I’m just back from services at Shir Hadash; this was a special service, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the congregation and our Rabbi’s 10th year with us. All of the past Rabbis were there, we had a Torah reading, and a special song was commissioned for the occasion — and with all of that, we still finished before 10. But then there was the gala Oneg Shabbat (goodies!), and that kept us (well, me) busy for another hour.

It was a very good service; the only problem is that we’re finding it difficult to fit into our building, and the building is only two years old!

I could continue with my tales of Windows woe (this time on my new laptop), but I’d rather keep today’s entry positive. Shabbat Shalom!

Windows is a Four-Letter Word

Since my computer is almost three years old, I immediately hoped it was a hardware problem so that I’d have an excuse to get a new machine (my motherboard only supports AGP 1x cards, so a new graphics card might have been hard to find). But I made the mistake of mentioning the problem at work today, and one of my friends suggested I look for a new driver and see if that would help.

This seemed like a good idea, since I was running the original Win98 drivers for the Viper 330. And, sure enough, there were new drivers on Diamond’s site. And a new BIOS, too. So I downloaded them and set to work.

The install procedure seemed simple enough: reset the system to VGA, reboot, and run INSTALL from the directory with the new drivers. When I told Windows to drop down to VGA, it complained — said that wasn’t the hardware I had. But it was willing to let me do it anyway, and I rebooted in glorious 16-color, 640×480 resolution, ready for the next step.

The next step seemed pretty easy, too; but Diamond’s install program told me that I had some files which were newer than the ones it wanted to install, and suggested I keep the ones I had. So I did. And then I rebooted.

And then things started to go wrong. Windows wouldn’t let me set the display to anything better than straight VGA resolution (though it claimed I was running the Diamond Viper 330 drivers). If I did try, it required me to reboot, then told me that my hardware wouldn’t support this mode, and dropped back to VGA resolution.

16 colors is not enough to edit pictures, so I decided I’d better persever. My next step was to reinstall the driver again. I got the same results. At least it was consistent.

So then I flashed the new BIOS into the card (a step I took most reluctantly). And I rebooted Windows. And nothing had changed.

By this time, I was getting annoyed — I actually had things I wanted to do on the computer other than play with drivers. So I deleted the display driver and let Plug-and-Play reinstall it from the Win98 distribution.

This got me back on the air — I could go back to my normal resolution and color depth — but when I went into Thumbs Plus, it still got the blurry picture, so I hadn’t fixed my original problem.

I decided to make one more attempt; this time, instead of using the Diamond installer, I used the regular Windows driver install. It complained that I might not be using the best driver in the world, but it installed the driver with no warnings about downlevel modules. And when I rebooted for the tenth time this evening, it worked — and so did Thumbs Plus!

So I guess I can wait a little longer for a new system. That’s probably just as well — it’d come with the successor to Win98, and I feel like I’ve been through enough for a while without telling Microsoft to go ahead and “Windows Me!”

Tall Ships, Hard Candy, and a Skunky Aroma

That pretty much describes our long Labor Day weekend visit to Chicago
(pics to come). Diane’s has a cousin there who’s been inviting us to
visit for a couple of years, and we were finally able to make it happen
this past weekend. She lives two blocks from the
Museum of Science and Industry, so
we were pretty sure we’d see that museum, but other than that, we did
very little pre-planning.

By happy coincidence, AT&T Tall Ships Chicago was scheduled for the
weekend; we didn’t know about it until we were en route to Chicago, but
we quickly changed our lack of plans to include at least one trip to
Navy Pier to see the ships.


Saturday, we slept late, but eventually caught the bus downtown to the
Field Museum and visited
Sue, as well as
seeing Underground
(which charges an additional fee — I don’t think it’s
worth it) and part of “Inside Ancient Egypt”, plus bits and pieces of
other exhibits we passed along the way. I particularly enjoyed
Anthropology: CITY 2000
, photos of Chicago In The Year 2000 from an
anthropological viewpoint.

They eventually threw us out of the museum and we found the Metra
station to take the train back down to Hyde Park. I bought three
tickets, but when we got on the train, the conductor told me that I only
needed two, because Jeffrey was free. I wish I’d known that when I was
fighting with the ticket machine to get it to take the last couple of
dollar bills.

