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!

Secret Masters of the Web — NOT!

In general, I think W3C is doing fairly well. Not perfect, but not bad. It would be nice, though, if the various people working on different working groups knew more about what each other was doing — this is a problem of growth, and one which shouldn’t be a surprise…but when it sneaks up on you slowly, you don’t necessarily realize what’s going on. So that’s one of the areas I think we’ll be looking at over the next few months.

The Advisory Board meets once a month by phone, with very infrequent in-person meetings. Today’s meeting was more productive than all of the phone calls from the past year put together; we’re going to try to do more in-person meetings, even though all of us have more than enough opportunities to travel. *sigh*

I was going to write more, but something has been horrifyingly slow, and it took five minutes (at least) to flip this page — I’m tired and ready to call it a night. Gotta get up moderately early to visit the Extreme Blue East team tomorrow, too.

Watching FedEx at work

I’ve gotten lucky and found a good and dependable cab driver, so when I have to go to the airport, I call him up and make arrangements in advance for the trip, rather than take my chances with whoever Yellow Cab sends my way. He’s always on time, has a clean cab, makes interesting conversation, and his shocks even work — this is quite an improvement over the normal Silly Valley taxi experience.

But today, I discovered the downside of pre-planned arrangements. I have a 1pm flight to Boston; I was supposed to have a noon phone call, so I asked Gordon to pick me up early enough to get me to the airport in time to make the call there. No problem. Until my call was cancelled — too late to reschedule with Gordon. So I knew I was going to be at the airport earlier than I needed to be, but the prospect of not having to run through the airport didn’t seem to bad, either.

Gordon came on time; we had a fast trip to the airport (it’s amazing how much faster you can travel when it’s not rush hour!), and as I got out of the cab, I looked at the flight display and discovered that my flight was delayed by an hour. I hadn’t even bothered to check before leaving home, since I knew when I was going to be picked up. Oh, well; at least I was able to find a phone, power outlet, and chair at the Admiral’s Club and now I can catch up on my reading while watching FedEx unloading a truck.

[Later…] For a change, I think that my flight was delayed for a good reason. Apparently a passenger on the inbound flight had a medical problem, and they landed in Chicago to get the person off the plane and to a doctor. Right answer!

English is not always English

Andrea and I are having a chat about the differences between various national dialects of English on her weblog. I find it intriguing that differences which are so obvious to me are invisible to her.

Book of the Day

Actually, it’s yesterday’s Book of the Day, but I didn’t post yesterday. The book is The Cluetrain Manifesto; I feel that I could have written large parts of the book myself (maybe not as entertainingly!), as it talks about the things I’ve been doing at IBM for years. For a long time, I described my job as “tearing down the Blue Curtain” — making it possible for IBMers to join the conversation on Usenet by building gateways between Usenet (and BITNET/Internet mailing lists) and IBM’s natively-developed conferencing tools. The software I developed became mostly irrelevant with better Internet connectivity throughout IBM, but I consider connecting IBMers with the rest of the world to have been one of the most satisfying things I’ve done during my entire career.


Brent announced the change I’d been waiting for to allow all the BlueLogs sites to share a membership group. I need to update the default “It worked!” and
“about” pages before making the announcement, and it appears that making the changes in the default theme has to be done at the server if I read
that HowTo correctly (since I don’t have remote access to the Frontier menus), so that can’t happen before Thursday.

What a clunker of a movie!

No, not X-Men — we haven’t seen it yet. The reviewer in the Mercury News really disliked it; but I’m not sure I’ve read a review from him yet for a movie he actually liked, so I’m not convinced that’s significant.

I’m talking about today’s experiment on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Girl in Gold Boots. There were many weird things happening in the Sixties; there were also weird tax laws allowing bad movies to be made as tax shelters. This was one of them. Miss it if you can; not even Mike and the ‘bots could save it.

I guess I can't read well, either

I finished Harry Potter IV this morning, while I should have been getting ready for work. It was a struggle to put it down unfinished last night, but I managed (with help).

In case there’s anyone who’s curious about how the book ends but doesn’t actually plan to read the book, I tell How Harry Potter IV Ends in the next message.

