Managing Knowledge is like Herding Cats – part 2

I’m still at the IBM Knowledge Management Conference. The weather is better. I am doing a live demo, which is always dangerous, so I’ll stop now.

More later.

99-44/100% Good News!

I’ve been trying to get in touch with my doctor for the results of my
MRI for nearly a week; I left voicemail for his assistant, but
my phone never rang. I was getting frustrated, and growing more and
more anxious — the MRI people had said that they’d almost certainly
have the
results back to him on Thursday, and here it was almost a week later.

So today, after it was late enough on the West Coast for the office to
be open and functioning, I called again, and this time, rather than
leave voicemail, I punched through to the receptionist, who’s actually
in a different building than my doctor. But she was willing to listen
and to help; a few minutes later, my phone rang.

It wasn’t the doctor — or even his assistant — in fact, it was the
receptionist again. But she had news for me: my MRI report was on the
doctor’s desk. She couldn’t tell me what it said, of course; only the
doctor could do that. But I was able to emphasize (in tone as well as
words) that I was anxious to hear the results, and she promised to let
him know.

A couple of hours later, just after lunchtime in California, my phone
rang again, and this time, it was my doctor. So I pulled off the road
(there are phone calls that I’m willing to take or make while driving,
but not ones with potentially significant emotional impact), and he told
me that the radiologist did find a small anomaly on the scan. The
radiologist is almost certain that it was just a little bit of secondary
bleeding from the concussion — the location was right — but they
want to do another MRI in a few weeks to verify that it goes away. So
I’ll go back into the tube in mid-August — and this time, I’ll be at
home for the results instead of trying to get them long distance.

Know-It-Alls Rule!

When the doctor called, I was en route to the Casperkill Country Club
(formerly the IBM Country Club when IBM had such things) for the
Knowledge Management conference dinner. We’d been warned that there
would be a group exercise right after dinner, and everyone’s badge had
been marked with a colored dot as part of the planning for the exercise.

But dinner was still a few hours away — before that, we had
refreshments (Saranac Black and Tan beer in bottles is better than Sam
Adams in a keg, in my opinion, even if it is brewed by the same people
who commit Utica Club) and Birds of a Feather sessions. I held a BOF on
Weblogs, which got some interest (though, frankly, most people were more
interested in enjoying the weather and the refreshments).
I am working on getting a
Manila server up and running inside IBM in the near future so that
IBMers can share <strike>secret</strike> business-related information
through Weblogs as well as in other ways; it’ll be an interesting
experiment to see if it’s used. It’s certainly not the answer for
everyone’s need, but I think it’ll be a useful tool to have available.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any connectivity (or, for that matter, a
computer), so I couldn’t show any Weblogs, and talking about them is not
very satisfying. I did give people a pointer to this page, so if you’re
visiting as a result of the BOF, “hi!”

After dinner, we had the team exercise — a game of Team Trivia. We
divided ourselves into tables of seven or eight, with a mix of colored
dots at each table — amazingly, we accomplished this task in under ten
minutes. Then each team had to name itself; most teams picked names
such as “Rainbow Coalition” or
“Surfers”. We modestly named
ourselves the
“Know-It-Alls”.

Team Trivia consists of two rounds, each with twelve questions. The MC
reads the questions, and the team huddles and writes down an answer.
The tables are close enough that teams can hear one another, so
discussions leading to false answers are fair game.

At the end of the first round, we were tied for the lead with two other
teams, each with ten points. The questions covered many areas of
popular culture; for example, we were asked what female artist sold the
most records, tapes, and CDs during the 1980s (we had the right answer
at first, but changed it in later discussions. Oh, well). Another
question asked for the name of the movie in which Groucho Marx was the
leader of a country (that one, we got right).

In the second round, the questions were worth two points each; since
only four points separated the first- and last-place teams, the game was
still wide open. The first three questions were easy for us; the fourth
one threw us for a loop, though: In Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs
, which two dwarfs’ names don’t end in “y”? We got one of
the two right away, but never did get the second one. But then we got
back on track. The last question was a “groaner” — a question where
the answer is a movie title with a word changed to create an awful pun.
The question was: What is the Mel Brooks movie in which a boy ends up
in a glass of beer?

