Friday, November 30, 2001

Travel Sucks

Joy, joy. Another day, another day trip. I dropped Kelly off at school yesterday morning, then I ran back home to gather together my gear. It took about 45 minutes to drive to the airport. I parked in the parking garage, since Mentor reimburses travel expenses, and I figure they oughta pick up the higher rate since they're asking me to travel. I had my first intimation of how things had changed when I parked. They'd cordoned off a chunk of the garage nearest to the terminal, with dire 'tow-away' warnings all along the plastic mesh fence partitioning the area. This was nearly a quarter of the parking spaces!

Once inside I noticed that the airport proper was pretty empty. It's post-holiday, and my flight was after the morning shuttle-rush, so that's at least partially understandable. I met with Dave, my boss, and John, and we made our way through the security gate. I got a more thorough going over with the magnetic wand when my belt buckle made the scanners beep, but no strip searches .

I never saw any National Guard in PDX, but Dave claims to have seen one. There was a bicycle cop riding up and down the concourse, but since there were maybe a total of fifteen people in our immediate area, he had nothing much to do. Eventually we boarded our flight, which was less than a quarter full. I moved to a seat where I had empty seats on all sides, and spent the flight reading up on OpenSSH to learn about getting a secure X Windows connection with work from home.

We picked up our rental car in San Jose, stopped by the Mentor offices to pick up some other folks, then proceeded to meet with Company X (not going to mention what we were doing there, for NDA reasons). These guys had a really nice office, and a cool conference room with a view. There, is that vague enough for you?

After the meeting, one guy who had lived in San Jose tried to give us directions to Germania Haus, a German restaurant, before he went home. Of course we couldn't find it with both hands, so we drove around until we found a Thai restaurant, and ate there. The food was pretty good, and Dave picked up the tab. We stopped to eat since our return flight wasn't until 8:45pm. That's what you get when you try to book business trips at the last minute.

On the way back to the airport, we passed by the San Jose Coliseum (yes, it's called Logitech Ice, but c'mon), where there was a huge crowd, being directed by traffic cops. At first I though it was a WWF match, since the marquee was advertising that. But after a little while, it became clear from the dress of the attendants that this was a Sharks game. The Sharks are the San Jose hockey team, and they're quite popular. In case you're curious, here's a recap, wherein the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the San Jose Sharks.

We got to the terminal early, so we went for snackies, and I went to a gift store and bought Kelly a stocking stuffer for Christmas: an S. J. Sharkie plush keychain. He's carrying a surfboard, kawaii!

Mexicana Airlines was really busy last night, with at least two plane loads of people waiting in a long line at their ticket counter. I was trying to figure out why there'd be so many Latinos leaving at the same time, and I still can't figure it out.

We went through a somewhat more thorough security check to get to our gate, and now I actually saw two National Guardsmen. And four policemen! The gate was crowded this time. Our flight was delayed 'due to security issues in Portland', so I didn't actually get to leave until 9:20 pm. The flight was nearly full this time around, so I guess red-eye flights are busier than late-morning flights. Okay, it was only 9:20 pm, so it wasn't a red-eye. Jean says it was a 'pink-eye' flight. Aggh! Don't touch anything!

The woman sitting next to me told me that she flew down to San Jose that morning too. In her case, her flight was cancelled, and they put her on a flight to Oakland, where everyone on the flight was bussed to San Jose! So I guess I got off easy. The flight was uneventful, and I disembarked and walked to my car with no further incidents. Well, not until it came time to pay for the day's parking. It turns out that since the last time I went on a business trip for Mentor and now, they've doubled the price of one day's parking in the garage. It's now $32! Luckily, I had that much and only that much in my wallet. I had been debating buying Jean a T-Shirt at the San Jose gift shop, and decided to wait for something better. Now I'm glad I did.

I got home around midnight, and took another half hour to an hour to unwind and go to sleep. That's when I discovered that mild respiratory infections and air travel don't mix. I woke myself up coughing frequently, and as a result got very little sleep. I spent today taking it easy, working from home on my OpenSSH X connection. And I got that working! Cool!

Two 'ominous' notes. While walking through the terminal Dave was talking about his visit to Helsinki on business, and I mentioned that my Dad's side of the family if from Finland. He wanted to know if I had been to Finland and I admitted that except for Canada, I'd never left the United States. "Well," he said, "we'll have to do something about that." I seriously doubt he'll find a convincing business reason to do that, but it's unsettling anyway.

The other 'ominous' note was that he offered to meet these guys again in a few weeks on the East Coast! And he used the word 'we'! Help me! Help me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

K - e - double l - y Spells Kelly

By the way, Kelly did her homework with me last night. It consisted of reading a moderately challenging book. I'm truly impressed with the progress she's making in reading. She hardly stumbled on any of the words, and she's really worked out her tactics for sounding out variants of a word until she nails what it really says. I'm very proud of her.

Roof Fixed

The roof contractors showed up yesterday around 4pm and worked their magic. It's been raining overnight, and this morning saw no increase in the size of stains on the foyer ceiling, so I have hopes they spotted all the leakage.

Today is heavy rain, sometimes approaching horizontal, so I guess their work will get the stress test. Cross your fingers!

Travel Again

Well, looks as if I get to see just what Portland International Airport (and San Jose too) look like after the events of September 11th. I'm going on a business trip tomorrow, from which I will return to Portland by 10:30pm. Yuck!

Monday, November 26, 2001

Just an Experiment...

I've been attempting to replicate the structure of Terebi I here by creating subdirectories containing my reviews and essays (slowly, slowly). One thing which has occurred to me is that such subdirectories are 'invisible' to Greymatter, the software I use to run this weblog. This means that they are not included in searches the user runs from the search box. Big shortcoming, since I often want to search for something stashed in one of my articles.

I may try my hand at extending the search engine, but I don't want to break the code, and Perl is an infrequent programming language for me since I've started using Python for scripting tasks. To make a long story short, I'm going to use a feature of Greymatter called 'Extended Entry Text' in this post to see:

  1. How it looks on the home page.

  2. If the extended part is indexed for searching

This may take a while to totally test, since I'm most interested in behavior when archiving kicks in, i.e. after it rolls off the end of the front page. So expect to see a few of these 'extended entries' while I test it out...

Greymatter is a very nice CGI scripting suite for creating weblogs. If I were writing one myself, I'd probably do several things differently, tailoring the environment to my own peculiar needs. But considering how long it took Noah Grey to implement the current system, and considering that I don't actually wish to import all my entries from Greymatter into a new system, I'll pass on that task.

What I hope to achieve however, is the ability to make my anime reviews and other essays searchable in the same way as regular weblog posts are. This 'extended entry' is my first experiment. Following are several words I hope will be caught by the search script, at least after this article is archived:

  1. phrygean

  2. omphaloskepsis

  3. Patagonian

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Computer Media Adventures

I saw Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone with my friends last Saturday, and while there I saw a trailer for the live-action Scooby Doo movie. It's actually pretty clever, creatively using another Warner Bros. film property to 'kid the product'. I hunted the trailer down at the above link, and showed it to Kelly, whereupon she promptly set about viewing it six times. Now she has to wait 'til next summer to see the actual movie.

On another media note, she's hooked on Magical Nyan Nyan Taruto, as she watched five episodes in a row yesterday afternoon. I've only got nine, and there are only eleven translated. Twelve isn't even out yet. Poor little Kelly!

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

On the Other Hand

Brighter news than leaking roofs: Kelly found a blank book in her closet, and without prompting began to fill it with 'diary' entries. She used to pretend write, filling pages with squiggly lines, but now she is sounding out words, and spelling real, if extremely simple, sentences. 'Yoew?' is 'Why?', the title of her first poem. But despite some of these spelling howlers, I can actually read some of her stuff, usually with the aid of context. It's pretty cool.

When It Rains

Seems we have leak. Given the location of ceiling stains, I'm guessing the flashing around the chimney is failing. We're now searching for contractors who can do the work expeditiously.

In other annoying news, I enjoyed using our Internet connection into the evening, but this morning it seems to be out of service. Any bets on whether it will be fixed before the long holiday weekend commences?

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Lost Weekend

For the hypothetical individual out there wondering what became of my pictures of our coast trip, I flaked. I really need to install Photoshop (version 4.2 came bundled with our scanner) on the iMac, and also the drivers for the USB CompactFlash card reader, so I can upload the pictures to the computer, then crop them. Oh, and then I need to install my FTP tool, Interarchy. All bought and paid for, chilluns.

One final tool I've thought of getting for just this purpose is Cameraid, by Juri Munkki. It has a lot of features that I'll never use, but it has one I would, in this case. Point it at a folder of photos, and it'll create a web page with thumbnail photos which link to the full-size originals. Cool, neh?

Sick Holiday

I spent what felt like most of the night coughing, so when I 'woke up' this morning I was fairly shady. I went to work because I thought I could and I had a few commitments. Seems like it was a good idea, since I interacted with several people I needed to see.

However, I'm feeling rather punked right now, so I've decided to take some of my vacation time and take the entire day off tomorrow. I'm not going to lie abed the whole time, just sleep in, then do some low-energy chores, maybe take in a movie, then a nap. I'm wishing that this will give me enough energy to go the NOVA meeting on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Oh, Ocaml!

On the 10th, I checked my changes to the TeX files for Chapter 3 into remote CVS. Last night, my editing counterpart, Anders Selander, sent email with his suggestions, substantial and brilliant. I spent quite a while reading over his diffs carefully, adding my own comments and expanding. This morning I got his reply, converged on agreed changes, and shot off an email to him. I expect his changes will join mine shortly.

It's fun being a volunteer proofreader/technical editor!

P.S. - Ocaml is short for Objective Caml, which is a French derivation of ML, which is short for Meta-Language.

Get Back On That Horse

Pajama Sam is the man who brought Kelly to tears Sunday. Yesterday was a school holiday, so she stayed home with Jean. Punishment Weekend was over, so I expected to hear tales of ten-hour television marathons, but when I got home Kelly was playing Pajama Sam 3, and according to Jean, had been doing so most of the day.

She played on the new iMac, and when I tried to shut it down last night, it kept insisting that some application was holding resources such that it couldn't shut down. "Close the application and try again." But no application was open. Could Pajama Sam be responsible? Will he make me cry? I rebooted, then shut down, but time will tell...

Monday, November 12, 2001


Note to self: Do not post to your weblog when you are sick! You get all santimonious and stuff. Yuck.

Proud To Be

After seeing so many guileless declarations of patriotism of late, combined with the coercive rhetoric of the flag wavers, I have to take a stand, however small. I am not 'Proud to be an American'. I'm instead proud to be a thinking American. If I do not lead, follow or get out of the way, it is my right as an American, still. I don't simply kowtow to our appointed leader, but think for myself. If the President implies drilling in ANWR is patriotic, I am free to snort in disgust.

If you have a problem with that, then you're not much of an American, are you?

Weekly Update

When I'm under a pile of work, or feeling sick, or nursing a sick family, or just plain lazy (all too often), this weblog suffers. Considering that the last substantive post was two weeks ago, one might wonder what's up. Well, all of the above, really. So here's a quick recap of recent events.

Jean came down with a 48-hour influenza, and I had to take care of her and watch over Kelly when not working. The iMac is working out fine, I'm now at the stage of migrating software over when I discover I need it, about once every three or four days. I've finished my proofreading for the French Ocaml book, and am awaiting a second chapter assignment. I am now fighting something which may only be a vicious cold, but feels more virulent than that.

That's all the trivia dramatically compressed. Slowing down, I gotta note that this weekend was spent very quietly, as Kelly was having one of her more comprehensive punishments. She threw a wobbly at daycare on Friday which apparently lasted nearly an hour and inconvenienced a lot of folks. I tried to 'talk her down' over the phone, but she was inconsolable.

It seems she won a T-shirt from 'the reptile man', a guy who goes around the schools and daycares showing off snakes, lizards, turtles and such. But the teacher asked her not to wear it right away as it would make the other children feel bad. At this, Kelly launched into her fit, giving the teacher little room to back down.

So Jean and I had a talk with Kelly and decided her punishment. One hour of television a day for the whole weekend, and bed early every night. She got really bored, but we also told her it wouldn't be our job to entertain her during that time. I did take her down to Fry's to buy a new computer game, as she went through all her existing games, educational and otherwise, in her bid to fight off the boredom.

Playing the game turned out to be very enlightening, if a tad disappointing. She reached a point where she decided she wanted to go back to a 'save point', and she accidentally saved over the last save point, preventing her from going back. She completely fell apart! She was sobbing, and quickly escalated to jumping up and down, crying and more or less demanding that we magically restore her save point. We told her to calm down or go to her room.

Times like these remind me why I didn't want to be a parent (no, Kelly wasn't a 'love child', we chose to have her, after much discussion). But eventually she calmed down, and worked out a solution (play another game). Still, it made me question just how effective the punishment had been in making her introspect on her behavior. I did tell her that behavior like that was unacceptable. She understands that it's okay to have feelings, and even okay to cry, but not to try to bully others with her tears. But she still loses control of herself. I hope it's just a maturation issue.

Monday, November 5, 2001

Mac Daddy

Even temporarily losing the iBook annoyed the heck out of me, so I went digging into my fund bag and found enough money to buy another computer with a USB port (why, so we can print on our new, USB-only-connected printer, that's why!). I ended up buying an iMac, despite being a little peeved at Apple right now, understandably so, I might add. Reason for iMac, I have no expertise on Wintel boxes, and didn't have the time to become expert.

So now we have three Macs in the house: an 'old' Powermac 8500, the temporarily (crossed-fingers) out of service iBook, and an iMac. Jean tried installing one of her study programs on the iMac today, and did a double-take when it finished installing in an eyeblink (larger software packages may take longer, state and local taxes may apply, your mileage may vary). Truth is, even though this is only a single step above the low-end iMac, it's clock speed is over four times that of the Powermac that Jean has been using. So I expect her to be sitting at it quite a lot from now on.

Digital fansubs of anime also run smoother, as I found out when setting it up for this task. I watched episode one of Mahoromatic on full-screen mode and it was sharp and seamless. On my laptop, a file of this size would overwhelm the processor and bus, leading to frame drops and stutter. An even larger file, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, the new Cowboy Bebop movie, was totally smooth. I only watched the opening, but it's a hoot.

So anyway, I've been migrating tools and applications from the other two boxes (nursing the battery on the laptop until the replacement AC adapter arrives). Last night I booted into Mac OS X, the new os with the Unix underbody. I downloaded the free OS X developer kit from Apple, and proved that I can use remote CVS to download the TeX files for the book I'm proofreading. This will hopefully allow me to catch up from behind, as I'm not able to use remote cvs through the firewall at work, and using it on Agora is problematic as I have a 30 gig limit, and the source files for the book total more like 50 gigs. So w00t! I can do my final edits from home!

Thursday, November 1, 2001

On the Positive Side

Kelly and I defeated the Sewer Evil King in Okage. He was a giant rat, and the last two times we tried we got defeated, forcing us to start over from our most recent save point. So, HURRAY!

Trick-or-treating was a hoot this year. Kelly decided that shouting 'Trick or Treat!' at every door was boring, so she started asking people if they had any children. Sort of an informal survey. by the end I could tell she was getting tired (aside from the complaints of sore feet) since she actually rejected offers of extra candy (bucket too heavy) and started asking if people had particular types of candy instead of what they were offering.

Of course, nothing tops her 3-year old Halloween, when her deviation from the script was to shout to people "I want candy!"

Curse of Halloween

My laptop power supply died, sparking and smoking at the plug which attaches to the computer when I removed it last night! Now I have to get a new one. Ugh. Doing research on Apple's bulletin boards, it looks like they aren't taking responsibility for this one, even though tons of customers are reporting it. They may bow to pressure and do a recall eventually, but I need a power adapter now, not six months after the battery runs down. And of course I think I'm just outside the warranty period. I'll call 'em and try it, but I expect I'll be buying one myself...