Greetings from Humidity Central

I’m visiting my mother in Richmond, Virginia — actually, I’m also visiting my brother and his family, but I haven’t seen them yet, since they were out of town when we got here on Saturday. But that should change later today when we go over to their house and stay for a few days.

At any rate, we’re being greeted with fairly typical summer weather for Richmond — humid and hot, with the odd bit of rain (though no thunder or lightning yet, at least not that I’ve noticed). It’s probably cooler here than in San Jose, but it’s far less comfortable because of the humidity.

Today, I took my mom to the doctor’s for a regular checkup; just like at home, they ran late. Then we made three more stops in the same medical center — I guess she got wholesale rates today!

I did some checking on Google last night and found an update to the eMap’s firmware, which I’ll load as soon as I get offline; it should add a few useful features, such as the ability to set a waypoint somewhere other than where I am right this instant. I am getting very tempted to pick up the Garmin Metro Guide software so I can get detailed maps into the eMap, and DeLorme’s Street Atlas to do routing, since it talks directly to the eMap. I’m sure that if I think about it enough, I can find a reason other than “because I want it” to get the software, but that’s probably a good enough reason all by itself.

Jeffrey had a great day yesterday, visiting his favorite comics shop, Dave’s Comics. The owner, David Luebke, grew up with my brother and me, so it’s nice to see him occasionally — and Jeffrey sure appreciates the selection and the chance to get some comics his allowance won’t cover. Diane bought a toy, too, a set of Zuni Poi Swings. I was good and didn’t buy anything there for myself, so I must deserve the Street Atlas and Metro Guide!

Virginia Aviation Museum

We made a quick visit to the Virginia Aviation Museum, located at Byrd Field (oops, I’m showing my age! I should have said Richmond International Airport). We took advantage of the reciprocal membership program of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, which gave us free admission because we are members of The Tech Museum in San Jose; that makes us much more likely to make short visits to museums instead of skipping them because the admission fee seems expensive for the time we have available.

I’m glad we didn’t skip this one — they have a nice collection of pre-WWII planes as well as a good exhibit of WWII as seen from Richmond. Jeffrey also found an interesting blackbird there.

Oh, so *that's* what's outside the window!

The GPS I bought last night seems to work — I had a window seat on the flight from Dallas to Richmond, and I was able to maintain a fix almost the entire way. So now, if I ever want to fly myself on that route, I’ll be able to figure out where to turn; it definitely wasn’t a straight shot.

And I enjoyed being able to look out the window and when I saw something, looking at the GPS and finding out what it was (rivers, for example, or towns).

I wanted to play with connecting the GPS to the PC so I could get a better display, but I never bothered to take out the PC. I could tell that this was not a “regular” business-type flight — I walked through all of coach, and there were only two computers out, and they were both playing games instead of doing spreadsheets or presentations. I think that’s a much healthier use of the PC, anyway.

I also cheated a little bit and kept the GPS on through the landing (they never asked for stuff to be turned off), and so I was able to figure out where I was on the way in to Richmond. I’ve never flown in to Richmond enough to figure out the approach route, unlike San Jose, where I know it well enough that on a recent flight, I knew we were going to have a wave-off about three minutes out, just based on our height.

A fun toy!

Hooray, hooray! I can still read!

I got my new bifocals yesterday; so far, so good. I took my reading lesson, and so far, it hasn’t been too difficult for me to adapt. I even drove with the new glasses on last night and survived the experience.

The drywall guys (Brian Thompson Drywall in San Jose) finished yesterday as promised; it looks like they did a good job, but I won’t really know until we have a chance to paint the ceilings (to be more accurate: until we get the ceilings painted). They were on-time and courteous and clean, and that’s a pretty good recommendation right there.

There’s nothing like shopping at Fry’s…guaranteed!

One of the Bay Area’s assets is Fry’s Electronics, where you can find almost anything that a nerd would want, from potato chips to memory chips, with a wonderful 30-day return policy. What it doesn’t have is fast, friendly, competent service.

