Monthly Archives: September 2000

A day in Lotus-land

I spent most of today working with the part of my team who are based at Lotus in Cambridge (Mass., not England); for a change, the people I wanted to see were there, and no one was rushing off to get a plane.

It’s a little too early to tell what may develop from today’s conversation; I may well be trying to help nurture a developer community around some new software coming soon. If nothing else, I now have a copy of it and am going to play with it; I also now have a copy of VMWare to allow me to play more safely.

Today was the kind of day which could almost convince me that Boston would be a nice place to live. It was sunny but not too hot (at least not for the few minutes I was outside during the day), then very pleasant this evening. I walked from my hotel to Harvard Square and back (about 4 miles round-trip); I hadn’t planned on walking that far when I set forth, but it was just too nice an evening to go back and face the keyboard! And after visiting
Toscanini’s Ice Cream, I had some fairly serious calories to burn off!
I don’t know if I’d call them
“The World’s Best Ice Cream” (as a quote from the New York Times on the window proclaims), but it’s damn good. Even their T-shirts are tempting!

Tomorrow, I’m homeward bound.

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Wasting the company's money

The modern world of networks and firewalls is a real pain.

I am able to connect in to my intranet from the real Internet using a slightly weird SOCKS server which encrypts my traffic and tunnels it through the firewall. This actually works, as I proved not twenty minutes ago while sitting in a conference room at MIT.

And my hotel room (new, improved, and non-smoking) features Ethernet connectivity to the Internet for a mere $10/day. This seems better and probably cheaper in the long run than using the phone line.

I had success on my old laptop running its old operating system at other hotels in combining these two technologies to get high-speed access to my intranet from my hotel room, so I thought I’d do it here.

So here I am on the Internet, but I don’t seem to be able to find the magic words to get me far enough to be challenged for the secret code to let me into the intranet. And various commands are failing when they try to do name resolution. So I’m probably doomed to go back to the phone after all.

Oh, well; it could be worse — it might be raining. Oh…it is.

Time heals all wounds

Or at least it healed my network problems; I guess it was something wrong “out there” somewhere, because I certainly didn’t do anything to fix it other than go out for dinner.

Legal Sea Foods was as good as ever — also as crowded as I’ve ever seen them; we had to wait an hour for a table. I thought about going elsewhere because I was hungry, but there wasn’t an obvious other choice except the hotel bar/restaurant, and going there means admitting defeat. It was worth the wait, but next time I go get on the queue while waiting for my dinner partner!

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They claim I'm normal

Or at least my MRI came back as normal, which is good enough for me at this point.

I’m appalled to hear about the vandalism of Diane Reese’s car. It’s not entirely because vandalism is bad — there is some self-interest involved, too, since I park in the same parking lot, and I was wondering why there was a car up on jacks on Wednesday when I came in. We work at a rather isolated facility, so I am afraid that it was a co-worker who did the deed.

Off to Boston….

….and here I am!

Word of advice to all: make sure your travel agent has your current hotel guest numbers in your profile. I didn’t, and they sent the wrong number to Marriott. As a result, my record didn’t get flagged as a frequent guest, and they didn’t hold a non-smoking room for me. I’m lucky, though — I have a room (they were starting to walk people) and, though it’s a smoking room, it’s not horribly smoky.

I have now gotten the travel agent to fix my profile.

Such problems the modern era brings…..

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More locksets

A very late page-flip today, just barely in time to keep my string going.

We visited two Home Depot stores today in search of locksets; at the first, I found one which I needed; the second one (Sunnyvale, for those of you keeping score) had the other four. [This whole process reminds me of the search for Pokémon cards!]

The installation took much less time than finding the pieces. But now, of course, I need to find an antique brass deadbolt for the back door, and the front door needs some work….it never ends!

Other than hardware wars, it was a quiet and restful day; we even managed to take a nice walk after dinner for the first time in days.

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It's never as easy as it seems

Today’s project was pretty straightforward — replace some interior locksets. This is a very simple task, one which even a dexterity-challenged individual like myself can do in five minutes, as I proved several times today.

The first time took a bit longer, since I was so eager to get right to the task that I didn’t take a minute to figure out how to get the old knob off (the screws were hidden by an escutcheon, which I could pry loose but couldn’t get past the knob). So I spent about 15 minutes using a screwdriver at an 80-degree angle to the screw, moving it very slowly and tearing the slot apart in the process. Finally, I reached the point at which I’d done so much damage to the slot that I couldn’t make any more progress — at this point, I realized that there had to be a better way.