In the end, our team won, and we were each given
a dangerous prize, an Amazon.com gift certificate.
I don’t know if this was a useful team-building exercise, but I enjoyed
it — it was certainly better than sitting in the auditorium on a
beautiful afternoon!

Computers Never Make Mistakes…People Do

I consider myself to be a properly paranoid traveller. I always
double-check to be sure that I have my tickets and confirmation numbers,
and I verify flight times a couple of days before travelling. So I
thought it was time to check the details of my trip home on Friday; I
went to the travel agency site, entered my locator, and discovered that
all that was in my record was the IBM boilerplate — no flights.

This did not make me happy; I decided to call American Airlines and see
what was going on. So I did, and after listening to more music-on-hold
than I wanted to hear, was told that my reservations had been cancelled
because I hadn’t taken my outbound flights. This was news to me, since
I’d been on both planes and had the boarding passes to prove it. The
agent vanished again and got my return trip reinstated, but my confirmed
and paid-for-with-miles upgrade on the long leg was no longer available.
This also did not make me happy; I realized that the agent couldn’t help
me further and asked for the customer service address. I am composing
an irate but polite letter, which will end with a restatement of what
they always tell me at the end of every flight: “…you have a choice
in air travel.” I expect them, at the least, to restore the miles to my
account; I hope they’ll do more than that. Anyone with tips on writing
an effective letter, please feel free to share them!

Managing Knowledge is like Herding Cats

Greetings from lovely, exotic East Fishkill, New York. I am at IBM’s Knowledge Management Conference; unfortunately, many of the exciting things I’ve learned today are IBM proprietary information and so I can’t share them with you.

But some of the talks were not only interesting but talked about things outside the firewall. Our first talk was by Larry Prusak, author of Working Knowledge, who talked about where knowlege lives in a firm (it’s not just in people’s heads). The concept of knowledge has been around for a long time — as usual, the Greeks had a word for it. In fact, they had three; my note-taking wasn’t good enough to capture the original Greek terms, but one word became “epistematics” (universal knowledge); another word
was “technie”, which represents the difference between reading chemistry books and being a chemist, and the third
is “metis”, which is social
knowledge — “how to win friends and influence people”.

Larry closed with “five little heuristics” about knowledge:

  • Connectivity is a much better bet than capture. Show people who knows what.
  • The right unit of analysis is a small network of people (50-300), not an individual, a workgroup, or an enterprise.
  • If you don’t have a “thick picture” of work, you can’t really affect it.
  • People learn through stories and from one another, not from documents.
  • Technology doesn’t change behavior by itself.

The second speaker was Tom Boyle of British Telecom (I guess it’s just “BT” these days), talking about the BT Global Challenge and how the crews of the boats are
using computer conferencing to prepare for the race, and some of the lessons that we might be able to take away from their interactions — one interesting one was that crews with a high ratio of “engagement” postings to
“informational” postings tend to have a culture of involvement, and even informational postings tend to get better answers on such crews.

We also had a spectacular thunderstorm; I was inside and missed most of it, and even missed out on the leaks into the building.

Time for dinner!

Catching up, only to leave again

The team meeting last week was worth the trip (as always); we even got to go out on the boat late Thursday afternoon. Every time I visit, I find that I enjoy boating more — it helps, I’m sure, that I’m not paying for the boat! Or even the refreshments, come to think of it.

Friday morning, I decided I’d leave early so I could get home at a decent hour (6:30pm instead of 10pm or later). And so I bailed out of the meeting before we were quite finished — I’ll find out what I missed one of these days, I’m sure. But I made it to Stewart Airport with just enough time to gulp down lunch before getting on the plane to Chicago (I thought that a pastrami sandwich from the JetSet Deli was likely to be tastier, if not necessarily healthier, than whatever American was serving in coach on a two-hour flight).

On the way to the airport, I stopped at a rest area and picked up a brochure about the reconstruction of the James River Bridge in Richmond, Virginia (where I grew up). This seemed like a strange brochure to be giving out on a rest area on I-84 in Newburgh, NY, about 400 miles away from the construction, but they had a good supply of them, so I guess there’s a reason for it.