I decided I wanted a GPS receiver tonight so I’d know where I was going tomorrow, and the only place I had time to go was Fry’s. Parking was, as usual, a problem, but I persevered. I found the GPS section quickly; not too surprisingly, the units were locked up. My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to find a salesperson who could unlock the case so I could buy a receiver.

If you’ve ever shopped at Fry’s, you know what comes next. Of course there was no one in the immediate area. So I found someone in the next aisle (telephones) who was stacking things and asked him. Naturally, he couldn’t help me, but he suggested I ask the people two aisles over in components.

That’s where they sell hard disks and RAM; it’s always crowded with wanna-be customers waiting for salespeople. Tonight was no exception — and it seemed very unlikely that even Fry’s would overtax those always-busy salespeople with stuff outside of their immediate area.

So I went back to the store entrance and got the “Person in Charge”. Who, of course, wasn’t actually in charge; but, amazingly, he knew enough to ask someone else what was going on, and that person knew where the keeper of the GPS case keys was — in the component cage behind the cash registers. So the competent person (well, by Fry’s standards) told the newbie to go with me back to the GPS aisle and see what he could do for me.

Back to GPS-land. Nope, nobody there. So we return to the hard disk aisle, and my helper actually got the attention of one of the salespeople and found out that the person with the GPS keys was…you guessed it…in the component cage behind the cash registers. On the second try, my helper figured out that maybe he had to find the person with the keys — unfortunately, I couldn’t go with him to the cage.

But, much to my surprise, he reappeared two minutes later with the original competent person from customer service, who was carrying the keys. Back to the GPS cage. I knew not to expect technical help, but at least now I was able to examine the boxes and pick out one that hadn’t been used and returned (the liberal return policy has a downside). And another customer who hadn’t been quite as desparate as I was glommed onto the case and picked out a GPS and map software as long as it was available.

Now, I had the box in my hand…but, of course, I couldn’t just take it to the register. Instead, the guy from customer service had to print out a price quote for me to bring to the register; he told me to finish my shopping and pick up the GPS at Will Call. I told him I was done and I’d walk with him to the register — I’ve been a Fry’s shopper much too long to be fooled by such simple tactics.

Off we went, and the rest of the transaction proceeded quickly — there wasn’t even a line at the cash registers or the exit search.

So now I’m the proud owner of a Garmin eMap GPS unit; it will tell Microsoft Streets and Trips where I am, but it won’t accept a routing from Streets and Trips — for that, I have to buy the Garmin mapping software. I’m not sure that’s necessary, at least not yet…and I certainly wasn’t going to go back to Fry’s tonight!

Shabbat Shalom!

I wish I knew what I was doing

I’ve spend most of the day trying to figure out how to get Manila to track the time each Bluelogs sub-site changed — but to do it in UTC, so that the listSites page is sensible. Right now, the timestamp that gets reported is in the sub-site’s own timezone, which leads to confusion — I want them all in GMT, with a 24-hour clock.

I’m sure this is possible, but I haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

My new glasses have arrived, so I think I’ll go pick them up and take my first lesson in how to read with bifocals.

BlueLogs Goes Live!

If you’re outside the IBM firewall and can get to the site, let me know because something has gone horribly wrong.

Time to run to the YMCA for orientation on the new FitLinxx machines…more later.

Mad?  Mad, you say?: Well, not much more tonight — it’s been a busy day and I’m going to declare victory and go to bed. Perhaps tomorrow…I just found out that I don’t have to go to an all-day offsite meeting!

Progress on several fronts

Progress on drywall

The drywall guys showed up on time (actually, 10 minutes early) and got right to work; they were happy with the cleanup we’d done and were able to put plastic over what was left exposed. When we got home, they’d removed the remains of the old intercom and had put drywall pieces in their stead, and had put compound over the visible seams in the ceilings. They claim they’ll be done on Thursday.

Progress on BlueLogs

I have my server set up and stable and I fixed the problems which were keeping statistics from being built (I deleted some sites by hand and didn’t get them out of the statistics part of the table; when the report builder tried to find out what was going on, it got confused by the lack of the site and gave up).

