Travel Tales

This page is a permanent link to my travel diaries.

Father's Day

This morning, Jeffrey watched yesterday’s Mystery Science Theatre 3000; this time, it was a real stinker,
The Thing that Couldn’t Die. I watched a few minutes off-and-on, and I have to say that I’ve seen better acting in home movies.

Some members of our havurah at temple hosted a Father’s Day BBQ and swim party this afternoon; the food was great, but none of my family got in the water (the other kids there did seem to be enjoying themselves in the water, though).

On the way home, we stopped at REI so I could look at GPS units (anyone with advice, please e-mail or post an item in the discussion here — I want something to use in the car, not in the back country), and we also looked at aquariums at Petco. There didn’t seem to be any actual human beings at Petco, and they didn’t bother posting prices, so we left with very little more information than we arrived with, and no aquarium.

Then we came home, watched the original 1931 version of
Frankenstein (which Jeffrey didn’t find very scary; I’m afraid 10-year-olds are more sophisticated moviegoers these days than adult audiences were in 1931), called Diane’s father to wish him a happy Father’s Day, and now it’s time for dinner.

Slide Rules Rule!

Slide Rule Universe. I remember asking my grandparents to buy me a good slide rule while I was in junior high school and promising that it would last me through college (at least). They agreed and bought me a K&E Deci-Lon (model 68-1100), which probably cost around $30. I still have it, though I don’t use it very often any more — it did last me through college, though; I didn’t buy my first calculator until after I had graduated (I didn’t need a calculator much after junior year, and they were still too expensive then (I had a friend with an HP-35, which I lusted after; she was willing to lend it to me for Economics tests, and that was sufficient for my needs)).

My grandparents also bought me the big CRC Handbook of Tables for Mathematics, 3rd Edition; that, too, is still in my possession, though somewhat underused (I couldn’t remember where I had put it and had to search several rooms to be sure of the title!). I notice that CRC Press doesn’t publish that title any more, though they still do publish the
Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.

Jeffrey is out in the family room watching Saturday morning cartoons and I’m on his computer (since it was already booted up, unlike mine). I managed to avoid hearing the (dangerously catchy) songs from Monster Ranchers, but while he was watching the show, I checked the Web and, sure enough, found the lyrics online, so now I finally understand what I’ve been hearing at breakfast on Saturdays for weeks!

And since I am updating my page today, I can be timely and say Happy Birthday, Cliff!

Software is Bizarre

So I decided to look at the latest updated Userland sites (looking to see if a friend’s site had shown up yet) and pointed my browser (MSIE) at Then I picked a site, read it, and used Alt-leftarrow to go back to the updates page. But, for no apparent reason, the updates page that MSIE chose to display was from two hours ago; hitting “Refresh” fixed it, but the same thing happened the when I returned from the next page, and the next, and the next….I have no idea how this can be happening, but then again, I didn’t decide to make the browser an integral part of the OS.

Whew! Rebooting seems to have solved the problem, at least for now. I was afraid I’d have to reinstall the OS, or maybe buy a new computer (isn’t that the usual fix for a Windows problem?) or perhaps do something even more drastic.

If it was Thursday, I must have been in Berkeley…

…visiting the Computer Science department at UC Berkeley and finding myself completely without connectivity. There were Ethernet outlets everywhere, but they were all turned off (“…we don’t trust the students not to start sniffing the Ethernet…”, or so I was told). But it was an interesting day anyway, seeing what’s happening in the Iceberg and Endeavour projects and meeting enthusiastic graduate students. Made me feel old, though — these folks can crank out more code in one afternoon than I can do in a month these days! I’m also impressed at the relevance of their projects, compared to what we did back in the mid-70’s at RPI (my Master’s project was a self-hosted compiler for a toy language (a subset of Pascal) — to call it useless would be to give it far too much praise; one of the projects I saw yesterday dealt with making it safe to deal with financial sites from untrusted environments like public Web kiosks).

I am so glad that I don’t have to go to Berkeley very often, though — the trip there took nearly 2 hours. I stayed for dinner and so rush hour was over by the time I came home, but I was still on the road for an hour. And people make that trip every day…but not me if I can avoid it! At least it was 20 degrees cooler in Berkeley than at home.

