Monthly Archives: March 2001

Waiting for my ride to the airport

While I’m waiting for the car service to show up to take me to SFO so I can fly to Haifa (and then on to Hursley and Paris), a few timely or amusing links:

More later from some airport, perhaps….

A preview of the next recession

Much to my surprise, checking in for the flight to Tel Aviv was as quick as checking in for any other international flight — the other times I’ve flown to Israel, I’ve had to hand-carry our checked luggage to the super X-Ray machine before they’d take it — but in both cases, I was changing airlines in London from American to British. This time, the trip is all on TWA, and I guess they handle Tel Aviv luggage often enough that they know how to do it without making me do the schlepping.

Since I had plenty of time to kill before my flight, I decided to circumnavigate the airport and look at the art exhibits. SFO runs a very active museum program, and the exhibits are often very interesting; today, I enjoyed the exhibit of police headgear through the years and around the world and the exhibit of strange collectibles (swizzle sticks, Elvis memorabilia, anything with “Bluebird” on it, to name but three) and interviews with the collectors. Unfortunately, they were in the process of changing over a couple of the exhibits, but it was definitely better than sitting around for an extra hour.

My route took me through the Central Terminal, which was the International Terminal until late last year. Now, it looks like this:

Is this what a recession looks like?: (Actually, it's the old SFO International Terminal, now deserted in favor of the new SFO International Terminal)I hope it’s not a preview of things to come if we slip into recession — my driver was telling me that the car service’s business has definitely fallen off in the past few months.

Now, onward to JFK and TLV!

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A little Torah study – Silicon Valley style

We’re just back from Torah study and Shabbat Minyan services, waiting for the kids to arrive for Jeffrey’s belated birthday party.

At Torah study, we finished discussing Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32), spending most of the time on the story of the Tower of Babel. We were talking about the somewhat interesting order of events in chapter 11, verses 3 and 4:

They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard….Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the sky….”

where first, they make the bricks and only then decide what to do with them. And it occurred to me that this was very much like the VC frenzy of the last couple of years:

They said to one another, “Come, let us gather venture capital…come, let us build a company, and a business plan with its top in the sky….”

where the funding seemed to come first, and only then a decision about what to do. But this time, instead of burning the bricks hard, it was the investors and employees who got burned.

At services, of course, we heard the regular weekly portion, Ki Tisa, and the accompanying Haftarah (I Kings, 18:1-39). The major action in the Haftarah takes place atop Mount Carmel — and, if all goes well, that’s where I’ll be in less than 48 hours (Haifa, to be more contemporary). It’s a small world sometimes!

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Middle School Orientation

Last night, we went to the parents’ orientation for the middle school Jeffrey will be attending next year (already? Yipes!). The principal, assistant principal, counselor, and a few teachers were there to present, along with more parents than could fit into the library (Jeffrey’s class is a big one).

In general, we came away pretty happy; they seem to have a good program going for assimilating the incoming 6th graders; they make extensive use of the rising 8th graders as mentors and supports, and from what I heard, the program works well.

There were, of course, questions from parents about safety at school — I was taken aback when one parent asked “Do you have lockdown drills?” (The answer, by the way, was “no”; they concentrate on earthquake, fire, and evacuation drills.) But I think the staff is on the ball in this area, too.

Next month, the school has their annual carnival, and rising 6th graders are cordially invited. Then they have an official visit with their 5th-grade classes in May; Jeffrey’s mentor should call him during the summer, and then orientation is the Wednesday before school opens — so much for travelling the last week of the summer!

And, just to add to the fun, the school is going to be torn down and rebuilt over the next two years; by the time Jeffrey’s in 8th grade, it should be quite a nice place. In the meantime, the good news is that the portable classrooms will have air conditioning.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Crank calls, spring cleaning, and referrals

Today started awfully early — 2am, roughly, when the phone rang. I knew immediately that it was a crank caller, but I wasn’t awake enough to realize that I knew it, and kept talking to the guy for a minute or two until the glucose level in my brain reached a high enough level for me to figure out that the right response was to hang up the phone. I think I hung it up while I was in the middle of saying something, but I don’t really remember.

Of course, after waking up enough to deal with the caller, it took me a while to fall back to sleep, but I eventually did, and the alarm came as a shock, as usual. I much prefer days when I can wake up on my own schedule, but those are few and far between.

Spring Cleaning

I’m running out of room in my home office, so I’ve been going through some of the piles of paper, trying to get rid of stuff which I don’t need. This morning, I unearthed the score report from the test I took to become an OS/2 Certified Engineer — I took advantage of the opportunity to take the test for free at a Comdex many years ago, or I probably never would have bothered. As it was, I’ve never used the certification (I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned it to anyone until writing this entry, in fact), so I guess I can probably get rid of the score report, even though it is prominently stamped “Save this report!”. Wonder where my certificate is….

Referrals

On Tuesday, I mentioned Artabunga as one of the more interesting booths I saw at the ACM1: Beyond Cyberspace Exhibition.

Today, I got a nice note from Helen Casserly at Artabunga thanking me for the mention and for the traffic I’d sent her way — glad to be of service, Helen!

But then I was wondering why I had so much traffic lately, and discovered that my tale of my day at ACM1 had been
Scobelized. Thanks, Robert!

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A day in the future

I spent most of today at the San Jose Convention Center, attending the
ACM1: Beyond
Cyberspace Exhibition
. I’ve been to many trade shows at the
Convention Center — but this wasn’t just another trade show.

Oh, sure, Microsoft had a huge booth, showing all sorts of whizzy
software that’s not ready for primetime (and no, I’m not making a snide
reference to any version of Windows or Office, past, present, or future
— not this time, anyway). And IBM was there too, showing various
research projects like
Blue Eyes and
Veggie
Vision
.

