Happy Halloween!

Halloween arrived early this morning — about 2am. Jeffrey knocked at our door to tell us that he couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t feverish, didn’t have any need to throw up, and wasn’t aching, so the obvious diagnosis was Halloween Fever, to which the cure is a re-tucking in and instructions to go to sleep and if you can’t sleep, just read quietly. It worked.

But then while I was finishing breakfast at 6:25am, there was the pitter-patter of not-so-little footsteps — Jeffrey was up and ready to greet the day, almost an hour earlier than usual, and telling me Happy Halloween!. It looks like a bad case this year, I’m afraid, and it’ll be far worse by tonight.

He’s also convinced us to give away scary candy like Skull Pops and Eyes of Terror gum from Oriental Trading Company so that we’re in the spirit of the holiday — and just in case we run out of those, we have a bag of Snickers (how mundane).

It was a quiet evening, and we didn’t run out of candy; the first trick-or-treaters arrived at 6:05, and the last ones about two hours later. Jeffrey and I went out about 6:30, and we joined forces with one of his friends from school a few minutes (and several cellphone calls) later; they stayed together till the end of the evening.

Some of the houses were well-decorated for Halloween; most had at least a token decoration (we had a lighted pumpkin in the window). And Jeffrey came back with more candy than he’ll eat.

On the way home, Jeffrey said that it hadn’t felt like a year since last Halloween, but that October had felt like a very long month waiting for Halloween to arrive. Next Halloween is probably going to be very different — he’ll be in middle school, and probably not as innocent as he is this year.

It's always something

This morning, I left the house in the capable hands of the electrician who was going to install four ceiling fans for us. I just got a call from him — there are parts missing from one box, so that one can’t be installed, and some sheetrock fell down from the ceiling in our bedroom when he removed the old fixture (apparently it had been burned by the old fixture, which doesn’t surprise me at all — the bulbs were very close to the ceiling), so he couldn’t install that fan, either. I guess it’s time to get the sheetrock guy back — the missing parts are already on order.

At least I have two working sets of car keys now; it only took the Saab dealer a few minutes to reprogram everything to match (I was, clearly, not the first customer not to be told to bring both keys in when there was a problem with one remote). And Saab has just started offering a key/transponder combination, which will let me get rid of the huge separate remote I currently have to use, so soon, we’ll have four keys to keep in sync.

Ah, well, what can you expect on a Monday?

Obviously, I should have expected even less — it’s now 8pm, and the electrician is still here, trying to get the power back in the living room (he said he must’ve nicked a wire earlier in the day).

We do have two of the four ceiling fans installed, which is good. But I am disappointed in the brightness of the light in the office; I had had two 60-watt incandescent bulbs, which we replaced with one 100-watt halogen bulb. Since halogen is supposed to be brighter than the same wattage of incandescent, I had expected to have to use the dimmer feature on the fan to avoid being blinded. Wrong. This is the dimmest 100-watt light I’ve ever seen! Luckily, we have some other lights in the room over one of the work surfaces, but it’s still surprisingly dim.

And I was able to reach the drywall guy, who will let me know tomorrow when he can come out and fix up the burnt sheetrock so we can continue this fun.

But in the cosmic scheme of things, or even just looking at things in local perspective, I can’t complain. My family and I are healthy; we’re gainfully employed; we’re not in a war zone; the weather is ok; these little annoyances at home are just that — little annoyances, and it won’t be long before they’ve been conquered (I always did like the idea of track lighting, so I guess I’ll enjoy trying it in the office).

I got my missing wakeup call!

This morning, my phone rang at 7:15. It was a market research firm hired by Hilton Hotels, asking me if I’d like to take part in a brief survey about business travel. I declined and decided to send a note to Hilton’s CEO instead:

Stephen F. Bollenbach
President and CEO
Hilton Hotels
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210

Dear Mr. Bollenbach:

It is 7:15am on a Sunday morning and I am at home. I have just hung up the phone on a call from a market research firm (I believe it was named “Mark Research”) asking me to take a “short survey on business travel on behalf of Hilton Hotels”. Please note the time again: 7:15 am on Sunday morning, and the place: at home. I am extremely unhappy and upset that Hilton thought that I would find it acceptable to call me at home at such a time.