Today has been a quiet day; Jeffrey’s school year ended yesterday, and summer day camp/child care doesn’t start until Monday, so I stayed home with him. We spent the morning fiddling about the house (he decided he’d like to watch Some Like It Hot again after hearing that it was number 1 on the
American Film Institute‘s
“100 funniest films” list), mid-day getting his passport renewed (and visiting the library), and now we’re home again on our computers. I had thought we might go to see
Titan AE
, but Jeffrey doesn’t seem to be terribly interested, and the review I read in today’s Merc wasn’t very promising. Fortunately, it’s cooler today than Wednesday (we were lucky on Wednesday that we never lost power; the map in yesterday’s Merc indicated that our area was one of the areas hit by rolling blackouts, but the clocks all had the right time, so I guess we were spared), and so it’s not unpleasant to be home or even out and about.

I did fix one long-standing problem on his computer — one of the games he likes is Star Trek: Starship Creator, but it would never save his work, so he had to start from scratch every time. This, as you can imagine, was not a satisfactory state of affairs. I tried reinstalling the game and installing a new version of QuickTime, but that didn’t help; eventually, I noticed that the icon he was using to start the game pointed to the CD and had the CD’s root directory as its working directory. I changed it to use the installed directory as the working directory, and lo and behold, suddenly the game saved its state automagically! The programmers had never bothered to test whether they were able to write to the disk, or if they had tested, they didn’t bother to issue error messages. “Not caring” is endemic in the industry, I’m afraid.

I’m hoping for a quiet weekend with as little time spent on the computers as possible, so I’d better plan ahead and say Happy Birthday, Cliff! now instead of being late.

How do they do that?

It was pointed out to me that the link to my letter in the online version of Business Week doesn’t work (at least not from MSIE; it seems to work from Netscape). But in Netscape, I get a different URL than I get in MSIE. I am confused. So I’ll exercise my moral rights as the author of the letter in question and print it here (I don’t know who holds the actual copyright at this point, me or Business Week, but I think this is also fair use).

Basic Nutrition for Just Peanuts

After reading ”It ain’t exactly Julia Child” (Up Front, May 1) on the Stigler Diet, I now
know where the airlines get their menu ideas for coach-class meals. Thanks for clarifying
one of life’s least-appetizing mysteries.

Software I like

I feel almost compelled to put in a plug for Cerious Systems’ Thumbs Plus, which I’ve used to edit the pictures on the site. It’s shareware; I found it well worth the registration fee ($75). It may not be as fancy as Photoshop or even PhotoDeluxe, but it makes simple operations (like cropping) simple, and that’s a win in my book.

The heat goes on

It was hot again today. We have the air conditioner on, and hope that PG&E won’t find it necessary to include us in their rolling blackouts. Lots of people had problems commuting today because pavements buckled, rails buckled, and traffic lights were out — I didn’t run into much of that, but tomorrow, I have to go to UC Berkeley for a meeting, and I’m not looking forward to it. I was advised, in all seriousness, to go there this evening and take a hotel room, so that I could make the 60-mile trip in an hour instead of 2.5 hours at rush hour. I decided I’d rather stay home and get up early — I don’t have to be there until 10am, so maybe I have a chance.

Would somebody bring back the fog?

It’s warm outside. Hot, by Bay Area standards. Normally, I would have telecommuted on a day like today, but it was also the day of a friend’s going-away luncheon, and so since I had to fire up the car anyway, I decided to come into the office and enjoy the free air-conditioning. :-)

More later, if there’s anything interesting to write about.

Extreme Blue

I finally got around to visiting the Extreme Blue crew this afternoon; it’s good to see so many enthusiastic faces, hard at work on interesting problems. Especially after attending a farewell luncheon, filled with old, no longer enthusiastic faces.

I hope to spend a lot of time in the Extreme Blue lab this summer.

Business Week printed a letter from me

The doctor says I’m OK

Or as OK as I ever was, anyway. And he took off the Steri-Strips, so I no longer look like I’m auditioning for a part in Young Frankenstein. So much for my Hollywood career!

There was an amusing moment when he started to look through the X-rays and CT scans I’d been given in Montréal — he couldn’t figure out why there was a CT scan of my chest, and I sure didn’t remember having one done. After a moment, he looked at the name on the sheet, and it wasn’t mine (even misspelled, as the hospital folks tended to do). Nor were any of the next four sheets mine. Finally, he got to a sheet with “David Signer” and pictures of a brain on it and he was pleased — so was I, because I was beginning to wonder if I really did have a brain!