Later that evening, we walked to a nearby supermarket, where, among
other things, I discovered the motherlode of hard candy; in addition to
the expected Brach’s Pick-a-Mix, they had Daintee (from England) and
Peerless (a local Chicago
brand). I ignored the Brach’s and bought a small amount of the other
two — good stuff!


On Sunday, we used that left-over Metra ticket to go back downtown; this
time, we had to run to get to the station for the 10:40am train. I
still had to fight with the machine, and Jeffrey had to go under the
turnstile (it wouldn’t work without a ticket, and we already knew he
didn’t need a ticket!), but we made it, and met Diane’s younger cousin,
Dori, who was on her way to work at the
Terra Museum of American Art.
She helped us find a CTA station so we could buy a mag-stripe bus ticket
so that we wouldn’t need to have exact change for the rest of our rides
on buses or the L; then she went to work, and we got on a bus to Navy
Pier to see the Tall Ships.

The lines were long, the sun was hot, but it was worth it. We got to
visit three of the ships (the True North, the Highlander, and the
Tecumseh) before we ran out of energy and decided to head back to the
train. Unfortunately, the only really good picture of a ship I got was of the Windy, which wasn’t actually part of Tall Ships Chicago — she is actually based at Navy Pier and takes people out for harbor cruises.

We decided to walk back to the station (so much for being out of energy)
using my trusty GPS as a guide (we probably could have made it without
the GPS — the route only required one turn). We emerged onto Michigan
Avenue after a few minutes, and started looking around at the buildings
— and suddenly, we saw Dori on her way back to the train, too. So we
joined forces and headed back.

[More to come; I would have put up a picture or two, but I’m not having
much success editing them on this machine. I have two more computers to
try, but not tonight. But before it’s too late, I do want to say one more thing: Happy Birthday, Al!]


On Monday, we started the day with a trip back to Navy Pier to see the Tall Ships again — but the lines were longer than the day before. I guess the fact that it was Labor Day and the AFL-CIO was having an event for union members and their families might have accounted for some of the additional people there. We spent an hour on line for the Fair Jeanne; after seeing that ship, we decided, regretfully, that we’d skip the Picton Castle and the Nina, in favor of lunch.

We hiked up to Water Tower Place for lunch — they have an interesting arrangement there called Foodland, where there are about a dozen restaurants sharing one set of cash registers. You get a mag card on your way in, and whenever you order something, it gets noted on the card. On your way out, the card is read by the cashier and you pay the total. This makes it easy to pick and choose things from the different restaurants — on the other hand, it makes it hard to keep track of your spending! But the food was good (much better than standard mall food courts) and well worth the price.

Water Tower Place also has a Marshall Field’s, and we took advantage of that to buy some Frangos (wonderful mint chocolates, though they’ve extended the line to other flavors, too).

Then back down to Hyde Park, where we finally visited the Museum of Science and Industry until closing time, then back to the apartment for a Chicago deep-dish pizza (I almost wrote “Chicago-style”, but for a change, it was the real thing!). And another trip to the supermarket for a big bag full of hard candy — Peerless makes good stuff!


Tuesday, it was back to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the U-505 — a German U-boat which was captured during WWII and brought to Chicago about 10 years later. I am very glad that my career path never had anything to do with submarines.

And then home — as usual, the flight was about half-an-hour late, but we were still home before 7pm. United has started giving away free headphones in coach — I wish the movie had been worth seeing.

Something had preceeded us, though. A skunk had decided to get scared in our yard, and the evidence was quite noticable throughout the house. Fortunately, we have an exhaust fan, which made a good dent in the odor quickly.

Wine of the Trip

Bonny Doon Winery’s Pacific Rim Dry Riesling. Very refreshing, and a nice accompaniment to the pizza.

0 Miles at a Bearing of 0 Degrees

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

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

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

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

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

1833 Miles at a Bearing of 271 Degrees, Redux

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

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

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

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

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

1833 Miles at a Bearing of 271 Degrees

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

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

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

2571 Miles at a Bearing of 280 Degrees

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

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

Back to School

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

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

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

Look out! He's got a knife!

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

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

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

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

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

And how did you spend your Saturday?

I am in awe…

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

I, clearly, am not such a person.

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom!