2000 movies? Moi?

I check my referer log occasionally (well, actually the version of it produced by sitemeter); tonight, I noticed that one of my referrals came from an a9 search for the term “2000 movies”.  I was curious, so I reproduced the search, and found that one of my blog entries from December 26, 2000, titled “Movies, Movies, Movies” was the second result in the a9 search (powered by Windows Live).

I think they have a bit of tuning to do on their algorithms.

Part of my history is gone

On a tip from a friend at work, I took a little detour en route to work this morning and drove by what used to be the main IBM site in San Jose.  Building 028, the former home of IBM Research in San Jose, and a place I spent many busy (and sometimes happy) hours before moving out here, was partially missing.

Hitachi, which now owns the campus, doesn’t need it all for their operations; instead, they’re going to develop a good chunk of it for residential and commercial use.  Building 028 is in that chunk, and so it’s being devoured (and, I hope, recycled).

While I never had an office in 028, I’ll still miss it.

Today’s Cingular/Motorola V551 tip

If your phone gets confused and thinks you have voicemail when you don’t:

  1. Call yourself from another phone
  2. Leave a voicemail
  3. Retrieve the voicemail from your cellphone
  4. Delete the voicemail with “7”
  5. Exit the system with “*”

Worked for me!  Thanks to the Cingular forums for the tip.  BTW, the only way I know to unlock the phone is to call Cingular and ask them to do it.

Worldcon Retrospective

We’re home after a long lunch at Knott’s Berry Farm (next time, I’ll have to tell the waitress that we’re in a hurry) and a longer drive (about 6 hours from Knott’s to Lunardi’s).

Today, the only Worldcon program item I went to was the Book Raffle; I didn’t win, but I didn’t have as many losing tickets as Seth Breidbart, who had 989 losers (and 11 winners).

Diane and Jeff went to the Battlestar Galactica panel, which sounded like it was much more interesting than the raffle. We also upgraded our support of the Australia in 2010 bid to Firend level. And I took advantage of some booksellers (yeah, right) and bought a ton of Poul Anderson books so that I’ll be more ready for the next Chocolate for Trivia program I attend.
I suspect the Dead Pluto party is still going strong in what used to be the Con Suite; I was very impressed by the Con Suite at LACon. It was open 24/7; it had decent munchies and drinks the whole time (as well as enough fruit and carbs to get an impecunious fan through breakfast); it had plenty of seating (I’m not sure how many rooms it covered, but it included two suites and all the bedrooms between, and might have extended farther than that at times); and it had free books (courtesy of LASFS). And because it had all of these features, it also had lots of people and good conversations…so many, that I never even made it to the fanzine lounge.

Definitely a good con; I wonder how long it’ll be before LA bids again?

I also wonder how long it’ll be before our next Worldcon; we don’t know yet whether we’ll be able to make it to Yokohama for Nippon 2007. It’ll depend on Jeff’s school schedule next year — time to start lobbying, I guess.

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Scooped!

I was pleased to see the official newszine had a special edition out right after the Hugo ceremony ended, giving the winners and the complete voting tally (in 4-point type, alas…).  The official announcement of the site selection winner was in this morning’s first issue, about 10 hours after we’d published it in the hoaxzine.

Harlan at work

We were wandering around the party floor this evening and popped into the Chicago party, where they were playing the blues at high volume. Suddenly, the music quieted, and there was a voice, louder than the music had been, explaining that the music was too loud for people to have decent conversations. I looked, and the badge attached to the voice had the name “Harlan” on it. (In the interest of plausible deniability, I won’t mention the last name, but it’s the one you think it is.) Moments later, he was out of the room and down the hall.

A few minutes later, we left and walked over to the Con Suite, where the story was already being told. News travels fast….

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Looking forward to 2008

Tom Veal has written a detailed analysis of the 2008 Worldcon site selection results. I feel the need to correct him on one point: the “Denver Wins!” headline on the hoaxzine was not there because Seth (or the rest of us) thought it was an improbable result (we covered that in the item about the demolition of the Oasis Tower of the Marriott) — it was there because we knew the facts, and the best hoaxes are well-dusted with facts (see, for example, the runup to the Iraq War).

I can’t speak for everyone who voted for Denver, of course, but I can speak for seven voters who chose Denver (and may well choose Montreal for 2009) based entirely on the date of the convention. School in our part of California starts a week or more before Labor Day — even Kehillah has given in on that this year and is starting school next Tuesday. So a Labor Day con is at a disadvantage for us compared to one which is set during summer vacation. Of course, by 2008, Jeff will be in college, and we don’t know what that particular college’s schedule will be — but in any event, it’s likelier that he’ll start before Labor Day than afterwards.

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Three fen in a con #e

We spent much of today co-conspiring on a hoaxzine (PDF, 3.6MB) for LACon IV; we scooped the official newszine with the announcement of Denver’s victory for 2008 — it was especially enjoyable to hand a copy to a person who I cannot yet name who said it was good to see the announcement, since he was going to be FGoH there (he already knew, of course). I apologize for the absence of the logo from the zine, but I don’t have a scanner here, and it was hand-drawn.

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Enough of the shiny and new schtick!

When looking at the schedule for today, we’d planned to go to the Tai Chi session at 9am this morrning, and I also wanted to go to the Bad Astronomy panel immediately afterwards. But we chose not to set the alarm last night, and this morning, we suffered the natural consequences of that action.

So when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed around 8:15, we had to choose between breakfast and Tai Chi. Breakfast won; we drove to Tiffy’s (which was actually closer than Captain Kidd’s, so we could easily have walked). The breakfast at Tiffy’s is good, but the service is very slow; by the time we finished, the Bad Astronomy panel was but a memory.

We arrived back at the Convention Center a few minutes into the 11:30am panels; Jeff went to see Marina Sirtis, while Diane and I wandered the fan exhibit space and talked with Joe Siclari and Edie Stern at the FANAC table. Eventually, we wandered up to see the last few minutes of the session, followed by another hike, this time to Marri’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant (passing Tiffy’s along the way) for lunch. Jeff had pasta; Diane and I split an amazingly bready pizza.

We split up for the next two sessions; Jeff and Diane went to the panel on Batman (the live-action series) and “Being an Alien” (actors). I went to the Denver Mah Jongg party and lost $750 in Denver Mah Jongg money, but I made up for it at Trivia for Chocolate, where I finished third with 43 mints (some of which made it back to the room). Then I joined Jeff and Diane for “Star Trek Between the Cracks”, which had Larry Nemecek showing slides and suffering horrible computer and projector problems.

We wanted a good dinner, and we got one at Market Broiler at The Block in Orange; tasty salmon, salads, starches, and vegetables. Recommended.

Then it was party time. Many of the parties were holdovers from last night, including Denver, Columbus, and Chicago with their last bid parties and Kansas City, moving into the final year of their bid cycle. But there were new parties, as well.

The League of Evil Geniuses was a dark affair, and crowded. I wasn’t able to stop long enough to admire the gallery on the walls, but I did see that there were additions.

Westercon 60 will be at the Marriott in San Mateo (the hotel on 101 which looks used to look like a castle); they were having a Gnome-themed party (much like Denver).

Xerps in 2010 was in high gear; we got probed even before we got into the room, and the Skippy was flowing freely.

Japan had green tea and other goodies; I’d like to go to the con, but it’s not clear that school will cooperate for Jeff.

There were other parties, including the Friendly Scandanavians, but my energy ran out sooner than the hallways did. Some will be there again tomorrow night…as will I.

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A bright, shiny new Worldcon

The con started today with a somewhat unusual opening ceremony — the first episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, in tribute to the late Frankie Thomas, followed by the usual silliness. Jeff missed it, since he and his friend were at Disneyland, where I think he might have had enough Disney for this trip. I say might have, rather than had, because at a party this evening, he showed interest when he heard that some other teens were going to Disney tomorrow — but only some interest.

We deviated from our Downtown Disney meal plan; breakfast was at Captain Kidd’s again; lunch was at California Pizza Place, which is a small pizza restaurant in a strip mall of small restaurants at the corner of Katella and Harbor, and was everything one would expect of a restaurant at that location (cheap, non-toxic, and fast); dinner was at the Grand China Restaurant on Chapman, which was an OK but not at all distinguished Chinese restaurant a mile or so away from here. The con restaurant guide is long on listings but short on judgements, so we’re on our own.

We spent a while in the huckster room/exhibit area after lunch, meeting friends, visiting the bid tables, and wandering. At one point, I found myself explaining the change in the Worldcon bid leadtime from two years to three and then back to two — if I’m not careful, I may find myself at the Business Meeting one of these days. But that wasn’t a danger today; instead, we went to “James T. Kirk: Threat or Menace”, which was enjoyable but deviated from the topic (and a good thing it did).
Here’s tonight’s party report:

Google party: lots of schwag, but the shiny Google pins were gone before we got there. They’d clearly raided the local Trader Joe’s, going for the dark chocolate as well as other goodies. They claimed to be interviewing, but everyone was welcome — and all attendees get free searches on Google.

Hollister in 2008: This was the bid party to hit, if for no other reason than my name on the wall of fame. Lots of Casa de Fruta goodies, not enough space for all the people.

KC in 2009: If you were hungry, this was the place — smoked meat and KC BBQ sauces, plus other goodies (Trader Joe’s struck again, too).

