Monthly Archives: November 2000

Another Monday

Need I say more?

Actually, it wasn’t that bad, but even though I was busy all day, I don’t feel that I accomplished as much as I wanted to. And real soon now, I have to get down to some administrivial tasks, such as working on my “Personal Business Committments” (in other words, what I plan to do in 2000) and also writing up my yearly results. It really is considered bad form not to have the plans approved before the end of the year, though it does make it easier to hit one’s targets that way.

I also got rid of the Microsoft Trackball Explorer we bought a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like a good idea, but having both the left and right mouse buttons (and the scroll wheel) all being operated by the thumb was too much — and trying to remap the buttons screwed up the mapping on the trackpad that Diane prefers to use, so I returned it to Fry’s. For a change, I was taken care of immediately (usually, there’s a 15- or 20-minute wait; I brought a book), and the whole experience wasn’t half-bad — and the thought that we might not like the trackball is the reason we went to Fry’s in the first place. Much as I dislike some of the nonsense there, their return policy makes them my first choice when I’m experimenting with gadgets.

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Sunday morning radio

I usually listen to the local all-news, classical, jazz, or classic rock station when I’m in the car. But on Sunday mornings, they often run strange programming, so all bets are off and I tune around the dial in hopes of finding something I’ll like.

This morning, as I was driving to the Y, I happened to tune into NPR’s Weekend Edition just as they were starting the puzzle segment. I liked it. In fact, I sat in the car until the segment ended, then I spent most of my exercise session thinking about the puzzle. After getting home, I kept trying different solutions until I found one that seemed to be a good candidate (10 total steps). I’m glad they put the puzzle on the website so I don’t have to listen to the show every week (is the puzzle always at the same time?).

Ruining my reputation for expertise

Al asks for my opinion on the right wines to accompany a dinner of Boeuf a la Bourguignonne. I guess my occasional “Wine of the Day” feature must sound as though I know something, rather than what it really is — a way of remembering some of the wines we drink in hopes of not buying bad ones a second time!

We hardly ever have beef at home, so I’m afraid I don’t even have any experiences to share as starting points for this one.

The Wine of the Day for Thanksgiving, by the way, will be a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Corbans Marlborough 1999), chosen through the scientific process of rushing over to the wine racks at Lunardi’s while Diane was in the checkout line and looking for the first Sauvignon Blanc which had the words “good with poultry” in the writeups on the shelves. I’ve heard good things about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs; I hope they’re right!

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Parashat Vayera

Today’s Torah portion was Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24). It’s filled with action, including the Binding of Isaac and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, but that wasn’t what caught the eye of the person giving the drash today. Instead, she talked about the meaning of hospitality, pointing out that the sin which really sealed the doom of Sodom was the lack of hospitality, and talking about how Abram’s hospitality to the three strangers led to the birth of Isaac. And the Haftorah follows through on the same theme.

After my unfortunate experience Thursday at the Iron Cactus (followed, fortunately, by the great treatment I received at Taco Cabana), I wish that people in the hospitality industry would read the Torah!

United Airlines keeps trying to make good for their summer problems; today’s mail said that I could have my choice of 15,000 miles or two confirmable domestic upgrades as yet another apology for any inconvenience I might have suffered during the summer (this is on top of double mileage for my travel since May and a reduced mileage level to requalify for Premier). I’d really prefer it if they spread out the seats throughout the cabin, not just in the first few rows of Coach, and if they’d serve food on any flight over two hours, not just those which fit their definition of “mealtime”. But since they’re not likely to take those measures, which actually cost money, I guess I should be happy that they want my business enough to try to bribe me for it.

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Technology: No place for wimps!

I’m sitting in the Austin Admiral’s Club waiting for my flight home. American has cut a deal with MobileStar to offer wireless LAN access, and the price seemed reasonable, so I thought I’d give it a shot. One hour later, I was still unconnected, though I’d had a very pleasant conversation with MobileStar’s tech support, and I was about to give up, when another weary traveller (all travellers are weary — it’s part of the job description) came in and connected wirelessly with no problem.

I asked him what he’d done, and he said he connected through Wayport. So I tried to do that, and hey, presto — I connected up on the first try. Even better, Wayport is offering free access until the end of the year, a price even better than reasonable.

And here I thought I wouldn’t be able to flip my page today, at least not without using a phone line.

MobileStar just told me that they do, indeed, have a down access point here at the airport. So maybe they’ll work better next try.

Home again

I hadn’t come back to San Jose on a Friday night in a long time, so I was surprised to see a very long line of passengers waiting for taxis. Fortunately, the taxi starter was helpful and tried to double-up passengers heading in the same direction, and I got lucky and got paired and out of the airport quite a bit sooner than I would have if I’d had to wait in the entire line. And the driver was happy, collecting almost two fares (and, I’m sure, reporting only one fare to the company). Now I get to stay home for a few days — I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend and a quieter week at work next week, before things heat up again after Thanksgiving.

Shabbat Shalom!

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So much for knowing where I am….

I had two GPS disappointments on my journey from San Jose last night. The first was on American Airlines, as the flight attendant asked me to turn my GPS off — apparently, they’ve decided that there is a microscopic chance of interfering with aircraft navigation systems (or, perhaps, they’re tired of passengers asking why the plane isn’t flying in a direct route to the destination!), and so the latest list of prohibited devices includes GPS receivers (but only in the English-language list — the Spanish and French lists hadn’t been revised). Naturally, I complied — there’s no way to win an argument in that situation, and, technically speaking, attempting to do so may be a felony.