The flights home were OK; I got upgraded on the Chicago-San Jose leg, and decided that American gave me more legroom in a coach exit row seat on their reconfigured planes than they did in First Class on an MD-80. But the extra side-to-side space was appreciated anyway, as was the better food.

Landing in San Jose was a bit challenging — I noticed that we seemed to be awfully high as we came over the 280/101/680 interchange…and then we started to go up! A few minutes later, after we’d flown north of the airport, the pilot got on the PA and told us what we’d already figured out — that we’d been told to go around again because there was traffic on the runway. Diane had been watching my flight on thetrip.com and was wondering why the readouts suddenly showed the plane ascending and north of the airport! The second landing attempt went better, and I was home in time for dinner.

The weekend has been pleasant; we went to services yesterday morning (they needed us to make the minyan, and will probably need us again next weekend). Jeffrey’s watched a few movies — Jeffrey watched Invasion of the Neptune Men on MST3K (he says it’s horrible), and then we rented Star Trek: First Contact, which Jeffrey’s already watched twice (even though the movie is rated PG-13, we thought he’d be ready for it; he doesn’t appear to be traumatized yet, so I guess we were right).

I still haven’t heard anything from the doctor about my MRI results; I’ll have to call them this week if they don’t call me first.

Thunder and Lightning

Actually, that’s in the wrong order, isn’t it?

My flights were uneventful, but the drive from the airport to the Poconos was exciting — big thunderstorms, starting as soon as I crossed the border into Pennsylvania. It’s fun driving in the rain with trucks playing tag.

More later, perhaps; 10 of us are sharing a phone line, and on-line editing is somewhat tacky in this environment.

Much to my surprise, the hotel (Silver Birches Resort in Hawley, PA), has changed their phone system since last year, and I can get connected from here just fine.

The weather continues to be noisy and bright, though it is calming down a bit; they’re predicting more of the same for tomorrow afternoon, which may play havoc with our traditional after-work boating session. We’ll see….

Where Techno Comes From

There are two kinds of days. There are days like yesterday when nothing much happens, and there are those days when Everything Happens. Today was one of the second kind.

The morning was its usual summertime day camp semi-frantic self (contrasted with the frantic pace during the school year, or the almost-relaxed pace on summer days when Jeffrey only has to go to Alta Vista), so I left the house a few minutes after 8. My pager had already gone off once, for a call I could return once I got to work, and I needed to stop at the doctor’s to pick up an MRI referral for a follow-up to the CT scans I had done in Montréal after my concussion — the doctor in the ER saw something on the other side of my head from the concussion which may or may not actually exist and which may or may not mean anything, so he recommended I have an MRI within the next couple of months. While pulling into the doctor’s lot, my pager went off again (it’s tied to my office voicemail; most of the time, I think this is a good thing), and it was someone I’d been exchanging messages with for a week. So I called him back and left more voicemail.

I got to the office, returned my first call, actually reached the second person, and as I was finishing that call, noticed that my pocket was vibrating. It was my cellphone; the air-conditioning folks had finally called me back (our attic exhaust fan died on Sunday, announcing its failure to the entire neighborhood with loud noises; I had to turn off the breaker to stop it. Fortunately, there wasn’t anything else critical on the circuit with the fan, though I bet the maid service will be surprised when they have to use different outlets to vacuum on Thursday). The signal isn’t strong enough in my office to actually carry on a conversation, or even for the cellphone to ring, but when Sprint put the “voicemail” flag on, the phone did detect it and notified me. Technology is wonderful when it works.

So I called the A/C folks, who told me that the average life of an attic fan is about 3 years and that the fan has to be replaced, not repaired — they said they could do it or I could do it. It took me several dozen microseconds to decide; they should be here on Friday (they have to come out fairly early in the day so that they can work in the attic without being knocked over by the heat).

Then I called the MRI people, expecting to have to set up the session for July sometime, but to my delight (I guess that’s the word), they had an opening this morning. So off I went.

One of the forms at the MRI place asked if I’d had previous CT scans or X-rays for this problem, and I suddenly remembered that I had the CT scans from the hospital at home, so I dashed to the house and back to grab them; then I had to wait a few minutes (so I was glad I had had something constructive to do with my time) before being ushered into the back for the MRI.

