. I mean, geez, a parking permit? That's like gold.

So I came home, made myself some pot stickers and poor man's wonton soup (can of chicken broth, a few frozen chicken shu mai, a few leaves of spinich, and a sprinkle of garlic garni). Then off to bed earlier than normal and certainly earlier than if I'd gone to ceili.

The shop emailed this morning and George called. He'd had a family emergency and had handed things off to someone else who didn't realize I didn't have a way home without my car. D'oh! Oh the joys of miscommunication. Anyway, they're beyond apologetic and I'll get my car back shortly. They're going to drive it out to me. Headlamp and computer that controls the headlamp have both been replaced. We'll see how a test drive goes, but hopefully, this closes the book on the great headlamp adventure.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Screwed by Cavallino's

Oh holy hell! I'm so totally screwed!

I've had a problem with my left front headlamp for a while. I wanted to get it taken care of before Dickens season really ramped up, so a month or so ago I contacted the repair shop that took care of my car when it got smooshed. Since it was the same side, I suspected something wasn't connected right. They took off my bumper, wiggled all the connections, and sent me on my way. Then on the way home that night, the lamp blinked out again. Sigh.

I called them back the next morning and George said he'd look into getting a new headlamp and would call me back in a couple of hours. A couple of days passed. I called and left a message. A week passed, so I sent email. I get a hold of George and he said he'd forgotten, but he's got the part on order and could I bring the car in on Monday the 10th? Sure, says I.

So I drop my car off this morning. It's a little chaotic in there and the receptionist is dealing with some billing problem and doesn't notice me for a while. Eventually, Marco drives me to campus. They'll call when my car is all set.

And then I get to work. In the afternoon, I start concentrating on a couple of problems. I completely forgot that my car wasn't here.

And Cavallino's completely forgot to call or pick me up.

And here I am at work at 8:40 on Monday when I should've left for ceili an hour ago scrambling to find transportation home. Luckily, Christyn is a student again and I just managed to make contact with her so she's going to get me home after her class ends at 9. I still don't know how I'm getting to work in the morning, but I'm co-teaching a class at 9am, so I've got to figure something out pronto.

I am not a happy customer.

Dickens Workshops - Week 1

Dickens Workshops were full of weird wonders this weekend. This included:
    - Friday at Alex & Sherman's place, I off-handedly remark, "You know, we should go check out that new Tiki bar over the bridge soon." And 20 minutes later we were there. (For the record, it's more restauranty, so for our normal day-to-day Tiki bar needs, we're still sticking with Forbidden Island.)
    - Finally remembered to call Danielle about the donation site for the school and got the call back just as Suzanne was starting her class. DonorsChoose.org! Got it. I'm on it!
    - lunch at Nona's Kitchen where we ended up with 20 folks descending on them. Good thing I'd warned Joreth a little, but not nearly to that scale.
    - Fog so thick that I couldn't see across the parking lot
    - I got a rolling pin from Richard! That was so quirky and fun! And now I have a shiny new rolling pin. Must put pin to pastry soon.
    - Being asked by Shirleigh, "Why aren't you dancing with us? Why aren't you taking step classes yet?" We both agreed I should make the effort to get to Brian Cleary's classes. This is now planned for January.
    - Meeting at least 3 really nice people in Dance 1 and successfully avoiding breaking an ankle. Hooray for enthusiastic polkas.
    - Introducing Erik to Aurora Feint and losing my iPhone to him for a day. He had fun and figured out some tough puzzles for me.
    - Sherman trying on the bluest top hat ever. With his blue eyes, it was spooky.

It was fun all in all. Some workshops were good. Some were clunkers. I do wish there were more new ones because I can only hear the same lectures so many times without going insane, so my list of options grows limited. Fezzis needs to work on Wink some more, but I'll save that until Dress Rehearsal when I have everyone present again. I may ask Dave to do it earlier in the day though.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wow

Facebook for the win.

I just got pinged by a former student, now ten years later. She said:
Sorry to bother you if you're not the same woman who taught at GHHS. If you are the same Ammy Hill, I'd like to add you as a friend. I never got to tell you what an awesome teacher you were. I took your drama class my first year of high school. I felt like I really learned a lot about theater and myself. I found it really inspirational that you obviously enjoyed talking about the subject on which you were lecturing.

And now I'm going to go tear up a little. Some days I really miss teaching. I can't afford to do it, not and pay my mortgage, but there's a part of me that hopes that someday I'll be able to go back as a retirement career.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Noooooooo!

There's no new Pushing Daisies until November 19th? What? Why did no one tell me? Why?

Let me just say I deeply love this show. It's a little ray of sunshine in my world. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend Netflixing the first season.