I ask you to please ensure that my name and telephone number are removed from any outbound call lists maintained by Hilton or its contractors. I also ask that you work with your contractors so that they don’t call people at such hours – doing so is certainly not the best advertisement for a company which purports to be in the hospitality business.

My telephone numbers are [omitted]. My Hilton HHonors number is [omitted].

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

I haven’t mailed the note yet; any suggestions on making it more effective are welcome.

I guess I'm hooked

I’m not sure I really should be admitting this in public, but you’ll find out sooner or later anyway. I seem to have a Fry’s habit. At least that’s the only rational explanation for my being back there less than 48 hours after returning to California — it’s certainly not the case that I go there because I enjoy the experience.

But I suppose it could be worse. I could go there and not buy stuff. Or buy stuff I don’t need (no, wait, that’s what I do at Costco). And even though I hadn’t gone in looking for everything I bought today, at least it was all stuff I had planned to buy soon anyway (a copy of Street Atlas/Map ‘n’ Go, some more NiMH AA batteries, and some SVHS tapes (which was half of the ostensible reason for the trip)). I wish they’d had the X-10 ActiveHome package, though; that was the other half of the reason I went there — our controller went flakey a while ago, and while I was in England, it went completely bonkers, waking Diane up in the middle of the night. So I need to replace it, and I guess I’m going to have to do it on the X-10 website, a place so hard to deal with that I’d rather go to Fry’s.

I picked up our ceiling fans today, too; the electricians are supposed to come and install them on Monday. And some day, the door from the garage to the outside (not to be confused with the garage door) will be installed, too — but first, they have to get one of the right size, instead of one which would fit from the garage to the inside, which is what got delivered.

Don’t forget to reset your clock tonight if you live in a place where you should do it! (Hey, Al…do you work an extra hour on the night of the timeshift?)

Friday Morning, 6am

I managed to stay awake (physically, if not necessarily mentally) last night until sometime around 9pm. Then I gave up the struggle and hit the bed. It took me dozens of seconds to fall asleep, and, though I did wake up once or twice during the night, I basically slept until 6am, just before the alarm was ready to sound off. I’m still in a bit of a fog, but it’ll do for a quiet Friday morning at work.

Thursday Morning, 5am

That’s when I had to get up in order to make the 6am bus to the airport for my 9:15am flight (the next bus wasn’t till 7:30, and if anything went wrong, I might’ve missed the flight, which was just not acceptable). So I did.

Of course, that was 5am CEDT (UTC+2), and it’s now 5pm PDT (UTC-7), so I’ve been up for 21 hours and shouldn’t go to bed for at least four more.

The trip home was uneventful if very slow (we had to wait in Munich for them to unload a suitcase from the plane since the owner didn’t want to come to San Francisco with the suitcase, and then we had to circle a while before landing), but I’m finally home.

And I think that’s going to do it for today’s exciting Weblog entry, because my family is arriving home, too.

Good night (or Guten Abend, if you prefer).

And now for something completely different

After I got back to my room last night, I flipped on the TV to make some noise while I got ready for bed. The Maritim only offers one English-language channel (CNN), and I didn’t really want to know what was happening in the world, so I started channel-surfing (I wonder how you say that in German?). Naturally, there wasn’t much on that was of interest to me, but as I was about to give up and go back to CNN, I suddenly saw something very familiar: Monty Python’s Flying Circus. But the voices weren’t right, because, of course, the show was dubbed into German.

I was still able to enjoy the visual humor, but it just wasn’t the same as watching in English, and I wasn’t always able to figure out what was going on. When I get home, I’m going to have to dig through my tapes and see if I have this episode (the one with “It’s A Tree”).

Morning came early today. Tomorrow will be worse. Off to the meeting!