I’d never had (or even seen) an MRI before; I was lucky, since they only had to image my brain, and therefore they didn’t have to put much of me into the machine. It’s a cylinder, with only a few inches of space between your body and the walls — but in my case, everything from my neck down was outside the cylinder, and so I only felt about as constrained as in a typical non-reclining middle seat in coach. But I would have felt much worse if they’d had to put more of me in the cylinder, I’m sure.

The MRI process itself is painless (though they did have to inject me with something to add contrast for two scans). But it is very noisy — the technician described it as sounding like a jackhammer, and she wasn’t far wrong. But I thought it sounded more like a 2400-baud modem, just louder and continuing for several minutes. There were sounds overlaid on the basic tone, and during some of the scans, the tone stopped and started in various rhythms; the first scan reminded me of the last few minutes of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells (before they start introducing the instruments). The second scan had an interesting rhythm — five taps, followed by six bursts of tone, over and over and over again. The other scans were less interesting, but they reminded me of the techno music I’ve heard occasionally.

The tech told me they should have the results to my doctor in a couple of days. I got to look at one scan on their display — of course, I had no idea at all what I was looking at, but I certainly liked the display (a 21-inch NEC LCD display — I’d love to have one, but I suspect the price is a bit out of my ballpark).

Then it was home to finish out the workday, with two more calls already awaiting, and piles of e-mail to deal with (so what else is new?).

Tomorrow, I’m off to my department’s planning retreat for the rest of the week. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get any reasonable access to the Internet while I’m there — last year, the hotel had a bizarre, non-data-friendly phone system, and I doubt they’ve changed it, since it’s a vacation hotel, not a business-oriented place.

Happy summer, one and all!

A small site redesign

How does it look? I tried to let you use more of the screen for text, rather than inflicting whitespace. I also changed fonts and added a little color.

Father's Day

This morning, Jeffrey watched yesterday’s Mystery Science Theatre 3000; this time, it was a real stinker,
The Thing that Couldn’t Die. I watched a few minutes off-and-on, and I have to say that I’ve seen better acting in home movies.

Some members of our havurah at temple hosted a Father’s Day BBQ and swim party this afternoon; the food was great, but none of my family got in the water (the other kids there did seem to be enjoying themselves in the water, though).

On the way home, we stopped at REI so I could look at GPS units (anyone with advice, please e-mail or post an item in the discussion here — I want something to use in the car, not in the back country), and we also looked at aquariums at Petco. There didn’t seem to be any actual human beings at Petco, and they didn’t bother posting prices, so we left with very little more information than we arrived with, and no aquarium.

Then we came home, watched the original 1931 version of
Frankenstein (which Jeffrey didn’t find very scary; I’m afraid 10-year-olds are more sophisticated moviegoers these days than adult audiences were in 1931), called Diane’s father to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and now it’s time for dinner.

Slide Rules Rule!

Slide Rule Universe. I remember asking my grandparents to buy me a good slide rule while I was in junior high school and promising that it would last me through college (at least). They agreed and bought me a K&E Deci-Lon (model 68-1100), which probably cost around $30. I still have it, though I don’t use it very often any more — it did last me through college, though; I didn’t buy my first calculator until after I had graduated (I didn’t need a calculator much after junior year, and they were still too expensive then (I had a friend with an HP-35, which I lusted after; she was willing to lend it to me for Economics tests, and that was sufficient for my needs)).

My grandparents also bought me the big CRC Handbook of Tables for Mathematics, 3rd Edition; that, too, is still in my possession, though somewhat underused (I couldn’t remember where I had put it and had to search several rooms to be sure of the title!). I notice that CRC Press doesn’t publish that title any more, though they still do publish the
Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.

Jeffrey is out in the family room watching Saturday morning cartoons and I’m on his computer (since it was already booted up, unlike mine). I managed to avoid hearing the (dangerously catchy) songs from Monster Ranchers, but while he was watching the show, I checked the Web and, sure enough, found the lyrics online, so now I finally understand what I’ve been hearing at breakfast on Saturdays for weeks!

And since I am updating my page today, I can be timely and say Happy Birthday, Cliff!

