0 Miles at a Bearing of 0 Degrees

My flight home last night was slightly late leaving the gate but early arriving in San Jose and there was no wait for taxis, so I was at home before I was scheduled to land. No complaint there!

This morning, on the other hand, I remembered that I’d used up the last of the coffee on Tuesday just before leaving for the airport. This Does Not Bode Well.

By not-so-complete coincidence, my wife sent me this story today: Is Caffeine the “New Nicotine?”

Speaking of caffeine, I stopped at Starbucks on the way to work to get a cup since I had none at home. In the parking lot, I passed two guys, one of whom was saying “it’s great to be alive”. I have no idea of the context, but it was a cheerful thing to hear early in the morning.

Thanks to Garrett at array for the pointer to the Periodic Table of Comic Books. I suspect this may keep Jeffrey busy for a while!

1833 Miles at a Bearing of 271 Degrees, Redux

If it’s Wednesday, I must be in the Admiral’s Club at O’Hare again. It’s more fun to be writing these notes on the way home than in the other direction.

My three-hour meeting ended only five minutes late, which I consider to be an amazing feat of leadership — not by me, I must add. I nearly didn’t make it on time — I took advantage of being at IBM Somers to visit the secretaries who support my group. They’re in a different building, and the inside passage between the two buildings takes about 15 minutes to traverse. After saying “hi”, I had only 10 minutes before my meeting. Fortunately, I had set a GPS waypoint at the entrance of the building in which the meeting was being held, and this let me figure out how to get there via the outside route, which is far faster. (If you’ve never been to IBM Somers, you haven’t missed much; I’m sure it’s architecturally distinguished and worthwhile, but as a user, it leaves much to be desired. There are four buildings, each with a pyramidal top, scattered on the site, along with the “Central Service Building”. Buildings 1 and 2 form a cluster, as do 3 and 4; each cluster is connected to the Central Service Building by a long and tedious passage.)

After the meeting, I had enough time to actually eat lunch en route to the airport at a nearby pizza place (Palermo Pizza, suggested by my trusty GPS) and still arrive in time to be checked in just as my flight was called for boarding.

Weather in Chicago meant that we were held on the runway in White Plains for about a half-hour, but once more, I have an amazingly leisurely connection (scheduled for more than 2-1/2 hours), and so I didn’t mind. And the plane was not full; I traded for a window seat and played with my GPS on the way. If it had only been clear, I would have known what I was looking at, but since there was an overcast under us almost all the way, I’ll have to take it on faith that the GPS was telling the truth.

The meeting was worthwhile showing up for; it was clear to me that trying to participate on the phone would have been very difficult and I’m sure I would have lost interest about 20 minutes in. While electronic means of communication are wonderful, sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication.

1833 Miles at a Bearing of 271 Degrees

This update comes to you from the Admiral’s Club at O’Hare Airport, and I guess it’s good to know just how far away I am from home.

For a change, I have a leisurely connection at O’Hare (scheduled at 2 hours, but we arrived 30 minutes late), and so I was able to stay in my seat and let the passengers with tight connections leave the plane ahead of me. Having had that courtesy extended to me two weeks ago, I was happy to comply with the request. As usual, not everyone was willing to wait; I’m not sure what the attraction of sitting in an airport is, but some people just can’t wait.

Diane tells me that winter’s arrived at home — she said it rained earlier today. I guess if school’s already started, rain isn’t completely unreasonable to expect, even if it is still August.

2571 Miles at a Bearing of 280 Degrees

My flight arrived early and wasn’t completely full (both are amazing but true facts), and I had an easy drive to my hotel. Then a very long walk to my room — unfortunately, my GPS doesn’t work inside the hotel, so I don’t know how far, but I should remember to log it as an aerobic workout next time I’m at the Y!

Also amazing but true: only 5 e-mails awaited me. And two of them were spam. I could stay online and see if more mail arrives, or I could do the smart thing and call it an evening. ‘Night!

Back to School

Jeffrey started 5th grade today; it’s his last year at Alta Vista. It seems like only yesterday that he started kindergarten there! Diane and I were walking by Union Middle School this evening and we realized that next year, he’ll be there — oy!

He’s got the same teacher this year as he did last year, which I think is good (it’s the second time this has happened; the other time was between first and second grades), and two of his best friends are in his class, which he thinks is good.

