Almost there...

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Kev pinged me online on Monday. The shelter had a kitten that needed foster parents, but they were going out of town for Hauntcon. Any chance I could maybe possibly take care of a kitten for the weekend? Sure! says I, all enthusiasm. Didn't have any big plans on the calendar, so why not, eh?

Meet Bella. She's sooooooooo tiny. She's so tiny that as she just walked across the keyboard, it didn't type anything. She's very loving, very playful, and not the least bit upset about Pixel and Leeloo. Pixel is fine. Leeloo is dubious. Bella is napping on my shoulder. Nice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


In general, the busiest time for me at work is a week before and the week after a major rollout. Usually there's training to do, and last minute updates to write, and so on.

So last year, one project manager asked when we were planning to take vacation. I confidently replied via email that I'd be gone during Prague Dance Week. The rollout was promptly scheduled for the Monday of Prague Dance Week.

Now, for the record, that really pissed me off. If you're going to ask, then please schedule around my vacation OR apologize for spoiling my plans. Frankly, either is fine, but at least one of those is required. I'm still waiting for that apology.

Then we found some issues and our aggressive schedule got pushed back, but the by then, plane tickets were multiple thousands of dollars and so I didn't get a vacation last year.

So this year, I planned my vacation in January and invited others to join me and said, "I don't care what happens this time; I'm going on vacation." So, I put my dates on the calendar in January.

In February I started working on a new project. The campus rollout date was set for May 17th - the Monday of my vacation week. At this point, I said something really inappropriate in a meeting and then laid my head on the table. The project manager was aware of my vacation dates. That just didn't matter.

So this time, I did not cancel my plans. I steadfastly believed that dates would move and this wouldn't be a problem. Or that I could engineer this one so that it didn't matter desperately that I wasn't available. As it turned out, we're planning a much more limited rollout than originally planned due to some bugs in the web interface. This means I don't have to be around for live and in person training. This is great. I get my vacation AND the project rolls out on schedule. I started the communications ball rolling. Last week I sent email to a few thousand people on campus. Articles were published in Speaking of Computers and the Stanford Report. I'm planning to record a message for everyone being affected for delivery on Monday. Everything is proceeding on schedule.

Until today when a big show-stopper bug came up. It may very well derail the project. The rollout may not happen on the date they determined. Also, the whole thing may also get derailed by the swine flu pandemic, because we can't do large scale infrastructure changes when folks won't be available to do the required set up or may be managing a mass emergency.

A girl could get a complex about scheduling her vacations. Better yet, an organization might take heed of a certain employee's schedule and not plan big roll-outs for when she tries to take a well-earned break. Just saying.

No matter how it all plays out, I'm spending May 15-18th hanging out at my grandparent's cabin in the woods where there isn't a phone or an internet connection. They can do just fine without me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friday Night Waltz

Friday Night Waltz should be awesome this week. Richard is teaching:
7pm - In honor of Frankie Manning who passed away this week, Richard will teach Frankie's version of the Shim Sham Shimmy, which we'll all do during this evening's dance. We mourn Frankie's loss but also celebrate how much positive influence one person can have on the world.

8pm - Blues. We'll have time in an hour to look at several kinds of traditional blues dancing, both old and new, including waltz-time blues.

I never got to learn shim sham before, so I'm much looking forward to that and getting to honor Frankie. I can only hope I'm still dancing at 94.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Kids Get Off My Lawn!

Being an educator in a class is hard, and this time I officially feel old. I got into my Drupal class today, which is awesome. But the instructors are seated at the front of the room, invisible save for the top of their foreheads, and all I can think is, "Dude, brush your hair!" The primary instructor has a wicked case of shaggy, unkempt bedhead. He's clearly too hip to bother brushing his hair in the morning, but just because you're the content expert doesn't mean we don't have to build a trust relationship with you. The I can't be bothered to iron a shirt, but still wear one that needs it, can't be bothered to cut my hair, even though it looks like a shaggy grow out from a previously trimmed cut, can't even be bothered to brush my hair before presenting to a group, plus five o'clock shadow, makes me feel like this event just isn't a priority for you. Your look presents a message. Make it intentional instead of accidental. The co-instructor is probably very well informed, but inaudible beyond the first row. Being a teacher and knowing a subject are too often such disconnected things. Just because you know it doesn't mean you can teach it. Spend a little time focusing on learning a bit about instruction and instructional design before trying to teach, pretty please. Sure, if you do that, you'll probably put me out of a job someday, but as evidenced by today's event, I don't see that happening any time too soon.