Gorgeous Day

I love the world after a good rainstorm. Four days of on again off again rain have left the sky a brilliant shade of blue and the world smelling fresh and clean, and today is sunny and 70 degrees so the weather can't be beat. I walked down to the Med School for lunch today, reading a book, and thanking my lucky stars for the beautiful place I work. Some of the trees are turning red and dropping leaves to crunch along the way. I had my usual lunch with the sunshine on my back and then walked around the other way back to my desk. It's a longer loop, but I just wanted to be outside walking for an extra five minutes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Battle, Not the War

It looks like Prop 8 is going to pass. This saddens me, but it's okay. We've learned a lot.

In the past few months, over 18,000 couples were married, and their marriages will not be annulled by this proposition.

Eight years ago, the proposition that started this all, Prop 22, passed with a 61% margin. Prop 8 looks like it will pass with 53%. That's a huge amount of progress in just eight years.

Just over a hundred years ago, Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years hard labor for just having relations with another man. The idea of homosexual love was unthinkable then.

Times are changing and they're changing fast, but we have to be patient a while longer. It took until 1967 for the US Supreme Court to rule (unanimously!) in Loving v. Virginia that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. It took a hundred years. It won't take that long for same-sex marriage. We're almost there. We just need to convince a tiny margin to shift their perspective.

And now we know it only takes a simple majority to change the California Constitution. We can eliminate the effects of this law just as easily as it was put in place. It's only going to take a little time and a little attention. We'll get there. And when we do, the wedding industry will welcome a fresh set of clients (and their cash) once again to come and partake in marriage in California. In the meantime, I hope Massachusetts enjoys the benefits of our lost revenue.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sigh

Some days, I hate my job. Not very often. Usually I'm trying hard to make sure that people are informed and have the tools they need to embrace new systems. But then, sometimes, folks are complete jerks. Here's what greeted me when I got to work today:
I am very unhappy with the way in which the switchover to Zimba is being done. I have been sending email all morning this morning using Outlook, but have thought it odd that I have not been receiving any messages. Not until I thought to look at webmail did I discover that I had been "converted" to Zimbra at 1:30am this morning! To make matters worse, this conversion prevents me from receiving email with Outlook - INCLUDING THE NOTIFICATION MESSASGE THAT WAS SENT AFTER THE CONVERSION TOOK PLACE!!!!! So, to me as an end user, my experience is that suddenly I can no longer receive email - and was not notified of this change in a mannor that could reach me!

Please send me the contact information for whoever is managing this project so I can convey my dissatisfaction with how this was done directly!

Okay, so yeah, you're basically very unhappy with me. It's my job to make sure you're informed. But since March, I've been holding monthly demos of the new system. There have been training announcements sent out in the Training Opportunity Guide for the past two quarters. There is a project web site crammed full of information and guidance. There's been presentations at all sorts of campus meetings. There have been memos that were supposed to be passed on to you from your campus representatives. There have been banners on all sorts of web pages around campus. There have been articles in the Stanford Report. There have been articles in the Stanford Daily. There have been training classes two or three days a week for the past month.

But the part that just makes me want to scream is that before anyone is converted, they received an email on October 16th letting them know the time range the conversion would be happening. Then, each individual receives an email three days before they're converted reminding them to review the checklist and asking them to please close their email program the when they go home on the night on their transition. Somehow, this very special person managed to miss all of that. And if he wanted Outlook to play nice, all he needed to do was close it and reopen in and give it his password. That's all. Everything continues to work just fine. We worked very hard to ensure that folks would be able to keep working with an absolute minimum of fuss. They don't have to quit using their current email program. They don't have to change any settings. They just need to close it and reopen it so that it recognizes the path to the new server.

But after a year and a half of effort, I can't manage to convey that to the campus. These are the days when my job seems utterly hopeless. I can't make people listen. I can't make people read. I can't make people care. The first reaction is anger at the project rather than questioning themselves to see if they missed something. This makes me sad for humanity. And yeah, you're going to say, "Oh, it's just one guy. He's a jerk." But sadly, he's just a sample of the HelpSU requests I'm receiving. His is especially egregious, but not all that unusual.

And now I have to go back to preparing materials that most folks will never see. Yeah, that sounds fabulous. I am oh-so-very motivated. Only not.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tiger Tiger

Oh dear oh dear. Yummy yummy Indian sauce in a jar. Tried the Chicken Tikka Masala last night. Tried the Butter Chicken tonight. I added some sauteed chicken and spinach to the sauce and poured it over Trader Joe's 3 minute frozen rice. I can have tasty Indian food at home in under 20 minutes. Danger! Yummy yummy danger.

Pie


I made pie again last night. I need to get a better rolling pin because mine is plastic and occasionally the left handle falls off. But the pie is fantastic! I added a half dozen strawberries to the mix this time to have a blueberry-blackberry-raspberry-strawberry pie and it is made of yummy.

Kitten Cutie

Leeloo may never grow up. At 9 months old, she's still a rambunctious, rough and tumble sort of kitten. Here's a great evidence shot of Leeloo in the tissue paper box. Note the spilled toy bucket on the left. Wonder who could've done that?
what?