In View From The Heart, Al Hawkins mentions post-concussion syndrome as something I need to watch out for as an after-effect of my ice-skating adventure. So far, I haven’t noticed any of the symptoms — though I must admit to having been somewhat depressed when I came to work and found 500 e-mails waiting for me, most of which actually required work on my part to dispose of. Of course, this is how I normally feel when I come back from a vacation without e-mail, so I don’t think it counts. But I appreciate the pointer and the concern; it’s better to know what might happen than to be completely unaware.

Pet Thoughts

We lived a long time without any pets, but we acquired a guppy at Shir Hadash’s Purim Carnival. Guppies don’t have the staying power of some other pets, so I’m thinking that we might need to get a new pet sometime soon.

2.4 million dollars….yikes!

This afternoon, Diane and I walked over to a new home development near here, Heritage Grove. The builder had a long struggle with the town to get the development approved (it’s on land which used to be an orchard), and once they finally succeeded, they were unable to build as many homes as they’d wanted. So they decided to build expensive homes, just in time for real estate prices here in Los Gatos to skyrocket. When they first opened up the development, they were quoting prices “from the 900,000’s”, but that’s ancient history (at least six months old). They released five homes yesterday, all of which sold immediately, at prices from 1.8 to 2.4 million dollars. These houses are ok — 2900 to 3700 square feet, but they’re not on enormous lots (and there’s no privacy — the back yards are easily viewed from the neighboring home’s second floor), and our recently remodelled kitchen has better cabinetry than these houses do. The smallest house is nearly 50% larger than our house, but somehow the bedrooms felt cramped. Fortunately, we were only looking for decorating ideas rather than actually being in the market, but it was still frightening to see these prices for houses in our extended neighborhood.

Diane says my eye hasn’t changed enough to warrant posting a new picture. I guess that’s good…. But I have posted Montréal pictures and updated the narrative for June 6th. I think that finishes that particular trip.

Happy Birthday, Allison!

Mundane life

I’m not sure if it was jet lag or an after-effect of my concussion, but I slept till 9 this morning. Very unusual. Very refreshing.

After finally getting moving, I made a trip to Costco and spent too much money. Some of it was on stuff I’d planned to buy before going there, but not all of it by any means. And now I have one more DVD in my queue to watch RealSoonNow — Galaxy Quest. Then lunch and new passport photos for Jeffrey (we discovered his passport expired on the day we entered Canada; fortunately, an expired passport is ok for US citizens at the Canada-US border). I’d love to know why the US INS agent at Montréal airport stamped Diane’s and Jeffrey’s passports but not mine — but I followed my rule when dealing with border guards and didn’t do anything to call attention to ourselves. Luckily, I didn’t look like this then. Shiner - June 10th: Thanks, Dave Winer, for the get well wishes. Despite the way I look, I am feeling pretty good (it only hurts when I do something which pulls at the Steri-Strips), but I certainly am getting comments from people who see me (tonight the cashier at Sam’s BBQ asked me what I had done, and it actually took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about!). And there is no truth to the rumor that I just did this to have something to write about which would increase my page views.

I finally posted some pictures from Reunion on the appropriate page (June 3rd).

Back home again

Our flights yesterday were uneventful, though crowded; for some reason, our travel agent had given us separate reservations and hadn’t linked them, and so we were scattered throughout the plane on our final leg. Jeffrey did not appreciate this (nor did we!), but once we found a person who had a middle seat next to one of us, we were able to make a deal. In the end, Jeffrey and Diane sat together just in front of the exit row, while I was at the back of the plane (but no one was in the seat next to me). The flight attendants were impressed by my eye, so I gave them a pointer to my home page!

After my experience in Montréal, I decided it was best to take it easy today, so I started the day at home with three consecutive phone calls taking up two hours. Then I finally tore myself away and visited the optician, who reshaped my glasses — though later on, I realized that they weren’t quite right and went back to let her wield her pliers some more; they’re much better now, and I should be able to get by until my regular appointment in July, when I expect to get a prescription for bifocals (*sigh*).

My eye continues to progress through the spectrum — it looked like this yesterday evening after we got home and now it looks like this.

Time for dinner, then to Shir Hadash for services. Shabbat Shalom!