Friday, August 31, 2001

Do Not Remove This Tag

Bought some mirror mounting brackets yesterday, and reading the 'warranty' on the back had a good laugh (emphasis mine):

"The sale of this product is 'as is' and without any express warranties. Liability, if any, is limited to refund of purchase price only upon return of product and package to manufacturer's plant".

We don't want to give 'em too much rope, do we?

What Is The Matrix?

I've been working for my new boss for several weeks now. He's formerly of Intel, and has a hardnosed quantitative approach to measuring results. He has other ideas, which I've mentioned here, such as having every engineer travel to customer sites now and then, which make for some pain.

While my team lead was on vacation, I was asked to be the 'virtual' team lead, as well as running a new measurement process, and doing my own work. I also had to take a day trip to San Jose and coordinate a lot of information that came out of that visit with the customer. During those three weeks, I must have had an average of two meetings a day, about half of which were two hour meetings. Needless to say, I was feeling a bit fragmented.

Yesterday, Dave (my new boss, whom I've also annointed Travel Man), held an all hands meeting to discuss progress and look to the future. At the end of the meeting, he handed out awards for various accomplishments. Guess what. I got one! This was in recognition of the work described above, apparently done to his satisfaction.

Sitting on my desk right now is a 'hermetically sealed' plastic 'blister box' containing the bullet-time tableau between Neo and Agent Smith, from The Matrix. "Recommended For Mature Collectors." The link above (which may go stale after awhile) says it costs around $20, but it's the thought that counts .

Thursday, August 30, 2001

The Continuing Adventures of Travel Man!

Yesterday my boss went on a customer visit. It was a day trip, leave here in the morning, return in the evening. He was travelling to ... Minneapolis!

Iron Monkey

Browsing the Internet last night I was dumbfounded to find that Iron Monkey is being released in American theatres. I was too lazy or impatient to click through to the trailer, but I'm assuming this will be an English dubbed version. It's kinda funny to see this coming out, since the movie is eight years old. When a trend hits, I guess you mine it.

I have the Hong Kong DVD, and it's a lot of fun. Gotta find out where it's showing in town, since this is certainly a good NOVA movie.

P.S. - The URL above has a dash in it. Without it, you get this .

Wednesday, August 29, 2001

The Road To Scoville

Yesterday I had the opportunity to taste a sauce made from the Habanero pepper. Vaguely, in the back of my mind, I realized that this was a bad idea, but apparently my forebrain hadn't connected to this yet. I like Jalapenos, after all, so this should be tasty, no?

I took a tiny bite of Chicken Mole Tamalon, with just an eighth of a teaspoon of the Habanero sauce on it. Chewing, I felt the heat, not bad. Swallowing, I had the experience one gets when the brain realizes that the body is doing something stupid in the nanosecond after it is too late to override. The heat in my mouth was escalating alarmingly.

In moments I was reaching for my water, swirling it around my mouth, trying to extinguish the fire. As the morsel hit my stomach, other reactions were set in motion, apparently, as I was treated to a sequence of rapid-fire burps, bang! bang! bang! Nothing else came up, and there was no abdominal pain, surprisingly, but it was kinda funny.

For the next hour eating the most innocuous and bland material reminded me of my experiment, as any food touching my mouth triggered a renewed burst of heat. I've since researched the Scoville rating for Habaneros, and find they are twenty to one hundred twenty times hotter than Jalapenos! Oof.

Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Pushing It

Kelly is becoming an endangered species. On returning from Midland, she professed a fondness for her grandmother's fried chicken, and practically begged Jean to make it for her. Jean went to the trouble of calling her mother, getting the recipe, going to the store with Kelly, then cooking for another couple of hours. When she presented Kelly with this feast, Kelly declared "I'm not hungry."

The tension at home last night was so thick you could cut it with a knife. Kelly finally aquiesced and ate some, only to declare that it wasn't the same as Grandma's. Suffice it to say that Jean was hurt after all the effort, and that she intends to do no special cooking from now on.

I told Kelly that if she wanted anything special from now on, she could make it herself (with adult supervision, of course). I've yet to test this new rule.


Last Wednesday, Jean and Kelly flew to Midland, Michigan to visit with the grandparents. I dropped them off at the airport around 7:30am. They were to return around 11am on Sunday. So I partied like a crazy batchelor, right? Let us recap...

Rewinding, around Tuesday night I was feeling a little off, with a sore throat and rough lungs. By Wednesday morning it was plain I had some simple viral infection. I went straight to work from the airport, worked a full day, then came home. My first wild batchelor act was to go out and get some takeout food. I brought it home, and after eating it, I spent the next couple of hours vegging in front of the Replay box.