Getting Energized

I spent most of the day talking with the Extreme Blue/West students. I gave a short talk on the value of standards — they kept me honest by asking lots of hard questions. Then I got to meet three of the six teams and learn about their projects; what they’re doing is certainly more interesting and undoubtedly more significant than my summer jobs during college.

Though I guess I was pretty lucky, myself; I worked for The Computer Company (R. I. P.) in their APL timesharing group, doing things to make their offering more competitive. One year, I helped them convert from DOS to OS/360 (writing programs in SNOBOL to help manage the process); another year, I added ASCII terminal support to the system; I also remember writing a text editor in APL which got offered to the customers.

At any rate, I wasn’t able to spend the whole day with them because they had a previous engagement to go see X-Men, and I wasn’t able to come along because I had to go back to the optician and try on new frames. My bifocals should be here in about a week.

Tonight, we go hear about Jewish Bedtime Rituals and Lullabies during services at Shir Hadash. I hope I can stay awake to drive home afterwards.

Shabbat Shalom!

This isn't going to help my standings

falling out of the most-read yesterday list. Strangely enough, I find myself checking that list on a daily basis and have even included it in the Egoboo Department over on your left. I’m not sure why I find it comforting to know that others are reading what I write, since I do it largely because it helps me put the day in perspective, but I do like it when my reader count goes up (especially when it isn’t because I’ve been playing with the site layout and refreshing the page a lot to see what it looks like!). And the odd contribution to the discussion group is welcome, too, as are pointers from other folks’ blogs (thanks, Jim Roepcke, for the favourites browser).

But some days lend themselves to more interesting entries than others, and I’m afraid today is not one of those days. Instead, I’ve enjoyed the marvels of my office all day (I could talk about the barbecue at lunch, but I’m not sure I want to bring it up again), trying to catch up on various projects, none of which include my internal Manila server. Yup, one of those days.

I’ve only got 200 pages or so of Harry Potter IV left, and I’m eager to find out what happens and how You-Know-Who is foiled for another year. I wonder if it’s too early to pre-order book five?

Found: Someone who didn't read Harry Potter IV

I happened to glance at the jacket blurb on my copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night and confirmed, yet again, the fact that you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Or its blurb.

The blurb talks about the “International Quidditch Championship”, which is interesting, since what’s in the book is the
“Quidditch World Cup” (first mentioned in Chapter One). I guess the secrecy around the book extended to the blurb-writer, too.

Wine of the Day

Martinelli Sauvignon Blanc (1998, Russian River Valley). No funny aftertaste; fairly crisp. I enjoyed it.

Wine Comment of the Day

From Laurie Daniel’s Wine Column in the 12 July 2000 San Jose Mercury News:

“[Some winemakers] make sauvignon blanc in the style of chardonnay, with lots of oak and buttery flavors from malolactic fermentation. (I can’t recommend this last style of sauvignon blanc. If consumers want chardonnay, they have plenty to choose from. Leave our sauvignon blanc grapes alone.)” [Emphasis mine.]

The Vision Thing

Just back from the eye doctor, who says it’s time for me to give strong consideration to getting bifocals as my next pair of glasses, unless, of course, I want to be putting my glasses on and off as I change between reading and focusing farther away.

And when I got out to the optician’s desk, she was already picking out frames that would work well with progressive lenses.

I think they’re trying to tell me something.

Between discussions of bifocals, I asked about my suitability for LASIK correction; my prescription makes me a good candidate, but I would probably still need glasses to converge the images from both eyes into one. As an experiment, the optometrist set his magic gadget to correct my eyes but not have any prism, and I could see a little bit of double vision — it doesn’t bother me now when I don’t wear my glasses because my eyes are sufficiently different that they don’t provide images in close enough focus to confuse my brain. But if both eyes were at 20-20, the situation might be different. It might also be possible to correct one eye for distant vision and the other eye for reading and avoid the double vision that way. But somehow, undergoing LASIK doesn’t seem all that attractive a prospect if I can’t wind up with clear vision in both eyes and no glasses.