Denver in 2008: A nice selection of Colorado beers (after a very enjoyable High Tea during the afternoon), plenty of other goodies (including a chocolate fountain and ice cream floats), and the right date for Worldcon 2008. Recommended.

Chicago in 2008: Hot dogs, hotel info, and a letter from Da Mayor.

Columbus in 2008: Sam Adams, a sheet cake, good conversation, and a letter from the mayor.

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It was bright and shiny once…

This time, I mean Star Tours at Disneyland. That was our first port of call after breakfast at Mom’s Captain Kidd’s, just across the street from the main entrance (same owner, same menu, same food, just a different name…hmmm, do you think they could be trying to play on the popularity of Pirates of the Carribbean?).

Star Tours was, as ever, itself. Same jokes, same special effects, same everything — but shorter lines. Maybe it’s time for a remake.

After Star Tours, we did the rest of the Big Three at Tomorrowland. Honey, I Shrunk the Audience was also the same as always, except that they’d gotten rid of the amusing preshow and replaced it with a completely lame Kodak “feel good” commerical. Space Mountain was new and renewed and dizzying — but I thought it was the worse for the loss of the old amusing FedEx preshow and commercials.

We also visited Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Indiana Jones before lunch. The way they have the FastPass set up for Indy is bad — first, it forces people on the regular line (like us!) to stay outside in the heat and the sun for a longer time, and second, it means that you rush through the interior preshow instead of enjoying it.

And the heat was getting to me — the boys went on Big Thunder, but I just wanted to find a cool spot (I settled for shady). Then we went in quest of lunch — which meant Downtown Disney. This time, we hit the La Brea Bakery; I didn’t want anything but icewater for a long time, but I eventually recovered enough to eat Jeff’s salad (someone had to do it) and half of Diane’s sandwich (all in the interest of keeping portions reasonable, though half a sandwich wasn’t quite enough for either of us).

After lunch, we went to California Adventure, where we picked up FastPasses for Soarin’ Over California and then saw MuppetVision 3D (one of my favorite attractions at either park — we didn’t get to see the whole preshow, though, which was a shame), Monsters Inc (as promised, a slow cabride — the best part was the signs in the line; I though the homage to Ray Harryhausen was a nice touch), and It’s Hard to Be a Bug. Jeff also did California Screamin’, but the rest of us passed. Then we hiked through the Grizzly Mountain area and saw Soarin’ Over California — pleasant, nicely-scented, and cool. And that pretty much took care of California Adventure’s attractions. so we returned to Disneyland to brave the line for Pirates of the Caribbean. I haven’t seen either of the movies, so I didn’t find the additions compelling, but I did think that projecting on mist was a nice trick.

We returned to Downtown Disney and Catal Uva Bar and Grill for dinner, skipping the wine this time around, but going for the burgers — definitely a good place to have around. Then back, once more, to the Magic Kingdom; the boys went off to do Star Tours, but Diane and I wandered around for a while and eventually lined up for the Storybook Boats, which are far nicer at night than in the day. Then we wandered to Adventureland where we watched Fantasmic (more projecting on mist) and the fireworks. And then back to the hotel.

IBM has three annual timed exercise programs, where you form teams and agree to do a certain number of minutes per week — if you succeed, you get little tchotkes as a reward. The fall program started on Sunday; fortunately, walking counts as exercise, and we got a lot of it — my pedometer finished the day at 28,543 steps, which translates to 195 minutes of walking, which is nearly 2/3 of my weekly committment. Which might make up for half of the French fries I had for dinner.

The boys have one more day left on their Disney passes; Diane and I only bought one-day passes. While I wouldn’t have minded hitting the Jungle Cruise and MuppetVision 3D again, and we missed the Disneyland Railroad and all the classic rides in Fantasyland, I think one day was plenty for me this time around. And I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer the rain we usually hit in our winter visits to the hot sun of today, either.

I remember when it was shiny and new

LA Con IV starts Wednesday ; we drove down today so that we could play a little bit at Disneyland…err, the Anaheim Resort Area. The drive down was uneventful and quick — well, until we got to Magic Mountain; then the signs said “big traffic jam I5 at Lankershim”, so we switched to 101, where traffic bogged down until we rejoined I5 south of downtown. I don’t know if we actually saved any time or not, but I felt as though I were taking control of the situation, so I guess it was a good thing to do.

At any rate, we arrived at the Anaheim Hilton about 4:30, which was pretty good time for us (as usual, we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch, which always takes a while) and got checked in. We’d stayed here before in 1984 for LA Con II — that was very soon after the hotel had opened, and they weren’t quite ready for a large convention; I remember, with no fondness, opening our room only to find that there were other people already in residence! That wasn’t a problem this time — both rooms were just fine.

