Almost there...

Friday, January 21, 2011


Days later, this still cracks me up:

I say that, even now, sitting at my desk after five on a Friday. Yeah, I do sometimes wish I'd hadn't given up on studying more science.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Does this help?"

I don't do help desk support anymore per se, but because I'm a trusted resource on how to make things work, I sometimes get emailed queries from folks avoiding the Help Desk route. Usually, it's nice and sometimes really rewarding to answer these queries. It's often for a weird tidbit that I do actually know and that the Help Desk Level One staff likely wouldn't know.

But the best thing I ever do on these items is to sign them, "Does this help?" and my name, rather than any other closing salutation. The responses I get back from that little detail are so much better than almost any other correspondence. If I nailed it, I get back an enthusiastic, "Yes it does!" rather than never hearing from them again. If I'm not on target, I usually get more information back to help clarify rather than an exasperated, "Well she apparently doesn't know jack." It's kind of impressive what a tiny difference in approach makes. Three little words that totally change the conversation. It's a good reminder of how little it takes to have a better interaction time and again.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Firefly - Yep, still lovin' it.

Remember the other day when I mentioned I still loved Firefly? Well, there are two articles this week that further broaden that love. I know - I didn't realize that was possible either! But there it was: 8 Things You May Not Know About Firefly. For the record, I did know that he's Hoban Washburne, but that's just what happens when you've been to all the Browncoat Balls save for one. I knew some other stuff, but I didn't know about Han Solo! Better yet, someone else posted a link to photos of the Han-in-Carbonite statues in various screen shots from the show. Thank you once again to Joss-and-crew. You guys managed to squeeze more awesome into less than 15 hours that seems possible. I know it's too much to ask, but please keep trying to do it again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

So What's It Like Working At Stanford?

When I entered the meeting, Polya 155 smelled strongly of pickles. Very strongly. Opening the window led to a strong winter breeze blowing in and rain coming in as well. A few minutes would have to do. The smell of pickles haunted us. The stains of waffle batter from December still occupied a chair, so this was only a small addition to the normal level of weird. Heck, Polya Hall was built to be temporary 40 years ago, so weird and wacky is sort of standard operating procedure here.

But it's a rare meeting when I get to make both Doctor Who references and suggest destruction of equipment and get kudos for both.

Our old server, it's retiring. No one loves this server. I can't say more, but suffice to say, it's time for it to go. The inevitable question came up: "What happens when a Very Important Doctor wants his data off this machine." I said, "We tell him to get back into his Tardis and go back to 2010 when we could've done that for him."

They were warned, repeatedly, over the course of months, to take copies of anything remaining on this machine and put it elsewhere. They were given step-by-step instructions and offered one-on-one assistance. However, this doesn't preclude Dr. V.I.P. from making it IT Services fault when he can't get what he needs/wants.

My second suggestion was that we could put a box on the web page that said, "You are shit-out-of-luck because we pushed the server off the loading dock just to watch it fall."

While this met with wild approval from the team, what the box on the web page will actually say is polite, politic, apologetic, and appropriate. Somehow that does still make a difference when Dr. V.I.P. escalates to our CIO. A little bit of difference. Just enough.

And in the meantime, we thrive in the weird and wacky that is life at Stanford University because everyone on the team has a good sense of humor.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

And then we spent money...

Today I learned something important about my relationship with my husband. I skim through all of my email, even if it's an advertisement. This happens usually at a high rate of speed. Every now and then, an ad catches my eye. Sometimes I forward information to Erik if it's especially intriguing. If it's intriguing to him as well, then it's very likely we're about to spend money. Maybe a lot of money.

Last week, Erik's car was giving us fits. It lost power suddenly on the way to work on Monday. He had it towed to a mechanic and I drove him to work at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday. That mechanic couldn't get it to repeat the behavior. He picked it up, and it did it on the way home. He came home, and left again, and it did it again. He called me to let me know it was doing it again, and that we'd called a different mechanic and needed to drop it off tonight.

It was at this moment that I was idly flipping through my email. I sniggered because right at this very moment, the email on my screen was from Toyota letting me know that there was 0% financing for 60 months or $1000 cash back on their 2010 Prius stock. I forwarded it off to Erik. We had a good laugh.