Step by step, inch by inch

I seemed to spend most of my day walking between my office and the Extreme Blue zone, working on getting Frontier and Manila up on the Bluelogs server-to-be at IBM. There weren’t any major problems, just minor annoyances, like finding out that the IP address we thought we had was being used by someone else, or realizing that I’d left the serial number of the copy of Frontier in my office. Oh, well, I needed the exercise anyway, since I knew I wasn’t going to get to the YMCA today.

I’ve been getting much-appreciated help from Brent on configuring my server to do some odd things (before I can go public with the server, I want users to be able to use the same userid/password for all the sites on the server, for example; I also need my users to be able to list all the sites).

Hmmm…I wonder if the HTMLFavorites.js script which powers “Weblogs to watch” on this site is available to run on other servers.

I hope to make more progress tomorrow, if my eyes undilate early enough to make it worth the trip to the office.

A surfeit of entertainment

Amazon delivered volumes 2-12 of Star Trek today (the “delayed” shipment arrived by US Mail as quickly as the others arrived by UPS). We watched “Mudd’s Women” this evening, and Jeffrey has opened all of the cases and read the information about each episode. I think this’ll keep us busy for a while.

And I’m still reading Harry Potter IV. In fact, it’s time to go back to it now!

#include "non-Weblogs I Read A Lot"

Weblogs I Like

Distant Horizons

Egoboo Department

You don't have to be Jewish…

Unlike A
Conspiracy of Paper
, where the Jewishness of the protagonist,
while important to the book, wasn’t central to his character,
everyone who comes to Kaaterskill Falls for the summer
is Jewish, and that’s the most important thing in their lives. Not just
during the summer, either, but 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (but most
especially on Shabbat).

Most of the summer people are Orthodox Jews; in particular, the families
who are at the core of the novel are Kirshners, followers of Rav
Kirshner, who is seventy-eight and frail as the novel opens. We follow
several of the families through two summers and into a third; during
that time, we see birth and death affect this community. There are
conflicts, of course, but no high drama (at least not to anyone but the

I enjoyed the book — I’m not Orthodox (far from it), but I was able to
identify with some of the questioning and decisions that the characters
had to make in reconciling their life with late 20th-century America.
The author doesn’t explain any of the Hebrew or Yiddish terms she uses,
so I would expect someone who’s unfamiliar with Jewish practice to have
a hard time following what’s going on in some places.

Now to start Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. See you when I
finish! [One chapter down, many to go…if she keeps up the same level of action in the rest of the book as in the first chapter, I’m going to be exhausted before I’m done.]

Shabbat Harry Potter

We went to Shabbat services this morning at Shir Hadash, as usual. The Rabbi said she was surprised to see us — she thought we’d be reading the new Harry Potter instead. I told her we didn’t even have a copy yet, and were still trying to decide between the US and UK editions — and I have to admit I was a little surprised by her comment.

But when services ended, I found out the rest of the story — her son had had his copy since 8am and had only put it down for services. As soon as services ended (while the rest of us were having some challah and schmoozing), he dashed back into the library to continue reading his copy — when we left, he was up to page 125 or so.

So we decided that the US edition would be just fine and stopped by the local Crown Books right after lunch. The cashier said that two of their stores had already run out of their allotment! This store, in Los Gatos, had ordered 1000 copies and still had quite a few, but expects to sell them all this week.

I don’t know when I’m going to start Harry Potter — I have to finish Kaaterskill Falls first so that Diane can read it before the book group discussion next Sunday. And we also have to finish editing the August issue of the Shir Hadash Notes, too. But at least I don’t have to worry about being unable to get a copy when I’m ready — well, not unless Diane or Jeffrey start our copy first (perhaps I should order a UK edition anyway, just to be on the safe side).

Not Harry Potter

I like the new multi-day discussion page feature in Manila. Thanks!

And it’s interesting to discover that I can get the Most-Read-Messages report for any ETP site, not just my own, just by adding /stats/mostreadmessages to the site’s name.

PG&E Chicken

Baked Chicken With Cashews

  • 1 large chicken thigh or 1/2
    boneless chicken breast,

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter or or
    margarine, melted

  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon oregano
  • Dash garlic powder
  • Dash cayenne popper
  • Salt, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon cashew pieces
    or slivered almonds

  • 1 small yam or sweet potato

Place chicken in individual
casserole. Combine butter,
paprika, curry powder, oregano, garlic powder and pepper,
mixing well. Spoon over
chicken. Bake, uncovered, in
350 degree toaster oven* along
with yam, for 45 to 60 minutes,
or until chicken and yam are
tender. About 10 minutes before chicken is done, baste
chicken with butter mixture in
casserole and sprinkle cashews
over top. Makes 1 serving, approximately 364 calories, 17
grams protein, 14 grams fat
and 24 grams carbohydrates,
including yam.

*Or bake in an electric skillet.
Put casserole and potato on
trivet in skillet. Place lid on
skillet, vent closed. Bake at
420 degrees for 60 to 75
minutes, or until chicken and
potato are tender. Sprinkle
cashews on chicken 10 minutes
before chicken and potato are

David’s interpretation of Diane’s notes

We usually have the chicken with steamed rice (made separately) rather than potato or yam. Cooking for 30 minutes in our toaster oven seems to be more than sufficient (we normally make two breast halves and double the sauce). We usually use almonds (purchased already slivered). There’s usually not enough sauce to baste, but the chicken comes out tasty anyway.

Space — The Final Frontier….

  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie
  Star Trek Original Serie

On Order: Star Trek Original Serie

They get full marks for effort, but lose a few points on execution. Of course, they do make all the information available on the website, and that was only one click away (hmmm, wonder if there’s a patentable idea there?), and so I know that the missing disk (which is now “shipping soon”) is Volume 3.

Frontier, The Final Space…

I spent the day at home so I could work on my Frontier server, and after much grunting and groaning, I figured out how to adapt the “list sites” script from the control panel to become a macro so that others could also list all the sites on my server (with only 8 sites, this is probably reasonable; I don’t think it’d be such a good idea on EditThisPage). The task wasn’t hard (basically, all I had to do was copy the script to another place in the database and declare it “legal”), but it was my first actual attempt to work in the Frontier environment, and there were a few things which weren’t obvious to me (such as how I could copy the script from one place to another!). The online documentation helped a lot — so did having two machines, so I could keep the documentation on one screen and hack at Frontier on the other.

And now I’ve even managed to hack the script to show the number of messages on each of the sites. Someday, I’ll figure out how to right-justify the number so I can read it, but that’s not a project for tonight — instead, I shall declare victory for the evening and move on.

Spacing out on the home frontier…

I called a couple of drywall contractors Wednesday evening to get estimates on texturing the ceilings in the rooms which we weren’t able to have done during the kitchen remodelling project. Much to my amazement, one of them actually answered the phone on the first try (he’s supposed to be here tomorrow to give us an estimate), and the other one called back early the next morning and agreed to come out today at 2pm to take a look. The doorbell rang at 2:05 — that’s the first time I’ve had a contractor show up on time (the FAA considers 15 minutes to be “on time”; why should I worry about 5 minutes?) in a very long time. I guess the economy must be slowing down. Maybe I’ll be able get an electrician here someday, too.

Wine of the Day

1998 Firestone Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Santa Barbara County). Diane says it was “cheap”; we got it at Lunardi’s. I thought it had a bit of a metallic aftertaste, but it was otherwise OK; we had it with PG&E Chicken, which we all enjoy. Jeffrey, of course, had caffeine-free Coke with his chicken rather than the wine.

Book of the Day

No, it’s not Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — it’s not midnight here yet and so it’s not yet available. I am, however, trying to decide if I want to stay up until midnight and pick up a copy tonight, or wait till tomorrow — I won’t read it for a while in either case, since I have to finish Kaaterskill Falls for the Shir Hadash Book Group next weekend. We’d actually rather have a UK edition to match the first three volumes in the set — I picked up the first two on a trip to the UK because I’d read how Americans were buying them from and I was curious. I enjoyed them so much, I made a special trip last summer to pick up the third volume.

Well, it wasn’t a special trip to the UK — it was a special trip to the WHSmith’s at Heathrow’s Terminal 1; we were changing planes there en route to Israel a week after the book had been published in the UK, and so it was pretty easy to get a copy right there, without having to wait for the US publication date. And we read the book before we got back to the US, anyway.