Once I landed in Austin, I thought I’d be all set, though; I’d built a route from the airport to my hotel and had loaded it into the GPS, and the GPS worked beautifully. Unfortunately, the route that Street Atlas had computed didn’t match reality, and I found myself way off course — I knew I was off course (thanks to the GPS) but I couldn’t figure out how to recover (thanks to not having a decent paper map). Fortunately, my cellphone worked, and I had the hotel phone number, so they were able to talk me in. But I would have been better off staying with the tried-and-true technology of printing the directions from the hotel’s web page and following them.

This morning came awfully early.

Avoid the Iron Cactus in Austin

Tonight, I almost had dinner at the Iron Cactus restaurant on Stonelake in Austin. I was here to participate in a press event, and the hosts had arranged a group dinner there. But the restaurant wasn’t at all flexible about catering to the needs of the guests — apparently, they’d proposed a menu with three choices, and if the guests didn’t like any of them, too bad. They eventually agreed to let a few of us order from the real menu because of food allergies or vegetarianism, but it was clearly being done under protest, and I decided I didn’t want to take the chance of having them cook my meal with shrimp and then remove it before serving it. So I left (the fact that the restaurant was horribly noisy didn’t make me want to stay, either — and the noise level was obviously by design, since the restaurant was all done in stone and tile) and went to Taco Cabana, which I’d walked past earlier in the evening.

Taco Cabana turned out to be a fast-food Tex-Mex place, but it was clean, simple, and good, and they were accomodating — I didn’t like the desserts they offered, so I asked the manager if he knew where there was an ice cream place in the area. He didn’t, so he asked his kitchen staff for recommendations for me, settling on Amy’s Ice Cream a few blocks away, which I also enjoyed.

I’m glad I decided to leave the Iron Cactus; I caught up with the group when they got back to the hotel, and several of them were complaining about sore throats from having to yell across the table.

Things you find out from referer logs

I look at my referer page and my Site Meter page from time to time, and today, I notice that someone was sent to my July 24 page via a Google search for “22 Paper Jam”. On that day, I was talking about the problems I was having with my Optra R printer; I’m happy to note (if I haven’t already) that I was finally able to fix the problem by replacing the paper tray, which got damaged when it was shoved back into the printer too quickly.

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Another quickie

I’m off to Austin later this afternoon, arriving far too late to want to update my page (not so much because it’ll be late when I arrive as much as it’ll be morning much earlier than I like tomorrow). I suspect the election coverage in the American-Statesman is far different in flavor to that in the Mercury News.

We just got back from the 1st quarter parent/teacher conference; no surprises, which is good (pleasant surprises would be better, but the teacher’s done a good job of keeping us informed all along).

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Silence is golden

So I won’t say anything about today’s edition of the Florida Follies.

I also will be losing my network connection in a few minutes (the perils of having one’s employer be one’s ISP…when they do maintenance, access from home goes away too), so I don’t have anytime to say anything profound.

But I didn’t want to miss a day, hence this brief entry.

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Back to work

More later, perhaps.

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A quietly busy Sunday

Today was the last day of Pete and Debbie’s visit, so a trip to SFO was on the agenda for the afternoon. Before that, though, we had to take Jeffrey to Sunday school (though apparently a lot of people took the day off — he said there were only five other kids in his class today!), and I returned the remains of our door installation project to Home Depot. It was very difficult to get their count of what I was returning to match what I’d brought back — and no, they weren’t using a butterfly ballot. Instead, it was an unwillingness to move 80-pound bags of stucco around to find a small piece of wood and scan it — but eventually, we reached an agreement and I got my refund. Then, to my delight, I found out that I was also entitled to a refund for some unused labor on the installation, so all in all, it was a moderately successful and financially painless trip.

Even though Pete and Debbie had a 4pm flight, they didn’t want to take any chances on missing it, so we left for lunch and the airport at 12:30, arriving at the airport just after 2pm. And then they got in the endless United check-in line; I had forgotten how poorly airlines treat “regular” (non-elite-level) passengers, since I do almost all my flying on airlines where I have elite status. Not only was there a very long queue, but they hadn’t been given pre-assigned seats and couldn’t get two seats together — they did manage to score exit-row seats, but they were middle seats.

We saw them off (SFO is not a bad place to kill an hour, especially if you’re carrying anything — the bookstore in the United concourse is very nice, as is the fast-food court there), and then headed back home, returning library books and a tuxedo along the way. Then I had my new watch’s band resized so I could actually wear it, and that was about the end of the productive activity for today.

Bypassing a Microsoft bug

In today’s Scripting News, Dave Winer complains that the MSIE 5.5 text entry box has a bug making it impossible to select one-and-a-fraction words, because the selection moves backwards to encompass a whole word. This is true, but only if you use the mouse; if you use the keyboard to manipulate the selection, you can select any portion of the text you like.

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ice sculpture: Tonight is Shir Hadash’s 20/10 Gala (celebrating 20 years of the congregation and 10 years with Rabbi Aron). We’ll be there — I’ve even rented a tux. Sheesh!

dressed up for the gala: All dressed up for the Shir Hadash 20/10 Gala

Book of the Day

Actually, it’s a trilogy — Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. I just finished volume 1, The Golden Compass and have started volume 2, His Subtle Knife. Officially, these are children’s books, but I don’t think I’d describe them as such; they are quite a bit darker and more grown-up than the Harry Potter books.

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