Thursday we talked about making a little pilgrimage to the dealer, just to look.

Saturday we got up, did some tidying, and left the house, arriving at the dealer around 5. We test drove one at Piercey, got quotes, and before leaving I asked if he wanted to A. Go to another dealer to cross-compare, or B. Get dinner. Option A won out and we headed off to compare at another dealer. Yes, the seed of our expenditure was planted and starting to germinate.

We talked to Andrew at Fremont Toyota and he had pretty much everything Erik wanted in our first choice color. DANGER!!! So after a wee test drive, Andrew sat down to talk terms. We had a few questions, but then the haggling started in earnest. The classic, "What price would get you to drive this car home today?" question came out. Erik named a low, but not completely absurd number. Andrew actually took this to his manager who said, "What crack are you smoking?" and sent him back with a higher number, but about a thousand less than where we started. We started to make motions towards dinner. Andrew asked what incentive could get us to make this deal. I asked about maintenance plans and extended warranty costs. These would cost about $3k together. We went into a scenario where those were included. Suddenly, this deal was looking pretty good. Erik named another number, the manager countered just a smidgen too high (by $200), and we went for one more round. It was then that we made the final last ditch number to the manager. If he said yes, we were going to go for it. If not, we were leaving to get dinner and they could call if they had a better offer. For better or worse, the manager said yes (at $300 under the last number) and the deal was on!

I left to get a quick takeout dinner and we ate while the finance manager drew up paperwork. By a few minutes after 9, we were ready to head out, with keys to a shiny new Prius.

I now have Prius-awesomeness-jealousy. His has a solar panel on the roof that runs the air conditioner. There's a button on his key fob that will turn the a/c on for 3 minutes before you start the car. I call it the "Davis in July" button.

So the last time this sort of email forwarding happened, we ended up on a Mediterranean cruise. I'm going to be really terribly cautious about what I forward next. Just sayin'.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Fun Stuff

I've got some other fun stuff in open tabs. It's Friday. If you're stuck at work late or bored on Saturday, maybe this will be fun.

I still love Firefly. You too? Check out Firefly's 15 Best Chinese Curses (and How to Say Them).

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey... stuff. That sentence got away from me a bit. Anyway, turns out, we're statistically significantly able to predict where something is if it's sexy. Yeah, still getting away from me. Robert Krulwich explains.

In the mood for a nice cocktail, check out Trader Tiki! I went looking for a recipe for the Test Pilot. They had that and it was yummy. Better yet, they also had a Jet Pilot recipe. Exploring further, I tried a Millionaire Cocktail. Yum! Anyway, between that and Beachbum Barry Remixed (that Mice got us for Christmas a year ago or so - thanks Mice!), I can be happy at toasty at home for the foreseeable future.

Have a nice weekend folks!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I have to admit that amuses the heck out of me on occasion. Their recent posts on Islam and on Things Christians and Atheists Must Agree On were both informative and hilarious.

Health News Nibbles

I've come across a few particularly interesting health news stories in the past week or so:

Taking a small dose of asprin is good for you, and not just for your heart. It also cuts cancer risk by 20%. The recommendation is leaning towards starting to take a daily dose in your 40s, and keep it up til you're about 75. Luckily, that gives me a few more years for the research to get further investigated before I need to take up the cause, but cutting that risk by 20% sounds great to me!

Then there's the 7 Foods So Unsafe Even Farmers Won't Eat Them. That's a dire topic, but the short list is:
  1. Canned tomatoes
  2. Corn-fed beef
  3. Microwave popcorn
  4. Conventionally grown potatoes
  5. Farmed salmon
  6. Milk produced with hormones
  7. Conventional apples
I've been working hard to give up tinned tomatoes. I no longer eat farmed salmon or microwave popcorn and the milk I drink doesn't get produced with hormones. I unfortunately am uncertain on the beef category and have been eating more of it since Erik likes it so. That leaves potatoes and apples. Hmm. Thank goodness for Foothill Produce. Organic apples and potatoes should be do-able with a minimum of fuss.

