Monthly Archives: June 2001
The latest word from Back East is that Diane’s father is continuing to feel better but will be in the hospital for several more days of observation and recuperation.
Diane’s dad has been transferred to a regular room; they’re running tests and have had specialists in to see him. He says he’d feel much better if he could cough something up (wait till he sees the bill!). They’re letting him walk around in the hospital, which sounds encouraging, but he said that he’s likely to be there for a few days.
Diane spoke with her Dad this evening, and he’s feeling much better but is still coughing a lot. He’s using a breathing mask of some sort which is helping; the specialists are still visiting, but they haven’t figured out what’s going on yet, and they don’t want to let him go while he’s still coughing, so he’s probably got another few days to spend in the hospital. And we reached her brother, who’s on vacation, and gave him the news.
Almaden doesn’t formally participate in “Take Your Child to Work Day”; instead, the lab policy is that you’re welcome to bring your children any time, but that they’re your responsibility to keep safe (not much of a problem for a programmer like me, but somewhat harder for someone who works in a cleanroom or laser lab) and entertained (this could be a problem). Jeffrey wants to come and see what I do next week, and that sounds like a good idea — but I bet he gets bored watching me do e-mail and make phone calls (and if I’m lucky, do a little programming!).
I spent much of the morning in the Extreme Blue lab as the guest speaker — I talked about standards and their importance to IBM. My talk was titled “Confessions of an ex-standards weenie” (thanks to Carl Cargill of Sun for coining the term), and I think it was helpful — if nothing else, none of the interns fell asleep while I was talking, and given the hours some of them are putting in, that’s a vote of confidence in my presenting style.
When we came home, there was a message on the answering machine from back East. Diane’s father had come back from a tour of the Maritimes a few days ago, and apparently there was a case of pneumonia being passed around on the tour bus; both he and his girlfriend have it and have been visiting doctors. But today, he was feeling really hot and then discovered he had a 105-degree temperature, so he got a neighbor to take him to the hospital. He’s in stable condition and will be transferred from ER to a regular room in an hour or so, which is about as good as can be expected, but it’s still unsettling news. Al, I hope your colleagues at Franklin General Hospital are in good form!
Today was also the annual Solstice and Anniversary party, thrown by some friends in Palo Alto in honor of their anniversary and the summer solstice. They always have a theme and a prop to go with the theme; as an example, one year, they set up a huge model of the Sphinx in their front yard. Since they are also science fiction fans and readers, the theme this year was pretty obvious.
So we decided to combine the two activities and set up a Field Day station at their party. Doug brought his Yaesu FT-817 and a portable antenna; Rich brought a keyer; I brought my callsign.
We set up our antenna on the monolith which had mysteriously and conveniently appeared in the front yard overnight.
Diane decided to see if she could contact anyone with her handi-talkie while in the shadow of the monolith. Eventually she did reach someone — me!
And we drew a crowd of party-goers (and maybe casual passersby, for all I know) who were curious about what we were doing.
We didn’t do very well at actually working stations — perhaps the monolith’s power kept our signals from getting out. In the end, we worked two stations — one at Stanford University, about a mile away, and Diane on her handi-talkie, just down the block.
But we didn’t really expect to achieve a huge score (though I was hoping for a few more contacts, and one outside the county would have been nice) — the goal was to have some fun and play with radios, and in that, we succeeded.
I want to get a HF rig one of these days — I had been thinking about the 817 because it’s small, light, and works all bands from 160 meters to 70 cm. But Rich and Doug were trying to talk me out of getting the 817 as my only rig, and they may have succeeded. I’m not sure what to get — I’d love to get the ICOM 756PRO, but it’s more radio than I need (not that “need” is the right word anyway). I guess I’ll have to go visit the local radio pushers and see what they recommend.
Today was a quiet day; no Lab Expo, no trip to the car dealer. Boring.
Well, it was boring for me. Jeffrey had a bit of excitement at the YMCA childcare — their portable classroom caught fire. No one knows quite what happened, but I suspect that a spark blew over to the trailer from the barbecue and eventually caught.