And yeah, these kids today with their long hair and their mumbling. Why back in my day... Sigh.

Ow Ow Dangit Ow!

Okay, so the big buzz in the news has been all about Vitamin D. Now that we're all heeding the sunblock and skin cancer warnings, we're ending up needing more vitamin D since we're not making enough on our own. It's now even being linked to autism in some preliminary studies.

So, a little sun, just a little is supposed to be good right? Well, sure, unless you're me.

I was outside for 30 minutes today and I'm now sporting my first sunburn of the season. It's the one every year that reminds me, "No, sun is not for you, little girl. Now go back inside and stay there." The one where I'm barely outside at all, and I come home with a scorched nose and a burnt chest. Grumble.

I'll find my Vitamin D in other ways and go back to being a little proto-goth girl thankyouverymuch. Stupid sun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Upcoming Fun!

Tonight I get to go to the This American Life event at Cupertino Square. I love This American Life enough to go just for that, but Joss Whedon is participating. I can't wait!!! (If you missed this but want to see it, they're doing an encore on May 7th.)

Saturday is the Oakland Free Dance Festival. I'm teaching at 1pm and dancing til 8. Can't wait! It's free! You've got no excuse! Just come try on five different types of dancing.

Saturday night is the always lovely Gaskell Ball.

Sunday is full of food and friends.

I also want to go to Vintage Invasion in Berkeley on Friday night, but I suspect I'll stay home with the kitties and take it easy. If only I could teleport my house to Alameda and live there instead. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hot Summer Nights

What's better than sipping a homemade Missionary's Downfall on a hot summer night? Well, okay, plenty of things. But it sure makes a nice end to a busy day followed by a bunch of errands and a bit of tidying up around the house. Minty goodness. Yum.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Orange Kitties

PetSmart is trying to turn me into a crazy cat lady. While picking up cat food in Mountain View on my way home, I walked past the adoption kennels. There was a little 8 month old orange and white boy who instantly looked at me with the "Need snuggles. Please help?" eyes. I wandered over to the glass and put a finger near the air hole. He immediately started licking the glass, so starved for attention. Just wanted to scoop him into the cart and take him home too. I resisted, barely. Anybody need an adorable kitten? Little orangies are the best!

The Weather Pendulum

Remember last Monday, that oh-so-distant week ago when it was too windy and cold to leave the office? I do, because it was only a week ago! Today it's supposed to be 92 degrees, and I don't doubt it for an instant seeing as how it was 76 degrees in my house when I woke up this morning.

Oddly enough, a friend is visiting from Seattle next weekend and it looks like he'll be bringing their weather to visit as well since it's supposed to be 62 degrees and rainy on Saturday.

You know how little kids open up the grandfather clock and play with the pendulum inside so that it smashes from one side of the clock to the other? I think there's a cosmic toddler somewhere right now playing that game with our weather.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Body Fail

I got to FNW on Friday and promptly had a muscle pull/cramp in my calf on the first dance. I got through it and got to waltz for the evening if nothing else. On Saturday morning, it had me limping along. On Saturday night, I was leaving Cyn's party and coughed and somehow threw my back out. Today, I'm eschewing dancey/social plans in favor of ibuprofen and movies. Pixel sprained his right elbow last week so we're going to hang out and be laid up together. Don't be expecting me at ceili tomorrow. Methinks I'm going to stay down for a couple days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Peepoo Bag

Okay, seriously, applied science is just awesome. Awesome!!!

Ever heard of a Flying Toilet? If you haven't, you're lucky and probably live places with indoor plumbing. I LOVE indoor plumbing. I love my toilet. It's reason number 2 (on a very long list) of why I love living now instead of in the past. Anyway, a "flying toilet" is when someone poops or pees in a plastic baggy and chucks it, hopefully as far away as possible. If you don't have access to a proper toilet (or even a latrine), then it's what is done. Trouble is, in an urban setting, bags of waste pile up, leak, stink, and outbreaks of disease follow.

So some really freaking smart Swedish folks figured out a way to deal with what people were doing and make it positive rather than negative. The Peepoo bag is the result. It's coated with Urea which processes the waste. A month later, you have a nice bag of fertilizer instead of hazardous waste. You've just transformed a huge problem into an asset. How cool is that? It's really really really cool!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brrrrr... achoo!

I totally want to go climb the stairs and get a soda but I'm totally not dressed for 55 degrees and it's windy and there's big poofs of pollen blowing by, so I'm hiding inside. Grump.

Amazon - Sucks To Be You

So there's a lot of talk about the AmazonFail this weekend. As one of those "IT People" who "should've had checks in place to prevent this" so oft cited in comments, let me give a little insight into how these things happen. Because oh yes, they've happened to me, and there's that horrible sinking feeling when you realize what has happened and hope and pray that maybe, just maybe, a miracle can happen and you can fix this before things explode, and then you realize it's way too late.

There's the honeymoon phase where you've got one report and you say, "Hunh. That's weird. Well let me just fix that for you." And then maybe someone else in tech support sees another one. And then most of a week later at the staff meeting someone says, "I had the weirdest thing this week. Has anyone else seen this?" But then that's the day that that other guy is out and then another few days elapse and then you're munching a bagel and someone else comes up to you in the kitchen and says, "Hey, didn't you ask about that weird thing at the staff meeting last week? I just had a case like that..." And you get that feeling. And then you start going down the rabbit hole, and you finally figure out what's going on at 4pm on Good Friday when every Catholic took the day off and all the Jews have gone home for Passover, and you fire off the bug report and pray that things don't blow up while everyone is away for the holiday weekend.

From what it sounds like, Amazon followed the right ITIL protocols on this, but once the world has gotten wind, things spiral out of control pretty quick and there's no way to fix it as fast as things unravel.

We've had this happen with little tiny insignificant changes to PeopleSoft at Stanford or little changes to the Remedy system or little changes here and there. And when it happens, it's bad. When it happens on a holiday weekend, it's real bad.

I feel for the folks at Amazon, some of whom probably spent the weekend driving to and from Grandma's house and didn't hear anything til they got to work on Monday and landed squarely in the middle of a shit-storm before even getting a cup of coffee. That's just never fun. Hopefully it's mostly on it's way to fixed by now.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hawk vs. Crow

As I was climbing the stairs around Clark Center at lunchtime today, there was a hawk in a fight with a big black crow. They were swooping around the building and back and forth from the Mudd Chem building, grappling with claws and beaks. It was pretty impressive (and somewhat horrifying) watching a pair of birds that size up close in what was likely to be a death match.

eBay for the Win!

Okay, so last Sunday there was the rather bad day (which started with really lovely brunch including peach-pecan coffee cake and good company). It included an altercation at the Apple Store where I opted to walk away from fighting another customer to buy a pair of crappy headphones for $29. I came home and I ordered some from eBay, gambling on if I bought the $3.99 pair and they sucked, then I'd still be ahead if I bought another pair for $19.99 later.

I went to the mailroom this afternoon to see if they'd shown up yet. Since my mailroom doesn't have dedicated staff anymore (budget cuts) stuff is really slow to get from the mailroom to my building, usually taking a week or more. Anyway, rifled through a box of mail and found my headphones. Oh how I've missed these this past ten days! Anyway, plugged them in, made a test call, and listened to some music. I can report that these are at least as good as my original iPhone headphones for sound quality, more comfortable in my ear, and have a button those didn't have which allows me to pause or restart my music where it last left off or answer or hang up on a call. This rocks.