I’ve also updated the default home page and about page that gets created.

What I want to do now is to change the site defaults so that every site is public (anyone who’s a member of the supersite should be able to get to the discussion group and make comments unless the owner specifically locks it up); I’ve done this by changing manila.root, but I’m afraid it might get overwritten later and have asked on the Frontier DG.

I may go ahead and announce the server tomorrow anyway.

A Visit from Mike Nelson

No, not the guy on Mystery Science Theatre 3000; this Mike Nelson is my manager. He
was in town to talk to the Extreme Blue team through lunch; after that, we spent most of the afternoon together. This is very unusual — we rarely talk in person! It was rather refreshing, in fact.


When I turned on this machine tonight, the SCSI bootup did not go well; the first time around, it seemed like the disk didn’t want to stay “ready”, and the CD drives never responded to the card at all. A power cycle seems to have fixed the problem, at least for now, but I think I’m going to copy my critical data before powering down!

Specific Useless Information Sought

Do you know the program name for the OS/360 linking loader? Not the linkage editor — that was IEWL. But the loader which then ran your program immediately without creating a load module on disk. If you do remember the name of this program, drop me a note or put an entry in the discussion group. Thanks.

Things are in the saddle, and ride mankind

Actually, Emerson had it slightly wrong; this weekend, things were all over the place. We spent most of the weekend partially clearing the living room, office, and our bedroom in preparation for the arrival of the drywall people tomorrow. We decided not to move much of the furniture in the hope that they can put plastic over it (besides, we have nowhere to put our bed or the couches in the living room), but we still had plenty of stuff to move, donate to Goodwill, or discard. Diane did most of the heavy lifting in the bedroom and living room, while I concentrated on the office — I spent half of Saturday afternoon getting the last two months’ worth of financial records into Quicken so I could file the pile of papers which was already threatening to topple over at any moment.

In between the cleanup, there were other events — one of Jeffrey’s friends had his 10th birthday party Saturday afternoon, and one of our friends from our Havurah had his 50th birthday party Saturday night. Jeffrey had three different kinds of chocolate cake on Saturday (two birthday cakes and one which was “just dessert”), so he was happy.

More later….

It’s later

Our laser printer seems to have bitten the dust. It’s a Lexmark Optra R, and it refuses to feed paper automatically — I get an error 100% of the time. Most of the time, I get a “25 Incorrect Manual Feed” or a “28 Load Paper”, but once in a while, I can get far enough to get an actual “20 Paper Jam” or “22 Paper Jam”. In no case do I get printed paper out of the machine, unless I switch to manual feed, in which case it prints fine all the time.

This is the third strike against this printer; we had a similar feed problem a couple of years ago (right after the printer went out of warranty), which we had fixed for $400 by the nice Lexmark folks. Then last year, the fuser went out; by that time, Lexmark wanted $500 to fix it, but we found a local shop that did the repair for $200. I don’t think I’m interested in trying to get it fixed again (not when a new printer would probably cost less than getting this one serviced), but I just hate the idea of putting an almost-functional printer into the landfill (now that I think of it, that’s why I repaired it last year). *sigh*

[Update: A new paper tray fixed the problem.]

BlueLogs should go live tomorrow

With any luck, I’ll do a “soft launch” of the IBM intranet BlueLogs server tomorrow. For some reason, the “most read sites” and “most read sites yesterday” pages don’t seem to be being built (it probably has something to do with my attempts to remove test sites from my tables). If I can fix those problems, I can go live; if not, I’ll remove the report pages and go live anyway.

I guess I need to trace through mainResponder.background.everyNight and see what I messed up in removing dead sites from my tables. If there was an easy way to save what I’ve done on my main site and the two user sites that have been created and otherwise do a complete reinstall, I would; I have a feeling I’ve left some other dingleberries behind that’ll get me later.