On Thursday, I again worked a full day, then came home and spent some time working on a poster board I had planned on mounting a Kanji chart on. After this, I ate lightly, then crashed again.

By Friday, I was beginning to feel better, so I went grocery shopping after work. Actually, I experimented with moving the computers around between the kitchen and the den, then I went grocery shopping. I got really wild, and bought some Boca vegetarian bratwurst. Tasted good too.

Saturday I was on the mend, and I went to visit my friend Tom, and was joined by my friend Alan. Most of the day was taken up with conversation, I sat around reading a comic book, and we all went to Uwajimaya to shop. I bought Kelly volume one of Card Captor Sakura (she got volume three on our last field trip).

On Sunday I had my brush with the Godfather. I found a horse's head in my bed. Actually, it was a lone dead wasp lying on the living room floor. I have a strong phobia regarding the hymenoptera, so I was totally depressed and fearful. I bottled that little devil, for future microscope experiments, and went to pick up Jean and Kelly at the airport. We've since arranged for a visit from the Bug Man, a professional killer.

So that was my wild batchelor adventure. Eat your hearts out, you sticks in the mud!

Monday, August 27, 2001

The Incidental Tourist

I was twenty-eight years old before I ever rode in an airplane, and at that it was a typical airliner, and a cross-country flight. Now of course I've ridden dozens of airplanes, and it is routine if unpleasant. But my mindset is still 'preflight'.

I met my boss in the parking lot this morning, and in the chic chat on the way in, I asked how his weekend was. "It was good. The wife wanted to take the kids to Legoland, so I used my frequent flier miles and we flew down to San Diego. We hit the San Diego Zoo too."

This was apparently a casual decision. I'm not saying they decided to fly down on Thursday and booked the tickets, I don't know that. But really, it seemed just so matter of fact for him. Of course he's been a manager for a long time, and flying is part of his job, but it just seemed so foreign to me.

Sunday, August 26, 2001


"It's easy to like someone when you don't know what they're saying."

David Sedaris, on This American Life, the Paris Edition.

Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Pop Nots!

Pop Nots!, for people who buy manufactured homes! If you think Doug McClure is a star, you'll love Pop Nots!.

reactions supplied by Jean

Monday, August 20, 2001

The Party, Part Two

Sunday the family went down to Mentor for the annual Mentor Picnic. This year's theme: Under the Big Top. They had lots of entertainment of the kid variety. There were four 'Mad Science' booths showing off lots of exciting, visually appealing science experiments. They had a tent (the bigtop) with rotating performances from The Reptile Man, a herpetologist, the magic act and the Mad Science show. Then off in another direction they had the usual assortment of huckster kid's games, like hook-the-fish-and-win-a-prize.

As if that wasn't enough, they had an inline-skating school giving free lessons in the Commons parking lot. Kelly waited for twenty minutes to try it out, then gave up five minutes after getting the skates on. I assured her it only got easy if you practiced, and that everybody who was skating without falling down had done a lot of just that.

There was food, candy, pop, the works. Another tent was for face-painting (Kelly became a tiger, I'll try to post the picture soon), massages (neck and back only, I got one), and manicures. What heathens these Mentorites be! They don't call it Club Mentor for nothing.

One thing I discovered. The campus doesn't seem all that large to me, but put a couple hundred people, several tents and fifty or so lawn tables out there, and it gets very easy to get separated from your loved ones. On more than one occasion, I went to get a beverage and then spent fifteen minutes circling the campus looking for Jean and Kelly.

Well, I don't want to natter on forever. Suffice to say that we all enjoyed it. Oh, and the magic act sucked

The Party, Part One

Saturday I took Kelly to the party for Rachel and Sarah, a couple of her friends. I brought my Gameboy, and thank goodness I did. Extremely introverted as I am, I'm not too comfortable making conversation with people I've never met, so after a few polite exchanges, I lapsed into silence, and alternated watching Kelly with playing Castlevania: Circle of the Moon and reading cheap space opera fiction.

All would have been well except that Rachel's grandmother was there, and was one of those oblivious talkers. That is to say, all she needs is somebody in proximity to her, and she'll begin a conversation which consists of her sharing every little detail of her lawn watering strategy, and each of it's little failings. I was plainly playing my game and she sat down across from me and began, "with my knees, I can't stand up for long. Gosh that lawn looks brown! Of course, the weather is so unpredictable..." and so on. Gah!