Software is Bizarre

So I decided to look at the latest updated Userland sites (looking to see if a friend’s site had shown up yet) and pointed my browser (MSIE) at http://www.userland.com/updates. Then I picked a site, read it, and used Alt-leftarrow to go back to the updates page. But, for no apparent reason, the updates page that MSIE chose to display was from two hours ago; hitting “Refresh” fixed it, but the same thing happened the when I returned from the next page, and the next, and the next….I have no idea how this can be happening, but then again, I didn’t decide to make the browser an integral part of the OS.

Whew! Rebooting seems to have solved the problem, at least for now. I was afraid I’d have to reinstall the OS, or maybe buy a new computer (isn’t that the usual fix for a Windows problem?) or perhaps do something even more drastic.

If it was Thursday, I must have been in Berkeley…

…visiting the Computer Science department at UC Berkeley and finding myself completely without connectivity. There were Ethernet outlets everywhere, but they were all turned off (“…we don’t trust the students not to start sniffing the Ethernet…”, or so I was told). But it was an interesting day anyway, seeing what’s happening in the Iceberg and Endeavour projects and meeting enthusiastic graduate students. Made me feel old, though — these folks can crank out more code in one afternoon than I can do in a month these days! I’m also impressed at the relevance of their projects, compared to what we did back in the mid-70’s at RPI (my Master’s project was a self-hosted compiler for a toy language (a subset of Pascal) — to call it useless would be to give it far too much praise; one of the projects I saw yesterday dealt with making it safe to deal with financial sites from untrusted environments like public Web kiosks).

I am so glad that I don’t have to go to Berkeley very often, though — the trip there took nearly 2 hours. I stayed for dinner and so rush hour was over by the time I came home, but I was still on the road for an hour. And people make that trip every day…but not me if I can avoid it! At least it was 20 degrees cooler in Berkeley than at home.

Today has been a quiet day; Jeffrey’s school year ended yesterday, and summer day camp/child care doesn’t start until Monday, so I stayed home with him. We spent the morning fiddling about the house (he decided he’d like to watch Some Like It Hot again after hearing that it was number 1 on the
American Film Institute‘s
“100 funniest films” list), mid-day getting his passport renewed (and visiting the library), and now we’re home again on our computers. I had thought we might go to see
Titan AE
, but Jeffrey doesn’t seem to be terribly interested, and the review I read in today’s Merc wasn’t very promising. Fortunately, it’s cooler today than Wednesday (we were lucky on Wednesday that we never lost power; the map in yesterday’s Merc indicated that our area was one of the areas hit by rolling blackouts, but the clocks all had the right time, so I guess we were spared), and so it’s not unpleasant to be home or even out and about.

I did fix one long-standing problem on his computer — one of the games he likes is Star Trek: Starship Creator, but it would never save his work, so he had to start from scratch every time. This, as you can imagine, was not a satisfactory state of affairs. I tried reinstalling the game and installing a new version of QuickTime, but that didn’t help; eventually, I noticed that the icon he was using to start the game pointed to the CD and had the CD’s root directory as its working directory. I changed it to use the installed directory as the working directory, and lo and behold, suddenly the game saved its state automagically! The programmers had never bothered to test whether they were able to write to the disk, or if they had tested, they didn’t bother to issue error messages. “Not caring” is endemic in the industry, I’m afraid.

I’m hoping for a quiet weekend with as little time spent on the computers as possible, so I’d better plan ahead and say Happy Birthday, Cliff! now instead of being late.

How do they do that?

It was pointed out to me that the link to my letter in the online version of Business Week doesn’t work (at least not from MSIE; it seems to work from Netscape). But in Netscape, I get a different URL than I get in MSIE. I am confused. So I’ll exercise my moral rights as the author of the letter in question and print it here (I don’t know who holds the actual copyright at this point, me or Business Week, but I think this is also fair use).

Basic Nutrition for Just Peanuts

After reading ”It ain’t exactly Julia Child” (Up Front, May 1) on the Stigler Diet, I now
know where the airlines get their menu ideas for coach-class meals. Thanks for clarifying
one of life’s least-appetizing mysteries.