It does seem wrong, though, for school to start this early; and then they compound things by giving a four-day Labor Day weekend to the students (the teachers have an in-service day on the Tuesday after Labor Day). I’d rather they started after Labor Day like we did when I was growing up.

Look out! He's got a knife!

Hmmm…I think this is getting complicated. Let’s start at the beginning.

Jeffrey participated in the Summer Reading program at the Los Gatos Library; among his prizes was a discount coupon for Great America. He loves Great America, especially the rollercoasters; I don’t mind it too much, at least not in small doses, but Diane is most definitely not a rollercoaster person, having a rather sentimental attachment to her retinas. So this morning, he and I set forth for Great America for a few hours, and we had a good time (we rode the Demon twice; he wanted to ride it again just before we left, but I had had enough, and the hour’s wait for the Grizzly didn’t help, either).

Because we left fairly early, we had lunch at the park. Unfortunately, we chose pizza. It reminded me a lot of the pizza we’d had at Julian’s Restaurant in Richmond, loaded with a thick layer of bad cheese on top. But, to give Great America its due, at least this pizza was hot and the cheese had been melted.

So when we got home, I wanted something tasty, and suggested Baja Fresh, in the Superfund shopping center [it’s actually called the Bernal Center, but it is built on the old Fairchild plant and Superfund site — somehow, it seems a bit odd to have a shopping center full of restaurants and a supermarket on an old Superfund site, but I digress]. And it was tasty, but Diane’s was a bit spicier than she expected, and so she suggested we go to downtown Los Gatos and have sorbetto at Dolce Spazio.

That seemed like a good idea, so we did (in the interest of accuracy, I should note that Jeffrey had chocolate gelato, not sorbetto). And then we thought we’d go walk it off a bit — downtown Los Gatos has been one of our favorite places to stroll since the first time we were there, more than 15 years ago. As we were strolling, Diane noted that there were very few shops other than restaurants open (this was just before 7 on Saturday night); then we passed one of the few open shops, Domus, a kitchen and housewares store that we always enjoy browsing through. And then I remembered reading what Al had said about the Global chef’s knife on Tuesday (as well as what Anthony Bourdain wrote), and so I suggested we go in and see if they had the knife, which they did, and so we bought it.

And how did you spend your Saturday?

I am in awe…

Andrea, and
Hal who hardly ever miss a day in updating their Weblogs.

I, clearly, am not such a person.

I’ve been busy catching up from vacation, and have finally gotten to the point that I can reasonably say that I’m only slightly behind, so here I am again. I was hoping to have my pictures edited and posted by now, but I haven’t done that, either.

I spent the last three days editing a report at work; if I’d known it would have taken me that long to do, I might not have volunteered — I suspect most people will only read the Executive Summary anyway!

Time for the August Almaden Social (aka beer blast).

Shabbat Shalom!

Fry's — where shopping is a pleasure (sometimes)

Today, we set forth to buy a small refrigerator for my office — I want to be able to survive on the days when the cafeteria is not up to par. We’d gotten an ad from Office Depot showing a 1.8 cubic foot model for $110 before $10 rebate; that sounded like a reasonable price, so off we went.

After some searching, we found the unit, marked for $120, with no mention of a rebate. And the only ads they had posted didn’t mention the refrigerator. And we couldn’t find anyone to help us. So we left, went home, and dug the ad out of the recycle bin.

But by then, it was lunchtime; after lunch, I decided to check Fry’s (I also am in the market for a laser printer) instead of going back to Office Depot. Much to my surprise, I found the same refrigerator at Fry’s for $110 (but no sign of a rebate); but then I looked a bit more and found a Daewoo for $100, and then a Sanyo for $80 (on sale, down from $120). We bought the Sanyo. No muss, no fuss, not a very long wait at the register. It was hard to believe I was shopping at Fry’s!

Then to my office to plug it in — I even made a sign to make the safety people happy:

Food and Drink Only

No Chemicals

Tomorrow, I’ll find out if it’s actually able to cool stuff enough to be useful.

Other than that, it’s been a quiet and peaceful weekend. Time to go watch “Millionaire”!

Busy? Yes. Productive? Maybe.

That pretty much sums up this week; it’s been more of a Red Queen’s Race than usual, but I think I’ve actually gotten through most of the backlog from vacation, at least at work. The backlog of mail which was waiting for us at home is a different story — and while we were cleaning up in preparation for the cleaning service’s visit yesterday, Diane found an issue of Analog which I hadn’t even seen, much less read. At least Business Week is skipping a week this week.