So they evacuated the children, found a fire extinguisher, and fought the fire until the fire department arrived a few minutes later and ensured that it was well and truly out.
No one was hurt; the fire was entirely on the outside of the portable, and they were back inside in about 45 minutes. But it did give them something to talk about!
The weather is finally cooling off a bit — someone up in San Francisco deciced to pay the natural air conditioning bill, I guess. There’s a nice cool breeze coming through the windows for the first time in a week — very nice!
Tomorrow, we go to a party and set up a Field Day station. For tonight, Shabbat Shalom!
So now I have my car back, which greatly simplified the afternoon’s agenda.
Oh, and the towtruck guy was right — it was the battery. And I did get my oil changed as long as the car was at the dealer, so now I’ve gotten back next Monday morning for more productive pursuits.
Today was the 15th Anniversary celebration of the IBM Almaden Research Center; there was a morning program for invited guests (people like the mayor of San Jose), and then in the afternoon, there was a Lab Expo highlighting about 80 projects from groups all over the lab. I was amazed how many things are going on of which I knew nothing before today — I didn’t have enough time to see everything, but I enjoyed the exhibits I did visit. And now I know what they do in the lab down the hall from my office — Quantum Cryptography.
I wasn’t expecting to be working from home this morning — I planned to get to work at a reasonable hour and try to donate blood — but my car had different ideas. I got in, turned the key, and was greeted with a quiet “clunk” and silence. Repeating the attempt just got me the silence, no clunk.
So I dug out the owner’s manual to figure out how to pop the hood (can you tell I don’t do my own maintenance?), found the battery and checked the connections, which seemed amply tight. I opened the door and noticed that the dome light was flickering on occasionally but was mostly off. So I did the obvious thing: I called Saab Roadside Assistance and am now waiting for a tow truck to arrive. If they can get the car started, I’ll be happy; if they can’t, they’ll tow it to the dealer who will make it better, and I’ll still be reasonably happy, since I’m at home instead of out on the road somewhere. Update: the car is on a flatbed truck on its way to the dealer and I’m still at home. With any luck, this will save me the trip to the dealer that I had had scheduled for next Monday to get the oil changed. How’s that for considering the glass to be half-full?
I don’t know if they’d’ve taken my blood today anyway, since I had dental work done yesterday, and I think that’s one of the screening questions they ask. It shouldn’t have been a problem, since I didn’t have any anesthetic (the dentist had to install a permanent crown, which is pretty easy on the patient), but who knows. I did discover that I don’t like the sound of a dental drill, even if it’s several feet away from my mouth!
I found out the wine we liked so much at the RPI picnic; it was Black Mountain Vineyard
1999 Sauvignon Blanc (California Three Candles) from
Trader Joe’s at $4.99/bottle. We have to visit Trader Joe’s soon anyway, so I’ll pick some up.
Last night’s wine was from Costco: De Loach 1999 Sonoma County Fumé Blanc, Russian River Valley (about $9). It was OK with spaghetti, but I don’t think I’d buy another bottle.
I don’t think I mentioned the wedding we attended last weekend — but while we were trying to figure out what to give the couple, we wandered into Sur La Table in Los Gatos and asked for advice. After a short discussion, we settled on a Screwpull lever model for them — and somehow, we wound up buying one for ourselves, too. It works wonderfully well, and I highly recommend it.
Friday night, we did the Oneg at Temple. Usually, there are others working with us (well, I should say “with Diane” because she’s the official Oneg person; Jeffrey and I are just assistants), but not this weekend; fortunately, the Bat Mitzvah family provided ample goodies, already on platters, so setting up took far less time than it usually does.