So yeah, $3.99 plus free shipping. I'm thinking of ordering a second pair now just to chuck in a drawer for when something like this happens again so that next time I won't have to wait a week. One pair costs just 13% of the cost of a pair from the Apple Store, so I could buy 7 pairs and still pay less.

Science News!

Sugar is linked to so many important functions in our body and processing it is one of the common things that goes wrong as we age. Turns out, even if you're not diabetic, the sweet treat you just ate may be causing your little "senior moment."

Also, I have a freakishly powerful sense of smell. It's inconvenient at times, but also helps me bake well even when I forget to set a timer. That part is awesome. Turns out, there's likely a genetic reason for my super-sniffer.

Bonnie Bassler's TED talk on bacterial communication is AMAZING. Grab a cup of joe and sit down for the 17 minutes here. Bacteria aren't just hanging out, replicating, and doing their thing. They're checking in with each other using a special code unique to their own species. When, and only when, there's enough of the same species together, they turn on special events. This could be bioluminescence or it could be making you dead, but the important thing is, they wait until there's enough to do the thing.

Yay Humans!

Just when you think the world is getting paranoid and stupid and everyone is too busy fretting about stuff they can't control, people in New York City - a city noted for being full of grumpy, surly folks - help a little cardboard robot get where it's going. Lots of people.

This makes me just so happy. People, given half a chance, even people dosed in more than the average helping of fear and paranoia, will be nice. For all of the times we're reminded of how people are selfish and uncaring, it's nice to see that individuals will be more likely to be helpful over hurtful. It's not til we get organized into groups that our worst tendencies take the lead.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Paranoid Much? Well You Should Be. How About Now? Or Now?

In case you haven't been following this one, London has developed the world's lamest anti-terrorism poster campaign. Here is an example:

Remixing these with your own captions has become good sport. My personal favorite so far is this:

We're living in a post-propaganda age, where you can't just put up stuff like this without spending the next few months as the brunt of the joke on the Daily Show. Even if people can't think for themselves, John Stewart will point out the foolishness to them.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

There it is, just working.

There are few things less fun in this world than recreating work you already did. Computer crashed and ate my Powerpoint. I will save more often next time, but just when I'm lulled away from my vigilance, it will get me again.


BoingBoing recommended this article on Dubai. I've long wondered exactly how Dubai works. It doesn't make logical sense. Something is basically wrong. How can they possibly afford indoor ski slopes if they don't have a ton of oil? Well, it turns out, that creeping sense of illogic isn't far off.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Can I Has Weekend to Recover From My Weekend?

Every day this weekend, things went wrong. Wrong in a pretty egregious way, in fact. But somehow, I still count the good things for the weekend above the bad. The bad included such things as parking torture in Palo Alto, Erik feeling ill Friday and Saturday, being thoroughly unable to get coffee on Sunday morning and other weird service related issues at breakfast, having 1 girl at Radio Shack with tools and 3 Toyota sales guys all unable to open my key fob so that I can replace the battery, and a thoroughly weird interaction at the Apple Store in San Jose where I could not get an Apple employee's attention to save my life, but the minute I was distracted by a phone call, another customer threw something to knock the last box of headphones off the hook high above my head (that I'd been trying to get an employee's attention to reach for me for five minutes). This led to a bizarre altercation commencing with "You did not just do that" and ending with, "No really, I'm just going to go order some from eBay. I need to get out of the mall now." Finally I came home to find some very stressed kitties who had trashed the house, spilling food, breaking a chair, and knocking over the step ladder. Add to that vomit on the rug and evidence of diarrhea on the kitchen floor and I have to say that I was starting to look forward to going to the relative calm of the office on Monday. I spent Sunday evening doing about four hours of house cleaning and followed that with a couple hours of trying to get Leeloo unstressed enough to be held without biting me. It worked by about 10:30.


