Surprises on coming home

As I drove up to the house this afternoon, I discovered that Diane had decorated it for Halloween. It seems that a lot of kids only visit decorated houses, and we have a lot of candy to get rid of tomorrow!

And then when I came home after a committee meeting at Shir Hadash, Diane and Jeffrey were watching Godzilla, which TiVo had thoughtfully captured for us since it has Raymond Burr in it and we’ve been watching a lot of Perry Masons. TiVo makes it very easy to watch a lot of good TV. And bad movies.

Work, work, work….

That pretty much sums up today. I guess that’s just as well, since I spent it at work!

I see that Susan likes the same restaurants I like to visit when driving down to Southern California. Diane and Jeffrey don’t find Harris Ranch as appealing as I do, though.

I’ve moved the new computer into the prime location in the office, but I still have a lot of software to copy over. I can do e-mail, web stuff, and play music, but that’s about it so far.

Back to work!

Get lost!

Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Yes, of course it’s a favorite key combination, but it’s also the title of the play we saw yesterday at San Jose Rep. The subtitle is “A history play: 1998-2000”. I suspect that, for many people, it was a personal history.

The play is a comedy (though, at times, it hits below the belt) and I enjoyed it immensely. The cast got a standing ovation from about half the audience, so I was not alone in my assessment of the play.

The Merc hasn’t reviewed the play yet, but C|Net has an interview with the playwright which I found interesting. The playwright was in the audience yesterday, and I heard him talking to people after the play; he seemed to think it was going well, too.

The theatre wasn’t sold out; if you have a chance, I’d recommend seeing the play.

A drash on Parshat Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27); Diane was the Torah reader, and I gave a drash (interpretive reading) on the portion, which I thought I’d post here.

“Go forth from your native land and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…and you shall be a blessing.” That was God’s challenge to Abram. And Abram accepted the challenge.

But every day, we face a similar challenge. Every day, we must leave what we know and face the unknown the future. Some days, the journey is easy. Other days, the journey is difficult. But when we set out, we never know what to expect we only know that today will be different than it was yesterday.

God told Abram to go forth, and he did. But he did not go alone. He brought his wife, his nephew, and his household on the trip. Similarly, we don’t face the future alone we go with our families, our neighbors, our country, and the rest of the world. Not everyone will help us on our journey, but we need to be mindful of our companions.

And, of course, God went with Abram. Does God go with us? Perhaps not in as direct a form as Abram saw and heard, but if we want God’s company, we can have it.

Abram faced obstacles on his journey, as do we. Since 9/11, some of those obstacles have seemed a lot bigger. Remember when the biggest worry about the mail was getting rid of the junk? Remember when CNN didn’t have a constant war ticker on the bottom of the screen? Remember when airport security was just an annoyance?

I know I spent the first month or so after 9/11 in a funk. I watched more TV news that month than I usually see in a year, and I checked news websites every few minutes while I was at work. And at the end of every day, I felt that I hadn’t done anything.

But a couple of weeks ago, things changed. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but somehow, I realized that I had a life to live. I started getting work done at work again. I started to read things other than the news. I even started watching TV for fun (mostly reruns, of course!).

I realized that the terrorists’ main objective wasn’t crashing four airplanes. It wasn’t knocking down the World Trade Center. It wasn’t even killing thousands of people. What they wanted to do was simple: they wanted to force people to stop living their normal lives. To stop looking forward to each day’s journey, but rather to fear it. And they had done it to me, at least for a while.

This week, I went forth. To Atlanta, for my first business trip since 9/11. I can’t say that I was really looking forward to the hassles but by the time my first flight landed, I felt far better than I had for a long time even though the airport was strangely empty and hushed, and even though the news on CNN was still bad. I was back on my journey.

Abram’s journey continues after the end of today’s parsha we know of the challenges he has yet to face, and how he’ll respond. We know that God’s promise is fulfilled, and that Abram is the ancestor of a great nation. We don’t know what lies ahead of each of us on our journey, but at the end of every day, we can look back and see what progress we made. Did we learn? Did we grow? Did we contribute to tikkun olam? Were we a blessing?

Shabbat shalom.

Off the road again

My trip home yesterday was under the auspices of the Fairy Godmother Department (see Robert Heinlein’s Glory Road).

Originally, my meeting was supposed to end about 1:30pm, so I’d booked a 3:15pm flight out of Atlanta Airport to Dallas, which would get me home about 10:30pm Eastern. But then they revised the agenda so that we’d finish at 11am, leaving me a long wait for my flight.