Software I like

I feel almost compelled to put in a plug for Cerious Systems’ Thumbs Plus, which I’ve used to edit the pictures on the site. It’s shareware; I found it well worth the registration fee ($75). It may not be as fancy as Photoshop or even PhotoDeluxe, but it makes simple operations (like cropping) simple, and that’s a win in my book.

The heat goes on

It was hot again today. We have the air conditioner on, and hope that PG&E won’t find it necessary to include us in their rolling blackouts. Lots of people had problems commuting today because pavements buckled, rails buckled, and traffic lights were out — I didn’t run into much of that, but tomorrow, I have to go to UC Berkeley for a meeting, and I’m not looking forward to it. I was advised, in all seriousness, to go there this evening and take a hotel room, so that I could make the 60-mile trip in an hour instead of 2.5 hours at rush hour. I decided I’d rather stay home and get up early — I don’t have to be there until 10am, so maybe I have a chance.

Would somebody bring back the fog?

It’s warm outside. Hot, by Bay Area standards. Normally, I would have telecommuted on a day like today, but it was also the day of a friend’s going-away luncheon, and so since I had to fire up the car anyway, I decided to come into the office and enjoy the free air-conditioning. :-)

More later, if there’s anything interesting to write about.

Extreme Blue

I finally got around to visiting the Extreme Blue crew this afternoon; it’s good to see so many enthusiastic faces, hard at work on interesting problems. Especially after attending a farewell luncheon, filled with old, no longer enthusiastic faces.

I hope to spend a lot of time in the Extreme Blue lab this summer.

Business Week printed a letter from me

The doctor says I’m OK

Or as OK as I ever was, anyway. And he took off the Steri-Strips, so I no longer look like I’m auditioning for a part in Young Frankenstein. So much for my Hollywood career!

There was an amusing moment when he started to look through the X-rays and CT scans I’d been given in Montréal — he couldn’t figure out why there was a CT scan of my chest, and I sure didn’t remember having one done. After a moment, he looked at the name on the sheet, and it wasn’t mine (even misspelled, as the hospital folks tended to do). Nor were any of the next four sheets mine. Finally, he got to a sheet with “David Signer” and pictures of a brain on it and he was pleased — so was I, because I was beginning to wonder if I really did have a brain!

In View From The Heart, Al Hawkins mentions post-concussion syndrome as something I need to watch out for as an after-effect of my ice-skating adventure. So far, I haven’t noticed any of the symptoms — though I must admit to having been somewhat depressed when I came to work and found 500 e-mails waiting for me, most of which actually required work on my part to dispose of. Of course, this is how I normally feel when I come back from a vacation without e-mail, so I don’t think it counts. But I appreciate the pointer and the concern; it’s better to know what might happen than to be completely unaware.

Pet Thoughts

We lived a long time without any pets, but we acquired a guppy at Shir Hadash’s Purim Carnival. Guppies don’t have the staying power of some other pets, so I’m thinking that we might need to get a new pet sometime soon.

2.4 million dollars….yikes!

This afternoon, Diane and I walked over to a new home development near here, Heritage Grove. The builder had a long struggle with the town to get the development approved (it’s on land which used to be an orchard), and once they finally succeeded, they were unable to build as many homes as they’d wanted. So they decided to build expensive homes, just in time for real estate prices here in Los Gatos to skyrocket. When they first opened up the development, they were quoting prices “from the 900,000’s”, but that’s ancient history (at least six months old). They released five homes yesterday, all of which sold immediately, at prices from 1.8 to 2.4 million dollars. These houses are ok — 2900 to 3700 square feet, but they’re not on enormous lots (and there’s no privacy — the back yards are easily viewed from the neighboring home’s second floor), and our recently remodelled kitchen has better cabinetry than these houses do. The smallest house is nearly 50% larger than our house, but somehow the bedrooms felt cramped. Fortunately, we were only looking for decorating ideas rather than actually being in the market, but it was still frightening to see these prices for houses in our extended neighborhood.

Diane says my eye hasn’t changed enough to warrant posting a new picture. I guess that’s good…. But I have posted Montréal pictures and updated the narrative for June 6th. I think that finishes that particular trip.

Happy Birthday, Allison!

Mundane life

I’m not sure if it was jet lag or an after-effect of my concussion, but I slept till 9 this morning. Very unusual. Very refreshing.