Like no other museum in the world

Tonight, we had dinner at the DaimlerChrysler (pronounced “Mercedes-Benz”) museum in Stuttgart. Before dinner, a friend and I took a self-guided tour (they offered audio wands, but that would have been more regimentation than we were in the mood for) and a number of pictures.

Here’s the first car that Benz created. They actually started the motor for us — it was loud.

First Benz: I liked their 1895 Benz Victoria:

Benz Victoria: Mercedes doesn’t just make motorcars; they make fire engines, too:

Mercedes fire engine: With so many cars in the museum, they have a hard time keeping up on maintenance. Note the flat tire on this car:

Flat Tire: Some cars don’t need maintenance, though; they get divine intervention. Here’s Pope Paul VI’s Popemobile:

Popemobile: Some designs just don’t seem to work, even though they’re awfully attractive looking:

Gull Wing Mercedes: Tomorrow, it’s back to the all-day grind.

Very well, thank you…

I slept well last night. Very well. Too well, I guess, since I awoke refreshed and relaxed at 7:55am, with the conference scheduled to start at 8:15. So much for being relaxed!

I thought I had set the telephone alarm for 6:30am, but apparently I hadn’t hung on long enough to confirm that I really wanted the wakeup call. But I also heard from some of my colleagues that their phones hadn’t rung, either, but that the hotel staff had knocked on their doors instead!

I managed to rush through my morning routine in record time, and was pleasantly surprised to find the hotel flexible in enforcing the deadline for collecting laundry and in not closing the breakfast room right on time, so I was able to arrange for clean clothes and eat; I got to the meeting a few minutes late, but I was in time for the first main speaker.

This hotel is a very pretty place, but I wish their interior decorators would have allowed for clocks in the rooms. You’d think it was a casino or something!

London to Stuttgart

I never did figure out how to connect to the Ethernet in my hotel at Heathrow — once in a while, I’d get the in-hotel infomational pages, but I never got the opportunity to spend money for a fast connection. Their loss, I guess.

Actually, the London Heathrow Marriott was awfully disorganized for a Marriott; not only did the Ethernet not work, but I couldn’t get to the help phone number that was supposed to help me. And the mattress was not in very good shape. And the breakfast buffet was incredibly badly managed — it shouldn’t take 10 minutes to get coffee, and there should always be glasses available for juice. I would have walked out without paying (there was no cashier when I left, either) if it hadn’t already been included in my room cost. On the bright side, they didn’t charge for parking (deliberately — I asked).

My flight to Stuttgart was uneventful, as flights should be. It was on British Midland; even though the flight time was only 75 minutes, they managed to give us a hot meal (nothing I wanted, unfortunately) and two drink services. I wonder why US airlines don’t bother feeding people for less than a two-hour flight (and not always then), and, maybe more to the point, why no one complains.

Martim Hotel (try 2): There were about eight of us on the flight going to the IBM Academy of Technology meeting, so we shared cabs to the city (the taxi, of course, was a Mercedes). My cabmate travels to Germany periodically, so he had Deutsche Marks, so I didn’t have to buy them at the airport. Instead, I changed a $20 bill at the hotel, undoubtedly at a rip-off rate, but I wanted some walking around money for lunch and didn’t feel like finding an ATM.

Lunch was a typical German meal, I guess — Doner Kebab (which I would have called gyros), Pomme Frites, and a beer. The whole thing cost me about $5. Interestingly, the beer can gave the volume in milliliters and in US fluid ounces — I would have expected Imperial measure if anything but milliliters.

Then I took a quick walk around parts of downtown Stuttgart. Like all cities, it has its share of incomprehensible art on the streets:

Public Art: Like all cities, Stuttgart has its share of incomprehensible public art on the streets.Public Art 2: but some of it just hangs around:

Art on the fly: There are also lots of fountains. Sometimes they even come in flocks:

Three Fountains: It was starting to get dark, so I headed back to the hotel, where I will remain for the next three days. They let us out once for good behavior, on a field trip to the Mercedes Museum. But otherwise, it’s going to be non-stop enlightment until Wednesday afternoon.