At least Kelly had a good time, even getting to ride a pony. Seems that a friend of the family has a lot of them, and offered to drive one out to suburbia and let all ten kids have a ride. Happy days.

From the Annals of the Department of Redundancy Department

wood s lot points us to this review of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon.

Unfortunately, the passage quoted contains the following phrase which caught my eye:

"...Solomon manages to give the reader a sense of depression's shape-shifting, protean character."

Reviewer Judith Lewis is probably a fine writer. She's probably a better writer than I. But I can't help pointing out that protean means "readily assuming different shapes and forms." So we can rewrite the passage above as:

"...Solomon manages to give the reader a sense of depression's shape-shifting, many-shaped character."


Saturday, August 18, 2001

Busy Week, Busy Weekend

This was the first week of development of the next release cycle at work, and as such I've had my head down and shoulder to the wheel, as it were. Come Friday night, I had to clear my queue of optional home tasks, so I got to bed at around 11:45, after:

  • burning some CD-Rs for my friend Tom

  • Installing XFree86 on my iBook's OS X partition

  • Doing strength training for my back

  • Balancing the checkbook for weekend shopping

The installation of X Windows (XFree86) on my iBook was interesting, to me anyway. After all the install work, I successfully started the X server, only to see that the window manager was TWM (Tom's Window Manager)! This is literally the first window manager I ever used, when I started programming on Unix. That was something like 1985. Talk about blasts from the past. And the irony of course, of running the ancient window manager on my modern laptop computer.

Next task, then, is to hunt up a more modern window manager. I think I recall reading that the Mac port of XFree86 doesn't support virtual screens yet, so no multiple-desktop managers just yet. Still, by the time I'm ready to buy another computer, maybe a year from now, I'll have all the kinks worked out, and will be able to use my laptop as a productive Mac, and as a X11 workstation when I want to.

As for the weekend, we've got the usual chores, and, on Saturday, a birthday party for some of Kelly's friends (don't know where it is yet), and NOVA in the evening. On Sunday it's Mentor's annual company picnic, with the theme "Under the Big Top". There simply is no excuse, gotta take Kelly to that. So the weekend is more crowded than usual.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Corrupting the Young

Today's field trip: Kinokuniya bookstore, located within spacious Uwajimaya Asian grocery, in Beaverton. Kelly was ready to buy all the translated Card Captor Sakura manga they had on hand, which given that they had volumes 2-5, and $12.95 per volume, would have cleaned me out for a couple of weeks. I finally got her to settle on Volume 2, and a pack of CCS trading cards.

Geek Sports

While I have no team to root for, I've been watching the International Conference on Functional Programming's 2001 contest. The contest is over, but the results won't be announced until early September, shortly after the conference. Bah.

There is progress, however, as they've announced all the contestants knocked out in the first round. Using that data, Bruce Hoult built a formula incorporating the various criteria stated by the judges to analyze the remaining competitors' results, and choose the winners.

It'll be interesting to see how close he comes, especially since his number one pick was programmed in C++, the language I use at work.

Saturday, August 11, 2001

Mini Trips

Our trip to Las Vegas was mostly painless, so I've resolved to try to take a two or three-day vacation every quarter. In the Fall, we're tentatively going to do a long weekend at the Oregon coast (about a ninety minute drive, so we've always got the option of bagging it). In the Winter, we already promised Kelly we'd do our best to take her to Disneyland. She's never been there, hadn't even been born when Mentor sent Jean and I to Disney World.

So this morning Jean and I are chatting, and the topic comes up. She says she'll call AAA of Oregon to get information about Disneyland packages, including flights and hotels. I suggest that while she's at it, she might look into the coast trip as well.

"Oh, I don't think they'll have anything about that..." she says.

I reply, "AAA of Oregon? Thanks for the information about flights to California. We also want to take an auto trip to the coast of Oregon, but I know you don't know anything about auto trips..."

Jean had to admit it was probably worth asking...

More Book Chatter

I just returned a library book, after reading about half of it. The book was Nickel and Dimed, On (Not) Getting By In America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Why did I return it half read? Was it a bad book?

Not at all. To my socially liberal sensibilities, it was a fine book, journalism in it's best light. Ehrenreich joins the ranks of the working poor for several months. She sets the goal of being able to pay for food and housing using only the money she can earn working unskilled jobs, posing as a recently divorced woman forced to re-enter the work force with no professional skills. She seeks to see what secrets the poor have for getting by on low wages, and discovers that there are no secrets, life is damn hard. Duh, huh?