But we are already waiting for elevators…and this is days before the con actually opens. I’d better go find the stairs!

After checking in, we went to Disney Universe; Jeff and his friend have three-day tickets, so they went into the Magic Kingdom. Diane and I decided one day of the parks would be enough, so we wandered to Downtown Disney for dinner (we’d also hoped to cache, but all of the caches here are multi-caches, and I hadn’t downloaded all the coordinates). We had a pleasant dinner at Catal Uva Bar and Cafe; they offered 25% off on bottles, including half-bottles, so we split a half of La Creme Pinot Noir, which was quite tasty, as was the food (though I probably should have gotten something more substantial than a compressed salad).

Then we wandered a bit and returned; the boys just came back from their exciting evening, and now Jeff wants to steal the computer so he can blog. I am a bad influence….

May the force be with you — quickly!

The trailer for the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of Star Wars Shortened is up. The full show is to be broadcast on SkyMovies in the UK starting on August 26th, and undoubtedly to be found on filesharing networks moments later.

There’s also a SkyNews interview with two of the RSC, including a taste of episodes III and IV, up on YouTube.
Technorati tags: , , , trailer.

Running on empty — three ways from Friday

Back in May, I adapted a Pilot G2 to use a MontBlanc refill, following this instructable. Life was good, at least in the writing department, until this week, when the refill ran dry (three months seems pretty fast). So I’ve switched back to the G2’s native refill; let’s see how long it lasts.

Today was my last day at work for a week or so (vacation, hooray!), so I was motivated to finish off a couple of projects. One project was Web2.0-related (sounds good, eh? It was just some Python hacking); the other was getting my inbox to empty before I left for the trip, since I have no intention of connecting to work while I’m away. I succeeded at both — or at least I declared victory: the hacking was good enough that I could do the final touchups in an editor, and my inbox was, indeed, empty. But I have a new folder in my Lotus Notes mail, “- AAActive!”, for the couple of items I couldn’t finish because they needed to be handled on the phone, and the East Coast was long gone by the time I finished. Hmmm, when I dig out the laptop, I think I’ll put a reminder on my d3 Tiddlywiki; I’m still using it fairly faithfully (not so much the last couple of days while I’ve been heads-down on one project, though).

I’m also running on empty when it comes to energy. So I think I’ll try to make an early night of it and step away from the keyboard.

WLEE to return from the dead — briefly

XM 60’s on 6 has a regular Friday afternoon show called “Sonic Sound Salutes” where they use jingles, sweepers, and actual airchecks from 60’s AM radio stations.  I’ve tuned into it by accident a couple of times, but haven’t made a habit of listening.

I happened to tune in to the end of today’s show (WABC/770, New York, complete with Cousin Brucie), and Terry Young announced that the next show, on September 1, will be WLEE/1480, Richmond, the station I grew up with (and, at times, hated because they had a very strong signal at my house, making DXing a challenge).  It’ll be good to hear some of those old voices again…I wonder if they’ve got an aircheck of Shane saying, “Heavyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy”?

Far out!

Snakes on a Plane: The Allegory

Jeff came up with this as we were out for our evening walk.  Presented for your approval, Snakes on a Plane: The Allegory.

Tomorrow, the film Snakes on a Plane will be released. It is the story of two FBI agents, played by Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Houghton, protecting a witness (played by Nathan Phillips) who will testify in a very important trial. An assassin has released 500 snakes to kill the witness on the plane. The film may sound unintelligent, but in reality, it is the most sophisticated movie of the decade. For the film is not really about snakes on a plane: it is about the War in Iraq.

The plane in the film is really the United States of America. The witness represents our innocence as a nation, an innocence that keeps America flying. But Vice President Cheney’s company Halliburton seeks to poison America’s soul (Phillips) by sending misinformation about weapons of mass destruction into the country. To stop this spread of lies and deceit, the heads of the 9/11 Commission (Jackson & Houghton) seek to protect the county’s innocence, knowing full well the real threat in the War on Terror is not Iraq. However, if it is bitten, all of America will panic and go to war, with the risk that the whole country will crash. Jackson’s character best sums up how America feels about being lied to: “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” In our world America was bitten; we can only hope that the world of Snakes on a Plane will be much more happy.

But the film manages to delve into even deeper issues than Iraq, making it the most allegorical work since Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It carries a double message in a way that few movies can. For the film is also about high school, and the pressure to get into college without crashing.

The plane is Kehillah Jewish High School. Its goal is to transport its students to college in a safe, non turbulent, kosher ride. The Ivy League schools are represented by the snakes, sent by the parents of Phillips who are so carried away with their child’s future that they do not notice that the Ivy League schools’ expectations (in the form of the snake bites) are hurting him in the present. Jackson, Houghton, and Phillips represent students in this film. Jackson and Houghton are trying to protect their friend Phillips from the Ivy League schools’ influence. If Phillips is bitten, he will become an overachiever, sacrificing his life trying to follow the snakes back to their lair, Harvard University. Jackson’s courageous line “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” sums up his frustration with the system.