But those booths weren’t the most interesting things at the
Exposition, not by a long shot.

I was much more impressed by the more unusual presentations. Things
like Artabunga, which gives kids
a place to draw on the Web (and share what they’ve done). Or
FocalPoint 3D Audio, something I’d
dearly love to have available on my next conference cal. And
e-chalk, which captures a
blackboard session in realtime, along with the discussion going along
with it, and makes it sharable.

The University of California at Berkeley showed four research projects;
the two that interested me most were
Telegraph, which shows
how you can combine data from different Web sources to develop
information, knowledge, and, if you’re not careful, falsehoods; I also
liked
Conversation Maps,
which might provide a way to deal with the mess of e-mail which makes up
my working day.

The best part of the conference, though, was seeing so many high school
and middle school students taking in the exhibits — not just wandering
through, either, but actively participating. And I enjoyed being
Fibonacci’d by the students at
Longfellow Middle
School
— though by the time I came through, they were getting very
tired.

I hope ACM does this again in another few years, when Jeffrey would be
ready to enjoy and appreciate it.

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Maybe ignorance is bliss

This morning, as I walked past the cafeteria, I noticed that one of the options for today was “Stuffed Airline Chicken Breast”. I didn’t want to investigate further, but I wonder if they sold any?

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Purim, Programming, and Potables

Thursday night was Purim, and as always, services at Shir Hadash were fun. This year’s theme was “Sesame Street” (or perhaps I should say “Rehov Sumsum”); the Cantor wore an Elmo costume, and the Rabbi was Moishe Oofnik (though the costume looked exactly like Oscar the Grouch), and they used Sesame Street tunes throughout the service. I was amazed that there were some tunes that neither Diane nor I recognized immediately — I would have sworn that all of Sesame Street was graven indelibly in our brains, but I guess time heals all wounds.

I spent most of Thursday and too much of today working on my Sash project; the whole idea when I started this project was to come out with something which would save me time in entering and tracking trips on my Notes calendar by doing timezone conversions for me and putting all of the data on one screen. Well, it’s mostly working (finally) — time and date calculations are a pain — but I don’t think I’ll ever save one percent of the time I’ve spent writing the code. If I harden it a bit more, though, others can benefit — and I’ve definitely learned a lot in the process, and that was, of course, part of the idea.

Wine of the Day

The wine wasn’t very popular on my flight from Hartford to San Francisco last month; for some reason, no one wanted to drink much of it on a flight leaving at 7am. But the flight attendant didn’t want to have to repack it, so she gave bottles to many of us to take home. Normally, I would have gone for the white wine, but it was a Chardonnay, so I took the red instead, which was a 1999 Morandé Pionero, a Chilean Valle Central Merlot. We finally got around to drinking it this week, and were quite pleased (even though we had it with chicken and pasta, normally dishes which would take a white). I’d happily take another bottle, though, just between us, I’d rather buy it than take a 7am flight to get it!

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A beautiful day in Northern California

It was nice and sunny all day today. I got to look at it while spending six hours on the phone attending teleconferences. But I’m not bummed — after the calls were over, I only had to walk out my front door to enjoy a bit of the day, instead of fighting New York traffic, driving to the airport hotel, and then waiting for a flight home tomorrow.

And, as it happens, today’s meetings were ones which worked well as a remote participant — that’s not always the case, and was the reason I was going to fly East before the great non-storm of 2001 made me change my plans.

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Timely links

The best single source of information I found was
Sources of Time Zone and Daylight Saving Time Data, which points to the definitive (if unofficial) archive of time zone data and code. But to use any of that information, I’d’ve needed to write some C code, or at least have a C compiler, so I kept searching.

And I found The Worldwide Holiday & Festival Site, which has a very good page on the
Hebrew calendar, including the civil dates for all Jewish holidays (major, minor, and trivial) for the next few years. The site also has a world-wide calendar of holidays which could be useful in planning travel and meetings.

But that still wasn’t what I needed, so I kept looking, and found World Time from PawPrint.net, which is a wonderful and free Windows program to show the time anywhere in the world — this is very handy for me, since I’ve found myself calling people all over the world lately, and it’s embarassing to have to ask them what time it is (I’ve managed to avoid waking anyone so far, though).

Even better, World Time interacts with the Windows registry to display Windows’ idea of timezone information — and that was exactly what I needed, since my goal when I started this exploration was to be able to convert times that I see on airline schedules to a consistent timezone (UTC, most likely) so that I could enter them into my Lotus Notes calendar. So with that hint, I did some registry exploration and found where Windows keeps its time zone definitions (of course, it’s not the same place in Win9x and WinNT/2000), so with a little effort, I should be able to take advantage of that information and not have to come up with yet another way of asking users to identify timezones.

Not exciting, but at least I feel I accomplished something useful today. Tomorrow, I’ll spend at least half the day on conference calls, which limits my odds of doing much in the way of programming. Still, even that’s better than spending two days on airplanes.

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It looks like I won't be…

…exercising at the Y this afternoon, because I gave blood this morning.

…flying to New York tomorrow, because it’s snowing like crazy there and my meetings will probably be postponed.

So far, so good!

Well, I was almost right

My meetings weren’t postponed, but they were converted from face-to-face to teleconferences. I still get to stay home, for which I am grateful.

And now for something completely different

The package delivery folks were busy at our house today — there were four packages when Diane got home. One was a surprise package of kitchen potholders from my Mom; the other three were expected — a 128MB memory card for my GPS, two Star Trek episodes for Jeffrey and a book for Diane, and the complete run of Monty Python’s Flying Circus for me. So we watched the first episode of Python, Whither Canada, which I probably enjoyed more than Jeffrey did, though he did seem to like the Funniest Joke in the World.

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