And one of the discoveries we made on vacation was Who Wants to be a Millionaire? — both my mother and Diane’s father watch it, and they got us into the habit, too. I play along on the “Enhanced TV” version if I’m watching live…but at the moment, I have the two most recent shows on tape waiting to be viewed.

Yesterday was the closing session for Extreme Blue — I was awed by what the students had done in 11 short weeks (though I think their typical workweek was quite a bit longer than mine!). I wish I’d been able to spend more time working with the Extreme Blue folks — every time I did manage to visit their lab, I’d come out energized and cheerful. And usually well-fed, too, so maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t spend too much time there after all!

Tonight, we have a pot-luck dinner at the YMCA Summer Childcare, and then services at Shir Hadash (it’s our turn to help with the oneg, too). The rest of the weekend looks to be less busy. I’m ready. Shabbat Shalom!

I need a vacation

The worst thing about coming back from vacation is having to catch up with everything that happened while getting away from it all.

I haven’t succeeded in doing that yet, but I’ve made progress; I think I’ve at least glanced at every piece of e-mail that arrived, as well as all of the Weblogs on the server I’m running inside the IBM firewall. I still have lots more to do, but at least I think I know where the disaster areas are.

Sometime Real Soon Now, I’ll get a chance to look at the pictures we took on vacation.

But not tonight. I’ve spent enough time sitting in the chair at the computer today (even if it’s not the Hot Seat) to hold me for now.


Easing Back Into Work

The e-mail backlog was as bad as I expected — well over 500 messages. I could quickly pick out about 100 as spam and delete them, and another 100 or so were easy to read and delete. That leaves about 300 which require thought. *sigh*

More to come as time permits; I suspect I’ll stay home today to do a better job of hiding while I catch up!

25 Hours – That's Too Many

We finally got our luggage at 8pm this evening, 25 hours after we’d landed, and 10 hours after it had arrived at San Jose Airport. I am quite irritated at American for taking so long to deliver the luggage, and even more so because they kept claiming it would be here “soon”, so we stayed home all day waiting (this is a safe neighborhood, but I didn’t want two suitcases sitting on my front porch anyway). I’d send them a complaning e-mail, but they don’t do e-mail for customer service, so I’ll fax them a complaint tomorrow. I don’t think it’ll do me any good, but it can’t hurt.

After the luggage arrived, Diane and I went out for a quick walk. Naturally, I carried my GPS with me so I could find out how far we went (the route goes over a footbridge, so I can’t really clock it with the car odometer). When we passed another couple, they asked which GPS I was holding — not “what are you holding”. I guess I must be a late-adopter on this particular technology!

Homeward Bound

This entry comes to you courtesy of the Admirals’ Club at JFK. We’re here waiting for our flight to Los Angeles, where we connect to our flight to San Jose and the taxi to home.

We had good visits with family and got to see interesting places, but I’m glad to be going home!

More to follow, probably including pictures. And I should resume my regular nearly-daily schedule of updates soon, too.

But probably not tonight; we just got notified that our flight to LA is delayed for 2.5 hours because they’re servicing the airplane. The good news is that this ensures that we won’t be depending on the airline for lunch; the bad news is that we’ll be sitting at JFK quite a bit longer than we’d planned. But I’d far rather they fix the airplane while it’s on the ground and we’re still in the nice air-conditioned terminal than that they discover they should have fixed it while we’re in the air!

Interestingly, when I use various web sites to check the status of my flight, I get different answers. Expedia claims that the flight is going to leave on time. TheTrip claims 12:22pm. Both American and Travelocity say 2:30, which matches the monitors here.

[Update at 12:16pm: Expedia still claims the flight is going to leave at noon. Microsoft, accurate and dependable as always! But they’re not alone; TheTrip still claims 12:22.]

[Update at 1:20pm: Expedia will no longer quote a departure time; TheTrip still claims 12:22; the monitors still say 2:30pm. And, according to the agent at the Admirals’ Club, the reason we’re waiting until 2:30 is that they took our originally-scheduled plane out of service, so we’re waiting for a 767-200 to arrive from Caracas; that plane will be our ride to LA.]