Saturday, we went to the Rensselaer Northern California Alumni Chapter picnic in Palo Alto; the weather was fine, the company good, and the food quite pleasant. The wine was excellent, but I forgot to write down its name. *sigh*
Sunday was Father’s Day; we celebrated by having pizza for lunch and going to see Shrek, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. One of the trailers before the movie was for A. I. — I was intrigued to see some Hebrew on the screen (in red) at the end of the trailer. I couldn’t quite make out the letters in the time I had, so today I looked at the trailer on the computer and dropped the Rabbi at Temple a note asking what was up — she said that the word appeared to be Chochmah, meaning “wisdom” and apparently related to the Kabbalah, which is quite popular in L. A. this year.
I also read the second and third volumes in Harry Turtledove’s Colonization series during the weekend; the third volume leaves very obvious room for yet another sequel (in fact, it demands one), but there’s no “coming soon” at the end of the book or on any of the Turtledove web sites I just looked at. I guess I’ll have to practice patience again.
And I hatched a plot to have a Field Day station at a party we’ll be at next Saturday — I started with a one-line note, and now we’ve got at least four hams involved, two of whom are bringing gear. Our goal is to have a respectable score but not make it too much work!
And then today, I spent all day at work. What more need I say?
Today, Jeffrey finished elementary school (at the end of 5th grade). I don’t remember there having been any kind of ceremony when I finished elementary school, though I did decorate my school dictionary with all sorts of notes saying how many minutes were left in school (starting at about 5 hours and counting down), but that’s not the way it is today.
They started with a school-wide awards ceremony recognizing all the children who were in Glee Club, Student Council, and several other activities; then they sent the primary students back to their classrooms and recognized the fourth and fifth grade honor students. Then the fourth-graders left, and the serious business of the morning began.
Each child’s name was called, and while he or she zipped across the room to pick up a certificate from the principal, the teacher read a paragraph telling a little bit about the student — their favorite subject, favorite moment, and a word or two about what they were looking forward to in middle school.
The whole thing took about 20 seconds, which only gave me time to take two pictures, the other of which was blurry. I hope Diane’s picture came out better.
Then the students went back to their classroom for their last two hours of elementary school, which were taken up by a recess (of course!) and yearbook signings. He’ll see most of the same students next year in middle school, but not one of his best friends.
They’ve been friends since kindergarden — his parents had wangled some sort of intra-district transfer to get him to Alta Vista rather than the elementary school nearest his house, but next year, he’ll go to the middle school near him instead of continuing to commute. I’m sure they’ll stay friends, but it won’t be the same as being friends and classmates.
Every year, the 5th grade class makes tiles
and assembles them into a plaque which is placed on an outside wall as a permanent memento of the class.
I’m not sure how permanent the placement of this particular plaque is, though — this summer, they’re doing major renovations to the school, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they’ve moved things around before September.
School let out at 12:30; we walked over, said good-bye to his teachers, picked him up, walked home, and went out to lunch. Later, as we were driving home, we passed the school, and I said, “Hey, Jeffrey — there’s your old school!” He smiled and said, “Yeah, it is!”
Under normal circumstances, I’d be on an airplane right about now, travelling to the East Coast for our department’s regularly scheduled planning meeting. But since Jeffrey’s graduating from elementary school on Friday, I decided to save the company some money and stay home — which was definitely not the hardest decision I’ve had to make this week.
In a different set of normal circumstances, I’d be typing this entry on my desktop computer, either at home or at work, but we just had an announcement on the PA system saying that Almaden has been asked by PG&E to immediately reduce our electrical usage by 15%, so I turned off the desktop and am using the laptop on battery power. Since the PGE status page says there are no constraints and it’s only 84 degrees outside, I suspect this is a test.
Aha…as I was typing this, Diane called — the SVL lab is also under curtailment until 6pm, but they admitted it was a test on the PA system (maybe they said it here, too, but I sure didn’t hear them if they did). And she has an inside office, so she has no lighting (she was supposed to get a desk lamp but it hasn’t been delivered yet), so she’ll be leaving very soon!
And further aha…I talked with one of the Facilities guys here, and this is a PG&E-mandated system-wide test for companies who’ve signed up for load shedding. They decided not to say that it was a test on the PA here on the grounds that people would ignore it — probably true. At SVL, they turn off the lights centrally, so people can’t ignore it!