Parents everywhere are advised to see Snakes on a Plane twice, once keeping in mind the War in Iraq, and the second time keeping in mind their children’s futures. Afterwards, they are advised to show this film to their children twice as well. If a five year old says, “That’s it! I have had it with these m^th@rf*#(ing snakes on this m^th@rf*#(ing plane!” parents have done their job: they have bred a child who will not go with the flow and will stand up and fight. Snakes on a Plane is truly the most allegorical movie ever released.

Comfort food

Today started early; Diane had an MRI at 7:45 (results: negative), so we got up early, which worked out well for me, since I had a telecon starting at 6am. Well, it would have worked out a lot better if I’d slept last night, but I made the mistake of fiddling with a project until nearly 11, and my mind was trying to finish the job all night.

So I wasn’t at my brightest this morning, and sitting on the phone for two-and-a-half hours, then rushing to work and getting back on for another two hours didn’t improve my mood any. (I keep reminding myself that I could be in Somers — but even that wasn’t enough to cheer me up today!)

We divided into smaller teams at 11:15 Eastern; instead of dialing my workgroup immediately, I decided to take a break and have an early lunch. Nothing at the cafeteria remotely appealed; instead, I drove to Mojo Burger for a tasty, if not terribly healthy, meal. I did eschew the free upgrade to a shake, though.

Getting out into the fresh air helped; food helped more. By the time I returned to the office, I was ready to get back on the phone for the next three hours of calls. Then I even managed to write a little code before calling it a night.

The laptop is still zipped up in the briefcase, by the way, and I can’t connect to work on this machine. Ahhh….

Guilt is entirely optional

I tried to watch the 2005 version of The Producers tonight. The original movie was one of the first laserdiscs we ever bought, and it’s still one of my favorite movies.

I’d put the 2005 version on my Netflix queue some time ago, and it’s been sitting here for a week or so, waiting for me to get the necessary round tuit. Tonight was the night; I knew this version had been panned, but I really wasn’t expecting quite so much padding. I kept comparing Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick to Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and finding them lacking (though I must admit that Uma Thurman was up to Lee Meredith’s standards).

I stuck with the movie for about 30 minutes, then started making heavy use of the remote control to get to the good parts — well, good part. “Springtime for Hitler” was certainly worth watching, but then the movie went off the rails again.

If I’d bought the DVD, I’d feel like an idiot. If I’d paid to rent it, I’d’ve felt obligated to see the whole thing. But since I got it from Netflix, all I lost was a little time — it was never the only Netflix movie sitting at home, so there wasn’t even any real opportunity cost (and I’m still using Mom’s prepaid membership).

Why do I feel guilty anyway?

A beautiful day not to fly anywhere

The consequences (if there are any) of not travelling to my meeting this week won’t hit me until tomorrow or later in the week (I suspect I’ll have at least one very early morning to match New York time), but today, it was all benefit.

I got to sleep about three extra hours; I got to go to the JCC and work out; I got to take a walk with Diane and Jeff in the evening; I even got to watch some of the backlog of TV programs on the Tivos.  Diane also showed me the Tai Chi DVD she’d recently bought, and I tried some of the warmup — it takes a lot of concentration!

I tried to make a DVD from one of our old MST3K tapes, but something went awry during the capture — the image jumps right-and-left every 1.5 seconds or so, which is rather disconcerting, especially when there are words on the screen (it’s not too bad at other times).  The other tapes I’d transferred didn’t have this problem, so it might have been a loose connection (I’ve been moving the VCR between the Mac and its usual spot).

I did manage to get a good enough transfer to see how much squeezing 90 minutes onto a single-layer DVD hurt the quality, and it was easily visible.  So I guess I’m going to go pick up a double-layer drive sometime, because I do have a few things where I want to maintain as much quality as I can.  Maybe I should just get a faster Mac with a double-layer drive already installed….

Upgrading to WordPress 2.0.4

I’m in the midst of upgrading to WordPress 2.0.4 (from 1.5.2, shame on me). Minor breakage should be expected (my custom 404 page seems to have vanished), but things are running well enough that I’m going to dinner. More fiddling later…

Hmm…I don’t have any idea how I got the old 404 to work (for those who might care, it was a special page in the database, and somehow or another, it got invoked at the right time; the magic formula was on a posting from the Sacramento Web Developers SIG, which seems to have vanished into the ether).  So I’m doing it the old-fashioned way, with a 404.php file in my style.