After finally getting moving, I made a trip to Costco and spent too much money. Some of it was on stuff I’d planned to buy before going there, but not all of it by any means. And now I have one more DVD in my queue to watch RealSoonNow — Galaxy Quest. Then lunch and new passport photos for Jeffrey (we discovered his passport expired on the day we entered Canada; fortunately, an expired passport is ok for US citizens at the Canada-US border). I’d love to know why the US INS agent at Montréal airport stamped Diane’s and Jeffrey’s passports but not mine — but I followed my rule when dealing with border guards and didn’t do anything to call attention to ourselves. Luckily, I didn’t look like this then. Shiner - June 10th: Thanks, Dave Winer, for the get well wishes. Despite the way I look, I am feeling pretty good (it only hurts when I do something which pulls at the Steri-Strips), but I certainly am getting comments from people who see me (tonight the cashier at Sam’s BBQ asked me what I had done, and it actually took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about!). And there is no truth to the rumor that I just did this to have something to write about which would increase my page views.

I finally posted some pictures from Reunion on the appropriate page (June 3rd).

Back home again

Our flights yesterday were uneventful, though crowded; for some reason, our travel agent had given us separate reservations and hadn’t linked them, and so we were scattered throughout the plane on our final leg. Jeffrey did not appreciate this (nor did we!), but once we found a person who had a middle seat next to one of us, we were able to make a deal. In the end, Jeffrey and Diane sat together just in front of the exit row, while I was at the back of the plane (but no one was in the seat next to me). The flight attendants were impressed by my eye, so I gave them a pointer to my home page!

After my experience in Montréal, I decided it was best to take it easy today, so I started the day at home with three consecutive phone calls taking up two hours. Then I finally tore myself away and visited the optician, who reshaped my glasses — though later on, I realized that they weren’t quite right and went back to let her wield her pliers some more; they’re much better now, and I should be able to get by until my regular appointment in July, when I expect to get a prescription for bifocals (*sigh*).

My eye continues to progress through the spectrum — it looked like this yesterday evening after we got home and now it looks like this.

Time for dinner, then to Shir Hadash for services. Shabbat Shalom!

What do Steve Young and I have in common?

Today, I attended the general CTRE session in the morning — all of the speakers were excellent. We had one talk from Bernard Buigues on the
raising of the mammoth, and another from Jane Lapotaire (a renowned Shakespearean actress and President, The Friends of Shakespeare’s Globe) and Professor Andrew Gurr on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre — both talks got standing ovations, which really impressed me; IBM audiences are not usually so moved.

Then Diane and I had lunch and she headed out to take a Montréal city tour, while Jeffrey and I went ice skating. All went swimmingly for a while, then something happened (I don’t know exactly what and probably never will, because whatever it was caused a small amount of retrograde amnesia), and the next thing I knew, I was on a bench with two people trying to help me decide if I wanted to take a taxi or an ambulance to the hospital. And I didn’t remember having being out cold on the ice for ten minutes, either.

The rest of the evening was spent at the hospital, waiting for my X-rays and CT scan to be read. To make a long story short, everything appears to be well, but I sure looked awful, and neither my shirt nor my glasses will ever be the same (actually, my shirt will never come home). And I missed the grand finale of CTRE, the circus.

So to answer the question: both of us have suffered concussions within the past year. And apparently neither of us is playing in the NFL this year, either.

Tomorrow, it’s back home, and Friday, it’s work. After stopping at the optician, that is….

Live, from Montr&eacute;al — it's the CTRE!

On Monday, we had planned to take Amtrak from Troy (actually Albany-Rensselaer) to Montréal; our hotel explained that Schenectady would be a better starting point, because they’d take us there for free. We were willing to see the logic in that argument, and were all set to get ask the van to take us, but I decided to check to see what kind of meals we’d be able to buy on the train. It’s a good thing that I did, because I also asked if the train was on time. The agent checked, and told me that it had suffered engine problems a mile outside of New York and had to be brought back to Grand Central and would be a couple of hours late getting on the rails again. That would have made us quite late for the first event at the CTRE (Corporate Technical Recognition Event), so I decided to see if I could get a rental car at a reasonable rate. I could, did, and we enjoyed a beautiful drive to Montréal, with a much better lunch (at Lox of Bagels and Moor in Queensbury, NY (exit 18 of the Northway)) than Amtrak would have provided at any price. Returning the car to Hertz wasn’t too painful (though I did get chased out of a parking lot) — and when I checked Amtrak’s web site to see when the train actually arrived in Montréal, the site told me that I’d have to call their toll-free number and talk to an agent, so I am very glad we chose to drive.