But I wasn’t going to talk about Harry Potter — I guess I got caught up in the excitement. Instead,
the Book of the Day is A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss. This book is set in London in 1719 (during the South Sea Bubble); the protagonist, Benjamin Weaver, is a Jewish ex-pugilist turned detective, who is trying to find out who killed his father, and, in the process, is drawn into the South Sea Company’s orbit. It’s a historical mystery with religious and business overtones; I found it fascinating (though I didn’t guess whodunnit), and highly recommend it.

Shabbat Shalom!

A day at Great America

I lied slightly yesterday and brought my phone to Great America after all. I even used it to let Diane know about when we’d be coming back. But that was it; otherwise, I had a nice, non-technological, low-brain-drain day with rollercoasters.

When Jeffrey was in kindergarden and first grade, I was able to spend time in his classroom fairly often; I’d come in and read stories or talk about travelling, and the kids seemed to enjoy it (and the teachers appreciated it, too). But after that, the classes change and the kids seemed to be less interested (and they could read for themselves, anyway!), and I pretty much stopped going to class except for organized events. And the YMCA Child Care and Day Camp is, by its nature, at times when I’m at work, so I’ve never been particularly involved.

But Jeffrey really wanted me to come along to Great America, so I did. And I’m glad I did — even though I passed on some of the rides (someone had to keep the kids who didn’t want to ride the scary rollercoasters company, after all), I had a blast. It was fun being around the littler kids, and especially fun being with Jeffrey and seeing how competent he was, and how some of the other kids wanted to be with him. We drove to Great America on our own (the idea of spending an hour on a school bus for a 15-minute trip didn’t appeal), and so we were able to spend some time in the park after the others left, and hit two of the rides I’d had to miss — twice each (there are advantages to going on a Thursday). I plan to make another chance to go there with Jeffrey again this summer. But next time, I think I’ll bring aspirin — it’s not clear that I really should have ridden the Grizzly twice after bashing my head a month ago (though Jeffrey comforted me by telling me that he had a headache, too, and he hadn’t fallen down ice-skating!). And I won’t ride Orleans Orbit right after lunch again, either.

Pictures? Maybe in a couple of weeks; I decided to go lo-tech and brought the single-use camera (sounds better than “disposable”, doesn’t it?) they’d given me in Montréal instead of the digital camera — I worried a lot less about getting it wet, that’s for sure! We didn’t use up the entire roll of film, so it’ll be a while before I develop what I shot.

That work stuff…

I’ll probably work from home tomorrow; that should give me a chance to play with my test Frontier server some more, and perhaps start writing some code on it. I have gotten a couple of notes at work asking when I’ll have the real server up — I hope it’ll be next week. And if there’s anyone wondering which David Singer at IBM I am, I’m the one at Almaden — feel free to drop me a line (I’m not giving my work e-mail address here in the interest of spam reduction; I’ve noticed quite a bit coming to my Hotmail address since I started this weblog. *sigh*) and I’ll let you know when the server is ready to go.

Interdependence Day

Back to work — getting moving this morning was as bad as I was afraid it would be (it’s so much nicer to wake up naturally instead of when the radio turns on). But I’d been keeping up on my e-mail during the weekend, so I didn’t have a huge pile to deal with when I got to the office. For that matter, most people were smart and took the holiday off, so there wouldn’t have been that much anyway. But my pager started going off as I was pulling into a parking place, hinting that it was going to be a busy day after all.

Had a nice chat with Dave Winer about Manila and Frontier; he seems intrigued by my plans to set up a server inside IBM to help people inside the firewall connect.

And I should have a Frontier server here in the building in the next day or so, working with colleagues on the
Extreme Blue team. I’m still having fun playing with Frontier on the machine at my house, but it’s not a good long-term strategy to have the server there.

Last night’s wine seemed to go better with the salmon we had for dinner than it had with spaghetti. The VacuVin is a wonderful invention for those of us who only sip our wine.

Tomorrow, I hope to spend the day at Paramount’s Great America with my son and his day camp friends. No e-mail, no pager, no phone…sounds like a good time to me, despite the thrill rides.