And I see that Akismet is catching spam for me already, so I guess the migration has been a success.

Not doin’ that, either

Today’s been a day of deciding not to do things. It hasn’t been a very exciting day. But I didn’t want to break my string of daily entries, so you get to read a very mundane posting — unless you choose to stop now.

This morning, I decided not to go to a week-long meeting in Somers, New York, next week. I’d be less than honest if I didn’t admit that yesterday’s events entered into my calculations — it wasn’t fear, though, it was not wanting to deal with the additional hassles at security. But that wasn’t the real reason I cancelled my trip — it was learning that several of the people who were originally going to be there all week were only going to be in for the first day of the meeting. I still gave it a lot of thought, but finally came to the conclusion that I could participate adequately by phone — and that way I won’t lose my Sunday to travel. Of course, I also won’t get to go to Ralph’s Italian Ice, but I’ll cope.

I also decided that we probably don’t have to do anything about our cooktop, either. When I tried to clean it, there was a mark which wouldn’t come off — I thought it might have been a crack. I called KitchenAid to see if there was anything that could be done short of replacing the glass, and there wasn’t. A not-so-quick search eventually yielded the model number, at which point I discovered that a glass replacement was $300+; a new cooktop would be even more. So I went back to look very carefully, and, as far as I can tell, all we have is a deep scratch.

Tomorrow, I visit the hazmat disposal site and the dentist. I hope neither of them leads to exciting writing either.

King Dinosaur and other horrors

Yesterday, I mentioned one of the truly awful films of all time, King Dinosaur, in passing. Naturally, that reference got more comments than anything I’ve written in weeks.

So let me be perfectly clear:

There is no Criterion Collection edition of King Dinosaur. It is available on commercial DVD, but not by itself; you can get it as a double feature with Ed Wood’s The Bride and The Beast or you can get it as part of the “Sci-Fi Classics 50 Moviepack 12 DVD Set”, but even I have standards about how to spend money.

On the other hand, I must admit that the source I dubbed from wasn’t all that pristine; it was a Saturday Morning Movie Classic on KFCB, Channel 42, Concord (now KTNC) and the engineer on duty didn’t treat the material with the care it deserved. It wasn’t quite aligned on the flying spot scanner, so that the left edge of the image shows the edge of the film. But I suspect that would vanish in the overscan if I were to play the DVD on the TV instead of the computer, so I’ll live.

I should also mention that I had to replace other classics on VHS, including Little Shop of Horrors and The Blob. And to my delight (or horror), there is a Criterion Collection edition of the latter — and now I own it. Some day, I’ll get around to unleashing it….

Getting organized

Way back in the springtime, we went to Kehillah’s annual benefit and charity auction, where we bid on a couple of items.

One was Shabbat dinner for eight with the head of school. The other was four hours of professional organization from Lisa Mark, owner of The Time Butler.

Dinner came and went, with no lasting impact on our lives (though it was tasty and the conversation was quite enjoyable).

We put off calling Lisa for a few months, but we eventually got around to making the appointment for a two-hour visit. I stalled by giving her a tour of the house, which took up most of the time, but she did “encourage” us to clear off the kitchen table — we filled up a couple of bags of paper during that exercise.

She returned a couple of weeks later, and we used up the other donated hours. On that visit, we cleared out the media shelves in the family room, uncovered the coffee table, and rediscovered the desk. We also filled up several bags of stuff (books, VHS tapes, magazines, toys, and who knows what else) which were suitable for charitable donations — and Lisa took it all away.

She’s been back twice since then, helping us deal with the shelves and desk in the kitchen, all of which are organized, clear, and usable for the first time in a long time. And again, we donated a bunch of stuff to charity (as well as filling a recycle bin!).

In between visits, I got rid of some excess hardware by putting it on craigslist (most of it sold within an hour); I’ve also started transferring old VHS tapes to DVD (though why I needed a DVD version of King Dinosaur is a matter of some debate with the rest of the members of the household).

There’s no magic to it — we’re doing all the work (well, she wields the labelmaker…) and making all the decisions. But she acts as a forcing function — when she hands us a pile to go through, it seems silly to just put it back where it was (though “later” is always a valid decision — and I’ve deferred some things by moving them to a room we haven’t reached yet).

I’m happy we won her services, and happier that I finally got around to calling and making the appointment!

A note from Haifa

A colleague in Haifa made a request on our internal newsgroups for a sample of Java code to deal with our LDAP servers. I happened to have one, so I sent it to her and got this note in return:

Thanks! It looks like it will contain what I need. I’ll try it between sirens ;-)

I didn’t get the shaft this time

I started this morning with a trip to the Toyota dealer — both Priuses needed regular service (oil change) as well as the “60C Special Service Campaign” (aka the steering-shaft recall). I’d called yesterday to make appointments, and the service writer I talked with said to bring in one car this morning and they’d do the oil change and handle the recall; then I could swap cars in the afternoon and they’d do the other one the next day (in the meantime, I’d have one of their cars).

But I had an inspiration — if I was quick, maybe they could do both cars in one day. So I dashed out of the house bright and early and got to the dealer well before 8. I got a different guy as the service writer, and when I told him what I wanted to do, he asked me, “why do you think we can do the recall today?” Apparently there are two different shafts for the Prius, and some cars need one and some need the other, and they didn’t have both in stock.

In fact, they didn’t have any shafts on hand, so it didn’t matter which one I needed. But they did check to see which one, and they claim they’ll order it and notify me when it arrives.

But I still had to get the oil changed, so I waited while they did that — then I went home and repeated the drill with the other car. Fortunately, they have wi-fi, so I was able to work while I waited, but I’d really rather have been able to finish the process instead of having to wait for the shaft.

Stupid KVM tricks

I needed to install Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 on a machine at work today; normally, that’s a very simple process, marked only by tedium.

Not this time. When I first tried running the install CD-ROM, the screen blanked and I couldn’t wake it up; a friend suggested using the text-mode installer to get around the problem. And, indeed, that did get me through the install — but then when the system booted, the screen went blank and I couldn’t wake the system up.

So I tried reinstalling, with no change; I even tried to use Ubuntu, but it died in the same way.

I thought it must be a hardware problem, but before punting, I asked for help. My colleague came down and walked me through the install, and we had the same results. But then she had a brainstorm — we booted into single-user mode successfully and compared the xorg.conf file on my machine with one that worked. And, sure enough, there were significant differences.

Apparently the KVM on this bank of systems lied to anaconda, so that the installer wrote a configuration file claiming that the display could work at frequencies which were far in excess of what it could really handle. I edited the file to specify horizontal rates around 35 and vertical rates of around 60, and all was well.

Then I changed /etc/inittab to only come up in runlevel 3, which would have worked, too; since I never plan to use the physical console again (it’s in a very loud and very cold machine room), there’s no sense in starting X there.

Moral of the story: don’t panic. And wear earplugs.

More, please…

While Diane and I like having wine with dinner, we’re not big drinkers; if it weren’t for Vacu Vin, we’d wind up dumping a lot of oxidized wine down the drain.

There are exceptions, though, and one of them is the Kim Crawford 2005 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc we opened yesterday, to accompany take-out from Gallo’s (a Shroom Bird, if you must know). I kept pouring refills, and the bottle nearly vanished before I stopped — good thing we didn’t have to go anywhere last night, and that Diane was feeling less dizzy! Definitely a winner!

The Demo Effect

This morning, a project I’ve been working on with a small team scattered around Research had a presentation scheduled to a VP. We wanted to give a demo, and some of my colleagues back East worked through the weekend to integrate their technology into the system. All was well.

So this morning, when it came time to demonstrate, Things Went Awry. The person giving the demo couldn’t actually get connectivity in the meeting room — she solved that problem by switching from wireless to wired, but then the system didn’t work well, giving “500 Internal Error” messages. Of course, we had backup slides to show, and made light of the problems, but it was still infuriating. Even restarting the server, and then the machine, didn’t help.

Once I got to the office, I was determined to find out what was wrong and fix it, because I hadn’t changed a thing since Friday, when all was well (the integration all happened on another system on the other coast). Nothing made sense, so eventually I searched the corporate directory for an expert, and found the right guy in one shot. He listened to my description, and then asked me if I’d pinged his servers to see if I had connectivity.

I hadn’t, so I tried. Name resolution took an awfully long time. And it failed at times, too. This was a strong hint that the problem really wasn’t in my code — it was somewhere in the bowels of the nameservers. So I got a nameserver expert involved, and, eventually, all was well.

But why did this have to happen this morning?

Don’t they know what tomorrow is?

We had to go to Valley Fair this afternoon so Diane could return some purchases to Coldwater Creek. Since I had no particular interest in that store, I wandered over to the Apple Store, secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to buy anything.

There were two reasons I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything.

The first reason was that just last weekend, I’d upgraded my Mac Mini to 1GB and bought an external hard drive/port replicator for it, all to make it easier to transfer my old tapes to DVD. When I captured the first tape I tried, there were dropouts; I thought it was because the Mini was short on memory, but after further investigation, it just seems that that tape is defective in spots. But having more memory is a good idea, and I was desperately short of hard disk space anyway.

The second reason: tomorrow is the first day of WWDC, and there might well be some interesting announcements. I’d hate to buy a new machine today, only to find out that it was obsolete tomorrow.