How to Change a Flat Tire

It was also the last activity of the night yesterday; I noticed that Diane’s car’s right rear tire was quite flat while I was dealing with getting the garbage ready for pickup. So I dug out the spare and the jack and changed the tire; this morning, instead of going to the office to set up the BlueLogs server, I went to the tire dealer, who immediately found the problem — a nail had been driven right into the tread. He said they could fix it; rather than wait at the dealer, I walked over to a nearby coffeehouse (not one with folk music, unfortunately, but at least one which serves coffee in real cups), carrying my trusty computer and cellphone.

When I got settled in at the coffeehouse, I realized that I should have given the tire people my number so I wouldn’t have to leave until the car was ready. This particular dealer is part of a chain, and they have an interesting system: you dial 1-800-33WORKS and your call is automatically routed to the store nearest you. So that’s what I did, and the person at the other end promised to let me know when the car was done.

Time passed. In fact, enough time passed that the car was supposed to have been finished. But my phone didn’t ring. And I decided I’d had enough coffee (besides, the lunch crowd was arriving and the place was getting noisy), so I called the tire store again. And they didn’t know what I was talking about. So I asked the question I should have asked in the first place: “Which store am I talking to?” And I discovered that I wasn’t talking to the store near me, I was talking to the store near the switching center which handles my cellphone. And they didn’t have my car. But they did have the phone number of the store which did, and sure enough, my car had been ready for a while, as promised.

Technology is wonderful, but sometimes it helps to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Wine of the Day

I couldn’t find the 1998 Taltarni Sauvignon Blanc that I’d had at The Blue Room on Tuesday, but I did pick up a bottle of the 1999 ($10.99 at Beverages and More), and we had it with dinner tonight. I didn’t think it was quite as fruity as the 1998, but it was still very pleasant and is likely to take up a regular spot in the rotation.

Now, it’s off to Shir Hadash to help set up the Oneg Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom!

Treadmills are not real running

Work was fun, and I am continuing to make progress on unleasing BlueLogs to an unaware populace; today, I appear to have uncovered a Manila problem in handling the uninstallation of a site which shares a membership group with the main CreateAWeb site. I’ve reported it and talked with Brent about it, and he’s pretty sure it’s a straightforward fix; in the meantime, I won’t uninstall any sites on the machine.

I started Cryptonomicon last night; it’s going to keep me busy for a few days. Diane and Jeffrey are reading Harry Potter IV out loud; that’s going to keep them busy for a few days.

And we’ve come to an agreement with one of the drywall contractors (the other one never called or wrote with an estimate, even though he did come out to look at the job), and the work starts Tuesday at 8am. We’re going to have to move a lot of junk…err, stuff…out of the way this weekend.

One small step

I remember where I was 31 years ago today — glued to the TV, watching live coverage of the first Moon landing. I don’t think the anniversary was even mentioned in today’s Murky Nooz.

Memo to self: The Charles River curves

Got up this morning about 7am and I didn’t have to be at Lotus until 10, so I had time to exercise. I had a choice: walk 40 steps down the hall to the hotel exercise room and use a treadmill, or go outside, where it was 65 degrees and I could run alongside the Charles River. This was not a difficult choice.

So I left the hotel and turned right on Memorial Drive, heading towards Massachusetts Avenue. I don’t run very fast (nor often enough), but it still took me only a few minutes to get there and I didn’t feel like turning around, so I took the bridge over to Boston, where I took a left, planning to go to the next bridge and come back to Cambridge.

I forgot that the Charles River bends, and the two bridges are not parallel — the distance between them on the Boston side is about double the distance on the Cambridge side. It’d been a while since I’d run outside, and I hadn’t bothered to bring a water bottle along with me, so by the time I got to the bridge, I was hot, tired, and thirsty. I was very happy to get back to Cambridge, where I was only a three-minute walk from my hotel.

I gotta get outside more!

The Need for Speed

I’ve temporarily removed my favorites (“Weblogs to Watch”) and the ad to a random weblog in the interest of speeding up this page. One or the other of them was the culprit in the very slow loading times I mentioned last night, and I didn’t have time to figure out which one it was. Look for a static version of
“Weblogs to Watch” when I get home.