It's in how she tells her tale, from direct experience living this life, that gives the book it's value. I eventually stopped reading it for the simple reason that the story was plain well before the end of the book. It echoed my own experience as an unskilled teenager and, early on, college student. I think any young person who isn't solely supported by their parents until they graduate from college and land that first job, knows what the life of the poor is like, at least a little. But being young, we don't really care, since we think we are invulnerable and immortal anyway. Most of us are lucky enough to transcend that initial poverty, though. And some of us, I'd guess, forget all about it.

Jean and I often reminisce about those days of eating beans and rice, living in shabby apartments, working and taking classes at the same time. Just a few different choices, a few bad breaks, and we'd be in this book. I've always said every kid should work food service or some other menial service job, so they get a taste of what they'll be doing their whole life if they don't find a skill and nourish it. Maybe I'll buy this book and store it away for when Kelly gets older...

Wednesday, August 8, 2001


"Yes, I normally read four or five books at a time." - Cameron Barrett

Yeah, I used to do that too, before Kelly, before work reached E-05 levels, before, before, before. For a period of several years I used to keep a log of all the books I read, and the topics were varied, all over the map, and some years peaked at 250 books. I'm not so diligent about recording books as I finish them anymore, and I'm also more willing to put a book down before finishing it than I used to be.

I still read four or five books at a time, but it's more like "have a book in the dining room, a book in the bathroom, a book in the den, and book lying on that table over there, and the book in my hand this week." I still haven't finished The Arrogance of Power, for instance. So sometimes I don't so much give up on a book as forget I was reading it...

Sunday, August 5, 2001

Strange Fruit

Kelly and I went for a walk this evening. There's a small greenspace near our home called Little Woodrose Park, and we went traipsing around there. Various fungus and animal detritus littered the trail, and Kelly spotted some amorphous brown blob which she took an interest in.

"Dad, look, it's a monkey uterus!"

"A monkey uterus!? Where's the monkey?"

"It's out there somewhere. It ejected the uterus, and went on it's way."

Thursday, August 2, 2001

Whirlwind Tour

I'm back. The total trip time came to just under thirteen hours from leaving my house to returning. The meeting ended up being three hours rather than two, and I ate lunch with my boss and his boss' boss (though I really had nothing to say at the lunch, just listened and tried to look attentive and professional).

The flight turned into a sloth fest; I wasn't seated anywhere near the boss and marketing guru, so no shop talk. I ended up reading, over the two flights, 110 pages of Free Flight. It's pretty interesting, and well organized to make his case. I'll probably slow to a crawl now, since I don't have very many blocks of serious time for reading, and what time I do I'm usually more interested in vegging out after a long day. Speaking of which....

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Tooth Fairies and Other Demi-Gods

As Jean was preparing for bed, I found out from her that Kelly has a new scam. She's already lost one tooth, and the second is wobbling in it's socket. But she doesn't want to surrender the tooth to the Tooth Fairy. Still, she wants the traditional loot. So she's made a passel of fake teeth, and placed one under her pillow this evening, since she thinks the real one is ready to go.

Jean says, "I don't know what to do. I mean, she's got like six of them!"

My take is that she gets no money until the real tooth goes, on the principle that the Tooth Fairy is sorta like Santa Claus, and has some degree of omniscience. I stumbled when telling Jean this, and initially said "omnipotence." This led to a giggle fest as we imagined a two-inch imp with imponderable power. A continent would surely be lost in the battle between the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny!

Travel, Ugh

Company confidentiality restrains me from mentioning the company, but I'm flying down to San Jose tomorrow for a customer visit for the first time in a couple of years. Worse, the total travel time, from home to airport to San Jose, and back until I'm home again, is gonna rack up 12 or more hours, but the meeting I'm participating in is scheduled to last two hours. I repeat, ugh.

New Economy Lingo

Alan Batie announced his unemployment from Acme Frommets in the New Lingo Way:

"The dot bombing finally caught up with me..." Apparently, this isn't a new usage. Guess I'm just not hep enough.

Hunky Dory

On the way to Willowbrook this morning, Kelly asked what hunky dory means. I told her, but said I didn't know where it came from.

"I think it comes from England," she said.

I didn't really have any insight into that, and it turns out it's probably wrong, but I said maybe.

"I think they used it on ships," she said. "Like, 'Everything is hunky dory, Captain!'"

More Fluctuations

Condolences to Alan Batie, the owner of Agora, which hosts this weblog. In his words, he's been 'dot-bombed', i.e. laid off. On a more selfish note, I'm hoping this doesn't impact Agora to the extent that he has to shut down. I've got this weblog and NOVA running here. While both have portable domain names, it would still be a pain in the keyster to move them to another site.