Independence Day

I usually don’t deal with subjects of great moment here, but I enjoy being able to talk about what goes on and what I’m thinking about in a non-work, non-family context.

Weblogs inside IBM

I also think that Weblogs have value in a business context; I’ve spent part of the weekend getting Frontier and Manila up and running on Jeffrey’s old machine. Over the next few weeks, I’ll have a more permanent system set up at work and will make it available for anyone inside IBM to use; setting it up on Jeffrey’s machine was just an exercise so that I’d know what to tell the folks who’ll actually be running the machine (which is likely to be on the East Coast instead of in my building). Frontier 6.2 was easy to set up, I was happy to see — I was up and running in under an hour. I still need to do a few things, such as build a page which lists all the logs, as well as the traditional “updates”
and “most read” pages. And I’d love to be able to set things up so that all sites being hosted automatically share one member/password table.

(But sorry, Dave, my Trial Window copy is unlikely to turn into a revenue copy unless we find that we need more than one server — we already have the real license we need. I did appreciate being able to order a trial copy and play with it in the comfort of my own home — it made the learning process much faster than it would otherwise have been.)

Things I find by reading updates…

I check the recent updates page fairly often, just out of curiosity. A few minutes ago, the most-recently updated site was View from an Iowa Homestead, and as I was reading it, I found a link labelled King Peppermints, which pointed at The Dutch Market in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. Since we happen to like a Dutch coffee candy, Hopjkes, I checked their site, and they do sell it. I picked up a fdw bags of Hopjes in Amsterdam during WWW9, but it’s going to be much easier to replace it this way than to figure out an excuse to go to Holland when the supply is depleted. Cheaper, too. Thanks, John!

Wine of the evening

Corbans Estate Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc 1999, $7.99 at Trader Joe’s. A bit sharp for the spaghetti we had it with — I think it would go better with something spicier. It would probably have been better on a warmer day, too.

I could get to like these long weekends…

This morning, I got up a little earlier than on the previous days and decided to actually accomplish something today. So, after breakfast, I ran errands for an hour, picking up a stepladder, some stuff from Loctite which, if I’m very lucky, will let me fix my outside light, gasoline, bagels, and cream cheese (I already had the lox). Then I used the Loctite stuff (we’ll see if it worked tomorrow) and did some other miscellaneous work; we had lox and bagels for lunch.

Then we went to see Chicken Run. It was great fun; highly recommended.

After the movie, we walked down to the other end of the shopping complex (can I call it a mall if it’s not enclosed?) and bought a scanner — a Umax Astra 3400. It seems to work, and now I can scan in the Japanese Pokemon which Jeffrey wants to sell on eBay, such as this one: Machamp: Time to watch another movie, this time on the DVD player:
Bride of Frankenstein. I didn’t like it as much as the original — the music put me off (there were times during the scene where the bride is being brought to life that I could swear I heard “Bali Hai” from South Pacific). But it did have its moments, and Diane and Jeffrey both liked it better than the original.

No Limits!

I’m back from the Knowledge Management conference, with great hopes of staying in California for nearly three weeks.

On my flight home from Chicago to San Jose, I had the great pleasure of sitting next to Dana Bowman, who is a professional skydiver with a difference — he is also a double-amputee, having lost his legs in a skydiving accident. Dana was on his way to San Jose to parachute into the opening ceremony of the National Junior Wheelchair Games at San Jose City College, to demonstrate the difference between someone who’s disabled and someone who’s unable. Talking with Dana was amazingly refreshing and inspirational — not that he was preachy — far from it, but I was impressed that he had taken such a hit and didn’t let it slow him up.

So yesterday (Saturday), we found ourselves at San Jose City College, waiting for Dana to drop in. The drop was supposed to happen at 7pm, and we just barely made it on time — but, unsurprisingly, things were running late, so we were quite comfortably settled when the plane began flying overhead. It made a few laps of the area, waiting for the parade of athletes, but eventually, we caught site of a distant parachute. A few minutes later, he was close enough for us to be able to read the ad on his parachute; then he was only three feet off the ground. And then he’d landed and was (briefly) addressing the crowd. Then everyone started to disperse, and we went home.

Other than that, things have been quiet. More later, perhaps.