Friday Night Waltz was awesome. I'm quite possibly the biggest fan of chalypso that Richard ever created. It's bouncy, goofy good fun. It's like it was made for me. He followed that with the Waterfall Cross-Step. Four figures: He Goes/She Goes with grapevine crossover, then the Nami (wave), then the Magic Wand (inside turn, outside turn, inside turn, outside turn), then Pivaloop. Four cross-step waltzes between each figure pads the pattern and gives you room to collect your brain. Everything is workable for a normal, non-patterned waltz save for the Nami, which reverses on the line of direction, but even that could happen in a little eddy or in the center. Follow that with a couple of hours of silly dances including a chicken dance and an accelerating Night Fever and I was a happy girl.

My favorite treat in Davis is a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant from Nugget. Saturday morning, the croissant was still warm. Yum.

The Dollies were a hoot. I was extremely overdressed, but I think my makeup turned out better than I've ever managed before, and my hair was styled in a very Rita Hayworth sort of soft curled thing. Erik and I represented Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog for the win. And the win. And the win. And yeah, well, I think we took eight awards total. Each acceptance speech was a little different. My personal favorite was holding all of the awards (each a creepy little doll spray painted gold) and having the dolls say, "Joss Whedon would like to encourage you to try his new venture, Dollhouse."

Sunday was a lovely (and leisurely, once I had coffee) brunch for Elizabeth's birthday. Afterwards, we romped off to Target to fill Easter baskets for the kids. I took home a plastic pink flamingo from the dollar bin. Couldn't resist. Life is better with plastic pink flamingos in my office.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Toyota of Stevens Creek = FAIL!


Toyota of Stevens Creek has lost my business for the last time.

It's simple: don't make promises you won't keep.

I got here at 11:30 for an oil change. It was promised back to me at 12:45. At 1:05 I went to check on it. I waited around for 15 minutes while they figured out what happened to my car. They hadn't started it yet, but when they found it, they immediately put it up on the rack and drained my oil.

Now, at the point that you're overdue on a commitment by a half an hour and haven't started the work yet, could you maybe consider asking the consumer if she has MORE time to wait before making her car undriveable? Because if they'd asked, I would've said, "I have a 2pm meeting, so let's do this another day." No, instead, I'm waiting, getting quite anxious, and knowing I'm not going to get to eat my lunch because I'll get to campus late for my meeting. I am pissed.

This is the same dealer that quoted my $989 for my 60k mile service that led me to go seeking other places to get my car serviced. I finally got that service for less than $300. I got a coupon in the mail from Toyota of Stevens Creek offering an oil change and inspection for $29.95. That was what I needed today, so I figured a quick lunchtime trip would be fine. I even got here before the noon rush. Now it's 1:30, and I'm still stuck here. And I'm pissed because they lied to me and are holding my car hostage and probably won't do a thorough job in the rush they're now in.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Books Are Burning

I'm all for protecting the children, really, but I'm pretty sure my childhood copy of Oh What A Busy Day! is not a health risk. But now, it's apparently illegal to sell since it was published before 1985. (Not that I want to! I still love that book!)

Sometimes it really drives me bonkers how thoroughly willing we, as a nation, are to abandon all sense and thoroughly embrace living in fear.


So I saw this video posted on BoingBoing last night, and I've been getting that little ache in my elbow lately that warns me I'm mousing too much.

I waited til this afternoon to go find the video again and try it.

He started describing the first stretch and I followed along. I got to the bit where he has his thumbs tucked into the fist and rolls the fists downwards and my left wrist said, "Wha-ha-ha-ha!!! What is that?!?!" I held the stretch for a few seconds and let it go. There was tension on the right wrist, but nothing like the sharp pain on the left.

The rest of the stretches are good too. I'll be doing these several times a day til things stop feeling so... angry. I hadn't even realized how bad it was til that moment. That little ache? It's got a big angry bully standing behind it. Time to placate the bully and take better care of my body.