A friend was planning to leave on the 1:30pm flight so she could get home to Austin at a decent hour, so we left the meeting promptly at 11 (slightly before the last speaker finished, but such is life), and were at the American Airlines counter at 11:30. I asked if there was room on the 1:30. The agent asked me if I wouldn’t rather take the noon flight(!), but I didn’t know how far the gate was or how long it would take to get through security (on the bus from the hotel, we’d heard horror stories of 90-minute lines that very day), so I said “no,” and she put me on the 1:30 with a reasonable connection in Dallas, and I went to get in line.

The line was the longest one I’d been in on this trip — about ten people. I was clever this time and put my metal-tipped belt in my suitcase instead of wearing it, but it didn’t help me; I was selected for a random scan and had to be wanded and patted down anyway. Despite that delay, I was past the checkpoint at 11:45 — and the gate for the noon flight was only a couple of hundred feet away. So we zipped down there and got onto the noon flight.

En route, I used a secret trick and called American Airlines Reservations for free on the Airphone (hint: dial *044) to see if I could get an even earlier flight home from Dallas. There was one available, but I’d have to wait till I was Dallas to see if there would be room.

In Dallas, I walked over to the Terminal B Admiral’s Club (the longest walk I’d taken in three days — I needed it!) to see if the earlier flight had room. It did — and I was even able to upgrade to First Class, where I was delighted to find that warm nuts were still served on this flight, but I was not so happy to find that the people in front of me were determined to get their money’s worth of the liquor being poured. But eventually they got quiet.

I’d called my regular taxi driver while I was in Dallas, and he was waiting for me; I got home before Diane and Jeffrey did. While I was waiting for them, the driver called me back to tell me my luck was still holding — we’d had a fast trip down from the airport, but now there had been a wreck, and traffic on 880 South from the airport was snarled up badly. But I’d missed all of that.

All in all, a much better trip home than I’d expected. And getting home four hours early made it even better.

Shabbat Shalom!

On the road again

I’m sitting (actually, standing) in the San Jose Admirals’ Club, ready to start my first business trip since mid-July. I got up an hour early to be sure of getting to the airport early enough to get through security in time for my 9:26am flight — I got here at 7:26, right on the FAA-mandated two-hour deadline. And I was through security at 7:35, with nearly two hours left before flight time.

I must admit that I cheated a little bit — instead of standing in the very long check-in line, or even the long First Class check-in line, I walked up to the self-serve check-in kiosk. I had to wait ten seconds for the person in front of me to finish her transaction, but that was it. The actual check-in process took about a minute — it would have been slightly longer if I’d had luggage to check, but still much less time than it would have if I’d waited in the line to talk to a human being.

Security was noticably different than it used to be — I had to take my laptop out of my briefcase so it could be x-rayed (but I was allowed to leave my digital camera in the briefcase…you figure it out, I can’t). And when I set off the metal detector, I wasn’t asked to be sure I’d emptied my pockets and given a second chance…instead, I was wanded (my belt was the culprit). Still, the entire process took less than three minutes.

I was hoping to get an earlier flight, but I’d’ve had to stand by, both here and in Dallas. I decided to stick with my original plans rather than wind up stuck in Dallas for five hours (2.5 hours is plenty, thanks) if the flight there didn’t clear.

The Admirals’ Club is pretty empty, though I’m not usually here at this hour, so I guess I can’t really compare it with pre-9/11. The short-term parking at Terminal C was really empty compared to the old days, and my taxi driver said business has been really slow.

I’m doing my part — but I am still somewhat nervous.

Oh, why am I standing? I’m using the free computer here, and it’s been put on a pedestal at a height that’s remarkably uncomfortable if you sit. I guess it’s to keep people from hogging it and doing their e-mail or composing web pages.

Now coming to you from DFW Airport

Boy, I’d forgotten how slow a dial-up connection is. And how tedious travel can be.

Congratulations, Audrey and Hal! (I know which of you did more of the work!)

Atlanta

I made it. Uneventful flights. But the hotel shuttle setup at Atlanta Airport is more confusing than I’ve ever seen anywhere else. And there weren’t any warm nuts. And if that’s my biggest complaint in this post-9/11 world, I am a very lucky person.

At least they're honest about it

“Advertisement: Get-Rich-Quick-Scam!”

I can resist.

Good thing we lose an hour that day

From the KPIG Featured Squeals page:

From “Al”: Posted Thu Oct 18 05:48:23 | From Annapolis, MD

Howdy Pigs!

Don’t go to the bathroom on October 28th. CIA intelligence reports that a major plot is planned for that day. Anyone who takes a crap on the 28th will be bitten on the ass by an alligator. Reports indicate that organized groups of alligators are planning to rise up into unsuspecting American’s toilet bowls and bite them when they are doing their dirty business.

I usually don’t forward reports like this, but I got this information from a reliable source. It came from a friend of a friend whose cousin is dating this girl whose brother knows this guy whose wife knows this lady whose husband buys hotdogs from this guy who knows a shoeshine guy who shines the shoes of a mailroom worker who has a friend who’s drug dealer sells drugs to another mailroom worker who works in the CIA building. He apparently overheard two guys talking in the bathroom about alligators and came to the conclusion that we are going to be attacked. So it must be true! Don’t crap on the 28th! Hold it in!!

The computer's fast; getting set up is slow

More XP follies today; as planned, I reformatted the disk and did an install from scratch. Then I installed antivirus and firewall software, and only then did I hook up to the Net. That pretty much sums up the progress I’ve made. But the machine sure boots quickly.

Battlebots tickets still available

I was afraid the Battlebots tickets might sell out, but they haven’t yet; we’re going to see late elimination rounds, which will be taped for the show on Comedy Central. Should be fun!

Shabbat Shalom!

The XPerience begins

I brought the computer home and fired it up; the first boot started up by showing me the license agreement (“we own Windows, you just own a piece of plastic”) for my approval, then required the 25-digit serial number (printed on a sticker which says that you must affix this sticker to your computer) before I could continue. Microsoft is certainly subtle in letting you know who’s boss.

Once I got past that point, the system booted quickly and invited me to activate it (i.e., sending my configuration data to Microsoft). I’ve declined that invitation so far, though it’s mandatory if I actually want to keep using the system after 30 days.

Some of my hardware doesn’t have full-function drivers yet, especially the video card; ATI says that their full driver will be available next Monday. The driver on the XP CD works fine, though it doesn’t have the ATI value-added adjustments (apparently Microsoft doesn’t want to have anything hardware-specific complicating the user experience). I tried installing the drivers which came with the video card and XP complained, saying they would destablize the system — they did, too. So I went on the web and got a beta of the real ATI drivers and that seems to be stable.

I plan to wipe the disk and start again anyway, though. I want to get rid of a lot of the junk applications which came with the Audigy Platinum sound card (and it would be nice to have final drivers, too). And the DirectCD drivers which came with the
Plextor CD-RW drive don’t work under XP; I may abandon the Roxio software in favor of Nero anyway, though.

And I’d like to install as little of the Microsoft salesware as I can get away with. I don’t need MSN Explorer, whatever that is.

I did successfully get Norton Anti-Virus installed (we have a enterprise license for it which specifically includes employee-owned machines which connect up to work), even though the version I brought home doesn’t explicitly support XP yet. And I have a copy of Zone Alarm ready to install, too — I haven’t put the machine on the network yet, so that hasn’t been a priority.

More to come, probably over the weekend.

Windows of Hope

We had dinner out tonight to support Windows of Hope. The food was pretty good, but I probably could have skipped the dessert. Oh, well, 5% of the calories went to a good cause.

Battlebots is coming!

At dinner, I found out that the next Battlebots tournament is on Treasure Island (between San Francisco and Oakland) next month. We may well go.

Movin’ on up

I thought last night’s Enterprise was quite a bit better than the second episode. There’s hope.

Toy Time!

Pixel USA just called; my new computer is ready. I expect most of my playtime over the next few days to go into learning about Windows XP (yes, I drank the Kool-Aid) and moving files and programs from the old machine to the new, so postings may be rather infrequent, and may be more likely to be concerned with logging my eXPeriences than with deep philosophical topics or even good jokes.

We do our part

We spent the weekend trying to keep the economy going, though we don’t have very much tangible to show for it yet.

Diane’s car is beginning to show some early signs of age (10 years, 120,000 miles), so we thought it would be a good time to start looking at replacing it before running into serious maintenance expenses. I was looking forward to trying out some nice new cars like the redesigned Camry and the Prius (we’ve always owned at least one Toyota and have been very happy with them) and the Volvo S60.

We decided to start at the Toyota dealer — it took a few minutes to find a salesman (somewhat to my surprise). But eventually, we connected, and we asked if we could drive a Prius. He said they didn’t have any to test, but we could rent one — we started to leave, and he suddenly said, “let me check around” and a minute later, came back with a car. He handed us the keys and off we went (without asking for ID or going with us) for a test drive; when we returned a few minutes later, we couldn’t find him to give back the keys. So we had him paged, sat down, and ordered a Prius — delivery should be in 4-1/2 months or so. The whole process took less than an hour, start to finish — it would have been faster if the salesman hadn’t been so hard to locate.

So much for enjoying test drives. *sigh*

My computer is also showing its age (4 years old tomorrow, with a noisy fan in the power supply), so I decided it was time to get a new one. I’d done some configuration and pricing work already, and it looked like I could find what I wanted at a reasonable price at Pixel USA, a store recommended by the Moose. I took a friend with me to give me moral support and a sanity check, and less than 90 minutes later, had ordered a shiny new computer. I decided to let them build it since they have more time than I do, and it should be ready Wednesday or Thursday. My goal for the machine is editing video and making DVDs and Video CDs — I have hours of camcorder tape of Jeffrey, and I’m sure there’s a good 15 minutes of interesting video hiding in it. I also want to convert some of the VHS tapes we’ve dubbed from TV to something more permanent and convenient. But even though I want to make DVDs, I decided against buying a DVD writer quite yet — I’m very confused about the differences between the various formats. I left one IDE port free in the machine, so I should be able to add a DVD writer easily enough.

We also ate out several times, but nowhere particularly interesting.

Diane, I’m glad Philip came through OK!

On the lighter side

And people just love offering us credit:

wrong name: It’s a pity Diane’s last name isn’t “Goldberg” and her middle initial isn’t “L”.

I may have found a way to get a better price on my TiVo without having to go through the hassle of returning it — Good Guys claims to match local dealer prices, and the current issue of Consumer’s Checkbook BARGAINS, which arrived today, shows the TiVo available from a nearby store for only a few bucks more than the goodguys.com price. So I should be able to walk in with the magazine and get a price match — at least that’s the theory. We’ll see.

I’m looking forward to the Bay Area Weblogger User Group meeting in a couple of weeks; it should be interesting, and possibly even fun. Join us if you can.

Downhill trajectory

We just finished watching the second episode of Enterprise; it was still pretty good, but I didn’t think it was up to the level of the first episode. I hope next week’s episode is at least as good as this week’s; I’d hate to see the slide in quality continue for very long.

I’ve never watched an entire episode of The West Wing — only the end of one show, while in a hotel gym — but I decided I’d like to see tonight’s. So I’ve got the TiVo capturing it now and I’ll watch it some other time; setting that up caused some confusion at the end of Enterprise, since the TiVo popped up a screen telling us it wanted to switch channels. If I’d started watching Enterprise from the “Now Playing” screen instead of from “Live TV”, I don’t think TiVo would have hassled me about the change. Probably.

The TiVo has been busy for the last couple of days, with TNN’s Star Trek: Next Generation marathon; I didn’t even know there was one, but TiVo noticed that we watched other Star Trek shows and took the initiative to record some episodes. I don’t know what basis it uses to pick particular episodes, but it found at least two that Jeffrey wants to see. Not a bad gadget!

I do wish I’d spent more time researching the box, though; I bought it at a local Good Guys for what I thought was a pretty good price (well, the standard price). But yesterday, I discovered that goodguys.com (same people, different corporate structure) sells the box for quite a bit less. I’m trying to decide if the hassle of ordering a TiVo online, setting it up, then cancelling the subscription for this one and taking it back to the store is worthwhile or not — I almost wish I hadn’t found out in time to contemplate the exchange. Sadly, Good Guys doesn’t match their own online prices, or I’d have an easy way out of the dilemma.

But if that’s my biggest problem of the night, I can’t really complain.

Y2K bugs live on

I took our car in for regular service today, and was amused to note the date on the repair order: “Tuesday, October 1, 1901”. Hey, if it doesn’t bother the repair shop, it doesn’t bother me!

Now that I have a TiVo, I’m amazed how much good stuff there is on TV — it’s just that most of it is on at 3am or similar hours. I’m confident I’ll never be able to keep up with what it captures for me, but at least I have a chance to see some good programs.

Enterprise definitely qualified as a good program — we all watched it raptly, and I’m looking forward to the next episode. I love the way the characters portray a sense of wonder about what’s happening — it’s not just another day at the office for them. This is a far cry from my reaction to Voyager — I watched the first episode, then taped the second one but never actually got around to watching it because the first one had left me so flat. Voyager eventually improved, of course, but I don’t feel compelled to track down the episodes I missed.