So I looked at the knob and found the little release tab (which I’d seen right at the beginning, but for some reason didn’t think was significant) and pushed it with the screwdriver — it went in and the knob came off, but because the knob was no longer supported, the screwdriver kept moving and I had to go find some Band-Aids.

After that, it was easy; well, except when I decided to make sure that the latch would fit in the strike — before putting the knob on. It did fit; it took me a few minutes to figure out how to open the latch by hand so I could get out of the room again.

But after that, I knew what to do and what not to do, and I did the next two rooms in under five minutes each. So, on our way back from Side Man (about which more anon), we stopped at Homeowner’s Hell…err, Home Depot…to get more locksets for some other rooms.

And when I got home, I looked at the label on the new locksets, which showed the outside lever curving up and then down — and I looked at the three doors I’d already done, and realized that two of them were right, but one was the other way. And I couldn’t figure out how that could be, so I took a closer look. And discovered that I had a mutant lockset on the bathroom door — the inside was right, but the outside was not only the wrong way, but lacked the emergency unlocking mechanism! In other words, some previous customer had returned the lockset I’d bought, but not before mixing up the parts of two non-matching ones.

At least I discovered the problem before accidentally locking the bathroom from the outside — and I got more practice in installing locksets than I’d planned. And there wasn’t even a line at the returns counter at Home Depot, much to my surprise.

So at this point, I’m out of locksets (for some reason, the kind we want is in short supply — if we wanted a bright brass finish instead of antique brass, we’d be all set; sometimes it’s a pain to have different tastes than the majority), but there are still two or three Home Depots yet to try (the other big local hardware chain, OSH, doesn’t carry antique brass in this design at all).

And after all, it is just a five minute project.

Side Man

In between my hardware adventures, we saw Side Man at San Jose Rep. I highly recommend it.

Like many interesting plays, this one is the story of a dysfunctional family — the son is the narrator, and he wanders around in time from 1985 to 1953 and back, showing us scenes from his parents’ lives. His father is a jazz trumpet player, a side man; his mother wanted to be a flutist but got sidetracked to the bottle.

For further details, go see the play!

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Six in a row and a weekend to boot

I don’t know what it’s been about this past week, but it’s been one damn thing after another, and so I’m glad it’s over.

We said good-bye to a co-op at work today, so I had lunch at Good Luck instead of trying the cafeteria — yesterday, even though I went into the servery three times, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat and wound up driving down the hill to Baja Fresh. So I was happy not to even have to consider the cafeteria today.

It was the Family Service at Shir Hadash tonight, so we helped with the Oneg (Diane is officially on the committee; Jeffrey and I help a bit, too). There was also the New Member picnic beforehand, but we decided to skip it and have dinner at home so we wouldn’t have to rush to set up. That, and we wouldn’t be competing with a large batch of yellowjackets for the food.

Tomorrow, we go to San Jose Rep to see Side Man, and Jeffrey goes to the Creative Playshop program that they host. I’m looking forward to the play, even if it does contain “Adult Language”.

The laptop continues to accrete software; I even got the X-10 Home Control software to work on it, though it requires a trick: the 32-bit communication module doesn’t work on Windows 2000, but the 16-bit one does, so you have to rename things to fool the system.

And I got a sign that next week may be looking up — my upgrade came through on Monday’s flight to Boston. Perhaps there’s hope!

Shabbat Shalom!

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Today was better. *whew*

Yesterday’s evil spell continued until well past midnight; none of us could sleep at all well (Jeffrey knocked on our door at 1am to tell us he couldn’t sleep — we got him back to bed and then I think he did drift off), probably because of the unexpected humidity. If I’d been mentally awake as well as physically so, I would have turned on the air conditioner, but I didn’t think of it.

But the humidity has broken, at least for now, so I’m hopeful.

Despite the lack of sleep, today was a better and more productive day for me. I remembered to bring my briefcase and laptop in to work, and I installed every networking device I could find (a token ring card, two Ethernets, two modems, and a wireless LAN) to make sure they all worked, and they did. So then I spent the rest of the morning putting on yet more of the pile of software to be installed on the new machine.

There must be an easier way.

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I want a "do-over"

Today was one of those days. The morning was somewhat frantic, mostly at my urging — I wanted Jeffrey to practice his spelling before going to school, and that made for a very rushed end-of-morning. He made it with seconds to spare, and then I walked back home, got into the car, and drove to work, ready to battle my Windows 2000 installation.

At which point I discovered I’d carefully forgotten to put my briefcase and my exercise clothes in the car, so I didn’t have my laptop, and so I wasn’t going to make any progress on Windows 2000 today.

I should have taken that as a hint and gone home. But I knew there were other things I could accomplish at work, so I stayed.

Well, I did get my desk partially clean, dumping weeks worth of trade rags and filing the receipts for my last expense account.

But I think my level of incompetence was contagious today — even the good folks in the mailroom were infected; I gave them a fax to send to England, and they faxed it to me at my eFax number instead (which was the “from” fax number on the note). Fortunately, I saw the fax arrive a few minutes later and quickly had them send it to the right number, but I’ve never seen them do anything like that before!

The rest of the day passed in much the same way. I left early, hopefully before I caused any permanent damage or ticked anyone off for life — my mood was as bad as my productivity today.

So after dinner, I went to Fry’s to buy a 10/100 switch for my home LAN and a 6-pack of Diet Coke for my office. How hard could it be? Finding the switch was easy; there was only one person ahead of me at the register; things were looking up. But then the cashier couldn’t find the rebate form — it took two people to find it (it was misfiled). And the Diet Coke rang up at the wrong price, and I was irritated enough to make them void the sale and do it again (Fry’s doesn’t have cash registers you can see, so you can’t tell what price you’ve been charged until you get the receipt; by that time, they’ve put in your credit card, and so they have to void the sale if there’s a problem (even though you haven’t signed the receipt)), even though it was not a signficant amount of money.

But the switch seems to work. So now when I have to copy files among the various computers at the house, it should be quicker. Will I ever save as much time as I spent buying the switch? Probably not, but at least I don’t have to be ashamed of my slow 10-megabit home network anymore, at least not until my friends have Gigabit Ethernet.

None of you have Gigabit Ethernet, do you?

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The light at the end of the tunnel?

Well, I had my MRI; results are due in two days (but I’m not going to hold my breath — last time, it took over a week). It was slightly less fun than last time; I guess the novelty wore off quickly. The only really bad part was needing to scratch and not being able to do so except between scans — as far as room went, I think I’ve been in tighter middle seats on airplanes — and the MRI place wasn’t trying to serve me lousy food.

I continue to build up my “new” laptop from work; it’s so much fun re-installing Microsoft Office and the service packs on yet another machine. I’ve gotten better at it; this time, I wrote down my serial number so that I didn’t have to fire up Word to get it before installing service pack 2a. I should have downloaded more of the software I need yesterday while at work instead of doing it from home — downloading 430MB takes a while.

And Hebrew School started today. Jeffrey is as thrilled about going as I was when I was his age. And he gets just as much choice in the matter as I did. I think his class (and teacher) is far better than what I had, but I just don’t think it’s ever going to be on the top of his list of things to do. Not unless they start reading Hebrew comic books instead of the Siddur, anyway.

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You must remember this….

And we continued to watch Casablanca at home. By the time we’ve had dinner, gone out for a walk, and Jeffrey’s done his homework, we don’t have much time before his bedtime, so we’re watching it in half-hour bursts. I’m sure that that does not do justice to the film, but it’s still awfully good — I find it hard to believe that I’ve never seen the whole thing before now.

Once we finish with the disk, I think we’re going to cancel our NetFlix subscription. The idea of being able to hold onto films as long as necessary is a good one; so is the concept of being able to turn over discs as quickly as we like. But in practice, I find that we watch an average of one to two discs a month; that makes the effective price somewhere between $10 and $20 per disc — and we can’t always get the movie we want when we want it. For us, I think it’s going to be more cost-effective and perhaps less hassle to buy the discs we want to keep and rent from a local merchant when we know we’ll have time to watch the disc, instead of pre-ordering by mail. I’m sure there are people whose viewing patterns are a perfect fit for NetFlix, but it doesn’t seem to match ours.

Web and Society, anyone?

I’m now co-chair of the Web and Society track for WWW10, next May in Hong Kong. My opposite number and I are working on the official Call for Participation on our track, but I thought I’d put out an unoffical notice here. Contact me if you’re interested.

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