But clearly, many people either didn’t know or didn’t care about WWDC; the store was very busy, and it wasn’t just lookers — there were lines at the registers, and not just for accessories and software, but for new systems galore. Almost makes me wish I owned Apple stock!

Wrong cast, great show!

One of Jeff’s classmates is in the Children’s Musical Theatre production of Side Show — we discovered that a couple of weeks ago when we ran into him outside San Jose Rep. Normally, CMT has its shows at the Montgomery Theatre, but due to the San Jose Grand Prix, they’re using the Rep this time (and ComedySportz is using the Montgomery).

At any rate, Jeff wanted to go see him perform, so I bought us tickets for this afternoon’s show. I didn’t realize that there were two casts who alternated shows (not that I could have told which cast was performing from the website), and, as it happened, his friend was in the other cast.

But other than that, it was an excellent afternoon — it was hard to believe that the actors were students (well, some of the leads were already in college, but the two “twins” were both high school students). They really did a great job handling a very serious play.

Dinner at Restaurant James Randall

One of Jeff’s friends has just returned from a summer in Israel, Belgium, and France, and he invited Jeff over for what I thought was going to be the afternoon, but turned into an overnight. So Diane and I were on our own for dinner after going to services this evening.

We decided to try a new restaurant in Los Gatos, Restaurant James Randall. It’s in a small space where a croissant restaurant used to be; it’s definitely a step up in sophistication and in price.

As it happens, we chose the same main dishes as the reviewer in Metro; Diane had the halibut, which she enjoyed, and I had the duck. I don’t often have duck, so I don’t really have my tastebuds calibrated to give a good comparison, but this was tasty and not greasy — I liked it, though I’d probably go with something else on a return visit. The wines were good (I wish I’d written down what we got), and we got away with a two-figure bill — but we did skip dessert in favor of gelato at Dolce Spazio on the way back to the car.

Some of the diners were clearly regulars; I don’t think we’re likely to reach that point, but I’d definitely be willing to go back.

Thinking the wrong thing

IBM Research has recently started “Think Fridays”. On Fridays, instead of the usual routine of meeting, teleconference, meeting, teleconference, meeting, we’re urged to avoid meetings and think.

To be honest, thinking isn’t all they want us to do — they want us to write, too. Code, patents, papers…all those things which get pushed aside when your calendar is full.

Many people have “Think Fridays” projects; mine is a Java-learning exercise which, when I finish it, will improve some of the ways I deal with Lotus Notes (in particular, it’ll help me visualize the people on a note or in a calendar item). I’ve already written a Python version, but it requires firing off an external process — it should be possible to use the Notes Java bindings to accomplish my task, and some day, I’ll get it done.

Not today, though. Instead, I had three meetings — only one of which probably violated the “Think Fridays” spirit. That one was on an ongoing project which will be presented to a bunch of people bright and early Monday morning — and I left the meeting with my brand-new d3 GTD TiddlyWiki crammed full of action items (some of which I dealt with later in the day — seeing crossed-out items is a good feeling!).

So I spent the rest of the morning dealing with that project (and even doing a tiny bit of coding in the process); then lunchtime arrived, along with my second meeting. This one was scheduled at my instigation — I spent lunch talking with one of our new RSMs and learning about his project (which I want to use!). Then it was back to my office to work on my project…except that I’d gotten e-mail from a colleague back East that they’d fixed up their system so I could tie it into the thing I was readying for Monday. So I spent the next couple of hours doing that.

Then it was time for my last meeting, where I served as an experimental subject for some of the Activities work being done at Almaden. That took me to the end of the day — again, it was interesting and possibly useful, but I never touched my Friday project. Maybe I’ll sneak some time for it on Monday….

Culture

We went to the opening round of the ComedySportz World Championship tonight; it was the first time we’d been in the Montgomery Theatre since San Jose Rep moved into their own building. I’d forgotten how small the place was, but it was the right size for this event.

Parking was a challenge, because something was happening in the Plaza de Cesar Chavez — I don’t know what it was, but there was music and beer, so it was popular. And it was all gone by the time we were on our way home.

The Championship itself started with the procession of the teams and the arrival of the torch — just like the Olympics, but on a one-millionth scale budget.

There were two matches tonight: the Washington Monuments vs. the Hollywood Endorphins and the Minneapolis Ice vs. the Spokane Openers. Hollywood and Minneapolis won, although I’m not sure that matters, since it’s not an elimination tournament. And Jeff got a chance to talk with some of his teachers from CSz Summer Camp, which was nice.

There are two shows tomorrow night, and another two on Saturday night, with the last one on Saturday being the championship match. Rumor has it that San Jose is likely to have a slot in the final.

We probably won’t make it to tomorrow’s shows, though I’d like to see the final match of the evening, Richmond vs. San Jose. But maybe Saturday….