Then there's the not especially mysterious correlation between walking speed and longevity. What is impressive is how big the numbers are:
Only 19 percent of the slowest walking 75-year-old men lived for 10 more years compared to 87 percent of the fastest walking ones. Only 35 percent of the slowest walking 75-year-old women made it to their 85th birthday compared to 91 percent of the fastest walkers.
So... I'll be going for a walk after lunch. And now it's easier to track with the RunKeeper app for the iPhone. Amanda was posting her walks using it, so I looked into it. The Pro version is free in the App Store right now. It tracks you as you walk, giving helpful distance, time, and speed announcements every 5 minutes. When you start a session, you can tell it what playlist you want to hear while exercising and you can do it all without leaving the app. Previously I've always wondered how fast I walk. Now I know with ultimate certainty: 3.18 mph. A walk from my office around Lake Lagunita (still dry) is 1.5 miles. This is so motivating; I can't even begin to describe how much. So, with that and the Daily Plate, I'm on track to drop a few pounds that accrued last year. Hopefully I'll be back into my favorite dresses in time for summer dress season!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Wait... buy one? Weird

Last year, it seemed like every charitable organization that wanted my year-end dollars sent me a calendar. I'm guessing that that didn't work out for them financially because this year, no calendars. Last year, I brought four calendars to work, pinned one on my wall, and had trouble giving the other three away because everyone else had already gotten one in the mail. This year, no calendar. And I didn't race to get one from Visual Art Services on campus, so I don't even have that. Now, within one day, I've figured out just how much I reference my wall calendar.

So now I have to pick one out online (or... gasp... buy one in the real world) and buy it. Weird.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Last night in the shower, I started mentally composing this blog entry in the style of the 4th grade vacation report. It amused me for long enough for the conditioner to do its thing, but finally I decided to cut to the highlights reel.

The first week was a flurry of preparation for Christmas. Saturday and Sunday were Dickens, with Gaskell Ball on Saturday night with my beautiful new gown from Kim (thank you Kim!), then the usual late run-time on Sunday, the after-party, an hour of hot-tubbing at 10:30, then home and back again for tear down on Monday. By Monday night, I was dead. We almost didn't do a post-tear down dinner, but finally we'd dawdled enough to make going to Forbidden Island the right answer. Four hours later, we stumbled home.

All I wanted for Tuesday was sleep, but we had an 11 a.m. appointment with Dorothy, our financial planner. Then we came home and Erik went off to tutor. Then I spent an hour trying to figure out the best way to ship gifts to Cape Cod in time for Christmas morning. My initial instinct to put it all in a 16x16x16 box turned out to be problematic because it's considered an oversized box, so I split it into two boxes, then reevaluated, and finally went with the one box again after unpacking and repacking again. Yeesh. The gifts arrived on time and in good condition, so that's a win.

I also had a leaky front tire. Spent an hour and a half at Wheel Works getting it patched. This didn't have the happy end that Erik had with the little shop in Los Altos that did it for him a month ago. They took 10 minutes and didn't charge him even though he had never been there before. I spent an hour and a half after a 45 minute quote over the phone and a 1 hour quote at the shop, and then two days later my low tire warning light came on again. So, now I need to plan to go back again, or maybe just plan to get new tires (they're about 80% through their useful life) at the nifty little shop in Los Altos.

The Christmas in Sacramento whirlwind was just that - drove up just in time to pick up my mom, head to Grandma's house, do the family dinner and gifts/cards swap, then home to Mom's house for more presents, then up in the morning for a cup of tea before running to Shingle Springs for Christmas with Dad at Howard and Debbie's place, then dashing out of there to Davis to meet Erik's tenant for a final walk-through, swinging past Hare House to find Trey's family there and home back to San Jose. Slept in the next morning a bit, but up in time to go shopping and make roasted root veggies and apple pie for Boxing Day dinner with Mackenzie and BJ.

So, that was pretty much how my holiday season went from dead-run as fast as I could move from Thanksgiving through Christmas to Monday, December 27th. This was the day that nothing would or could possibly entice me to leave the house. I got up, made coffee, watched tv, cleaned a closet, snuggled the cats, played Wii Lego Indiana Jones with Erik, did some laundry, and hid inside the house all day long. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. Now, I couldn't really do this every day, but as a brief lull in my usually hectic schedule, it was awesome.

The next day had more errands. Erik needed to get his car checked so we took it over and they said it would be ready in an hour, so we went off shopping for a freezer. Our freezer has been utterly taken over by offerings from Trader Joe, or Saint Joe, bringer of tasty, well-prepared foods. Back during the wedding, a lot of things would've been easier if we had a little more freezer space. Months ago, there was a freezer for sale at Target for $130. We thought about it, but passed it up, thinking we could do a bit better. A bit of shopping around and we started forming opinions. We're both short, so the chest freezers lacked appeal since we (at least I) can't reach the bottom, so things get lost in the vortex down there. So then we were looking at upright freezers. This got more expensive. We didn't need too large of one though. On Tuesday we went to Sears Outlet, Home Depot, Lowe's, Pacific Sales, and Sears (in that order). The best thing seemed to be the 8.8 cu. ft. freezer from Home Depot. Petite, but probably just fine for us. Weirdly, Home Depot was the ONLY place that carried something that small. It was that, or a 12 cu. ft. freezer. Hmm. So we came home determined to look up reviews and online options. Low and behold, Home Depot offered the freezer we wanted for $30 off, with an online-only special. But wait - there's a catch. Delivery: $114. Whereas the Lowe's site will offer any of their freezers with free delivery or you can order anything online and pick it up in store for free, Home Depot had nothing of the kind. I wrote them a quick note letting them know that this seemed kind of off, and they said that they were working on a site-to-store feature in the next year. Right. I replied again saying that this was kind of one of those things that will make me look to Lowe's first in the future since they seem to have my needs in mind, and they replied that there was nothing they could do. Now, I can think of lots of things to do - offer reduced price shipping, offer to honor the web price in the store, offer a discount coupon for anything in the store. A 10% off coupon would've fixed this utterly. But, they didn't, so we reevaluated. Originally, we'd looked at Craigslist (months ago), and this once again seemed like a good bet. There was a Frigidaire, 2 years old in Campbell that was perfect, but someone beat us to it by mere minutes. Wednesday we looked at a few, and came home with a Kenmore that's 12 cu. ft. for $100. Well, really, for $80, because when we said we'd be back after renting a truck, she gave us a discount. And when we went to rent a truck, Home Depot was out, but one of the parking lot lurkers offered to do it for $20, but then once the freezer was loaded, he changed his mind and wanted $40. We gave him $30 and called it good. So, nice, new-to-us freezer, works great. This also led to a nice cleanout of that corner of the kitchen and a reshuffle of the bookshelf for cookbooks and appliances. Yesterday we ran though Trader Joe's picking out things we'd passed up for lack of freezer space. Mwah-ha-ha!

And did I mention Indy Lego Wii? Yeah, I've spent more time playing video games in the last week than I've spent since 1998 (the infamous winter of Civ 2 where I lost a week to the game, including one banner day where I got up, promised myself one turn over cereal, and only quit when I noticed that the sun had gone down). It's a cooperative game, so Erik and I play together. It's also fun running around through the plot of some of my favorite movies, and yes, I'm planning to go back and do the mine car ride part of Indy in free play. Haven't we all wanted to do that since the day we first saw that movie? I sure did. Anyway, fun game, and I also really like the Lego concept of death=shattered Lego pieces that get reassembled rather than splattered blood and gore everywhere.

I think it was Wednesday or Thursday that we started referring to this week as the Adolescent Boy's Fantasy Vacation. It was the laziest I've been all year, and boy did I need it. Still, by yesterday afternoon, I was dreading getting up and coming to work in the morning. It's one of those, "it's work because they have to pay you to show up" kinds of days. Still, I'm getting back in the swing of it, tinkering away at the communications plan for one project for a meeting at 4. I do love the Stanford Winter Closure. If everyone takes a break at the same time, there's not a mountain of email to churn through and nothing to catch up on. Just start where you left off. It's one of my favorite things about working here. So, I'll just remember that and look forward to next time.