Courtesy of Al, a pointer to the top ten reasons to go to work naked. I may give some of them serious thought on Monday; while I’m ready to go home, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back to work. I’ve enjoyed not thinking about it for the last two weeks, and I am certainly not looking forward to wading through two weeks’ worth of e-mail backlog.

We’re home. Our luggage isn’t.

Our plane pushed back from the gate at JFK right on time (revised version) at 2:30pm Eastern, and we were in the air a mere half-hour later. When the captain came on the PA, he gave us the news: we’d been routed on a circuitous course (I suspect to miss weather) and were due to land at LAX at 6pm, right after our flight to San Jose was scheduled to take off.

So I hied myself to the phone at the back of the plane and dialed the secret number to connect to American reservations on their dime instead of my $2/minute (hint: it’s *044), only to find out that the 6pm flight was the last flight of the day from LA to San Jose on Saturdays, and that the last flights to San Francisco and Oakland left slightly earlier. But they were able to “protect” us on a United flight leaving at 6:41pm, so that was some progress.

We had middle seats, so I wasn’t able to use my GPS to keep track of our progress (it’s amazing how quickly being able to know where I am is something I expect to be able to do), but eventually the captain said we’d been able to make up some time and we’d arrive around 5:30. And he was right — we got to the gate at 5:27.

The flight attendents asked people staying in LA (most of the plane — I’ve never seen so many people with press passes in my life) to wait so that those of us with connections would have a chance, and some of the passengers actually did let us get by. Into Terminal 4 we go, looking for an American person to find out how to get to our outbound flight in Terminal 3.

We find one; she tells us “it’s in another terminal”. That’s it. No offer to call and hold the plane, or to put us on a cart, or anything. I decided we’d run for it (we had 28 minutes).

Those of you who know LAX are probably laughing about now. I didn’t realize that Terminals 3 and 4 weren’t connected by anything other than a sidewalk which runs past the International Terminal…that, and a bus which runs the wrong way around the loop.
We followed the signs and found ourselves on the wrong side of security, then downstairs, with no clues.

I hailed another American person; this guy was more helpful, telling us that we had to go outside, and then walked with us towards the bus. En route, he asked us when our flight was, and when I told him, he said the bus wouldn’t get us there on time, but that it was only a five-minute walk. He then pointed us in the right direction and sent us on our way.

I think it took us six minutes, but you have to allow for the fact that we were carrying luggage and that Jeffrey’s shoes came untied (round laces are evil). Then into Terminal 3, up the escalator, through security, and onto our plane…we got to our seats at 5:47. And, miracle of miracles, we had sufficient stowage for our stuff even though we were in a bulkhead row (OK, I cheated and put one bag over a First Class seat). We pushed back at 6, were airborne at 6:10, and on the ground in San Jose at 6:56.

The first bag arrived at 7:16, fulfilling the required minimum 20-minute delay for luggage, and the last bag came out a few minutes later. Then I went over to the baggage desk and discovered that our bags didn’t run as fast as we did; they should be delivered tomorrow morning.

I don’t know where Jeffrey gets his energy — we just got him down to bed at 10pm Pacific, and he was lively and talkative. It’s 10:42pm now, and I’m beat!

Greetings from Humidity Central North

This is going to be a short entry, since it’s late and I’m still on vacation and feel almost guilty using my laptop at all. But I did want to flip the page and get the new month started before it got much older.

I’m now visiting my father-in-law just outside of New York City; take any of the comments I made about humidity in Richmond and double them. When we arrived yesterday and got out of the car, I thought I was going to collapse into a puddle of sweat within the first few seconds…but then I started to realize how hot and sticky it really was.

We spent a few days in and around Washington, DC, on the way up; we visited many interesting sites (I got pictures of some of them, but won’t upload them until I have a faster connection). Virginia has a gimmick for students this summer called Time Travelers, so Jeffrey wanted to visit at least six of the designated sites so he’d qualify for a certificate. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about Time Travelers until after we’d left Richmond, so we didn’t get credit for the Virginia Aviation Museum. And, of course, nothing in Washington, DC counts. But we did make it to six official sites, despite the horrible weather on Sunday, so he should be receiving his certificate in due course.

Finally (for now), I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the places we visited on Monday, en route from Alexandria to New York. It is at 39 degrees, 6.915 minutes North Latitude, 76 degrees, 46.523 minutes West Longitude. The location should be sufficient for the cognoscenti, but further details will follow.

I’m beat — vacation is exhausting!