Wines of the Day

Today’s wines are courtesy of American Airlines, who were able to
accomodate my last-minute desire to not only go home early (albeit to
San Francisco rather than San Jose) but also be upgraded to Business
Class en route (there go another 6 stickers!).

Silverado Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 1998

Silverado Vineyards is the Walt Disney family’s winegrowing estate.
Need I say more? Well, I guess I should — the wine was OK, but had
some definite woody undertones (I wonder if I was given the
Chardonnay by accident?). I wouldn’t go out of the way to drink it
again, and I switched wines for the main course.

Ch&226;teau Ste.-Michelle Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon

Now, this was more like it! Nicely full-bodied and a good
accompaniment to the steak (actually, far more appealing than the
steak — I should’ve ordered the chicken Caesar salad without the
dressing, but then I probably would have stuck with the Silverado).

Graham’s Six Grapes Port NV

I’ve almost never drunk port on the ground — but I enjoy it when
flying. This port is very full, almost chewy, with a lingering
aftertaste. It would have been better with a fruit and cheese plate,
but that wasn’t offered on the flight today.

Book of the Day

I’ve been carrying around Geoffrey Moore’s Living on the Fault
for a month or so, ever since our team planning session. I
decided it was time to get the weight out of my briefcase, so I started
reading it soon after takeoff. It’s a good thing that I’m on a six-hour
flight, because I didn’t want to stop before reaching the end — and it
wasn’t just because I’m a compulsive reader (I’ve got
Cryptonomicon with me, and I know that’ll keep me busy for a
long, long time!).

Moore’s thesis is that, in an era of rapid technological innovations and
accompanying market changes, the only valid measure of a company’s
success is its market value — not earnings or revenue. Further, he
claims (and I agree) that market value is based on estimates
of the company’s
ability to generate future earnings, not past performance (though, as we
all know, failing to deliver on projections can punish a company
severely [I write this before hearing IBM’s second quarter earnings or
the market’s reaction to them]) and that those estimatess are largely
driven by two factors: the company’s competitive advantage (the GAP)
and the length of time that that advantage can hold up (the CAP). The
bigger the competitive advantage, the more money the company can make in
a particular time period; the more tenacious that advantage, the longer
the period the market will project those earnings — and market value is
the present value of the sum of the projected earnings for as long as
market is willing to believe plausible. So if you have a high advantage
and a long time period when the market believes you can hold that
advantage, you’ll be rewarded with a huge market value
(witness Cisco), while if you’re in a commodity market or one with a
short fuse, your market value will be significantly less (witness Fresh
And of course, markets are not static — discontinuous changes pose
threats to successful companies (not the least of which is denial).

The book expands on that thesis and describes the strategies that
companies can use in various phases of the market cycle (drawing on his
earlier work, such as Crossing the Chasm). To me, the most
interesting observation was that the hardest thing for a company to do
is to re-cross the chasm — that is, to conquer a new (or
changed) market when it’s still raking in money from old markets. This,
of course, is another statement of the Innovator’s Dilemma — and it’s
one I’ve seen many times at IBM. I also found his notes on corporate
cultures (in the final chapter) to be on target, as was the discussion
of the need to separate core from context and concentrate on core
activities. Recommended.

Yesterday’s Wine of the Day

After the Advisory Board meeting last night, several of us had dinner at The Blue Room in Cambridge, which I can cheerfully recommend (especially if you’re not paying the bill yourself). I had “Number 1 Tuna”, and to go with it, I had a glass of
1998 Taltarni Sauvignon Blanc (Australia). It was very fruity, and I enjoyed it greatly; I’m going to keep my eyes open for it in local stores.

Missing connections with Extreme Blue

I left Boston early because there was a last-minute change in the schedule for the Extreme Blue interns, and many of them were visiting IBM Research in Hawthorne, NY. I probably won’t get back there before the program is over for the summer; oh, well. At least I’m already home — the flight I was supposed to have taken is running late, so I would have been totally wiped by the time I got back to my house.

By the way, there was a great story about Extreme Blue (and other internship programs) in USA Today for 19 July. I wish there’d been programs like that when I was in college!