Today, I attended a three-hour meeting with some excellent speakers (Mordecai Richler, giving us a personal introduction to Montréal, and Dr. Sylvia A. Earle talking about the ocean), then a three-hour French wine tasting with lunch at Maison du Gouvernor. Guess which one I enjoyed more?

While I was slaving away, Diane and Jeffrey were exploring Montréal — they said they got as far as the ice rink at 1000 de La Gauchetière.

Tonight, Jeffrey will have a baby-sitter while Diane and I go to dinner along with other attendees. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to eat anything after lunch, but I’m sure I’ll manage.

We had dinner at Primadonna, a trendy Italian restaurant with a sushi bar. We didn’t sit at the sushi bar, and they didn’t offer us the sushi menu, so we had to make due with the Italian choices, which were quite tasty (and filling, not that I needed to eat anything else!). After dinner, we took a little walk, which became a longer walk than we intended when I got a bit turned around — but eventually, we found our way back to the right area and took a bus back to the hotel. Jeffrey was still up (we were hoping he’d’ve gone to sleep already), so we said good night and put him to bed, and then joined him ourselves.

Photos for June 6th (all from Maison du Gouvernor):

What have I done? I've volunteered….

I’m not sure what came over me, but at the class dinner last night, I volunteered to be co-secretary and networking person for the Class of ’75 for the next five years. The main qualification for the job appears to be the ability to use e-mail, something which I can safely claim. And it should help me stay in touch with my classmates and with RPI over the next five years, too.

We had some good visits with friends from the Class of ’75 during Reunion; then on Sunday, we visited friends from other classes who have stayed in Troy. I have to admit that every time I visit, I find myself liking the place more — of course, I never visit during the winter!

Pictures will follow, but not until I have decent connectivity.

Here's to old RPI…

Greetings from the beautiful
Voorhees Computer Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. I’m here, along with Diane and Jeffrey, for my 25th
Reunion.

We arrived Thursday evening and planned to go to one of our favorite restaurants, Platt’s Place (a deli with wonderful cheesecake), for dinner. But when we got there, we found that it was gone, replaced by a Buca di Beppo, which, while quite acceptable, was not the same thing at all. I was amused to find that their literature quoted a review in the San Jose Mercury News — I had never heard of the chain before, but apparently they have a location in the Pruneyard, 15 minutes from our house. It’d be better in a larger group, since they specialize in large family-sized meals (and our family was barely able to finish a small spaghetti!).

Yesterday, we drove to RPI to register for Reunion and wander the campus; we hadn’t signed up for many activities during the day, but the weather convinced us to stay inside as much as possible. Either it was hot and humid or rainy — sometimes both. And towards the end of the day, there were
thunderstorms, which impressed Jeffrey a lot! The storms knocked out the PBX at our hotel, and it’s likely to be down throughout our stay. Yesterday evening, we went to the Houston Fieldhouse for dinner, and then many of us from the Class of ’75 got together at the Troy Pub and Brewery (I can recommend the Uncle Sam Amber Ale). It was great to see some of my old friends, many of whom I see every five years, as if by clockwork.

Today is cool and sunny, ideal weather for a parade and a picnic, which are on the schedule for noonish. Right now, Diane is at the Modern Classroom Facility (as it was known when I was an undergraduate here; now it’s the Darren Communications Center) listening to RPI’s new President,
Shirley Ann Jackson, talking about the Rensselaer Plan, while Jeffrey and I are in the computer center — he’s looking at the Internet Movie Database and enjoying the fast Internet access that being on a campus provides.

I’ve been taking pictures but I may not be able to upload them until I get home — for some reason, none of the public-access systems here seem to have PCMCIA slots. More later.


Well, it’s much later, but here are some of the pictures we took on June 2nd and 3rd: